- 6 Apr. 1919
Part of Papers of Sir Arthur Eddington
Funchal, April 6
My very dear Mother
I think that our time here is nearly up. We are to go on by the steamer Portugal which is due here on Wednesday, April 9, and should reach Principe on the 23rd. It calls at two places in the Cape Verde Islands and then goes straight to Principe. We shall not be the only English on board as we know of two others going as far as St Vincent (in Cape Verde Is.). The Quelimane which we had thought at first would be our boat was due here on the 3rd but did not arrive till yesterday; it was going direct to St Thomé, only a hundred miles from Principe, but did not call at Principe.
Since my last letter I have had one other splendid walk on the hills. I went alone as it was too far for Cottingham. I started at 7∙45 and reached Terreira de Lucta (the terminus of the railway) by half past nine; I was walking as there was no train early enough. It was then an easier walk though still uphill over Poiso pass 4550 feet up; then steep downhill to Ribiera Frio. This is one of the famous view-points of the island. The Balçoã (or balcony) there is about 2800 feet above sea-level, and one looks up and down a splendid deep ravine, thickly wooded. It is the same ravine that I saw from Ariero Observatory; but here, being in the middle of it instead of at one end, one gets a much better view and better idea of its size and depth. I reached this place about 12∙15 and stayed there till near 2 o’clock. It was very fortunate I had made an early start, because by the time I left the mist had come up from the sea on the north of the island and completely filled the ravine, so that one could see nothing. When I got there it was quite clear except for a few clouds round two or three of the highest snow-covered peaks. The highest peaks are 6000 feet high. One got good views of the levadas (artificial aqueducts) cut in the sides of the precipitous cliffs, and part of the way the path was by the side of one of these levadas. I climbed back through the mist to Poiso; and then got into the sunshine again, and left the road striking over the hills to Pico da Silva more to the east, getting a good view of the coast at the east end of the island. I reached Funchal about 6∙30, coming down the last 2000 feet by a very steep road like a flight of steps. The walk was about 25 miles altogether.
A good many of the people staying at this hotel left by a boat last Sunday, and it seems more empty now. There are about 8 or 10 permanent residents, and in addition I think there are only three other visitors—Ash (an old gentleman who came with us on the Anselm), Mr Bickmore a new arrival, and Geoffrey Turner a boy of sixteen from Mumbles, who has come out here for six weeks after an illness. Since some of his fellow-passengers left last Sunday, he has come to sit at our table and generally goes about with us.
The weather this last week has been very showery but always with long intervals of bright sunshine. The inhabitants say it is exceptionally bad weather; but I only wish we had “bad weather” of this kind in England. It is, however, unsuitable for long walks and the clouds are fairly low on the mountains; but that does not matter as I have been to the chief points of interest that are at all accessible. Nearly every morning this last week I have spent bathing at the Ajuda a place on the coast rather more than a mile from here which Geoffrey showed us. It is about the only place for a bathe here unless one goes out in a boat. The sea is rather rough and the coast rocky; but here there is a more or less enclosed pool where one can get a good swim without being knocked about on the rocks by the waves. I have got tremendously sunburnt.
We generally go to the Casino for tea, though we have tried once or twice another restaurant. There is always a band there. Roulette is prohibited in Madeira; but the authorities pretend not to know that it goes on. Now and again they make a raid, but they always telephone up to say they are coming. One afternoon, I was wanting to come away and found the main doors, which lead out through the dancing saloon, fastened, and we had to come out by a back way; the reason was that the Chief of the Police had come up for the dancing, and he was supposed not to know what was going on the other side of the door.
I have scarcely ever been out after dinner, but last night I went with Geoffrey to a picture-palace. The chief film was the funeral of King Edward VII! It was rather curious seeing it after so many years. After about ¾ hour of pictures, there was a short play of which we naturally could understand nothing. Then some recitations (chiefly serious) and some songs (chiefly comic). One of the comic songs was very amusing though one could not understand the words. It was a very crowded house, and very interesting to watch the audience.
I had a talk this morning with the English Doctor an old gentleman who has gone in for science a good deal. He is brother-in-law to the late Lord Kelvin, and told me a lot of stories about him. Kelvin met his wife at Madeira—a Miss Blandy—the Blandys are the agents of most of the shipping companies here, and they saw after storing our instruments, here.
I expect my next letter will be from Cape Verde Islands. I shall be glad to be progressing again; but I have enjoyed the whole of my stay here immensely—it has been a splendid holiday
With very dear love from
your loving son
Numbered ‘4th’ at the head. Three passages have been marked off in pencil by a later hand.