This page presents the author's chapters (VI & VII) on Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia, plus an Appendix containing his “Observations on the Navigation Round Cape Horn.” Weddell's quotations from the works of others are indented here, though not in the original.
The wind was moderate and easterly till the 18th in the afternoon, when it shifted into the S.W. Our latitude at noon by observation was 58° 44', and longitude by chronometers 66° 1', by D.R. 67° 27', the variation at 4 P.M. was 27° 30'. On the 20th the wind shifted into the N.W. quarter, and we stood to the W.S.W. On the 21st, in the morning, the wind again shifting to S.W. we tacked to the northward, and about four in the afternoon we saw Cape Horn, bearing N. by W. about ten leagues; in this position the Cape appears conspicuous, with the hills of Hermit's Island just above the horizon. See Views of Land, 19. Cape Horn is remarkable for its truly imposing figure and situation, terminating the greatest north and south extension of land on the globe The many disasters which have befallen ships off this cape, the difficulty of getting round it to the westward, and above all, the sufferings of the fleet under Lord Anson, and in the expeditions of Pizarro, induce people to consider this promontory with more than common interest.
The weather proved squally and unsettled through the night of the 23d, and we retained an offing. At day-light the wind blew strong from S.S.W., and we bore up for the bay of St. Francis, which we reached by two o'clock in the afternoon, and anchored in Wigwam or St. Martin's Cove, in 16 fathoms water, over a bot tom of sand and mud.
On the 25th we were employed in wooding and watering the vessels, and during the day I made observations for latitude, longitude, and variation. On the south side of the harbour is a small cavity in the rock, in which I placed the compass for taking a set of azimuths, but on observing the sun to bear N. 9 W.at noon, I suspected the rock to be magnetic, and took a portion of it on board to ascertain the fact. I stripped the card off the needle in order to make it more susceptible, and found it, as I expected, slightly acted upon by the rock. I next fixed the place for observation at the head of the harhour, where there was probably no local attraction, and found the variation to be 23° 4' east: the latitude in the same situation was 55° 58' 87", and the longitude by chronometers was. 67° 29' 4.5".
We took the opportunity of being in port to repair farther the damage the vessels had sustained by the ice, though we were not at leisure to lighten the brig as much as was required for making effectual repairs.
On the 26th the weather was remarkably fine and the wind blew lightly between S.S.W. (by west), and N.N.W. In the afternoon the Beaufoy sailed, to examine some neighbouring islands for seal-furs. She had not passed out of sight, when to my astonishment I saw two native canoes paddling towards us; several of the rig's crew were on board the Beaufoy, but as I considered, that if properly treated, nothing hostile need be feared from the strangers, in whatever numbers they might appear, I did not recal them.
It was not long before the Fuegians arrived within hearing; and soon made themselves known by a singing noise, accompanied with a variety of gestures, which as I afterwards learned were symbols of friendship. They presently paddled within eight or ten yards of the ship, and I desired our men to make friendly signs to them in return, conveying a wish for them to come on board; but they would not approach. Amazement was apparent in all their actions; and they seemed so agitated that, for a full quarter of an hour, they continued gabbling without the smallest intermission. At length their wonder at our persons having in some degree subsided, they paddled fore and aft about the ship, and were to all appearance undecided whether the the vessel was dead or alive; for never having seen a ship before, it could not be expected that they should at once reason from the analogy which their canoes afforded. Finally having acquired more confidence they came on the starboard side, and two of the men ventured on board. From their very miserable appearance, l thought the best office I could do.them, would be to give them something to eat and drink. I therefore had beef, bread, and wine brought, and helped them plentifully. Of the beef they eat a little, but neither the good Madeira wine nor the bread was acceptable.
I soon saw that they were particular in keeping their women in their canoes, at which I was not sorry, as from the jealous disposition of savages in general, it was advisable for us to avoid any intercourse with their wives. I did not, however, neglect helping the ladies to a little wine, which I gave them in a japanned cup; and this utensil appeared so marvellously fine in their eyes, that they spilled the wine in examining it, and cunningly retained it. I did not attempt to recover the cup, as I thought they were certainly in want of it for drinking with; but on the following day I saw it in about a dozen stripes suspended at the women's necks.
The men seemed astonished at all they saw, and every kind of iron work attracted their attention more than any thing else—a cast iron pot of 200 gallons surprised them so much, that they were even afraid to approach it. Perceiving their fondness for this metal, and having a quantity of hoops on hoard, I gave each of them a piece, with which they were quite delighted; and soon fter receiving the present they left us, and repaired to their wigwams, which were situated at the head of the harbour.
On the following morning; the 7th, by sunrise, they were lying off, making a great shouting, expressive of their anxiety to see us, and to get on board. I had given orders that they should not he admitted till our crew were called on deck in the morning, which was usually at four o'clock. In the course of a little time a third canoe was seen approaching, which our first visitors met at some distance from the ship; and by their coming immediately board all together, it was evident that the latter had been informed by their countrymen of the friendly reception they had met with. The number of our present visitors was twenty-two men, women, and children, and now that they had acquired confidence in our amicable intentions, they became interesting and amusing. I gave them all in turns a sight of the cabin; and the bright stove, and the looking-glass, were objects that pleased them greatly. The monkey trick of looking behind the mirror for the reflected object was frequently practised; and though they had no doubt often seen themselves reflected in the water, yet having never before observed so sudden and distinct an appearance, their intuitive judgment was not sufficiently acute to satisfy them of the similarity.
Knowing the propensity Indians generally have to stealing, a watch was kept over them; but on the boatswain returning from the head of the harbour, he informed me that they had stripped a barrel of the hoops. An adept in the art of pilfering had also displayed no mean talent in stealing an iron belaying pin, notwithstanding the strictness of the look-out.
I judged it proper to impress them with an idea of the offence of stealing; and accordingly placed this criminal in the niain rigging, and gave him a smart lash with a cat of nine tails, making him understand that it was a punishment for the crime of which he had been guilty. This gentle chastisement had the desired effect, for they were ever after afraid even to lift a piece of iron without permission.
On the 27th the weather was fine with a fresh breeze from the S.W. Our carpenters were employed felling trees, and sawing them into boards. The operation of sawing amused our friends, the Fuegians, greatly, and their attachment to the saw would no doubt have led to the stealing of it, had we not always brought it on board at night. This day only men and boys came on board; the cause of leaving their women behind I could not learn, but they were probably employed in some domestic concerns.
Among this tribe was a fine grown boy of about the age of fourteen, whom I would have liked much to remain with us, but as soon as he understood my desire he returned to his canoe, and I never afterwards could persuade him to come on board.
On the 28th the wind was variable, having gone completely round the compass, and blowing fresh. This morning all the Fuegians came along side, and in a different dress, or rather colouring, for the women had changed the hue of their countenances from red to jet black, and the men were decorated with red and white streaks running horizontally across the face. Their appearance altogether was as grotesque as can well be imagined; though in their estimation it was, no doubt, considered the perfection of fashion. In the early part of our acquaintance, whenever I expressed a desire for any of their small articles they gave me them without any return; but now they had acquired an idea of barter, and in exchange for any of their articles of simple manufacture, they demaflded something bright, such as buttons &c.; but bits of iron hoops were particularly objects of esteem, and I have no doubt, but in this trifle they conceived our riches to consist.
A youth of engaging features whom I had on board, was the most successful in this traffic; the women seemed much interested with him, though I am at a loss to know whether they were right in their idea of his sex, as with them the females do all the work, and this youth was here kept in constant employment. I procured a young dog from them, which was remarkable for its cunning; they have only one kind of this animal, and it partakes much of the nature of the fox, resembling it a good deal about the head, and being nearly the size of the terrier. They are remarkably fond of their dogs; and if they have any object to which they ascribe supernatural power, it may possibly be to them, since their attention to them, and dependence on them for safety, is greater than could be expected.
On the 29th, the weather was fine, and the wind from W.S.W. Early in the morning, the Beaufoy arrived, and this was not unobserved by the Fuegians, who immediately went on board, where they were kindly received by the crew. Curiosity was mutual, and the sailors took great delight in friendly intercourse with them. They committed several petty thefts on board the Beaufoy; and one in particular is worth mentioning, as it exhibits in a remarkable degree their powers of imitation.
A sailor had given a Fuegian a tin pot full of coffee, which he drank, and was using all his art to steal the pot. The sailor, however, recollecting after a while that the pot had not been returned, applied for it, but whatever words he made use of were always repeated in imitation by the Fuegian. At length, he became enraged at hearing his requests reiterated, and placing himself in a threatening attitude, in an angry tone, he said, "You copper-coloured rascal, where is my tin pot?" The Fuegian, assuming the same attitude, with his eyes fixed on the sailor, called out, "You copper-coloured rascal, where is my tin pot?" The imitation was so perfect, that every one laughed, except the sailor, who proceeded to search him, and under his arm he found the article missing. For this audacious theft, he would have punished the mimic, but Mr. Brisbane interposing, sent him into his canoe, and forbade his being allowed to come on board again.
On the 2d of December, about mid-day, the Fuegians were seen close to the shore, paddling their canoes out of harbour, without having previously shown any intention of leaving the place. This they were, no doubt, considering as a fortunate escape, for notwithstanding a strict watch had been kept over them, during their stay with us, I had reason to suspect that they had stolen several small articles, and were now thinking to get clear off with their booty. Instead of the roar which they generally kept up, not a voice was to be heard amongst them, and the canoes were so close to the shore, that we could scarcely discern them. I immediately ordered the boat to be manned, and put off. The Fuegians were now paddling with all their strength to get beyond our reach, but in vain; we soon overtook them, and they looked as if they expected to be searched for stolen goods; but they were not a little surprised when, instead of this, I presented each of the men with a piece of hoop, and each of the women, by way of a medal, with a brightened halfpenny, with a hole punched for a string,for suspending it to the neck. They were very grateful for these trifles, and I took farewell of them with a hearty shake of the hand. Being now at ease, they commenced their usual roar and paddled off.
Having related these incidents as they occurred, I may, with propriety, say something of the impressions I received as to the character of this tribe.
I would willingly, for the honour of human nature, raise these neglected people somewhat higher in the scale of intellectual estimation than they have reached; but I must acknowledge their condition to be that of the lowest of mankind. At this age of the world, it appears almost incredible, and certainly disgraceful, that there should still exist such a tractable people in almost pristine ignorance.
As I found nothing of foreign manufacture among the Fuegians, it may be reasonably concluded that we were their first visitors, at least of the present generation. The savage custom of the women, doing all the work, prevails here; they paddle the canoes, while the men sit at their ease; they gather the shell-fish food, rear the children, build the wigwams, and, in short, perform every duty that requires exertion, though in retum, however, the men show a good deal of affection for their wives, and are careful of their offspring. An instance of their parental affeetion appeared on occasion or my visiting their wigwams one morning unexpectedly, when, supposing that I had come on shore to steal their children, they infolded them in their arms, and all the signs of amity I could express, were insufficient to induce them to let them go.
The stature of these Fuegians is low. I measured two of their ordinary sized men, and found one of them five feet four inches, and the other five feet five. The contour of their faces, and the form of their heads, as exhibited in the annexed plate, are those which are found to be peculiar to most Indians: they have flat noses, small eyes, full and well formed chests, small arms; their legs are small and ill shaped,which arises, no doubt, from the custom of sitting on their calves, in which situation their appearance is truly awkward.
The women are better featured than the men: many of their faces are interesting, and, in my opinion, they have a more lively sense of what passes. The only clothing the males wear, is a skin over their shoulders, reaching little more than half way down the back; some have not even this sorry garment. The women have generally a larger skin over their shoulders, and are, in other respects, clothed as decency requires; and even the youngest of their female children have the same covering, which evinces a degree of modesty seldom found amongst untutored people.
By the account I have given of this tribe, the reader will be able to form a general idea in regard to these remote Australians, but a particular relation of our further communications with them will be necessary to assist him in forming just conclusions; and as a single glance is not sufficient to enable an observer to decide accurately, I shall describe minutely their behaviour and inclinations, by which alone a true estimate of their character is to be obtained.
On the 2d of December, the weather being fine, Captain Brisbane accompanied me in a whale-boat up the bay, and assisted me in making observations on its navigation. From a considerable height, we perceived several channels running through the supposed termination, forming a cluster of islands, which, being separated from the main islands of Tierra del Fuego, by a navigable strait, may, with some propriety, be called the islands of St. Francis, after the name of the sound, which appears to have been first entered in the year 1714.
Having sounded a safe anchorage, in very smooth water, which the accompanying chart exhibits, we returned on board.
At 10 in the morning of the 3d, we weighed, and both vessels proceeded with a moderate breeze from N.E. towards the islands of Ildefonsos. At 6 P.M., Cape Horn bore E. ½ S. distance six leagues. In the morning of the 4th, we were within two and a half miles of the Ildefonsos, and each vessel sent a boat on shore. We continued off these islands, with pleasant weather till the 7th, when I stood over, with the Jane, to Tierra del Fuego, a distance of sixteen miles, to search for an anchorage. The principal officers being absent, I sent the boatswain, with a whale-boat, among some islands which were likely to afford what I sought. He presently returned with a report, of having found a cove, round a point, which I called Turn Point, with good bottom, in which several vessels might anchor. On this we made all sail back to the Ildefonsos, and after having received our boats on board, with a quantity of fur seal skins, both vessels made sail to Turn Point. It was 12 o'clock before we reached the cove in which we were to bring up, and it being dark, I desired the boatswain to inform me when he thought we were within a proper distance to drop the anchor, as we could see the land but imperfectly; but through his indistinct recollection of the place we were close to the surf on the beach before he gave any intimation, and it was only by dropping the anchor at the instant our situation was discerned, though with the topsail at the masthead, that we were prevented from going on the rocks. Fortunately the wind was light, and after the sails were taken in, by means of a stream anchor laid out, we moved the vessel into safety. I was angry with the boatswain for his mismanagement, and that he might improve his judgment, by being reminded of his mistake, I called this place Blunder Cove. In justice to this person, however, I must say, he was a good seaman, and well disposed; his error in judgment arose, from having formed an opinion of the capacity of the anchorage from a boat; for instead of being large enough for several vessels, there was scarcely room for one. The altitude of the eye above the horizon is frequently very delusive in the estimation of space, if the angle under which objects are seen be not particularly attended to. The Beaufoy had anchored a little to the outside of us, and the following morning, having determined on sending her again to Shetland, arrangements were made for that purpose. I fully expected that the coast would be clear of ice, by the time she would arrive, which would be within a few days of mid-summer.
As I did not consider this anchorage convenient, I went in a whale-boat in search of one more commodious; and little more than a mile to the eastward, I found one with a clear bottom of sand and mud beneath in twenty fathoms water, within three cables' length of the shore. We were taking the depth of water with the lead, when among the kelp we saw four canoes of Fuegians. They were a little startled at first observing us; but, according to the Fuegian mode of salutation, they soon commenced shouting, and making ludicrous attitudes expressive of joy. We rowed within twelve or fourteen yards of them, and held up some pieces of iron hoop, which caught their attention. Like our former visitors, jealousy, or particular care of their women, seemed a principal consideration; for the men all shifted into two canoes, and came to us, leaving the women behind. We soon inspired them with confidence, and pointed out the vessels, making signs to them to follow us, which they hurriedly did, bringing their women with them; and as the men on this occasion assisted to paddle the canoes, they were almost able to keep pace with our whale-boat gainst a head-sea. This tribe being strangers, and of better stature than those we had formerly met with, new interest was created in our intercourse with them. From the astonishment they exhibited, and from their not having the smallest article of anything foreign with them, I am inclined to think that like the others, they had never seen strangers before. They possessed a variety of articles of their own manufacture, for which we gave in exchange some things almost useless to us, but very interesting to them.
Though I was anxious to give them all the things we could spare, which might be of value to them, bits of iron hoop I knew were the most useful, as the only material for cutting which they possessed was the muscle-shell. I have no doubt that the articles they received from us will, for many years to come, bear testimony to future visitors of our friendly intercourse.
As in consequence of the separation of the Beaufoy we should be left with but two boats, I considered that, in the event of their being absent, one of the Fuegian canoes might be useful, and I, therefore, set about purchasing a new one from them. As it appeared to have cost them much labour in the construction, I could not but be liberal in my offer, and I presented them with two full barrel hoops, at which they shouted for joy, and in less than five minutes the family, with all their utensils, were shifted into another canoe, and the purchased one was ready for delivery. I ordered it to be hoisted in, and was surprised to find it heavy; but in getting it on deck, I found a platform of clay, the whole length of the bottom, about six inches deep: this was intended as ballast and to preserve the bottom against the fire, which they constantly keep in the clay. The length of this canoe was twelve feet four inches and at the broadest part two feet two inches; it was built of a strong birch bark, which appeared broader than the trees of this neighbourhood afforded, and was probably procured from the interior. Three pieces composed the whole vessel, one piece formed the bottom, and two the sides; all sewed together with tough twigs. The ribs or timbers were of a semicircular form, and placed with their ftat sides downwards, and in contact with each other, in a vertical fonn; so that, with the cement of clay, the canoe is rendered strong, and capable of going against the wind at a quick rate. The internal arrangement of compartments seems orderly. The fishing utensils occupy the first division; in the next sits the female, who uses the foremost paddle: the third division is occupied as the fire-place; the fourth is the bailing well, where the water is collected to be thrown out; and next follows the place where the men sit; in the fifth division sits the female, who uses the after paddle; and last of all is the after-locker, in which they keep all their valuables. Their spear poles are generally placed projecting over the stern.
Having secured the canoe and the paddles, I returned to the contemplation of the sellers, who, I was glad to see, were quite merry, and seemingly happy in the possession of the hoops with which I had paid them.
Hunger now beginning to pinch them, they turned their attention to some of the crew, who were employed in splitting whale-bone blades for making brooms; and perceiving the gum upon the bone, as it was still in the state in which it was taken from the whale, they seized this musilaginous substance, and eat it most ravenously. I thought this an instance of depraved appetite, but in another part of the ship was one still more disgusting. They were here gobbling up some dirty rancid seal fat, which had been lying about for several days. I was willing that they should get something to satisfy the cravings of hunger, but this way of doing it was intolerable, and I obliged them to desist. I then gave them some young seal, and some bread, which they put away in their canoe for a future occasion.
As we had no spirits on board, I offered them wine, and pressed them to take some, but, like their countrymen at Cape Horn, they merely sipped a little, seeming not to like it.
The common missile weapon of the Fuegians is the sling, which is made of the skin of the seal or otter; It is generally about three feet long; and of the common form: the strings are sometimes made of small gut, handsomely plaited, and terminated by knots of ingenious workmanship. Having procured some of these weapons; I prevailed on one of the inost intelligent natives to show us their method of using them, which turned out to be exactly like our own; for Mr. Brisbane, who well understood the art; used the sling with as much effect as the Fuegians, at which they were a good deal astonished.
Their principal spear-heads are entirely constructed of hard bone, and are about seven inches long, finely pointed, with a barb on one side four inches from the point. They have another kind, with one side filled with small barbs, made very sharp. These are fixed on a wooden pole, straight and smoothly finished, about ten feet long. To the bone is attached a string of hide of various lengths, and this weapon they use in the capture of almost every thing they pursue. In using the spear, they hold it nearly by the middle, and with the right eye cast along it, they dart it with great precision.
After dinner our people, before they went to duty, sought a little amusement with the strangers; and one merry fellow of our crew commenced singing and dancing, at which the Fuegians formed a circle round him, and imi tated his song and dance most minutely, The circular movement, however, presently turned into a sort of play, in which a sailor and Fuegian were endeavouring to throw each other. I at first fully expected to see the Fuegian fall, but I was mistaken; he stood so firm, that it appeared more probable that our sailor, who was a stout athletic young man of twenty-three, would ultimately be thrown. The Fuegian was evidently as skilful as his adversary, but several of the natives, thinking their countryman in danger, flew to his assistance, and I was then obliged to interfere to bring them to order. The Fuegian seemed to enjoy a triumph, at which I was a little mortified, as their obtaining an idea of having equal strength and activity might prove dangerous to us. I could not avoid being angry with our sailor for his inactivity, and desired him in future never to contend with them in that way.
I was anxious to discover if they had any object of divine worship, and accordingly called them together about me, and read a chapter in the Bible; not that they were expected to understand what was read, but it was proper to show them the Bible, and to read it, in connection with making signs of death, resurrection, and supplication to heaven. They manifested no understanding of my meaning, but as I read and made signs, they imitated me, following me with a gabble when reading, raising and lowering their voices as I did. During this time, however, they appeared perfectly attentive, looking me steadfastly in the face with evident marks of astonishment. One of them held his ear down to the book, believing that it spoke, and another wished to put it into his canoe: in short, they were all interested in the book, and could they have made proper use of it I would willingly have given it them.
A thief, however, was not wanting in this party; for having brought the tinder-box on deck, for the purpose of ascertaining how they obtain a light, a Fuegian adept stole the steel. He was suspected, and on being searched it was found under his arm. I sent him to his canoe with threats of punishment, which he well understood.
They procure fire by rubbing iron pyrites and a flinty stone together, and catching the sparks in a dry substance resembling moss, which is quickly ignited. Our sailors had given the Fuegians all the old clothes they could spare, and our visitors soon appeared in costume, one with only a jacket on, another with but a waistcoat, and a third in his shirt: they were all so clothed in patches that they made a most amusing appearance.
Nothing like a chief could be made out among them, nor did they seem to require one for the peace of their society; for their behaviour to one another was most affectionate, and all property seemed to be possessed in common, though each of them appeared strenuous to obtain it from us, without regarding his neighbour, probably for the honour attached to procuring any thing, or the novelty of first possession. The philanthropic principle which these people exhibit towards one another, and their inoffensive behaviour to strangers, surely entitles them to this observation in their favour, that though they are the most distant from civilized life, owing principally to local circumstances, they are the most docile and tractable of any savages we are acquainted with, and no doubt might, therefore, be instructed in those arts which raise man above the brute.
On the 9th of December, about noon, we weighed, and stood to sea, with the wind at N.N.E. The Beaufoy proceeded to South Shetland, and we stood under the east side of the Ildefonsos. These are so small as scarcely to merit the name of islands, the largest being not more than a quarter of a mile long. They appear as two in a S.E. or N.W. bearing; but the northern one is merely a cluster of detached rocks: the southern island is the largest and highest, and contains a quantity of tussac on its top, and sea-gull rookeries. These islands have no beaches, and can only be landed on when the water is very smooth. Between them is a channel of a mile wide, which being rocky should not be passed through. At various opportunities I ascertained the longitude of the southern islands by lunar observations and chronometers to be 69° 16' 50", and the latitude 55° 50’ 38", and the variation at five miles distance 26° 42' easterly. The rock of which they are composed is trap porphyry, with porphyretic lava, and they wear a rugged and varied form, as may be seen by the annexed view.
In the night of the 9th we stood towards the islands Diego Ramirez; and at two o'clock in the afternoon of the l0th we sent two boats on shore. These islands extend N.W and S.E. for a space of about four miles, in which are three principal islands, and a great many rocks above water. The middle island is the largest, and has tussac and sea gulls upon it, but no water. The latitude observed places the southpoint in 56° 32' 15", and by chronometers in longitude 68° 24' 15". The composition of the rock is porphyritic lava— specimens were deposited by me in the Edinburgh College Museum, and described by professor Jamieson, which show that volcanic action has been present in the formation of these islands.—A distant view of them is annexed.
The weather continued fine, and the wind from the northward and eastward till eight A.M. on the 11th, when the wind freshened at S.E., and by the time we had taken our boats on board, it blew hard, and we bore up for Tierra del Fuego. On the 12th we came to anchor in Clear Bottom Bay, in 20 fathoms water, in coarse sand with mud underneath. During the 13th and 14th we had strong gales from S.W. toW., and we let go the sheet anchor, and rode a strain upon it. On the 16th we had heavy rain, and the wind abated. In consequence of the badness of the weather our Fuegian friends did not visit us; and having completed our harbour duties, on the 19th we weighed and proceeded to the Ildefonsos. We continued under sail pursuing our business at these islands with favourable weather, and the winds generally between W.S.W. and W.N.W. through the day, and northerly during the night. On the 25th in the afternoon I was surprised to see the Beaufoy approach us, as I fully anticipated that she would have obtained anchorage at South Shetland. Captain Brisbane informed me that the state of the ice on the coast of Shetland was nearly the same as when we left it on the 16th of November, although it was the 18th of December when he quitted the edge of the ice. He ran 40 miles along the coast, but could nowhere approach the land. The ice, too, he reported, was of that heavy blue description which was likely to require a long time to dissolve, and he therefore gave up the idea of waiting. He also informed me, that having split his sails the day before, on making this coast, he had put into a harbour which was very commodious, situated 11 miles up a sound, which I afterwards called New Year's Sound, having spent New Year's Day in it.
A smooth anchorage being necessary for examining the brig, and making repairs, we bore up for New Year's Sound, and at ten o'clock in the morning of the 26th we came to anchor in Indian Cove, so named from a tribe of Fuegians living near it.
Having moored the vessels in the south corner of the cove, we set about lightening the brig forward, in order to make repairs. I was not astonished when I found that the bows of the Jane were much damaged, as the shocks that she had received by unavoidably running against masses of ice were likely to have been even more destructive.
The two lower streaks of the wales,* on the bows, on the larboard side and one on the starboard side, were found broken. The foremost piece of the stem was broken, and the plank that was stove under water was providentially jammed in between the timbers in such a way as, with the plank we had nailed over it on the coast of South Shetland, to have admitted very little water. The fore part of the vessel being sufficiently out of the water to effect the repairs, the carpenters were set to work.
* Strong planks that go round a ship, a little above her water line.
The Fuegians had of course noticed the ships come in, as their settlement was on an island at the entrance of the cove; but as they had seen only the cutter before, they were cautious and slow in coming to the brig. They presently approached, however, in several canoes, shouting as usual, and spreading out their arms apparently impressed with a sensation of fear and joy. I soon enticed them on board, for though we did not understand each others language, yet intercourse with them afforded me, through their actions, a melancholy pleasure in observing the gradation of human understanding.
Among these I saw several with a cast of features differing from the general character of Fuegians, having high noses, and being somewhat taller than the rest. It occurred to me that these differences of features might be faint traces of the Spaniards, who made a settlement in the straits of Magellan 244 years ago, but which lasted only seven years. The ancestors of these Fuegians might have been in intercourse with these Spaniards at that period; and those Fuegians I have mentioned as differing in features may have descended from that connection. This seems probable from their having two Spanish words canoa, canoe, and perro, a dog. My steward, who was a Spaniard, addressed them many times, but could never discover their having any other words of Spanish.
I found great difficulty in acquiring a slight knowledge of their language, from their cotinually repeating my words in imitation; so that I am not quite decided as to the meaning of many of their sounds, and shall therefore not attempt to describe them particularly.
And in most of their words it may be observed that the sounds S and Sh predominate.
These words which I have mentioned are found to correspond pretty nearly with words of similar meaning in the Hebrew language. Thus I am informed that yam means sea or water, and ausha, woman, in Hebrew; and also that the sounds S and Sh occur perpetually in that language.
The words canoa, a canoe, and perro, a dog, which I have mentioned above as being derived from the Spanish, may also be ultimately referred to the same original; for in Hebrew, canna means a hollow reed or receptacle, a cane, — and pera, a wild animal. These and many other words, originally Hebrew, which are to be found in the Spanish language can be easily accounted for, as having found their way into it through the Arabic, the language of the Moors; but how the Fuegians could get hold of Hebrew words is certainly a question of some interest to philologists.
On the 27th I sent the Beaufoy to the island of Diego Ramirez, with fourteen men additional from the brig. In the forenoon about forty Fuegians came on board and amused themselves in various ways. A boy was kept constantly watching them, to prevent thieving; but from their spreading about the decks, though I had every valuable moveable put below, he probably did not succeed in preventing stealth.
I had given the mass a present of some seal's fat, and young seal, killed when about three weeks old; but one of them, an old fellow about 60, was not satisfied with this donation, and stole a young seal from a sailor, who had cleaned it, intending it for his own dinner. It is the practice of the Fuegians to laugh at being detected in a theft; but this old man, on being discovered was much alarmed, and went to his canoe, nor did he venture from the settlement until he understood, at my seeing him there, that he was taken into favour again.
This tribe were clothed in a similar way to those of their countrymen we had met with before; they had only a skin over their shoulders, and several of them were quite naked, unless red ochre may be considered a covering, for of that they wore a complete coat. We had few old clothes to spare, having been liberal to our first visitors; but in lieu of otter skins, which I purchased off their backs, I gave each of them a garment of some description., I had given one of them a white flannel shirt, which he slipped on; and skipped about among his companions in great ecstasy. This shirt being in high estimation, they wore it by turns for eight or ten minutes, and after being satisfied with it in this form, they tore it into ribbons, and divided it share and share alike. This was an instance of their holding property in common.
Having occasion to fill some casks with water in the after part of the ship, in order to raise her still more forward, I set the Fuegians to draw water, and after being shown the most convenient way, they performed it with as much expedition as our own people. I also employed them in pulling and hauling, when we required strength, and this they did with eagerness, but the noise of singing to each pull was deafening: after hearing one of our sailors sing, as is usual, they thought that it was to be imitated also, and all roared together in unison. The women and little children remained in the canoes close alongside, and they were kept amused by receiving small presents occasionally. I tried what effect music would have, and had the fiddle played to them. It seemed to please them, but the German flute still more, and vocal music more than either. The women, indeed, were in ecstasy at hearing a song given by a young man who had a fine voice. I showed them some sea paintings, which attracted their attention, though only for a moment; but I remarked those of the most glaring colours retained their admiration longest and most.
An opportunity offered our visitors of changing their dress. This was at a tub of dark clay, which we had brought from the Falkland Islands. They soon rubbed on a complete coat of it, and were highly pleased with their new costume. The women, too, were indulged with a slight rub; when the clay became dry, however, I fancy they found it unpleasant, as they all soon rubbed it off again.
Observing one of them with sore eyes, I made a liniment, and washed them. He evidently perceived my intention, and I believe expected that he was to be cured at once; which did not, of course, take place, but, by washing them twice or thrice a day, in three days they were nearly well. I had cut the hair from over the eyes of this man, because it irritated them; and his countrymen thought it improved the appearance, and came to me to have theirs cut in the same way. As it was a harmless request I complied with their desire, and, to amuse them, powdered them with flour. The ladies were quite delighted with this head dress, but I found it too expensive to be continued, not having an over-abundant supply of the article on board.
I had made them acquainted with the destructive effects of fire-arms, and at the report of a great gun, which we fired, the women shrieked, and the men were appalled, and looked at the engine with a vacant gaze.
I observed a bold and cunning fellow among this people, whom I judged to be the appointed thief of this tribe. This fellow, having found his way into the main-top, was trying to pull off the iron work about it. I made signs to him to come down, but he paid no attention. Having my pistols in my poeket, I pointed one at him, merely to frighten him into compliance, and he descended; but on reaching the deck, he put on a revengeful countenance, and threw a piece of rag in my face. As I was determined to check this insolence, I took up my fowling-piece, which was at hand, and presented it; at which he fled to the forepart of the ship, and his companions with him, shouting for fear. The women joined in the howl of alarm; but peace was soon restored by my sending the offender into his canoe, and putting my fowling-piece below. I intended, at a proper opportunity, to make this fellow sensible of his ill behaviour, but, in the meantime, I only forbade his coming on board. By this little misunderstanding their confidence in our friendly consideration for them was shaken, as they retired to their settlement much sooner than usual.
There being but eight of us in number on board, two of whom were boys, it became necessary, in case of any dangerously offensive behaviour of the Fuegians, that we should be armed and I therefore required each person to have a cutlass, and a musket or pistol at hand.
In the morning of the 30th, about four o'clock, between forty and fifty Fuegians jumped on board in defiance of those of our crew who were on deck. The second mate, Mr. Mathewson, taking an alarm, came to my state-room, saying that the natives intended to take possession of the vessel. His suspicions were rational, but his fears turned out to be groundless; for, on my going up with my pistols in my hand, some who were on the cabin stairs, trying to get below, flew up, and those on deck I brought immediately to order. It is not unlikely that a skirmish would have taken place had my people been allowed to strike them, for a little irritation would, most likely, have roused them at least to defence.
Their conduct in the morning had been irregular, but I took no further notice of it, after bringing them to their usual course of inoffensive behaviour.
In the middle of the day I assembled these people together, in order to ascertain if they had any idea of a future state. I practised the same mode of enquiry as I had done with the last tribe, by reading out of the Bible, and making signs to them. I certainly observed them to have a solemn feeling, which they exhibited by looking each other in the face, with a countenance expressive of extreme wonder, and speaking to one another in a low tone of voice; but, notwithstanding these appearances of a religious principle, I could discern nothing like a form of worship among them.
By making them small presents at various times, I procured a quantity of articles of their manufacture, such as necklaces, baskets, bows and arrows. These, which are their principal possessions, I shall shortly describe.
Their necklaces are very ingeniously put together, and consist of small shells of the turbinated genus, possessing a beautiful coloured enamel. They are perforated near the orifice, and are strung together on a cord made of gut, so neatly plaited, that, though it is only the thickness of small whip-cord, it contains no fewer than five strings, so exceedingly small that it creates some wonder how they can perform the plaiting by the hand.
Their baskets are made of strong grass, and exhibit considerable skill in the construction. The grass is put together after the manner of weaving, the blades being worked at right angles, and over the top is a handle equal to half the circumference of the basket.
Their bows are generally about three feet eight inches long, and are made of an elastic wood which is smooth and hard. The string is of seal-skin, and sometimes of gut plaited : the arrows are of hard wood, and finely polished; they are about twenty-five inches in length, with a sharp triangular flint for the point, fixed into a cleft in the wood. When the arrow has entered, the shaft may be drawn out, but the flint remains.
They have another weapon, consisting of a similar-shaped flint, inserted in a handle about nine inches long; and this they probably use as a stiletto.
I am not aware that these people are given to war, though I saw three of this tribe with scars on their bodies, which indicated their having received wounds.
On the 3lst the Beaufoy arrived with a quantity of seal-skins, and came to anchor. Our carpenters had now completed their work on the ows of the brig, and we proceeded to stowing the hold, and bringing the vessel into her usual trim.
As I can duly appreciate the nature of a good shipwright, it is but justice to my carpenter, J. Aitkenson, to say that his skill and industry on this occasion, of repairing serious damages with few materials, gave me great satisfaction.
Our friends, the Fuegians, came again on board soon after the arrival of the Beaufoy, no doubt expecting a feast of seal's fat and flesh. They were not disappointed, for Mr. Brisbane had brought them a quantity, and it was shared out among them. Our people were busily employed in cutting blubber from the seal-skins, when the natives, enticed by the strippings of fat, expressed a desire to assist. I allowed them to do so, and they appeared clever at the business. It was soon noticed, however, that they had another intention besides that of dressing the skins; for one fellow, while at work, had hauled a skin, bit and bit, under his arm in a most dexterous manner. But the second mate had observed the theft, and when the Fuegian was proceeding to leave the ship, made him deliver up his prize, at which he laughed most heartily, though on my approaching he retired to his canoe, quite aware that he had offended me.
Their knowledge of barter had evidently increaed their spirit for thieving, so that they would now steal articles from the cutter, and endeavour to sell them at the brig for some things they liked better, and vice versa.
As we had now no fears of being overpowered by numbers, I had got the fellow on board, who had thrown the rag in my face, and made him understand that I had it in my power to punish him; his fears and humility, however, procured him his pardon, and he continued to behave himself properly.
In the afternoon Captain Brisbane accompanied me to the settlement. I had signified to the Fuegians that we intended to visit them, and they paddled home before us. We landed at a convenient place, and were met by a party, who conducted us to the town, which consisted of but a few wigwams, slightly constructed, and containing a population of about sixty.
The first circumstance that struck me was the absence of the women and little children: it was evident that on our approaching they had sent them into the woods, and had lighted fires almost all round the island. This appeared, in part, to be an effusion of joy at our visit; but it also seemed to be an invitation to other Fuegians, as two strange canoes came to us from the upper part of the sound. In one of the wigwams I saw a sea-gull, perfectly tame, and jumping about, which conveys an idea of their affection for the lower animals. I had used the precaution of having our boat at hand, and the crew armed, which enabled us to mix among them without fear. On my expressing a desire for muscles they commenced roasting them for me, and vied with each other in bringing me the best. The old man whom I have mentioned as having stolen a young seal appeared here, and I gave him to understand that he was forgiven. To amuse and astonish them I killed two sea-gulls at one discharge of my fowling-piece, at which they gazed with wonder, particularly the strangers; as I never allowed them to see me load the gun, but after firing always put the muzzle to my mouth, at which they generally fled back, believing that I loaded it by speaking into it. I thought it proper to hide from them the nature and management of fire-arms, as they are often found dangerous in the hands of barbarians.
Our people were mixing among them, singing and dancing, but on two of our crew wishing to go into the woods, the natives became uneasy for their wives, and I was obliged to interfere. This forbearance on our part did not, however, meet with a suitable return; for one of the Fuegians (mistaking the sex) behaved very strangely to a young man of our party, who with some difficulty made his escape to the boat.
Our curiosity being satisfied, we bade them farewell and returned on board.
I saw no case of sickness among these people; none lame, except one man who had the palsy. As far as I had an opportunity to observe, the proportion of women is about two-thirds that of the men; and with respect to longevity, including the women, they may be said to contain four classes. The oldest, which were three men, by their wrinkled appearance I judged to be from 50 to 60 years of age; the second class were twenty-four individuals, about 40; the third, of which there were twenty-seven, were from 20 to 30; and the rest, being youths, girls, and children, were twenty-six; making the total number of this tribe to consist of about eighty persons.
On the 1st of January the Fuegians landed at the head of the cove and set fire to the woods. As the smoke, by the direction of the wind, came right upon us, I ordered a musket to be fired over their heads, to make them desist. They paid no attention to this, but continued kindling the woods, and as we were now almost enveloped in smoke I was determined to check them effectually, and therefore fired a great gun shotted in such a direction as to be perfectly clear of them, but so as to let them hear the whistle of the shot. On hearing this and the report of the gun, they ran precipitately to their canoes, and paddled home as fast as possible.
I was at a loss to know, in this instance, what they meant by setting fire to the woods, as they must have known that it would be troublesome to us, and I considered it always as a signal of friendship; in the present case, however, it was an actual annoyance, and was necessarily put a stop to.
The following morning the Fuegians came on board without taking the smallest notice of the guns that had been fired, and conducted themselves peaceably. The brig being ready for sea, at 10 we weighed, with the wind at west, and proceeded to the Diego Ramirez, leaving the Beaufoy at anchor. We continued under sail off these Islands, till the 4th in the morning, when we returned. The Fuegians, seeing us approach, calculated on receiving supplies, and hurried alongside. The vessel being under sail, I was much afraid some of their canoes would be upset, but they managed them surprisingly. We must have had nearly the whole settlement about us, together with some strangers, as I enumerated eleven canoes, each containing not fewer than seven individuals. I made a signal to the Beaufoy for a boat, and Captain Brisbane came on board. He informed me that the natives had behaved themselves in a very orderly manner, and that he had nothing to fear from being left alone with them. Our business requiring that the vessels should separate, I gave him his instructions, which were, to remain in the neighbourhood till the 20th, to proceed then to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, and to rejoin me in the month of March, on the coast of Patagonia: but I particularly cautioned him not to remain among the natives longer than he found them friendly. Our final arrangements being made, we took a last farewell of the natives, who went to their canoes reluctantly, and we proceeded to the eastward for the coast of Patagonia. I was afterwards glad to learn from Captain Brisbane, that, during his stay, they behaved in a quiet, friendly manner.
The islands of Tierra del Fuego extend in length about 360 miles, from east to west, along the Straits of Magellan; and in extreme breadth, from north to south, about 160, from the straits to the extremity of Cape Horn.
This tract of country, as far as my information goes, contains a large population, particularly towards the shores of the Straits of Magellan.
Most of those islands are studded on the sides with a small beach tree, about twenty-four feet high, and eight or ten inches in diameter. They grow so crooked, that a straight trunk more than ten or twelve feet is rarely found. I built a boat of this wood, however, which when seasoned, answered the purpose very well.
In the interior of the country several mountain tops appear constantly covered with snow, though I do not consider the highest to be more than 3000 feet.
The great length of day in the summer season has an enlivening effect; and, when the weather is fine and the water smooth, the wildness of the scenery is quite romantic.
The volcano, which has been seen by several persons, in passing Cape Horn, was not at this time visible, but I picked up a quantity of vesicular flaggy lava, which, no doubt, had been ejected from it.
Captain Basil Hall saw it in flame during his passage round Cape Horn, in the year 1822, in His Majesty's ship Conway; and in 1820, when on our first voyage, in the month of January, I saw the sky much reddened over Tierra del Fuego, which I supposed at the time was produced by the volcano. The climate of this region has been differently described by persons who have passed through it, and I doubt not but they have been respectively correct, inasmuch as they have framed their report from the circumstances of weather at each particular time. The fact is, that much depends on the direction of the wind; since, in the middle of summer, when it blows strong at south, proceeding from the icy land of Shetland, the thermometer will often stand so low as 38°; and, with the wind from the opposite quarter, the weather is frequently almost as fine as that of summer in England.
I saw no quadrupeds, except dogs and otters, nor do I think there are any others to the south of the Straits of Magellan.
In conclusion of what I have to remark, regarding these Fuegians, I may say, I never saw men whose minds were so unimproved; and though they may possibly be defective in mental organisation, as has been asserted by some, yet there is little doubt, from their tractableness, that their condition might be easily alleviated. This would be the opinion of the philanthropic author of the following remark: “Any general character, from the best to the worst, from the most ignorant to the most enlightened, may be given to any community, even to the world at large, by the application of proper means, which means are to a great extent at the command, and under the controul, of those who have influence in the affairs of men.”§
§ Robert Owen, 1813: First essay in A New View of Society, or Essays on the Formation of the Human Character.
Few voyagers, who have had intercourse with these Fuegians, have been backward in pronouncing them to be the most miserable among men, and as not having mental capacity for instruction, but withot explaining the circumstances which are, probably, the cause of their being so. I have had an opportunity of seeing, that their ignorance may be attributed principally to local causes.
It is not likely that any people, who have ever enjoyed the advantage of improvements for their better subsistence, will ever forget them. Hence, it may be presumed, that the ancestors of these tribes were in the same state of ignorant imbecility as the present race, unless we may suppose, that they were driven from the north of the Straits of Magellan, and coming into an unprolific country, which did not afford the means of continuing their acquired arts, they gradually ceased to remember them.
As few quadrupeds are found upon the islands of Tierra del Fuego, the natives cannot depend on hunting for their subsistence, and are consequently obliged to have recourse to fishing. This last occupation compels them to live on the sea coast, where the coldness and gloom of a protracted winter seems to check all mental improvement.
The inclemency of the climate, too, seems to produce upon these people a degree of inactivity, which, together with the inconveniency of moving from place to place, from the nature of the country, may produce their diminutive stature; for, if they originally migrated from the north of the Straits of Magellan, they must have been a more athletic race of men: the climate and the peculiarities of their situation have now, probably, exercised all their rigorous effects upon the inhabitants, and they have arrived at a stationary character. Had they been so circumstanced as to procure a subsistence by hunting, their bodies would, without doubt, have been more vigorous, and their minds, probably, not inferior to those of other savage tribes.
Nature has been bountiful in providing a most inexhaustible supply of shell-fish, upon which they principally live; and they are procured with so little trouble, that no ideas are required which can improve the reasoning faculties. No patience or perseverance is necessary like that exercised by savages, who, in hunting, have to employ reason superior to the instinctive cunning of the animals they pursue. The Fuegians' food lies on the shores of different islands, and their journeys are all performed in the canoe; so that being cramped in sitting, their legs are ill formed, and the females, who are the keepers of the canoe, from that circumstance, are worse shaped in the lower extremities than the men.
The rugged and mountainous country of Tierra del Fuego, which faces the south, offers no inducement to agriculture, nor indeed does it admit of it; but, towards the N.E. of these islands, the land is more inviting, and the climate better.
I have only now to recommend these people, in whom I have taken a lively interest, to the philanthropic part of the world, as presenting an untouched field for their exertions to ameliorate the condition of their fellow men.
True humane and religious charity is best bestowed on those who most need our help, and are willing to receive it; and this is certainly the case with these Fuegians, who, of all uncivilised tribes with whom we are acquainted, seem most destitute of every thing which tends to rouse the human mind to exertion.
[Frontispiece in 1825 edition]
We stood to the N.E. with the wind from S.E. by S., and on the 7th in the afternoon we were off Barnavel Island, and near Cape Horn. I sent a boat on shore. Nothing but a little grass grows on the island, and around it lie several small islets. The latitude from my observation at noon, when within five miles and a half of the island, gave for its centre 55° 48' 16", and longitude by chronometers 66° 39'. The wind continued from the S.E., and at day-light we saw the land in the N.N.W., but, by reason of the weather being foggy, we could not perceive the entrance of Straits Le Maire. We however stood on, and at nine A.M. the fog clearing away, I found we were actually in the straits, with the western point of Staten Land bearing E. by N. I have annexed a view of the land of Tierra del Fuego, on the western side of the straits, which, while that side only is seen, presents a gap or valley, which, being below the horizon, might be taken by a stranger for the southern entrance of the straits, thus creating a mistake, in foggy weather particularly, which would lead the vessel into danger.
In the forenoon we saw some whales close in shore, and the boats were sent in pursuit. We stood with the vessel within four or five miles off the shore of Tierra del Fuego, and sounded in a depth of 75 fathoms, over a bottom of fine sand. I had desired the chief mate, who was in one of the boats, to examine the state of the tide on the shore, and we remained lying to, with the wind at S.S.E. and S.E., from eleven o'clock till one, when the boats returned, without having succeeded in capturing any of the whales. We had, during this period, drifted to the southward against a fresh breeze, and the mate informed me, that the tide had been falling rapidly during the time they had been away, and that when they left the beach it was about low water. We stood into Success Bay, and about two o'clock the tide changed, and swept us violently to the northward, which must have been the tide of flood; and, hence by calculation, high water, at the full and change of the moon, will take place at two o'clock. The flood has always been supposed to run to the southward through the straits, but according to the circumstances I have described, I am led to believe it runs to the northward; though probably its continuing to run to the northward through the straits sometime after high water by the shore, may have led to erroneous conclusions in that respect.
Before we got out of the bay, the Fuegians of these straits came down to the seaside, and shouted at the full stretch of their lungs, inviting us to land; but as the wind was fair, and night approaching, we could not spare time to comply with their wish. I was sorry it was not convenient to have communication with this tribe, as it was in this bay, in the year 1769, that Captain Cook visited the inhabitants; and it would have been agreeable to have ascertained whether, from his intercourse with them, they had derived permanent improvement, though his stay amongst them was too short to produce any great result.
Off Cape Saint Diego is a heavy tide-rip when the wind is strong, and at those times it is better to avoid passing through it. We stood to the northward, across the entrance of the Straits of Magellan, and on the north side the land appears comparatively low, and fit for agriculture.
We coasted Patagonia to the northward, pursuing our business of examining the shores for fur seals, and taking black whales, as opportunities permitted; and on the 13th, having sought in vain for the river Gallegos, we came to an anchor in eight fathoms water, at the distance of about five miles from the land.
Being in the latitude in which this river is represented on the chart of Malespina [sic, Malaspina], I landed to examine the shore, supposing that the entrance might be land locked in such a way that it could not be seen at any distance from the shore. I had walked four of five miles along the beach to the southward, without discovering the object of my search, and was returning, when by accident looking over a bank, the situation of the soughtfor river appeared, though with very little water in it. This mound was four or five feet above the level of the sea at high water. I have tittle doubt but the river was open at the time Malespina gave it a name, and must since that period, 1790, have been nearly dried up, by the waters having been diverted from the original course; and the sea having rolled in the bank into its entrance; or that at the time the river was discovered, there was in the mouth of it a bar or bank, which did not then appear above water; and that the sea has since receded on the eastern coast of Patagonia, leaving the bank dry. Which of these may be the fact is not easy to decide; perhaps both the causes mentioned may have contnbuted to the change.
On the 14th, in the afternoon, the wind freshened to a brisk gale, and we allowed the vessel to drive with the anchor on the ground, nearly in the direction of the coast: at dark we hove the anchor up, and lay to. The weather proved tolerably fine, and the winds were variable, often light from the S.E., and we occasionally anchored to facilitate our operations.
On the 24th we put into the river of Santa Cruz, for the purpose of making some alteration on the hold, and converting some blubber into oil. The entrance of this river cannot be seen at a great distance, as the land which lies behind covers it. I have given a view of the coast, and a sketch of the river. The shore on the left side going in is high, whilst that on the right is quite low. The latitude of the entrance is 50° l2' 16" S., and longitude 68° 14' 30" W. Directions for sailing into it are added in the Appendix.
About seven miles from the entrance the Santa Cruz fruls into two branches, the one running to the S.W., the other to the N.W. The northern, which is by much the smallest, I penetrated about twelve miles, which was very near its source, as the water was quite fresh, and the stream became a mere brook. That branch which runs to the N.W. is, from its appearance, of some extent; and I should not wonder if it communicates with some branch from the Straits of Magellan, as the. water at our anchorage, at the lowest tides, never ran fresh. The N.W. river being very shallow, the procuring of good water is attended with some delay, as it must be taken at the end of the ebb of the tide, when there is not depth enough to float a loaded boat, and you must therefore wait the following flood.
No large wood is found in the neighbourhood of this river. On the eastern shore are many bushes bearing a small black berry, little less than a sloe, which when ripe is pleasant to the taste, and highly beneficial as an antiscorbutic, of which we took advantage, and eat great quantities of them. I saw no traces of inhabitants where I landed, nor land animals, except guanacoes, of which there were many, but too timid to allow us to approach within musketshot. Nearly in the middle of the main river is an island, which is called Sea Lion Island, from a number of those animals residing on it. This amphibious creature, of the seal genus, is most properly denominated the Sea Lion, from its similarity to that quadruped. The face is not unlike that of a lion; but in particular, a long main [sic, mane], and the bold and fierce front which it presents, when standing on its fore flippers, bear a near resemblance to the appearance of that animal. A full grown sea lion measures eleven feet from the tip of the nose to the extremity of the tail, and eight feet in circumference; and differs from the ursine seal only in the peculiarities I have mentioned. They may, indeed, be considered as belonging to a class of monsters of the seal species. They resist their assailants with great ferocity, but their capture is easily accomplished by shooting them in the forehead.
The rise of the tide is so great in this river, being thirty-two feet, that the keel of the largest ship may be examined, by laying her on the ground; and there is sufficient water on the bar of the river at two-thirds flood of spring tides for a ship of the line. This circumstance might afford great convenience to a vessel requiring repairs in the bottom. The tide flows on the full and change of the moon at forty minutes past eight in the morning, and the ebb runs four miles an hour.
We had passed three times in and out of this river by the 17th of February, when we took our departure for the Falkland Islands.
Little is yet known of the portion of America south of the latitude of 42 degrees, generally described by the name of Patagonia. That part of the country which lies on the western Side of the Andes, towards the Island of Chiloe, has been colonized by the Spaniards, and is better known. As I have seen much of the coast of Patagonia, and have. obtained some information from others concerning the country, and. its inhabitants, I shall give a brief account of it.
The tract of country alluded to is bounded on the south by the Straits of Magellan, discovered in the year 1519, by Fernando Magalhaen, and called by us the Straits of Magellan, in the latitude of from 52 to 54 degrees south.
This passage to the Pacific Ocean was considered of great importance by the Spaniards, as they at first believed it to be the only way, sailing westward, to their valuable Peruvian possessions, and to the Phillippine Islands. These considerations induced them to make a settlement in the straits, probably with a view of commanding the passage, to the exclusion of foreigners, and to facilitate the navigation to their own ships.
They chose, in 1581, a situation on the Patagonian side, about 120 miles from the eastern entrance of the straits, and built a town, which they named Philippville,§ after the then reigning king of Spain.
§ Ciudad del Rey Felipe.
The inviting riches of Peru, Mexico, and the West Indies, however, engrossed all spirit of enterprize, and all attention, so that the settlement of Philippville became neglected, and in 1587, having existed but seven years, its inhabitants, who at the beginning were 400, were reduced, by famine, to a single individual, of the name of Hernando.
The distinguished navigator, Cavendish, arrived at this place in the year 1587, and found this unhappy man, the only one reserved to tell the painful story of the fate of his unfortunate companions. Cavendish took him on board, and to perpetuate the melancholy history of the spot, he called it Port Famine.
From the report given of the enchanting beauties of this place by Commodore Byron, we may suppose that there was a want of industry on the part of the inhabitants, as well as of neglect in the government of Spain, in not sending supplies till the lands could be cultivated, and grain brought to maturity.
Commodore Byron, having anchored in Port Famine in the year 1764, says,
The next day at noon, having had little wind, and calms, we anchored in Port Famine, close to the shore, and found our situation very safe and convenient; we had shelter from all winds except the south east, which seldom blows; and if a ship should be driven ashore in the bottom of the bay, she could receive no damage, for it is all fine soft ground. We found drift wood here, sufficient to have furnished a thousand sail, so that we had no need to take the trouble of cutting green. The water of Ledger River is excellent, but the boats cannot get in till about two hours flood, because at low water, it is very shallow for about three quarters of a mile. I went up it about four miles in my boat, and the fallen trees then riendered it impossible to go farther; I found it, indeed, not only difficult, but dangerous, to get up thus far. The stream is very rapid, and many stumps of trees lie hidden under it; one of these made its way through the bottom of my boat, and in an instant she was full of water. We got on shore as well as we could; and afterwards, with great difficulty, hauled her upon the side of the river: here we contrived to stop the hole in her bottom, so as that we made a shift to get her down to the river's mouth, where she was soon properly repaired by the carpenter. On each side of this river there are the finest trees I ever saw, and I make no doubt but that they would supply the British navy with the finest masts in the world. Some of them are of a great height, and more than eight feet in diameter, which is proportionably more than eight yards in circumference, so that four men, joining hand in hand, could not compass them. Among others, we found the pepper tree, or Winter's bark, in great plenty. Among these woods, notwithstanding the coldness of the climate, there are innumerable parrots, and other birds of the most beautiful plumage. I shot, every day, geese and ducks enough to serve my own table, and several others, and every body on board might have done the same: we had, indeed, great plenty of fresh provisions of all kinds, for we caught as much fish every day as served the companies of both ships. As I was much on shore here, I tracked many wild beasts in the sand, but never saw one; we also found many huts, or wigwams, but never met with an Indian. The country between this fort, and Cape Forward [sic, Froward], which is distant about four leagues, is extremely fine; the soil appears to be very good, and there are no less than three pretty large rivers, besides several brooks.”
The terminating point of this continent appears to have been discovered by two Hollanders, Jacob Maire, of Amsterdam, and Cornelius Schouten, of Hoorn, in the year 1516. The straits known by the name of Le Maire were called after the first mentioned navigator; and Horn, the present name of the Cape, is a corruption of Hoorn, the name of the city in Holland, of which Cornelius Schouten was a native. The discovery made by these intrepid men opened a new way into the Pacific, wlrich took away much from the importance of the Straits of Magellan, and they have, in consequence, since that time been little frequented. The enormous stature of the Patagonians, as described by some navigators, who have passed through the straits, is a matter worthy of consideration, since I find the subject spoken of by reputable authors with much uncertainty: this induces me to lay before the reader what information I have been able to obtain respecting this doubtful circumstance.
I have received particular accounts of the Patagonians residing in the Straits, from persons of veracity, who have lately passed through them; and the natives are described as being of ordinary stature, from five feet five inches (the stature of the Fuegians, from whom they are but little different), to six feet. From the circumstance of the land on the Patagonian side of the straits being more temperate, and less mountainous than that of Tierra del Fuego, those who live on that side take more land exercise, and are somewhat more robust, better clothed, and go together in larger tribes.
These people, it should be remembered, are the inhabitants of the Straits only; in the interior of this country, which is of vast extent, there may be men of Goliah-like stature; but we can scarcely suppose them of the size described by a gentleman who was on shore with Commodore Byron, at his interview with the Patagonians, in the Straits of Magellan. (Vide Byron's Voyage, vol. ii. pages 826-7.) This officer says, that
… when they were ten or twelve leagues within the straits, they saw, through their glasses, many people on shore of a prodigious size, which extraordinary magnitude they thought to be a deception, occasioned by the haziness of the atmosphere, it being then somewhat foggy; but on coming near the land, they appeared of still greater bulk, and made amicable signs to our people to come on shore. That when the ship sailed on, to find a proper place of landing, they made lamentations, as if they were afraid our people were going off.
He also says,
… there were near four hundred of them, and about one-third of the men on horses, not much larger than ours; and that they rode with their knees up the horses' withers, having no stirrups; that there were women, and many children, whom some of our people took up in their arms and kissed, which the Indians beheld with much seeming satisfaction. That by way of affection and esteem they took his hand between theirs, and patted it; and that some of those he saw were ten feet high, well proportioned, and well featured: their skins were of a warm copper colour, and they had neither offensive nor defensive weapons.
He also says, that
they seemed particularly pleased with Lieutenant Cumming, on account of his stature, he being six feet two inches high, and that some of them patted him on the shoulders, but their hands fell with such force, that it affected his whole frame.
I have hinted in another place, that those with whom Commodore Byron communicated were probably chiefs;§ but it is more than probable that this tribe, of whatever size, were not inhabitants of the shore, but of the interior, and from the country farther to the northward, and of course seldom, perhaps never, on the shores of the Straits when any vessels touched there since that time.
§ A possible editing mixup here: Weddell has not “hinted in another place” about Byron communicating with chiefs. In Byron's Journal (left column), he states that one (note singular) chief “… was one of the most extraordinary Men for size” he had ever seen. His editor (Hawkesworth, right column) puts additional words into his mouth, so that now the chief was almost seven feet tall and a “frightful Colossus.” Needless to say, the words are Hawkesworth's, not Byron's.
Patagonians farther to the northward, sometimes come down in the summer season, and have been seen by my officers, who described them to be generally about six feet high, well proportioned, and appearing, upon the whole, above the ordinary size. Unlike the Fuegians, they are fond of spirituous liquors; but they resemble them in being fond of toys, and every kind of hardware. My chief mate in our first voyage, in 1819, about the Bay of Saint Mathias, bought a young guanacoe, from a Patagonian, for an old knife. He described this man to be of middle stature, and good looking: he came up to the boat's crew on horseback, with great confidence; alighted, and showed the officer that he had taken the animal with a sling.
From the necessity of my remaining on board while under sail, on the coast, I had not opportunities of ascertaining any thing in particular of the native habits, which are no doubt materially different from those of the tribes in the neighbourhood of Buenos Ayres, who, by intercourse with the Spaniards, have become somewhat assimilated to European manners.
I am, upon the whole, fully of opinion, that no men, of the prodigious stature described by Commodore Byron, ever appear now on the sea coast, whatever giants there may be in the interior of the country. Port Desire, and the Bay of St. Joseph, are places at which tribes of Patagonians have been seen by gentlemen of my acquaintance whose description of the natives accords with what I have stated respecting those seen by my officers. The extent of country inhabited by the native Patagonians only, which lies to the south of the river Negro, (on which there is a settlement of a few Spaniards,) may be estimated at 770 miles in length, and 300 in breadth, or 232,200 square miles.
A knowledge of what this extent of country affords, of inhabitants, and commercial produce, particularly on the eastern part of the Andes, would be very desirable, as an advantageous traffic might possibly be opened with the natives, who may be more numerous than is supposed. Commodore Anson informs us, that King Charles the Second was of opinion that a country contiguous to a region containing such store of gold and silver as Chili, was worthy of being examined for that precious ore, independent of opening a commerce with the natives, for other productions.
Induced by these considerations he sent out Sir John Narborough, to open a communication with the Patagonians, and to ascertain the value of their possessions. However, it appears that he did not effect either. Commodore Anson says; (Voyage p. 93.)
It is true that Sir John Narborough did not succeed in opening this commerce, which in appearance promised so many advantages to this nation. However, his disappointment was merely accidental, and his transactions upon that coast, besides the many valuable improvements he furnished to geography and navigation, are rather an encouragement for future trials of this kind, than any objection against them; his principal misfortune being the losing company of a small bark, which attended him, and having some of his people trepanned, at Baldivia.
However, it appeared by the precautions and the fears of the Spaniards, that they were fully convinced of the practicability of the scheme he was sent to execute, and extremely alarmed at the apprehensions of its consequences.
It is said that his majesty King Charles II was so prepossessed with hopes of the advantages hich would redound from this expedition, and so eager to be informed of the event of it, that hearing intelligence of Sir John Narborough's passing through the Downs, on his return, he had not patience to attend his arrival at court, but went himself in his barge to Gravesend to meet him.
The coasts of South America are of a different description. The western coast is rocky, high, and rugged, containing many islands, with deep water close to the shores.
The eastern falls into many deep and fine bays, with beaches reaching nearly the whole length of the line; and the water deepens so gradually, that at the distance of 100 miles from land, there is not more than a sounding of seventy fathoms.
The shores, which present a pleasing irregularity of height, consist of a soil of brown mould, something resembling fuller's earth, and impregnated with saltpetre.
In many places on the coast where I have walked inland a few miles, I have found the ground richly clothed with grass, and the interior country presenting a beautiful irregularity of surface. No trees are seen near the sea from the river of Plate to the shores of the Straits of Magellan, where, however, they are abundant. Farther inland, however, it is likely that there are trees, as on the western side of the Andes, in the latitude of 45° the woods are almost impervious. To the north of the river Negro, the country becomes level, with rich pasture, on which the great numbers of horses and bullocks run wild.
The animal called the pole-cat was seen by my crew on the coast, and one of them indeed emitted the abominable liquid into his eyes, which they are accustomed to do in the way of defence: and judging by the noise he made, it must have caused him great pain.
The American tiger, called by the Spaniards jaguar, is often seen on the coast. They have been known to wander around a boat turned bottom up on shore, with the crew lying underneath, and to depart without showing any voracious inclination after prey.
The rivers in this country are not inconsiderable, and are conveniently spread along the coast, from latitude 39° 50'; six may be enumerated—the river St. Joseph; Colorado, or Red River; river Negro, or Black River; Port Desire; Port St. Julian; and Sta. Cruz. The four last mentioned afford anchorage, two of them for large vessels, which renders this country highly valuable. Having thus given what information I have by my own observations been able to procure regarding these parts and their inhabitants, as also statements made to me by gentlemen of veracity, I shall dismiss the subject, and return to our passage to the Falkland Islands.
We continued within view of land till the 21st, when in the evening, and about to lose sight of the coast, Coy Bay bore S.S.W. distant about five leagues. During our passage to the Falkland Islands, we had fresh gales between S.S.W. and N.N.W., with an irregular sea, and on the 25th at six o'clock in the morning, with the wind at west, and the weather hazy, we saw Cape Meredith, bearing N.N.E., about three leagues; and at two P.M., we came to an anchor in Robertson's Bay, in seven fathoms water. Having examined the southern shores for the fur seal, on the 28th the wind being at N.E. and the weather favourable, we weighed, and proceeded to New Island, which we reached on the 2d of March, and at two P.M. anchored in Ship Harbour, in seven fathoms water. Having observed smoke on the north end of the island as we approached, I thought it might probably be intended by some shipwrecked people as a signal of distress; but it turned out to be only the burning of some tussuck, which had been ignited some months before.
On the 6th having completed our sea store of water, and taken a quantity of peat on board for fuel, we weighed, and the same day anchored in West Point Harbour. On the l2th we proceeded to Port Egmont, and anchored off the ruins in nine fathoms water.
On the 15th, in the morning, I was surprised to see a line of battle ship and a sloop of war coming round the Point. We presently ascertained by their colours that they were Spanish. I hurried on board, and was politely received. I pointed out the most eligible anchorage; but they chose to run a little beyond it, by which they afterwards drove, and caused themselves a great deal of trouble. The ship of the line was the Asia, of 70 guns. The brig was the Achilles, of 20 guns. They reported themselves from Lima, which I afterwards, from a number of concurring circumstances, discovered to be false. My boat's crew soon ascertained from the sailors, some of whom spoke good English, that they were but ten weeks from Cadiz; but the officers still persisted in this story of being from Lima, and I did not contradict it. Their anxiety to obtain information respecting the navigation of Straits Le Maire, and round Cape Horn, was of itself enough to satisfy me, that they were bound that way.
The crew of this ship, I understood, including their gunners or troops, was about 800 men; and the brig was manned with 150. They appeared in all respects effective, and though they were not so expeditious in their movements, as is the practice in our navy, they were indefatigable and secure in their operations. Their crews were sent on shore to ramble for the benefit of their health; and shooting parties soon killed almost every bird in the neighbourhood.
On the 16th, in a hard gale from the N.W. the Asia drove to a distance of about two miles from the landing place. In the morning of the 17th it moderated, and her boats went on shore, but a very hard gale coming on, they were unable to get off.
Being engaged by the officers to dine on board the Asia, and having two of them on board the Jane with me, I took the opportunity of showing them that our boats could go against a gale, and accordingly manned a fine whale boat with stout men, and rowed on board with apparent ease.
In looking over their charts, I observed the Auroras laid down, and informed them that no such places existed. Of this they would not be convinced, insisting that the Spanish ship of war Atrevida settled their situation in the year 1796, as I have before mentioned. The commodore supplied us with some naval stores of which we were much in want, and I sent a quantity of oil in return. He appeared to be about the age of fifty, and seemed to possess a thorough knowledge of the executive duties of a ship, even to the minutest operations, as I observed him correct a sailor in the passing a seizing round the fore-stay. He politely invited me to dine with him, and honored me by particularly noticing the hazardous voyage we had performed, with other marks of respect, which evinced a disposition to favor and promote enterprise.
I took an opportunity of waiting upon the commander of the brig, who, from having been sometime a prisoner in England, spoke very good English. He took me through the mess deck of the ship, and I was surprized to see how orderly every thing appeared; in short, she was little different, as to the internal arrangement, from our own sloops of war. I presume this officer had noticed the system observed in our navy, and had established it in his own vessel.
On the 19th the wind being southerly, and the weather settled, we weighed, and proceeded again towards the coast of Patagonia. During our passage, we had strong gales from the southward, in which we lost two boats from the quarters. We ran under a close-reefed maintop-sail, and though from not steering well, some risk was incurred, we continued to scud before the wind. I had an instance of the danger of scudding too long during my passage home in my first voyage, in the year 1822. Being in the Bay of Biscay, in the month of March, at midnight, with the wind at west blowing a heavy gale; we were running under a close-reefed maintopsail and foretop mast staysail, and two men were at the wheel, one of whom was considered an excellent helmsman. I was standing on deck, when the wind freshened; and the night became so dark, that only the foam of the sea was visible. The man at the helm, by some mismanagement put it the wrong way, and the ship flew to the wind with such rapidity as laid her on her broadside. Two sailors, stationed at the maintop-sail sheets, at my desire let them go, and I hastened to the helm, and lashed it a weather, though from the ship lying on her side, very little of the rudder remained in the water. The foretop-mast staysail fortunately being new, did not give way, and in about three minutes, every moment of which I expected would complete our ruin, the ship veered, and as the wind drew aft she righted, and we presently hove to.
In our passage to Patagonia, however, nothing more serious happened than losing our boats; and on the 3d we made the coast off Point Lobos, in the latitude of 44°, the rendezvous appointed for our meeting with the Beaufoy; but not finding her, I concluded that the strong southerly winds had driven her to the northward, and that she had, in consequence, proceeded home. We ran close along the coast to the northward; and on the 3d of April, having sprung a leak, and being in the mouth of the river of Plate, we put into Monte Video.
My necessities were politely attended to here by the house of Stewart M'Call and Co., of which James Noble, Esq. is executive partner; and I made application to the British Consul, T. S. Hood, Esq., for a survy to be held on the Jane, to ascertain her defects. Sir Murray Maxwell, commodore on that station, and in command of the Briton frigate, having heard of the arrival of the ships of war at the Falkland Islands, requested to see me. I waited on him, and described them to be Spanish, which did away with a conjecture of their being French in the character of Spaniards, as some finesse of that kind was possible; and as several French ships of war were in these seas, their movements were narrowly watched.
Mr. Hood, the British Consul, gave the necessary instructions for the survey, which being made, the requisite repairs were entered upon; and by the favor of Sir Murray Maxwell in sending me the assistance of carpenters from his rnajesty's ship Briton, our defects were soon made good, and by the 4th of May, we were ready for sea.
Monte Video, a place generally known, is a walled citysituated on the north shore of the river of Plate, about seventy miles from its entrance. This city was taken in 1828 from the Portuguese royalists by the Brazilian imperialists, who now possess it. The present military governor-general, Le Core, seems to be a person well calculated for improving the circumstances of the country; but the experience of frequent invasions and revolutions within the last twenty years, prevents the inhabitants from attending to any thing that cannot be quickly turned into money; hence it is, that houses on magnificent plans are left unfinished, and many for several miles without the walls, are allowed to remain in a state of ruin, caused by the desolation of war. Many of the streets are so broken up as to be almost impassable. The whole together at this time presents the accumulated wreck of a series of years, agitated by almost perpetual civil and foreign contests. The rich, as may be expected, live in ease and authority, without however being offensively proud, or cruelly severe, as masters. The labouring class of people are not remarkable for industry, being rather addicted to idleness and inebriety; foreign labourers more particularly. Three days' work in the week, on account of the cheapness of provisions, is sufficient to support them during the other four days in riot and dissipation; and there is scarcely any European, however industrious he may be at his arrival, who does not fall into this course of idleness.
The guachos [sic, gauchos], or countrymen, who come occasionally into town, are people of tall stature, with ruddy complexions. They are not considered the most honest class of men; and they have, perhaps, committed more assassinations than any other.
The ladies of Monte Video are generally somewhat below the middle stature, and inclined to be lusty. The custom of wearing small shoes, I presume, has made them clumsy about the feet; but the beauty of their faces amply compensates for that deformity. The contour of their countenances is what may be called Grecian, with complexions sallow enough to take off the character of common-place ruddiness; and their expressive black eyes, together with their simple elegance and complacency of manner, does not fail to render them interesting.
The priesthood of this place appear to be dwindling in authority, and poverty is conspicuous in their churches. That grandeur which the internal structure of their sanctuaries used to present in this quarter of the globe, is now diminished almost to the bare walls.
The English merchants are a respectable body and lately a British consul has been appointed to attend to their interests. These gentlemen never omit celebrating the anniversary of his Britannic Majesty's birth-day with a public dinner. I was so fortunate at this time as to be of the party at this annual feast. The company sat down at six o'clock, about fifty in number. Sir Murray Maxwell, the British Consul, and several Spanish and Portuguese officers of high rank, civil and military, were present. By eight o'clock the cloth was removed, and the health of His Majesty, King George the Fourth, was drunk. To this the Portuguese band, who were placed in the court yard, struck up the air of God save the King, and at the same moment the Briton frigate discharged a quantity of rockets, and fired a royal salute. The coincidence of these feats, which had been previously well arranged, was so complete that the effect was admirable. The Portuguese band had been taught the music of Rule Britannia, which they played with great spirit; and the bumpers went round to appropriate toasts. The Spanish gentlemen, in order to manifest their total disregard of worldly goods, began to break the plates and glasses, as if they had been of no value. Every toast was accompanied with a sacrifice of these articles; and one old Spaniard was remarkable for rubbing two desert plates together at every bumper, and throwing them over his shoulder; on which Sir Murray Maxwell facetiously remarked, that the word Plate (the name of the river) must be derived from the table utensil of that name, from the evident pleasure that was here taken in its destruction. As the evening advanced, the company fell off to their respective homes, and I to mine.
A Spanish public dinner was also given during my stay, to which I was invited by my friend Mr. Noble. This feast exhibited a very different figure to that I have described. The dinner was given in celebration of the tranquil establishment of the new government.
We were to dine at the house of John Dios de Solis, at the distance of about seven miles from town; and, as few people here walk far without the walls, a conveyance was provided, such as by us is called a noddy, having but two wheels and being drawn by two horses abreast, on one of which rode the driver. In this vehicle six of us were seated, and travelled at the risk of being overturned a hundred times by the badness of the roads. The country in this direction to the N.E. appeared to be in a very broken state, barren, and full of deep sand holes. This, however, being the only road by which a besieging army could approach the town, this part had suffered much by having been many times occupied by the enemy.
About two o'clock, we arrived at the house of our host, and found the company assembled, among whom we presently took our seats at the table, which was continued through two rooms. The party consisted partly of patriot Spaniards, with some Americans, French, and Portuguese, altogether about sixty in number. The dinner was profusely abundant; but no dish appeared very remarkable, except a large roast of beef with the hide on. This mode of cooking has the effect of retaining the juice of the meat, and from the number who partook of it, it appeared to be a favourite viand. The wine, of which there was variety, went merrily round during the entertainment, and by the time the cloth was removed, the organs of articulation had become so volatile, that you could scarcely hear your next neighbour. Some Spaniards, who were less clamorous, amused themselves with shooting little bread balls at one another across the table, and aiming at the face. This amusement was an annoyance to me, but by my remaining neutral, they allowed me to sit in peace. Their national toasts were drunk in quick succession, but on their vice-president proposing the toast of “Long live King Ferdinand the Seventh,” nearly the whole company dissented, and loaded him with a torrent of abuse; to which he replied with so much acrimony, that the table of expected friendship and conviviality soon presented a scene of the most inveterate warfare. The vice-president prudently, however, sat in silence for a few minutes, by which means order was restored, and the offended party vented their rage on the wine, which in half an hour was fast becoming conqueror. Glasses and plates flew to destruction, and, to crown the whole, an agile Spaniard mounted the table, making a variety ot antics, which so destroyed the economy of it, that no further hint was necessary to advise us to depart and we rose, got seated in our noddy, and drove homewards. Thus ended the dinner, which in the whole had occupied not more than two hours and a half.
This company, as far as I could understand, were evidently much divided in politics: all probably were patriots; but so variously modified, as to create a great difference of opinion; nor can it be otherwise. The diversity of interest, with the frequent change of political sentiment, which a change of government induces, renders them fickle and inconsistent. The present code of laws, however, gives the inhabitants more satisfaction than any hitherto enacted : the murderer cannot now, as formerly, escape death by the payment of money, or by suftering a short imprisonment; and in other cases, the present governor is rigidly careful to protect the pecuniary interests and personal safety of the citizens. These amendments, with the firm establishment of the Brazilian government, promise fair to put an end to the ravages of anarchy.
The exports of this place consist, principally, of horses and bullocks, hides and horns. These animals have much diminished in number within the last fifteen years, or since the time that our troops had possession of the place; and they have consequently risen in price. A mound of the bones of horses was shown me, which at the time they were killed, about fifteen years ago were brought to the slaughter-house for two shillings a head. A good horse now costs two pounds sterling. Bullocks are, no, doubt, still numerous in the interior, but in the neighbourhood of the city, they are scarce. At this time. a well fed bullock costs about eighteen dollars, such as a dozen years ago was killed only for its hide and tallow. Vegetables are exorbitantly dear; and every thing else that the country produces is increased in price in a similar proportion.
As the late siege of Monte Video has been, however, partly the cause of this diminution of supplies, two or three years with a settled government will do much in restoring the plenty of former times.
Little need be said of the harbour of Monte Video, as it has been well described by former visitors. I may remark, however, that it affords so little shelter from south to west, and is so shallow, having only two fathoms at a mean state, that there is nothing commodious about it.
A vessel drawing twelve or thirteen feet water, is seldom afloat in what may be called the harbour, though the bottom is of mud, in which a vessel sits without receiving damage; but sometimes, if lying across the harbour when the pamperos sets in, it is caught by these hurricanes, which is, if not injurious, at least inconvenient.
These winds, blowing from the south west over a plain nearly reaching the foot of the Andes, acquire such force, that they fall into the river of Plate and harbour of Monte Video with so great violence, that the best anchors and cables are requisite for the securing of ships.
The several dangerous shoals with which this river is bedded, cause the navigation to Buenos Ayres to be attended with danger. Many commanders of ships, entering with a fair wind, are often induced to proceed without a pilot, and by the time they have arrived in the vicinity of danger, the wind becomes contrary, and the weather unsettled, and not being acquainted with the set of the currents, they ground their ships. The lapse of a short time frequently makes great alteration in the facilities afforded to this pilot-ground. The buoys are often shifted or washed away, and you are left without the guide of landmarks. Banks have moved, and neither the depth of the river, nor the set of the currents are accurately known; all of which uncertainties contribute to embarrass those even of long experience in this passage. During my stay of a month at Monte Video, two vessels were totally lost in the river; and one, a month or six weeks before, was wrecked, with the loss of several lives, in a manner truly distressing, as they died on a raft, drifting with the direction of the wind and current.
On the mount of Monte Video, the lanthorn, which is nightly lighted, is so faint as scarcely to be seen at the harbour anchorage : it is therefore of little use; but, if placed on the Island of Flores, and properly attended to, it would be a great guidance to ships passing up in dark nights. English and American pilots are to be had at Monte Video, but they get so little encouragement, that they never put to sea to look out for ships.
The harbour of Maldonado would be convenient for a rendezvous for pilots, being near the fair way, and without all the banks.
Could captains be brought under an obligation to take pilots, a system might be pursued similar to that on our own coasts, and in other parts of the world, by establishing two pilot vessels, (schooners or cutters of about 50 tons each,) to cruize off the mouth of the river, with ten or twelve pilots on board.
I have given these hints for the benefit of insurers and others concerned in the trade to the river Plate, to whom such an arrangement would be most advantageous; leaving it to themselves to devise how it could be made obligatory on captains to take the pilots. Were such a system established, the constant employment and encouragement which would be thereby given to the pilots, would enable them to reduce their charges much below what they are at present.
On the 4th of May, with the wind at W.S.W. we weighed anchor, and after waiting upon Sir Murray Maxwell on board his own ship, we made all possible sail to the eastward. We met with the usual winds and weather on our passage home, and in fifty-nine days from our sailing from Monte Video arrived in Falmouth, before the packet that sailed two days before us. We made the Land's End of England, after an absence of nearly two years.
I am aware that many of the details in this volume militate considerably against the prevailing conjectures upon those regions of the earth to which they refer, and interfere, in some measure, with the statements of former navigators; for this, if any apology be necessary, I would rather make it here than to have interrupted the work in its progress by frequent notes. And it seemed more becoming in one who has hitherto had so little leisure for the profound study of geographical literature, to confine himself almost entirely to a simple account of what came practically under his own observation, waiting to be guided, should occasion require it, hereafter, by the judgment of those, whose province it is to mark the deficiencies of authors, and point out what is really worthy of public attention for its novelty or truth.
Recent events in South America have contributed to throw a certain degree of interest over some of the matters mentioned by the author: the present state of Monte Video; the surrender of the Asia man of war, and its consort, to the Government of Mexico, need hardly be particularized.
Many commanders of ships, who have been successful in making a passage round Cape Hom to the westward, have treated with unmerited derision the accounts given by Commodore Anson of this navigation.
I am quite satisfied, from my own experience, that the month of March might be productive of all the distresses described by the journalist Captain Porter, who passed the Cape in the American frigate Essex, in March 1814, says,
Indeed our sufferings, short as has been our passage, have been so great, that I would advise those, bound into the Pacific, never to attempt the passage of Cape Horn, if they can get there by any other route.
The difficulty, however, in making this passage is removed by choosing the proper season, which, when attended to, must at least save much time, and wear and tear of the ship. In the beginning of November the winds begin to draw from the northward, and continue to be frequent till about the middle of February, when they shift into the south-west quarter; during these months the westerly winds are not lasting, hence the passage may be easily effected. From about the 20th of February to the middle of May, the winds are generally between S.W. and N.W., and blow with great violence. During this interval, no ship need expect to make a passage round the Cape, that is not well equipped in every respect. From the middle of May to the end of June, the wind prevails to the eastward with fine weather. During these six weeks, a vessel may round the Cape in sight of the Diego Ramirez. In July, August, September, and October, the winds prevail again between S.W. and N.W.; but August and September are more particularly tempestuous. In regard to the route, which ships should take round the Cape, much depends on the season of the year, as relates to the force of the prevailing westerly winds. I prefer, at all times, passing to the westward of the Falkland islands; and, in the summer season, to pass through Straits Le Maire, as it saves fifty or sixty miles of westing, and can be attended with no risk if you have sufficient day-light to see to run back through the Straits, in the event of being caught with a southerly gale at the southern entrance.
Cape Horn lies from Cape Good Success S.S.W. ½ W. distant thirty-one leagues. In this line lies Barnavelt's island. If intending to touch at an anchoraage about Cape Horn, a S. by W. ¼ W. course through the night, will but well avoid the indraught which sometimes sets to the N.W. among the islands, at the entrance of Nassaire Straits: if not intending to go into harbour, a south course from Straits Le Maire to the south of Cape Horn, edging to the westward; and passing the Diego Ramirez on the south side, at the distance of a few miles; is the most advisable track. Ships working to the westward, off the Cape, in the summer season, should stand towards the shore of Tierra del Fuego in the evening, when the wind will often be found to draw from the northward off the land, and western again in the morning.
These observations refer to the seasons I have recommended for passing the Cape, but during those months which are attended with the most violent gales, viz. March, August, and September, I have only to recommend the advice given by Commodore Anson, that of standing to the southward, in the latitude of 60°, where the sea is more regular, and the winds more equal. If, however, a ship be making a coasting passage, and should require to anchor, the following instructions may be found useful. The prominent situation of Cape Horn at once points out the neighbouring bay of Saint Francis, in which are two harbours perfectly safe for vessels of any draught of water. Their approach is so easy as to make it necessary only to remark, that Wigwam Cove is the second opening on the west side of the bay, and by steering along the western shore about N. by E. it will be easily found.
On account of the violent gusts that blow out of the cove in westerly gales, a vessel had better anchor at the entrance, where is twenty-one fathoms water, and a bottom of sand and mud, and wait an opportunity of kedging into the cove, till South Head shuts in Cape Horn, when the anchorage will be perfectly safe.
The second harbour in this bay is pointed out on the chart by the name of Maxwell's harbour. The entrance is on the north side, between Saddle Island and Jerdan's Island; but is so narrow, that with a contrary wind a vessel must anchor at the entrance, and kedge to her berth, which may be chosen at pleasure, every part being perfectly secure. Here the water is so smooth that repairs upon a ship can be carried on with great convenience. Wood is abundant on the south side, and water may be obtained in several places.
In proceeding westward New Year's Sound next presents itself. In this sound are several anchorages, but Indian Cove may be considered the most commodious. Indian Island stands at the mouth of the cove, and bears from Sanderson's Island at the entrance of the sound W.N.W., sixteen miles. The anchorage in this cove is at the upper end, in the south corner, in fourteen or fifteen fathoms water, within three cables' lengths of the shore; in most other parts the ground is rocky, and the water deep. The entrance not being more than three-fifths of a mile broad, a large vessel in working against a strong S.W. wind, which blows out of the cove, would require to be worked quickly to take advantage of the flaws of wind that play about the entrance. The shoals and spots of foul ground are indicated by kelp about them, and should consequently be avoided. At the entrance of the cove on the south side of Mid-channel are two patches; in the inner one is a depth of three fathoms, and in the outer one eight. The tide flows on the full and change of the moon at fifty minutes past three, and rises about seven feet. Wood and water are abundant, and can be conveniently procured.
Clear Bottom Bay is an anchorage which, by being close to the coast, is convenient for a vessel to touch at for wood and water; to sail into it from sea, bring the east Il Defonsos S. ½ E., and steer N. ½ W. for Turn Point. About a mile and a half to the E.N.E. of this Point, is the anchorage, and at the distance of three cables’ lengths from the shore, in twenty-two fathoms water, in a bottom of sand and clay, is the most eligible berth.
A peculiar shaped land, which I called Leading Mountain, on the west side of Duff's Bay, may be seen from a distance of six or seven miles at sea, and at once points out the entrance of the bay. A view of this mountain with the land adjacent is annexed.
The soundings round the Diego Ramirez are regular, and at the distance of half a mile from the southern island. On the east side is a depth of thirty fathoms, with a bottom of fine green sand. The tides here are regular when the winds are moderate, and by the report of my officers, who were several days on the island, it is high water on the full and change of the moon at two hours fifteen minutes, and rises about five feet. The tide of flood, contrary to former reports, was observed to run to the N.E., and it evidently runs to the eastward between many of the main islands. The currents, or those streams which are propelled by prevailing winds, interfere so much with the natural tendency of the tide, that great doubt is created in regard to the proper direction of it.
Staten Land affords several harbours; that of St. Jobn’s, on the north side, and near to the east end, is the one with which I am best acquainted. By the view of the land which I have subjoined, the entrance of the harbour may easily be found. Slack tide is the proper time to sail in, as at the entrance, which is narrow, the winds are so baffling as to cause some risk when the tide is running strong across the passage. The harbour runs up to the W.S.W. about a mile and a quarter, and the anchorage is at the upper end, in twelve fathoms, in a muddy bottom; in most other parts, the depth is twenty fathoms, and rocky. There is a flat extending from the head of the harbour, a full cable's length, in which a small vessel might be laid for repairs.
Wood and water are in great plenty, close to the shore. The wood is much of the same description as that found on Tierra del Fuego: none of it being large enough for ship-building. At the east end of the island is a very heavy tide rip, and when the wind is strong it should be carefully avoided.
In sailing along the coast of Patagonia to the southward of the river Santa Cruz, vessels should not run within a depth of ten fathoms water, as in many places extensive ledges of rocks lie more than a mile from the shore.
The river of Santa Cruz does not appear from a great distance at sea, but can of course be easily found by the latitude. The meeting of the tides have thrown up a bank about the entrance, on which at low water there is but two-fourths of a fathom.
On the south point of the entrance lies a reef of rocks which appear at low water; and at the north side of the fair way is a shoal, proceeding from the bar, which probably shifts.
The leading mark into the river is a bluff in the middle of the entrance, bearing N.W. by W. ½ W. by compass. After passing the points of the entrance, two indentations will be seen on the south shore, and in the second one is the best anchorage, in five fathoms, in a bottom of gravel and clay. All the north side of the river is shoals, and much of it dries at low water. The tide of flood runs to the northward on tbe coast, and in strong southerly winds, continues to run two hours after it is high water by the shore.
The heaviest and most lasting gale that blows in the neighbourhood of Cape Horn, is from south, occasionally shifting a point or two each way. This gale I have frequently known to come on in a squall, and continue in the tempestuous months to blow from thirtyfive to forty hours together. The southern horizon, filled with rising clouds, heavy and white in a blue sky, is a sure indication of a lasting gale, with snow squalls. A complete calm generally follows this wind, which, however, is not very frequent. The wind at east invariably rises light, and gradually increases to a strong breeze; but when it veers from east to southeast, a strong gale may generally be expected with snow or rain squalls.
A north gale also comes on gradually, and towards the end, which is generally about thirty hours, it draws from the N.W. and brings rain, and presently shifts into the southwest without easing to blow, and continues from that point twelve or fifteen hours. All gales are of shorter duration in summer than in winter; and it may be remarked, that a vessel may anchor any where for shelter from a S.W. wind, without the fear of its shifting to the northward; but the contrary must be guarded against, as the wind shifts from N.W. to S.W., continuing to blow with great violence.
In the most windy months N.W. gales blow with great force, when they rise rapidly near that point, and generally last twelve or fourteen hours. To the southwest of Cape Horn, they blow with less violence, but are more durable. In the summer season, the winds between southwest and northwest frequently blow in gusts of six or eight hours continuance, at the strength of a brisk gale; it then becomes moderate, and the wind inclines to the northward.
In the summer I have observed the coincidence of fine weather with light easterly winds at the time of new moon, when in south declination, and at the time of full moon, to blow strong from the northward. There being many exceptions, however, to the natural action of the wind, produced by localities, I have found it impossible to systematise the indications of the winds and weather satisfactorily. We must, therefore, rest contented with an approximation to certainty in these matters.