Of the Air of the Bahama Islands.
The Bahama Islands are blessed with a most serene Air, and are
more healthy than most other Countries in the same Latitude, they
being small, having a dry rocky Soyl, and pretty high Land, are
void of noxious Exhalations, that lower and more luxuriant Soils
are liable to. This Healthiness of the Air induces many of the sickly
Inhabitants of Carolina to reire to them for the Recovery
of their Health; the Northernmost of these Islands lie as much without
the Northern Tropick, as the Southernmost do within it, their
Extent of Latitude being about five Degree; yet that Distance,
so near the Tropick, causes little Difference in their Temperature;
but those Islands that lye West, and nearest the Coast of Florida,
are affected with cold Winds, blowing from the North-west over a
vast Tract of Continent, to those which lye East, the Winds have
a larger Tract of Sea to pass, which blunts the frigid Particles,
and allays the sharpness of them. At the Island of Providence
in December 1725, it was two Days so cold, that we were necessitated
to make a Fire in the Governors Kitchen to warm us, eyt no Frost
nor Snow ever appears there, nor even on Grand Bahama, which
lies not twenty Leagues from the Coast of Florida, yet there
the Winters are attended with Frost and Snow.
The North side of Cuba also enjoys the Benefit of these
refreshing Winds, particularly that part of the Island on which
the Havana stands, to this, no doubt, is owing the Healthiness
of the Air and good Character of that proud Emporium; the
Conquest of which, by British Arms, would put us in Possession
of a Country much more agreeable to British Constitutions,
than any of the Islands between the Tropicks, and under God,
enable them to mutiply, and stand their Ground, without the Necessity
of such numerous Recruits from their Mother-country, as has always
found necessary to prevent a total Extinction of the Inhabitants
of our unhealthy Sugar Islands.
I never heard that any of the Bahama Islands are subject
to Earthquakes, and tho' Thunder and Lightning is as frequent in
these Islands, as in most Parts of the World in these Latitudes,
yet it is less iolent than on the Continent, where the Air is more
stagnated. The Winds blow three quarters of teh Year East, and between
the South and the East; in Winter the Winds are most at North and
North-west; August and September are blowing Months,
and are attended with Hurricanes, at which time the winds are very
changeable, shifting suddenly to all Points of the Compass: Tho'
the Trees and Plants are never depriv'd of their Leaves by long
Droughts, as at Jamaica, and other of the Sugar Islands,
yet it rains not often, but so violently, that it supplies the Difficiency
of more frequent Refrehments.
Of the Soyl.
The Bahama Islands may not only be said to rocky, but are
in reality entirely Rocks, having their Surface in some Places thinly
covered with a light Mould, which in a series of Time has been reduced
to that Consistence from rotten Trees and other Vegitables.
Thus much of the Character of these Islands being considered, one
would expect that they afforded the disagreeable Prospect of bear
Rocks; But on the contrary, they are always covered with a perpetual
Verdure, and the Trees and Shriubs grow as close and are as thick
cloathed with Leaves, as in the most luxuriant Soil.
Tho' the productive Soyl on these rocky Islands is small, the plantable
Land, as it is here call'd, consists of three kinds, ditinguish'd
by their different Colours, as, the Black, the Red, and the White.
The black Land is at the Declivity of narrow Valleys and low Places,
into which is washed from the Ascents above them; the Corruption
of vegetable Matter, which lye in some Places several Inches deep,
of a dark Colour, light, and fine grained; This Soyl is very productive
the first two or three Years. In these little Valleys or Gullies
have formerly been planted Sugar-Canes, of which were made Rum and
Malasses; but as the Fertility of this land was soon exhausted,
oblig'd the Proprietors to desist from cultivating it. The next
Land in goodness is the red Land, which is more of a natural Soyl
than the black; it has no good Aspect, yet is more durable than
the black, and is tolerably productive.
The white Ground is found best for Indian Corn, it is a
light-colour'd Sand, and tho' it appears little better than that
on the Sea side, to which it usually joins, yet it produces a small
kind of Maiz, with good Increase. In many Places, where the Rocks
are loose, they are broke into portable Pieces, and piled in Heaps,
between which is planted Yams, Cassadar, Potatoes, Mellons, &c.
which fructify beyond Imagination. cotton grows on these Islands
without Cultivation, in the most barren Places, it is here perennial,
and is said to produce Cotton inferior to none in the World.