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Statement of the number of vessels of all nations arrived at and departed from the port of Palermo during each quarter of the year ended September 30, 1862, together with their aggregate tonnage and value of cargoes.
During the quarter ending this day I have no arrivals nor departures of American vessels to mention, it being the season of the year during which our island, or, at least, this section, has no business to transact. The time for the arrival of American vessels begins by the end of October.
TARANTO.-ALBERT J. DE ZEYK, Consul.
SEPTEMBER 30, 1862.
The harbor of Taranto is a beautiful basin of nearly circular form, gently inclining towards an oval, of about thirty miles in circumference, and of four miles in diameter, and consequently vast enough to hold any number of vessels; has all the necessary qualities of a first-class port, and does likewise abound in the requisites of a great naval station, which, as an important consideration, will necessarily secure her the constant care of the government, providing for the facilities of navigation and for the improvements of safety.
Encompassed by the walls of the city and hills of some elevation, it is only open on the part of the gulf a length of four miles, from the Point of St. Vito to the Point of Rondinella, (see chart No. 1.) There are two islands along this line. On one of them, the island of St. Paolo, rises a fort built by Napoleon the First, and commands the only access to the port, and can with a cross fire from the Point of St. Vito, on the opposite side of the channel, dispute the entrance of any fleet to the port.
To the defences which this harbor can afford to men, is to be added another more potent shelter against the wrath of the winds, from one side being defended by the walls of the city and the surrounding hills, as above remarked, and on (the side opening in the gulf) being sheltered by the shallow water of only two fathoms average, between the Point of Rondinella, the island of St. Petro, and that of St. Paolo; so that the waves dashed by the furious libeccio, (southwest wind,) prevailing in this port are broken, and but slightly disturb the uniform calm of the port.
The safety of the vessels increases by securing their anchors easy and with much firmness, the bottom being composed of a solid sandy compact, to which
circumstance is attributable that in such a vast port as this no shipwreck is recorded by the present generation or in the ancient history of the port.
The depth of the water in this port commences close to the shore with three fathoms, and exceeds in some places about the middle fifteen fathoms, thus affording safe anchorage to the largest vessels.
There is a regularly kept light-house on the Point of St. Vito, indicating the right side of the channel of entrance.
The channel of entrance into the harbor, in a straight line from the Cape of St. Vito to the island of St. Paolo, is about one and three-quarters of a mile wide, with a depth of twenty-five fathoms in the middle, from thence gradually decreasing, both towards southeast the Cape of St. Vito, and towards northwest the island of St. Paolo.
The beach is composed of rocks, and the bottom, from the shore to a depth of five fathoms, is of the same character, and beyond that is rocky, a remarkable bed of natural concrete being developed there, covered with oyster beds. The rock in question is used for building walls. While in place it is soft and easily cut: but after exposure to the atmosphere it becomes as hard as limestone. The color is a dirty white, and the fracture irregular.
Large numbers of sea turtle are caught here and shipped to Naples, Trieste, and Constantinople during the spring and summer. The oyster beds throughout the harbor are famous for the richness of their flavor, and have yielded from the remotest time of history, when Taranto used to be the famous resort of the Romans. Here is an abundance of fish, eels, crabs, lobsters, shells, clams, and sea spiders of great variety, which inhabit both the harbor of Taranto and the Mare Piccolo.
And, as if the enumerated qualities were not sufficient to establish the preeminence of this port over any other in Italy, the munificent nature put it in communication with the last fold of the Ionian Gulf, which is the far-famed Mare Piccolo, (Little Sea,) the port of ancient Taranto, resembling more a placid lake than a sea, with a circumference of about twenty miles and a sufficient depth to harbor large vessels. The change of tide, regularly rising and lowering twice a day, in the furthest corner within the shores of this little sea, prevents its waters from becoming stagnant, serving in the mean while as a well-adapted basin for the breeding of delicate fish, shells, and oysters of excellent flavor.
This Mare Piccolo would readily yield to the transformation to a naval station, and yards for the repair and construction of vessels. Moreover, the island of St. Paolo, of considerable extent and healthy, situated agreeably at a distance of four miles from the city, presents a very convenient place for the erection of a quarantine-an indispensable establishment for a large port, and for such, especially, as is destined for commercial intercourse with the East, visited by fevers and contagious miasmas.
The climate of this part of the coast and harbor is considered very healthy, owing partly to the high formation and careful cultivation, and is generally resorted to by persons who have become sickly from residence in the low seacoasts, infected with the malaria, and on the alluvial bottoms along the rivers.
The temperature during January and February of last winter averaged about 8 degrees; during July and August, which are said to be the hottest months of summer, the average was 224 degrees; the highest temperature recorded was 30 degrees of Fahrenheit. There is almost a constant breeze, day and night, from the gulf.
Taranto has nearly thirty thousand inhabitants, is a fortified place, the capital of the district, the seat of the civil and military departments, and that of the archbishop; is built on an island of solid rock, the elevation of which, from a height of two hundred feet over the sea on the side facing the port, gently declines towards the other side, looking over the Mare Piccolo; is connected to the main land at the two extremities by means of two bridges, under the arches of which the waters of the harbor communicate with that of the Mare Piccolo.
is surrounded all around with walls and redoubts for defence; the houses, without a single exception, are built of stone, with heavy walls from four to five feet in thickness, with vaulted ceilings, and generally three stories high, composed of small chambers. There are four principal streets, two of which, averaging twenty-five feet in width, run inside of and next to the city walls; the two others, of less width, are in the interior of the city, diverging from a parallel more or less, and winding across from one end of the city lengthwise to the other. These four main channels of communication are connected with numerous zigzag alleys and by-ways. The network of these streets and blocks of houses are built without any regularity or regard for symmetry. One-third of the population is composed of children, the other of women, and only one-third of men. While there are many here having from thirty to forty thousand dollars yearly income, about one-half of the whole population is merely, subsisting on begging and charity; a few are engaged in the maritime commerce, but still a larger number is addicted to the fishing of fish, shells, oysters, corals, sponge, &c.
Taranto has a large beef, provision, grain, fruit, wood, and coal market, and three other smaller fruit and vegetable markets; the most interesting, though, is the fish market, for its extraordinary variety in both the delicate as well as the substantial supply of the prolific qualities of the aquatic tribe. There are in this city 4 hotels, 32 coffee or eating saloons, 1 gymnasium, 1 college, 1 female boarding-school, superintended by sisters of charity, 5 convents for monks, 3 monasteries for nuns, 23 churches, 1 prison, 2 hospitals, 2 barracks, 2 military depots, &c.
A first-class station-house and railroad, connecting this port with all the littoral and principal towns of the Adriatic, and also, through a branch from Ancona to Naples, with those of the Mediterranean coast, are in construction, and will be opened by the 18th of April next.
The steamers of two companies touch at this port, one line carrying the mail and passengers from Ancona to Messina, connecting at this latter place with the Messagerie Imperial" from Marseilles, both for Constantinople and Alexandria; the other is a direct line from Naples to Taranto.
The colonies of ancient Greece in Italy were surnamed "Grecia Magna." They consisted of a confederation of independent republics, of which that of Taranto, being the most important for her central position, accumulated great richness of art, the vestiges of which, engulphed since by the overthrow of powers, could not be effaced entirely, and many interesting relics survive still the wreck of ages, bespeaking our admiration for the excellence of the ancients in the arts and industry. Of the numerous places of worship, which, with the Catholics, are generally an object of luxurious ostentation, the cathedral of St. Cataldo is the most prominent here, for the superiority of its architectural beauty, and especially for its being constructed entirely of all the heterogeneous classes and different species of building materials, carefully selected from the remains of the ancient ruins. Among the curiosities of this church, the most remarkable are twelve of its twenty-four pillars of a dark gray granite and two others of a dark green marble, the so-called "ancient marble," as none of it can be found in our days, measuring three feet in diameter, and about thirty feet in height; which are said to be the remains of the ancient "Temple of Minerva." The walls are inlaid with a mosaic of ancient marbles, of all shades and of beautiful colors. The great altar is literally covered with precious stones-agate, lapis lazuli, coral, mother-of-pearl, &c.
The remains of the circular walls of the ancient amphitheatre are still visible; they were demolished at the time of the long siege by the Romans under Fabius Maximus, when, conquering the Tarantines, together with their ally the "King of Pyrrhus," the consul abandoned the city to plunder. By the removal of the surface of the soil large vaults are not unfrequently discovered around the city and her vicinity, for the dwellings of those who passed by many centuries ago; H. Ex. Doc. 63- -34
and the skeletons, wearing gold rings, and often bestrewed with queer ornaments of precious stones and metals, clearly show that their rest has never been disturbed from grand time.
The fishers of coral in this port and gulf (the annual yield of which amounts to several thousands of pounds, at the average price of 37 cents per 16) form a company, and sell their produce to some speculators here, who supply the jewellers of various cities of this kingdom with large quantities and at great profits, as the corals fished here are of a beautiful hue and of large size.
An oblong shell, resembling a clam, of one and a half foot in length, called Bisso-Bissus, the tissue of which is mentioned in the Bible, as used for the canopy of the tabernacle and for the tunic of the great priest, is found here in abundance, averaging thirty pounds a year, and selling at a price of $4 per pound. These fine, soft, silk-like, glossy threads, found inside of the shell, are of a light chestnut color, sprinkled with gold, and are worked into gloves, caps, &c.
Another shell inhabits this harbor called the Murice-Murex, of about two feet in length, oval at one and pointed on the other end, of a light red color. Of this shell is prepared the famed purple dye. The celebrity of this ancient industry the present generation did not inherit, as the industry itself lives but through tradition, and little or none is prepared to-day of that beautiful dye.
The branches of sapin (fir-tree,) when lighted, give a clear blaze of flame, and are used as a substitute for torches on dark and calm nights by the fishermen of Taranto, as a means of catching fish with. The spectacle of the noiseless boat gliding along the smooth surface, with the glaring light on her bow, advancing imperceptibly, so completely bewilders these aquatic inhabitants that they fall an easy prey to the skilfully thrust spear.
The lark, thrush, &c., are caught in a similar trap on the land: at night people armed with this blazing fir-tree in one hand, and a tingling bell in the other, make a sad havoc among the winged tribe.
Soon after my arrival at Taranto, judging from the richness of its produce and from the greatest variety and perfection of its fruits, as I was noticing the beauty and healthfulness of climate and the fertility of soil, prompted by the sense of duty, imminent on my official mission, I began to observe and study the various interests concentrated in the several branches of industry and commerce, and also the relation which this port bears to others more or less distant, and particularly to those of the United States, when, on careful examination, I was convinced that the American people could derive immense profits from a direct commerce with this port.
Taranto, by its geographical position, being of the same latitude with New York, then in its vast, safe, and healthy harbor, better adapted for the purpose than any other in the Mediterranean, and lastly, by its rejoicing of every care and attention, as a port, selected for the great international emporium by the late decision of the Italian government, as it will be seen below, offers a most convenient place for the exchange of the Chinese wares and produce shipped inrough the channel of the Isthmus of Suez, with the American goods and manufactures coming from New York to Taranto, mainly for the reason of its every way advantageous success, as during the time which would be necessary for a New York clipper bound for the China seas to go round the Cape of Good Hope and to make about half way of her voyage, another could come to Taranto, exchange her cargo, and almost return to New York, thus greatly lessening the risk of life and property both, and saving about three-fourths of her time and
The statement of these facts brought to the knowledge of our enterpris ing citizens, so far from requiring any comment, presents in itself an inducement strong enough, in my belief, for the introduction of the most energetic and timely measures on the part of our capitalists, for the speedy perfection of all prelimi
nary arrangements, in order to have the start over the already organizing Eng. lish and French companies. The commission house of a company here, buying up the Chinese wares and produce for the Americans, on the one hand, and the American goods and manufactures for the Chinese, on the other, would readily effect this exchange and secure immense profits.
For the establishment of such house of exchange, with the view of purchasing from the Chinese and Americans the regular supplies for the want of both, respectively, the present time seems to be the most propitious, when with a view of meeting the exigencies of this important change of commercial route between China on one side, and the old Europe and North America on the other, the Italian government, annulling the law which for centuries past prohibited the erection of any building within the range of the guns of this city, now decrees the enlargement of her limits and capacity by the addition of two suburbs, the wellarranged plan of which being already adopted by the city council, the lots for construction will soon be thrown in the market; and there is, accordingly, no time to be lost in securing the most eligible and appropriate grounds for wharves and storage rooms.
* To the ameliorations, as proposed, would belong the connexion of the islands of St. Paolo and St. Pietro with the main land at Point Rondinella, (see chart No. 1,) by means of a wharf; the building of roads, docks, and yards in Mare Piccolo; the erection of a quarantine on the island of St. Paolo; the sufficient widening of the channel under Port de Lecce for the passage of large-sized vessels; and lastly, the building of suburbs on each end of the main land projecting towards the city.
The two last items of improvement being of primal necessity, and consequently of first consideration, the government has already provided for both, and has caused the plan of the suburbs to be so constructed as to reserve the necessary width of ground on both ends of land nearest the city for the widening of the channel between the harbor and the Mare Piccolo, as above stated.
Besides the advantages of the usual trade in shipping, there is a very good prospect here for the successful operation of the most lucrative manufactories, such as cotton cloth, velvet, blanket, soap, candle, sugar, oil refining, &c., factories, for the preparation of which this district can superabundantly furnish both the raw material and workmen at quite low prices. A well-managed iron foundery, supplying the want of this district in house and agricultural implements, beginning from a needle to a threshing-machine, would realize immense profits. The erection of all kinds of buildings being comparatively very cheap, the square foot of which measures in the wall (of stone) averages $
I subjoin a bill for the expenses for loading 54,000 gallons of oil, (palm:)
To discharge and bring the casks to the magazines
To bring the casks from magazine to wharf.
To prove if water-tight...
To assistance to measure
To filling the casks...
To transport to the custom-house.