Item 7 - Letter from A. S. Eddington to Sarah Ann Eddington

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EDDN/A/4/7

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Letter from A. S. Eddington to Sarah Ann Eddington

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  • 29 Apr. –2 May 1919 (Creation)

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3 folded sheets

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Roça Sundy | Principe
Tuesday April 29.

My very dear Mother

Just a month to the eclipse; and today we have all our belongings at the site selected, and have started the work of erection.

We got our first sight of Principe at 9 o’clock in the morning of April 23, and it looked very charming. We had seen no land since leaving Cape Verde Islands; although we went within forty miles or so of Africa, it was always too misty to see the coast. We did not pass any ships. Occasionally we saw schools of porpoises playing about, and plenty of flying-fish, but no whales or sharks.

The island is thickly wooded down to the water’s edge, and looked very green after St. Vincent and S. Thiago. We dropped anchor about 11 o’clock in the bay of S. Antonio, and immediately after breakfast, a launch came out bringing our hosts who were expecting us. We had sent a wireless message to say we were on the Portugal, and the people out here had heard from Lisbon about the expedition.

I must first explain who are the principal people we have to do with on this island.

Mr. Carneiro is our host. He is rather a young man, and owns the largest private plantation. He has only been out here two years, but his family have had the plantation a long while. In Lisbon he was a well-known bull-fighter. (The Portuguese bull-fight is not like the Spanish, the horses and bulls are not killed.[)]

Mr Gragera is the manager for the Sociedade de Agricultura Colonial. He lives some way out of S. Antonio, and offered us sites on his plantation; but we found Mr Carneiro’s more favourable.

The Governor a very delightful man. He likes to try to speak rudimentary English, and to teach us Portuguese. He always collars my Portuguese dictionary when he sees me, and hunts up things to say.

The Judge

The Harbour-Master

The Curador, who is responsible for the imported labour—quite a young man.

The Treasurer

A clerk of Mr Carneiro’s, who lives in his house at S. Antonio and can speak a little English sometimes.

Mr Atalia, Mr Carneiro’s manager at Roça Sundy, the house where we are staying for the eclipse.

Mr Lewis | Mr Wright {1} Two negro’s from Sierra Leone who are the sole staff of the cable-station here. They are British, and interpret for us. But, of course they are only with us now and then. Mr Lewis came to meet us on the ship, but since then he has not been well, and we have seen more of Mr. Wright.

You see I do not mention any ladies—there do not seem to be any. The first night, there was a lady at dinner at Mr Carneiro’s, who spoke English very well, but she went to S. Thomé the same evening by the “Portugal”. We have not met any ladies since.

We were met on board by the Governor, Mr. Carneiro and Mr. Gragera, and we soon found that we were in clover. Everyone has been very kind, and they are not only anxious to give us a good time, but give us every help we need for our work. There are very good facilities here for everything we need, and our progress so far has been easy. You will know before getting this letter whether we have been successful; but I am afraid the weather prospects are not at all good from what we hear, and we shall be lucky if we get a clear sky.

We stayed until Monday morning (28th) at Mr Carneiro’s house in S. Antonio. It is a very nice new house not quite finished yet. We spent Thursday quietly. On Friday we started at 8∙a.m. to see two sites on the property of the Sociedade Agricultura Colonial. We went in a car drawn by two mules running on the lines of the light railway. We went first to Mr Gragera’s house Roça Esperança. It was too hemmed in by mountains to be a suitable site. We had breakfast there and afterwards went on to Roça S. Joaquin on the west coast of the island. This would have been a satisfactory site for us, if we had not afterwards found a better one. We arrived back about three o’clock.

On Saturday, we again started at 8 o’clock this time mounted on mules to visit Mr Carneiro’s chief plantation Roça Sundy. It was rather more than an hour’s ride (chiefly at a walking pace). The house is near the north-west corner of the island, away from the mountains, and on a plateau overlooking a bay about 500 feet below. We had noticed this house as we approached the island on the steamer. There was little difficulty in deciding that this was the most favourable spot; and there happened to be an enclosed piece of ground close to the house which just suited us. We look straight on to it from our bedroom window. It is sheltered on the east by a building and is open towards the sea on the west and north—just right for the eclipse. We arranged to have a small pier built for the coelostat to stand on, and to have our belongings brought over on Monday.

On Sunday they took us for a picnic at Ponto Mina, a point in the harbour of S. Antonio. We went by motor-launch. Mr Carneiro, the Treasurer, Curador, harbour-master and Mr Wright went with us. We landed and climbed up a little way to get a view, then had pic-nic breakfast, and afterwards went on in the launch all round the harbour. We saw a great shark close to the boat.

At four o’clock that afternoon we both played tennis with the Curador and the Judge. We had three very good sets and enjoyed the games very much. The court was on asphalte. There is no one else who plays tennis on the island now, so I think the other two were very glad to have the game—the Judge especially seemed to enjoy himself. I expect we shall get some more games when we return to the city. (We always call it the city—but S. Antonio is only a tiny village.)

The evenings at S. Antonio were very pleasant, sitting on the balcony in cool white clothes, with the sea just in front of us. Usually two or three of our friends here came round after dinner. Mr Carneiro has a splendid pianola and gramophone with any quantity of records—grand opera, etc. so we have had a lot of music. Punctually at nine o’clock the party breaks up and everyone goes to bed. Here in the country we keep earlier hours and bed-time is half-past eight!

Of course it is pretty hot here and moist, but I do not find the climate at all trying. We have rain for a short time almost every day, often very heavy, and I have found the macintosh very useful. There are not many mosquitoes, but we always sleep under curtains; and I take 3 grains of quinine every morning—the usual practice. The plantations are very beautiful, cocoa trees, bananas and bread-fruit trees growing together with a few coffee trees in places. The views of the mountains and the sea, with yellow sandy beaches are very fine. There are a great variety of butterflies, some of them very large and brightly-coloured.

The nicest fruit here is the pine-apple which grows wild; they have a very good flavour. The bananas are scarcely so good as in Madeira (except the red ones are very good); they grow to a great size, larger than our largest cucumbers, but the biggest are only good for roasting. We also have paw-paws and custard-apples, but I do not care so much for them. The meals are according to the usual foreign fashion, but they always have a meat or egg dish at petit déjeuner, so it is more like an English breakfast. We have afternoon tea—I think specially for our benefit as the Portuguese do not generally take it.

We came out here to Roça Sundy on Monday afternoon, riding on mules part of the way and then meeting a carriage which drove us the rest of the way. Our baggage turned up about five o’clock.

I have been writing this at odd moments and it has now got to Thursday. We have had a pretty busy time. We spent Tuesday & Wednesday erecting the two huts, and this morning we have begun setting up the apparatus. It rained very heavily last night—very conveniently for testing the waterproofness of the huts; they stood the deluge splendidly.

It is very comfortable here and we have all the assistance and facilities we need. About 600 native labourers are at work on the plantation and they have carpenters and mechanics at work so it is easy to get any small things required. We get on well with Mr. Atalia; I think it is pretty lonely for him out here and he is glad to have company. He speaks French to about the same extent that I do and we hold quite long conversations in the evenings. He was a cavalry officer and fought for the monarchy in 1910; after the republic was formed, he found it best to leave Portugal and lived in Spain & France until he came here four years ago. He is going to take us to hunt monkeys when we have time; there are large numbers in the plantation; they eat the cocoa, but they are very timid. Mr Carneiro has a most amusing little monkey at his house in the city, and it is very funny to see the monkey the cat and a tiny puppy all playing together.

I expect we shall be here about a week, getting on as far as we can without unpacking the mirror. We shall then return to the city until May 14. After that we shall be here continuously until we finish (after the eclipse). By May 14 the rain ought to be at an end. I do not want to unpack the mirror too soon because it will gradually tarnish.

I received your letter dated March 14 on arrival at Principe; there was also a letter from Newall (forwarded from Greenwich). That is all that has reached here yet. We expect the next mail about May 7. I was very glad to have news of you, but it seems very ancient news.

Mr Atalia has just showed us a tiny monkey brought in by one of the men. They shot its mother and it was clinging on to her; it would be about two months old. It is very tame and very mischievous.

I hope all is going well at home. The garden ought to be looking very pretty now. I hope to be back before the strawberries are over, we do not get any thing to equal them here

With very dear love from
your affectionate son
Stanley

[finished Friday May 2] {2}

—————

Numbered ‘7th’ at the head. One passage has been marked in pencil, and in one case emended, by a later hand.

{1} These two names are braced together, one above the other.

{2} The square brackets are in the MS.

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