The river, and indeed the whole coast, abounds with a greater variety of fish than we had ever seen; a day seldom passed in which one or more of a new species were not brought to Mr Banks: The bay also is as well adapted for catching these fish as can be conceived; for it is full of small islands, between which there is shallow water, and proper beaches for drawing the seine. The sea, without the bay, abounds with dolphins, and large mackerel of different kinds, which readily bite at a hook, and the inhabitants always tow one after their boats for that purpose.
Though the climate is hot, the situation of this place is certainly wholesome; while we stayed here the thermometer never rose higher than 83 degrees. We had frequent rains, and once a very hard gale of wind.
[Footnote 78: Mr Barrow seems to think otherwise; according to him, it is by no means healthy, and the interminable annoyance of the musquitoes renders it as injurious to intellectual, as it is on other accounts to bodily welfare. Perhaps, however, he assigns too much agency to these very vexatious insects, when he says it is impossible for any man to think at all profitably in their company. His description then, it may be inferred, was written at a very respectful distance from the din and venom of the noisome pest.—E.]
Ships water here at the fountain in the great square, though, as I have observed, the water is not good; they land their casks upon a smooth sandy beach, which is not more than a hundred yards distant from the fountain, and upon application to the viceroy, a centinel will be appointed to look after them, and clear the way to the fountain where they are to be filled.
Upon the whole, Rio de Janeiro is a very good place for ships to put in at that want refreshment: The harbour is safe and commodious; and provisions, except wheaten-bread and flour, may be easily procured: As a succedaneum for bread, there are yams and cassada in plenty; beef, both fresh and jerked, may be bought at about two-pence farthing a pound; though, as I have before remarked, it is very lean. The people here jerk their beef by taking out the bones, cutting it into large but thin slices, then curing it with salt, and drying it in the shade: It eats very well, and, if kept dry, will remain good a long time at sea. Mutton is scarcely to be procured, and hogs and poultry are dear; of garden-stuff and fruit-trees there is abundance, of which, however, none can be preserved at sea but the pumpkin; rum, sugar, and molasses, all excellent in their kind, may be had at a reasonable price; tobacco also is cheap, but it is not good. Here is a yard for building shipping, and a small hulk to heave down by; for, as the tide never rises above six or seven feet, there is no other way of coming at a ship’s bottom.
When the boat which had been sent on shore returned, we hoisted her on board, and stood out to sea.