Next to Shanghai, Singapore is the busiest
port in the Orient. But they placed too much dependence upon one
commodity for export—Rubber. When the terrible slump in price of this
article came, it struck this port heavily. A good deal of building is
going on, and there is an air of activity about the place that was
totally absent from Hong Kong or Manila, so for the kind of times we are
passing through I would say Singapore has "no kick coming." The harbor
was fairly well filled with shipping, and we were told that the previous
month was busier than when we were there. Quite a fair amount of cargo
was moving, despatch was fairly good and stevedoring was cheap. The
Robert Dollar was an unreasonably long time in port on account of having
to move a large quantity of Bombay lumber from the 'tween decks to the
deck so as to make room for 3000 measurement tons of cargo. Had it not
been for this she would have had quick despatch.
I found that the other steamship lines had
gotten it into their heads that we were not only interlopers, but also
rate slashers; and gave us the cold shoulder. This was partly brought
about by our refusal to sign an agreement, that all the others signed,
to keep the present rates, and before making any cut to notify all the
others of our intention. Mr. Shreve, however, did send them a letter to
the effect that we would keep rates. We had a meeting at which I told
them we never had been guilty of being the first to cut, but reserved
the right as soon as anyone cut, to follow or not as we saw fit, and,
furthermore, that we were there to stay, and wanted to work harmoniously
with them, and wanted to get our fair share of the business. They are
convinced now that we are a permanency, and I don't think there will be
much more trouble. The strange part of it was that, the Blue Funnel Line
manager, Mr. Hennings, was the greatest complainant and just at this
time his Liverpool office ordered the rate on rubber cut from $15 to
S12, without consulting- anyone. This no doubt was because that company
wants to rule the roost and tell all others where to "get off." No one
can understand such a cut at this time as there is enough cargo to go
around. It requires close watching to hold our own.
The Robert Dollar Company office has been
moved to 117 Market Street. It is commodious and much better than the
one we had. We are getting our share of the business and our affairs
appear to be in a prosperous condition.
TI1E IIUGLI RIVER
For many years I had read all I could get
on die subject and tried to get information from others. Then, when I
came to Calcutta, and inquired of everyone who is supposed to know, and
closely questioned pilots, I must confess that the more I tried to
learn, the less I knew. So, I am writing a brief account of what I found
out in eight short days. I make this statement so you may understand how
imperfect my account must be.
Pilot Ridge Rung, 142 miles from
Calcutta, is where a pilot boat is generally to be found. The pilot
boats are three-masted steamers and are of good size for this sort of
work. The pilots are graded into four classes, besides apprentices, the
higher-ups taking the big boats and so on down the line.
When we came along with the Robert Dollar
we took on a pilot of the highest grade, who told me that this was
largest ship that had ever attempted to go up the Ilugli to Calcutta.
They depend upon the speed for safety, and when he learned that we could
give him twelve knots he was reassured and satisfied. I watched as
closely as I could all the way, but at tunes the rain fell in such
torrents it was impossible to see a ship's length ahead. Fortunately the
showers were not of long duration, and we had intervals during which we
could see clearly.
This river is the best buoyed and
"shore-marked" of any river I ever saw, and I came to the conclusion
that this total lack of obtainable information, and the tales that we
hear of the terrible dangers in navigating this stream are caused by
Upper—.STEAMER "ALICE DOLLAR" Lower—THE ICHANG WATERFRONT
the hue and cry of the pilots, so they
will he able to hold their positions. I totally faded to see anything to
prevent a good captain from taking his own ship up or down with the aids
to navigation that 1 mentioned. I understand the Pilots Association is a
close corporation and no one is allowed to pilot a ship until he has
served an apprenticeship of five years. Generally, the pilot and an
apprentice board a ship. The pilot who brought us up appeared to be a
The water of the Hugli is of a brownish
color and full of sediment. During the rainy season it is subject to
The first bar is Saugor Island Middleton
sand bar, ninety-four miles from Calcutta and forty-eight miles from the
pilot boat. I completely failed to get the information as to what bar
had the. least water on it, so cannot make a comparison, and the only
thing to assume is, that they all have the same amount of water on them,
which of course is not correct. While we were sounding, five and
one-quarter fathoms was the least we found on any of the bars, of which
there are six ib all. The next bar is twenty-four miles further up, that
is seventy miles from Calcutta, called Gabtola bar. Then eighteen miles
further along is Bellary bar Up to this point the land is very low, all
alluvial and made from the silt deposits. It resembles the mouth of the
Yangtse very much. The river up to this point is several miles wide,
with many mud banks, some showing at low water, and many with only a few
feet of water over them. Only in the buoyed channel, which has been
dredged is there sufficient water for steamers. From here up the rich
land appears to be well cultivated, and the crops look healthy, as it is
the rainy season
Ten miles farther up is Diamond Harbor,
which appears to be- just a wide bend in the river. As a matter of fact,
the indentation on the right leads to the entrance of the Sun derabunds,
the waterway to the Brahmapootra Valley and the Ganges. Vessels often
drop down to Diamond Harbor and lighter cargo from incoming ships, so as
to lighten them for the trip over the next bar, five miles up the river,
called the James and Mary,
The James and Mary is the most dangerous
shoal in the river Hugh, as it is of quicksand formation. More than one
vessel, with all hands, has been sucked into its cavernous depths
without a chance of rescue. The unlucky vessel which may he swept on
this shoal by the current or through any defect of machinery or steering
apparatus, has no chance to escape this treacherous bar.
Fifteen miles further is Royapur bar,
then a "reach" of four miles in length and the ship arrives at the last
bar, eighteen miles from Calcutta, and said to be the shallowest of them
all. Between Diamond Harbor and this bar there is no anchorage ground
for ships. Fifteen miles further up brought us to Garden Reach, where
the new wet dock is being built, an immense undertaking. At this place
new wharves and warehouses are being built for two miles along the river
bank. This work is only partially completed. The Robert Dollar was the
first steamer to dock at the lower end. The wharves and warehouses are
of steel and first-class in every way, an excellent place to berth big
steamers. Garden Reach is five miles from Calcutta although within the
harbor limits. An assistant harbor master must berth and make fast all
steamers, as no captain is supposed to be competent to dock a steamer in
Calcutta. And here I saw an exhibition that made me sick.
We started at 2:00 p. m. and finished at
9:00 p. m.. seven long hours that any captain could have done in half
the time. Sixty fathoms of our 2%-inch anchor chains had to be placed on
a barge and taken aft to moor the ship to the wharf. They compel each
ship to be made fast with two pieces, 30 fathoms of their anchor chains.
The pilot bringing the ship up the river will not allow the anchor to he
unshackled until we get to the harbor lines, then the harbor master
won't allow the ship to come alongside until he goes through all his
costly farce of getting his chains ready. One would ask "Why?" The only
answer is, pure cussedness. There we lost a clear half day. T never saw
or heard of such a performance in any other port. Then, it takes about
the same time to let go and put all the chains back in the lockers. So,
it took the Robert Dollar one whole day to make her fast at the dock and
COMPANY OFFICE BUILDING, SINGAPORE
OUR OFFICE AND LUMBER YARD, HANKOW
gut again. As it takes two days to bring
a ship up the river and three days to take her back, when figuring the
cost of the port, one must charge up six days' time more than has to be
allowed at any other port, a very serious handicap against Calcutta.
Therefore, a higher rate of freight must be obtained to offset this loss
My instructions had been not to figure on
going out of Calcutta with more than twenty-six feet draft, but all my
figures were based on salt water. On further investigation, I believe
twenty five feet would be much safer ; then, if there is a high tide the
ship may be loaded down to twenty-seven feet, which would mean
twenty-seven feet fresh water at Calcutta.
The pilots claimed that ships of less
than ten knots are difficult to handle on account of the strong current,
but I informed them that they could get twelve knots out of every vessel
we sent into the Hugh".
To write of a city of one million people
with an acquaintance of only eight days, must of necessity be only from
a limited observation.
In approaching it from the river, the
first thing I saw was a great number of tall smokestacks, showing it to
be a manufacturing center. Then, coming closer, I was impressed with the
structures, all of the most solid and substantial sort, giving one the
impression that the city had come to stay, and I think it is the great
commercial center of India.
Calcutta is well laid out, with many wide
straight streets. All streets are well paved and well kept up with good
wide sidewalks, in fact a modern city. The buildings are generally solid
and substantial, from four to five stories high. Many have only
stairways to the upper floors, but the more modern ones have lifts
(elevators), nearly all of which carry only three people, and in most
cases a young fellow can run up stairs as fast as the elevators go. Why
they don't have elevators that will carry fifteen or twenty people and
run six hundred feet a minute I was unable to find out—but for three
people who are not m a hurry they are a convenience.
One thing that must impress all strangers
is the magnitude of the public parks. One called the Maidan, said to be
seven square miles, is laid out with great wide driveways, seventy to
one hundred feet wide, all good automobile roads. The grass is kept
green all the time by constant watering and there are great avenues of
fine old trees. Dalhousie Square, in the center of the business part of
the city, is another fine park about fifteen hundred feet square with a
small lake in the center. The Exchange and best buildings of the city
are in its vicinity.
I was passing in front of the Exchange,
which is a very fine building, during a busy time when the street was
full of autos and carriages (a great many of the latter being still in
use here), when on the sidewalk and in the midst of this great crowd two
cows were sauntering along. The cows evidently were used to the
situation, as they took no notice of the crowd. This is not an uncommon
sight, as cows appear to be privileged characters, but having such a
privilege one would think that they would have better manners than to
stand in the crowd and drop manure on the fine, wide, and otherwise
clean sidewalks. Such is the case, however, and if you are high -minded
and don't look to your feet you will get in trouble. This is one of the
strange sights I saw.
In the native sections of the city,
goats, pigs, dogs, chickens, naked children, etc., are some of the
sights to be seen on the streets. I think 95% to 99% of those you meet
Hut a short distance above the Howrah
bridge on the Calcutta side of the river is what is known as a "burning
ghats' Here the bodies of dead Hindus are cremated :ti plain view from
the river, but not from the roadway. Although I did not attend any
cremation, an eye witness to many of them informed me that the burning
ghat consists of a piece of land surrounded on three sides by walls, but
open to the river. The funeral pyre is composed of three or four layers
of logs about four or five feet long, laid criss cross. On this the body
is placed after the limb joints have been broken. Three or four more
layers of logs are then placed on top of the body and the entire mass
covered with ghee, a native grease, and set afire When the body begins
to be consumed, a pointed iron is thrust into the skull to prevent it
from bursting. Prayers and crying by the mourners usually accompany the
ceremony. The men, who make a business of cremation, are the lowest cast
of Hindus, called domes.
The Hugh River runs along the entire
length of the city, while a canal for small boats runs entirely around
it. The great means of transporting freight is with the slow ox cart,
two oxen to a cart, which causes many blockades on account of the
slowness of the oxen—strings of them a mile long can often be seen.
Large auto trucks are being introduced but only a comparatively few are
in evidence, yet automobiles are gaining fast over the one-horse
carriage or "gharry" although the horse-drawn vehicle is in the
majority. There are 8000 private motor cars and 3000 taxis.
I never saw so many large offices as
here. Many have from 300 to 400 people in one room. One company
generally occupies an entire tloor of the building, which is open so as
to get plenty of light, but more especially, plenty of air, which is a
most essential requirement in this hot climate. When wooden partitions
are used, they are built about eight or nine feet high. Office work
commences at 10:00 a. m. and stops at 5:00 p. m so it requires more
clerks than >f working from 8:00 a. m. to 5 :00 p. m., besides I don't
believe the natives can accomplish as much as Europeans.
All Europeans act in a supervisory
capacity, therefore, all the clerical work is done by natives. Office
space, as a rule is equal to the demand, and there are few if any
offices available for renting.
As in England, business is practically
all done by brokers, and freights are closed by them. I was not aware of
this until I got here, although I was quite familiar with the custom in
England. The principals of the firms that I met, are nearly all
high-class men, not many of whom are over fifty years old. They appear
to be keen traders, and it would take a very able business man to
surpass them. I was very much surprised not to meet some men from fifty
to seventy years of age, but they were only conspicuous by their
absence. I was told that such men are ail in England managing the
business from that end.
Calcutta, like Shanghai, is built on
level alluvial soil just a few feet higher than high water mark, and
many centuries ago the ocean shore was where the city now stands.
As to the water front, in which we are
much interested, commencing at Garden Reach, fine substantial steel
wharves' are under construction. The Robert Dollar occupied the first
one finished. They are straight along the bank of the river with hue
large warehouses attached. Just below these new wharves they are
building a new wet dock, which will take several years to complete, as
it is to be large and will accommodate many steamers.
Further up the river and above Garden
Reach, at a suburb of Calcutta called Kidderpore, is located the wet
dock, which can accommodate a dozen or more large steamers. This dock
has also plenty of warehouse accommodations to take care of all cargoes,
incoming or outgoing.
Still further up the. river as far as the
How rah bridge, ships are berthed at the river side. Howrah is a large
suburb on the left bank of the river and is the terminal of the East
Indian Railway. This bridge is a wonder in its way it is built on
pontoons and is about forty feet above the water. It is double tracked,
and four vehicles can pass over it abreast, but even with this capacity
it is unable during the busy times of the day to carry the great crowds
of pedestrians, autos, horse-drawn vehicles and the everlasting string
of ox carts.
Then in addition to all the berthing
space there are a great number of buoys for vessels to make fast to,
when the harbor is crowded. It was slack when we were there and all
vessels were accommodated at wharves.
I consider the port charges excessive.
Some excuse may be made because the Robert Dollar was the largest vessel
that, had ever docked at Calcutta.
I visited all the lumber yards to see
what stock they carried. The nulls are located on the left bank of the
LARGEST KNOWN BANYAN TREE—BOTANICAL, GARDENS, HOWRAH, BRITISH INDIA
or the Howrah side as it is called, a
little farther down stream and about opposite where the Robert berthed.
I found only a small quantity of Douglas fir in the yards, probably one
and a quarter million feet, they count it in tons. Most of it was not in
very good condition, as t was stained and black, and in some cases white
ants had gotten into it. There was a large stock of teak of all sizes,
and an immense stock of square logs in the water, some very big pieces
being amongst them. There was quite an assortment of native pine of
small sizes and lengths, but nothing to compare with the size and length
of Oregon pine. However, the native wood being cheaper, it is used
whenever it is possible.
Near the yards are situated the Botanical
Gardens, and we heard of a wonderful Banyan tree, so we went to see it.
It was certainly one of the wonders of the world. It had been planted
over 150 years ago, and had since put out big limbs in every direction.
Parallel to the ground and about ten feet above it. the lunbs put out
what might be called runners back to the ground, where they took root
about ten feet apart, and continued their growth giving one the
impression they were posts supporting the lumbs. Those posts, as I
called them, are now twelve inches in diameter; this system has
continued until the lunbs of more recent growth are from one inch and up
in diameter. The mother tree has a diameter of about eight feet and I
measured the distance to the outer growth and found it to be 325 feet,
the outside circumference of the tree is over 1000 feet. The main trunk
is now showing signs of decay, but all the sprouts are in a very healthy
condition. The avenues, within the gardens, are all well paved and ifa
excellent condition, there being some fine ones bordered by palms. The
size of the gardens is about 400 acres, and in its vicinity there is a
big native population to whom this place is a blessing.
Mr. Watson, Manager for McLeod & Co., was
kind enough to drive us up to his Kelvin jute mill, a dozen of miles up
the river, and we were very glad of the opportunity of seeing a modern
jute mill, where several thousands of men and women were employed. The
machinery seemed to be of the very hest and was running to perfection.
As this is the first one I had ever been 'n, I won't attempt to describe
it. We saw the raw material coming in and being turned out m cloth, and
various kinds of bags, truly this is one of the great industries of
One thing that interested me in
particular was the sight of a number of children in the mill from two to
six years of age, most of them as naked as they were born. On inquiry, 1
learned that their mothers were working in the mill and were allowed to
bring the children with them. Boys and girls of seven years and over
were working at light jobs at which they appeared to be quite smart. The
mills run thirteen and a half hours a day, but no one had to work more
than eight hours, although I did not learn how the time was divided. The
company has good houses for its European employees, of whom there were
more than a dozen. There is both water and rail transportation to and
from the mill.
We next visited their shoe factory, a
short distance away, which was a revelation to us—the making of shoes
entirely of jute—soles, uppers, heels and all. The manufactured product
had the appearance of being a serviceable article. Here we saw the raw
material going in and the finished article coming out. It is a
comparatively new? business, and so far, the entire product is sold ir.
India. The factory employed a great number of girls and boys. The girls
were a curiosity. All had their nostrils pierced and everyone had. I was
going to call them "ear rings," but I must call them nose rings, some of
them hanging down as far as the mouth. Their arms and ankles were
adorned with a variety of rings, both of metal and colored glass. They
were an interesting side show. We saw only one European, the manager.
Both of these plants gave us the impression that there was someone at
the head who was a first-class organizer, as I fully realized the great
difficulty in getting manufacturing plants into such good working order
where there are so many natives employed.
Another strange sight, not seen mi other
countries, is the large number of crows and bromlekites doing scavenger
work on the streets and river front. They go on with their work and
don't mind the crowds passing by. I was told the following story of the
fearlessness of the kites toward man: Several of the crew of a sailing
vessel were eating their dinner on the forecastle head, when one of the
men put his plate on deck while he filled his cup with coffee. He had
hardly turned around before a kite swooped down and stole the meat from
his plate. Another scavenger bird that is common to Calcutta is the
"Adjutant," which, though a bird of wonderful plumage, has a very
peculiar appearance, as it stands about three and a half to four feet in
height, and struts about like a military man on parade.
One peculiarity of the river Hugh is the
appearance during the southwest monsoons of a phenomenon called the
"bore," which is a solid mass of water from six to eight feet in height.
It enters the river at its mouth and continues its course upstream far
above Calcutta at a rate of from twenty to twenty-two miles an hour,
sweeping everything before it that is not properly secured, and
generally causing considerable damage to native craft. Vessels at anchor
or moored to buoys or wharves at Calcutta during the season of the bore,
always attach rope hawsers to their chains for springs, so that the
first shock of this tidal wave will be taken up by the hawsers. This is
done to prevent the snapping of the chain cables.
Navigating the rivers of India, is very
similar to the inland navigation of China, excepting that where there
are rocks in the Yangtse, there are sandbars in the Ganges and
Brahmapootra. During the dry season in India the channels of even these
large streams are very shallow and often shift over night. If a vessel
were to strike a sandbar and no attempt made to get her off at once, it
would be but a few hours before she would become engulfed in sand.
I have been informed that, whereas,
during the dry season a river steamer on its way up the Brahmapootra
will be steaming between banks but a few hundred feet wide that in the
rainy season over the same course, the only land visible is the lofty
peaks of the Himalayas, a hundred miles or more away. In other words,
the river has spread out to such an extent that water instead of land
forms the horizon.
At the commencement of the rainy season,
navigating conditions change. The sluggish waters of the two large
rivers show signs of an increasing current, which as the season
advances, become torrents, and where the Ganges and Brahmapootra come
together there are said to be times when steamers bound up-stream find
it difficult to stem the tide.
With the rising of the waters, the river
banks are more or less cut away, and the channels shift with the course
taken by the swift-rushing water. As the rivers continue to increase in
depth, they also lose the confinement of the banks and spread out over
the land which but a short time previously has been producing crops.
Transportation between Calcutta and the
Brahmapootra Valley, and along the lower Ganges, is carried on by one or
two steamship companies. The steamers are side-wheel vessels, something
similar to the old Mississippi boats, but smaller, and they carry only a
few hundred tons of cargo. The cargo vessels, which are called "flats,"
are built of steel plates, shipped in sections from England, about one
hundred and fifty feet long, by about twenty feet beam. They are
somewhat similar to a canal boat, with the exception that they are
roofed over with galvanized ir6n, high above the deck amidships where
the iron sheets from each side form a peak. The lower end of the sheets
are fastened to a fore and aft beam on each side, which is supported by
stanchions about eight feet above the deck, and from six to eight feet
apart. These vessels carry about 1000 tons at a draft of six feet. Cargo
is loaded into the holds as well as on deck. The officer's quarters
(only one white man to a vessel) are built forward, the crew sleeping on
the after deck. A steamer leaving Calcutta for up-country will take a
flat or two in tow. Only a small, general cargo is carried as a rule.
To reach the continence of the Ganges and
Brahmapootra rivers, a distance by fail of less than one hundred and
fifty miles, it takes a steamer with flats in tow from five to seven
days, according to whether it is the dry or the rainy season. From
Calcutta they steam down the Hugli to Diamond Harbor, turn at almost
right-angles to the eastward and enter the
ROBERT DOLLAR I AND ROBERT DOLLAR II
Sunderabunds, which are a network of
small streams traversing- dense jungle land. One author in speaking of
this section says, "The Sunderabans cover over 6500 square miles of
water-logged jungle infested with tigers and other wild animals."
With one exception, the rivers through
which the vessels pass, are narrow, and tortuous, and in several
instances they have to make the turns in single tile; swinging around
the corners by the use of lines made fast to trees, or to stakes driven
into the ground. Several hundreds of miles are covered before reaching
the junction of the Ganges and Brahmapootra, from where the vessels
proceed up the river to which they are destined. The steamer and flats
return to Calcutta with full cargoes of the various products of the
region at which they load. These consist of jute in drums, wheat, tea,
rape seed, mustard and other varieties of seed, castor oil beans, dry
pepper in sacks, rubber and what not.
To show the difficulties in getting out
of the river Hugh, the following may be interesting: The first day the
Robert Dollar was taken down the stream forty-five miles from Calcutta
and brought to an anchor; the second day she made a distance of thirty
miles toward the sea, and the third day she got out.
Previous to the building of breakwaters,
Madras harbor was unprotected, there being only a straight coast line
for many miles with shifting sands for a bottom ground, so it was a big
undertaking to make it a safe harbor.
The breakwater is built of concrete
blocks, weighing twenty to thirty tons. It resembles the harbor of
Manila, but is far more substantially built, as it has to resist heavy
seas at times and constantly shifting sands. Since the first sea wall
was built the sands have encroached nearly half a mile. A railroad track
is built on the breakwater, and is used for handling bulk cargoes into
the cars. Warehouses are built the entire length on the shore side, so
cargoes can be delivered in or taken out direct to ships. There are
sufficient cranes for lifting heavy weights. The piers are of solid
masonry and there is twenty-seven feet of water at low tide at the
docks. There are plenty of huoys for vessels to lay to if the wharves
are occupied. At the present time the harbor is large enough for all
requirements, as at least thirty large steamers can be accommodated at
one time. Good despatch is given, something over 1000 tons a day, and
the charges are reasonable. Mr. Mitchell, chairman of the Harbor Board,
was very kind and showed me about the harbor, and all that was to be
seen, fully explaining its management and working system. Steamers
should have no delay in entering or leaving Madras and good despatch can
be given. There is ample storage room and plenty of warehouse space.
Large quantities of ore of various kinds were piled ready for shipment.
1 was much pleased with this port, both in its management and in its
facilities for doing business. The tides are very small, only from two
to three feet.
One strange sight was, that instead of
oxen pulling the big cumbersome carts, men were used. I asked the reason
and was told men were cheaper than oxen, hi most other places oxen
furnish the motive power in the moving of merchandise. This goes to show
how low wages are. The distance we had to travel by rail from Calcutta
to Madras, was over 1032 miles.
The old city adjoins the harbor, and all
the business houses are located nearby, with the native quarters back of
t; but the retail and residential part of the city is across a river,
and about five miles further along the ocean shore. A great park divides
the town. I have never seen any city situated just like this one. The
residential part is laid out with wide straight streets, well paved and,
for a tropical country, they are modern. In the old parts are many
buildings, the lower doors of which are used for warehouses, and the
upper parts for offices. Our agents, Walker & Co., have occupied the
same offices since 1849. The British first occupied Madras about 500
They have some very good clubs, and also
a woman's club, which is a beautiful building, standing on a big tract
of land outside the city. There are many large shade trees, a good size
banyan tree, large lawns and a river runs through it. Take it all in
ail, it is ideal for a tropical country.