Bight of Benin

Bight of Benin

[be-neen]
Benin, Bight of, northern arm of the Gulf of Guinea, c.550 mi (885 km) wide, W Africa, between Cape Three Points, S Ghana, and the Niger River delta, SW Nigeria. The bight was an important area for slave trading between the 16th and 19th cent. After the 19th cent. palm oil trading became fo primary importance. In the late 1950s oil was discovered in the Niger River delta.
The Bight of Benin is a bight (a type of bay) on the western African coast that extends eastward for about 400 miles (640 km) from Cape St. Paul to the Nun outlet of the Niger River. To the east it is continued by the Bight of Bonny (formerly Bight of Biafra). The bight is part of the Gulf of Guinea.

On December 25, 2003, UTA Flight 141 crashed in the Bight.

Cultural references

The Bight of Benin is known for its fearsome tides and has a long association with slavery, its shore being known as the Slave coast.

An old rhyme says:

Beware, beware the Bight of the Benin, for few come out though many go in.

A variation goes:

Beware beware, the Bight of Benin: one comes out, where fifty went in!

This is said to be a slavery jingle or sea shanty about the risk of malaria in the Bight. A third version of the couplet is

Beware and take care of the Bight of Benin. There's one comes out for forty goes in.

The author Philip McCutchan has written a book titled "Beware, beware the Bight of Benin."

A short story by Elizabeth Coatsworth, "The Forgotten Island" (1942), deals with a treasure from Benin. A variation of the rhyme is also mentioned.

In Patrick O'Brian's novel The Commodore (1996), Dr. Maturin recites the rhyme when he learned of his ship's destination. Commodore Aubrey checks him, telling him it is bad luck to say that out loud on the way in.

In 2007, a collection of short stories entitled The Bight of Benin: Short Fiction by Kelly J. Morris was published by AtacoraPress.com. The stories are set in Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria.

History

On 1 February 1852 the British established the Bight of Benin British protectorate, under the authority of Consuls of the Bight of Benin:

Term Protectorate
May 1852 – 1853 Louis Fraser
1853 – April 1859 Benjamin Campbell
April 1859 – 1860 George Brand
1860 – January 1861 Henry Hand
January 1861 – May 1861 Henry Grant Foote
May 1861 – 6 August 1861 William McCoskry (acting)

On 6 August 1861 the Bight of Biafra protectorate (see there for their common further history) and Bight of Benin protectorate were joined as a united British protectorate, ultimately to be merged into Nigeria

Notes

References

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