Author’s Notes for Seas of Fortune (2014)

Author’s Notes for Cooper, 1636: Seas of Fortune (2014)

These notes copyright Iver P. Cooper 2014. Please do not duplicate without permission. They do not create canon. In case of conflict with what is in the published ms., the latter controls.

Part I: Stretching Out

Amazon Adventure

My principal character, Henrique Pereira da Costa, is a descendant of Portuguese Jews forced to convert to Christianity. These were variously called conversos, Marranos, and New Christians. The surnames Pereira (“pear tree”) and da Costa (“of the coast”) both had New Christian associations. See Prinz, The Secret Jews (1973) and Roth, A History of the Marranos (1987).

Some of these New Christians were “crypto-Jews,” that is, they continued to practice the Jewish faith, at least in a fragmented and distorted form, in secret. Hiding Jewish articles of worship, as Henrique did, in a specially designed vase was a known artifice. (Prinz 16).

The New World was soon seen as a place of refuge for the Marranos, and they emigrated to Brazil as early as 1506. In 16th century Bahia, nearly all of the physicians were New Christians. The authorities suspected that many of the New Christians were “judaizing,” and this led to intermittent bans on their emigration to the New World. One such ban was in 1610-29, so presumably Henrique’s father emigrated during the “window” of 1601-1610. The town of Belem do Para wasn’t founded until 1616, so he presumably went somewhere else first.


I figure that the first shipment of rubber from Brazil probably left Belem in August or September 1633. And while Henrique doesn’t know its fate, it was probably captured by a French privateer. Kerryn Offord, Letters from France, under the date slug “Fall 1633, Granville, France” says, “I came across a Portuguese ship.”….”According to the logbook, its last stop was in Belem, at the mouth of the Amazon…. And the manifest lists the stuff as caoutchouc.” (This isn’t a coincidence, by the way, Kerryn, consulted me while developing his own story).


Even going upstream, it is possible to travel a considerable distance in a relatively short time on the Amazon river system. In the 19th century, it took eighty-six days to paddle a canoe 485 leagues (1674 miles) upstream from Belem do Para to Fort San Joze de Mirabitena, a little more than twice as far as Manaus. (Southey, History of Brazil 3: 709).


The Manao indians were “great travelers and traders” according to Hemming, Red Gold 233, 440. The Manao homeland was around the Urabaxi. There is no source for them founding a village near modern Manaus in the 1600s, but a few Manao families did so in the 1700s (Hemming 443), and there’s no reason it couldn’t have happened earlier, and then disappeared. Neither the Manao nor the Taruma have survived as distinct ethnicities, so there wasn’t any point in having them met separately.


The initiation ritual that Mauricio undergoes is based loosely on the one conducted by the Piaroan Indians of Venezuela, and described in Gheerbrant, Journeys to the Far Amazon: An Expedition into Unknown Territory (2007). Similar ceremonies are found among other tribes (There’s a National Geographic video showing the Satere-Mawe version; that tribe lives between the lower Tapajós and lower Madeira tributaries of the Amazon.)


Henrique and Mauricio’s escape route from the Amazon to the Essequibo was in fact used as a trading route by the Manao and the Dutch in the early18th century (Hemming 440-2, 640). The Portuguese established the Fort of São José da Barra do Rio Negro near modern Manaus, in 1669, and if, as some say, this was built to keep out the Dutch, that route may have been known even earlier.


Second Starts

The great Buffalo Canoe Race really did take place in Mannington, West Virginia (the model for the fictional Grantville); the fourth one was on May 1, 1999.


Maria Vorst is an imaginary character, but inserted into a real family. Insofar as her interests in art and biology are concerned, she is based loosely on Maria Sibylla Merian. Merian is the subject of Todd, Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis (2007). Ironically, I have Maria Vorst read about Merian in Nancy Heller’s book on Women Artists. (Nancy Heller is a well-known art historian, but I knew her from Spanish Dance Society.)


For what Maria might have found out about rubber by scouring the Grantville public and school libraries, see Cooper, “Bouncing Back: Bringing Rubber to Grantville (GG 6). As for bauxite, the aluminum ore found in Suriname, see Cooper, “Aluminum: Will O’ the Wisp?” (GG 8).


David Pieterszoon de Vries is a fascinating historical character, and my description of his adventures in Delaware and New Jersey is based on his memoirs. It’s only when he returns to the Netherlands that he hears about the business opportunities in Grantville — and a different future looms before him.


Note that the country now called Guyana, and known in the early 20c as British Guiana, is the site of the Dutch colony of Essequibo in the 1630s, where the trading post/fort of Kykoveral (“See-Over-All”) is located. There were also Dutch colonies at Berbice and perhaps Demerara. And ironically, Suriname, which was “Dutch Guiana” before it declared independence, was British prior to 1667 (when it was traded for New Netherlands — New York).


Maria’s Mission

Louis de Geer. In Kim Mackey, Land of Ice and Sun, Louis de Geer sends a mission to mine cryolite in southern Greenland. There was an elaborate cover story; obviously, I didn’t think that David De Vries would be fooled by it.

Phil’s wristwatch. For the importance of an accurate timepiece for navigation, see my articles “Soundings and Sextants, Part One, Navigational Instruments Old and New” (GG14) and “Soundings and Sextants, Part Two, Celestial Navigation Methods” (GG15).

The ship he stowed away on left in December 1633, and returned in September 1634. o that has the following implications:(1) as of December 1633, no marine chronometer (for determining longitude) has been manufactured yet, and (2) as of December 1633, Phil’s watch is still running (and preferably it’s still reasonably accurate in September 1634).

With regard to the first point, I don’t think there’s a problem; the up-timers and their down-time allies can’t do everything and with the USE (NUS) being still an inland power in Dec. 1633, building a chronometer wouldn’t have been a priority. The Dutch, etc. or course would have been much more interested but of course there would have been a process of learning what’s available in GV, deciding what to work on first, and so forth. Sakalucks, Northwest Passage, part Three (published in GG22, well after Maria’s Mission) has Svend say to John, “The new chronometer is going to be a boon to navigators, John. Whatever Sir Thomas had to pay for it was well worth it.” According to Story time frames, the Sakalucks story begins in March 1634, so that’s not a conflict. The other two chronometer references in canon are even later — 1635 and

1636 respectively.

With regard to the second point, I think Eric wrote a story which pointed out that the battery-operated quartz watches are going to stop working within a few years after the RoF. It’s a question of both the battery life in use and the battery shelf life. Working life supposedly can

be 1-10 (last would have to be a mercury or lithium battery) years, depending on whether it’s single or multifunction, analog or digital, use of backlight, whether seconds are displayed, etc. Average is probably 2-3 years. Shelf life depends on the type of cell: mercury, silver oxide or lithium. For silver oxide, I have seen quoted anywhere from 2-5 years. For mercury, it was more like 5-10 years, but they were banned in 1996. The lithium disposables came out in the

1990s I believe and had shelf life similar to mercury.

If I needed to explain why his watch is still running, I have three choices:

a) Phil is lucky, his battery hasn’t died yet

b) Phil has an automatic (self-winding mechanical) watch, perhaps a hand-me-down (there are also automatic quartz watches, aka kinetics, in which the self-winding function charged a Li-ion rechargeable battery, but I think that in 1999 they were still very expensive)

c) Phil has a solar-powered watch.

These choices do affect the accuracy that Phil can fairly claim for the watch, and how it must be used. Re accuracy, see

My initial intent was to say nothing (Eric’s motto is “vague is good”) but in the page proof stage I decided to say that Philip had a self-winding wristwatch.


Encyclopedia Misinformation. The encyclopedias told the characters that the French started an (unsuccessful) colony at Paramaribo in 1640, and the first permanent settlement on the Suriname River was that of the English in 1652. It failed to warn them that there was an English settlement there in the 1630s. In October 1634 the historical De Vries, exploring a”deep river” that we can presume was the Suriname, found the English under Captain Marshall, a day’s sail upriver; sixty Englishmen were growing tobacco there. (Parr, 157). The location of “Marshall’s Creek” is shown on Map 1. Maplandia says “Marechalskreek” is at 5̊ 16′ 0″ North, 55̊ 5′ 0″ West.


Beyond the Line

Salt Harvest. The Dutch needed salt to cure North Sea herrings. In 1594-1605, the Dutch, and occasionally other Europeans, harvested salt at the Araya flats of Venezuela. On the way home, they engaged in contraband trade with the Spanish settlements of the Caribbean. In just 1603, Araya received over 120 Dutch ships and over 30 other ships. (Jarvis, In the Eye of All Trade, 139). On November 6, 1605, a squadron of fourteen Spanish war-galleons with support craft surprised the salt fleet. Only two of the eleven Dutch vessels escaped. (Marley, Wars of the Americas 150). The Dutch persisted, so the Spanish built a fort in 1623, blocking entrance to the Araya lagoon. The Dutch then went to the salt-pans elsewhere. The Spanish drove them from La Tortuga (1631) and Sint Maarten (1633), but this simply provoked the Dutch expedition that captured Curacao (off the coast of Venezuela) on August 21, 1634. The Dutch took control of nearby Aruba and Bonaire in 1636, and of Sint Eustatius (in the Leeward Islands) the same year. However, the Dutch had made visits to the ABC Islands earlier; e.g., Bonaire beginning in 1623 (Hartog, Bonaire: Short History 17).

Providence Island. British Puritans settled Old Providence Island in 1630. Trading between the English and the Miskito Indians began at least as early as 1633 (Floyd, The Anglo-Spanish Struggle for Mosquitia 18). Surprisingly little attention has been given to Samuel Rishworth’s role as an early opponent of African slavery.

Granada. Granada, Nicaragua was founded in 1524, and Spanish explorers descended the Rio San Juan to the Caribbean in 1539. (Guardia, History of Discovery and Conquest of Costa Rica, 116ff). This became part of a Spanish trade route from Granada to the Caribbean ports, carrying cochineal, indigo, hides and silver. (Severin, The Golden Antilles, 139). The trade didn’t go unnoticed; in 1576, pirates captured a Spanish fragata at the mouth of the Rio San Juan (Guardia 310).

Historically, several piratical attacks on Granada were made by way of the Rio San Juan in the 1660s, most notably by John Morris and Henry Morgan in 1665, leading a combined force of English and Miskitos, who thereby acquired 500,000 pounds silver. The Spanish built a fort (San Carlos) at the lake end of the river in 1667, but it was overcome in 1670 by the pirate Gallardino, who continued on to the hapless Granada. In 1675, the Spanish built a stronger fortress, El Castillo de la Immaculata Concepcion, near the Santa Cruz rapids halfway down the river, to guard against further piracy. Unfortunately, Granada had no significant defenses on the west (the Pacific side), and William Dampier took it in 1685. The Rio San Juan was again an invasion route in 1762 (unsuccessful) and 1780 (successful), the latter expedition including one Captain Horatio Nelson. (Watts, The West Indies 141).


Riding the Tiger

Maria’s turntable. The first record turntables were crank-operated, and in a thrift store you might be able to find a crank-operated “Phonette” for missionaries. Missionaries used crank-powered cassette players (e.g. the “Messenger II”). It might make sense to equip Maria’s turntable with a flywheel, to smooth out the speed variations; the Egyptian potter’s wheel had one so it’s not exactly new tech.

Music. The Indian preference for Mozart over Armstrong is taken from Gheerbrant, The Impossible Adventure: Journey to the Far Amazon, 90ff, 277ff.

Greenheart. The famous clipper Cutty Sark was planked with teak (from India) and greenheart (Ocotea rodiei, from Guyana) timber. Greenheart is about twice as strong as oak and teak, and like teak is very resistant to marine borers. My “discovery” story was inspired by a 19c report I had read of “a ship in the port of London having nearly the whole of the bottom planking eaten into by worms, with the exception of one plank, which proved to be of greenheart.” (Rattray, ed., Forestry and Forest Products 368).

The greenheart was valued by the Guiana indians because its nut contained a contraceptive. (Lewington, Plants for People 151, 185). They may also used an extract of the nut or bark to treat pain and fever, and, after it was inadvertently imported to South America by the Europeans, malaria.

While greenheart grows primarily in Guyana, another hardwood that the Gustauvus colonists might find of value is Basralocous angelique, a borer-resistant tree (Parr 158) that is fairly common in Suriname and French Guiana. The itauba mentioned by Henrique was used by some Amazon Indians to make dugout canoes. (Spruce, Notes of a Botanist on the Amazon and Andes, 160).

Slave ship. The capture of the slave ship was inspired by a real event. In the old time line, David Pieterszoon De Vries founded a colony at modern Cayenne, in French Guyana, in September, 1634. He went off privateering, and in December, 1634, while he was away, his colonists decided to seize a Spanish slave ship which had come in search of drinkable water. As in my story, most of the Spanish went upriver in a longboat, leaving behind a small watch, which the colonist overcome.

But happened next was … surprising. The colonists took the captured ship to Jamaica and abandoned the colony. The Spanish in the longboat weren’t sunk, they were left behind in Guyana. In Jamaica, the ship, the slaves, and the captured Spanish watchmen were sold.

Most of the colonists did not profit from this act of piracy and betrayal. The two ringleaders, English ex-pirates, had persuaded the other colonists (who didn’t speak English) to sign an English contract of indenture, each signer thinking it a credential that helped prove that he was a legitimate sailor and not a pirate. The ex-pirates sold the indentures in Jamaica, too. The other colonists thus all passed into bondage themselves. (Parr, The Voyages of David de Vries 162-4). Which proves that truth is stranger than fiction.

Riding the Tiger. The history of the phrase “riding the tiger” is rather murky. According to William Safire of The New York Times, there is a Chinese proverb “Ch’i ‘hu nan hsia pei“, translated in 1875 (W. Scarborough, Collection of Chinese Proverbs) as “He who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount.” Most likely, Heyndrick learned this proverb from the up-timers.

Deal with the Slaves. As stated in the story, the colonists did expect a return on the aid they gave the freed slaves. The specifics of the deal they made aren’t stated, but I figure it would be somewhat similar to what the English did with the slave ship Trouvadore. Slaves rescued from its 1841 shipwreck off East Caicos were taken to Grand Turk, given clothing, food, accommodations and medical care, and taught English and Christian ways, all in return for labor for one year.

King of the Jungle

The freed slaves. These come from several different African tribes, including those from the modern countries of Ghana (Ashanti, Akwamu, Fante, Denkyira), Nigeria (Eboe),

and Congo-Angola (Ndongo, Kasante Imbangala), and Senegal-Gambia-Gambia(Mandinka).

I exercised a certain amount of literary license here. Generally speaking, Congolese and Angolan slaves were shipped by the Portuguese to Brazil, and slaves from further north by the Spanish, or other Europeans (who could include the Portuguese), to the Spanish Caribbean. My explanation for this diversity was that the slave ship had gone first to Angola, and had gone further north only because it hadn’t been able to fill its hold there.

While this isn’t made explicit, I suspect that the captain of the slave ship did not have the proper documentation and therefore couldn’t go to the main port at Luanda but rather had to deal on the sly at more remote locations. He then decided to try his luck selling his slaves in the Caribbean.

The Imbangala, being a band of mercenaries who practice ritual cannibalism and Borg-like recruitment methods, make great villains. For Imbangala history and tactics, see Lovejoy, Transformations in Slavery 76-77, 996, 106, 129. Their main foes, the Ndongo, are briefly discussed in Jonathan Cresswell-Jones’ “Malungu Seed” (Ring of Fire 2 anthology).

Enslavement Ritual. Taken from Patterson, Slavery and Social Death 53.

Sunken weapons. Corrosion needs electrolyte and oxygen. Hence, it’s faster in salt water than fresh, and faster in moving water than slack. See Warren, Metal Corrosion in Boat 54-5.

For background on the Ashanti, see McCaskie, State and Society in Pre-Colonial Asante; Isichei, A History of African Society to 1870, 345-6, .

For the Mandinka (Mande) beliefs in magic, see McNaughton, The Mande Blacksmiths and Diouf article in Lovejoy, Trans-Atlantic Dimensions of Ethnicity in the African Diaspora.

Warship on the Cottica. “The rivers are unusually deep for their widths because of the tide water influences. For example, the Cottica River at Moengo, more than one hundred miles from its mouth, is less than one hundred feet wide, but is twenty-four feet deep.” Netherlands. Regeeringsvoorlichtingsdienst.

Tears of the Sun, Milk of the Moon

Ashanti Gold Mining methods. My principal sources are:

Edgerton, The Fall of the Asante Empire 38ff;

Ofosu-Mensah, Hisoricial Overview of traditional and modern gold mining in Ghana, Int. Res. J. Library, Info. & Arch. Stud. 1:6-22 (Aug. 2011);

Laffoley and Laidler, Pre-European Gold Mining at Ashanti, Ghana, Mining History: The Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society, 13(4):__ (Winter 1997),%20Ghana.pdf ;

Ofosu-Mensah, Traditional Gold Mining in Adanse, Nordic J. Afr. Stud., 19: 124-47 (2010) ;

Carman, Tracing African Gold

Guiana Gold. The Guianas had their gold rushes, but these were never on the scale of California or the Klondike. The first profitable deposits found in Suriname were those of the Lawa River, a tributary of the Marowyne, in 1885-86. The rush occurred in 1889. The heaviest nugget found over a couple of decades of workings was 530 ounces. In 1897, the total Lawa River production was 1,479, with another 2,456 from the Marowyne.

The characters haven’t found it yet (as far as I know), but there’s more gold on the Suriname and Salamacca rivers of Suriname, on various tributaries of the Essequibo in modern Guyana, and on various rivers of modern French Guiana.

David de Vries’ ingenious proposal, that kept his men from deserting to look for gold, was inspired by the one made by the Master of the Araminta, Thomas Feran. The Araminta arrived in Geelong in 1852. Crews were then deserting ships en masse to go to the gold fields of Ballarat. Feran proposed that the crew go as a company, with one third of the gold found to go to the owners of the Araminta, and the remainder shared among the crew in proportion to their wages, with their wages stopped while they were absent from the ship. The crew agreed and twenty-seven went with Feran to Ballerat, and three remained behind (but entitled to shares in the gold) to watch the ship. The party remained at Ballarat for nearly three months, and the shipowner received 400 pounds worth of gold (and also avoided the abandonment of his ship) as a result of Feran’s cleverness.

So far so good, but in real life, there was a rather surprising twist. At the gold fields, fifteen of the crew had deserted anyway, to work on their own account. That left the ship shorthanded, which meant that it would be difficult to sail it on to Bombay and deliver their cargo of coal. Had Feran hired new crewmen at Geelong, they would have been landsmen, and he would have nonetheless had to paid forty pounds apiece.

So he made a deal with the remaining crew that if they agreed to handle the ship short-handed, that they would get, in addition to their regular wages, shares of the wages of the sailors who had deserted — about nine pounds apiece. In Bombay, they picked up a new cargo, and took on more crew, and then returned to Liverpool.

Here’s the shocker. Despite the great and unexpected profits that the shipowner had made as a result of these two deals, when the ship came home, the owner sued the crew for subtraction of the extra wages! The High Court of the Admiralty felt compelled to hold in favor of the owner, but “considering that the owners reaped the benefit of the crew’s having taken the vessel short-handed,” refused to award costs.

I first read about the Amarinta in Villier, The Way of the Ship, 193-5, but then found the actual decision in the Ecclesiastical and Admiralty Reports (1854).