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. 14: Report of Mr. Schomburgk to Governor Light.
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Wapisiana Village, Watu Ticaba, May 18, 1843.


I have the honour to inform your Excellency of our safe arrival at this place, which, according to some rough observations is in latitude 2 32' north, and in longitude 59 10' west from Greenwich.

I had to surmount various difficulties to effect our departure from Pirara; one of the greatest consisted, however, in procuring such a number of Indians to accompany us as paddlers and carriers as were of paramount necessity, there being a report prevailing that the smallpox raged among the Wapisiana Indians, which tribe inhabit the country we had to traverse in our journey to the Upper Essequibo. Equally difficult was it to procure the necessary provisions for our journey; great scarcity prevailed around Pirara, and I was ultimately obliged to send Mr. Fryer to Fort San Joaquim to purchase ten baskets of farinha de mandioca for the use of the Expedition. The 30th of April approached, therefore, before I could leave Pirara; and, embarking our baggage on board the two large boats of the Expedition, we were fortunate enough to have just selected the proper moment to ascend the Rupununi, and to reach so far up this river that our corials or boats have been the wonder of the Wapisianas, who assert they never saw before such large crafts in their country.

Referring to incidents which occurred previous to our departure from Pirara, I beg leave to refer to the letter (No. 1) which I had the honour to address to your Excellency on the 28th of March a.c.,(1) and in which I observed that Mr. Fryer was on the point of leaving for Fort San Joachim, in charge of the two letters addressed to the President and to the Commander of the Forces of the Province of Para. He had at the same time my instructions to efface the marks of the survey which, in accordance with the tenure of my Commission, I had engraved on some trees near the Rivers Pirara, Mahu, and Cotinga or Zuruma, and l have now the honour of inclosing his report of having effected it.

I received on the 16th of April, while at Pirara, the visit of Major Coelho, of the Brazilian Artillery, at present Military Commander of the district of the Rio Branco, accompanied by Captain Leal, with the name of whom your Excellency is already acquainted. It was, they said, a mere visit of compliment, and I showed them every civility in my power, as an acknowledgement for the honour it was to convey to me. They left Pirara in the morning of the 28th of April, and as I had ascertained that some farinha was for sale at Fort San Joachim, I despatched Mr. Fryer a few days after to procure it. I beg leave to inclose his report, and a letter from Colonel de Matoz, the Brazilian Boundary Commissioner, addressed to me, of which he was the bearer.

The route to the Upper Corentyn obliges me now to leave the Rupununi, and to traverse the Carawainu Mountains, which are about 2,500 feet high. I have, therefore, resolved to return the corials of the Expedition, under Mr. Fryer's command, who has my instructions at his arrival at the embarkation of Pirara to take all those instruments and other baggage on board which it proved impossible to carry with us on our fatiguing and perilous journey over high mountains and through perfectly unknown districts.

My brother, Richard Schomburgk, who, as your Excellency is aware, accompanied the Expedition with the permission of Her Majesty's Government, as Prussian botanist, has resolved to return with Mr. Fryer, but I have desired Mr. Goodall, the artist of the Expedition to continue the journey with me, as his talents might be required to depict some of those Indian tribes which are scarcely known by name in the colony, much less in Europe.

The safety of the instruments which are to be taken from Pirara to Georgetown (and of which I beg leave to enclose herewith a list(2)) rendered it necessary that I should engage for the two large boats which proceed to Demerara, at least some boatmen from the Essequibo, as the Macusi Indians are very unexperienced boatmen; this will certainly increase in some regard the expenses, but the sum will be too trifling, as to risk for its sake instruments which cost Her Majesty's Government above 200, besides the jeopardy in which the lives of those would be set who return to Georgetown.

The Macusi chieftain, Pasico, intends to accompany the boats to Georgetown, and I take this opportunity to recommend him to your Excellency's kind consideration as being a person fit to be acknowledged by Her Majesty's Colonial Government as Captain of the Macusis near the frontier, and deserving to receive the stick, or official staff, and a commission like the Arawaak chieftain Caboralli at the Guainia. Indeed, without his assistance the Expedition would have been several times in want; and lately, when it was required to transport during the dry season one of the large boats of the Expedition (which had been used to convey us to Roraima) from the mouth of the Pirara to the Rupununi, he and his people executed it, and brought it safely a distance of thirty miles overland. The late missionary, the Rev. Thomas Youd, had a high opinion of him, and as Pasico speaks somewhat the Creole language of Demerara, and the Lingua Geral of the Brazilians, he may facilitate any intercourse which may be hereafter carried on between the British colonists and Brazilian subjects. Pasico, being the eldest son of the late Macusi Chieftain of Pirara, is recognised as his successor by his people.

The Brazilians have an Indian at Pirara whom they consider their Captain, in and near that village, and who, on all occasions has acted as their spy, as well during the military occupation as since their recall from Pirara.

I have, etc.

1- No. 13

2- Not Printed

Inclosure 1 in No. 14.

Mr. Fryer to Mr. Schomburgk
Pirara, April 10, 1843.


I have the honour to inform you, that in accordance with your command, I proceeded to the Brazilian outpost (Fort San Joaquim) on the 2nd April, and delivered to the commandant (Major Hygenio Jose Coitho) the official letters entrusted to my charge, for which I beg to enclose his receipt. I also beg to state that on my return from Fort San Joaquim, I effaced the boundary marks mentioned in my instructions, namely, one near the junction of the Zuruma with the Takutu, two others on the right bank of the Takutu near the mouth of the Mahu, another at the junction of the Mahu with the Takutu, and one near the mouth of the Pirara River.

I have, etc.
(Signed) W. J. FRYER.

Inclosure 2 in No. 14.

Mr. Fryer to Mr. Schomburgk.
Pirara, April 29, 1843.


I have the honour to inform you that I arrived at Fort San Joaquim on the afternoon of the 23rd instant, and there bought ten baskets of farin for the use of the Guiana Boundary Expedition.

I also have the pleasure to state that the Brazilian Boundary Commissioner (Colonel Joao Henrique de Matoz, who had arrived at Fort San Joaquim on the 16th instant) showed me every attention, and expressed his regret that the low state of the Takutu prevented him visiting Pirara before your departure, the more so since every civility and attention had been shown by you to the Brazilian officers commanding on the frontier, for which he intended to express his thanks.

In conversation with Major Coelho, he informed me that a colonel and two captains of Engineers were on their way up to join the Brazilian Boundary Commisioner.

I have, etc.
(Signed) W. J. FRYER