Bursa corvette, İmam Abdurrahman Efendi, wrote his own
book about the voyage but focused mainly on his religious
efforts in Brazil after he left the ship. Abdurrahman's
account will be presented by TNT after Engineer Faik's.
Interestingly, Faik and Abdurrahman had very different
recollections regarding Abdurrahman's exit from naval
duty on the Bursa at Rio, as will be seen.
Additionally, in this Part IV episode Engineer Faik
relates the ship's perilous transit across the Atlantic from
Rio to the Cape of Good Hope, life in Cape Town and
then an even more perilous voyage to Mauritius.//
Imam Abdurrahman Efendi of the Bursa Corvette
moslems of brazil reference made to İmam Abdurrahman in this
Harvard Divinity School note.
Bağdatlı Abdurrahman Efendi, our ship’ imam, was persuaded with money by the
Moslem negro populace living in Brazil and he absconded. The language of the negro
prisoners the Portuguese kidnapped from Africa and brought here conformed with the
language of the American negroes. And since those who came from Africa were
from Sudan, they had some degree of familiarity with Islam. They knew the İhlâs
and Fâtihâ suras and prayed five times a day. In the course of time, they won over
the American negroes and converted them to İslam, as well. Now, there are 9,000
negro Moslems in Brazil.
When we reached the port of Rio de Janeiro some of the Moslems came and met with
our imam. Subsequently, they came each day to learn about various religious matters
from the imam. They didn’t even have one Kur’an and would give the sailors 3-4 lira
for a small section of the Kur’an called “cüz”. Since the imam was familiar with their
language, they were quite pleased and accommodating. Every few days they would
invite him to a house on the outskirts of the city, take him there and bring him back.
One day, the imam asked our Captain for leave and went to the outskirts. He did not
return for 5-6 days, despite being searched for high and low. When his cabin was
opened, we saw that all his belongings and books were gone. We realized that our
imam had taken them and absconded.
The Captain wrote a letter to the government, asking that the imam be found and
delivered to the ship. Five or six days later the government found him but he told
them that he was not pleased with us and preferred to stay in Brazil. When this
happened the authorities sent the Captain an official letter stating that, in accordance
with Brazilian law, anyone wishing to settle in Brazil, regardless of country of origin,
was welcomed with open arms. Additionally, the letter said that, rather than the
government penalizing him, an acceptance ceremony would be arranged and the imam
given a parcel of land. Therefore, the imam could not be arrested and delivered to us.
Imam Abdurrahman Efendi is originally from Baghdad. For various reasons he
migrated to Damascus and then, during the trouble in Damascus, he was arrested and
put in the dungeon of the Imperial Shipyard in Istanbul. The former Captain of the
Fleet, Mehmed Paşa, heard that Abdurrahman knew Arabic and Farsi, was well-versed
in religious matters and was a smart a perceptive individual so he had him released
from prison and assigned to the Navy. Later, when he expressed interest in going to
Basra, he was made the imam of the Bursa corvette.
The negro Moslems of Brazil, because of their extraordinary desire and interest to
learn the tenets of religion, lured this imam, whom they very much liked, with money
to their side. In short, our imam absconded in Brazil.
Events During the Voyage
We stayed in Brazil for two months. After obtaining the requisite supplies we
weighed anchor, fired up the machines and departed on the first of August. In this
season storms erupt between America and Africa and there is a fierce west wind.
Since this west wind was at our backs and although the topmast sails had been taken
in, with five sails up our ship was making 10-12 miles per hour.
At three in the morning on the night of 3 August, there was a heavy rain storm
with lightening, which lasted for half an hour. The same thing happened on the
night of the 4th. Right away, the topmast sails were folded three times. On
Wednesday, 10 August, a very fierce rain squall began at 31 degrees 58 minutes
south latitude. We immediately took the necessary actions on the ship but, in any
case, half an hour later the squall passed.
On the 11th of August, there was another fierce rain squall. The next day the
weather calmed a bit and until the 18th of August we sailed on with a good wind.
However, on the 18th around noon the wind grew fierce again and began blowing
in reverse. Consequently, the topgallant spars and masts were lowered and the
‘mayıstra’ (mainsail) and ‘tirinkete’ (trinket) sails were taken in. At 9 o’clock the
‘tirinketina flok’ (triangular trinket sail at the bow) was ripped apart and replaced
This was an incredibly fierce storm. I cannot even describe the size of the waves.
The poor Bursa corvette was like a dot amid these waves. When the ship rose atop
a wave, looking down from the gunwale was like looking down at Mercan slope
from atop the fire tower (fire tower at Beyazıt, Istanbul, looking down Mercan slope
toward the shore at Eminönü). Concurrently, the squawks of the big black ‘kipçin’
birds that gathered at the stern of the ship further increased our fear and terror.
Thank God, we survived without any major damage and the storm passed after 24
hours. But because of the size of the waves our ship was heaved to and fro, and
since the weather was quite cold and rainy it was impossible to remain on the deck.
At this latitude, we saw big ice islands that the English call ‘icebergs’. At noon on
Saturday, the 20th of August, we had a southeasterly wind as we headed for the
Cape of Good Hope. The next day, we fired up the machines because the winds
were calm. At 9 o’clock on Tuesday, the 23rd of August we reached the port of
Simonstown at the Cape of Good Hope and anchored in nine fathoms of water.
Cape of Good Hope
The Cape country, at the southern tip of the African continent, called Cape of Good
Hope by the English, is comprised of quite a bit of territory. Since the country
passed into the hands of the English state, large amounts of money and effort have
be expended for the country’s infrastructure improvement and development, to the
point where it is now like a European country. All sorts of crops are raised here
because, in general, the land is fertile and productive. And while there is great
importance and attention given to agriculture, there are also many factories, railroads,
telegraph lines, mail roads and vehicles so commercial life has advanced accordingly.
The English control a stretch of the Cape coast 1,200 miles long and this strip is
generally developed. The interior, though, is not very developed. The main products
of the Cape are grapes, fish and dried fruits. In the mountains there are lions, tigers,
wild oxen and elephants, among other animals. These animals are hunted for their
skins, horns and teeth and each year great income is derived from their sale.
Thanks to the good weather and mild climate, the people are big, healthy and
handsome. Besides the Dutch and English who have migrated here from Europe,
the natives, called ‘Malayî’, are handsome people who resemble Ethiopians and
they are all Moslems. They wrap kerchiefs around their heads. Those of them who
are imams and hojas, wear a straw, conical cap the size of a small umbrella on top
of the kerchief. The women, though, are uncovered and walk around in dresses
and skirts like the English women we know.
Another Troublesome İmam
In any case, the Moslem community are not very well versed in religious matters and
the tenets of Islam. Some of them bury bodies head-first and some of them hang a
spittle cup around their necks during Ramazan. They have quite a few other strange
customs and habits. Twenty years ago, one of them went on the hajj and learned
proper Islam, correcting some of his mistakes. He returned here and explained these
to his community but they said “we learned these things from our fathers and
forefathers. Now, you’re spoiling everyone’s beliefs!” The community was split in
two and they fought with each other for a long time.
Ultimately, the great English state appealed to the Ottoman sultanate to send someone
to explain the tenets of Islam to them in order to solve the problems. As a result, five
or six years ago the revered Ebubekir Efendi, of the Moslem clergy in Turkey, was sent
here. Ebubekir Efendi took a mail ship to England and from there sailed to the Cape of
Good Hope. The Moslem community was quite pleased by this appointment and met
him with open arms, giving him a 10-room house, some servants and an excellent
salary. Nevertheless, up to now Ebubekir Efendi has not accomplished much, as is
explained in the following paragraphs:
1. A few days after his arrival, Ebubekir Efendi met with the leaders of the
Moslem community here and told them “you are infidels! You are letting your
women walk around uncovered!” This statement, coming so suddenly, did not
sit well with Moslem leaders because for years they had gotten used to English
ways and gained their freedom.
2. The children who attended Ebubekir Efendi’s school for training were
continually scolded and subjected to beatings. When the children complained
to their parents, Ebubekir Efendi was removed from the school.
3. Ebubekir Efendi wanted to get married here so the Moslems arranged for
him to marry the daughter of one of the Moslem leaders. But soon afterwards,
Ebubekir Efendi imprisoned his wife in their home and wouldn’t allow her to go
to the home of her parents, who filed a complaint with the local government.
As a result, Ebubekir Efendi got into a dispute with the Ottoman Consul.
In short, relations between Ebubekir Efendi and the community soured.
When we arrived, a group of Moslem leaders presented a petition to our Captain,
explaining the situation. I myself went to Ebubekir Efendi’s home and talked at
length with him. When I told him I thought he looked quite sad, he said he couldn’t
get along with the community and had even sent his resignation letter to Istanbul.
He visited our ship twice.
Cape Town is the capital of the Cape of Good Hope region and is situated at 33
degrees 55 minutes south latitude and 18 degrees 23 minutes east longitude.
Cape Town is a lovely city of 40,000 people, with big buildings, two mosques,
well-ordered streets and markets, parks and squares, quite a few churches, an
observatory, a museum and a number of barracks.
The city’s port is called Tirepeze and its mouth opens to the west, so in some years
when fierce storms and hurricanes hit, many ships sink or are broken up. Nevertheless,
since the port is the hub of commerce, ships and ferries go in and out in all situations.
For the protection of ships in storms, a 2,000-foot seawall that is 35-feet wide and
very solid, is being built on the west side of the port. Jar-shaped rocks 333 feet in
size, that look like ice cream scoops, are being made by machines from small rocks.
These are wrapped in iron cables and put into the sea, where they are held in place by
iron girders sunk into the ocean floor. The wall is scheduled to be completed soon.
To the east of this port, 15 miles away, there is a more secure port called Simons,
where ships prefer to anchor. But Simons is not advantageous from a trading
perspective, so when the wall I described above is completed there will be no need
for this port. The English state has an expansive, well-ordered shipyard, where there
are a number of iron and machine factories, warehouses filled with supplies for ships
and lifeboats. There are also homes for officers, a school for training sailors and, in
a place higher up, a fleet hospital that is very well-ordered and outfitted, set in a
beautiful flower garden.
This shipyard is under the direction of a commander, who has a garden and buildings
allocated to him. The place is like a town, with about 70 houses and stores and two
churches – one for the English and one for the Dutch. All year round the weather here
is nice and mild. The shore at the port I mentioned is sandy so it was not possible to
build drydocks. Ships up to 2,000 tons are pulled onto land with a sled for repairs.
There is a telegraph post here, next to which there is a column. Every day at noon
when the Cape Town observatory announces the correct time via telegraph a big ball
at the top of the column comes down. The ships in port see this column and set their
longitudinal clocks accordingly. The port is surrounded by high mountains including
one the English call Table Mountain, in the center of which is a white precipice that
can be seen from 30 miles away. A big, lovely stream emanates from this mountain,
flows down and passes under a bridge being constructed above the shipyard to a place
on the shore, from where all ships get their water. Red sea bream fish are plentiful at
the port and fished for substantial income. Truly, Cape Town is both prosperous and
productive, with lovely weather, as well.
When we arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, people came in droves each day to see our
ship. They rubbed the exalted Ottoman flag on their faces and eyes and prayed for the
long life of our exalted Sultan.
Since it had been a long time since our ship had been caulked, during the voyage water
flowed down to the lower deck. For this reason, while the rigging was examined here
we also had the ship caulked in a week’s time. Through Mr. Robins, the Ottoman
Consul in Cape Town, we borrowed money to buy provisions and the requisite supplies.
Then we prepared to leave this port. But on the evening of 11 September the
weather turned bad, with a fierce west wind and heavy rains. In the morning we saw
that the pier’s iron chain had broken so right away we lowered the spare anchor.
But that evening, there was another storm and the spare anchor chain broke, too.
The machines were immediately fired up and the lifeboat was sent to get another
chain from the shipyard.
While the required iron and chains were being prepared at the shipyard for our ship, the
weather calmed. The next day we departed from our anchorage but left a buoy in the
spot we left. The next day our sailors went to that spot and, with some difficulty, found
the two missing anchors. But both anchors’ palms were broken and had to been
repaired right away at the shipyard. On the 14th of September we departed the port.
Events During the Voyage
The next day, with a favorable wind we opened the sails and began to proceed.
On the 21st of September the weather suddenly turned bad and a fierce storm rose up,
with lightning striking all around. We immediately took the necessary measures on
the ship. This was an astonishingly terrifying storm, the likes of which we hadn’t
seen before. Each one of the waves that hit the ship was seemingly the size of a
After the storm continued for 14 hours, the weather calmed somewhat and since the big
waves I mentioned were at our rear, the ship sailed at 12 miles per hour for three days.
On the 24th of September, at 2 o’clock, we saw from the barometer reading and
other indicators that a storm was brewing. Truly, on this day there was a darkness in
the sky blacker than any we had ever seen in either the Black Sea or the Mediterranean
Sea. The intensifying and unmoving clouds seemed ready to fall into the sea. There
was an extraordinary heaviness in the air, along with the constant crack of lightning
strikes. The squawks and screams of a kind of scary, big black bird unique to these
parts only added to our terror. At this point a fierce squall erupted, accompanied
by very heavy rain and backed by a strong west wind.
The ship’s sailors wrapped the sails and nailed down the hatches. Even the sun fled
from this storm. After sunset, the weather became more violent. The main topsail
mast, which had been taken in three times, snapped, broke into pieces and fell into
the sea. The ship was left with only the ‘pokruva’ (main trysail-yard),
‘velastiralya’ (sail near the bow), ‘mizanna’ (mizzensail) and the ‘veledibarka’
(three-cornered sail on the bow), all of which had been folded twice, and began to
feel the wrath of the waves.
As the waves pounded the ship in this way, even the compass boxes fell over. And hail
the size of walnuts began to pour down in sheets that blinded us. At this point,
your humble servant, cringing at the base of a pole, proclaimed his profession of
faith in God.
In short, after the half-hour hail storm, thanks to God’s kindness, the weather calmed
somewhat. At 2 o’clock in the morning, the main topmast sail was tied, folded once
and opened up. The next day, with a favorable wind, all the sails were unfurled and
we sailed this way for a few days. On Tuesday, the 4th of October, we easily reached
the Mauritius Islands, which are governed by the English.
Cape Town to Mauritius
//END OF PART IV//