Friday, September 7, 2007

Sapodilla hill carvings

I am really pumped about the idea of going after wahoo. Great tasting fish. The water does get lumpy here in the winter. We have been out a couple miles on days when the official line was seven foot seas, with like a 7 or 9 second period, and it wasn't much fun in a 22 ft. boat. When you are standing on the deck, and cant see the island when in the trough, well, that's too much for me. As seaworthy as the little Andros is, sooner or later you gotta turn broadside... its just too physical for an old fart like me. We have surfed it back in over sand bars on those days, its a high pucker factor. But that weather seldom holds for more than a few days, then it lays down again. I can remember a couple times it was too rough to go outside the reef for maybe a week, max.That does it. I gotta find some small outriggers that I can install through the canvas t-top on the panga.

This morning is shaping up interesting. Just at dawn, we are surrounded by thunderstorms, and seeing lightning off in the distance all around us.

Thunder is rolling around from every point of the compass.

The dog is as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. He is doing his best shadow impression, running from a corner, to beneath a chair, then under a sofa, and back, except when he is tangling up between my ankles. I think I could get him to confess to anything right now, if I would just promise to stop the thunder.

Finally! We are planning to go back to Pine Cay tomorrow. I have several maintenance projects to finish up out there. Also most of our fishing stuff is there. And its a good place for me to install the new MP3 amp, speakers, and the new cleats on the boat. In the meantime, today we were thinking of climbing up Sapodilla Hill, taking more photos of the graffiti cut into the limestone rocks up there by sailors on lookout up there back in the 1700 and 1800's. That land is privately owned, which means its probably just a matter of time before its developed. Its a prime spot overlooking the sea, which is why it was used by early European sailors for a lookout.
It would be more stuff like this:

When we were there before, I snapped a half dozen photos and we moved on. I was thinking more along the lines of documenting it a little better. Who knows...someday when its all been bulldozed and turned into condos, some pix might be useful to someone somewhere someday.

We did go to Sapodilla today. On the way back, we saw this. Obviously some one's idea of a joke. Was thinking for a caption..."You need to work on that landing flare a little there, Chuck..."

Ok, I worked on the photos a little this afternoon. These carvings from long dead hands don't look as distinct in flat two-dimensional photographs as they do in person. Of course, standing there today under blue skies and the hot sun added something else to them. Sitting there, exactly where another man had sat over two hundred years ago, gave them a little more richness. With the wind blowing through the scrubby trees and cacti, looking out over the same sea and views that those long-ago sailors spent so many hours contemplating, they take on a little more than a three-dimensional feel. You can also feel the dimension time adds in human terms, as well as the timelessness of the sea.

I had read several descriptions of the Sapodilla Hill rocks that attributed them to "shipwrecked sailors". But as I thought about it, it seemed that marooned sailors couldn't account for all these carvings, over all those years. There are too many. So I looked into it a little today. I think these things go better when the guy writing them actually knows a little bit about what he's talking about.

Sapodilla Hill looks down directly on Sapodilla Bay:

Looking at the shoreline here, there is no evidence that there ever was a wharf, or dock facilities of any kind here. If there had been, its likely there would still be something of that sort today.

This little protected bay is at the end of a long natural deep channel that is the best way for large boats to get from the deep ocean into Provo. Its still used today, by shipping companies coming into South Dock. South Dock is the commercial wharf and Customs house immediately on the other side of Sapodilla Hill:

But the South Dock wharf is a recent thing. It wasn't here in the 1800s. There was just the little rocky cove in the foreground.

So the ships would come in the Sandborne Channel, and anchor in Sapodilla Bay, and they would run provisions ashore in lighters. The bay is normally calm, protected from the trade winds behind Sapodilla hill. It would be a natural place to post a lookout up on this hill and keep an eye on things. Its a pleasant view point, always has a breeze. Its also a good place to keep a watch out for pirates, the Spanish, or whomever might be trying to sail in to catch some English ships at anchor.

Two of the inscriptions could be attributed to 19th-century officials: W.R. Inglis, the name on the rock I posted this afternoon, was the Second President of the Turks & Caicos (1854-1862), and Oliver Mungen was the United States Consul (USC) to the Turks & Caicos from 1868-1869. Mungen had been a 2nd Lieutenant in the 57th Ohio Regiment in the US Civil War just four years before coming here. The TCI must have seemed a long long way from that horrible scar on American History. And we know he spent at least a few hours on this hill in 1869:

Ten years later, 1878, Oliver Mungen died, back home in Ohio. What a life he must have lead.

This one interested me, as well. The bottom name, C.L.P.Taylor, was first on this hill in 1817. Then, in 1844, he was back again. Where did he sail during those 27 years? What changes did he see in over a quarter of a century before the mast before coming back to the same rock? He must have had some tales to tell...because during 1844 his graffiti style was copied by D.A. Harriot.
(after posting that, a reader in Bermuda wrote to tell me that the Harriott family were the ones that moved to the TCI and were heavily involved in the salt trade. So that's a particularly historical rock, right there.)

While Lt.Mungen was still fighting the South, there was a Freemason here in 1865 with the intials T.P.

The meticulous Mr. N. Fumer was here in 1832

While S. Thompson seemed to have his own ideas about the letter "S" in 1874;

One of the older inscriptions is actually pretty clear. I think it says G.Carson, and he was here three days before Mozart's opera "Apollo et Hyacinthus," premiered in Salzburg. 1767, the year the Mason-Dixon line was established as the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland, and the year the British Government, confident in their ability to rule the waves and the colonies, decided it was a good idea
to pass the Townshend Revenue Act levying taxes on America (whoops).

That was also the year two infants were born in the American colony that would have some effect on years to come, Andrew Jackson, and John Quincy Adams.

So, I took about 30 of these photos, and I am not going to bore you with more of them here. I think you get the idea. But I did feel a sense of history sitting on this hill, thinking about lives that went before me, and the men who spent long hours on this exact same spot. Sitting on the same boulder I was sitting on, keeping an eye on the horizon for the first glimpse of a white sail. It made perfect sense to me that someone would pull out his dagger, or cutlass, and start carving his name. Normal sort of thing for sailor to do to while away the hours.

This place is not surrounded by a fence, there's no signpost pointing the way up the rugged path. The stones sit just as they were when sailors of a much earlier time sat and gazed upon the same beautiful waters where I have chosen to pass some of my time, as well.

No, I didn't carve anything up there. There is a lot of more recent stuff, even one in 1996 that's almost on top of one of the best of the old ones. But a lot of the later scratches are on the same rocks as the old stuff, and are not the same quality. superficial scratchings, basically I would consider those defacing the older scribes.

I was thinking of adding my name, though. I would find a "clean" rock, with no other names already on it, and take the time to do a good one. I don't see anything wrong with that. Who knows, maybe someone will eventually decide to protect at least part of this site, and a hundred years from now maybe a descendant of mine would get a kick out of seeing my name there, too. But I wouldn't deface a rock already carved.

I just realized that none of the photos I posted earlier were the one with W.R. Inglis' name. So, here that one is:

There are hundreds of rocks up there with things carved on them. I am sure some of them are hidden under brush, off the present trails etc. From what I have read, the written history of Provo started with Loyalist planters between 1783 and 1785. The 1760 and 1767 dates on Sapodilla Hill prove that someone was there earlier.

Its easily conceivable that some of the older or undated inscriptions on Sapodilla Hill are from shipwrecked sailors prior to 1720. Pirates were chasing the Spanish all over the place around here, and shipwrecked sailors might not know, or bother with, inscribing the date.
Here's another view from Sapodilla Hill, the beach and with more of whats called Chalk Sound behind it. Chalk Sound is where the sloop "Ranger"is normally anchored;

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