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On leaving South Georgia, Captain Weddell made strict search for the Aurora Islands, a pretended Spanish discovery made in 1762, and afterwards verified, and situated, as the worthy Captain, using the Spanish idiom, expresses it; or as an American would say, in nearly as good English, located, in 1794, by the Corvette Atrevida. The author, it should seem, has fully ascertained that no such islands exist; the seal-catcher may therefore hereafter save himself the trouble of searching for it, and the geographer the pains of laying it down in his chart. Captain Weddell supposes these pretended islands to have been either the Shag Rocks, a reef lying about five degrees of longitude easterly from the supposed place of the Auroras, or ice-islands loaded with the earth of the shores from which they had been broken.
The crews of these two vessels wintered at Falkland Islands, This uninhabited group consists of nearly ninety islands. Two of them, the east and west Falklands, lying at different extremities of the group, are of considerable extent. The greatest length of the western island is one hundred miles, and its greatest breadth about fifty; the eastern island is considerably smaller. A sound, navigable for ships of any size, lies between them. The author gives a more favourable account of their climate than we should gather from the reports of those who had formerly visited them. He thinks indeed that it has grown more temperate within the last forty years, the cause of which he supposes
to be that the immense bodies of ice which were then annually found in the latitude of 50°, are no longer seen in that region. In three different voyages which the author has made in those seas, he remarks that he never saw southern ice to the northward of South Georgia. There is no wood on Falkland Islands; but they yield an abundant and inexhaustible supply of excellent peat. Extensive tracts of soil are thickly covered with grass; and on East Falkland are large herds of horses and wild cattle. The winters are mild ; the temperature is rarely as low as the freezing point; and the snows which fall in July, August, and September, immediately disappear from the ground. The site of the English settlement at Port Egmont was most injudiciously chosen. The ruins of the town stand on the south side of a steep mountain, six hundred feet in height, and at its very foot, where, during the winter, the rays of the sun could hardly be said to come. The French settlement at Port Louis, in 1764, was made in a more fortunate situation; and the colonists, according to our author, appear to have made considerable progress in cultivating and Vol. II.
fertilizing the soil, when they were taken off by the Spaniards, who claimed the islands.
New Island, one of the Falklands, was for two years the abode of a Captain Barnard, an American, whose story is given in this book. In the year 1814, while the United States were at war with Great Britain, Barnard, on a visit to New Island, in the course of a voyage undertaken to procure seal furs, found the crew of an English ship, which, on her passage from Port Jackson, had been wrecked on the south side of these islands. They were about thirty in number, including passengers, several of whom were ladies. He took them to his vessel, treated them with that kindness to which their unfortunate condition gave them a title, and promised to land them, on his passage home, at some port in the Brazils. One day, Captain Barnard, with four of his men, were out on a hunting party to procure supplies for his guests. The crew whom he had succoured, fearing, probably, that notwithstanding his promise, he intended to take them to the U. States; and thinking more of their own safety and convenience than their gratitude, cut the cables in his absence, and in spite of all that the Americans who were left on board could do to prevent it, ran away with the ship to Rio Janeiro. In their haste they had forgotten to leave any thing for Barnard and his companions to subsist upon; luckily, however, he had planted a few potatoes on the island, which the second season produced him a considerable crop. A dog which had gone with them on the hunting excursion, now and then caught a pig; and they gathered and stored up
the eggs of the albatross at the proper season. They clothed themselves with the skins of seals, and built a house of stone, strong and warm enough to protect them from the storms of winter, and the cold winds of the south. At one time, Barnard's companions stole the boat, and he was left alone on the island for several months. It seems, however, that they found it difficult to do without him, for they returned and put themselves under his direction. They continued, however, to be discontented and quarrelsome, and one of them actually plotted Barnard's death. The method taken by this little community to punish and reclaim the delinquent would have done honour to Beccaria. He was placed alone with some provisions on a small island in Quaker harbour, an appropriate name for the place of such a penitentiary. At the end of three weeks Barnard brought him back to the settlement a penitent and altered man. In December, 1815, Captain Barnard and his companions were taken off the island by an English whaler.
On the return of fine weather, the Jane and Beaufoy left
their wintering place, and made sail for South Shetland, a group of islands discovered in 1819, by William Smith, commander of the brig William, on a passage from Monte Video to Valparaiso. Captain Weddell bad previously made two several voyages to these islands, and had become well acquainted with their coast and the navigation of the neighbouring seas. In the present voyage, however, his former experience was of no avail, for he found them surrounded, to an immense extent, by compact and heavy ice, through which it was impossible for the vessels to penetrate. The navigation of these seas, among the ice islands, is much more dangerous than that of the northern Atlantic Ocean.
A heavy swell, produced by the prevailing westerly winds, rising sometimes into mountainous billows, keeps the ice in constant motion; and amidst the vast masses rolling and falling over, the risk is terrible. After having wasted more than a month in attempting a passage to the South Shetlands, through this dangerous barrier, in the midst of continual hardships and accidents, the vessels desisted, and returned to a warmer latitude. The author, however, gives a particular description of these islands, from observations made in his former voyages. One of the most remarkable animals that inhabit these shores, is the sea-elephant, which is thus described :
“ The male has a cartilaginous substance, extending forward from the nose, five or six inches, somewhat resembling the proboscis of the common elephant, and from this circumstance has obtained the name.
“ The largest of these animals which I have seen, were males, not less than twenty-four feet long, and fourteen in circumference; the fernales are generally about one third less. In form, they have much the appearance of the common seal, with which most people are acquainted, and, therefore, a particular description would be superfluous; but it may be necessary to mention those habits and peculiarities in which they differ.
“The males come on shore about the end of August and beginning of September; and in this month, and the first of October, they are followed by the females, which, being with young since the preceding season, choose the land at this time for the purpose of parturition and procreation. When the males first arrive, the fat of three or four of them will make a ton of oil ; but the average of both male and female is about seven to the ton As they live, while on shore, entirely without food, by the middle of December they have become very lean; and their young being at this age able to take the water, the whole of the breeding herd leave the shores.
“A second herd come up about the middle of January, for the purpose of renewing their coat of hair; in March, a herd of full-grown males come up, for the same purpose ; and, by the end of April, every kind of them has returned to the sea.”-pp. 134, 135.
“Their inactivity and extreme lethargy when on shore, is astonishingly contrasted by their sagacity and agility when in the sea. They have been
known to keep a boat from landing, by intercepting it in the water when the crew had no fire arms; and frequently, when one is pricked with a lance, it will attack the boat with great serocity.
“ It is curious to remark, that the sea-elephant, when lying on the shore, and threatened with death, will often make no effort to escape into the water, but lie still and shed tears, merely raising the head to look at the assailant; and, though very timid, will wait with composure the club or the lance which takes its life. In close contact, every human effort would be of little avail for the destruction of this animal, unwieldy as it is, were it to rush forward, and exert the power of its jaws; for this, indeed, is so enormous, that, in the agony of death, stones are ground to powder between its teeth.
“ If the skull be indented in the killing of a female with young, the indentation is found also upon the skull of the young.”—pp. 136, 137.
The fur-seals are still more numerous. The male of this species, according to our author, is a kind of “Grand Seignor," a creature six feet and nine inches in length, attended generally by a harem of about twenty females, whose length is not more than three feet and a half. Another extraordinary animal was seen among these islands, probably the same who exhibited himself some years since on the coast of Scotland, and is now living in a sort of retirement.
“A boat's crew were employed on Hall Island, and the man who saw this animal was left on one side of the island to take care of some produce, while the officers and the rest of the crew were engaged on the other side.
“The sailor had gone to bed, and about 10 o'clock he heard a noise resembling human cries, and as day-light, in these latitudes, never disappears at this season, he rose, and looked around, but on seeing no person, he returned to bed; presently he heard the noise again, and rose a second time, but still saw nothing. Conceiving, however, the possibility of a boat being upset, and that some of the crew might be clinging to some detached rocks, he walked along the beach a few
steps, and heard the noise more distinctly, but in a musical strain.
“ On searching around he saw an object lying on a rock, a dozen yards from the shore, at which he was somewhat frightened. The face and shoulders appeared of human form, and of a reddish colour; over the shoulders hung long green hair; the tail resembled that of the seal, but the extremities of the arms he could not see distinctly. The creature continued to make a musical noise while he gazed about two minutes, and on perceiving him it disappeared in an instant. Immediately when the man saw his officer, he told this wild tale, the truth of which was, of course, doubted; but to add weight to his testimony, (being a catholic,) he made a cross on the sand, which he kissed in form of making oath to the truth of his statement.”—pp. 142, 143.
The Jane and Beaufoy visited Cape Horn, to take in a supply of wood and water, and to repair the damages done to the former. The account given of the inhabitants of Teirra del Fuego, is a very interesting portion of the book. The author became acquainted with three several tribes, or settlements of
all of whom had nearly the same appearance and manners. They are of a low stature, seldom exceeding five feet five inches; they are scantily dressed in skins, and live on the shell-fish, found in abundance on the shores. They are very docile and tractable, and the author gives an amusing instance of their imitative disposition.
“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 be 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, assuining 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 bis being allowed to come on board again.”—pp. 154, 155.
Notwithstanding what has been said of the natural incapacity of the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, it appears probable from our author's account, that in mechanical ingenuity they are equal to most of the North American tribes ; at the same time that they are infinitely more gentle and tractable. No articles of foreign manufacture were found among them; and at those which they saw in the possession of their visiters, they expressed the utmost amazement. It is pretty certain, therefore, that they could have had no previous communication with white men.
The character which the author gives of them, is such as we might expect to exist under these circumstances; and is not, on the whole, unamiable, uncontaminated as it is with any of the vices which spring from an intercourse between the untaught savage, and the greedy adventurer from the civilized world. The men are attached to their wives; the females have an air of modesty ; the ties of natural affection are strong among them; and the gentleness of their character is shown in their fondness for their dogs and other animals whom they tame and keep about their huts. Captain Weddell could not make out any thing like a chief among them ; so that if they do not enjoy the benefits, neither do they feel the evils of authority. Nor did any authority seem to be necessary to preserve peace among them, for their behaviour to each other was uniformly kind and affectionate ; and as far as could be observed, they possessed every thing in common. The author recommends this tractable, but, as he considers them, miserable race, to the consideration of the philanthropist. Will not Mr. Owen turn