National Geographic : 1931 Jan
SKYPATHS THROUGH LATIN AMERICA Photograph by Capt. A. W. Stevens ON ISLE ROYAL, ONE OF THE FRENCI GUIANA PENAL GROUP, INCORRIGIBLES ARE CONFINED. UNDER THE PALMS ARE ROWS OF PRISONERS' GRAVES From the time we passed the last sugar fields, near New Amsterdam, built when the Dutch held what is now British Guiana, until almost to the mouth of the Surinam, with its floating green islands of small trees and water plants, we saw nothing but mud, mud, mud. And birds! I saw no other life save one big sea-devil, floating idly, wav ing his thick, crablike pincers. Manta bi rostris naturalists call this giant ray, with eyes at the base of its horns. Below the muddy mouth of the Berbice we came to the wide, foamy-waved delta of the Corentin, which forms the line be tween British and Dutch Guiana; into its delta flows the big river Nickerie. Flying over, we observed that many of these jungle rivers are tied to each other by cross-streams. To the Nickerie, for exam ple, estuaries join the Coppename, farther down the coast. Twelve miles up the Surinam we landed at Paramaribo -a serene, trim, orderly Dutch town. At twilight solemn-faced fathers rode bicycles in upright dignity, silently followed by numerous offspring in white duck, all pedaling sedately after papa, single file, over clean, sandy streets. That night I heard a Salvation Army man address a street crowd. He spoke Dutch, as does all Paramaribo. In his audience were Hindus, Portuguese, Chi nese, blacks-and they all understood. Slavery spelt the heyday of Surinam prosperity, but now many plantations are abandoned and the white population is dwindling, for few new settlers come from Holland and young men migrate. A few miles from the river and the jungle en gulfs you, for most of the country is still wild, uninhabited. "Bush Indians" is the local name of an odd element. They are descended from African slaves who long ago escaped into the jungles. Once a men ace, now they are tame, and at early morn ing you see them come down river to mar ket their soft-shelled turtle eggs, string beans 18 inches long, odd pods, horned cucumbers, breadfruit, sapodillas, and ba nanas. Their speech is called "talkee talkee," a weird mixture of English, Span ish, Dutch, Portuguese, and French, with probably a touch of African dialect. In a sunrise of almost intolerable heat we took the air for Cayenne, in French Guiana.