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LAMPEDUSA
By Captain William Henry Smyth
Lampedusa. At the distance of twenty-four miles, south-west by south from Linosa, lies Lampedusa, a long narrow island, stretching east and west, and known to the ancients as Lopadusa. It is thirteen miles and a half in circuit, with a level surface, but abrupt, craggy coasts, except to the south-east, where it shelves from a height of nearly four hundred feet to a low shore, indented, or rather ser- rated, with many coves ; of which the largest is called the harbour, and deserves attention, as it was intended, at the time Buonaparte disputed our demand of retaining Malta, that this place, however un- worthy, might be substituted for the valuable ports of Valette. Lampedusa is a dependency of Sicily, and was given by Alphonso to his valet Di Caro, with permission to build a tower under baronial jurisdiction ; but it was never inhabited, on account, it is gravely said, of the horrible specters that haunted it. In 1667, it was acquired with the title of Prince, by the learned Ferdinand Tommasi of Palermo, a grandee of Spain, in whose family it has ever since remained. There are vestiges of ancient habitations. In 1610, a barbarous inscription was found among the ruins of Orlando's tower, now called the castle. A Sicilian legend states, that a vessel was wrecked on this island, and that the only survivors were two Palermitan ladies, Eosina and Clelia. They here found two hermits, Sinibald and Guido, who, renouncing their ascetic life, married them ; a population, of course, was the consequence, and the ruins near the castle are adduced as vestiges of its respectability. But, except a solitary anchoret or two, and a few occasional stragglers, it does not authentically appear to have been regularly inhabited, in modern times, until about ten or twelve years ago, when Mr. Fernandez, an Enghsh gentleman, struck with its advantageous situation, for the establishment of a fishery, for rearing cattle and refreshments for Malta, and for opening a commercial intercourse with Barbary, purchased a lease of it. The change of public affairs by the general peace, with litigations, and several other causes, unnecessary to relate here, have, however, ruined the speculation ; and when I last visited the island, I found the family of Mr. Fernandez living in almost deserted solitude, in a house near the great grotto, without the slightest protection from rovers, or, what is worse, from infected vessels putting in there, which has ever been a common practice. Twelve or fourteen Maltese peasants were scattered about in the different caves, near the cultivated parts. From the harbor, a stout wall, erected at the expense of Mr. Fernandez, runs over, in a northwest direction, to the opposite coast, entirely separating the broadest part of the eastern end, which is under cultivation, from the rest of the island. The western parts are covered with dwarf olives, and a great variety of plants, so that a good deal of fire- wood is cut and sent to Tripoli and Malta ; and amongst this profusion there are plenty of wild goats, that used to annoy the farm considerably, until the erection of the above-mentioned wall : they still find a destructive enemy, however, in the Numidian crane, called, from its graceful gait, the Damsel ; these birds arrive in great numbers in May, and delight to revel among the legumes, always planting a sentinel to warn them of discovery during their ravages.

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MEGALITHIC-LAMPEDUSA.COM From the south side a bank extends several leagues, and affords good anchorage under shelter of the island. On this bank, the celebrated Andrew Doria anchored the fleet of Charles the Fifth, after having had an engagement with the Turks, that was followed by a furious gale, in which some of the ships, in coming in, were driven against the cliffs between Cape Ponente and Eabbit Island : those that, repairing to the east side of the island, anchored in the Cala Piscina Bay, fared best. Here too, this indefatigable commander contrived to water the vessels, and repair their damages. At a Httle distance from the Cala Croce, up a ravine, in some degree picturesque, is the residence of a celebrated recluse ; and the grotto is divided, partly into a Catholic chapel, and partly into a Mahometan mosque. This being at about twenty minutes' walk from the harbour, the old gentleman had always sufficient time to reconnoitre vessels that anchored, and according to the flag displayed, lighted up for the cross, or the crescent ; whence the proverb of " the hermit of Lampedusa." The Turks, even when by death or accident, they found no inhabitant, always left a present behind them, under the idea, that without such a form, they would be unable to quit the place ; but Coronelli shall himself relate this instance of superstition : " Even writers worthy of confidence assert, that no one can reside in this island, on account of the phantasms, spectres, and horrible visions, that appear in the night ; repose and quiet being banished by the formidable apparitions and frightful dreams that fatally afflict with death-like terrors, whoever does remain there as much as one night. The Turks are governed by a ridiculous superstitious idea, which is, that no one would be able to go out of the island, who did not leave something there, or who had the hardihood to take away the merest trifle. But the pure faith of the Knights of Malta is not so light and vain, for they annually go thither with their galleys, and, collecting the offerings made to the fore-mentioned church, take them over to Malta, and there apply them to the support of the Hospital for the Infirm." I had observed such numbers of Troglodytic caves, that I was anxious to explore some of them ; and when I was examining the eastern bay of the harbour, I was just entering a small grotto at the place marked on the plan in the atlas, when I was startled by seeing indented in deep characters the following warning : QUI RITROVASI CADAVERE MORTO DI PESTE IN GIUGNO, 1784. In a book that was published soon after that year, under the title of " Narrative of a Ten Years' Residence at Tripoli in Africa," I found the following passage in point ; it is contained in the letter of August the 7th, 1784 ; and from which it appears that some straggling inhabitants had been some time on the island, though the number cannot be ascertained by the fair writer's recital. " A deplorable French vessel, with the plague on board, lays in the harbour. She has been driven about at sea for a long time, and being refused entrance at Malta, and several other ports, she went to Lampedoza, an island between Malta and Susa, where some friars and a few happy people had Uved in a state of calmness for many years, in the cultivation and enjoyment of the produce of the island, and hardly holding coiiverse with the rest of mankind. Here the captain at- tempted to air his cargo ; but as the opening of it proved instant death to those who did it, he was obliged to desist. During the seven days he remained there, the superior of the convent, and nearly all the inhabitants of this little island, died ; and two Tri politan corsairs, who had put in there for water, were burnt. He is arrived here with the same cargo, which consists of bales of cotton. There are a great many Turks on board, who offer to shave themselves, and swim on shore : the rest of the crew are constantly applying round the harbour for leave to land and burn the vessel, which the Moors have not yet agreed to." In the same work, I was much amused in observing youthful traits of many of my acquaintances in Tripoli, who are at present venerable sages. Sidi Useph, whose early MEGALITHIC-LAMPEDUSA.COM by Diego Ratti, 2011 3

MEGALITHIC-LAMPEDUSA.COM violence and ambition are depicted with admirable truth, has become an affectionate father, and a popular sovereign and Sidi INIahmoud, the hero of that very interesting tale related in the letter of December the 20th, 1792, is still ahve, and mentions " Emma" with a kind recollection ; he had not heard of her for many years when I informed him of her death. Sidi Mahomet, his son by the tender Sehma, accompanied me on a journey from Tripoli to Ghirza, in quest of the petrified city ; and on return, Sidi JNIahmoud, at a little entertainment he gave to Colonel Warrington's son and myself, in his garden, recounted to us many anecdotes of that beautifull, but eccentric, woman : he also pleasantly related the imputation his veracity incm-red, on his return from the embassy, by telling his friends of his having seen Lunardi ascend in an air balloon, from the palace of Portici, where he had been invited by the king of Naples.

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Plate 27 “The Hydrography of Sicily, Malta and adjacent islands” 1815 W.H. Smyth MEGALITHIC-LAMPEDUSA.COM by Diego Ratti, 2011 5

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Detail of Plate 27 “The Hydrography of Sicily, Malta and adjacent islands” 1815 W.H. Smyth

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