13 Haziran 2018 Çarşamba

TNT History Mini-Series: Accidental Turks in Brazil & Beyond (1866)/Part IV

//Ed. Note: Current author Engineer Faik's shipmate on the
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
 right away.

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

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


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