Philosophical Transactions. For the months of September and October, 1715 - Part II.

By Nicole Renee

Ⅱ. An Account of a journey from the Port of Oratava in the Island of Tenerife to the top of the pike in that island, in August last; with observations thereon by Mr. J. Edens.

On Tuesday August the 13th N.S. at half an hour past ten in the evening, I, in the company of four more English and one Dutch-man, with horses and servants to carry our provision, together with a guide (which is the same that has conducted all those that have been on this journey for many years) set forward from the Port of Oratava1. The night being somewhat cloudy, and the moon in the full at 12 the night following.
At half an hour past eleven we came to the town of Oratava, which is about two miles from the port, where we stopt for about half an hour, to get walking staves to assist us in our ascending the steep of the pike.
At one a-clock on Wednesday morning we came to the foot of a very steep rising, about a mile and half above the town of Oratava, where it began to clear up; and we saw the pike with a white cloud covering the top of it like a cap.
At two a-clock we cme to a plain place in the road which the Spaniards call Dornajito en el Monte verde (the little Trough in the green mountain) so call'd I suppose because a little below this plain, on the right hand as we went, there is a spout of wood placed in a rock, through which there runs very clear and cool water, which comes from the mountains; and at a descent a little lower than the spout there is a trough into which the water comes.
At three, after travelling a road, which was sometimes pretty smooth and at other times very rough, we came to a little wooden cross, by the road side on the left-hand, which the Spaniards call la Cruz de la Solera (The Cross of the Solera). A solera is a long pole with a hole at each end, which the Spaniards use to draw wood with, by fastning one end to the wood and the other to the oxen. This cross was made with a piece of solera, and for that reasion is so call'd, but why it was set up in this place I can't tell, unless it was because somebody was kill'd thereabouts. At this place we also saw the pike before us; and altho' we had come up hill quite from the port, yet to our thoughts it seem'd almost as high here as when we were there, the white cloud still hiding the greatest part of the sugar-loaf.
After riding about half a mile further, we came to the side of a hill which was very rough and steep, the place call'd Caravala; where are a great many pine trees that grow on both sides the road for a great way, both on the right-hand and the left, one of which was close to the road, on the right-hand as we went, our guide defir'd us to observe; it having a great branch growing out, which with all the boughs2 that were upon it look'd like the forepart of a ship. And from the likeness of this tree has to a ship I suppose the place took its name, for Caravela signifies an old-fashioned vessel formerly much used in Spain, sharp before, ill shap'd every way, and all the masts stooping foorwrds; their sails are all mizen sails, that is, triangular; they will lye nearer the wind than other sails, but are not so commodious to handle. Amongst these trees, not a great height in the air, we saw the sulphur discharge itsself like a squib or serpent made of gun-powder, the fire running downwards in a stream, and the smoak ascending upwards from the place where it first took fire; and like this we saw another, whilst we lay under the rocks the next night at la Stancha, part of the way up the pike; but I could not observe whether either of them gave any report as they discharg'd.
At three quarters after four we came to the top of this high rough and steep mountain, where grows a tree which the Spaniards call el Pino de la Merenda, the pine tree of the afternoon's meal. This is a large tree, and is burnt at the bottom, as having had fires made against it; and in the burnt place there issues out turpentine, a little of which I brought with me. At a few yards distance from this tree we had a fire made, where we stay'd and baited our horses, and breakfasted our selves. These hills are very sandy, and there are a great many rabbets which breed there; there is also much sand found a great way up to the pike itself, and not a great way below the foot of the sugar-loaf, some of which I brought down with me.
At three quarters after five we set forwards again, and at half an hour past six came to the portillo, which in Spanish signifies a breach or gap. We saw the pike about two leagues and a half before us, cover'd still with a cloud at top; and the Spaniards told us we were come about two leagues and a half from the port.
At half an hour past seven we came to las Faldas, that is the skirts of the pike; from whence all the way to la Stancha, which is about a quarter of a mile up from the foot of the pike, we rode upon little light stones, for the most part not much bigger than ones fist; and a great many not much broader than a shilling and if we kept the beaten track which was used before, it was not so deep, but if we turn'd out of it the horses went almost over their feet. I lighted and made a hole there, thinking to find how deep these little stones lie, but could not find the bottom; which makes me conclude they may cover the ground for a great thickness.
There are a great many vast rocks, some of them two mile or thereabouts from the foot of the pike, which the pike-man told us was cast out from the top of the pike at the time it was a vulcano; many of them lye in heaps of above threescore yards long, and I observ'd that the further these rocks lye from the foot of the pike, the more like they are to the stone of other common rocks: but the nearer we went to the pike we found them more black and solid; and some of them, tho' not many, were glossy like flint, and all extream heavy. Those that shone so, I suppose, retain'd their natural colour, but there are some that look like dross that comes out of a smith's forge, which without doubt was occasioned by the extream heat of the place they came from.
Some of these great rocks were thrown out of the caldera or kettle in the top of the pike; and others from a cave or cistern which is a pretty way up the side of the pike, and had by some been thought to have no bottom, more of which I shall say anon.
At nine on Wednesday morning we arrived at la Stancha, about a quarter of a mile above the foot of the pike on the east-side, where are three or four large hard and solid black rocks lodg'd under some of these we put our horses, and under others we lay down ourselves to sleep, after having refresh'd ourselves with a little wine and we had a fire made in order to get our dinner ready, where a cook we took along with us both roasted and boyled our meat and fowls very well. We slept here for about two hours, then rose again, and at about two in the afternoon went to dinner.
There are several mountains that lye eastward from the pike at four or five miles distance, call'd the Malpeses, and one more lying a little more to the southward call'd la Montaña de Rejada; all which were formerly vulcanos, tho' not so great as that of the pike, as appears by the rocks and small burnt stones that lye near them, just in the same manner as about the pike.
Still being at la Stancha, after we had dined we lay down again to take a nap under the rocks as before dinner, but not sleeping very well we all got up again, the rest of them spending the afternoon at cards, &e. But I made it my business to admire the strangeness and vastness of that great body, which indeed is very wonderful, insomuch that its impossible to express to one that has never seen it, in what a manner that confused heap of rubish lyes; for it may very well be stiled one of the greatest wonders in the world. About six at night we saw grand Canaria from la Stancha bearing from E. by N.
At nine at night, after having had our suppers, we retired to our former lodgings, where laying stones for our pillows and our cloaks for bed-cloaths, we endeavoured to get to sleep, but all in vain for a great while. Some lying pretty nigh a fire complain'd of being burnt on the one side and froze on the other (for the air was very cutting and sharp). Others happening to lye in a place where there was a great many fleas; though it be something strange that fleas should be found there, the place being so cold in the night; perhaps the goats sometimes get under these rocks and so leave them; and I am inclin'd to believe it, because the guide and I found a dead goat in a cave at the very top of the pike. I suppose this goat straggling up here by chance was benighted, and so finding the cold got into this place for heat, where meeting with too much of it, and a very strong sulphurious vapour it overcame him, for he was almost dryed to powder. But to proceed, betwixt eleven and twelve we got to sleep, and slept till one, when waking, our guide told us 'twas time to prepare for our journey. We immediately rose, and by half an hour past one we were all upon the march and leaving our horses and some of our men behind, we went away fasting excepting about two mouthfulls of wine apiece, which we took at our uprising. Betwixt la Stancha and the top of the pike there are two very high mountains and the sugar-loaf, each of which mountains is almost half a mile's walking; on the first of them the rubbish is more small, and we were apt to flip back as we stept upwards. But the uppermost is all composed of hard loose rocky great stones, cast one among another in a very confused order. After resting several times we came to the top of the first mountain, where we drank every one of us a little more wine, and eat each of us a bit of ginger-bread we had smongst us. Then being pretty well refresh'd, we set forwards again to ascend the second mountain, which is higher than the first, but is better to walk on because of the firmness of the rocks. After we had travel'd for about half an hour up the second mountain, we came within sight of the sugar-loaf, which before we could not see by reason of the interposition of these great hills. After we were arriv'd to the top of this second mountain we came to a way that was almost level, but bearing some small matter up-hill; and about a furlong farther is the foot of the sugar-loaf, which was soon after came to. Then looking upon our watches found it to be just three a-clock. The night was clear where we were, and the moon shone very bright but below over the sea we could see the clouds, which look'd like a valley at a prodigious depth below us. We had a brisk air, the wind being S.E. by S as it was for the most part whilst we were upon our journey.
Whilst we sat at the foot of the sugar-loaf, resting and refreshing our selves as before in other places, we saw the smoak break out in several places, which at first look'd like little clouds, but they soon vanish'd, others not long after coming in their room from the same or other places.
We set forwards to ascend the last and steepest part of our journey, viz. The sugar-loaf, exactly at half an hour past three, and after we had rested twice or thrice, I left the guide and the rest of my company, and ran forwards; and when I was got very nigh the top (which was at three quarters after three) two more of the company deserted, and came up about five minutes after me; the rest of the company and the guide coming up to the top just at four.
The shape of the top of the pike is partly oval, the longest diameter lying N.N.W. and S.S.E, and is as nigh as I could guess, about 140 yards long; the breadth the other way being about 110. Within the top of the pike is a very deep hold call'd the caldera (or kettle) the deepest part of which lyes at the south end; it is I believe 40 yards deep, reckoning from the highest side of the pike; but it is abundance shallower reckoning from the side opposite to Garachica. The sides of this kettle are very steep, in some places as steep as the descent on the outside of the sugar-loaf. At the bottom of this kettle we all were, where lye a great many very large stones, some of them higher than our heads. The earth that is withinside the kettle, being roll'd up long and put to a candle, will burn like brimstone. Several places withinside the top of the pike are burning, as on the outside; and in some places if you turn up the stones you'll find very fine brimstone or sulphur sticking to them. At these holes were the smoak comes out there also comes forth a great heat, so hot that one cannot endure one's hand there long. At the N. by the E. side within the top is the cave where we found the dead goat; in which cave sometimes the true spirit of sulphur distills, as they say, but it did not drop whilist I was there.
The report is false about the difficulty of breathing upon the top of this place; for we breath'd as well as if we had been below; we eat our breakfast there, and I was up in all for about two hours and a quarter.
Without doubt the quicksilver would have fell very much upon this high place, if I had but the good fortune to have got a couple of barometers to try. But there is no such thing in this island, and I was fearful of not getting company in the mind to go up with me another year (for to go up by ones self is very chargeable) else I would have sent to England to have been supply'd, tho' the expence had come all out of my own pocket.
Before the sun rose I think the air was as cold as I have known in England, in the sharpest frost I was ever in; I could scarcely endure my gloves off. There was a great dew all the while we were there till sun rising, which we could find by the wetness of our cloaths; but the sky look'd thereabouts as clear as possible.
A little after sun rising we saw the shadow of the pike upon the sea, reaching over the island of Gomera; and the shadow of the upper part, viz. of the sugar-loaf, we saw imprinted like another pike in the sky itself, which look'd very surprizing; but the air being cloudy below us, we saw none of the other islands but Grand Canaria and Gomera.
At six on Thursday morning we came down from the top of the sugar-loaf; at seven we came to the cistern of water which is reported to be without bottom; this the guide says is false, for about seven or eight years ago, when there was a great vulcano in this country, the cave was dry and he walk'd all about it, and said that the deepest part of water, when we were there, was not above two fathoms.

The dimensions of this cave I guess to be as follows.

Length about 35 yards
Breadth ― 12
Ordinary depth 14 from top to bottom.

Upon the furthermost side grows white stuff, which the pike-man told us was salt-peter. There was both ice and snow in it when we were there and the ice was of a great thickness covered with water about knee deep. We let down a bottle at the end of a string for some of the water, in which we put some sugar and drank it, but it was the coldest I ever drank in my life. The ice was broken just under the mouth of it, where we could see the stones lye at the bottom, for it was very clear. A little to the right-hand within this cave the ice was risen up in a high heap, in form of a spire steeple or like a sugar-loaf; and in this place I believe the water comes in. I should have been glad to have come at it, to let down a line to try whether there may not be some hole that the guide knows not of, that may be a great depth.
In our way home, we came by a cave three or four miles from the pike, where are a great many skeletons and bones of men; and some say there are the bones of giants in this cave, but we know not how many bodies are laid here, nor how far the cave may go. I intend (god willing) to go again before I leave the island, and then I'll take a light with me and see what discoveries I can make.
We came home to the port at about six a-clock this evening, being Thursday August 15, 1715. NS.
Whoever reads this, I hope, will pardon the faults my pen may have committed, for I was forc'd to write all night; the ship being to sail the next morning, and I have not time to examine it.

A pdf version of the entire text of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London can be found here (this article begins on page 317).

  1. Also known as Puerto de la Cruz which was developed as a major place of trade. []
  2. Boughs: a main branch of a tree. []

One Response to “Philosophical Transactions. For the months of September and October, 1715 - Part II.”

  1. [...] up. This is unlike anything I have ever seen in the states. [↩]Good thing they travl'd with a pike man and a cook... [↩]I'm glad they chose this trip time to do it. On our previous trip, I was [...]

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