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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/512

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enters port, break out at her taffrail the ensign of Britain or of Norway.

There are but five ports in the West Indies and Central America which boast wharves where ships may load or passengers may land. Two of these are chief centers of the fruit trade in Jamaica—Port Antonio and Port Morant—which owe their facilities to the enterprise of the Boston Fruit Company. Here the fruit is transferred to the ships, bunch by bunch, upon the shoulders of men. But at all the other ports, which lie scattered along the northern and eastern coasts at intervals of ten to thirty miles, from Morant Bay to Lucca, ships mast anchor an eighth to half a mile off shore, and receive their cargoes from large surfboats, manned each by three stout negroes, two rowing in the bow and the other standing in the stern, alternately sculling and steering. These boats bring out at each load from a hundred and fifty to two hundred bunches, which are passed on board ship by way of a staging let half way down her side. Each bunch, as it comes on board, whether from wharf or boat, is passed down a line of men reaching from the deck to that part of the hold which is being filled. The first man, as he receives the bunch, calls out its number in series, and, following him, the tallyman on deck keeps the score in his book. Often half a dozen men will join in the refrain:

"One—let 'er go.
Two—put 'em down.

This is shouted or chanted with a slow rhythmic swing, and is most frequently heard at night. At such a time—for when once the loading of a ship is begun it continues without interruption until she is ready to sail—the effect is particularly weird. The splash of the oars of boats emerging from the darkness, the shouts of the men, the scantily clothed dark forms dimly lighted by flaring lanterns, and, dominating all, this almost unintelligible chant, suggest some orgy of voodoo. In the hold the bunches are placed upright, resting on the thick ends of their stems, and as close together as possible.

So a steamer is loaded, in from twenty-four to forty-eight hours, with twelve to fifteen, or rarely twenty, thousand bunches. In the busy season, from April through July, the Boston Fruit Company alone loads five ships per week on an average, including two for Boston and two for Baltimore. Their supplies are drawn chiefly from the region between Morant Bay and St. Ann's Bay, and up the east coast as far as Annotto Bay they are the chief shippers. Their leading competitors are the Jamaica Fruit Com-