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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/629

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CULTIVATION OF SISAL IN THE BAHAMAS.

people of the colony, but also by outsiders, as the following facts show.

A company from St. John's, Newfoundland, has obtained a grant of 18,000 acres of crown land at Abaco; another tract of 20,000 acres on the same island has been allotted to a London company; 2,000 acres have been taken on Andros by a gentleman from Edinburgh; 1,200 are in process of cultivation on Inagua; but the largest application has been lately made by two London companies, who together ask for 200,000 acres. Besides the large plantations mentioned above, many small scattered areas go to swell the total. Indeed, there have been so many demands for crown land, that the governor has recently advanced the price from one dollar and twenty-five cents to four dollars per acre.

Now as to the character of the land. In Andros, which, as above stated, is the largest of the group, and where most of the writer's time was passed, the land is locally described by one of three terms: it is either "coppet," "pine-yard," or "swash." The coppet, which occupies, as a rule, the more elevated parts of the island, is composed of small angiospermous trees, often only two or three inches in diameter, and so close together as to make an almost impassable thicket. Back of the coppet, which is mostly a fringe along the eastern coast, nearly the whole interior is one vast "pine-yard," made up of the Bahama pine (Pinus bahamensis). The trees are generally small, and from ten to twenty feet apart. Under them is very frequently a dense undergrowth of a tall brake, which is often six or seven feet high, and is known by the natives as "May-pole."

"Swash" is a very expressive term to denote the low, swampy ground, of which there are thousands of acres on the west coast. Here the soil is soft and is composed of comminuted calcareous particles; it supports no vegetation except innumerable small mangroves (Rhizophora mangle), here and there small "button-woods" (Conocarpus erectus), a few "salt bushes" (Avicennia nitida), and in some places palmettoes. So far as sisal cultivation is concerned, the "swash" is utterly valueless; but the "pine-yard" and coppet are both available. In neither of these, however, is there what we recognize here as "soil"; and at first it was a source of wonder to the writer that anything at all could grow there, for the surface is very largely the bare coral rock. However, it is rarely smooth, but is rough and jagged with innumerable points and crevices, so as to resemble somewhat the appearance of a well-thawed mass of snow-ice. In most places, also, there are numerous holes, from a few inches to many feet in diameter; and it is in these holes, cracks, and crevices that what little earth there is can be found—still, this little seems sufficient to support the dense vegetation. Some of the other