Overland Journey to India

The Rock of Lisbon, a huge, unshapely, but striking mass, indicates the approach to the Tagus. The river opens up magnificently from the sea. The spires and lofty buildings of Lisbon are distinctly visible, with the vessels at anchor off the quay. Cape Espartelle, a remarkable headland, with a lighthouse upon its extremity, becomes visible a little to the south of the debouchure of the Tagus. The cliff is obliquely stratified, and marked like those of Alum bay, Isle of Wight. The land now recedes, and is in a considerable measure lost sight of, till, rounding close in upon cape St. Vincent, the scene of the celebrated engagement in 1797, the bay of Cadiz is entered. In crossing this bay, land is for some time lost sight of. It becomes visible again off cape Trafalgar; but this celebrated headland it was our misfortune to pass in the dark.

The next place of importance reached by the steamer is Gibraltar, where we quit the Atlantic ocean, and enter the Mediteranean. The rock of Gibraltar first comes into view about ten miles off. As the bay is approached, the suddenness of the change in the color of the water, from bright deep blue to green, as the soundings decrease at once from twenty-four to sixteen fathoms, strikes the voyager. The transition is instantaneous, without any intermediate hue or shading. Rounding the point Carnero, and breasting Europa point, you find yourself at once within a beautiful sheltered and spacious recess, some six miles across and ten in depth, with British men-of-war, steamers, and merchant-ships of every nation at anchor. The appearance of the rock of Gibraltar, with respect to its known military strength, generally disappoints the stranger. The most formidable of the batteries are either concealed in mysterious galleries in the bosom of the rock itself, half-way up, or lie so close on the line of the sea, as to be lost sight of amongst the hulls of the vessels around. The promontory consists of a vast rock, rising from twelve hundred to fourteen hundred feet above the sea; it is about three miles in length, and from one-half to three-quarters of a mile in width, and is joined to the mainland by a low sandy isthmus, about a mile and a half in length. On the north side, fronting the isthmus, the rock is almost perpendicular, the east and south sides are also steep and rugged; but on the west side it slopes downward to a fine bay, nine miles long by four and a half miles broad. On this slope lies the town, containing a mixed population of sixteen thousand, and above rise the principal ramparts of the rocky fortress, which is generally garrisoned by from three to four thousand troops. The ordnance consists of more than seven hundred cannons fit for service.

Gibraltar derives its name from Tarif, a Moorish general, by whom it was taken from the Spaniards in 711 - Gibel Tarif, the Mountain of Tarif. It remained in the hands of the Moors till the beginning of the fourteenth century, when it was recovered by the Spaniards. It was retaken by the Moors in 1333. In 1462 it finally fell into the hands of the Christians, after having been possessed by their adversaries for seven hundred and forty-eight years. On the 24th of July, 1704, it was captured by the English, who fell on it suddenly, and stormed it - the garrison amounting to no more than one hundred and fifty men, the batteries mounting one hundred guns. From this time till nearly the end of the century, numberless attempts to wrest it from them have been made by the French and Spaniards, but in vain. During the late war, it seemed to be considered idle to attempt to disturb them.

The town of Algesiras, a place of considerable importance, and remarkable as that at which the Moors first landed in Spain, lies across the bay about five and a half miles off, while the village of St. Roque, at the upper end of the bay, is conspicuous on the slope. The high blue mountains of Granada fill up the background.

The winter climate of Gibraltar is extremely delightful. In December, the temperature varies from 60 to 75 degrees, clouds shading the piercing rays of the sun. In summer, it is occasionally extremely hot, especially when the wind blows from the African shore. The appearance presented by Gibraltar, viewed from the harbor, is peculiarly striking after nightfall. The numberless lights, seen in all their brightness through the open windows, look as if issuing from apertures admitting to some bright cave or furnace in the centre of the rock, whose huge black mass towers on high, the houses in the town being indistinguishable in the darkness. In summer, the surface of the sea is occasionally so closely covered with luminous particles, as to seem sheeted in phosphorus. The slightest ripple increases the intensity of the light, and the dolphins flash through the water, literally moving in light of their own making.' In winter, this in a great measure disappears, the luminosity being confined to a few bright masses which sweep by the ship. I have often taken up bucketsful of water brilliant with luminous particles when stirred, but though I have tried the experiment in a hundred different ways, I have never been so fortunate as to get a sight of the zoophyte or animalcule by which this is given forth, either with the naked eye or glass.