November 25, 2011

A Description of Roatan Island, 1766

The following is a description of the island of Roatan, located off the coast of Honduras.  This is part of a larger work titled The West India Pilot by Joseph Smith Speer, first published in London in 1766.  Speer's work can be found in the LoC online map collection.



The Island of Ratan is situate in Latitude 16. 30. North; W. S. W. a quarter S. 148 Leagues distant from the W. End of Jamaica, and N. N. W. 11 Leages from Truxillo Bay on the Continent. 
Towards the Sea, on both Sides, 'tis mountainous and woody; but the Land very capable of being cleared, and, by Industry, brought to bear any Thing. 
Son the South Side are Harbours from one End to the other; in the dry Season some of them without fresh Water. 
Toward the West End the Land is very good, and not so hilly; and many large Savannahs, containing several Hundred Acres, whereon two Jamaica Traders have Patents for to graze their Mules, which they purchase at a very easy Rate from Truxillo, in order to supply Jamaica. 
New Port Royal, where the English began their Settlement, is a a very fine Harbour, and capable of being made impregnable; the Sea Breeze, meeting no Obstruction, blows quite through, and renders the Place extremely healthy; the Air is cooler, and more temperate, than most Parts of the West Indies.  Vessels touch there often from Honduras to Jamaica, leaky, or for Want of Water; and also from Jamaica to Honduras, to take on Board Pilots for the Bay. 
The Province of Guathemala, so contiguous, produced, in 1742, 400,000 Pounds of Indigo of the best Kind; The Coinage of that Province was then 200,000 Pieces of Eight per Annum: and great Quantities of uncoined Gold and Silver is received from there, besides various Sorts of Dye Woods. 
There was a Proposal from a Spanish Merchant, at that time, to cut a Road from Black River on the Mosquito Shores into the Province of Camyagua, which would be a ready Way to and from the South Sea; and would be a Means of Merchants going and coming with Safety; thereby preventing the Dutch from carrying on that valuable Trade to Truxillo Bay, which they had so long monopolized.  The Popyya (or Poyai) Indians, accordingly cut the Road, and drew their Trade, as was intended, to Black River; which hath thereby encreased the Profits of our Commerce to a prodigious Degree.

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