National Geographic : 1931 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE Photograph by Capt. A. W. Stevens "FREED," THE CONVICT EKES OUT EXISTENCE PEDDLING WOOD At Cayenne, French Guiana, liberes of the penal colony face a bitter struggle to earn a livelihood. Their lot here is almost as hopeless as on Devil's Island. them such wonderful colonizers, they de veloped here sugar, rice, diamond digging, gold washing, and lumber industries. Up the Demerara now an American concern works a great bauxite deposit. But isolation has retarded the economic growth of British Guiana. Less than one per cent of its 90,ooo square miles is de veloped; population is just a little over three per square mile. Most people live on the coastal plains or along rivers. Hills and mountains rise in the interior, but here dwell only scattered Indians, with now and then the rude camp of gold and diamond hunters and men who cut the greenheart lumber (see page 40). Whites are but a handful, even after four centuries, for this is not a white man's country. The death rate has usually been above the birth rate. Riding with the Governor one day, a crowd gathered about our car. They sang "God Save the King," gave three rousing British cheers, then presented a petition and made speeches. They asked the kindly Governor to do economic miracles! Only a superman could raise the price of sugar or make rice cheaper for these childlike peasants. The turbid, swift-flowing Demerara is not good to look at, and it's a bad place to land a seaplane. Out over the Atlantic, as we flew, we saw the mud of these jungle rivers, forever stirred by opposing ocean currents. WE COME TO THE OLD DUTCH TOWN OF PARAMARIBO Probably the biggest mud puddle on earth stretches south from the Orinoco Delta. The biggest rivers in South America flow east, loaded with silt. Cubic miles of mud wash out. From Georgetown to Para maribo we flew over endless mud flats, often three miles wide or even more. On the land side these flats are covered with brush or trees, through which salt water swirls as tides rise and fall. We saw acres and acres of uprooted trees scattered over mud flats, showing that the actual coast line, wherever it is, is often shifting. When the tide runs out, it scours deep furrows here, as if made by giant plows (see illus tration, page 36).