History of the Republic of Guyana

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Reports and Letters of Sir Robert Hermann Schomburgk with reference to his
Surveys of the Boundaries of British Guiana.

No. 13: Report of Mr. Schomburgk to Governor Light.
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Pirara, March 28, 1843.



I have the honour to report to your Excellency the safe arrival of the party under any command in Pirara, having reached the embarkation at the Rupununi on the 24th of March.

The first three weeks after our departure from Georgetown we suffered a great deal from rain which fell almost daily and nightly in torrents, and we commenced only to enjoy more favourable weather after we had passed the rapids of Ouropocari. In the meantime a drought of uncommon duration had been prevailing at the savannahs, and we found the River Rupununi so dry that we saw ourselves obliged to dig frequently channels for our boats, as in some places the water covered the bottoms for nearly six inches, and our progress was consequently so slow that some days we made scarcely three miles in a day.

In spite of the unfavourable weather, the crew suffered not materially in health, and I had great pleasure to meet the gentlemen attached to the Expedition, and who were awaiting me in Pirara, in perfect health.

The village is almost deserted; only a few houses are inhabitable, and weeds and grass cover the intermediate spaces. The building which Fray Jose intended for the Catholic Church is fallen in ruins, and the whole has a most desolated appearance.

I have not been able to procure any information, when the Brazilian Commisioners, of whom Captain Coelho told Mr. Fryer, are likely to arrive. Fray Jose is expected daily in Pirara, and it is reported that the Brazilian Government have ordered a young missionary to take his residence in Pirara, and to instruct the Indians in the Catholic religion.

I met two Brazilians in the village, who, as your Excellency will observe from my letter No. 2,(1) conducted themselves most outrageously towards the few Indians who have remained in Pirara.

Mr. Fryer leaves Pirara tomorrow for Fort San Joaquim, in charge of the two letters addressed to the President of Pirara (sic Para) and the Commandant of the Forces in the Rio Branco, which were delivered to me by Mr. Young, and to efface, according to your Excellency's instructions, the marks which I engraved on some trees near the junction of the Mahu with the Takutu, and the Zurumu or Cotinga with the same river. I shall meanwhile make every preparation to depart for the Upper Essequibo as soon as Mr. Fryer returns from Fort San Joaquim. I am sorry to inform your Excellency of the prevalence of smallpox among the Indians. The disease was, unfortunately, brought with the boats which relieved the military detachment, to the Macusi village Haiwa, and has since committed the most frightful ravages. It has now extended to the country of the Wapisiana Indians. In the small village Mabe ten individuals died alone in consequence of it, and many have been rendered blind. We do not possess any vaccine lymph, but as far as medicine can alleviate their sufferings, none have been spared.

I have, etc.

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