Byron's Journal of His Circumnavigation

John Byron

This page compares Byron's original description of the Patagonian giants with Hawkesworth's edited version.

Byron's Original TextHawkesworth's Edited Version
Just as we came to an anchor I could see very plain with my Glass a number of Horsemen opposite to the Ship riding backwards & forwards & waving to us to come on shore exactly in the manner Bulkeley mentions to have seen them, as I was very anxious to know what these People were I immediately ordered my 12 Oar'd Boat out, & went towards the Shore in her very well armed. I took Mr Marshall the 2d Lieut with me & Mr Cumming the first followed in the 6 Oar'd Cutter. When we came near the shore we saw I believe near 500 People some on foot but most on Horseback. The drew up upon a Stony Spit that ran some way into the Sea where it was very bad landing for the water was very Shoal & the Stones were very large. These People kept waving & hollowing to us to come on Shore as we understood them, I made Signs to them to retire at some little distance which they did, we could not perceive they were armed, but they made a prodigious noise. After some time we landed with a great deal of difficulty my Boats Crew being up to their middle in water. Just as we came to an anchor, I saw with my glass exactly what was seen by the people in the Wager, a number of horsemen riding backward and forward, directly abreast of the ship, and waving somewhat white, as an invitation to us to come on shore. As I was very desirous to know what these people were, I ordered out my twelve oar'd boat, and went towards the beach, with Mr. Marshall, my Second Lieutenant, and a party of men, very well armed; Mr. Cumming, my First Lieutenant, following in the six oar'd cutter. When we came within a little distance of the shore, we saw, as near as I can guess, about five hundred people, some on foot, but the greater part on horseback: they drew up upon a stoney spit, which ran a good way into the sea, and upon which it was very bad landing, for the water was shallow, and the stones very large. The people on shore kept waving and hallooing, which, as we understood, were invitations to land; I could not perceive that they had any weapons among them, however I made signs that they should retire to a little distance, with which they immediately complied: they continued to shout with great vociferation, and in a short time we landed, though not without great difficulty, most of the boat's crew being up to the middle in water.
I drew up my people on the Beach with my Officers at their Head with Orders for none of them to move till I either called or beckoned to them. I then went up alone to these People but they retired as I advanced, I made Signs for one of them to come near which it seems they understood. This person was a Chief amongst them & was one of the most extraordinary Men for size I had ever seen till then. I drew up my people upon the beach, with my officers at their head, and gave orders that none of them should move from that station, till I should either call or beckon to them. I then went forward alone, towards the Indians, but perceiving that they retired as I advanced, I made signs that one of them should come near: as it happened, my signals were understood, and one of them, who afterwards appeared to be a Chief, came towards me: he was of a gigantic stature, and seemed to realize the tales of monsters in a human shape: he had the skin of some wild beast thrown over his shoulders, as a Scotch Highlander wears his plaid, and was painted so as to make the most hideous appearance I ever beheld: round one eye was a large circle of white, a circle of black surrounded the other, and the rest of his face was streaked with paint of different colours; I did not measure him, but if I may judge of his height by the proportion of his stature to my own, it could not be much less than seven feet.
We mutter'd something to one another by way of Salutation & I walked a little farther with him to the rest. I made signs for them to sit down which they complied with, but I never was more astonished than to see such a Set of People. The Stoutest of our Grenadiers would appear nothing to these. They were painted in the most frightful manner imaginable, some of them had a large circle of white paint round one Eye, & about the other a circle of black or red; Others had their faces streaked all over with different colour'd paint. Nothing in Nature could appear more frightful than these People did both Men & Women. Many of the oldest People kept singing a most doleful tune & seem'd extremely earnest all the time. They were all cloathed in Skins of wild Beasts of different kinds which they wore as a Highlander wears his Plaid, many of these Skins were very curious & very large, as indeed they ought to be to cover these People who in size come the nearest to Giants I believe of any People in the World, excepting the Skins which they wear loose about them with the hair inwards they were most of them Naked. Some few of them had a kind of boot with two sharp sticks fastened to their heels which served for Spurs. When this frightful Colossus came up, we muttered somewhat to each other as a salutation, and I then walked with him towards his companions, to whom, as I advanced, I made signs that they should sit down, and they all readily complied: there were among them many women, who seemed to be proportionably large; and few of the men were less than the Chief who had come forward to meet me. I had heard their voices very loud at a distance, and when I came near, I perceived a good number of very old men, who were chanting some unintelligible words in the most doleful cadence I ever heard, with an air of serious solemnity, which inclined me to think that it was a religious ceremony: they were all painted and clothed nearly in the same manner; the circles round the two eyes were in no instance of one colour, but they were not universally black and white, some being white and red, and some red and black; their teeth were as white as ivory, remarkably even and well set; but except the skins, which they wore with the hair inwards, most of them were naked, a few only having upon their legs a kind of boot, with a short pointed stick fastened to each heel, which served as a spur.
Both Men & Women had teeth as white as snow, very even & well set.  
It was some time before I could make them all sit down as there was such Numbers of them & constantly fresh ones coming galloping in, however when they understood me, there was not one of them offered to stir. I then took out a quantity of yellow & white Beads & distributed them amongst them, with which they seem'd mightily pleased. Having looked round upon these enormous goblins with no small astonishment, and with some difficulty made those that were still galloping up sit down with the rest, I took out a quantity of yellow and white beads, which I distributed among them, and which they received with very strong expressions of pleasure:
I then took out a whole piece of green Silk Ribbon & giving the end of it into the hands of one of them I made those that were next to him take hold of it & so on as far as it would reach. They sat very quiet without offering to pull it from one p. 5 another, tho' I saw it pleased them of all things. I took out a pair of Scissars & cut every one of them about a Yard as far as it would go, & then tied it about their heads which they every one kept on without offering to touch it as long as I was with them. I then took out a whole piece of green silk riband, and giving the end of it into the hands of one of them, I made the person that sat next take hold of it, and so on as far as it would reach: all this while they sat very quietly, nor did any of those that held the riband attempt to pull it from the rest, though I perceived that they were still more delighted with it, than with the beads. While the riband was thus extended, I took out a pair of scissars, and cut it between each two of the Indians that held it, so that I left about a yard in the possession of every one, which I afterwards tied about their heads, where they suffered it to remain without so much as touching it while I was with them.
  Their peaceable and orderly behaviour on this occasion certainly did them honour, especially as my presents could not extend to the whole company: neither impatience to share the new finery, nor curiosity to gain a nearer view of me and what I was doing, brought any one of them from the station that I had allotted him. It would be very natural for those who have read Gay's fables; if they form an idea of an Indian almost naked returning to his fellows in the woods adorned with European trinkets, to think of the monkey that had seen the world; yet before we despise their fondness for glass, beads, ribands and other things, which among us are held in no estimation, we should consider that, in themselves, the ornaments of savage and civil life are equal, and that those who live nearby in a state of nature, have nothing that resembles glass, so much as glass resembles a diamond; the value which we set upon a diamond, therefore, is more capricious than the value which they set upon glass. The love of ornament seems to be a universal principle in human nature, and the splendid transparency of glass, and the regular figure of a bead, are among the qualities that by the constitution of our nature excite pleasing ideas; and although in one of these qualities the diamond excels glass, its value is much more than in proportion to the difference: the pleasure which it gives among us is, principally, by conferring distinction, and gratifying vanity, which is independant of natural taste, that is gratified by certain hues and figures, to which for that reason we give the name of beauty: it must be remembered also, that an Indian is more distinguished by a glass button or a bead, than any individual among us by a diamond, though perhaps the same sacrifice is not made to his vanity, as the possession of his finery is rather a testimony of his good fortune, than of his influence or power in consequence of his having what, as the common medium of all earthly possessions, is supposed to confer virtual superiority, and intrinsic advantage.
One woman in particular was remarkably fine, she was of a most extraordinary Size, her face was most hideously painted, her hair was parted & hung down before in two long Que's covered all over with a large blue Bead, on her Arms she had a kind of Bracelets either of brass or very pale Gold. The people, however, whom I had now adorned, were not wholly strangers to European commodities, for upon a closer attention, I perceived among them one woman who had bracelets either of brass, or very pale gold, upon her arms, and some beads of blue glass, strung upon two long queues of hair, which being parted at the top, hung down over each shoulder before her: she was of a most enormous size, and her face was, if possible, more frightfully painted than the rest.
I wanted much to know where they got those things but there was no making them understand me. I had a great desire to learn where she got her beads and bracelets, and enquired by all the signs I could devise, but found it impossible to make myself understood.
One of the Men shewed me the bowl of a Tobacco pipe made of a kind of red earth but they had no Tobacco amongst them, however he made me understand he wanted some. Upon which I beckoned to our People who remained upon the Beach drawn up as I left them. I could observe the Indians had constantly their Eyes upon them, & when three or four of them offer'd to run up as they imagined I wanted them there was immediately a general clamour amongst them, All rising up & as I supposed a going to run to their Arms which they had without doubt left but at a little distance from them. As soon as I saw their uneasiness I ran to meet our People & hollowed to them that I would have but one come up with all the Tobacco he could collect from the rest, which as soon as the Indians saw they were all very quiet again & every man took his place, except a very old man who came up to me & sung a very long Song the meaning of which I understand nothing of. One of the men shewed me the bowl of a tobacco pipe, which was made of a red earth, but I soon found that they had no tobacco among them; and this person made me understand that he wanted some: upon this I beckoned to my people, who remained upon the beach, drawn up as I had left them, and three or four of them ran forward, imagining that I wanted them. The Indians, who, as I had observed, kept their eyes almost continually upon them, no sooner saw some of them advance, than they all rose up with a great clamour, and were leaving the place, as I supposed to get their arms, which were probably left at a little distance: to prevent mischief, therefore, and put an end to the alarm, which had thus accidentally been spread among them, I ran to meet the people who were, in consequence of my signal, coming from the beach, and as soon as I was within hearing I hallooed to them, and told them that I would have only one come up with all the tobacco that he could collect from the rest. As soon as the Indians saw this, they recovered from their surprize, and every one returned to his station, except a very old man, who came up to me, and sung a long song, which I much regretted my not being able to understand: before the song was well finished,
Mr. Cumming came up with the Tobacco & was as much astonished at the size & figure of these People as I was, for tho' he is very tall himself he appeared comparatively speaking a mere shrimp to them. Mr. Cumming came up with the tobacco, and I could not but smile at the astonishment which I saw expressed in his countenance, upon perceiving himself, though six feet two inches high, become at once a pigmy among giants; for these people may indeed more properly be called giants than tall men: of the few among us who are full six feet high, scarcely any are broad and muscular in proportion to their stature, but look rather like men of the common bulk, run up accidentally to an unusual height; and a man who should measure only six feet two inches, and equally exceed a stout well-set man of the common stature in breadth and muscle, would strike us rather as being of a gigantic race, than as an individual accidentally anomalous; our sensations therefore, upon seeing five hundred people, the shortest of whom were at least four inches taller, and bulky in proportion, may be easily imagined.
Four or five of the Chief Men came up to me & by the Signs they made me, I understood they wanted me to get up upon one of their Horses & go up with them to their Habitations, but I made signs in returns to them that I must go on board, upon which they seem'd to express great concern, & all sat down again. After I had presented the tobacco, four or five of the chief men came up to me, and, as I understood by the signs they made, wanted me to mount one of the horses, and go with them to their habitations, but as it would upon every account have been imprudent to comply, I made signs in return that I must go back to the ship; at this they expressed great concern, and sat down in their stations again. During our pantomimical conference, an old man often laid his head down upon the stones, and shutting his eyes for about half a minute, afterwards pointed first to his mouth, and then to the hills, meaning, as I imagined, that if I would stay with them till the morning, they would furnish me with some provisions, but this offer I was obliged to decline.
When I left them not one offer'd to follow us, but as long as I could see them after, they all continued seated as I left them. When I left them, not one of them offered to follow us, but as long as I could see them, continued to sit quietly in their places.
They had some hundreds of Dogs with them with which I suppose they hunt their wild Beasts. I observed that they had with them a great number of dogs, with which I suppose they chase the wild animals which serve them for food.