In 1837, John A. Heraud published an autobiography of William Robinson under the cumbersome title of Voyages up the Mediterranean and in the Indian Seas; with Memoirs compiles from the logs and letters of a Midshipman Embellished with engravings from original drawings.
The voyage itself took place aboard the corvette Adventure captained by Captain W.H. Smyth a well known naval officer and hydrographer and – more importantly – a good friend of his father . It was as a result of this trip that Smyth published in 1824 his equally cumbersomely entitled - Memoir Descriptive of the Resources, Inhabitants, and Hydrography of Sicily and Its Islands, Interspersed With Antiquarian and Other Notices.
From a more parochial point of view however, Smyth will always be remembered as the man who produced one of the best British maps of Gibraltar of the early 19th century.
Robinson was appointed Smyth’s Aide de camp and the Adventure visited Gibraltar in 1821 as one of its first ports of call. Heraud quotes an extract from Robinson’s notes:
This morning (August 9,) in beating‘ through the Gut of Gibraltar, there were nearly a hundred porpoises about the bows of the ship; and as I was bathing in a cot, there was a dolphin which the boatswain struck with a harpoon, but by mismanagement in hauling it on-board, it disengaged itself, and escaped. . . .
The views in passing the Gut are very magnificent. We had a sight of Apeshill, (see LINK) the Barbary Mountains, and those of Spain. Nor is the Rock of Gibraltar less striking. At first sight, it has the appearance of a stupendous high rock stretching through the clouds, with the top peeping out above them; but, on coming along-side of it, it assumes quite a different appearance; it looks a barren place; but the fortifications and houses that are scattered about, together with the town, render it most interesting and formidable.
I intend to go on shore if we stay here, and shall then be able to render you a better description. I shall embellish my log-book with a sketch of it, so that on my return you will be better able to imagine its singular appearance.
Unfortunately if he did sketch the Rock, Heraud did not include it in his book.
The Rock just across the Bay from the Spanish town of Algeciras ( A contemporary view – Victor Casien )
It is extremely hot, yet people fare well here; for Spain and Barbary being now open, provisions and refreshments are supplied in abundance. I went on shore on duty at five o'clock, so I could not leave the boat. We are all ready for sailing.
Blue peter is just hoisted, which is the signal for all hands to come on board. I assure you it was good fun to hear the people on shore gabble in their language. Indeed they speak a variety of tongues; English, Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew, and other jargons (see LINK) sounded, as in a second Babel.
Last night it was calm and fine, and to hear the evening guns firing, and bands playing, while the soldiers were relieving guard, was delightful.
And that was about it although the author thought it necessary to add his own thoughts on th topic.
There is great trade in the town of Gibraltar, yet all travellers complain of the badness of the shops. The moles and bay, when full of ships, are very beautiful. The climate is very healthy, the heat being intolerable only in July, August, and September; yet the number of tomb-stones and burying-grounds in Gibraltar, we are told, is surprising.
“The moles and bay, when full of ships . . .” ( 1868 – Unknown )
Not only the neutral ground, but the Red Sands appear like an immense church-yard; there are several others up the hill; and half of South Port Ditch (see LINK) is also covered with graves and monuments.
Part of the North Front cemetery (1880s – G. W. Wilson ) (See LINK)