Memoirs of Robert Dollar
Vol. 2 - Chapter Eighteen
Bombay, which is 800 miles across from Madras,
is said to be built on six small islands connected together. The city
appears to a stranger as though it were two long points or prongs of
land sticking out into the sea. and where the two come together is the
center or business part of the city.
Taking the regular line of sailings from
Singapore or Colombo, it is a deviation of 462 miles longer to Suez by
going to Bombay. The first impression I got of the city was the solidity
of its buildings and docks, and that it had been built to stay. The
buildings are not high, from three to four stories, and a very few of
them five stories. One thing that surprised me was the great number of
large buildings in course of construction. There are more large office
buildings going up here than in any place I have visited on this trip.
But, as far as I saw, there were very few dwelling-houses being budt.
The streets are, as a rule, wide and straight. They have been well
paved, but of late not kept up, probably on account of the great number
of automobiles. I noticed a few trucks, but not many of them.
The motive power for delivering
merchandise is the oxcart, and there are said to be thirty thousand of
them. We were never out of sight of long strings of this ancient style
of conveyance. I did not see any horses used in hauling freight. The
oxen have great long horns, some of the more high-toned ones having
their horns painted in various colors, some gilded, and others with
colored garlands hanging on them. I saw some men hauling ox carts, but
not as many as I had seen >n other cities.
There are a great many churches and
temples, denoting that the people are religiously inclined. It is a very
old city, as there is a record of its being a seaport before the year
1700. It is now a city of about one million people. Labor is abundant.
and it is hard to see where they all get employment, but there are a
number of factories, mostly cotton, that employ a great many. Wages,
working on the dock, run from thirty to thirty-five cents gold a day.
One peculiarity of this place that I
could not understand was, that business does not start until 11 :00 a.
m. Clerks come to the office about 10:45. Why they lose what we consider
the best part of the day, I could not understand, especially in this hot
climate. Then they appear to have quite a number of holidays. For
instance, last week on Saturday, business started as usual at 11:00 a.
m. and closed at 1:00 p. m. Then came Sunday, Monday was a holiday, and
all offices were closed. Next Friday will also be a holiday; Saturday
two hours work, then the following Friday, Saturday and Tuesday all
offices will be closed again. No doubt they know how to do it, but
looking at :t from our point of view, business would be impossible.
Either they must have the capacity of doing twice as much as we do in
the same time, or that we are accomplishing double as much as they do.
We are the same race and enjoy a far better climate than they ;n which
to work, as in this tropical climate it would seem that a man would not
have the same energy and get-up to him as those living m a temperate
Like all other Indian cities, this one
has fine large parks in various parts, which must be of great and good
service to the community.
Bombay is said to be the gateway of
India, so it is of great value from a traveler's viewpoint as well as
commercially. We stayed at the Taj Mahal hotel, centrally situated. It
is a big group of buildings. Two pecularities I noticed in it were the
enormous thickness of the wallssix feet, and the floors of the hotel
which were different than anything I had ever seen or heard of. It
appears they were all laid with cement, then broken crockery placed on
the cement before it dried. The pieces are from one inch to one and a
quarter inches square. Although they are of every shape that one could
imagine crockery might be broken into, it makes a fairly smooth surface,
with a glittering appearance. The borders are of different colors from
the center, and in some places very beautiful
UpperSTEAMER "NEWSBOY," OUR FLEET THIRTY YEARS AGO
LowerSTEAMER "GRACE DOLLAR," FIRST ADDITION TO FLEET
center pieces have been worked in. I
think that each piece of the entire floor had to be placed by hand. They
are certainly unique and very nice to look at, and as far as durability
goes they are everlasting. There are many very old buddings here. We
were entertained at a residence that was budt 120 years ago, and it
seemed to be in very good condition. It was of stone, with very thick
We had several showers of ram every day
while we were in Bombay. Generally they don't last very long, but make
good use of the time when they are at it, as a great amount of water
falls in a few minutes; this is evidenced by the record of rainfall from
June 1st this year until September 7th. it being over seventy-five
To give an idea of the importance of this
port, 1500 ships entered it in 1920, handling six million tons of cargo.
As in all Indian cities, the cow has the right of way on the sidewalks
and on the streets. While going along the principal street near the
Merchants' Exchange during a very busy time of day, I noticed the crowd
leave the sidewalk and go out on the street. When I came to the place
the crowd avoided, I saw a cow stood crosswise of the sidewalk. This
probably sacred animal seldom uses the street, but monopolizes the
On Malabar Hill, the highest point of
land about the city, within the boundaries of a goodly sized piece of
land planted out m trees, the Parsees have erected their burial place,
The Tower of Silence. The tower is of stone, about sixty feet high by
three hundred and twenty-five feet in circumference and open at the top,
there being no roof on it. The general plan of the ampin theaters of old
has been followed in its construction, with the exception that niches
for reclining bodies take the places of seats.
The Parsees, of which Bombay boasts a
large population, are worshippers of the sun, and their dead are offered
to this deity. In Bombay the dead are taken to the Tower of Silence and
placed in the niches and it is supposed that their god takes the
departed spirits. Whether he does or not, the vultures, of which there a
great number, eat the flesh of the dead, and the bones are left to
bleach in the sun. They are then swept into the pit of the tower where
the rains dissolve them.
1 was shown a small model of the tower,
and also saw any number of vultures waiting around for their daily food.
They appeared to be very well fed, and were large birds, from two to two
and one-half feet in height, of a coal-black color, and villainous
looking creatures. It was stated to me that a body does not last over
fifteen minutes, and the men who carry the bodies to the tower are armed
with sticks to prevent the birds attacking them.
There are also a large number of crows,
as in Calcutta, which act as scavengers, but they and the vultures do
not think each seems to have its own particular line of work laid out,
and they evidently have plenty to do without encroaching on the other's
They have good large markets in different
parts of the city, and prices seem to be reasonable. This must be so, as
the purchasing power of the people is very low. Double as many are
employed in the offices as in America, and even with this great number,
I am sure two men do not accomplish nearly as much as one person in our
BOMBAY PORT FACILITIES
There are three wet docks at this port,
this being necessary on account of the high tides, which have a rise and
fall of sixteen feet.
The Alexandra dock has an entrance one
hundred feet wide, and is fifty acres in extent, and the largest
steamers are berthed in it; it can berth seventeen steamers at a rime.
The Victoria dock has an entrance eighty
feet wide, and covers an area of twenty-five acres, and can berth
fifteen steamers up to four hundred feet in length.
Then there is the Prince's dock, with an
entrance sixty-six feet wide, and an area of thirty acres. In this all
the smaller-sized coasting steamers are berthed. Vessels drawing up to
forty feet can be berthed in any of the docks. Then outside, about one
mile from shore, there is unlimited anchorage for vessels. All the docks
have warehouses except four open docks for loading ore or discharging
coal or lumber. The berths are generally provided with hydraulic,
cranes, which the Harbor Board claims can handle cargo faster than a
ship's winches. My experience has been that our winches could have
handled fifty per cent more than the cranes.
The dock officials have absolute control,
and a ship must abide by their decisions in all matters. Our ship was
alongside, ready to receive cargo at 6:00 a. m. but we did not get a
sling load until after 10:00 a. m. No one seemed to know why, and no one
apparently cared w hen we would start. There are railroads on all the
wharves, but the rails do not extend to the cap of the wharf.
In discharging 1,637,000 feet of lumber
it took us five and a half days and five nights. We filled up one berth
and then the ship had to be moved to another berth which we also filled.
Men carried a lot of the planks back and piled them, and two small
locomotive cranes carried all they could which the} piled further back.
Despite all this, we blocked the berth completely. It was an easy cargo
to discharge, as we had about one-third on deck. Then to get our outward
cargo, we had to move again to the berth where it was being assembled.
The stevedores are good and we got much better stowage than we had
expected. But the shore gang are Port Commission men. and the stevedores
can only handle cargo as fast as they receive it. No one is allowed to
work on the dock except the port's men. The stevedoring rates are quite
reasonable. Ships are handled expeditiously both in entering the harbor,
and in moving about inside. The work of moving a vessel is done with two
good tugs, but they insisted on having steam up on our engines as well,
which is a drawback, and often prevents the overhauling of the ship's
engines. It takes about two and a half hours from the time the ship
arrives at the outer dock gate until she is ready to handle cargo.
Freights are lower here than at other
Indian ports, so there is no inducement on that score to make it a port
of call. There is considerable delay due to rain, which comes in very
heavy short showers, although there must he some long ones mixed in with
the short ones.
They have plenty of dry docks; one about
1000 feet long and 100 feet wide, with a gate in the center. I saw two
steamers in one compartment, and one large one in the other end. The
ducks are all solid stone masonry of the most substantial construction;
the warehouses are large and modem and are mostly single story
structures. The roads around the wharves are good but somewhat out of
repair. Altogether the impression one gets is an air of substantial
solidity about the whole surroundings.
Further up the bay there are well
protected timber ponds, where a great amount of teak is kept, and there
was also some piled on the shore. In a large ore yard there was stored
many thousands of tons of iron ore. There was also a goodly sized stock
of coal on hand. Mr. McKenzie's saw mill, which is in this vicinity,
appeared to be doing a very big business with a large, though completely
out-of-date saw mill. The lumber we brought out was for it.
RAILROADS OF INDIA
From the maps of the country it looks as
if the railroad facilities are good. The passenger cars are the old
English style, good for short runs, but completely out of date for long
runs such as they have in India. There is no corridor through the train,
that is, no communication from one car to another. The carriage doors
all open outwards at each side of the car. The only dining car we saw
was for one meal out of Calcutta. Passengers had to get out of their
cars when the train stopped so as to get into the diner, then they had
to wait in the diner until the train stopped at a station so they could
get out on the platform and return to their cars, which was, to say the
least, a very inconvenient way of traveling. After the dining car was
detached, meals were to be had at dining stations where plenty of time
was allowedin fact, time seems to be one of the cheapest commodities.
The meals were good, and the price less than half of what we have to pay
I looked over several of the locomotives,
all of English pattern, but as good as the best ;n any country. They
carry three men, one engineer, one full fledged fireman learning to be
an engineer, and an apprentice who does the hard work.
Then in freighting, they only have the
old fashioned four wheeled trucks as they are called, which are mostly
of ten tons capacity, though I saw some of twenty-tons burden which were
open cars. The freight-cars, however, were too short to handle our long
lumber, so it was necessary to take two cars for one length of timber.
Many of them are used in carrying perishable freight, when they are
covered with tarpaulins. The boxcars are about the same size and similar
in construction. They give one the idea of doing business in a small
way, as compared with the American freight and box-cars of fifty tons
capacity and upwards. The locomotives I saw did not compare with the
size of our big freight engines.
The roadbed and general upkeep seem to be
of the best, everything connected with it being solid and substantial,
much more so than are American radroads. Stations are large, generally
built of stone: the platforms are of stone; the passenger trains, on
account of the solid road beds and good bridges, are able to make good
time. Station stops are frequent, and much too long, whereby a great
deal of what appeared to be unnecessary tune was lost. The railroads are
owned by the Government. The station at Bombay is said to be the best in
the world. It is certainly a magnificent building.
The voyage from Bombay enroute to New
York by way of Port Said was remarkable in some respects. Ordinary ocean
voyages as a rule are much the same, but in this case, one remarkable
condition was the temperature of the water of the Arabian Sea, where the
thermometer registered about eighty degrees. In the Red Sea it rose to
eighty-eight degrees, causing the vacuum of the engine to suffer, as it
fell to twenty-two inches. Another remarkable thing was the current in
the Arabian Sea, which ran all the way from twenty-four knots a day
shortly after leaving Bombay, and nearing the Gulf of Aden, when it was
as strong as forty-eight knots a day. The whole way across a strong
westerly monsoon was blowing, some times reaching the velocity of a
small gale. In the Gulf of Aden it still blew but moderated and the
current against us diminished to one-half a knot an hour. It was blowing
quite fresh when we passed the port of Aden. Ninety-six miles further is
Periin at the entrance to the Red Sea. Our course until this point was
due west. Here we turned at right-angles into the Red Sea. Then our
course was nearly north to Suez. The water of the Red Sea is a beautiful
deep blue. All the way to Suez we had a light northerly wind, which made
it nice and cool when m the breeze, but outside of that it was very hot.
We arrived at Suez at 6:00 p. m. but had
to wait the arrival of more vessels before entering the canal. At
midnight we left in a fleet of five steamers. They get them in bunches
this way to prevent the continual passing of single vessels. Then each
lot waits at certain places to allow others to pass; or if a single ship
or two is permitted to go, then on meeting the fleet they must tie up
and let all of the fleet pass. Posts for this purpose are placed the
entire length of the canal about three hundred feet apart. They are
timbers eighteen inches square and creosoted. The canal is in long
straight stretches, and as the country is all level, vessels can be seen
for a long distance in daylight, and at night each vessel has a
searchlight. The course of the canal is nearly north and south, and on
the west side trees in long stretches have been planted about eight or
ten feet apart, and make a good wind break to prevent the sand from
drifting into the canal.
From Ismalia to Port Said the railroad
parallels the canal This is the line to Cairo and Alexandria. For long
distances good stone walls have been built at the edge of the water to
prevent the wash of passing steamers, which are restricted to a speed of
five and one-third knots. But with all these precautions I noticed
drifting white sand banks had been approaching the canal bank, so that
gangs of men were removing them by light railroads and cars; and at
other places long strings of camels were carrying sand away in big boxes
strapped to their backs. It seemed strange to see them kneel down to get
loaded. The canal is kept m very good condition. On account of the sand
continually drifting into the canal, many dredges were in evidence. The
canal is said to he one hundred and twenty feet wide at the bottom with
a minimum of three hundred feet at the top of the water, and is thirty
The American Consul, Mr. Foote, reports
that the ships that passed through the canal the first six months of
1921 numbered 1870 of 8,474,000 Suez measurement tons, being an average
of 4531 tons per ship. The countries having more than 80 ships were:
Great Britain, 1108; Holland, 216? Italy, 124; Japan, 120; France, 97,
and the United States of America, 85. The percentages were, Great
Britain, 59.3; Holland, 11.5; Italy, 6.6; Japan. 6.4; France, 5.2; and
the United States, 4.6.
A comparison of the net registered
tonnage passing through the Suez and Panama canals for a period of live
Suez Canal dues equal 8.25 francs ( about
$1.20) per ton.
Panama Canal dues equal $1.25 per ton.
Coal shipped south through the canal in
1914 amounted to 1.257.000 tons. In 1920 it had dwindled down to 118,000
tons. The was caused first by the war, and later by the miners' strike.
This has caused coal to come from the South from Durban, Lorenzo,
Marques, Calcutta and Australia to the amount of 186,000 tons. This
movement practically did not exist before. A remarkable change took
place in 601 ships, being 15% of the ships passing through the canal,
which took on an average of 300 tons of oil each. They must have
considered oil cheaper than coal. I noticed two American ships in Port
Said. Neither of them were working. At Ismalia we changed pilots, as it
takes sixteen hours to go through the canal. Eight hours is plenty for
one to stand on continuous watch.
I was interested to see in passing, the
great quantities of military stores and junk at Kantara, where the
British Depot was located for the invasion of Palestine. When we see the
country they had to go through, one cannot help hut be full of
admiration at their attempting to overcome the almost insurmountable
difficulties they met in moving an army through that barren wilderness
where there was no water. They had to lay a pipe line to furnish them
with water, which had to be pumped at relay stations to force it
through. The enormous piles of now useless material convinces us of the
terrible waste and destruction that war produces. On the breakwater in
entering the canal from the Mediterranean is a very tine bronze statue
of De Lesseps. His arm is extended and his finger is pointing towards
the canal, which is very appropriate.
Thinking of the great and
incomprehensible changes that are going on in the world, Port Said is
only one hundred and fifty miles from the seaport of Tyre, where the
great center of the world's commerce was over two thousand years ago
when the Phoenicians were the great merchants of the world. Now all that
is left of this once great mart is a few fishermen's houses, and in the
modern charts of that part of the Mediterranean the name is not
mentioned. Part of this great trade was with the cities of Nineveh and
Babylon, the latter being by all odds the greatest city of the world in
its day. It went so completely out of existence that the place was
forgotten and it was only by excavating in the miles of mounds of ruins
that its location has been proven. Then it brings out this question:
What great countries will pass into oblivion and what places and names
of now great cities will he forgotten during the next two thousand
years? Then, the big changes that have taken place in ships. The big
ships of ancient times would be 100 to 150 tons burden. Now ships of
10,000 tons are quite common. What will they be in the next two thousand
years? All this 's food for serious thought.
When we entered the Mediterranean, a gale
was blowing from the west, which continued with a considerable head sea
for thirty-six hours before it calmed down. In passing Malta the ocean
was perfectly smooth and calm. We had been
averaging ten knots. This voyage at this
time of the year can be called the. head wind route, as after leaving
Singapore, for three days we had it calm and a smooth sea; we then had a
strong westerly wind, sometimes a small gale, until we reached the mouth
of the Hugh This was accompanied with very heavy rain. Then from
Calcutta to Bombay, for the entire distance we had a strong head wind.
Out of Bombay a very strong wind kept up steady until we reached Ferim
at the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb. the entrance into the Red Sea, where
our course was changed to north, and instead of the westerly winds we
had been having, the. wind changed to north and we had a head wind the
entire distance until arriving at Suez. As stated, as soon as we left
Port Said, we went right into a gale from the west.
In our passage through the Mediterranean
we had four days of perfect calm, and the first sixteen hours on the
Atlantic it was calm and the sea smooth. Then heavy southerly squalls
with rain struck us, which soon shifted to west and we again had our old
friend, head wind, with some sea, which cut down our speed. We then ran
into a calm spell, with a very big dead sea rolling in from the west.
This caused our long ship to pitch heavily, and reduced our speed nearly
two knots. I thought of how a short steamer would act, It would cut her
speed down by half. On Saturday, the eighth, there was a remarkable
change. The sea ran down in the forenoon and we actually had a fair
wind. It later shifted completely round and settled in the southwest,
the ocean became smooth, and the weatner was clear and tine.
Two days before our arrival at New York
we ran into a very cold northerly wind, which necessitated our changing
the light, white clothing we had worn in the tropics to our heavy winter
wear. As we had been through some intensely hot weather, we felt the
sudden chill much more than if it had come upon us gradually. We arrived
in New York October 13th, twenty days from Suez, which was fairly good
time for a heavily laden cargo steamer.
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