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"In the minds of many it is a moot question as to what is the origin of the race of Guanches, the original inhabitants of the Canary Islands and a race now extinct. Some claim that they are descended from the Berbers of Northern Africa, but many on the other hand advance the theory that they are related to the American Indians," said Lt. Col. Charles Wellington Furlong in commenting upon that most interesting conjecture concerning the relationship between the Central American Indians and, certain tribes of Africa. Col. Furlong, who is a noted explorer and author, was a member of a scientific expedition in 1926 to the Azores, Madeiras, and Canaries, and will speak at the Union on January 8. On the Subject of the origin of the former inhabitants of the Canary Islands he continued:
"Many of the designs and some of the utensils of these Guanches are almost indentically the same as those of some of the early Central American tribes, notably the Aztecs. An example of this similarity may be had by considering the painting and tatooing of the body practiced by the natives of Central America and by those of the Canaries. The designs of the painting and tatooing of these two peoples, far distant geographically and separated by thousands of miles of water, are practically the same, and even the wooden stamps for impressing the paint on the body are much the same.
Had Egyptian Fashion of Mumification
"Those who contend that the original Carnary Islanders were related to African tribes point to the fact that they mumified there dead much in the fashion of the Egyptians. Many of the best specimens of Guanche mummies are to be found in the museum at Santa Cruz, the capital of the islands. There are also many who believe that the Guanches are direct descendants of the Cro-Magnon man and skull measurements seem to verify this. Among interesting relics left by these people are the rock drawings on the island of Gomera, the southern-most of the Canaries.
"When the Portuguese came to the islands, the Guanches began to fall off in numbers, until now the race is practically extinct, but even today traces of the Guanche blood may be seen in the modern inhabitants. An islander who has Guanche blood in his veins is always proud of this fact and boasts of it.
Started From Newport in 1916
Col. Furlong then gave a brief account of the trip: "We left Newport in the spring of 1916 in a 22 ton schooner, the 'Kitty A'. Its dimensions were 53 feet in length and 16 feet beam, one of the smallest vessels to cross the Atlantic. The members of our research party were Dr. William Erving of John Hopkins, Mr. Harry Armony of Harvard who owned and navigated the schooner, my-self and crew. The purpose of the expedition was to collect zoological specimens, especially of the bird life of the West African Island and to make a general study of these islands and their inhabitants.
"The first land, Thores, the western-most of the Azores, 2200 miles from Newport, was sighted by our tiny vessel in 17 days. On the whole the weather was good, but one bad gulf gale spell was responsible for our going without hot food for four days. We relied almost wholly upon the wind to move our ship, although it was equipped with a small two-cylinder engine, for emergency in calms.
Visited Santa Maria Island
"One place we put in to was the island of Santa Maria, the southern-most of the Azores, rich in historic lore of Columbus. Yet it is little known today. In fact, no American vessel had touched the island for 14 years before our coming. Our dory in which we reached shore, was greeted by practically every inhabitant of the little island capital Santa Cruz, lead by the prefect of the town."
This island was the first bit of land where Columbus stopped after his return from the discovery of America. Col. Furlong discovered that the old hermitage or church on the north side of the island was where in 1493 half of the crew of Columbus stopped to give thanks to God for their safe return from their perilous voyage. While the Spaniards were in the church praying, the Protuguese, in the hope of preventing the return of Columbus to Spain with a report of his discovery and possibly with the hope of laying claim to the new world themselves, under the direction of the Governor of the Island assaulted the church and made the Spanish sailors prisoners. Columbus himself, however, was not on shore and not having captured the leader, the Portuguese finally released the sailors. Col. Furlong located the place where the three ships had anchored and the landing place of the small boats.
Hunted on Lonely Desertas
"We next made sail for the Madeira Islands. The incident by far most interesting on our stop here was a week's hunting trip on three lonely islands in this group, the Desertas. These three long, narrow islands, nearly unapproachable from the sea because of the steep rock cliffs rising out of the water, are owned by two Englishmen who purchased them from the Portuguese government at auction and who used them as game reserves. These Desertas are uninhabited by human beings because of the scarcity of water and the un-favorableness of the approach from the sea.
"Goats were the objects of our expedition. These goats now wild but descended from a domestic herd left on the islands 400 years ago by Zargo, manage to obtain water for life from dew and scant fresh water pools in the rock, inaccessible to men. The goats were remarkably agile in moving about in the rocks but they did not far surpass in this art, the natives of the Madeiran village of Canico. These, accustomed to hunting the shearwater gulls among the rocks for the purpose of their feathers and wax, and the orchilla lichen for its dye mounted or descended the steep sides of rocky cliffs by means of long spiked poles, which they place in the niches of the rocks.
"The orchilla, a species of lichen is very valuable and from it the natives produce a rich purple dye. This plant may have been one of the sources of supply of purple dye obtained by the Greeks. A second uncommon plant which we came across was the barilla, the leaves of which glisten as though make of ice. From it the gatherers obtain soda. Specimens of a large, black, spider, is lycosa ingens were found. This spider is smaller than the Cuban tarantula and notable for its coal blackness.
"The Madeira Islands are dotted with sports recalling the life of Columbus. The world famous discoverer married Philippa, whose parents owned an estate in Porto Santo in the islands. Here Columbus lived many years. He made frequent trips to the leading city of the islands, Funchal, which furnished him with information from returning ships about the exploration and chartering of the new discovered or visited lands of the world.
"It was probably during his life on these islands that he conceived the idea that there might be a land across the Atlantic Ocean, for he found washed up on the beach by the gulf stream, which flows north from North America to sweep south past Spain to these islands, bits of wood unknown in Europe or Africa, also carved pieces which could not possibly have been the work of European hands.
"Our trip ended at the Canary Islands, where we encountered the relics of the Guanches. On the island of Gomera, where Columbus outfitted before setting sail over unknown seas, is still to be seen the typically Spanish, whitewashed stone house, patio, and garden, where Columbus was entertained during his stay. The present owners of the building are descendants of those who gave hospitality to the famous explorer."
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