Immagini della pagina

ty-one miles. Three miles would bring dozen, all told. Here we could hear the us to the little village of Amagansett, distant roar of the sea distinctly, and in and after that we should not see a sin- a few moments, on ascending a sandy gle habitation for ten miles. Between hill, its boundless blue horizon burst these two points lay the dreadful Na- upon us. Below us was the beach, a peague Beach, where the mosquitos dozen rods, perhaps, wide, and beyond were said to be terrific. No one lived was the broad, illimitable expanse of upon it. The remaining eleven miles tumbling water, with nothing to the boasted of houses at equal distances of east, south, or west-nothing between three miles. Thus there were three us and Europe. The surf was crashing houses between Amagansett and the upon the shore in heavy, constant, deLight.

termined surges — no feeble, broken We came down into East Hampton waves, but the mighty swells of the about seven o'clock, and drove up its Atlantic, gathered up in ponderous broad, green-carpeted main street. The masses, and hurled upon the beach village is like a dream of some English with resistless force. rural town—a quaint, quiet, sleepy old Crossing the belt of sand-hills which place, with three or four great white- rise between the beach proper and the armed windmills and an antiquated cultivatable fields, we came down to the church or two, whose roofs are covered surf, where an old wreck lay half-buried with a bright green moss. The glory in the sand, with the sea washing of the village lies in the lovely emerald through and through its naked ribs. sward which covers the roadway from To the northeast stretched the lonely edge to edge, leaving a single wheel- beach for apparently an endless distrack stretching like a strip of brown tance, the breakers combing upon it in ribbon down the middle. Our beauti- an unbroken wall of emerald green, ten ful equipage set us down at the resi- or twelve feet high, and then toppling dence of a Mr. Isaacs, where we were over with a single crash, like a peal of immediately introduced to an excellent thunder. The sand was soft and the breakfast spread upon one end of a shore inclined at an angle of nearly forty table in an old-fashioned dining-room, degrees, so that the walking was heavy with a dismal great clock in one corner. and tiresome; and, as we took our Our ride had sharpened our appetites course along the line of the surf, it was sufficiently to do ample justice to the only by keeping close to the water that meal, and Don Carlos pocketed all the we could find hard footing. By this bread and cheese we were unable to eat. means, whenever a heavier wave than I regret to chronicle so sad a breach of usual struck the shore, we were pretty good manners, but wher the reader re- certain to get our feet and legs thormembers that a walk of ten or fifteen oughly soaked. Added to this, the tide miles was in store for us before dinner, was rising all the morning, and we were he will excuse the poor fellow, perhaps. driven farther and farther up the beach,

At eight o'clock we left Hampton, where, as the sand was drier, the walkwith its grass-grown streets and its ing was more difficult. windmills, and, shouldering our knap- This was Napeague Beach, and we sacks, started for the sea. The road found it the perfection of desolation. turned directly to the east on clearing Throughout the whole day not a living the village, and led, for a couple of thing appeared upon the shore; not a miles, through pleasant, rolling fields, weed or fish was thrown up by the dusted with pretty patterns of butter- waves, not a solitary sail was there upon cups and the white pasture-thistle (cir- the vast horizon. The ocean terrified us. sium pumilum). Then, turning into a It was awful. It was unlike any thing small piece of young oak woods, it I had ever seen elsewhere. The surf brought us to Amagansett—a pretty lit- pounded upon the shore with such tertle bunch of houses, not more than two rible, ponderous force, that we were

vague fear.

[ocr errors]


cowed by the sense of its dreadful pow. unpainted affair, built some distance er. It was more fascinating than Nic from the beach—made its appearance. agara, but it made ore tremble with a Here we obtained a refreshing dipper

The beach stretched its of delicious water, and permission to sandy waste along mile after mile, and rest awhile on the door-step. on our right was the sea, tumbling in This house was ten miles from Monupon the shore in constant, ceaseless tauk Light, and the first dwelling east surges. The roar was continual. It of Napeague Beach. Between this and never stopped for a moment. All day Amagansett the ordinary road winds long the music of the sea rang in our through a flat, marshy district, draining ears, and the picture of its boundless toward the north, famous for the ferochorizon will not soon pass away from ity of its mosquitos, whose attacks we my memory.

had escaped by choosing our own path The coast was so free from stones that along the shore. Four miles to the eastobjects cast up by the waves upon the ward was “ Osborne's," after which sand assumed an unnatural magnitude, came a hiatus of three miles more, from the lack of any thing to compare which brought the traveller to “Stratthem with. An oyster-can, at a short ton's," the last of these lonely dwellers distance, appeared as large as a barrel, by the sea, whose principal occupation and the smallest wrecks looked like seems to be the tending of the cattle those of the largest vessels. These which are pastured every summer upon wrecks were very numerous. Nearly the tract known as the “Hampton Comevery two miles we came upon a bleach- mons." These commons, the property ing skeleton, half-charred by the wreck- of the town of East Hampton, extend ers' fires, and we soon ceased to count from Napeague to the Government land them. In several places we passed the at the extremity of the Point, and we "timbers” of a whale, the remains of were told that from two to three thoutwo that had been harpooned off Na- sand “critters” were annually sent there peague during the previous winter. On to graze. our left the sandy dunes, rising to a As the distance to Osborne's was but height of twelve or fifteen feet, and four miles, we determined upon walkcovered with a scanty growth of beach- ing there for our dinner, and another grass (balamagrostis arenaria), shut out hour upon the beach brought us to an all view toward the north, and the cury- excellent meal spread beneath Mr. O.'s ing shore allowed us glimpses of only a hospitable roof. Here, as we found mile or so ahead at a time.

ourselves upon storied ground, we quarWe walked until eleven o'clock be- tered for the night. fore thinking of our whereabouts, some- Immediately below this house, on the times sitting down to rest upon some morning of the twentieth of February, stranded wreck, and gazing off upon 1958, the ship John Milton, of New the straight horizon of the sea, some- Bedford, on a return-voyage from the times picking up a shell of the mactra Chincha Islands, came on shore in the solidissima, which was almost the only midst of a blinding snow-storm, and treasure besides drift-wood which the went to pieces. Every soul perished. waves offered us. But, as the sun ap- The bodies of the captain-Ephraim proached the zenith, we began to look Harding—the first mate, and twentyout for the house. I climbed the high- two sailors were washed on shore and est sand-hill, and looked around. Na- decently buried in the little churchyard peague Bay, upon the Sound shore, was at Hampton. No traces of the wreck visible, shining blue in the distance; are now to be seen, except a timber or but no building, save a wrecking-house two sticking through the sand at low in a sandy hollow, could be seen. A water. The sea has covered all the half mile further brought a chimney rest. It is hard to believe such things into view, and soon the house-a rough, as these of yonder sleepy, deceptive ex


panse of blue; but nearly every mile struck inland across the hills, and first of this desolate, wreck-strewn coast has sighted the Light at ten minutes past its own history of suffering and death. nine. Soon afterward we came to the Its barren sands have been the last land first fence we bad seen since leaving which the mortal eyes of many a ship. Amagansett. In getting over it I nearwrecked sailor have beheld, and have ly stepped upon a striped adder, which thus acquired, for the lonely walker by immediately showed fight. He was a the ceaseless surf, a rare and terrible pretty fellow, but we had no stick to sublimity.

kill him with, and so were obliged to All of these habitations upon Mon- let him alone. He stopped quite still, tauk are prepared for the reception of looking at us with his head raised seveguests. As a general thing, the travel- ral inches from the ground, until we ler, if he is not expecting a Fifth Ave had passed on. After this we came upnue Hotel in the wilderness, will fare on two more, and soon judged it adwell. Osborne's is the principal ren- visable to mind our footsteps a little. dezvous for the Montauk sportsmen in In the hollows of the hills were nuthe Fall, on account of its proximity to merous little ponds of fresh water, comFort Pond and Great Pond, the two pletely filled with pond-lilies, and a largest bodies of fresh water on Long great number of rush-drains crossed the Island, the latter being more than six pasture, around which we were obliged hundred acres in extent. These ponds, to make such long détours that our both of which are near the Sound shore, seven miles soon lengthened into nine. and not visible from the Atlantic side, We were now upon the back-bone of are the grand shooting-grounds for Montauk, with the Atlantic thundering geese, duck, plover, teal, and snipe. In beneath the bluffs on our right, and the October and November these birds are Sound glistening in the morning sunto be found here in incredible numbers. light far away upon the left. At twenWe were told that it was no uncommon ty minutes past ten o'clock we reached sight to see the surface of Great Pond the Light, where the hospitable keeper, literally covered with wild geese-to Captain Ripley, welcomed us with all the number of fifty thousand. The the warmth of an old acquaintance. registers at Osborne's and at the Light The light-house stands upon the top were mainly filled with the names of of the bluff, some ten or fifteen rods hunters and the records of their ex- from the verge. The view from this ploits.

spot can be better imagined by consultIt was after eight o'clock next morn- ing the geographical position of Moning when we got under way again. At tauk.Point than by reading any descripfirst we kept the beach, but in the tion. We could realize now that this course of three or four miles the shore was the real Montauk. Toward every became so covered with boulders, that point of the compass but one there was we were fain to find a smoother path nothing to be seen but the wide, savage upon the bluffs above. These boulders Atlantic. The level, straight line of were smooth and clean, except below the horizon described four fifths of a the line of the surf, where they were circle, and upon three sides of the bluff covered with rock-weed and quantities the ocean surf was roaring and crashof white and purple sea-moss, which ing with terrific fury. The keeper's gave out an odor of salt as pungent as house-a large, comfortable buildingthe smell of ammonia. The land rose stands close to the tower, and is conrapidly after leaving Osborne's, and nected with it by a covered passagesoon reached an altitude of over fifty way. The bluff itself, the keeper told feet, the bluffs approaching very near us, is rapidly wearing away toward the the beach and ending very abruptly. Light, so that the tower will have to be On reaching the wreck of the Amster- moved in the course of a few more years. dam, which came ashore in 1865, we He said we would be surprised at the

VOL. TI.-19

violence of the waves beating upon the would fly so far that it was difficult to Point in a winter gale. Upon the south- reach the best specimens without getern side the surf is never less than six ting a ducking. All along beneath the or eight feet high, although upon the bluff are strewn the remains of an illnorth the water is frequently as calm as fated schooner, lost here, with all on a mill-pond. We found a marked con- board, nine years since. The grave of trast between the sound shore and that one of the crew is situated at a short upon the Atlantic side. The former distance from the Light, outside of the was teeming with life, while the latter Government land. It is not often that was perfect desolation. Upon the north a shipwreck takes place directly upon beach the sea rolls in in white and gen- the Point, although Montack Light has tle surges, giving an opportunity for the been made & life-saving station, and rocks to cover their sides with rock- supplied with boats and life-cars. These weed, and the muscles and barnacles a are contained in a wrecking-house, built clinging-place beneath. Here we saw in the hollow below the Light. In it numbers of beach birds (Charadrius are two immense life-boats, a patent lifemelodus) and white sea-gulls, many of car, ropes, oars, a mortar for throwing the latter flying so close to our beads a bomb, with line attached, and every that, with a stick, we could have hit a thing necessary for use in case of disdozen of them. Upon this north beach aster. There is, also, a stove, with I obtained, during the day, several utensils, and fire built ready to kindle. specimens of five-fingers (asterias ru- In one corner is a supply of rockets, bens), all of different colors, and a num- blue-lights, and Roman candles, and in ber of the huge valves of the mactra the loft above are extra ropes, spars, &c. solidissima. We found, also, the myti- Nothing seems to be wanting, and yet lus edulis and mya arenaria in large these things are next to useless. Should quantities, and thousands of the broken a vessel come ashore at the Light, there pods of the sting-ray, from which the could not be found men enough on all fish had escaped, were scattered over Montauk or Napeague to man one of the sand. The bluff, at the extremity these great boats, much less launch it. of the Point, is highest upon the Atlan- Three miles down the north coast lies tic side. Thence it descends in succes- the Indian Reservation. There are now sive rolls of white, glistening sand tow- four families of the aborigines upon these ard the north, until it ends in a broad, lands, the sole remnant of the once hard beach, a dozen yards in width. powerful Montauk nation. We called The land immediately around the Light at several of their dwellings, and found is a perfect desert of loose sand, covered them poor affairs, although generally with beach-grass, and wholly unculti- neat and clean, The light-keeper said vatable, except in one or two of the they were an improvident set, with the hollows, where the light-house-keepers traditional love for firewater, and were have discovered soil sufficient to sup- mainly supported by the charity of their port a small vegetable-garden. The white neighbors at the Light. On our only actual soil is that upon the high way across the pasture to the settlement ridge of the hills; and here the cutting, we killed another striped adder, and furious gales from the sea have destroy- saw a second, which escaped us. One ed all vegetable life except the short of the Indians said these adders were pasture-grass. Upon the slopes the sand “bad snake," and that it was unsafe to and beach-grass have usurped every venture into the grass thereabouts withthing.

out going armed with a stick. Snakes, We spent the afternoon in gathering in fact, seem to be the principal producalgæ and sea-mosses along the south tion of the country. Altogether, Monside of the bluff, just inside the “Rip.” tauk is a most singular anomaly. Here It was a rather lively business, for the was a savage, desolate coast, strewn surf, as it struck the rocks outside, with bleaching wrecks and echoing with the thunder of the ocean-surf, while not bell. Should the oil cease flowing, and twenty rods from the line of the break- the strainer become empty, or any trou. ers were white pond-lilies in abundance. ble occur with the wicks, the lever falls The sandy hills are covered with wild back and an alarm is immediately soundstrawberries upon one side, while upon ed in the keeper's room beneath. The the other grow quantities of the south- whole lantern is enclosed by the “flash," ern prickly pear. Not a tree worthy of a triple arrangement of independent the name can be seen for miles from the lenses, which are kept constantly reLight; yet Mr. Ripley's table was con- volving by means of a huge clock in stantly supplied with the best of garden the watch-room, the weights to which vegetables, raised in the hollow below descend the whole height of the tower. the house. It is, without doubt, the We could hear the wheels of this clock most sterile country I have ever visited; as we marched up the iron stairs behind but I never obtained a finer bill of fare the keeper's smoking lamp, rumbling at any first-class hotel in New York or in the lantern far above us, and soundBoston than we found all the way be- ing like the roaring of the wind around tween East Hampton and the Light. the tower. The lenses are very powerStill this land of endless delights is full ful. Ripley told us that the flash could of snakes, and the pastures are swarm- be seen by vessels more than thirty miles ing with sheep-ticks.

at sea, although the light itself was inWe expressed a desire, at night, to visible to them; and, on cloudy nights, see the lamp lighted in the tower, and the reflection could be seen at a disso, as darkness closed in, one of the tance of fifty miles. It would be imkeepers called us from the supper-table, possible, he said, to stand inside the and led the way up the circular stair- lantern during the day, unless the lenses case to the lantern. The light-house were well covered ; and that once, when stands one hundred and sixty feet above one of his curtains became displaced, the level of the sea, the tower itself ris- he found his wicks smoking with the ing just one hundred feet from its foun- heat engendered by these huge burningdation, and the Light is what is termed glasses. Four thicknesses of heavy a “first order light.” It is considered glass protect the light—the lamp-glass, the most important on the Atlantic the lantern-lenses, the flash-lenses, and coast. Four hundred and six vessels the outer windows of the light-room. passed Montauk during the previous Immediately beneath the lantern is the month of June, not counting smacks or watch-room. Here one of the keeper's sloops, and ninety-nine of these passed assistants remains during the night, the during one day. The keepers com- men relieving each other every six hours. plained of the governmental regulation Their duty consists in trimming the requiring them to count these vessels, wicks—of which there are four, all cirfor one must have the eye of Argus to cular and contained one within the be able to discern every sail upon the other, like a nest of boxes—in winding horizon throughout each day, or to tell the alarm, and in keeping the oil and which ones are really passing the Point, flash clocks in order. In a room at the and which are not. The lamp is a base of the building the oil for the French carcel light, with a reservoir im- light is stored in great tin puncheons, mediately beneath it containing ten or standing in a long row, like Morgiana's twelve gallons of oil. Below this is jars. Lard-oil is now used in place of the "oil-clock,” working four pumps, the sperm-oil of former days. We were which force the oil from the reservoir much interested in this visit, especially through metallic tubes into the lamp. in the working of the intricate machiFrom the lamp the oil is kept constant- nery; and I could not help thinking, ly dripping back into the reservoir, that night, as I lay in bed, of how much passing through a small strainer hinged depended upon the wakefulness of the upon a lever connected with an alarm- solitary man who was keeping his watch

« IndietroContinua »