Surf boats, Fort St George
Artist: Erskine, Archibald (1807-1848)
Medium: Pencil on paper
Drawing in pencil, varnished, by Archibald Erskine of surf boats near Fort St. George at Madras in Tamil Nadu, dated 1835. Inscribed on front in ink is: 'Fort St George. Madras. A. Erskine, Capt. 23rd Regt. Delt 1835'.
Madras, situated on the south-east coast of India, receives a double monsoon from the east between July and September and from the west between October and December. When Fort St George was established as the earliest fortified settlement of the East India Company in 1640 it was completely unprotected from the sea until the construction of a protected harbour in the late 19th century; ships had to anchor in the roads and land their passengers and cargoes by means of small boats. Simple wooden boats called masula were used to transport people and goods through the heavy surf and then boatsmen would carry the passengers ashore on their shoulders.