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james alexander : west africa, 1835 

James E. Alexander : West Africa, 1835.

Extracts from
 Alexander, James Edward:
Narrative of a Voyage of Observation among the Colonies of Western Africa, in the Flag-Ship
Thalia; and of a Campaign in Kaffir-Land, on the Staff of the Commander-in-Chief in 1835.
(Two Volumes).
Henry Colburn, London, 1837, Volume 1, pages 158 to 332.

www.googlebooks (1840 edition).
Naval Military Press Ltd, United Kingdom, 2009.
Nabu Press, United States, 2010.

Surf Riding
After arriving by native canoe through "two or three lines of heavy rollers," the  standard method,  at Accra, in modern day Ghana, James Alexander observed juvenile surfboard riding, when walking along the beachfront.
In a brief account he wrote of "boys swimming into the sea, with light boards under their stomachs.
They waited for a surf (wave); and then came rolling in like a cloud on the top of it."
Later, in conversation, he was told that the surfriders were occasionally threatened by sharks.

Alternatively, at  Cape Coast Castle, aware of the potential danger, the local children swim in "the surf behind the ledges of rock, where sharks (here numerous and bold) could not reach them."

For recognised surfing breaks and conditions in Ghana, see: Ghana

Surf Boats
The additional extracts note the need of mariners and fishermen to negotiate the significant swell conditions on this part of the coast.
Alexander reports that one longtime European resident, a Mr. Maclean, has become accustomed to the local conditions and the landings through the heavy surf, and regularly takes recreational cruises along the coast of several days in a ship's gig.

The use of the term "surf-boats" at Port Elizabeth, in South Africa, (page 332) is interesting and warrants further research.

The Author

The Book
The following extracts are taken from the 1840 edition.

A quotation from Alexander's Colonies of West Africa, including the surfing report, was published in
The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 21 December 1837, page 2.

Reports From West Africa
1600 von Lubelfing : Swimming and Canoes, West Africa.
1602 de Marees : Swimming, Canoes and Fishing, Guinea.
1604 Ulsheimer  : Canoes and Whaling, West Africa.
1620 Samuel Brun : Canoes, Rafts, and Fishing, West Africa.
1645 Hemmersam : Float Boards and Canoes, West Africa.
1669 Muller : Swimming, Canoes and Fishing, West Africa.

1712 Jean Barbot : Canoes and Fishing, Guinea.
1735 John Atkins : Canoes and Fishing, Guinea and Brazil.

1812 Henry Meredith : Canoe Surfing on Gold Coast, Africa.
1823 John Adams : Surfboard Riding on the West Coast, Africa.
1835 James Edward Alexander : West Africa.
1861 Thomas J. Hutchinson : Canoe Surfing in Gabon, Africa.
1876 Hugh Dyer : Surf Boats in West Africa.
1877 John Whitford : Surf Canoes and Boats, West Africa.
1891 The Graphic : Surf Boats, Ghana.
1895 C. S. Smith : Batanga Canoes, West Africa.
1887 Archer Crouch : Body Surfing, West Africa.
1887 Alfred Burton Ellis : Surf Dieties of West Africa.

1923 Robert Rattray : Padua at Lake Bosumtwi, Africa.
1949 Jean Rouch : Surf Riding at Dakar, Senegal.

Page 158
(at Cape Coast Castle)

Mr. Maclean is very fond of boating, and has a couple of ship's gigs.
In these he occasionally takes a cruise; and instead of going to Accra (sixty miles) by land, he goes by sea.
There is no great difficulty in this little voyage, with the prevailing easterly current:- "sed revocare gradum," &c.- it is not easy to return; and he has sometimes been three days and as many nights beating about in an open boat.
But of this he thinks nothing; nor of beaching his boat in a heavy surf, when no canoe will venture out.

Page 167

 In walking along the beach, we saw men embarking in canoes to go along the coast to Elmina, and other places, which they do here with confidence ; but not so beyond the Volta, where they would stand a chance of being kidnapped.
Also children rushed in among the surf behind the ledges of rock, where sharks (here numerous and bold) could not reach them.
Mothers were seen scrubbing their children with sand and salt-water; and in looking to the left, we saw a tropical vista of reed-thatched huts, cocoa-nut trees, canoes, and groupes of half-naked Fantees.

Page 174

We set off in several canoes for the frigate, ...

Page 175

... and got safely through the surf with a little sprinkling.
Next morning we were under sail for Accra.

Page 178

Passing the deserted Dutch fort of Courmantine on a long wooded line of coast, in the evening we had run our sixty miles, and anchored off the lights of Accra.
A large canoe was soon seen rising on the heavy swell, full of men, who sang and shouted loudly, "Eeo wabara ! hoo ! hoo !"
They paddled alongside with considerable merriment among them, perhaps in anticipation of realizing a plentiful harvest of "cut-money" and tobacco, in exchange for fruit and fish on the morrow.
Some tall figures then stood on deck, and among them a well-known character here, Massa Dodo.
He brought a message from the principal English merchant, Mr. Bannerman, that he would be ready to supply us with what stock we required.

Page 179
(At Accra)

As the white walls of the English fort (James) rose upon us, we dashed into two or three lines of heavy rollers, and then paddling along shore, passed behind a ledge of rocks covered with white foam, and well adapted for a pier.
We shipped one sea, and then were run up high and dry on the sand.

Page 191
In the evening I took a drive with Mr. Hansin in his "man drag," as it would be termed in London; and saw some more of the plains of Accra.
At dusk, Mr. Bannerman gave all the officers on shore a handsome dinner, and then sent them off to the ship in canoes.
One of them, who was late, and occasioned a canoe to turn in the surf for him, (by which means she shipped a sea,) was punished for his carelessness, by a good sousing with the paddles: at which the negroes were mightily pleased.

Page 192
(page heading: SURF GAME.)

From the beach, meanwhile, might be seen boys swimming into the sea, with light boards under their stomachs.
They waited for a surf; and then came rolling in like a cloud on the top of it.
But I was told that sharks occasionally dart in behind the rocks, and "yam" them.

Page 318
(after leaving Accra)

Standing to the eastward, we had rolling seas, albatrosses, and thirteen-knot gales indicating the ...

Page 319

... latitude of the cape of storms; and rounding the giant promontory of the Cape of Good Hope, we dashed up False Bay, and anchored, on the 18th of January, off Simon's Town.

Page 331
(at Port Elizabeth)

We had a south-east gale, and rolled and pitched, and shipped many seas, owing to the load of heavy guns which we carried, and which were intended to strike terror into the hearts of the ferocious Kaffirs.
We were under close-reefed topsails for two or three days; then we got a westerly wind, and saw the land on our larboard bow: brown and green with sand and bushes.
We rounded Cape Recife, and saw the white houses of Port Elizabeth in Algoa Bay: which is forty miles across, and the shores generally low and sandy, with scattered bush.
In the interior are ranges of primitive mountains.
H. M. S. Trinculo, and eight merchantmen, lay at anchor off the town: which has risen from three huts in 1819, to one hundred houses in 1835; and is distinguished by a fort on an elevated site, a church, and a pyramid erected to the memory of Lady Elizabeth Donkin, after whom the town is named.

It blew a furious north-wester as we approached the anchorage; sand and locusts covered our decks; the sea was alive with the struggling plagues; and the captain's monkey chattered with delight, and ran up the rigging "crunching" them ...

Page 332

... in dozens.
The signal was displayed from the Trinculo "to land stores immediately;" the Wolf was " worked up like a duck;" we saw long trains of wagons approaching the beach; and surfboats put off to us the moment that the anchor was let go.
All this had a serious aspect, betokening that the "enemy was at the gates."
The blue-jackets were in high spirits, anticipating a fight, and worked " double tides."

I landed in a surf-boat piled high with campkettles and entrenching tools.

Alexander.James Edward:
Narrative of a Voyage of Observation among the Colonies of Western Africa, in the Flag-Ship
Thalia; and of a Campaign in Kaffir-Land, on the Staff of the Commander-in-Chief in 1835.
(Two Volumes).
Henry Colburn, London, 1837.

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Geoff Cater (2010-2013) : J. E. Alexander : West Africa, 1835.






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Page 32
When the south-east wind prevailed, a very heavy
surf rolled into Algoa Bay. The work of loading
or discharging was carried on in large-decked surf-
boats, and even then the bay was a network of
hawsers, laid out in different directions, by which
they were hauled from ship to shore and from
ship to ship. On i6th March we were ordered
again to land

Page 35
To show the dangers of the surf, Bentall, coming
ashore in the jolly-boat instead of getting into a
surf- boat to land, rowed in on top of a wave.
Fortunately a good many of us were on the beach,
for the boat made a complete somersault, and lay
bottom up, while Bentall and his men were sprawl- ing on the sand and shingle. The lookers on rushed
in, and dragged up each individual, before the next
wave came, as well as the boat, oars, and other con-
tents. If there had not been a number of spectators,
all would have been sucked back by the returning

The Story of the Settlement: Grahamstown As It Was, Grahamstown As It Is, by T. Sheffield, Published by T. and G. Sheffield, Printers and Publishers, High Street, 1884.

Landing of the Settlers in Surf Boats                                       129

Landing of the Settlers on the Beach                                       144

*A. B. Ellis: The Tshi-speaking Peoples of the Gold Coast, 1887
------ The Ewe-speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast, 1890.

------ The Yoruba-speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast, 1894.

G. W. Ellis: Negro Culture in West Africa (Vai-speaking peoples), 1914/

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