The Harvard African Expedition, Book 2: November 3, 1926



Loring Whitman




Wed Nov 3 So the night passed with fitful snatches of sleep till 400 when the wind dropped – and the reef points batters rippled along the slatting sail. The crew groaned and manned the creaking oars. A feeble light shone near – the exhausted light house at grand Bassa – we rowed slowly over smooth waters – the East began to pale – and as we slipped between the rocks of the point fishing canoes glided smoothly and silently past – appearing from the black waters as shadowy silhouettes, a man in bow and stern pushing out to sea.

            And as the sun rose – for the tropic dawn is short we anchored off the beach at Grand Bassa, tired, unshaven and ready to stretch our legs. The landing was amusing. The boat is enclosed and then drifted stern first into the breakers until it rises and falls – bumping the sand each time. The game consists of nimbly getting on a blacks shoulders between waves and being rushed to dry land. It was quite amusing and none suffered more than wet feet. After getting our cameras and a few bags ashore we went over to call on the Dutch people. They were up – and gave us tea but seemed to imply that they were busy. We returned to the beach, got out food etc and started Sando on breakfast. Then we walked up the beach and took a swim in the early morning sun – again coasting in on the breakers. After a sumptuous repast of oatmeal and eggs Hal and I went for a walk. Grand Bassa is quite a thriving little place situated on the curve of a cresentric beach of very pleasing sand. It would make an ideal resort. There are about ½ dozen white stores of various nationality all of which adds to its charm after 6 months in the interim. On our return we dropped in on the elder Dempster people who were extremely hospitable and insisted on sending for Strong and Shattuck who we had left shaving on the beach. There were 3 of them, the agent and his wife with prematurely sliver hair – both very pleasing and the assistant. They told us about the place – about Cape Palmas where they usually stay, showed us photographs, gave us cigars and newspapers and trotted out all the souvenirs they had collected in Liberia. They seemed as pleased to see us as we were to seem them. They also insisted on our having some beer. They told us that the Firestones were in Monrovia, had spoken about us etc etc. But it was nearing noon and a breeze was springing up. Hal and I took some movies around town, then packing – and good bye to our hosts. I took movies of the embarkation thru the surf. Then – after half hour went for the captain who had vanished we left Monrovia.

            It was much the same as yesterday except that we all felt fine and had keen appetites. We bowled along, if anything faster with the water rippling perilously close to the gun whale. We had elaborate meals too, for lunch and supper – of tea soup, meat, bread jam etc including desert of canned fruit. Then we lay down and read the newspapers our boats had kindly given us – as well as a few odd number of sketch and a national geographic. By the way – every one takes the latter here – and thoroughly enjoy it no matter what their nationality. – The day ended – and again we lay down to sleep in our rain coats. But about 1200 the wind headed us and dropped. We again took to the oars. And as before we were near Grand Bassa – we were now off the light at Monrovia. An hours row brought us round the point and off the beach of sleeping Kru town – we anchored.

            It was then that the elements were unkind – for a heavy rain with lightning falling “with never a jag” descended upon us and drove us all to seek shelter under in the little canvas cover. 4 of us  wedged into that place with the rain dripping down our necks. – And so we staid until the east again paled and the rain stopped. 






Loring Whitman, “The Harvard African Expedition, Book 2: November 3, 1926,” A Liberian Journey: History, Memory, and the Making of a Nation, accessed November 20, 2017,