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Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas - page 5 / 129





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Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas

The Spanish Main

The “Spanish Main” was the Caribbean Sea, which lies between North and South America, where, were it not for the narrow neck of land which joins them (and which is called the Isthmus of Panama), North and South America would be separate continents.

Across the great bay thus formed lie a number of islands, some big, some little. These we know as the West Indies, and in the old times they were much used by the pirates and buccaneers as their lairs and hiding-places.

The countries all around the Caribbean Sea were first seized and occupied by the Spaniards, after the great scout, Christopher Columbus, had discovered them.

These lands were not only wonderful for their fertility in producing all kinds of plants, fruits, and corn, but also they held enormous wealth in gold and silver and precious stones. So when the Spanish ships began to arrive in Europe laden with the richest cargoes from the West, adventurers from every nation began to appear upon the scene, eager to get some of it.

The British were especially to the fore, probably because at that time (in Henry VIII’s reign) many ceased to be Roman Catholics, and so had nothing but hatred for the Spaniards, who were particularly eager about pressing their religion on to other people, whether they liked it or not.

So it was not long before our old sea-dogs, Raleigh, Drake, Frobisher, Hawkins, and others, were to the fore with their ships in the Spanish Main, eager to check the increasing power of the Spaniards by cutting off their supplies and to gain some of their booty for their own country.

In addition to these, a great many adventurers from all nations got together in the West Indian Islands and made looting expeditions on quick-sailing vessels with which they used to board Spanish galleons and steal their valuable cargoes.

These men stuck at nothing. Murder came quite easy to them. They were known as “buccaneers” and pirates.

A “buccaneer” originally meant a man who used a “buccan,” that is, a kind of frame for drying and smoking meat, and so preserving it for use on long voyages.

A large number of people found this a profitable profession in the West Indian Islands, as the Caribbean Sea became a resort for ships ; but they also found it still more profitable occasionally to take a turn at ship-looting themselves, so the term “buccaneer” very soon came to mean much the same as pirate.

The aim of our commanders of those days was not quite so high as it would be now, for they combined a good deal of piracy with their patriotism-but it was the way of the world at that time ; and it certainly produced a breed of daring adventurers who gave to our nation the spirit and hardihood which have stuck to us for hundreds of years since, and which., let us hope, will go on among us for generations to come.

The Southern Cross

Soon after leaving the Azores my early rising (for I am generally up before half-past five) was rewarded by a fine view of the Southern Cross as it appeared above the horizon.

It made me feel back in South Africa again to see the old familiar sign which had guided me on many a night’s march.

The constellation looks like this:

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