[Footnote 277: A Xerephine being 3s. 9d., a lac is L.1875 sterling, and ten lacs are consequently L.18,750.—E.]
The 12th of February the whole of our fleet came into the harbour of Massua. Massua is a small island very low and flat, in which anciently stood the city of Ptolomaida of the wild beasts. This island is in length about the fifth part of a league, and a caliver-shot in breadth, being situated in a large crooked nook or bay of the sea, and near the north-west head-land of the bay. The channel which divides it from the main land is about a falcon-shot across, and in some parts not so much, in which channel the harbour is situated, which is safe in all weathers, as all the winds that blow must come over the land, and it has not much current. The depth of water is eight or nine fathom with an ouze bottom. The proper entrance into this port is on the north-east by the middle of the channel, between the island and the main; because from the point which runneth to the E.N.E. a shoal projects towards the land, and the continental point of the bay hath another projecting towards the point of the island, both of which make it necessary for ships to avoid the land and to keep the mid-channel, which is very narrow and runs N.E. and S.W. Very near this island of Massua, towards the south and the south-west, there are two other islands, that nearest the main land being the larger, and that more out to sea being smaller and very round. These three islands form a triangle, being all very flat and barren, having no wells or springs; but in Massua are many cisterns for the use of the inhabitants. There are many shoals interspersed among these islands, but there is a channel through among them, through which gallies and rowing vessels may pass at full sea. This island of Massua, with all the coast from Cape Guardafu to Swakem, was only a short time before under the dominion of Prester John; but within these few years the king or sheikh of Dallac hath usurped it, and resides there the greater part of the year, because of the trade which he carries on with the Abyssinians, from whom he procures great quantities of gold and ivory. In the months of May and June, in consequence of excessive calm weather, the air of this island is exceedingly intemperate and unhealthy; at which season the sheikh and the other inhabitants go all to Dallac, leaving Massua entirely empty. All the coast of the bay of Massua on the main-land is extremely mountainous, till you come to a place called Arkiko by the sea-side, where there are many wells of water, where the coast is more clear and open, with many fields and plains. Arkiko is about a league from Massua to the south, and through all these mountains and fields there are many wild beasts, as elephants, tygers, wolves, wild boars, stags, and elks, besides others not known to us; whence Massua was called Ptolomaida of the wild beasts, which is farther confirmed, as the latitude of Massua is the same as that assigned to Ptolomaida.