Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Darien Expedition Lands

On November 3, 1698, the ill-fated Darien expedition landed on the Isthmus of Panama.  According to bank historian Andrew Kerr ("History of Banking in Scotland"), 'The expedition consisted of five well-armed ships, laden with merchandise, and having twelve hundred men on board. They arrived at their destination with but small loss, and the colony was formally established as New Caledonia, with New Edinburgh as its chief town. ...'

Sir Walter Scott's information largely agrees with Kerr's.   Scott covers the Dairen Scheme in his "Tales of a Grandfather".

'Twelve hundred men, three hundred of whom were youths of the best Scottish families, embarked on board of five frigates, purchased at Hamburgh for the service of the expedition ; for the King refused the Company even the trifling accommodation of a ship of war, which lay idle at Burntisland. They reached their destination in safety, and disembarked at a place called Acta, where, by cutting through a peninsula, they obtained a safe and insulated situation for a town, called New Edinburgh, and a fort named Saint Andrew. With the same fond remembrance of their native land, the colony itself was called Caledonia. They were favourably received by the native princes, from whom they purchased the land they required. The harbour, which was excellent, was proclaimed a free port; and in the outset the happiest results were expected from the settlement.

The arrival of the colonists took place in winter, when the air was cool and temperate ; but with the summer returned the heat, and with the heat came the diseases of tropical climate. Those who had reported so favourably of the climate of Darien, had probably been persons who had only visited the coast during the healthy season, or mariners, who, being chiefly on shipboard, find many situations healthy, which prove pestilential to Europeans residing on shore. The health of the settlers accustomed to a cold and mountainous country, give way fast under the constant exhalations of the sultry climate, and even a more pressing danger arose from the want of food. The provisions which the colonists had brought from Scotland were expended, and the country afforded them only such supplies as could be procured by the precarious success of fishing and the chase. ...'
The Darien colony was abaondoned less than two years later.

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