Narrative of the Surveying Voyages …

“Proceedings of the Second Expedition, 1831-1836”

Robert FitzRoy

  Information about text on this page
 Chapter Summary
I Explanation …
II Hydrographer's Opinion …
III Ready for Sea …
IV Loss of the Thetis
V Eastern Pampa Coast
VI Beagle Sails with Paz and Liebre
VII Southern Aborigines of South America
VIIIHorse Indians of Patagonia
IX Fuegians
X Set out to land Matthews
XI Historical Sketch of the Falkland Islands
XII First Appearance of the Falklands
XIII Anchor in Berkeley Sound
XIV Paz and Libre begin work
XV Beagle and Adventure Sail from Monte Video
XVI Soundings
XVII Beagle and Adventure sail from Port Famine
XVIIILeave Chilóe
XIX Mocha
XX Challenger Sails
XXI Andes … Galápagos
XXII Dangerous Archipelago
XXIII Continuation of the Meeting
XXIV New Zealand
XXV Waimate
XXVI North Cape of New Zealand
XXVII Remarks on early migrations
XXVIIIRemarks with reference to the Deluge
Show King et al Proceedings … (vol. 1)
Show Darwin's Journal … (vol. 3) or
Voyage of the Beagle
HMS Beagle track, England to Strait of Magellan


Explanation—Natives of Tierra del Fuego, or Fuegians—Passages Across the Equator (Atlantic)—Letters—Small-pox—Hospital—Boat Memory—Fuegians in London—At Walthamstow—At St. James's—Beagle re-commissioned—Correspondence with Mr. Wilson—Fuegians re-embark

As the following narrative of the Beagle's second voyage to South America is a sequel to the “Surveying Voyages of the Adventure and the Beagle,” which are related in the preceding volume, it may be advisable that this chapter should contain a sketch of some few incidents intimately connected with the origin and plan of the second Expedition.

Captain King has already mentioned that the two ships under his orders sailed from Rio de Janeiro, on their homeward passage, early in August {6th} 1830.

During the time which elapsed before we reached England, I had time to see much of my Fuegian companions; and daily became more interested about them as I attained a further acquaintance with their abilities and natural inclinations. Far, very far indeed, were three of the number from deserving to be called savages—even at this early period of their residence among civilized people—though the other, named York Minster, was certainly a displeasing specimen of uncivilized human nature.

The acts of cannibalism occasionally committed by their countrymen, were explained to me in such terms, and with such signs, that I could not possibly misunderstand them; and a still more revolting account was given, though in a less explicit manner, respecting the horrible fate of the eldest women of their own tribes, when there is an unusual scarcity of food.

This half-understood story I did not then notice much, for I could not believe it; but as, since that time, a familiarity with our language has enabled the Fuegians to tell other persons, as well as myself, of this strange and diabolical atrocity; and as Mr. Low§ (of whom mention will often be made in the following pages) was satisfied of the fact, from the concurrent testimony of other Fuegians who had, at different times, passed months on board his vessel, I no longer hesitate to state my firm belief in the most debasing trait of their character which will be found in these pages.

§ William Low, sealing master and part owner of the vessel Unicorn. FitzRoy mentions him more than sixty times in this and the chapters which follow. Low's account of cannibalism appears below.

At the sea-ports which the Beagle visited in her way from Tierra del Fuego to England, animals, ships, and boats seemed to engage the notice of our copper-coloured friends far more than human beings or houses. When any thing excited their attention particularly, they would appear, at the time, almost stupid and unobservant; but that they were not so in reality was shown by their eager chattering to one another at the very first subsequent opportunity, and by the sensible remarks made by them a long time afterwards, when we fancied they had altogether forgotten unimportant occurrences which took place during the first few months of their sojourn among us.

A large ox, with unusually long horns, excited their wonder remarkably; but in no instance was outward emotion noticed, to any great degree, excepting when they saw a steam-vessel going into Falmouth Harbour. What extraordinary monster it was, they could not imagine. Whether it was a huge fish, a land animal, or the devil (of whom they have a notion in their country), they could not decide; neither could they understand the attempted explanations of our sailors, who tried to make them comprehend its nature: but, indeed, I think that no one who remembers standing, for the first time, near a railway, and witnessing the rapid approach of a steam-engine, with its attached train of carriages, as it dashed along, smoking and snorting, will be surprised at the effect which a large steam-ship, passing at full speed near the Beagle, in a dark night, must have had on these ignorant, though rather intelligent barbarians.

Before relating occurrences subsequent to our arrival in England, I must ask permission to make the first of a few nautical remarks that will be found in this volume, some of which, I hope, may be useful to young sailors.

Our passage across the Atlantic, from Rio de Janeiro to Falmouth, was unusually long. In order to sail within sight of the Cape Verd Islands, for a particular purpose, we steered eastward from the coast of Brazil, and crossed the equator far east. This course, unavoidable in our case, carried us into that tract of ocean, between the trade-winds, which in August and September is subject to westerly winds—sometimes extremely strong—and we encountered a very heavy gale, although so near the equator. Afterwards, when close to our own shores, we were unfortunate enough to be delayed by what seamen call a hard-hearted easterly wind; and not until the middle of October were we moored in a British port.

As a remarkable contrast, a Falmouth packet, which sailed from Rio de Janeiro some time after our departure, steered northward, as soon as she had cleared the coast of Brazil, crossed the line far to the west, and arrived in England a fortnight before us.

My own humble opinion, with respect to crossing the equator, is, that an outward-bound ship ought to cross near twenty-five—and that one homeward-bound may go even beyond thirty degrees of west longitude—but should not attempt to pass eastward of twenty-five. Ships crossing the line between twenty-five and thirty degrees west, are, I believe, far less subject to detention—taking the year through—than those which adopt easterly courses.

Cape St. Roque, St. Paul Rocks, Fernando Noronha, and the Roccas, ought not to be thought of too lightly; but in avoiding them, and the lee current near St. Roque, many ships have encountered the tedious calms, extremely hot weather, frequent torrents of rain, and violent squalls, which are more or less prevalent between the longitudes of twenty and ten degrees west.

To return to the Fuegians. While on our passage home I addressed the following letter to my commanding officer and kind friend, Captain King.

Beagle, at sea, Sept. 12, 1830.


“I have the honour of reporting to you that there are now on board of his Majesty's sloop, under my command, four natives of Tierra del Fuego.

“Their names and estimated ages are,

York Minster26
Boat Memory20
James Button14
Fuegia Basket (a girl)  9

“I have maintained them entirely at my own expense, and hold myself responsible for their comfort while away from, and for their safe return to their own country: and I have now to request that, as senior officer of the Expedition, you will consider of the possibility of some public advantage being derived from this circumstance; and of the propriety of offering them, with that view, to his Majesty's Government.

“If you think it proper to make the offer, I will keep them in readiness to be removed according to your directions.

“I am now to account for my having these Fuegians on board, and to explain my future views with respect to them.

“In February last, the Beagle being moored in ‘Townshend Harbour’ on the south-west coast of Tierra del Fuego, I sent Mr. Matthew Murray (master), with six men, in a whale-boat, to Cape Desolation; the projecting part of a small but high and rugged island, detached from the main land, and twelve miles distant from Townshend Harbour.

“Mr. Murray reached the place, and secured his party and the boat in a cove near the cape: but during a very dark night, some Fuegians, whose vicinity was not at all suspected, approached with the dexterous cunning peculiar to savages and stole the boat.

“Thus deprived of the means of returning to the Beagle, and unable to make their situation known, Mr. Murray and his party formed a sort of canoe, or rather basket, with the branches of trees and part of their canvas tent, and in this machine three men made their way back to the Beagle, by his directions: yet, although favoured by the only fine day that occurred during the three weeks which the Beagle passed in Townshend Harbour, this basket was twenty hours on its passage.

“Assistance was immediately given to the master and the other men, and a chase for our lost boat was begun, which lasted many days, but was unsuccessful in its object, although much of the lost boat's gear was found, and the women and children of the families from whom it was recovered, were brought on board as hostages. The men, excepting one of them, escaped from us, or were absent in our missing boat.

“At the end of February the Beagle anchored in Christmas Sound; but before this time all our prisoners had escaped, except three little girls, two of whom we restored to their own tribe, near ‘Whale-boat Sound,’ and the other § is now on board.

§ Fuegia Basket

“From the first canoe seen in Christmas Sound, one man § was taken as a hostage for the recovery of our boat, and to become an interpreter and guide. He came to us with little reluctance, and appeared unconcerned.

§ York Minster

“A few days afterwards, traces of our boat were found at some wigwams on an island in Christmas Sound, and from the families inhabiting those wigwams I took another young man,§ for the same purpose as that above-mentioned. No useful information respecting our lost boat was, however, gained from them, before we were obliged to leave that coast, and she remained the prize of their companions.

§ Boat Memory

“Afterwards, when in Nassau Bay, our captives informed us that the natives of that part of the coast, and all to the eastward, were their enemies, and that they spoke a different language. This intelligence was extremely disappointing, and made me anxious to persuade one of this eastern tribe to come on board and stay with us; but I had then no hopes of doing so, and gave up the idea: however, some time afterwards, accidentally meeting three canoes, when away in my boat exploring the Beagle Channel, I prevailed on their occupants to put one of the party, a stout boy,§ into my boat, and in return I gave them beads, buttons, and other trifles. Whether they intended that he should remain with us permanently, I do not know; but they seemed contented with the singular bargain, and paddled again towards the cove from which they had approached my boat. We pulled on along shore, attended by other canoes, which had been endeavouring to barter with us whenever we stopped; but at dusk they ceased following us, and went ashore.

§ Jemmy Button

“When about to depart from the Fuegian coast, I decided to keep these four natives on board, for they appeared to be quite cheerful and contented with their situation; and I thought that many good effects might be the consequence of their living a short time in England. They have lived, and have been clothed like the seamen, and are now, and have been always, in excellent health and very happy. They understand why they were taken, and look forward with pleasure to seeing our country, as well as to returning to their own.

“Should not his Majesty's Government direct otherwise, I shall procure for these people a suitable education, and, after two or three years, shall send or take them back to their country, with as large a stock as I can collect of those articles most useful to them, and most likely to improve the condition of their countrymen, who are now scarcely superior to the brute creation.

  “Phillip Parker King, Esq.
Commander H.M.S. Adventure,
Senior officer of the Expedition.”
“I have, &c.
  Robert Fitz-Roy,

This letter was forwarded to the Admiralty by Captain King, as soon as he arrived in England; and a few days afterwards the following answer was received.

Admiralty Office, 19th Oct. 1830.


“Having laid before my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty your letter and its enclosure from Commander Fitz-Roy, of the Beagle, relative to the four Indians whom he has brought from Tierra del Fuego under the circumstances therein stated; I am commanded to acquaint you that their Lordships will not interfere with Commander Fitz-Roy's personal superintendence of, or benevolent intentions towards these four people, but they will afford him any facilities towards maintaining and educating them in England, and will give them a passage home again.

“To Commander King,
H.M.S.V. Adventure”
“I am, &c.
(Signed)     John Barrow.”

I was, of course, anxious to protect the Fuegians, as far as possible, from the contagion of any of those disorders, sometimes prevalent, and which unhappily have so often proved fatal to the aboriginal natives of distant countries when brought to Europe; and, immediately after our arrival in England, they landed with me, after dark, and were taken to comfortable, airy lodgings, where, next day, they were vaccinated, for the second time.

Two days afterwards they were carried a few miles into the country, to a quiet farm-house, where I hoped they would enjoy more freedom and fresh air, and, at the same time, incur less risk of contagion than in a populous sea-port town, where curiosity would be excited.

Meanwhile, the Beagle was stripped and cleared out; and the Adventure went to Woolwich for a similar purpose, preparatory to being paid off. On the 27th of October, the Beagle's pendant was hauled down; and on the 15th of November, the Adventure was put out of commission.

Both vessels' crews were dispersed, as usual, unfortunately; and of those who had passed so many rough hours together, but few were likely to meet again. I much regretted the separation from my tried and esteemed shipmates, and from our excellent little vessel.

Soon afterwards, Captain King and Lieutenant Skyring were promoted: a gratifying proof of the good opinion of their exertions and conduct, which was entertained by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.

Early in November I received the sad intelligence that the young man, called Boat Memory, was taken ill; and that the symptoms of his disorder were like those of the small-pox. Dr. Armstrong, of the Royal Hospital at Plymouth, whose advice I solicited, suggested that he and the other three Fuegians should be received immediately into the hospital, with the view of preventing further infection, and ensuring the best treatment for the poor sufferer. Dr. Armstrong applied to the physician, Dr. Dickson (now Sir David {James Hamilton} Dickson), as well as Sir James Gordon, the superintendent, and by their advice and permission the Fuegians were removed into the hospital without delay; and an application was made to the Admiralty, of which the following is a copy.

“Devonport, 7th Nov. 1830.


“I have the honour of addressing you to request that the four Fuegians, whom I brought to England in the Beagle, may be received into the Royal Naval Hospital.

“The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty have stated in a letter to Commander King, dated 19th Oct. 1830, that ‘their Lordships will not interfere with Commander Fitz-Roy's personal superintendance of, or benevolent intentions towards these four people, but they will afford him any assistance in maintaining and educating them in England, and will give them a passage home again.’

“In consequence of this assurance, I now beg that you will draw their Lordships' attention to the circumstance of an eruption having broken out upon one of the Fuegian men, since he was vaccinated, which is supposed, by the medical officers of the hospital, to be the small-pox.

“As the other three individuals have been always in company with him, it is to be feared that they also are affected; and as the vaccination has not yet taken a proper effect, it is the opinion of the medical officers that it would be safer to receive them into the hospital, until the present critical period is passed, than to allow them to remain in private care.

“I have further to request, that my late coxswain, James Bennett, may be permitted to accompany, and remain with the Fuegians, in order to attend upon them, in the event of their Lordships allowing them to be admitted into the hospital; and I hope, Sir, that the peculiar nature of the case may be thought to justify this application.

“The Secretary
of the Admiralty.
“I have, &c.
Robert Fitz-Roy, Commander.”

Admiralty-Office, 10th Nov. 1830.


“I am commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to acquaint you, in answer to your letter of this day's date, that directions have been given for the admission of the four Fuegians therein alluded to, into the Naval Hospital at Plymouth, and that James Bennett be allowed to attend them, agreeably with your request.

“Commander Fitz-Roy
“I am, Sir, &c.
“John Barrow."

The Admiralty having thus sanctioned the admission of the Fuegians into one of the best hospitals, and assured that they could not be under better treatment than that of the well-known gentlemen whom I have mentioned, I felt less anxiety in leaving them for a time, as I was obliged to do, in order to attend to duties connected with the survey; but I had hardly reached London, when a letter from Dr. Dickson informed me of the untimely fate of Boat Memory. He had been vaccinated four different times; but the three first operations had failed, and the last had just taken effect, when the disease showed itself. It was thought that the fatal contagion must have attacked him previously.

This poor fellow was a very great favourite with all who knew him, as well as with myself. He had a good disposition, very good abilities, and though born a savage, had a pleasing, intelligent appearance. He was quite an exception to the general character of the Fuegians, having good features and a well-proportioned frame. It may readily be supposed that this was a severe blow to me, for I was deeply sensible of the responsibility which had been incurred; and, however unintentionally, could not but feel how much I was implicated in shortening his existence. Neither of the others were attacked, the last vaccination having taken full effect; but they were allowed to remain in the hospital for some time longer, until I could make satisfactory arrangements for them. While they were under Dr. Dickson's care, in the hospital, his own children had the measles; and thinking that it would be a good opportunity to carry the little Fuegian girl through that illness, he prepared her for it, and then took her into his house, among his own children; where she had a very favourable attack, and recovered thoroughly.

Of course, I was anxious that no time should be lost in arranging a plan for their education and maintenance; and deeming the Church Missionary Society to be in some measure interested about the project I had in view, I applied to their secretary, through whose kindness I became acquainted with the Rev. Joseph Wigram; to whom I am under great obligations for the friendly interest taken at that time in my wishes with respect to the Fuegians, and for introducing them and myself to the notice of the Rev. William Wilson, of Walthamstow. Mr. Wilson at once relieved my mind from a load of uncertainty and anxiety, by saying that they should be received into his parish, and that he would talk to the master of the Infant School about taking them into his house, as boarders and pupils. In a short time, it was arranged that the school-master should receive, and take entire charge of them, while they remained in England, and should be paid by me for their board and lodging, for his own trouble, and for all contingent expenses.

Mr. Wilson proposed to keep a watchful eye over them himself, and give advice from time to time to their guardian and instructor. Mr. Wigram also lived at Walthamstow, and as he would have frequent opportunities of offering a useful caution, in case that the numerous calls upon Mr. Wilson's attention should at any time render additional thoughts for the Fuegians an unfair or unpleasant trouble to him—I did indeed think that no plan could be devised offering a better prospect; and immediately made arrangements for conveying them to London.

The inside of a stage-coach was taken, and under the guidance of Mr. Murray (the Beagle's late master), attended by James Bennett, they arrived in Piccadilly, and were immediately carried to Walthamstow, without attracting any notice. Mr. Murray told me that they seemed to enjoy their journey in the coach, and were very much struck by the repeated changing of horses.

I took them myself from the coach-office to Walthamstow; they were glad to see me, but seemed bewildered by the multitude of new objects. Passing Charing Cross, there was a start and exclamation of astonishment from York. ‘Look!’ he said, fixing his eyes on the lion upon Northumberland House, which he certainly thought alive, and walking there. I never saw him show such sudden emotion at any other time. They were much pleased with the rooms prepared for them at Walthamstow; and the schoolmaster and his wife were equally pleased to find the future inmates of their house very well disposed, quiet, and cleanly people; instead of fierce and dirty savages.

At Walthamstow they remained from December 1830 till October 1831; and during all that time were treated with the utmost kindness by the benevolent men whose names I have mentioned; by their families, and by many others in the neighbourhood, as well as casual visitors, who became much interested in their welfare, and from time to time gave them several valuable presents.

The attention of their instructor was directed to teaching them English, and the plainer truths of Christianity, as the first object; and the use of common tools, a slight acquaintance with husbandry, gardening, and mechanism, as the second. Considerable progress was made by the boy and girl; but the man was hard to teach, except mechanically. He took interest in smith's or carpenter's work, and paid attention to what he saw and heard about animals; but he reluctantly assisted in garden work, and had a great dislike to learning to read. By degrees, a good many words of their own languages were collected (the boy's differed from that of the man and the girl), and some interesting information was acquired, respecting their own native habits and ideas. They gave no particular trouble; were very healthy; and the two younger ones became great favourites wherever they were known. Sometimes I took them with me to see a friend or relation of my own, who was anxious to question them, and contribute something to the increasing stock of serviceable articles which I was collecting for their use, when they should return to Tierra del Fuego. My sister was a frequent benefactress; and they often talked, both then and afterwards, of going to see ‘Cappen Sisser.’

During the summer of 1831, his late Majesty expressed to Colonel Wood a wish to see the Fuegians, and they were taken to St. James's. His Majesty asked a great deal about their country, as well as themselves; and I hope I may be permitted to remark that, during an equal space of time, no person ever asked me so many sensible and thoroughly pertinent questions respecting the Fuegians and their country also relating to the survey in which I had myself been engaged, as did his Majesty. Her Majesty Queen Adelaide also honoured the Fuegians by her presence, and by acts of genuine kindness which they could appreciate, and never forgot. She left the room, in which they were, for a minute, and returned with one of her own bonnets, which she put upon the girl's head. Her Majesty then put one of her rings upon the girl's finger, and gave her a sum of money to buy an outfit of clothes when she should leave England to return to her own country.

I must now revert to matters more immediately connected with the Beagle's second voyage.

My own official duties, relating to the survey, were completed in March 1831; when my late commanding officer, Captain King, addressed a letter to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty expressive of his approbation of the part I had taken, under his direction, and recommending me to their Lordships.*

* Appendix. [1: “Letter from Captain King”]

From various conversations which I had with Captain King, during the earlier period of my service under him, I had been led to suppose that the survey of the southern coasts of South America would be continued; and to some ship, ordered upon such a service, I had looked for an opportunity of restoring the Fuegians to their native land.

Finding, however, to my great disappointment, that an entire change had taken place in the views of the Lords of the Admiralty, and that there was no intention to prosecute the survey, I naturally became anxious about the Fuegians; and, in June, having no hopes of a man-of-war being sent to Tierra del Fuego, and feeling too much bound to these natives to trust them in any other kind of vessel, unless with myself—because of the risk that would attend their being landed anywhere, excepting on the territories of their own tribes—I made an agreement* with the owner of a small merchant-vessel, the John of London, to carry me and five other persons to such places in South America as I wished to visit, and eventually to land me at Valparaiso.

* Appendix. [3: “Agreement with Mr. Mawman”]

My arrangements were all made, and James Bennett, who was to accompany me, had already purchased a number of goats, with which I purposed stocking some of the islands of Tierra del Fuego—when a kind uncle, to whom I mentioned my plan, went to the Admiralty, and soon afterwards told me that I should be appointed to the command of the Chanticleer, to go to Tierra del Fuego.

My agreement with the owner of the John was, however, in full force, and I could not alter it without paying a large proportion of the whole sum agreed on for the voyage.

The Chanticleer was not, upon examination, found quite fit for service; and, instead of her, I was again appointed to my well-tried little vessel, the Beagle. My commission was dated the 27th of June, and on the same day two of my most esteemed friends, Lieutenants Wickham and Sulivan, were also appointed.

While the Beagle was fitting out at Devonport, I received the following letter from Mr. Wilson.

Walthamstow, 5th Aug. 1831.


“I am informed that the Fuegians who have been lately resident in this place are shortly to return to their native country under your care. Will you permit me to ask whether, if two individuals should volunteer to accompany and remain with them, in order to attempt to teach them such useful arts as may be thought suited to their gradual civilization, you will give them a passage in the Beagle? and whether, upon your arrival on the coast of Tierra del Fuego, you will be able to give them some assistance in establishing a friendly intercourse with, and settlement amongst the natives of that country? Would these individuals be required to pay you for their passage, and maintenance on board? or would his Majesty's Government allow them to be maintained on board at the public expense? Do you think that you would be able to visit them, after their first settlement, supposing so desirable an object should be attained, in order to give them some encouragement, and perhaps assistance; or to remove them if they should find it impracticable to continue their residence among the natives?

“A subscription has been set on foot by gentlemen who are extremely desirous that this opportunity of extending the benefits of civilization should not be lost; and, in consequence of their united wishes, I now take the liberty of asking these questions.

“To Captain Fitz-Roy, R.N.”
“I am, &c.
(Signed) “William Wilson.“

After reading this communication, I wrote to the Secretary of the Admiralty, and enclosed a copy of Mr. Wilson's letter. The answer is subjoined.

Admiralty Office, 10th Aug. 1831.


“Having laid before my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty your letter of yesterday's date, with the letter which accompanied it, from the Rev. William Wilson, respecting the natives of Tierra del Fuego who were brought to England in his Majesty's ship Beagle; I am commanded to acquaint you that their Lordships will give the necessary orders for the passage of these individuals, and of the two persons who are to accompany them; and that your request to be allowed to visit these people, after their arrival, will be taken into consideration in preparing your instructions.

“To Commander Fitz-Roy,
“H.M.S. Beagle.”
“I am, &c.
(Signed) “John Barrow.“

In consequence of this reply, it was wished that two persons should accompany the Fuegians, and endeavour to pass some time in their country: but it was not easy to find individuals sufficiently qualified, and in whom confidence could be placed, who would willingly undertake such an enterprise. One young man was selected by Mr. Wilson, but a companion for him could not be found in time to embark on board the Beagle.

In October the party from Walthamstow arrived, in a steam-vessel, at Plymouth, and not a few boats were required to transport to our ship the large cargo of clothes, tools, crockery-ware, books, and various things which the families at Walthamstow and other kind-hearted persons had given. In the small hold of the Beagle, it was not easy to find places for the stowage of so many extra stores; and when dividing the contents of large chests, in order to pack them differently, some very fair jokes were enjoyed by the seamen, at the expense of those who had ordered complete sets of crockery-ware, without desiring that any selection of articles should be made.

Instructions were given, by the Secretary of the Church Missionary Society, to the young man who wished to accompany the Fuegians, which will be found in the Appendix;§ and although he was rather too young, and less experienced than might have been wished, his character and conduct had been such as to give very fair grounds for anticipating that he would, at least, sincerely endeavour to do his utmost in a situation so difficult and trying as that for which he volunteered.

§ Appendix, 5: “Instructions to Matthews”


Hydrographer's Opinion—Continuation of Survey—Chain of Meridian Distances—Efficient Arrangements—Repair and raise Deck—Outfit—Boats—Lightning Conductors—Rudder—Stove—Windless—Chronometers—Mr. Darwin—Persons on Board—Changes—List of those who returned—Supplies—Admiralty Instructions—Memorandum—Hydrographers's Memorandum

When it was decided that a small vessel should be sent to Tierra del Fuego, the Hydrographer of the Admiralty was referred to for his opinion, as to what addition she might make to the yet incomplete surveys of that country, and other places which she might visit.

Captain Beaufort embraced the opportunity of expressing his anxiety for the continuance of the South American Surveys, and mentioning such objects, attainable by the Beagle, as he thought most desirable: and it was soon after intimated to me that the voyage might occupy several years. Desirous of adding as much as possible to a work in which I had a strong interest, and entertaining the hope that a chain of meridian distances might be carried round the world if we returned to England across the Pacific, and by the Cape of Good Hope; I resolved to spare neither expense nor trouble in making our little Expedition as complete, with respect to material and preparation, as my means and exertions would allow, when supported by the considerate and satisfactory arrangements of the Admiralty: which were carried into effect (at that time) by the Navy Board, the Victualling Board, and the Dockyard officers at Devonport.

The Beagle was commissioned on the 4th of July 1831, and was immediately taken into dock to be thoroughly examined, and prepared for a long period of foreign service. As she required a new deck, and a good deal of repair about the upper works, I obtained permission to have the upper-deck raised considerably,* which afterwards proved to be of the greatest advantage to her as a sea boat, besides adding so materially to the comfort of all on board. While in dock, a sheathing of two-inch fir plank was nailed on the vessel's bottom, over which was a coating of felt, and then new copper. This sheathing added about fifteen tons to her displacement, and nearly seven to her actual measurement. Therefore, instead of 235 tons, she might be considered about 242 tons burthen. The rudder was fitted according to the plan of Captain Lihou: a patent windlass supplied the place of a capstan: one of Frazer's stoves, with an oven attached, was taken instead of a common ‘galley’ fire-place; and the lightning-conductors, invented by Mr. Harris, were fixed in all the masts, the bowsprit, and even in the flying jib-boom. The arrangements made in the fittings, both inside and outside, by the officers of the Dock-yard, left nothing to be desired. Our ropes, sails, and spars, were the best that could be procured; and to complete our excellent outfit, six superior boats †(two of them private property) were built expressly for us, and so contrived and stowed that they could all be carried in any weather.

* Eight inches abaft and twelve forward

† Besides a dinghy carried astern.

Considering the limited disposable space in so very small a ship, we contrived to carry more instruments and books than one would readily suppose could be stowed away in dry and secure places; and in a part of my own cabin twenty-two chronometers were carefully placed.

Anxious that no opportunity of collecting useful information, during the voyage, should be lost; I proposed to the Hydrographer that some well-educated and scientific person should be sought for who would willingly share such accommodations as I had to offer, in order to profit by the opportunity of visiting distant countries yet little known. Captain Beaufort approved of the suggestion, and wrote to Professor Peacock, of Cambridge, who consulted with a friend, Professor Henslow, and he named Mr. Charles Darwin, grandson of Dr. {Erasmus} Darwin the poet, as a young man of promising ability, extremely fond of geology, and indeed all branches of natural history. In consequence an offer was made to Mr. Darwin to be my guest on board, which he accepted conditionally; permission was obtained for his embarkation, and an order given by the Admiralty that he should be borne on the ship's books for provisions. The conditions asked by Mr. Darwin were, that he should be at liberty to leave the Beagle and retire from the Expedition when he thought proper, and that he should pay a fair share of the expenses of my table.

Knowing well that no one actively engaged in the surveying duties on which we were going to be employed, would have time—even if he had ability—to make much use of the pencil, I engaged an artist, Mr. Augustus Earle, to go out in a private capacity; though not without the sanction of the Admiralty, who authorized him also to be victualled. And in order to secure the constant, yet to a certain degree mechanical attendance required by a large number of chronometers, and to be enabled to repair our instruments and keep them in order, I engaged the services of Mr. George James Stebbing, eldest son of the mathematical instrument-maker at Portsmouth, as a private assistant.

The established complement of officers and men (including marines and boys) was sixty-five: but, with the supernumeraries I have mentioned, we had on board, when the Beagle sailed from England, seventy-four persons,§ namely:—

Robert Fitz-RoyCommander and Surveyor.
John Clements WickhamLieutenant.
Bartholomew James SulivanLieutenant.
Edward Main ChaffersMaster.
Robert Mac-CormickSurgeon.
George RowlettPurser.
Alexander DerbishireMate
Peter Benson StewartMate
John Lort StokesMate and Assistant Surveyor.
Benjamin BynoeAssistant Surgeon.
Arthur MellershMidshipman.
Philip Gidley KingMidshipman.
Alexander Burns UsborneMaster's Assistant.
Charles MustersVolunteer 1st Class.
Jonathan MayCarpenter.
Edward H. HellyerClerk.
Acting boatswain: sergeant of marines and seven privates: thirty-four seamen and six boys.
On the List of supernumeraries were—
Charles DarwinNaturalist.
Augustus EarleDraughtsman.
George James StebbingInstrument Maker.
Richard Matthews and three Fuegians: my own steward [Harry Fuller]: and Mr. Darwin's servant.†

§ See HMS Beagle Ship's Company & Passenger List for more details.

† FitzRoy is mistaken: In Darwin's May 22, 1833 letter to his sister Catherine (written more than one year after departure), he noted [para. 5] that Syms Covington “ … was willing to be my servant.” Earlier, Covington was “fiddler & boy to Poop-cabin” as noted by Darwin in his July 24, 1832 Diary entry.

Some changes occurred in the course of the five years' voyage, which it may be well to mention in this place.

In April 1832, Mr. Mac-Cormick and Mr. Derbishire returned to England. Mr. Bynoe was appointed to act as Surgeon. Mr. Mellersh received a Mate's warrant; and Mr. Johnson joined the Beagle as Midshipman. In May Mr. Musters fell a victim to fever, caught in the harbour of Rio de Janeiro:—Mr. Forsyth took his place.

Mr. Earle suffered so much from continual ill health, that he could not remain on board the Beagle after August 1832; but he lived at Monte Video several months previously to his return to England. The disappointment caused by losing his services was diminished by meeting Mr. {Conrad} Martens at Monte Video, and engaging him to embark with me as my draughtsman.

In March 1833, Mr. Hellyer was drowned at the Falkland Islands, in attempting to get a bird he had shot. In September 1833, Mr. Kent joined as Assistant Surgeon. In June 1834, Mr. Rowlett died, at sea, of a complaint under which he had laboured for years: and the vacancy caused by his lamented decease was filled by Mr. Dring.

Mr. Martens left me, at Valparasio, in 1834; and Mr. King remained with his father, at Sydney, in Australia, in February 1836. After these changes, and at our return to England in October 1836, the list stood thus—

Robert Fitz-RoyCaptain and Surveyor.
John Clements WickhamLieutenant.
Bartholomew James SulivanLieutenant.
Edward Main ChaffersMaster.
Benjamin BynoeSurgeon (Acting).
John Edward DringPurser (Acting).
Peter Benson StewartMate.
John Lort StokesMate and Assistant Surveyor.
Arthur MellershMate.
Charles Richardson JohnsonMate.
William KentAssistant Surgeon.
Charles ForsythMidshipman.
Alexander Burns UsborneMaster's Assistant.
Thomas SorrellBoatswain (Acting).
Jonathan MayCarpenter.
And on the List of supernumeraries were Mr. Darwin: George J. Stebbing: my steward: and Mr. Darwin's servant.

Our complement of seamen, marines, and boys was complete at our return, and generally during the voyage; because, although many changes happened, we had always a choice of volunteers to fill vacant places.

Many of the crew had sailed with me in the previous voyage of the Beagle; and there were a few officers, as well as some marines and seamen, who had served in the Beagle, or Adventure, during the whole of the former voyage. These determined admirers of Tierra del Fuego were, Lieutenant Wickham, Mr. Bynoe, Mr. Stokes, Mr. Mellersh, and Mr. King; the boatswain, carpenter, and sergeant; four private marines, my coxswain, and some seamen.

I must not omit to mention that among our provisions were various antiscorbutics—such as pickles, dried apples, and lemon juice—of the best quality, and in as great abundance as we could stow away; we had also on board a very large quantity of Kilner and Moorsom's preserved meat, vegetables, and soup: and from the Medical Department we received an ample supply of antiseptics, and articles useful for preserving specimens of natural history.

Not only the heads of departments exerted themselves for the sake of our health and safety, but the officers subordinate to them appeared to take a personal interest in the Beagle; for which I and those with me felt, and must always feel, most grateful.

Perhaps no vessel ever quitted her own country with a better or more ample supply (in proportion to her probable necessities) of every kind of useful provision and stores than the little ship of whose wanderings I am now about to give a brief and very imperfect narrative; and, therefore, if she succeeded in effecting any of the objects of her mission, with comparative ease and expedition, let the complete manner in which she was prepared for her voyage, by the Dock-yard at Devonport, be fully remembered.

On the 15th of November I received my instructions from the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.


By the Commissioners for executing; the office of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, &c.

“You are hereby required and directed to put to sea, in the vessel you command, so soon as she shall be in every respect ready, and to proceed in her, with all convenient expedition, successively to Madeira or Teneriffe; the Cape de Verde Islands; Fernando Noronha; and the South American station; to perform the operations, and execute the surveys, pointed out in the accompanying memorandum, which has been drawn up under our direction by the Hydrographer of tliis office; observing and following, in the prosecution of the said surveys, and in your other operations, the directions and suggestions contained in the said memorandum.

“You are to consider yourself under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Baker, Commander-in-chief of his Majesty's ships on the South American station, whilst you are within the hmits of that station, in execution of the services above-mentioned; and in addition to the directions conveyed to you in the memorandum, on the subject of your supplies of provisions, we have signified to the Rear-Admiral our desire that, whenever the occasion offers, you should receive from him and the officers of his squadron, any assistance, in stores and provisions, of which you may stand in need.

“But during the whole time of your continuing on the above duties, you are (notwithstanding the 16th article of the 4th section of the 6th chapter, page 78, of the General Printed Instructions) to send reports, by every opportunity, to our Secretary, of your proceedings, and of the progress you make.

“Having completed the surveys which you are directed to execute on the South American station, you are to proceed to perform the several further operations set forth in the Hydrographer's memorandum, in the course therein pointed out; and having so done, you are to return, in the vessel you command, to Spithead, and report your arrival to our Secretary, for our information and further directions.

“In the event of any unfortunate accident happening to yourself, the officer on whom the command of the Beagle may in consequence devolve, is hereby required and directed to complete, as far as in him lies, that part of the survey on which the vessel may be then engaged, but not to proceed to a new step in the voyage; as, for instance, if at that time carrying on the coast survey on the western side of South America, he is not to cross the Pacific, but to return to England by Rio de Janeiro and the Atlantic.

“Given under our hands, the 11th of November 1831.
(Signed) “ T. M. Hardy,
“G. Barrington.”

“To Robert Fitz-Roy, Esq.,
Commander of his Majesty's surveying vessel
‘Beagle,’ at Plymouth.”
“By command of their Lordships,
(Signed) “Geo. Elliot.”

“Sir; Admiralty Office, 11th November 1831,

“With reference to the order which my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty have this day addressed to you, I am commanded by their lordships to transmit to you a memorandum, to be shown by you to any senior officer who may fall in with you, while you are employed on the duties pointed out in the above order.

“I am, Sir, &c. (Signed) “Geo. Elliot." “To Commander Fitz-Roy, ' Beagle' surveying vessel, Plymouth.'"

“Admiralty Office, 11th November 1831.


“My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty having ordered Commander Fitz-Roy, of his Majesty's surveying vessel the ‘Beagle,” to make surveys of various parts of the South American station, it is their lordships' direction that no senior officer who may fall in with Commander Fitz-Roy, while he is employed in the above important duties, do divert him therefrom, or in any way interfere with him, or take from him, on any account, any of his instruments or chronometers.

(Signed) “Geo. Elliot.”


“A considerable difference still exists in the longitude of Rio de Janeiro, as determined by Captains King, Beechey, and Foster, on the one hand, and Captain W. F. Owen, Baron Roussin, and the Portuguese astronomers, on the other; and as all our meridian distances in South America are measured from thence, it becomes a matter of importance to decide between these conflicting authorities. Few vessels will have ever left this country with a better set of chronometers, both public and private, than the Beagle; and if her voyage be made in short stages, in order to detect the changes which take place in all chronometers during a continuous increase of temperature, it will probably enable us to reduce that difference within limits too small to be of much import in our future conclusions.

“With this view, the run to Rio de Janeiro may be conveniently divided into four parts:—

“1st. Touching at Madeira, the exact position of which has been admitted by all parties. Having obtained a four days' rate there, or, if the weather and the exposed anchorage will not permit, at Teneriffe, the Beagle should, 2dly, proceed with the least possible delay to Port Praya, in the Cape de Verde Islands, not only to establish a fresh four days' rate; but that point being the pivot on which all Captain Owen's longitudes turn, no pains should be spared in verifying the position he has assumed for it. From thence, 3dly, she should make the best of her way across the Line to Fernando Noronha. This island, indeed, lies somewhat to the westward of her track, and may retard her progress a little; yet a series of chronometric observations there is essential to the object in view, because it forms the third nearly equal division of the whole run, and because it was the point of junction of Commander Foster's double line of longitudes. If two or three days' delay at either of these two last stations will enable him to obtain satisfactory occultations, and moon culminating observations, which are likely to be seen in this country, the increased certainty of the results will well atone for that loss of time. The Commander will, of course, be careful to adopt, in all those stations, the precise spot of the former observations, with which his are to be compared. The Governor of Fernando Noronha was peculiarly obliging to Commander Foster, and gave up part of his own house for the pendulum experiments. There will be no occasion now for trespassing so heavily on his kindness; but the difference of longitude between that station and Commander Fitz-Roy's must be well measured.

“However desirable it may be that the Beagle should reach Rio de Janeiro as soon as possible, yet the great importance of knowing the true position of the Abrolhos Banks, and the certainty that they extend much further out than the limits assigned to them by Baron Roussin, will warrant the sacrifice of a few days, if other circumstances should enable her to beat down about the meridian of 36° W. from the latitude of 16° S. The deep sea-line should be kept in motion; and if soundings be obtained, the bank should be pursued both ways, out to the edge, and in to that part already known.

“Its actual extent to the eastward, and its connection with the shoals being thus ascertained, its further investigation may be left to more convenient opportunities.

“At Rio de Janeiro, the time necessary for watering, &c. will, no doubt, be employed by the commander in every species of observation that can assist in deciding the longitude of Villegagnon Island.

“It is understood that a French Expedition is now engaged in the examination of the coast between St. Catherine's and the Rio de la Plata; it would therefore be a waste of means to interfere with that interval; and Commander Fitz-Roy should be directed to proceed to Monte Video, and to rate his chronometers in the same situation occupied by Captain King.

“To the southward of the Rio de la Plata, the real work of the survey will begin. Of that great extent of coast which reaches from Cape St. Antonio to St. George's bay, we only know that it is inaccurately placed, and that it contains some large rivers, which rise at the other side of the continent, and some good harbours, which are undoubtedly worth a minute examination. Much of it, however, from the casual accounts of the Spaniards, seems to offer but little interest either to navigation or commerce, and will scarcely require more than to have its direction laid down correctly, and its prominent points fixed. It should nevertheless be borne in mind there, and in other places, that the more hopeless and forbidding any long line of coast may be, the more precious becomes the discovery of a port which affords safe anchorage and wholesome refreshments.

“The portions of the coast which seem to require particular examination are—

“1st. From Monte Hermoso to the Rio Colorado, including the large inlet of Bahia Blanco, of which there are three manuscripts in this office that differ in every thing but in name.

“2dly. The gulf of Todos los Santos, which is studded in the Spanish charts with innumerable islands and shoals. It is said to have an excellent harbour on its southern side, which should be verified; but a minute survey of such an Archipelago would be a useless consumption of time, and it will therefore be found sufficient to give the outer line of the dangers, and to connect that line with the regular soundings in the offing.

“3dly. The Rio Negro is stated to be a river of large capacity, with settlements fifty miles from its mouth, and ought to be partially reconnoitred as far as it is navigable.

“4thly. The gulf of San Matias should be examined, especially its two harbours, San Antonio and San Jose, and a narrow inlet on the eastern side of the peninsula, which, if easy of access, appears to be admirably situated: and—

“5thly. From the Bahia Nueva to Cape Blanco, including the Gulf of St. George, the coast is of various degrees of interest, and will accordingly require to have more or less time bestowed on its different parts. The position of Cape Blanco should be determined, as there appears to be an error of some miles in its latitude, as well as much doubt about the places of two shoals which are marked near it in the Spanish charts.

“From Cape Blanco to the Strait of Magalhaens, the coast has been partially corrected by Captain King; and Port Desire, having been carefully placed by him, will afford a good place for rating the chronometers, and an opportunity for exploring the river.

“Port San Julian, with its bar and wide river, should be surveyed, as well as any parts of that interval which were not visited in the last expedition.

“The above are the principal points of research between the Rio de la Plata and the Strait. They have been consecutively mentioned in order to bring them into one point of view; but that part of this service would perhaps be advantageously postponed till after the Beagle's first return from the southward; and, generally speaking, it would be unwise to lay down here a specific route from which no deviation would be permitted. Where so many unforeseen circumstances may disturb the best-concerted arrangements, and where so much depends on climates and seasons with which we are not yet intimately acquainted, the most that can be safely done is to state the various objects of the voyage, and to rely on the Commander's known zeal and prudence to effect them in the most convenient order.

“Applying this principle to what is yet to be done in the Strait, and in the intricate group of islands which forms the Tierra del Fuego, the following list will show our chief desiderata.

“Captain King, in his directions, alludes to a reef of half a mile in length, off Cape Virgins, and in his chart he makes a seven fathoms' channel outside that reef; and still further out, five fathoms with overfalls. Sarmiento places fifty fathoms at ten miles E.S.E. from that Cape; thirteen fathoms at nineteen miles; and, at twenty-one miles in the same direction, only four fathoms,§ besides a very extensive bank projecting from Tierra del Fuego, between which and the above shoals Malaspina passed in thirteen fathoms. In short, there is conclusive evidence of there being more banks than one that obstruct the entrance to the Strait, and undoubtedly their thorough examination ought to be one of the most important objects of the Expedition; inasmuch, as a safe approach to either straits or harbours is of more consequence to determine than the details inside.

§ Also described in Burney's “Voyage of Sarmiento” vol. 2, chap. 1, p. 41: “… here we sounded in 13 fathoms, the Cape bearing WNW 8 leagues; and sailing half a league to the ESE, we sounded in 4 fathoms.”

“None of the above authors describe the nature of these shoals, whether rock or sand; it will be interesting to note with accuracy the slope, or regularity, of the depths, in their different faces, the quality of their various materials, and the disposition of the coarse or fine parts, as well as of what species of rock in the neighbourhood they seem to be the detritus; for it is probable that the place of their deposition is connected with the very singular tides which seem to circulate in the eastern end of the Strait.

“Beginning at Cape Orange, the whole north-eastern coast of Tierra del Fuego as far as Cape San Diego should be surveyed, including the outer edge of the extensive shoals that project from its northern extreme, and setting at rest the question of the Sebastian Channel.§

§ Despite FitzRoy's statement in volume 1, Chapter XXIII, that he was “… satisfied that the St. Sebastian channel did not exist within many miles of the position laid down in the chart,” he would search for it again, and reach the same conclusion, as he reports here in Chapter XV.
In volume 1, King also discussed the channel in his Chapter VIII, coming to the same conclusion: that San Sebastian Channel did not exist.
Although Darwin notes the previous existence of a channel in this area in Geological Observations …, Chapter 1 (last sentence), neither King nor FitzRoy mention this in their own accounts, perhaps because Darwin's observation did not appear until many years later.
See Woram: “In Search of San Sebastián” for more details on this channel.

“On the southern side of this great collection of islands, the Beagle Channel and Whale-boat Sound should be finished, and any other places which the Commander's local knowledge may point out as being requisite to complete his former survey, and sufficiently interesting in themselves to warrant the time they will cost; such as some apparently useful ports to the westward of Cape False, and the north side of Wakefield Channel, all of which are said to be frequented by the sealers.

“In the north-western part it is possible that other breaks may be found interrupting the continuity of Sta Ines Island, and communicating from the Southern Ocean with the Strait; these should be fully or cursorily examined, according to their appearance and promise; and though it would be a very useless waste of time to pursue in detail the infinite number of bays, openings, and roads, that teem on the western side of that island, yet no good harbour should be omitted. It cannot be repeated too often that the more inhospitable the region, the more valuable is a known port of refuge.

“In the western division of the Strait, from Cape Pillar to Cape Froward, there are a few openings which may perhaps be further explored, on the chance of their leading out to sea; a few positions which may require to be reviewed; and a few ports which were only slightly looked into during Captain King's laborious and excellent survey, and which may now be completed, if likely to augment the resources of ships occupied in those dreary regions.

“In the eastern division of the Strait there is rather more work to be done, as the Fuegian shore from Admiralty Sound to Cape Orange has not been touched. Along with this part of the service, the Islands of Saints Martha and Magdalena, and the channel to the eastward of Elizabeth Island, will come in for examination; and there is no part of the Strait which requires to be more accurately laid down and distinctly described, from the narrowness of the channels and the transverse direction of the tides. Sweepstakes Foreland may prove to be an Island; if so, there may be found an useful outlet to the long lee-shore that extends from Cape Monmouth; and if not, perhaps some safe ports might be discovered in that interval for vessels caught there in strong westerly gales.

“It is not likely that, for the purposes of either war or commerce, a much more detailed account will be necessary of those two singular inland seas, Otway and Skyring Waters, unless they should be found to communicate with one of the sounds on the western coast, or with the western part of the Strait. The general opinion in the former Expedition was certainly against such a communication, and the phenomena of the tides is also against it; still the thing is possible, and it becomes an interesting geographical question, which a detached boat in fine weather will readily solve.§

§ Senos Otway and Skyring are connected via FitzRoy Channel, and the former is in fact connected to the Strait of Magellan via the narrow Canal Jerónimo (53.383333° S, 72.483333° W). It is unclear why FitzRoy questions the existence of a connection “with the western part of the Strait” since in 1831, HMS Adventure Captain Phillip Park King wrote:

   In the winter of 1829, … Captain Robert Fitzroy, in examining the Jerome Channel, which communicates with the Strait …, discovered ‘Otway Water,’ a large inland sea fifty miles long, … (emphasis added).

   In fact, FitzRoy's own Table of Positions lists the Jerome Channel, thus indicating he was aware of the connection between Otway Water and the Strait.

“These several operations may probably be completed in the summer of 1833-34, including two trips to Monte Video for refreshments; but before we finally quit the eastern coast of South America, it is necessary to advert to our present ignorance of the Falkland Islands, however often they have been visited. The time that would be occupied by a rigorous survey of this group of islands would be very disproportionate to its value; but as they are the frequent resort of whalers, and as it is of immense consequence to a vessel that has lost her masts, anchors, or a large part of her crew, to have a precise knowledge of the port to which she is obliged to fly, it, would well deserve some sacrifice of time to have the most advantageous harbours and their approaches well laid down, and connected by a general sketch or running survey. Clear directions for recognizing and entering these ports should accompany these plans; and as most contradictory statements have been made of the refreshments to be obtained at the east and west great islands, an authentic report on that subject by the Commander will be of real utility.

“There is reason to believe that deep soundings may be traced from these islands to the main, and if regular they would be of great service in rectifying a ship's place.

“Having now stated all that is most urgent to be done on this side of the South American Continent as well as in the circuit of Tierra del Fuego, the next step of the voyage will be Concepcion, or Valparaiso, to one of which places the Beagle will have to proceed for provisions, and where Captain King satisfactorily determined the meridian distances.

“The interval of coast between Valparaiso and the western entrance of the Strait has been partly surveyed, as well as most of the deep and narrow channels formed by the islands of Hanover, Wellington, and Madre de Dios; but of the sea face of that great chain of islands which stretches from Queen Adelaide Archipelago to Campana Island, little has yet been done. It presents a most uninviting appearance, can probably afford but little benefit to the navigator, and the chief object in urging its partial examination, is to remove a blank from this great survey, which was undertaken by Great Britain from such disinterested motives, and which was executed by Captains King and Fitz-Roy with so much skill and zeal.

“The experience gained by the latter in that climate will enable him to accomplish all that is now required in much less time than it would have occupied in the beginning of the former expedition.

“At the Gulf of Peñas [sic, Penas] § the last survey terminated. Of the peninsula de Tres Montes, and of the islands between that and Chilóe, a Spanish manuscript has been procured from Don Felipe Bauzá, which may greatly abridge the examination of that interval.

§ See Some Place Names … for details.

“From thence to Valdivia, Concepcion, and Valparaiso, the shore is straight, and nearly in the direction of the meridian, so that it will require no great expenditure of time to correct the outline, and to fix the positions of all the salient points. Mocha Island is supposed to be erroneously placed: and the depth, breadth, and safety of its channel are not known.

“To the south of Valparaiso the port of Topocalmo and the large shoal in the offing on which an American ship was wrecked, require special examination; and according to Captain Burgess, of the Alert, the coast and islands near Coquimbo are very imperfectly laid clown. Indeed of the whole of this coast, the only general knowledge we have is from the Spanish charts, which seem, with the exception of certain ports, to have been merely the result of a running view of the shore. Of this kind of half-knowledge we have had too much: the present state of science, which affords such ample means, seems to demand that whatever is now done should be finally done; and that coasts, which are constantly visited by English vessels, should no longer have the motley appearance of alternate error and accuracy. If, therefore, the local Governments make no objections, the survey should be continued to Coquimbo, and indefinitely to the northward, till that period arrives when the Commander must determine on quitting the shores of South America altogether. That period will depend on the time that has been already consumed, and on the previous management of his resources, reserving sufficient [time] to ensure his obtaining a series of well-selected meridian distances in traversing the Pacific Ocean.

“The track he should pursue in executing this important duty cannot well be prescribed here, without foreseeing to what part of the coast he may have pushed the survey, and at what place he may find it convenient to take in his last supplies. If he should reach Guayaquil, or even Callao, it would be desirable he should run for the Galapagos, and, if the season permits, survey that knot of islands. Felix Island, the London bank seen by the brig Cannon, in 1827, in 27° 6' S. 92° 16' W., even with the water''s edge, and half a mile in length; some coral islands, supposed to be 5° or 6° south of Pitcairn Island, and other spots, which have crept into the charts on doubtful authority, would all be useful objects of research if the Beagle's route should fall in their vicinity. But whatever route may be adopted, it should conduct her to Tahiti, in order to verify the chronometers at Point Venus, a point which may be considered as indisputably fixed by Captain Cook's and by many concurrent observations. Except in this case, she ought to avoid as much as possible the ground examined by Captain Beechey.

“From Tahiti the Beagle should proceed to Port Jackson touching at some of the intervening islands, in order to divide the run into judicious chronometer stages; for the observatory at Paramatta (Port Jackson) being absolutely determined in longitude, all those intervening islands will become standard points to which future casual voyagers will be able to refer their discoveries or correct their chronometers.

“From Port Jackson her course will depend on the time of the year. If it be made by the southward, she might touch at Hobart Town, King George Sound, and Swan River, to determine the difference of longitude from thence to the Mauritius, avoiding the hurricane months; to Table or Simon's Bay, according to the season; to St. Helena, Ascension, and home.

“If she should have to quit Port Jackson about the middle of the year, her passage must be made through Torres Strait. In her way thither, if the in-shore route be adopted, there are several places whose positions it will be advantageous to determine:—Moreton Bay, Port Bowen, Cape Flinders, and one of the Prince of Wales Islands; and in pursuing her way towards the Indian Ocean, unless the wind should hang to the southward, Cape Valsche or the south-west extreme of New Guinea, one of the Serwatty Chain, Coupang, or the extreme of Timor, Rotte Island, and one of the extremes of Sandalwood Island, may be easily determined without much loss of time. And, perhaps, in crossing the ocean, if circumstances are favourable, she might look at the Keeling Islands, and settle their position.

“Having now enumerated the principal places at which the Beagle should be directed to touch in her circuit of the globe, and described the leading operations which it would be desirable to effect, it remains to make some general remarks on the conduct of the whole survey.

“In such multiplied employments as must fall to the share of each officer, there will be no time to waste on elaborate drawings. Plain, distinct roughs, every where accompanied by explanatory notes, and on a sufficiently large scale to show the minutise of whatever knowledge has been acquired, will be documents of far greater value in this office, to be reduced or referred to, than highly finished plans, where accuracy is often sacrificed to beauty.

“This applies particularly to the hills, which in general cost so much labour, and are so often put in from fancy or from memory after the lapse of months, if not of years, instead of being projected while fresh in the mind, or while any inconsistencies or errors may be rectified on the spot. A few strokes of a pen will denote the extent and direction of the several slopes much more distinctly than the brush, and if not worked up to make a picture, will really cost as little or less time. The in-shore sides of the hills, which cannot be seen from any of the stations, must always be mere guess-work, and should not be shown at all.

“It should be considered an essential branch of a nautical survey, to give the perpendicular height of all remarkable hills and headlands. It requires but a single angle at each station, adds much to our geographical knowledge, materially assists the draftsman, and by tables which are now printing it will afford to the seaman a ready and exact means of knowing his distance.

“All charts and plans should be accompanied by views of the land; those which are to be attached to the former should be taken at such a distance as will enable a stranger to recognize the land, or to steer for a certain point; and those best suited for the plan of a port should show the marks for avoiding dangers, for taking a leading course, or choosing an advantageous berth. In all cases the angular distances and the angular altitudes of the principal objects should be inserted in degrees and minutes on each of the views, by which means they can be projected by scale, so as to correct any want of precision in the eye of the draftsman. Such views cannot be too numerous; they cost but a few moments, and are extremely satisfactory to all navigators.

“Trifling as it may appear, the love of giving a multiplicity of new and unmeaning names tends to confuse our geographical knowledge. The name stamped upon a place by the first discoverer should be held sacred by the common consent of all nations; and in new discoveries it would be far more beneficial to make the name convey some idea of the nature of the place; or if it be inhabited, to adopt the native appellation, than to exhaust the catalogue of public characters or private friends at home. The officers and crews, indeed, have some claim on such distinction, which, slight as it is, helps to excite an interest in the voyage.

“Constant observations on the tides, including their set, force, and duration, the distance to which they carry salt water up the rivers, their rise at the different periods of the lunation, and the extent to which they are influenced by the periodic winds, by the sea currents, or by the river freshes, form so prominent a part of every surveyor's duty, that no specific directions on this subject can be necessary. Nor is there any occasion to insist here on the equally important subject of currents; for it is only by a great accumulation of data that we can ever hope to reduce them to regular systems, or that we can detect the mode in which they are affected by change of seasons, or influenced by distant winds.

“The periods and limits of the monsoons and trade-winds will naturally be a continual object of the Commander's observation and study. It is true that he can only witness what occurs during his voyage; but besides collecting facts on this and the last subject, on which others can hereafter reason, it will be of immense advantage that he should endeavour to digest them with the remarks of former voyagers when on the spot.

“On the western coast of South America, for instance, some skill is required in making passages at different periods, and much scattered experience has been gained by seamen who have been long occupied there; but this information has not yet been presented to the public in an intelligible form; and it seems to be the peculiar province of an officer expressly employed on a scientific mission like this, to combine that information with his own, and to render it accessible to every navigator.

“The local attraction of the Beagle will of course have been ascertained before she leaves England; but when favourable opportunities occur, it will be satisfactory to swing her again in different latitudes, and under large differences of variation.

“No day should pass at sea without a series of azimuths, and no port should be quitted without having ascertained not only the magnetic angle, but the dip, intensity, and diurnal variation. If these observations should have been well made in the same places before, we shall at once obtain the annual change; and by multiplying them in new places, we shall have the means of inferring the magnetic curves.

“The Commander has been so accustomed to the management of chronometers, that there is no doubt, with proper precautions and with proper formulaj for determining their rates, that he will succeed in obtaining good results in reasonably short intervals of time and in gradual changes of temperature; but after long periods, and sudden changes of heat and cold, it will be absolutely necessary to check them by astronomical means.

“Eclipses, occultations, lunar distances, and moon-culminating stars, will furnish those means in abundance: of all these, the last can be obtained with the greatest regularity and certainty; they have become part of the current business at the establishments of the Cape of Good Hope, Paramatta, and St. Helena, in the southern hemisphere; probably at Madras, and in many of the European observatories, and it will therefore be scarcely possible that there should not be corresponding observations for all such as he may have made.

“The eclipses of Jupiter's third and fourth satellites should also be sedulously observed whenever both immersion and emersion can be seen, as the different powers of the telescopes employed by the observers do not in that case affect the results.

“There are also some remarkable phenomena, which will be announced in the Nautical Almanacks, and which will occur during the Beagle's voyage. Some of these will be highly interesting to astronomers, and if it would not much derange her operations, she should be taken to some convenient anchorage for the purpose of landing the instruments.

“If a comet should be discovered while the Beagle is in port, its position should be determined every night by observing its transit over the meridian, always accompanied by the transits of the nearest known stars, and by circum-meridional altitudes, or by measuring its angular distance from three well-situated stars by a sextant. This latter process can be effected even at sea, and the mean of several observations may give very near approximations to its real position.

“Meteorological Registers may be of use in a variety of ways; but then they must be steadily and accurately kept. The barometer should be read off to the third place of decimals, and recorded at regular periods of the day; nine o'clock and four o'clock may be recommended as the best, as being the usual hours of its maximum and minimum. The temperature should be marked at the same time, and the extremes of the self-registering thermometer should be daily recorded; care being taken that no reflected heat should act on any of these instruments. The temperature of the sea at the surface ought to be frequently observed and compared with that of the air. An officer cruizing on the east coast of South America, between the parallels of 20° and 35°, was enabled by these means to predict with singular precision the direction and strength of the current.

“In this register the state of the wind and weather will, of course, be inserted; but some intelligible scale should be assumed, to indicate the force of the former, instead of the ambiguous terms ‘fresh,’ ‘moderate,’ &c., in using which no two people agree; and some concise method should also be employed for expressing the state of the weather. The suggestions contained in the annexed printed paper are recommended for the above purposes, and if adopted, a copy should be pasted on the first page of every volume of the log-book; and the officer of the watch should be directed to use the same terms in the columns of the log-board.

“The circularly-formed Coral Islands in the Pacific occasionally afford excellent land-locked harbours, with a sufficient entrance, and would be well adapted to any nice astronomical observations which might require to be carried on in undisturbed tranquillity. While these are quietly proceeding, and the chronometers rating [sic rated?], a very interesting inquiry might be instituted respecting the formation of these coral reefs.

“An exact geological map of the whole island should be constructed, showing its form, the greatest height to which the solid coral has risen, as well as that to which the fragments appear to have been forced. The slope of its sides should be carefully measured in different places, and particularly on the external face, by a series of soundings, at very short distances from each other, and carried out to the greatest possible depths, at times when no tide or current can affect the perpendicularity of the line. A modern and very plausible theory has been put forward, that these wonderful formations, instead of ascending from the bottom of the sea, have been raised from the summits of extinct volcanoes; and therefore the nature of the bottom at each of these soundings should be noted, and every means exerted that ingenuity can devise of discovering at what depth the coral formation begins, and of what materials the substratum on which it rests is composed. The shape, slope, and elevation of the coral knolls in the lagoon would also help the investigation; and no circumstances should be neglected which can render an account of the general structure clear and perspicuous.

“A set of observations connected with the theory of the tides might likewise be carried on with peculiar propriety in one of these coral basins, provided the openings should be sufficiently wide and deep to admit the flux and reflux without material impediment. The island selected for such a purpose should be nearly midway in the ocean, and not very far from the equator. There the tidal wave, uninfluenced by the interrupting barrier of one continent, and equally far from the reaction of the other, might be measured with very beneficial results. Delicate tide-gauges should be prepared beforehand, and immediately fixed in some snug nook, where the undulation of the sea could not reach. The rise and fall of the tide should be registered every hour, during the stay of the Beagle, as well as the moments (stated whether in apparent or mean time) of high and low water, as nearly as they can be obtained; and the periods at which the sea and land breezes spring up and fail should likewise be noted, with their effects on the tide, if they can be detected. A boat should be detached, on each tide, to some distance from the island, in order to ascertain the strength and direction of the stream; and all these operations should be continued, if possible, through a whole lunation.

“Compiling general and particular instructions, for the navigation of all the places which he may visit, will of course be an essential part of the Commander's duty; but he will also have innumerable opportunities of collecting a variety of auxiliary information, which, when judiciously combined with the above instructions, of a purely nautical character, will much enhance their utility to all classes of vessels. Such as the general resources on which ships may depend in different places: the chief productions that can be obtained, and the objects most anxiously desired in return: the effect of seasons, of climate, and of peculiar articles of food on the health of the crew, and many others which will readily occur to his mind, and which become of great value to a stranger.

“On all the subjects touched on in these memoranda, Commander Fitz-Roy should be directed to draw up specific reports, and to transmit them from time to time, through their Lordship's Secretary, to the Hydrographic Office, so that if any disaster should happen to the Beagle, the fruits of the expedition may not be altogether lost. Besides such reports, and with the same object in view, he should keep up a detailed correspondence by every opportunity with the Hydrographer.

“The narrative of every voyage in the Pacific Ocean abounds with proofs of the necessity of being unremittingly on guard against the petty treacheries or more daring attacks of the natives. It should be recollected that they are no longer the timid and unarmed creatures of former times, but that many of them now possess fire-arms and ammunition, and are skilful in the use of them. Temper and vigilance will be the best preservatives against trivial offences and misunderstandings, which too often end in fatal quarrels; and true firmness will abandon objects of small importance, where perseverance must entail the necessity of violence; for it would be a subject of deep regret that an expedition devoted to the noblest purpose, the acquisition of knowledge, should be stained by a single act of hostility.

(Signed) “F. Beaufort.”

“Hydrographical Office, 11th November 1831.”


 0 Calm.
 1 Light AirOr just sufficient to give steerage way.
 2 Light Breeze Or that in which a man-of-war, with all sail set, and clean full, would go in smooth water from1 to 2 knots.
 3 Gentle Breeze3 to 4 knots.
 4 Moderate Breeze5 to 6 knots.
 5 Fresh Breeze Or that to which a well-conditioned man-of-war could just carry in chase, full and byRoyals, &c
 6 Strong BreezeSingle-reefed topsails and top-gall. sails
 7 Moderate GaleDouble-reefed top-sails, jib, &c
 8 Fresh GaleTreble-reefed top-sails, &c.
 9 Strong GaleClose-reefed topsails and courses.
10 Whole GaleOr that with which she could scarcely bear close-reefed main-topsail and reefed fore-sail.
11 StormOr that which would reduce her to storm stay-sails.
12 HurricaneOr that which no canvass could withstand.


b Blue Sky; (whether clear, or hazy, atmosphere).

c Clouds; (detached passing clouds).

d Drizzling Rain.

f Foggy—f Thick fog.

g Gloomy (dark weather).

h Hail.

1 Lightning.

m Misty (hazy atmosphere).

o Overcast (or the whole sky covered with thick clouds).

p Passing (temporary showers).

q Squally.

r Rain (continued rain).

s Snow.

t Thunder.

u Ugly (threatening appearances).

v Visible (clear atmosphere).

w Wet Dew.

. Under any letter, indicates an extraordinary degree.

By the combination of these letters, all the ordinary phenomena of the weather may be expressed with facility and brevity.
Bcm, Blue sky, with passing clouds, and a hazy atmosphere.
Gv, Gloomy dark weather, but distant objects remarkably visible.
Qpdlt, Very hard squalls, with passing showers of drizzle, and accompanied by lightning with very heavy thunder.


Ready for sea—Detained—Sail from England—Well provided—Bay of Biscay—Compasses—Local attraction—Eight Stones—Madeira—Deception—Squall—Teneriffe—Santa Cruz—Quarantine—Squalls—Cape Verde Islands—Port Praya—Produce—Orchilla—Bad season—St. Paul Rocks—Cross Equator—Fernando de Noronha—Bahia—Slavery—Abrolhos—Cape Frio

In November, the Beagle was ready for sea, but a succession of hard gales from the westward prevented her leaving England until the end of December. Twice she sailed, and went a few leagues; yet was obliged to return in order to avoid the risk of being damaged, or losing a boat, at the very beginning of her voyage. At last the westerly gales seemed exhausted, a dead calm succeeded, and, warned by the appearances so peculiar to easterly winds, we unmoored at daylight on the 27th, and, as soon as the tide would allow, for there was still no breeze, we warped from our sheltered and picturesque retreat in Barn-pool, under that beautiful place Mount Edgecumbe.§

§ Now, Mount Edgcumbe.

Vessels in the offing, and distant land ‘looming’ much; a few mottled, hard-edged clouds appearing in the east; streaks (mare's tails) across the sky, spreading from the same quarter; a high barometer (30.3); and the smoke from chimneys rising high into the air, and then going westward; were the signs which assured us of a favourable wind. A light ‘cat's paw’ rippled the water, we made all sail, the breeze increased, and at noon our little vessel was outside the Breakwater, with a fresh easterly wind.

Of the bitter feelings experienced by most of us when every sail was trimmed, and the land sinking fast from our view, I will say nothing: yet there were enlivening hopes, and all were glad to be freed from the tiresome uncertainty of the past month, all were anxious to enter upon a voyage which, though likely to be very long, promised much that would interest, and excite, and perhaps reward.

To the executive officers of a ship it is always a most satisfactory feeling, independent of other thoughts, to be fairly at sea, and away from the scenes of irregularity which so often take place in ports. Those scenes, however, are now much less offensive, and the sailor is far less heedless than he was formerly, if we may take Fielding's description as authority. That humorous sensible author says, in one of the most entertaining accounts of a voyage ever written,

“To say the truth, from what I observed in the behaviour of the sailors in this voyage, and comparing it with what I have formerly seen of them, at sea, and on shore, I am convinced that on land there is nothing more idle and dissolute; but, in their own element, there are no persons, near the level of their degree, who live in the constant practice of half so many good qualities.” §

§ Henry Fielding, 1755: Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon.

Never, I believe, did a vessel leave England better provided, or fitted for the service she was destined to perform, and for the health and comfort of her crew, than the Beagle. If we did want any thing which could have been carried, it was our own fault; for all that was asked for, from the Dockyard, Victualling Department, Navy Board, or Admiralty, was granted.

To mention the names of those to whom my shipmates and myself felt most grateful for attention to requests, and for a kind foresight of our future wants, may be unnecessary, some may think improper; yet, at the risk of offending, I must try to express the gratitude that I, and those who sailed with me in the Beagle, owe to Sir James Graham, Sir Thomas Hardy, Captain Beaufort, Commissioner (now Admiral) Ross, Sir Robert Seppings, Sir James Gordon, the late Sir Manley Dixon, and Sir William Burnett: less I cannot say, more might be displeasing.

The wind increased, and drove us onwards into the Atlantic as fast as a heavily laden small vessel, with her ‘scuppers’ in the water, could be forced. We steered as southerly a course as was safe, in hopes of keeping the east wind longer, and the result proved that we were right; for although the Beagle had a fair wind all the way to the Canary Islands, vessels which sailed from England only one day after her, and steered more westerly, lost the east wind very soon, and were retarded by another succession of strong and contrary gales, similar to those which had detained us a whole month.

Individual misconduct, arising out of harbour irregularities, obliged me to have recourse to harsh measures before we had been two days at sea;§ but every naval officer knows the absolute necessity of a certain degree of what inexperienced persons might think unnecessary coercion, when a ship is recently commissioned. Hating, abhorring corporal punishment, I am nevertheless fully aware that there are too many coarse natures which cannot be restrained without it, (to the degree required on board a ship,) not to have a thorough conviction that it could only be dispensed with, by sacrificing a great deal of discipline and consequent efficiency. “Certainty of punishment, without severity,” was a maxim of the humane and wise Beccaria;§§ which, with our own adage about a timely ‘stitch,’ is extremely applicable to the conduct of affairs on board a ship, where so much often depends upon immediate decision, upon instant and implicit obedience.

§ Summarized in HMS Beagle Captain's Log, 28 December 1831.

§§ Cesare Beccaria, 1764: On Crimes and Punishments. “Crimes are more effectually prevented by the certainty than the severity of punishment.”

We crossed the Bay of Biscay without a gale; though the heavy rolling of a vessel so deep in the water, running before a strong wind, was almost as disagreeable as the effects of one would have been. After witnessing high seas and storms in various parts of the world, I can call to mind only two or three that exceeded what I have myself experienced, or what I have heard described, as having been sometimes encountered in this famed bay.

Why should the sea be higher, or more dangerous, in the bay of Biscay, than it is in the middle of the Atlantic, or elsewhere?—Is it really so?—are questions often asked.

I believe that there is a shorter, higher, and consequently worse sea, in and near the Bay of Biscay, than is often found in other places, and attribute it to the effect of immense Atlantic waves, rolling into a deep bight, or bay, where they close upon each other and receive vibratory undulations from each shore; augmented perhaps by the peculiar formation of the bottom of that bay, the variation in depth, and the effects of currents, which, when running over uneven ground, or against the wind, alone cause a heavy swell; a striking exemplification of which may be seen on the bank of Lagullas, near the Cape of Good Hope.

Though so deep in the water, our little vessel's movements were uncommonly easy, and all our best timekeepers being hung in particularly good jimbals [sic, gimbals] I had no fear of their rates being altered, except by the effect of a change of temperature. This was a point about which I was especially anxious, as so much would depend upon the going of our chronometers, and I did not then think that the motions of a ship affected those instruments so little: as I have since proved to be the case by trying them frequently in boats, or small craft of only a few tons burthen. In her previous voyage the Beagle was as easy a sea-boat as could be desired; but, having raised her upper deck, altered her stowage and trim, loaded her more heavily, and sheathed her with two-inch plank, preparatory to this second expedition, I had abundant cause to feel anxious until the practical effects of such material changes were ascertained.

A little alteration was required near the compasses, for owing to some ill-placed iron-work they did not quite agree; but, after this change was made, we were gratified by finding four first-rate compasses, three fixed for steering, and one for bearings, agree precisely. Another source of satisfaction, connected with the compasses, was the knowledge that they were not affected, unless in a very trifling degree, by local attraction: for while lying in Barn-pool we swung the vessel in order to ascertain its quantity, but were agreeably surprised to find that none could be detected amounting even to one degree. This was attributed to her having only brass guns; and to some very large iron davits for the quarter boats, which were placed rather closely abaft and above the compasses, and perhaps counteracted the effect of iron in the hold, which was so much more distant.

On the 3d of January we were occupied in looking for the “Eight Stones;” but nothing was seen to indicate either rocks, or shoals, or even shallow water. The sun was shining brightly on a deep blue sea, of one uniform colour: no soundings could be obtained; and had there been a shoal or rock within seven miles of us at any hour of that day, it could not have been passed unnoticed. So many vessels have searched, in vain, for this alleged group of rocks, that their existence can now hardly be thought possible.§

§ “THE EIGHT STONES are in latitude from 34° 30' N. to 34° 45' N. and in longitude 16° 46' W. being about 40 leagues N. ½ E. from the east end of the island of Madeira … [there is] a belief that there is no such danger in existence.” In Directions for Sailing to and from the East Coast of Brazil, …. Part II, p. 47, London: no publisher, 1819.

At day-light, on the 4th, the rocky high islet of Porto Santo was seen looming through haze and clouds which hung around it. We steered between Porto Santo and the Desertas, intending to anchor in Funchal Roads; but the wind drew round to south-west, with such strong squalls, that I abandoned my intention, and at once steered for Teneriffe. The roadstead I have just mentioned is well known to be unsafe in southwest gales; and there can be no doubt that the most prudent plan is to keep at sea while they last: but I have been told by old traders to Madeira, that ships sometimes remain at anchor, about half a mile from the Loo rock, and ride out south-west gales without difficulty: the ‘under-tow’ being so considerable that their cables are little strained.

In fine weather, and it is fine at Madeira nine months in the year, the view of this steep and lofty island,* covered with bright verdure, and enlivened by numerous scattered houses, as white as snow, is very striking to a stranger who arrives from the low, and tame-looking shores of the south coast of England.

* About five thousand feet high.

Seamen are often deceived, when about to anchor in Funchal Roads, in consequence of the sudden transition which they have probably made from a low shelving coast to an abrupt and high mountain-side: for the bottom of the anchorage slopes away as suddenly as the heights overlooking it, and the anchor must indeed be let go upon the side of a mountain. Hence ships seldom go close enough, unless guided by a person who knows the place; and many a chain cable ran out to the clinch, when chains were first used, owing to an incorrect estimate of the vessel's distance from the shore, and not taking time to sound accurately.

Closing the land quickly after passing some time at sea—approaching high cliffs, or hilly shores, after being, for a time, accustomed to low coasts—or nearing a flat shore, after the eye has been used to precipices and mountains—almost always is a cause of error in estimating distance, however experienced a seaman may be.

While passing at a few leagues from the land, a violent squall came from the west, which was near doing damage: after one puff there was a short calm, with heavy rain, and then a sudden blast struck the ship so violently that we were obliged to take in all sail and run before it during the few minutes it lasted. This squall was one of very many which have reminded me of the old doggrel lines—

When rain comes before the wind,
Halyards, sheets, and braces mind:
But if wind comes before rain,
Set and trim your sails again.

At daylight the next morning we saw the Salvages, and at sunset thought we could distinguish the Peak of Teneriffe.

Early on the 6th we saw part of the island, and soon afterwards the upper clouds dispersed, and we enjoyed a magnificent view of the monarch of the Atlantic: the snow-covered peak glittering in the rays of the morning sun. Yet as our ideas are very dependent upon comparison, I suppose that persons who have seen the Himalaya Mountains, or the Andes, in all their grandeur, would not dwell much upon the view of Teneriffe, had it not become classical by its historical associations, and by the descriptions of Humboldt and many distinguished travellers.

Although some geographers adopted the Peak of Teneriffe as a zero point from which to reckon longitude, I am free to say, that a less satisfactory one could hardly have been selected; because there are no means of connecting the position of the peak with that of the observer, whether on the shore of the island, or on board a ship in the offing, except by a trigonometrical process, always open to errors. Indeed the summit of the peak is not visible from the east, on account of intervening land, until the observer is at some distance from the shore. Hence all meridian distances measured from Teneriffe must depend upon the degree of accuracy with which the position of the actual starting-point, with respect to the Peak, was determined.

How many errors have been caused in ascertaining the longitudes of distant places, by a mistake in the longitude of the position from which a ship, or an observer, actually departed! How many discrepancies between the measurements of different nations would vanish, if the precise points from which each observer set out were known; and if the positions of those points, with respect to one another, were accurately verified!

About noon we approached the sun-burned, uninviting town of Santa Cruz. Lying upon a level, arid space, at the foot of hills, that rise slowly to a considerable height, so as to shut out the more elevated part of the island; hardly a tree to be seen, and no appearance of cultivation; guarded by a rocky shore, on which there is always a disagreeable—often a dangerous surf; it offers indeed little to tempt delay. But notwithstanding this unpromising exterior, and a port so exposed that Spanish ships of war were ordered by their Government to moor there with four anchors, there is much to be found in the higher and interior parts of Teneriffe which amply repays the labour of ascending to and exploring those regions. In one of the churches in Santa Cruz is still hanging the remains of a flag, taken from the English, or left behind, when Nelson lost his arm.

Our anchor had just touched the ground, when a boat from the Health Office approached nearly along-side, conveying the British vice-consul and some quarantine officers, who told us, after hearing whence we came, that it would be impossible to grant permission for any person to land; and that until we should have performed a strict quarantine of twelve days' duration, no personal communication could be expected. This regulation was adopted on account of the reports which had reached them respecting the cholera in England.

Observations on shore being indispensable for our purpose, and finding, after some discussion, that there was no chance of attaining our object in a manner that would at all compensate for the delay caused by anchoring and performing quarantine, we weighed without further loss of time, and made sail for the Cape Verd Islands.

This was a great disappointment to Mr. Darwin, who had cherished a hope of visiting the Peak. To see it—to anchor and be on the point of landing, yet be obliged to turn away without the slightest prospect of beholding Teneriffe again—was indeed to him a real calamity.

During the whole of the 7th, the Peak was visible; but on the following day no land was in sight, and we made rapid progress. A very long swell from the north-west, which we felt until the 10th, was probably caused by a gale in the northern Atlantic; and, judging from its size and velocity, I should think that it could not have subsided before traversing many, perhaps ten more, degrees of latitude; which would be to about 10° north. It is interesting to notice how far the undulatory movement of water reaches: in this case it extended through at least ten decrees of latitude where the wind was from different quarters, and probably much farther.

An unusual appearance was observed on the 12th. A cloud like a dense fog-bank approached; and as it drew near, the lower and darker part became arched, and rose rapidly, while under it was a white glare, which looked very suspicious. Sail was immediately reduced—we expected a violent squall; but the cloud dispersed suddenly, and only a common fresh breeze came from the foreboding quarter. Neither the sympiesometer nor the barometer had altered at all; but the cloud was so threatening that I put no trust in their indications, not being then so firm a believer in their prophetic movements as I am at present. Nevertheless, I would by no means advocate the neglect of any precaution suggested by appearances of the weather, although no change should be foretold by the glasses. A mistake may be made by the observer, or a variation in the height of the column may have passed unheeded; while it is seldom that a practised eye can be deceived by the visible signs of an approaching squall or gale of wind.

Undoubtedly the worst wind, next to a hurricane, which a vessel can encounter, is a violent ‘white squall,’ so called because it is accompanied by no cloud or peculiar appearance in the sky, and because of its tearing up the surface of the sea, and sweeping it along so as to make a wide sheet of foam. By squalls of this description, frequent in the West-Indies, and occasionally felt in other parts of the world, no notice will be given much above the horizon; but by consulting a good barometer or sympiesometer, and frequently watching the surface of the sea itself, even a white squall may be guarded against in sufficient time.

Squalls accompanied by clouds are so common, and at sea every one is so much accustomed to look out for them, that I may cause a smile by these notices; yet as there is often much doubt in a young officer's mind, whether an approaching cloud will be accompanied by wind or rain, or by both, and many persons are unable to distinguish, by the mere appearance of a cloud, what is likely to come with or from it, I will venture to mention that when they look hard, or hardedged (like Indian ink rubbed upon an oily plate), they indicate wind, and perhaps rain; but before the rain falls, those clouds will assume a softer appearance. When they are undefined, and look soft, rain will follow, but probably not much wind.

Dark clouds, hard mixed with soft, and inky fragments in rapid motion beneath them, accompanied perhaps by lightning and distant thunder, are the fore-runners of a heavy squall. Soft, shapeless clouds, in which it is impossible to point out a definite edge, usually bring rain, but not wind: and, generally speaking, the more distinctly defined the edges of clouds are, the more wind they foretell. A little attention to these simple observations, so familar to persons who have been some time at sea, may save young officers unnecessary anxiety in one case, and prompt them to shorten sail at a proper time in the other.*

* In the Appendix are a few remarks on clouds. [45: “Remarks on Clouds”]

In again trying for soundings with three hundred fathoms of line, near the Island of St. Jago, we became fully convinced of the utility of a reel, which Captain Beaufort had advised me to procure, and of which Captain Vidal had spoken to him in very favourable terms. Two men were able to take in the deep sea line, by this machine, without interfering with any part of the deck, except the place near the stern, where the reel was firmly secured. Throughout our voyage this simple contrivance answered its object extremely well, and saved the crew a great deal of harassing work.

15th. In consequence of a thick haze, very prevalent about the Cape Verd Islands, land was not distinctly seen until we were within three miles of it, and we then found ourselves rather too far westward, owing to a current setting towards the west, at the rate of two knots an hour; this was close to the north point of St. Jago. Next day we anchored in Port Praya.

The wind being always from the north or east during this season of the year (from December to June), a ship can moor as close to the weather shore as may be convenient; but during July, August, September and October, no vessel should deem the bay secure, or anchor near the shore, because southerly gales sometimes blow with much strength, and the rollers, or heavy swell sent in by them, are dangerous to ships which have bad ground tackle, or are lying near the land. As I have myself experienced the force of these gales in the vicinity of the Cape Verd Islands, and witnessed the sea raised by them, I can confidently warn those who are inclined to be incredulous about a gale of wind being found in fifteen degrees of north latitude, beyond the limits of the hurricane regions.

Strong gusts come over the land into the bay during the fine season, when the breeze is fresh; therefore a ship entering, with intent to anchor, ought to have a reef in her top-sails, and be ready to clew up the top-gallant sails at a moment's warning.

The vicinity of Port Praya offers little that is agreeable to the eye of an ordinary visitor, though interesting enough to a geologist. A desolate and hilly country, sun-burned and stony, with but few trees even in the vallies, and those only the withering, spectre-like trunks of old palms, surrounds the harbour. The distant and higher parts of the island, however, present a striking outline; and in the interior there is more to be seen, as the following extract from a few notes made by Mr. Rowlett will show.

“We procured some indifferent horses and rode to Ribeira Grande,§ the remains of an old town, about nine miles west of Port Praya, which was formerly the residence of the Portuguese governor of the Cape Verd Islands; but in consequence of the anchorage becoming blocked up,* the seat of government was shifted to the small straggling town, or rather village, which stands upon a height overlooking the port of Praya. We passed through the fertile and beautiful vallies of Achao and San Martin, and enjoyed drinking some of the finest water we had ever tasted. On a commanding height stood the ruins of a very large fortress, and within the limits of the old town were remains of a cathedral, a bishop's palace, and a college; besides a modern church, in tolerable repair, an inhabited convent, and a hospital supported by charity. In the convent we saw some good paintings from scriptural subjects; and there were some curious old tombs, on one of which, said to be that of a bishop, was the date 1571, and on another we thought the almost obliterated figures were 1497.

§ Subsequently re-named Cidade Velha (Old City).

* Perhaps by an earthquake?

“No person who has only visited the port of Praya can form the slightest idea of the beauty of the interior country; it exceeded any thing I had seen, either in Brazil or in the West Indies.

“Fruit was abundant; there were oranges, grapes, plantains, bananas, sour-sops, mammee apples, pomegranates, guavas, quinces, sapodillas, papaw apples, pines, citrons, medlars, figs, and occasionally apples.”

Notwithstanding its unfavourable exterior, its small and dirty town, and its black or brown population, I am inclined to think Port Praya of more consequence to shipping than is usually supposed. Water may be procured by rafting the casks, placing a pump in the well, and hiring a few of the natives to do the more laborious work of filling and rolling. The local authorities are attentive and obliging: it is indeed their interest to be so, because much of their trade, and even many of the necessaries of life, depend upon the visits of shipping. Fowls, turkeys, and pigs, are very plentiful, but it is better to procure them by barter than with money. Clothes, new or old, are eagerly sought for, and their full value may be obtained in the produce of the island.

The population is said to be about thirty thousand, a few of whom are Portuguese by birth, and many are descended from Portuguese parents, but the greater number are negroes.

I could hear no decided account of any earthquake having happened; but being so near Fogo, now an active volcano, one may suppose that St. Jago is not exempted from an occasional shock.

The exports of the Cape Verd Islands are small quantities of sugar, cotton, and coffee. Hides of small bullocks, sheep and goat-skins, are likewise exported; and horses, mules, and asses, of an inferior description, are sometimes sent to the West-Indies. The Archilla [sic, orchilla] weed, so much used in dyeing, is however the staple commodity, and, under proper management, might be made highly profitable. At the time of our visit, the yearly revenue arising out of the government monopoly of this article amounted to fifty thousand dollars; and in some years it has been as much as three hundred thousand dollars. This weed grows like a kind of moss upon the cliffs, and is collected by men who climb up or are let down by ropes, like the samphire gatherers.

The natural dye is blue, approaching to purple; but by using metallic and other solutions, it may be turned to purple, crimson, or scarlet.

Money having been slowly remitted of late years from the mother-country, a great part of the archilla has been applied to the payment of the authorities, the clergy, and the troops (such as they are). A story is told of the last governor having caused a sham mutiny, in order that he might have a good reason for selling the archilla gathered that year, and with the produce paying the troops—and himself. He was brought out with a rope round his neck into the street, and there obliged to promise that he would sell the archilla, then in the government storehouse, to the best bidder.

A kind of castor-oil plant is found, from which a small quantity of oil is obtained, and a sort of soap. Yams are very scarce, being grown only at one part of the island. Mandioca is common, but it degenerates rapidly, and will not produce even a second crop. Vegetables of various kinds are abundant in their seasons.

From August to October is the rainy and sickly season. In September, a south-west gale is usually experienced; but from five to ten hours before its commencement, a dark bank of clouds is seen in the southern horizon, which is a sure forerunner of the gale. Should a vessel be at anchor in the port at such a time, she ought to weigh and put to sea, until the storm has ceased and the swell subsided. In the month of September preceding our visit, an American merchant-brig and a Portuguese slaver were at anchor in Port Praya. A bank of clouds was seen during the day in the S.W., and the American went to sea; but the slaver remained at anchor. A storm arose at night, drove the slave-vessel ashore, and dashed her to pieces in less than half an hour, yet did the American no damage whatever, and the next day she anchored again in the port.

In a valley near the town is a very remarkable tree, of the Baobab kind, supposed to be more than a thousand years old; but I am not aware of the grounds upon which this assertion is made. Wild guinea-fowls are found in flocks, and there are wild-cats in the unfrequented parts of the island; but if induced to take a gun in pursuit of the guinea-fowls, I would advise a stranger not to overheat himself, or sleep on shore at night; for fatal fevers have been contracted by Europeans, who were unguarded as to their health, while passing a few days in this hot climate, after being for some time accustomed to the cold weather of a high northern latitude.

Except during the rainy season, the wind is always north-easterly, and then the sky is clear and the sun very powerful; but a dry haze hangs over the island in a peculiar manner, and a quantity of fine dust, quite an impalpable powder, frequently settles on every exposed surface, even on the sails and rigging of a vessel, when passing near the islands.

On the 8th of February our instruments were re-embarked, and, after swinging the ship to ascertain the amount of local attraction, we weighed anchor and sailed. By the compass fixed upon a stanchion in front of the poop, not twenty minutes difference of bearing could be detected, in any position of the vessel: the object observed being the highest point of a sharp peak, distant eleven miles.

On the 10th we spoke the Lyra packet, going from England to Rio de Janeiro, and received a box from her, containing six of Massey's sounding-leads, those excellent contrivances which we frequently found so useful. These machines, as formerly made, did not answer for a much greater depth than one hundred fathoms; because their hollow cylinder yielded to the pressure of the water: but Mr. Massey has since remedied that defect in their construction.

On the 13th a very confused swell seemed to presage a change of weather. Hitherto the wind had been steady from the north-east, and the sky clear; but on this day large soft clouds, light variable breezes, rain, and sometimes a short calm, showed us that we had passed the limits of the northeast trade wind. 14th. Similar weather, with a good deal of rain, but still breeze enough to keep us moving on our course.

On the l5th, the wind was steady from east south-east, and the sky free from heavy threatening clouds. We had then entered the south-east trade wind, without having had two hours calm.

St. Paul Rocks, or Peñedo de San Pedro,§ were seen on the horizon at sunset of the 15th. They appeared extremely small, being about eight miles distant; and had we not been looking out for them, I doubt whether they would have attracted attention. Excepting “Las Hormigas,” on the coast of Peru, I never saw such mere rocks at so great a distance from any land.

§ See Some Place Names … for the source of this name.

At daylight next morning, two boats were sent to land upon, and examine them; while the Beagle sailed round this “sunk mountain top,” sounding, and taking angles. Good observations were made during the day, as the sky was clear, and the water smooth.

When our party had effected a landing through the surf, and had a moment's leisure to look about them, they were astonished at the multitudes of birds which covered the rocks, and absolutely darkened the sky. Mr. Darwin afterwards said, that till then he had never believed the stories of men knocking down birds with sticks; but there they might be kicked, before they would move out of the way.§

§ Darwin may have said that in conversation, but his written description was somewhat different.

The first impulse of our invaders of this bird-covered rock, was to lay about them like schoolboys; even the geological hammer at last became a missile. “Lend me the hammer?” asked one. “No, no,” replied the owner, “you'll break the handle;” but hardly had he said so, when, overcome by the novelty of the scene, and the example of those around him, away went the hammer, with all the force of his own right-arm.

While our party were scrambling over the rock, a determined struggle was going on in the water, between the boats' crews and sharks. Numbers of fine fish, like the groupars (or garoupas) of the Bermuda Islands, bit eagerly at baited hooks put overboard by the men; but as soon as a fish was caught, a rush of voracious sharks was made at him, and notwithstanding blows of oars and boat hooks, the ravenous monsters could not be deterred from seizing and taking away more than half the fish that were hooked.

At short intervals the men beat the water with their oars all round the boats, in order to drive away the sharks; and for a few minutes afterwards the groupars swarmed about the baited hooks, and were caught as fast as the lines could be hauled up—then another rush of sharks drove them away—those just caught were snatched off the hooks; and again the men were obliged to beat the water. When the boats returned they were deeply laden with birds and fish, both welcome to those who had been living on salt provisions.

From the highest point of the rock,* no discoloured water, nor any breaking of the sea, could be discerned, apart from the place itself; and from the soundings taken in the boats, as well as on board the ship, I conclude that it is unconnected with any shoal, being merely the summit of a steep-sided mountain rising from the bottom of the ocean.

* Sixty-four feet above the sea.

There was a slight current setting to the westward, not amounting to a mile an hour.

At sunset that day we were out of sight of St. Paul (or St. Peter), and soon after dark were hailed by the gruff voice of a pseudo-Neptune. A few credulous novices ran upon the forecastle to see Neptune and his car, and were received with the watery honours which it is customary to bestow, on such occasions.

Next morning we crossed the Equator, and the usual ceremonies were performed.

Deep was the bath, to wash away all ill;
Notched was the razor—of bitter taste the pill.
Most ruffianly the barber looked—his comb was trebly nailed—
And water, dashed from every side, the neophyte assailed.

The disagreeable practice alluded to has been permitted in most ships, because sanctioned by time; and though many condemn it as an absurd and dangerous piece of folly, it has also many advocates. Perhaps it is one of those amusements, of which the omission might be regretted. Its effects on the minds of those engaged in preparing for its mummeries, who enjoy it at the time, and talk of it long afterwards, cannot easily be judged of without being an eye-witness.

During the early ages of navigation, before the invention of the compass, somewhat similar, though really ceremonious rites were observed in Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian vessels, when they passed the more remarkable promontories then known. A modern voyager, Kotzebue, notices this subject in a manner which appears to me so sensible, that I shall quote his words without affecting to add another remark.

On the 11th of October we crossed the Equator, at twenty-five degrees west longitude, reckoning from Greenwich. Having saluted the southern hemisphere by the firing of guns, our crew proceeded to enact the usual ceremonies. A sailor, who took pride in having frequently passed the line, directed the performance with much solemnity and decorum. He appeared as Neptune, attired in a manner that was meant to be terribly imposing, accompanied by his consort, seated on a gun-carriage instead of a shell, drawn by negroes, as substitutes for tritons. In the evening the sailors represented [sic, presented], amidst general applause, a comedy of their own composition.

These sports, while they serve to keep up the spirits of the men, and make them forget the difficulties they have to go through, produce also the most beneficial influence upon their health; a cheerful man being much more capable of resisting a fit of sickness than a melancholy one. It is the duty of commanders to use every innocent means of maintaining this temper in their crews; for, in long voyages, when they are several months together wandering on an element not destined by nature for the residence of man, without enjoying even occasionally the recreations of the land, the mind naturally tends to melancholy, which of itself lays the foundation of many diseases, and sometimes even of insanity. Diversion is often the best medicine, and used as a preservative, seldom fails of its effect.—(Kotzebue's Voyage, 1823-26.)

Before sunset on the 19th we saw the island of Fernando [de] Noronha, with its singular peak towering aloft, and at midnight anchored in the roadstead.

Next morning I landed with difficulty for observations, the surf being so high that any common boat would have been swamped. By taking great care, our broad and well-built whaleboats landed the instruments and a small party, and re-embarked them afterwards, without accident.

We landed in a small bay under the (so called) citadel, but there is a safer and in every way preferable landing-place about a mile to the northward. My object being chiefly to take sights of the sun, for time, and compare the chronometers used on shore as soon as possible with those on board, I preferred landing as near as I could to the place where the lamented Captain Foster observed:—but it was difficult to ascertain the house in which his pendulum observations were made. Not even the governor could tell me, for he had arrived since Captain Foster's departure; and most of the inhabitants of the island had changed their dwellings frequently, being all exiles from Brazil.

The governor was a major in the Brazilian service, born at Pernambuco, and under his command were two hundred black troops, and about eight hundred human beings, only thirty of whom were women, and a very few children.

We obtained some firewood from one of the islets northward of the principal island; but it was full of centipedes and other noxious insects, from which it was not easy to free it even by charring and washing. Water we did not try to get, because of the heavy surf, but there is no scarcity of it on the island. Neither live-stock nor vegetables could be procured from the apathetic inhabitants.

This place is rather picturesque; and the lofty barren peak, already mentioned, is conspicuous from every point of view. Near the summit is a station from which a look-out is kept, not only over all the island, but over many leagues of the surrounding sea; so that neither ship nor boat can approach or depart, during daylight, without being noticed.

No boats are allowed to be kept on the island, and no intercourse is held with shipping without permission and the strictest inspection.

We sailed from Fernando Noronha the same evening, passed round the north-east extremity of the island, and steered for Bahia de Todos Santos.§ Having remained only one day at anchor, in consequence of information that no better landing could be expected for many days; and wishing to ascertain the rates of the chronometers, as well as to procure a supply of water, I decided to go to Bahia, as the nearest port convenient for both purposes. From the 23d to the 27th we found a current setting us southward, between twenty and thirty miles each day. This was quite unexpected by me, for I thought that we should have been set westward. At daylight on the 28th we made the land about Bahia, and before noon were at anchor in the port.

§ Baia de Todos os Santos, Brazil; subsequently abbreviated as simply Bahia.

As we sailed in rapidly from the monotonous sea, and passed close along the steep but luxuriantly wooded north shore, we were much struck by the pleasing view. After the light-house was passed, those by whom the scene was unexpected were agreeably surprised by a mass of wood, clinging to a steep bank, which rose abruptly from the dark-blue sea, showing every tint of green, enlivened by bright sunshine, and contrasted by deep shadow: and the general charm was heightened by turretted churches and convents, whose white walls appeared above the waving palm trees; by numerous shipping at anchor or under sail; by the delicate airy sails of inumerable canoes; and by the city itself, rising like an amphitheatre from the water-side to the crest of the heights.

We found ourselves in the middle of the rainy season, and although favoured by a fine day at arriving, cloudy weather and frequent rain succeeded it, and during the short stay we made, much embarrassed our observations.

Bahia has declined ever since its separation from Portugal: unsettled, weak governments, occupied too constantly by party strife to be able to attend to the real improvement of their country, have successively misruled it. Revolutions, and risings of the negro population, interrupting trade, have repeatedly harassed that rich and beautiful country, and are still impending.

Were property secure, and industry encouraged, the trade from Bahia miglit be very extensive, particularly in sugar and cotton: but who will embark much capital upon so insecure a foundation as is there offered?

The immense extent and increase of the slave population is an evil long foreseen and now severely felt. Humanely as the Brazilians in general treat their slaves, no one can suppose that any benevolence will eradicate feelings excited by the situation of those human beings. Hitherto the obstacles to combinations and general revolt among the negroes, have been ignorance, mutual distrust, and the fact of their being natives of various countries, speaking different languages, and in many cases hostile to each other, to a degree that hardly their hatred of white men can cause them to conquer, even for their immediate advantage.

The slave trade § has already entailed some of its lamentable consequences upon the Brazilians, in demoralizing them by extreme indolence, and its sure accompaniment, gross sensuality; but there are in store afflictions hitherto unfelt, occasioned by the growing hordes of enemies who are yearly causing more perplexity and dread in the territories of Brazil.

§ In a heated argument with Darwin during the voyage, FitzRoy supported slavery, and was quite angry when Darwin disagreed with him. Years later, Darwin recalled the incident in his autobiography:

“ … early in the voyage at Bahia in Brazil he defended and praised slavery, which I abominated, and told me that he had just visited a great slave-owner, who had called up many of his slaves and asked them whether they were happy, and whether they wished to be free, and all answered ‘No.’ I then asked him, perhaps with a sneer, whether he thought that the answers of slaves in the presence of their master was worth anything. This made him excessively angry, and he said that as I doubted his word, we could not live any longer together. I thought that I should have been compelled to leave the ship …”

Fortunately, FitzRoy soon “cooled off” and cordial relations were restored. In the intervening years between the incident at Bahia and publication of his book, apparently FitzRoy's view of slavery changed, perhaps under the influence of his wife.

Could the Brazilians see clearly their own position, unanimously condemn and prevent the selfish conduct of individuals, emancipate the slaves now in their country, and decidedly prevent the introduction of more, Brazil would commence a career of prosperity, and her population would increase in an unlimited degree. In that immense and most fertile country, distress cannot be caused by numerous inhabitants; food is abundant, and the slight clothing required in so warm a climate is easily procured.

The chief, if not the only cause of the slave trade in Brazil, is want of population—want of an industrious population, able as well as willing to clear away primeval forests, and render the soil fit for culture—able to work in the open fields under a hot sun, to cultivate the sugar cane, cotton plants, mandioca, and other productions of tropical climates.

While this extensive and most powerful cause exists, selfish, unprincipled owners of immense territories in Brazil, and elsewhere, will not refrain from importing hundreds, even thousands of unhappy wretches, who, once landed, become the helpless instruments of immense gain to their owners: neither can any reasonable number of shipping efficiently blockade the coasts of two great continents.

If I am right in these assertions, it appears that there is no method by which the slave trade can be totally suppressed, except by destroying the cause of so abominable a traffic: and that, to this end, a native population should be encouraged in hot climates, who, being gradually inured to work on their native soil, for remuneration from their employers, and a prospect of future comfort for themselves and their offspring, would totally supersede the demand for constrained labour. Of course, the only way by which such a result could be obtained—I should say, perhaps, the first step towards so satisfactory a result, would be, that the government of a slave-importing country should declare that trade piratical: and proclaim every human being free; bound to no man, free to do any thing not contrary to religion, or law, from the moment he or she embarked on board a vessel belonging to that country, or placed a foot upon its soil; which might then indeed be termed, in common with our happy land, a sacred soil. By such a plan as this, individuals would suffer for a time, but the mass of society would be gainers incalculably.

Well-known authors have already said so much of Bahia, its spacious harbour, and delightful environs, that it would be impertinent in the writer of a mere narrative to add his hasty remarks to the calmly considered information which their works contain. But I will venture to notice that however pleased a stranger to Bahia may be at the sensations conveyed through his eyes, previous to landing, he will be miserably disappointed when he finds himself in the dirty, narrow, crowded, and hot ‘lower town;’ and that the sooner he gets into a sedan* chair, and desires the almost naked bearers to make the best of their way to the ‘upper town,’ where he will enjoy fresh air, a pleasing view, and freedom from annoyances, the less his organs will be offended, and his temper tried.

* An arm-chair, with a high back, a foot-board, and curtains to draw round, hung to a pole which rests on the shoulders of two men.

We sailed from Bahia on the 18th. The bank which projects from the light-house point had been minutely examined by us, during the Beagle's stay in port; on one day, indeed, she went out and anchored at the outer end of the shoal, in order to determine its extent, and assist the boats in sounding; therefore I did not hesitate to stand across it; but there is not water enough over the shallower parts for any ship drawing more than fourteen feet, especially if there is a swell. The shoalest spot is near the outer end; ships of any size may pass between the inner extremity and the point of land adjacent to it.

There are rocks and dangerous shallows southward of the port, which it is extremely necessary to guard against in approaching it from sea, because the current generally sets towards the south, and ships have got ashore on those shoals in consequence. The land northward of Bahia should be made, and some white sandy patches, looking like linen hung out to dry, should be seen before a ship steers more southerly. After losing sight of the land, our course was shaped to the south-east, towards the eastern limit of the great bank of soundings which extends so far to seaward of the Abrolhos islets. Having reached the parallel of the islands, and being to the eastward of the easternmost soundings laid down in any chart, without finding any ground with three hundred fathoms of line, I began to steer westward—sounding continually, and keeping a sharp look-out at the mast-head. At two in the afternoon of the 26th, we had no bottom, with three hundred fathoms of line; and at the next cast, about an hour afterwards, found only thirty fathoms, without there being the slightest change in the colour of the water, or in its temperature, or any other indication of so sudden a change in the depth. We hauled to the wind directly, worked to the eastward in order to ascertain the precise limit of the bank, and lost soundings as suddenly as we had previously struck them. A grapnel was then put overboard, with two hundred fathoms of line, and we again steered westward, till a heavy pull upon the line, and a sudden jerk, showed that we had hooked the bank.

The ship was hove-to, and the necessary observations made on the spot. The grapnel, when hauled up, was found to be straightened, a proof, in addition to that afforded by the lead, that the bottom was rocky. Our soundings at this time were thirty-eight fathoms, and thence to the Abrolhos islets we carried a line of soundings, no where exceeding that depth, but extremely irregular, between thirty-six and four fathoms.

As far as we had time to examine the chart of these [Abrolhos] islands, by the Baron Roussin, appeared to be satisfactory; but the soundings are so very irregular in the vicinity of the Abrolhos, that little dependence could be placed on the lead. More than once we had four or five fathoms under one side of the vessel, and from fifteen to twenty under the other. These sudden and startling changes, called by the French, ‘Sauts de sonde,’ are very unpleasant and perplexing.

The tide, or rather current, which we found when lying at anchor near the islets, set continually to the southward, varying in strength from half a mile to a mile and a half an hour; but we had only three days' experience.

I had imagined, from what I had heard, that the rock of which these islets were chiefly composed was coral; but was surprized to find only coralline growing upon gneiss or sandstone.

While sounding near the Abrolhos we made a great number of experiments with Massey's lead, in order to verify its qualities; and found it [to] agree remarkably well with the common lead, while in less than forty fathoms, but differ from it frequently when the depth of water exceeded seventy fathoms; and wholly fail when used in upwards of one hundred and twenty fathoms. The failure, in great depths, was in consequence of the small hollow cylinder, to which the vanes were attached, bursting, or rather, being compressed by the weight of water. Some more remarks upon this instrument will be found in the Appendix.§

§ Appendix, 54: “Nautical Remarks” p. 311, para. 1.

We anchored near the islets, at dusk, on the 28th, after being in frequent anxiety, owing to sudden changes in the depth of water; and next morning, moved to a better berth at the west side, very near them. They are rather low, but covered with grass, and there is a little scattered brushwood. The highest point rises to about a hundred feet above the sea. Their geological formation, Mr. Darwin told me, is of gneiss and sandstone, in horizontal strata.§ When our boats landed, immense flights of birds rose simultaneously, and darkened the air. It was the breeding and moulting season; nests full of eggs, or young unfledged birds, absolutely covered the ground, and in a very short time our boats were laden with their contents.

§ Darwin does not mention this in his description of the Abrolhos Islets. He does however describe the island geology in his Geological Observations.

A large black bird, with a pouch like that of a pelican, but of a bright red colour, was very remarkable, as it hovered, or darted among the bright verdure, and at a distance looked handsome; but when seen close, it at once descended to the level of a carrion-eating cormorant or buzzard.

Turtle are to be found at times: we observed the shell and skeleton of an extremely large one lying on a sandy spot at the north side of the northern islet. Some very fine fish, of the cod kind, were caught; one was so large, that, until hauled on board, it was supposed to be a shark. The anchorage is good, and easy of access: all swell is stopped by the shallow places, and by the islets themselves. There is no fresh water.

If a general reader should honour these pages by his perusal, and find such details about wood, water, fish, birds, &c., at places about which few know, and still fewer care—extremely tiresome, he will of course pass them over; but, in my own exculpation, I must beg to be permitted to remind him that the Beagle was employed by Government, to obtain practical information likely to be useful to shipping; and that I might neglect my duty by omitting to mention such matters, when speaking of places which are seldom visited, and hitherto but slightly known.

By those employed in the coasting trade, the Abrolhos are said to be particularly subject to squalls. If this be true, what is the reason? Have the extensive shallows in their vicinity any connection with the fact? Thinking myself that they have, I would beg the reader to bear this idea in mind, when, at another part of this narrative, the squalls so frequent in the dangerous archipelago of the low islands are mentioned.*

* The Bermuda Islands (“still vexed Bermoothes”) may also be thought of, as being similarly circumstanced.

March 30th. We sailed and sounded in various directions, but such irregular depths I never found elsewhere. Sudden jumps, from thirty to ten, sometimes even to four fathoms, in successive casts of the hand-lead, gave us frequent alarm; but by keeping a boat a-head, and two leads going briskly, we avoided danger, and giving up exploring, regained before dark the safe channel which runs north and south between the Abrolhos and the main land, and steered to pass near Cape San Tome, or St. Thomas. Next day we were off that cape, but saw none of the breakers which have been so frequently reported to lie at a dangerous distance from the neighbouring shore; although we looked out for them, and steered so as to pass the places where I was informed they would be seen.

On the 3d of April, we passed Cape Frio. I wished to visit the cove in which the Lightning and Algerine lay, while recovering the treasure sunk in the unfortunate Thetis, but circumstances were unfavourable.


Loss of the Thetis—Causes of her wreck—Approach to Rio de Janeiro—Owen Glendower—Disturbance in Rio Harbour—Observations—Chronometers—Return to Bahia—Deaths—Macacu—Malaria—Return to Rio de Janeiro—Meridian Distances—Regatta—Fuegians—Lightning—Leave Rio—Equipment—Santa Martha—Weather—Santa Catharina—Santos—River Plata—Pamperoes—Gales off Buenos Ayres—Monte Video—Point Piedras—Cape San Antonio—River Plata—Currents—Tides—Barometer—Absence of Trees—Cattle

NOTES: Section pertaining to HMS Thetis and Glendower is displayed against a dark background, and links are not included. There is however a summary of the former ship's track at the end of FitzRoy's account.

Among the shipwrecks which have taken place during late years, perhaps none excited so much astonishment, or caused so much trouble and discussion, as the loss of that fine frigate the Thetis.

Had any seaman been asked, on what frequented shore there was least probability of a wreck, I almost think he would have answered on that of Cape Frio. Yet, against the high cliffs of that bold and well-known coast did she run ‘stem on,’ going nine knots. One may conceive the shock and general consternation as she crashed against the rocky cliff, and all her masts fell inboard.

As some who turn over these pages may not have read the proceedings of the Court-martial held after the return of her officers to England, I will insert a short account, derived chiefly from those of old friends and shipmates, who were on board her at the awful time of her wreck.

The Thetis sailed from Rio de Janeiro on the 4th of December 1830, and worked to the southward all day, against a southerly wind and thick foggy weather. At 1h. 30m. a.m. on the 5th, she saw Raza Island § for the last time, bearing N.W. by W., and distant eight or nine miles. The weather was still hazy, indeed at times very thick, and the wind southeast. She stood off on the larboard tack until seven a.m., and then the wind having increased, and a cross sea getting up, she wore to the eastward. Soon afterwards the wind drew to S.S.E., and the ship was kept by the wind on the starboard tack until 1h. 30m. p.m., when it was considered that Cape Frio §§ bore about N. 40° E., distant thirty-eight miles. The position at noon, by dead reckoning, gave the Cape bearing N. 43. E. [sic N. 43° E.], distant forty-one miles; all the calculations giving results between that and N. 51. E. [N. 51° E.], fifty-three miles; but by dead reckoning only, as neither sun, moon, or stars had been seen. At 1h. 30m. the wind being scant, the ship was steered E. by N., and at two, a cross sea checking her way through the water, the course was altered to E.N.E. At two, when the course was thus changed, she had run nineteen miles since noon, and at four, twenty more miles had been made on the E.N.E. course; at which time, four p.m. (under the idea that she was almost abreast of Cape Frio, supposed to be then distant about twenty-four miles), seeing a large ship, ‘courses down,’ in-shore of her, steering west or W. by N., with all sail set; and the weather clearing, for an interval, without any land being seen; it was concluded that the Thetis was still further from the shore than had been estimated, and her course was altered to N.E. by E.

§ Ilha Raza, Brazil. Not to be confused with Raza Point (Punta Raza), Argentina, which is listed in FitzRoy's Table … .

§§ Cabo Frio, Brazil. See Cape Frio link at end of previous chapter.

At five, the crew was mustered at quarters, after which the reefs were mended, and the fore top-gallant sail, jibs, spanker, and reefed fore top-mast studding-sail were set. From four o'clock to six she ran, by log, twenty-one miles; after six the weather became very thick and rainy: and when the look-out men were relieved at eight o'clock, it was so dark, and rained so fast, that nothing could be distinguished half a ship's length distant. Soon after eight one of the look-out men, named Robinson, said to another man on the forecastle,* “Look how fast that squall is coming” (this was the cliff looming indistinctly through the rain and darkness), and next moment, “Land a-head,” “Hard a-port,” rung in the ears of the startled crew, and were echoed terribly by the crashing bowsprit, and thundering fall of the ponderous masts.

* Borsworthick. Both these men afterwards sailed with me in the Beagle.§

§ FitzRoy's remark implies that Robinson and Borsworthick were on the second voyage of the Beagle, and both names appear in Darwin's July 24, 1832 Diary entry. See HMS Beagle Ship's Company Page for a few more details.
Borsworthick's first name, John, is from Devonport website page: Crew Members of HMS Beagle who were born in Devonport.

The hull did not then strike the rocks, having answered the helm so fast as to be turning off shore when the bowsprit broke; but the lee yard-arm irons (boom-irons) actually struck fire from the rocky precipice as they grated harshly against it, the boom ends snapping off like icicles.

All three masts fell aft and inward, strewing the deck with killed and wounded men. An immense black barrier impended horribly, against which heavy breakers were dashing with an ominous sound; but the ship's hull was still uninjured. Sentries were placed over the spirit-room; a sail was hoisted upon the stump of the main-mast; the winches were manned; guns fired; rockets sent up, and blue-lights burned; the quarter-boats were cleared away to be ready for lowering; and an anchor was let go; but the water was so deep, that before she brought up, her stern drifted upon a more shelving part of the rock. Several men then tried to land; but, in jumping ashore, many slipped, and were drowned in the surf, or crushed against the rocks. The stern and lee quarter boats were dashed to pieces, as the surf hove the ship against the cliff, and no boat was then available; for the others were either stove, or so covered with wreck, that they could not be used. Finding that the anchor, which had been let go, did no good, but seemed to keep her tailing upon the rocks, the cable was slipped, after which her head fell off to the westward. It was then found that the water was gaining, and the winches were worked. Successive waves threw her starboard quarter upon the rocks; and the effects of repeatedly striking were soon but too apparent, as the water burst open the spirit-room hatches.

At this moment a small opening appeared, into which the ship providentially drove. It was at first thought that this was the opening into Cape Frio Harbour; but it proved to be only a very small cove, or indentation of the rocky cliffs. While drifting close along the rocks into this cove, a hawser was passed ashore, by which afterwards several persons landed. The ship struck heavily in the cove, gave some tremendous yawns, and sunk. As she then lay upon the rocky bottom, each succeeding wave broke over and just covered her. By a violent surge, the rock to which the hawser above-mentioned had been made fast, was torn away; and, for a short time, all hope of further communication with the land was suspended. Every effort that could be made to convey a rope to the shore was attempted in vain, until Mr. Geach, the boatswain, went out on the stump of the bowsprit, and by the help of two belaying-pins, succeeded in throwing the end of a small rope to the rocks, by which a large one was immediately hauled ashore, and then kept as much stretched as the strength of the men who had landed would allow. On this larger rope each man was slung, in his turn, and hauled by the small one through the surf to a rough craggy rock. Mr. Geach and John Langley, the captain of the forecastle, were among the last to leave the ship, having almost exhausted themselves in slinging their shipmates.

As day-light broke, the last man was hauled ashore. Many were terribly bruised and lacerated by the fall of the masts, or during these struggles for life, and twenty-five persons perished. Some of the officers made their way to a small village near Cape Frio, and obtained horses, and a guide who conducted them to Rio de Janeiro, where the melancholy news was communicated to the commander-in-chief. The captain, the other officers, and the crew, remained near the place of the wreck, waiting for assistance.

An adequate cause for so great an error in the reckoning of only nineteen hours as that which occasioned the loss of this fine ship and twenty-five souls, besides the personal property of those on board, and a large freight of treasure, is not difficult to find, even without supposing the compasses to have been in error, or affected by local attraction, which, by the way, would in this case have operated in the ship's favour.

The vicinity of Cape Frio, one of the most salient promontories on the coast of Brazil, cannot be supposed exempt from currents; set in motion either by temporary causes, such as strong or lasting winds; or by the varying pressure of the atmosphere upon different portions of the ocean:—or from tidal streams, more or less strong.

Presuming that the Thetis was carried out of her supposed position, by the former cause, about twenty-four miles; surely rather more than a mile an hour is no surprising current during nineteen hours. But if a stream of tide also affected her, in that time she would have had one whole tide either in her favour or against her.

There was no reason to suspect the existence of much current near Cape Frio, when the Thetis was lost, except on such general grounds as those just mentioned, because no pilot, as far as I know, was aware of such a fact. With strong southerly winds ships of large size do not often leave Rio de Janeiro—coasting vessels never—therefore few persons could have experienced its effect when sailing from the port; and when approaching Rio in similar weather, vessels sail before a fair wind, steer by sight of the land, and take little notice of the log: besides which, they then employ but three or four hours in passing through that space of sea where the Thetis was detained nineteen.

In all probability, such a current as that which drove the Thetis on the rocks is only to be found during southerly winds, and in the summer season of that climate, when the general set of the current is along the coast, towards the south and west.

If a man of war is accidentally lost, a degree of astonishment is expressed at the unexpected fate of a fine ship, well found, well manned, and well officered; and blame is imputed to some one: but before admitting a hastily-formed opinion as fact, much inquiry is necessary. As in the case of the Thetis, an English man-of-war may incur risk in consequence of a praiseworthy zeal to avoid delaying in port, as a merchant-ship would probably be obliged to do, from her being unable to beat out against an adverse wind, and, like that frigate, may be the first to prove the existence of an unsuspected danger.

Those who never run any risk; who sail only when the wind is fair; who heave to when approaching land, though perhaps a day's sail distant; and who even delay the performance of urgent duties until they can be done easily and quite safely; are doubtless, extremely prudent persons:—but rather unlike those officers whose names will never be forgotten while England has a navy.

Of the measures taken for recovering the treasure sunk in the Thetis, much has appeared in print; therefore I will not add a word to that subject of controversy.

A very-rough approximation of the track of HMS Thetis, based on FitzRoy's description in the paragraphs above.

Weather such as that which caused the loss of the Thetis, is only at times met with off Cape Frio; a clear sky, with a hot sun, and but little wind, is more usual; and as my first approach to Rio de Janeiro, on board H.M.S. Owen Glendower, in 1819, made much impression upon me, I will endeavour to describe its circumstances.

High blue mountains were seen in the west, just after the sun had set, and with a fair wind we approached the land rapidly. The sea was quite smooth, but a freshening breeze upon our quarter carried us on, nearly thirteen knots an hour. Though dark as any cloudy tropical night, when neither moon nor star relieves the intense blackness—astern of us was a long and perfectly straight line of sparkling light, caused by the ship's rapid way through the water; and around the bows, as far forward as the bowsprit end, was dazzling foam, by whose light I read a page of common print. Sheet lightning played incessantly near the western horizon: and sometimes the whole surface of the sea seemed to be illuminated. As the moon rose, and the breeze decreased, the contrasts of light and darkness, of swift change of place and apparent tranquillity, lost their effect. Next morning we had a dead calm: high land towered over the fog-banks, which were slowly drawn upwards and dispersed by the heat of a powerful sun; and the sea was smooth as a lake. Numbers of that beautiful fish, the dorado, often called a dolphin, were caught; and the vivid, various colours displayed, as they lay upon our deck, exceeded description. Well I remember too the trouble we middies had with the sun at noon on that day; not with the sun above our heads, but with its image reflected by our quadrants. As he was almost vertical over us, we were dispersed round the ship, each thinking he had brought the reflected image down to the proper point of the horizon, until, startled by hearing ‘twelve o'clock,’ reported by the master, we found too late, and much to our annoyance, that it would have been wiser to have looked at the compass before observing the altitude.

Soon after mid-day black curling ripples stole along the hitherto glassy surface; sail was made, the sea-breeze freshened, and we steered towards the entrance of that magnificent harbour, Rio de Janeiro.

Often as it has been visited and described, I cannot expect any one to require another sketch, but will merely remark that I know no port equal to it in situation, security, capacity, convenience, and abundant supply of every necessary, as well as in picturesque beauty. A day or two after the Owen Glendower anchored, a party of her midshipmen were allowed to take a boat and enjoy a day's excursion in the beautiful harbour, or rather gulf. We landed on an island, which seemed to me like an immense hot-bed, so luxuriant and aromatic were the shrubs, and so exotical the appearance of every tree and flower. Years since elapsed have not in the least diminished my recollection of the novelty and charm of that first view of tropical vegetation.

To return to the Beagle. On the 3d [April, 1832] we were near Raza Island , but detained by calms. The light-house lately erected there showed a bright revolving, or rather intermitting light. On the following day, when the sea-breeze set in, we steered for the harbour.§ The sun shone brightly, and there were enough passing clouds to throw frequent shadows over the wooded heights and across vallies, where, at other times, the brightest tints of varied green were conspicuous: yet I did not think the place half so beautiful as formerly. The charm of novelty being gone, and having anticipated too much, were perhaps the causes; and it is possible that so much wood has been cleared away in late years, as to have diminished sensibly the rich and picturesque appearance which it certainly once possessed.

§ Presumably “the harbour” of Rio de Janeiro, where the Beagle anchored.

As we shortened sail under the stern of our flag-ship, I was surprised by finding Sir Thomas Baker, the Commander-in-chief, giving directions for the positions to be taken forthwith by the ships of his squadron then present, and orders for the boats to be prepared for landing marines. This was in consequence of one of those disturbances almost usual in South America, especially in Brazil. Some outrages had been committed in the town, and a mutiny had broken out among the troops. Under old and established governments, revolt and mutiny are events which so seldom occur that their shock is not only felt at the time, but transmits vibrations through succeeding ages. In these unsettled states, however, they recur so frequently, that even on the spot they cause little sensation, and excepting by those personally concerned, are scarcely remembered afterwards.

Few strangers visit the metropolis of Brazil without being disappointed, if not disgusted. Numbers of almost naked negroes, hastening along narrow streets—offensive sights and smells, an uncivil and ill-looking native population—indispose one to be pleased, even with novelty; but impressions such as these soon wear off. In the environs of the city are many good houses, in beautiful situations; and while enjoying delightful rides amidst the richest and most varied scenery, or resting in the shade of a veranda, refreshed by the sea-breeze, and overlooking a prospect hardly to be surpassed in the world the annoyances and the nuisances of the town are forgotten.

With respect to astronomical observations, I was extremely unfortunate at Rio de Janeiro, except in those simple ones for time and latitude, which depend upon sextants and artificial horizons. Being the rainy season, but few nights were favourable for observing the transits of stars with the moon, and those few were too near the full moon to be available. But had the weather been otherwise, I doubt whether I should have obtained satisfactory results, because the transit instrument employed was of an inferior construction, and still more, because I was unaccustomed to its use. So much time was employed, to the prejudice of other duties, in adjusting and re-adjusting this imperfect instrument, and ineffectually watching for intervals of clear sky, that I resolved to set up the transit no more, until I had an interval of leisure, and a prospect of some cloudless nights.

Having so many good chronometers on board; being practised in observations such as they require; and placing great confidence in their results; I felt inclined to give attention and time to them rather than to perplex myself, and cause much delay in moving from place to place, by attempting series of observations which would give occupation to an astronomer, and could not be undertaken by me, while actively engaged in coast-survey, without interfering with other duties. In the Appendix§ it may be seen how far results obtained by the chronometers agree with those of a higher class, especially with the recent ones of Captain Beechey, to whose determinations, resulting from moon-culminating observations, I conclude that a high value will be attached, because he is a well-practised and able observer.

§ Appendix, 55: “Remarks on Chronometrical Observations and a Chain of Meridian Distances”

As I found that a difference, exceeding four miles of longitude, existed between the meridian distance from Bahia to Rio, determined by the French expedition under Baron Roussin,§ and that measured by the Beagle; yet was unable to detect any mistake or oversight on my part; I resolved to return to Bahia, and ascertain whether the Beagle's measurement was incorrect. Such a step was not warranted by my instructions; but I trusted to the Hydrographer for appreciating my motives, and explaining them to the Lords of the Admiralty. In a letter to Captain Beaufort, I said, “I have not the least doubt of our measurement from Bahia; but do not think that any other person would rely on this one measure only, differing widely, as it does, from that of a high authority—the Baron Roussin. By repeating it, if it should be verified, more weight will be given to other measures made by the same instruments and observers.”

§ Baron Albin Reine Roussin surveyed the Atlantic coast of Brazil in 1819.

We sailed with the ebb-tide and sea-breeze, cleared the port before the land-wind rose, and when it sprung up steered along the coast towards Cape Frio. Most persons prefer sailing from Rio early in the morning, with the land-wind; but to any well-manned vessel, there is no difficulty whatever in working out of the port during a fresh sea-breeze, unless the flood-tide should be running in strongly.

On this passage one of our seamen died of a fever, contracted when absent from the Beagle with several of her officers, on an excursion to the interior part of the extensive harbour of Rio de Janeiro. One of the ship's boys, who was in the same party, lay dangerously ill, and young Musters seemed destined to be another victim to this deadly fever.

It was while the interior of the Beagle was being painted, and no duty going on except at the little observatory on Villegagnon Island, that those officers who could be spared made this excursion to various parts of the harbour. Among other places they were in the river Macacu, and passed a night there. No effect was visible at the time; the party returned in apparent health, and in high spirits; but two days had not elapsed when the seaman, named Morgan, complained of headach[e] and fever.

The boy Jones and Mr. Musters were taken ill, soon afterwards, in a similar manner; but no serious consequences were then apprehended, and it was thought that a change of air would restore them to health. Vain idea! they gradually became worse; the boy died the day after our arrival in Bahia; and, on the 19th of May, my poor little friend Charles Musters, who had been entrusted by his father to my care, and was a favourite with every one, ended his short career.

My chief object in now mentioning these melancholy facts is to warn the few who are not more experienced than I was at that time, how very dangerous the vicinity of rivers may be in hot climates. Upon making more inquiry respecting those streams which run into the great basin of Rio de Janeiro, I found that the Macacu was notorious among the natives as being often the site of pestilential malaria, fatal even to themselves. How the rest of our party escaped, I know not; for they were eleven or twelve in number, and occupied a day and night in the river. When they left the ship it was not intended that they should go up any river; the object of their excursion being to visit some of the beautiful islets which stud the harbour. None of us were aware, however, that there was so dangerous a place as the fatal Macacu within reach. I questioned every one of the party, especially the second lieutenant and master, as to what the three who perished had done different from the rest; and discovered that it was believed they had bathed during the heat of the day, against positive orders, and unseen by their companions; and that Morgan had slept in the open air, outside the tent, the night they passed on the bank of the Macacu.

As far as I am aware, the risk, in cases such as these, is chiefly encountered by sleeping on shore, exposed to the air on or near the low banks of rivers, in woody or marshy places subject to great solar heat. Those who sleep in boats, or under tents, suffer less than persons sleeping on shore and exposed; but they are not always exempt, as the murderous mortalities on the coast of Africa prove. Whether the cause of disease is a vapour, or gas, formed at night in such situations, or only a check to perspiration when the body is peculiarly affected by the heat of the chmate, are questions not easy to answer, if I may judge from the difficulty I have found in obtaining any satisfactory information on the subject. One or two remarks may be made here, perhaps.—The danger appears to be incurred while sleeping; or when over-heated; not while awake and moderately cool; therefore we may infer that a check to the perspiration which takes place at those times is to be guarded against, rather than the breathing of any peculiar gas, or air, rising from the rivers or hanging over the land, which might have as much effect upon a person awake, as upon a sleeper. Also, to prevent being chilled by night damp, and cold, as well as to purify the air, if vapour or gas should indeed be the cause of fever, it is advisable to keep a large fire burning while the sun is below the horizon. But the subject of malaria has been so fully discussed by medical men, that even this short digression is unnecessary.

To return to the narrative. Mr. Bynoe consulted with the best medical advisers at Bahia, and afterwards at Rio de Janeiro, and he and I had the melancholy satisfaction of knowing that the best had been done for his patients.

The affectionate kindness of Mr. Bynoe on this, and indeed every occasion where his skill and attention were required, will never be forgotten by any of his shipmates.

In our passage from Rio de Janeiro to Bahia, we passed between the Abrolhos Islands § and the main land, having a fresh southerly wind, and cloudy weather, with frequent rain. Of course there was some anxiety until we saw the islands, and it was necessary to keep the lead constantly going; but we got into no difficulty, and, assisted by Massey's log, as well as Massey's lead, we made a short passage, without an hour's delay or scant wind. This was favourable for the chronometer measurement, and I was deeply gratified by finding, soon after our arrival, that the measure from Rio to Bahia confirmed that previously made, even to a second of time.

§ Abrolhos Islets in Chapter 3.

On the 23d of May, we sailed the second time from Bahia, and steered to pass as near as possible to the eastern side of the Abrolhos; but, owing to unfavourable winds, could not approach nearer to them than in fourteen fathoms water.

When examining many of the cases of preserved meat* with which the Admiralty had ordered us to be provided, we found that several had burst and caused a most disagreeable smell. This was not the fault of the tin cases, but an unavoidable accident consequent upon their being stowed where salt water had occasional access, and corroded the tin. In so small and so crammed a hold as ours, it was not easy to make stowage for every thing that ought to be kept dry, particularly with a hatch-deck, while rolling about in the Bay of Biscay; but being warned by this first appearance of decay, our internal arrangement was partly changed, and some of the hatches on the lower deck temporarily caulked down.

* Prepared by Kilner and Moorsom.

Delayed by southerly winds and a long heavy swell from the southward, we made rather a tedious passage back to Rio, and did not anchor until the night of the 3d of June.

Next day (4th) the usual sets of equal altitudes were observed; and after the chronometer rates were ascertained, I had the satisfaction of finding that this third meridian distance agreed exactly with the first and second. Upon further examination, it was seen that the Abrolhos Islands were laid down correctly in the French chart, with respect to Bahia; but that the meridian distance between those islands and Rio de Janeiro differed more than four miles from that resulting from three measures made by our twenty chronometers.

A few weeks afterwards all the data and results of these measurements were given to the French Commander-in-chief on the station, who promised to forward them to the Baron Roussin; but I have heard nothing of their having been received. Even those who are disposed to place little reliance on the performance of chronometers, and who doubt the accuracy of distances measured by the transport of time, might be interested by a glance at the particulars of these meridian distances, which are given in the Appendix.§ They much increased my own confidence in that simple method of ascertaming differences of longitude, and tended to determine my dependence upon a connected chain of meridian distances, in preference to any other mode of finding the precise longitude.

§ Appendix, 55: “Remarks on Chronometrical Observations and a Chain of Meridian Distances”

While watering, and rating the chronometers, a few comparatively leisure days afforded a seasonable opportunity for trying the qualities of boats, and exciting fair emulation among their crews. With the Commander-in-chiefs permission, and the encouragement of the officers of his squadron, then in the port, some good boat-races were arranged; and knowing how much might afterwards depend upon the qualities of the Beagle's boats, it was very gratifying to find them excellent. Four of the set were built by Mr. Johns, the well-known boat-builder in Plymouth Dock-yard, and the other two by Mr. May, our carpenter. Captain Talbot, of the Warspite, and Captain Waldegrave, of the Seringapatam, tried their best boats and best men on two successive days, to the encouragement of the boats' crews and boat-sailers of the squadron, and much to the surprise of the Brazilians, who had never witnessed any thing like a regatta.

From our first arrival at Rio de Janeiro, until we were ready to leave, finally, in July, little Fuegia was staying on shore, at the house of an Englishwoman, near Botafogo bay; and it is worth noticing, that while there, she was supposed by strangers to be one of the aboriginal natives of Brazil: and that I went with York and Jemmy to see a person (who had been many years resident in the interior of Brazil) who remarked, directly he saw them, “they are extremely like the Brazilian aborigines!”

At this time of year (July) the climate of Rio is comparatively cool and pleasant. Cloudy skies, southerly winds, and rain, are frequent; but there is less thunder and lightning than in summer, when not only thunder-storms occur often, but every night there is a continual flashing or reflection of lightning over the distant Organ mountains.

Many ships and buildings have been struck, during late years, still there are but a very few protected by lightning conductors. I was a lieutenant on board the Thetis, when her foremast was shattered by lightning, in Rio Harbour, and shall not easily forget the sensation. Some of the officers were sitting in the gun-room, one very dark evening, while the heavens were absolutely black, and the air hot and close, to an oppressive degree, but not a drop of rain falling, when a rattling crash shook the ship. Some thought several guns had been fired together—others, that an explosion of powder had taken place; but one said—“The ship is struck by lightning!” and that was the case. The top-gallant masts were not aloft; but the fore-topmast was shivered into a mere collection of splinters; the hoops on the foremast were burst, and the interior, as well as outside of the mast, irreparably injured. From the foremast the electric fluid seemed to have escaped by some conductor, without doing further damage; yet it filled the fore part of the ship with a sulphureous smell, and the men who were there thought something full of gunpowder was blown up.

No person received injury: the foremast was taken out afterwards, and replaced by another, purchased from the Brazilian government at a great expense, and made by the carpenters of the Thetis. I should say that the electric fluid shook rather than shattered the fore-topmast, for it did not fall, but resembled a bundle of long splinters, almost like reeds. It twisted round the head of the foremast, instead of descending by the shortest line, went into the centre of the spar, and then out again to the hoops, every one of which, above the deck, was burst asunder. The Thetis was to have sailed in a few days, but was detained by this accident almost two months. She had no conductor in use.

Only two or three flashes of lightning were seen afterwards; they were accompanied by loud peals of thunder, and then heavy rain poured down. Just before the rain began, St. Elmo's fire was seen at each yard-arm, and at the mast-head. Those who have not seen this light, always a favourite with sailors, because they say it only appears when the worst part of the storm is over, may excuse my saying that it resembles the light of a piece of phosphorus—not being so bright, or so small, as that of a glow-worm, nor yet so large as the flame of a small candle. I was curious enough to go out to a yard-arm and put my hand on a luminous spot; but, of course, could feel nothing, and when I moved my hand the spot re-appeared. About the same time of the year in which this happened, the Heron corvette was struck by lightning, and damaged, while lying at anchor off Buenos Ayres, in the river Plata, a locality extremely subject to vivid lightning, yet different in every respect from that of Rio de Janeiro: one being a flat, open country, near a fresh water river, and in latitude 34°; the other a mountainous and woody region, near the sea, and within the tropic of Capricorn.

On the 5th of July we sailed from Rio de Janeiro, honoured by a salute, not of guns, but of hearty cheers from H.M.S. Warspite. Strict etiquette might have been offended at such a compliment to a little ten-gun brig, or, indeed, to any vessel unless she were going out to meet an enemy, or were returning into port victorious: but although not about to encounter a foe, our lonely vessel was going to undertake a task laborious, and often dangerous, to the zealous execution of which the encouragement of our brother-seamen was no trifling inducement.

While in harbour, a few alterations had been made in the disposition of our guns and stores, as well as some slight changes in the sails and rigging; and as the Beagle's equipment afterwards remained unaltered, I will here briefly describe it. She was rigged as a bark; her masts were strongly supported by squarer cross-trees and tops, and by larger rigging than usual in vessels of her tonnage.* Chains were used where found to answer, and in no place was a block or a sheave allowed which did not admit the proper rope or chain freely. There were large trysails between the masts, made of stout canvas, with several reefs, and very useful we found them. On the forecastle was a six-pound boat-carronade: before the ches-tree were two brass six-pound guns: close to the bulwark on each side of the waist were the ‘booms; and amidships two boats, on the diagonal principle, one stowed inside the other, and as close to the deck as possible; being secured by iron cranks, or supports. Abaft the main-mast were four brass guns, two nine-pound, and two six-pound: the skylights were large; there was no capstan; over the wheel the poop-deck projected, and under it were cabins, extremely small, certainly, though filled in inverse proportion to their size. Below the upper deck her accommodations were similar to, though rather better than those of vessels of her class. Over the quarter-deck, upon skids, two whale-boats, eight-and-twenty feet long, were carried; upon each quarter was a whale-boat twenty-five feet in length, and astern was a dinghy.

* Two hundred and forty-two tons.

A few leagues southward of the port is a good situation for enjoying a general view of the picturesque mountains in its vicinity. When near the shore one only sees those of an inferior order; and it is not until an offing is gained that the bold and varied outlines of the distant Organ Mountains,* the sharp peak of the Corcovado, and the singular heights over Tijuca,§§ can be seen at once. Whimsical allusion has been made to the first Lord Hood in the name by which one of these heights is called by English sailors; and in their general outline is a fancied resemblance to a huge giant lying on his back.

* So called because they have a number of pinnacles, somewhat like the pipes of an organ. §

§ Parque Nacional da Serra dos Órgãos, Brazil. 22.474429° S, 42.968352° W.

§§ 22.411421° S, 42.952888° W.

Off Santa Martha, a sort of Cape Spartivento, near which one rarely passes without having a change of wind, if not a storm, we were detained by strong southerly gales, which raised a high sea. This extreme movement and delay I regretted much at the time, on account of the chronometers; but the sequel shewed that such motion did not affect them materially, and that alterations of their rates were caused chiefly, if not entirely, by changes of temperature.§

§ This paragraph seems to be mis-located, since it is unlikely that FitRoy was referring to the modern Santa Marta, almost 200 miles NNE ½ E of Rio de Janeiro. He is probably referring to Cape Santa Martha, which he mentions three paragraphs below. In any case, there are two capes in Italy named Capo Spartivento; one on the southern coast of Sardinia, another near Reggio Calabria. In context, FitzRoy probably refers to the former.

Gales in the latitude of Santa Martha generally commence with north-westerly winds, thick cloudy weather, rain, and lightning. When at their height, the barometer begins to rise (having previously fallen considerably), soon after which the wind flies round, by the west, to south-west, and from that quarter usually blows very hard for several hours. But these, which are the ordinary gales, blow from, or along the land, and do not often raise such a sea as is sometimes found off this coast during a south-east storm.

After a tiresome continuance of south-west winds, I became anxious to make Santa Catharina, § but before we could reach it the wind changed, and enabled us to steer along the coast towards the south. Having mentioned Santa Catharina, I may as well add a few words to the many lavished in its praise by voyagers of all nations; for it is, excepting Rio de Janeiro, and perhaps Bahia, the best trading port on the east coast of South America; and, considering its situation, capabilities, and productions, is a place in which seamen must always have an interest. It enjoys the advantages of a temperate climate; an extensive and accessible harbour; a most fertile country, abounding in the necessaries of life; and a mercantile position of much importance. The people are more inclined to exert themselves than those in northern Brazil; a difference arising partly, no doubt, from effect of climate; but chiefly from their having descended from active and enterprising, though lawless settlers, who were ejected from other places; and from a few respectable colonists induced to emigrate from the Azores. Before I quit the neighbourhood of frequented ports on this coast, one possessing peculiar interest, Santos, ought to be mentioned; to remind seamen that they may there also obtain any refreshments, and secure their ships in a sheltered creek, quite easy of access. For several leagues round Santos there is an extensive flat, covered with thick woods, but intersected by rivers and salt water inlets, whose banks are lined with thickets of mangrove trees. Inland a mountain range abruptly rises to the height of two or three thousand feet, every where clothed with almost impenetrable forests. The climate is, however, unhealthy in December, January, and February; and during the whole year there is a great deal of rain.

§ Now, the city of Florianópolis, capital of the state of Santa Caterina and located on Ilha Santa Caterina.

Returning to the coast southward of Santa Catharina, I may mention that Cape Santa Martha,§ and the shores extending northward of it, are high and woody, like the greater part of the coast of Brazil; but that on the south side of the promontory there is a complete change of character: lofty ranges of mountains sinking into low treeless shores, whose outline is as tame and unvarying as that of the former is bold and picturesque.

§ Now, Cabo de Santa Marta Grande.

While sailing along the level uninteresting coast just mentioned, with a fresh breeze off the land, we found it bitterly cold, though the thermometer never was below 40°. Faht: so much does our perception of heat or cold depend upon comparison. Some of our exaggerated opinions as to the coldness of the southern hemisphere may have arisen from the circumstances under which voyagers usually visit high southern latitudes, immediately after enduring the heat of the tropics, and without staying long enough to ascertain the real average temperature during a whole year.

On the 22d of July we were near the river Plata, and as the weather, after sunset, became very dark, with thunder and lightning, though with but little wind, we anchored in the vicinity of Cape Sta Maria§ to avoid being drifted about by irregular currents. For upwards of an hour St. Elmo fires were seen at each mast-head, and at some of the yard-arms: the mast-head vane also, fixed horizontally, and framed with copper, had an illuminated border round it. Heavy rain, much thunder, and a fresh southerly wind followed; but as we were prepared for bad weather, and the sea did not rise much, we maintained our position till daylight next morning, notwithstanding an officer of the watch startling me by reporting that we must be very near the land, because he heard bullocks bellowing.*

§ Now, Cabo de Santa María.

* These noises must have been the discordant ‘braying’ of the bird called by seamen ‘jack-ass penguin.’

On the 23d we entered the great estuary of this shallow though wide river, a hundred and twenty miles across at this part,§ yet averaging less than ten fathoms in depth; and above fifty miles wide between Monte Video and the opposite point, called Piedras [now, Punta Piedras], where the average depth is not more than three fathoms. Very great care is required by vessels navigating the Plata, because of its exceedingly dangerous shoals, its strong and irregular currents, and the sudden tempests to which it is subject. The shoals and currents may be guarded against by a very careful attention to the lead, and a ground-log; but the fury of a violent pampero * must be endured. The land on each side of the Plata is so low, and those extraordinary plains called pampas, hundreds of miles in extent, are so perfectly free from a single obstacle which might offer any check to the storm, that a pampero sweeps over land and water with the weight of a rushing hurricane. Captain King has already described one, by which the Beagle suffered severely, in 1829;† but having, to my sorrow, been more immediately concerned, I will endeavour to give a brief account of that disastrous affair, as a warning to others.

§ Rio de la Plata, about 135 miles wide at its mouth and 63+ miles between Montevideo and Punta Piedras.

* So called because it appears to come from the vast plains called ‘pampas.’

Vol. i. pp. 189, 190, 191.

On the 30th of January 1829, the Beagle was standing in, from sea, towards the harbour of Maldonado. Before mid-day the breeze was fresh from N.N.W., but after noon it became moderate, and there was a gloominess, and a close sultry feeling, which seemed to presage thunder and rain. I should mention that during three preceding nights banks of clouds had been noticed near the south-west horizon, over which there was a frequent reflection of very distant lightning.

The barometer had been falling since the 25th, slowly, but steadily, and on the 30th, at noon, it was at 29.4, and the thermometer 78°. I, and those with me, thought little about the fall of the mercury, and still less about the threatening aspect of the south-west horizon. “Heavy rain,” I thought, “at night, will not signify when we are moored in Maldonado:” and there was then every prospect of our reaching that port before night.

Having been often in the river Plata, and once for eight months successively, I had acquired a familiarity with the place, and a disregard for pamperoes, which was not surprising in a young man who had witnessed many, but certainly, as it happened, not one of so serious a nature as to cause any particular impression on his mind. I had not then learned never to despise an enemy.

At about three o'clock the wind was light, and veering about from north-west to north-east. There was a heavy bank of clouds in the south-west, and occasionally lightning was visible even in daylight. Myriads of insects, such as butterflies, dragon-flies, and moths, came off from the land; driven, as it appeared, by gusts of heated wind. At four the breeze freshened up from N.N.W., and obliged us to take in all light sails. Maldonado Tower§ then bore west, and Lobos Island (centre) S.W.b.S.§§ The weather became more unsettled and threatening, though still we had no expectation of any material change before night: but soon after five it became so dark towards the south-west, and the lightning increased so much, that we shortened sail to the reefed topsails and foresail; still hoping to reach our destination before the pampero began. Shortly before six the upper clouds in the south-west quarter assumed a singularly hard, and rolled or tufted appearance, like great bales of black cotton, and altered their forms so rapidly, that I ordered sail to be shortened, and the topsails to be furled, leaving set only a small new foresail. The water was smooth, and, not being deep, there was none of that agitated swell usually noticed before a storm in the great ocean.

§ Now, Torre del Vigía (Watchtower), Maldonado. 34.910690° S, 54.961386° W.

§§; Isla de Lobos.
The above coordinates place the Beagle about 11 miles NNE of Isla de Lobos.

Gusts of hot wind came off the nearest land, at intervals of about a minute. The fore-topsail was just furled, and the men down from aloft, the main-topsail in the gaskets, but the men still on the yard, when a furious blast from the north-west struck the ship. The helm was put up, and she paid off fast; yet the wind changed still more quickly, and blew so heavily from south-west, that the foresail split to ribands, and the ship was thrown almost on her beam-ends, and no longer answered her helm. The main-topsail was instantly blown loose out of the men's hands, whose lives were in imminent danger; the fore-topsail blew adrift out of the gaskets; the mainsail blew away out of the gear; the lee hammock-netting was under water; and the vessel apparently capsizing, when topmasts and jib-boom went, close to the caps, and she righted considerably. Both anchors were cut away (for the land was under our lee), and a cable veered upon each, which brought her head to wind, and upright. The heaviest rush of wind had then passed, but it was still blowing a hard gale, and the Beagle was pitching her forecastle into the short high waves which had risen. As the depth of water was small, and the ground tenacious clay, both anchors held firmly, and our utmost exertions were immediately directed towards clearing the wreck, and saving the remains of our broken spars and tattered sails. Had we suffered in no other way, I should have felt joy at having escaped so well, instead of the deep regret occasioned by the loss of two seamen, whose lives, it seemed, might have been spared to this day had I anchored and struck topmasts, instead of keeping under sail in hopes of entering Maldonado before the pampero began.

When the main-topsail blew away from the men, who struggled hard to keep it fast, they could scarcely hold on, or get off the yard, and one young man fell from the lee yard-arm into the sea. Poor fellow, he swam well, but in vain: the ship was unmanageable, almost overset, the weather quarter boat stove, and the lee one under water: a grating was thrown to him, and the life-buoy let go, but he was seen no more. Another man was supposed to have been carried overboard with the main-topmast, as he was last seen on the cap.

The starboard quarter boat was stove by the force of the wind; and the other was washed away: and so loud was the sound of the tempest, that I did not hear the masts break, though standing, or rather holding, by the mizen rigging. Never before or since that time have I witnessed such strength, or, I may say, weight of wind: thunder, lightning, hail, and rain, came with it, but they were hardly noticed in the presence of so formidable an accompaniment.

After seven the clouds had almost all passed away; the wind settled into a steady south-west gale, with a clear sky; the barometer rose to 29.8, and the thermometer fell to 46°. Lobos Island was set S.E., bearing distant two miles.

In this pampero the masts of a vessel, at anchor off Monte Video, were carried away; and the upper cabin bulkhead of a Brazilian corvette was blown in while lying at anchor, head to wind, with her masts struck. But Maldonado seemed to feel its utmost violence; and there it certainly commenced like a whirlwind. A small boat, belonging to a poor man who carried fruit and vegetables to ships in the bay, was hauled ashore, just above high-water mark, and fastened, by a strong rope, to a large stone. After the storm it was found far from the beach, shattered to pieces, but still fast to the stone, which it had dragged along. Not many days after our disaster, while lying in Maldonado bay, repairing damages, another pampero assailed the Beagle; but though it did her no injury, it blew the boat, stove by its predecessor, away from the place on shore where she was being repaired, and left no trace of her behind.

Singular fluctuations occur in the river Plata before and after these pamperoes.* For some days previously the river rises, and it is always higher than usual when the south-west wind begins: but, after a few hours, the water falls rapidly, and vessels are left aground: indeed instances have been known of the upper parts of the river, near Buenos Ayres, being so much emptied by strong south-westerly, or westerly winds, that men have rode several miles into its bed, to places where ships usually anchor. I have myself known the water fall, in the outer road, off Buenos Ayres, from six to two fathoms, in less than twelve hours, in a place where the usual depth was four fathoms. Such a change as this would not be thought remarkable where tides usually rise several fathoms; but in the river Plata, where there is very little, if any, tide, where the width of the channel is so great in proportion to its depth, and the confining boundaries are so low, and in many places easily overflowed, a variation of four fathoms cannot take place without causing great difficulties and destruction. In this particular instance,† a heavy gale from the eastward dammed up the river for some days; and then changing, by the south, to the westward, emptied it again proportionably. Small craft were left literally scattered about the low country bordering on the river near Buenos Ayres, and many vessels never floated again. By that gale, which blew directly up the river, and raised a heavy sea, every vessel was driven ashore from the inner road of Buenos Ayres, except a schooner. Fourteen English merchant vessels lay high and dry upon the shore next day, most of them totally lost. The Owen Glendower, bearing the broad pendant of Sir Thomas Hardy, the Icarus brig, and two or three merchant vessels, anchored in the outer road, weathered it out with topmasts struck; but all drove considerably, except the frigate, and she brought both anchors ahead, backed by stream anchors with half a cable on each, and riding with a whole cable on each bower, in four fathoms water, over very soft tenacious ground. Part of her forecastle netting was washed away by the sea, though she was an excellent roadster, and at that time drawing a foot less water than usual. She also lost a boat in a manner so likely to be of future occurrence, that I will yet digress, in hopes of being useful, by relating the incident.

* Although generally considered by strangers to refer solely to a squall, or storra, the term pampero is applied by the natives of the country to every south-westerly wind, whether moderate or a hurricane.

† In the year 1820.

Her barge, ably managed by an experienced seaman,* had tried to beat off from the town to the ship, during the commencement of the gale, but could get no farther than the leewardmost merchantman in the outer road. Astern of that vessel she was made fast by a strong hawser, and there rode out the gale admirably until the current began to set out of the river: when the boat was carried against the vessel, and knocked to pieces before any thing could be done to save her, as the sea was running high, and the wind still blowing a gale. The Druid frigate, when lying there† would have lost a boat in the same way, had it not been one of those excellent diagonal boats, built by Mr. Johns; for it was taken, by the strong weather current, under the ship's bottom, and kept striking there long enough to have broken any ordinary boat into a thousand pieces; but nevertheless she appeared again with only her gunwales injured, the bottom being still perfectly sound.

* The first who took a steam-vessel to the West-Indies.

† In 1832.

The Plata has been called by the Spaniards ‘El Infierno de los marineros;’ sufficient stress has not however been laid on the redeeming qualities which it possesses in having anchoring ground every where, and in soundings, whose nature tells whether you are approaching danger; as on and near the banks the bottom is hard; while in the deeper water it is very soft.

I have remarked that before a continuance of southerly winds the water rises considerably in this river; and I may add, that the reverse takes place under opposite circumstances. Some persons attribute this change of level to the horizontal action of wind; but I am inclined to think it occasioned chiefly by vertical pressure of the atmosphere, increased, doubtless, during strong winds by their driving force.

Before a pampero, the barometer continues to fall during several days, and invariably the water then rises. The gale commences, the barometer ceases falling and begins to rise, and very soon afterwards the level of the river is found to be sinking. For many following days the glass remains high, but the water continues to fall, and, generally speaking, the river is low while the mercury is steady and above the average height, which I should consider to be 29·9 inches. In the Plata I never saw the barometer higher than 30·3, nor lower than 29·4.* I will not delay here to speak of corresponding elevations or depressions of the ocean at other parts of the South American coast, and attempt to trace out the effects of gales in high latitudes, the space through which those winds extend, and whether they reach or affect places in a low or even middle latitude; but leaving such inquiries for another place, take a few more glances at the vicinity of the Plata, and then continue the narrative.

* In estimating weather, or force of wind, by the height of the mercurial column, due regard should be had to the goodness of the instrument, as some barometers, used in ships, differ from others even tenths of an inch.

Having already noticed the width and average shallowness of this immense river, and the lowness of its adjacent shores, I need only add, that on the northern side there is a sprinkling of hills, of a granitic structure, scattered amidst extensive plains, while on the south, or right bank, there is neither a hill, a rock, or even a stone.* So low is the land between Point Piedras and Cape San Antonio, that around the great bay, called Sanborombon, it is extremely difficult to say where the water ends, or the coast line begins. Each difference, of even a foot, in the height of the water, makes a change of cables'lengths, if not of miles, in the position of the limiting line between water and land. In consequence it is very dangerous for ships to approach that shore; and, although the bottom is in many places soft, often extremely deep mud, there are other spaces in which hard lumps of tosca† are found, almost as injurious to a ship's bottom as actual rock. I am not aware that there is any granite on the south side of the river Plata, near the shore; and although the name ‘Piedras’ would incline one to suppose there are rocks or stones near it, I could only find tosca. But towards the northern shore rocks are found, and the dangerous shoal called ‘Banco Yngles,’ is said to have a granitic foundation.

* Which has not been carried there by man, or by running water.

† Tosca is a kind of hardened earth, rather than soft stone, about the consistence of slightly baked clay: it is of a dark brown colour, and varies in hardness from that which is almost stony, to the texture of a sound old cheese.

The ridge, of which the English Bank is the north-west extremity, extends eastward, inclining to the south, considerably beyond a line drawn from Cape Santa Maria to Cape San Antonio, and less than ten fathoms water may be found upon it out of sight of land. Northward of the ridge the depth of water varies from ten to thirty fathoms over a very soft bottom of bluish mud; and to the southward of it there are from twelve to three fathoms (diminishing as you approach San Antonio) over a softish bottom of brown or yellow muddy sand.* When it is considered that three very large rivers, besides a host of smaller streams, enter the ocean by the estuary whose more remarkable features we are noticing, that two of those rivers are flooded periodically by tropical rains,† and that very heavy gales assist in emptying or filling the shallow wide gulf, in which floods of fresh water contend against the volume of a powerful ocean; not only will frequent variations in depth be expected, as a natural consequence, but also strong and varying currents. Little or no tide has been hitherto noticed with any degree of accuracy in the estuary of the Plata; but this anomaly may be more apparent than real: for where the depth of water is so fluctuating, and the currents are so variable, it is difficult to distinguish the precise effects of tides, except by a series of observations far longer than has yet been made.

* Near Cape San Antonio and Point Tuyu § there is very soft mud.

§ There is a San Clemente del Tuyú very close to Cape San Antonio, which may be the site of FitzRoy's Point Tuyu.

† The Paraguay rises so far northward, that (excepting a portage of three miles) a canoe may go from Monte Video to the mouth of the Amazon.

To say much of Maldonado village, the town of Monte Video, or the city of Buenos Ayres, would be to repeat an ‘oft-told tale.’ The views attached to this volume will give a tolerably clear idea of a few striking peculiarities which are immediately noticed by the eye of a stranger; and of the inhabitants themselves I will only venture to say, upon my slight acquaintance with them, that although prejudiced by their erroneous ideas of freedom, and deficient in high principles, they are courteous and agreeable as mere acquaintances, kind to strangers, and extremely hospitable.

It is well known that there are very few trees* on either bank of the Plata near its mouth, or on those immense plains, called pampas, excepting here and there an ‘ombu,’† or some which have been planted near houses; or a few copses of small trees (mostly peach) planted for fuel: but I have not heard any sufficient reason given for this scarcity of wood, in a country covered with a great depth of alluvial soil, and adjoining districts in which trees are abundant. The only second causes for such a peculiarity, which I can imagine, are the following: the nature of the soil, which may be unsuited to most trees, although very productive of grass and gigantic thistles: the furious storms which sweep along the level expanse, and would demolish tender, unprotected young trees: the general want of water, which in some years is so great as to become a severe drought: and the numerous herds of wild cattle which range over the plains, and eat up every leaf which retains any moisture during the dry heats of summer. Before there were herds of cattle, guanacoes ranged over the country, in great numbers, as they now do to the southward of the river Negro, where I have seen them grazing in large companies, like flocks of sheep. During the droughts above-mentioned vast numbers of cattle die for want of water, and perhaps this may be the principal reason why so few trees grow there naturally; but it cannot be the only one, because they grow where planted, and partially sheltered, though not watered.

* The exceptions are so few, that one might almost say there are no trees which have not been planted.

† A kind of elder.

Most people are aware of the scale upon which the cattle farms of the ‘Banda Oriental’ and ‘Republica Argentina’ were carried on: but the civil wars which have succeeded the steady government of Spain have broken up and ruined many of the largest establishments, where from one hundred to two hundred thousand head of cattle were owned by one man—where the annual increase was about thirty per cent—and where the animals were, generally speaking, slaughtered for their hides alone. What must be the natural fertility of a country, which, without the slightest assistance from man, can nourish such enormous multitudes of cattle, besides immense droves of horses and flocks of sheep, and yet, except near its few towns, appear almost destitute of inhabitants.

To return to our little vessel—entering the Plata in 1832. Unfavourable winds, and currents setting out of the river, delayed our progress, and obliged us to anchor frequently. We arrived at Monte Video on the 26th, and lost no time in making observations for our chronometers, and preparing for surveying the coasts southward of Cape San Antonio: but as I found that it would be advisable to visit Buenos Ayres, in order to communicate with the Government, and obtain information, we sailed from Monte Video on the 31st, and two days afterwards anchored off Buenos Ayres. There, however, we did not remain an hour; for the misconduct of a Buenos Ayrean officer on board a vessel under their colours, and a vexatious regulation with respect to quarantine, decided my returning forthwith to Monte Video; and commissioning a capable person to procure for me copies of some original charts, which I thought would be exceedingly useful, and which could only be obtained from the remains of hydrographical information, collected by Spain, but kept in the archives of Buenos Ayres. The Beagle anchored again off Monte Video, on the 3d of August, and as soon as the circumstances which occasioned her return were made known to Captain G. W. Hamilton, commanding the Druid frigate, that ship sailed for Buenos Ayres.

Scarcely had the Druid disappeared beneath the horizon, when the chief of the Monte Video police and the captain of the port came on board the Beagle to request assistance in preserving order in the town, and in preventing the aggressions of some mutinous negro soldiers. I was also requested by the Consul-general to afford the British residents any protection in my power; and understanding that their lives, as well as property, were endangered by the turbulent mutineers, who were more than a match for the few well-disposed soldiers left in the town, I landed with fifty well-armed men, and remained on shore, garrisoning the principal fort, and thus holding the mutineers in check, until more troops were brought in from the neighbouring country, by whom they were surrounded and reduced to subordination. The Beagle's crew were not on shore more than twenty-four hours, and were not called upon to act in any way; but I was told by the principal persons whose lives and property were threatened, that the presence of those seamen certainly prevented bloodshed.

Some days after this little interruption to our usual avocations, we sailed across the river to Point Piedras, anchored there for some hours to determine its position, then went to Cape San Antonio, and from that point (rather than cape) began our survey of the outer coast. To relate many details of so slow and monotonous an occupation as examining any shore of which the more interesting features have long been known, could answer no good purpose, and would be very tiresome to a general reader; therefore I shall hasten from one place to another, dwelling only, in my way, upon the few incidents, or reflections, which may have interest enough to warrant their being noticed in this abridged narrative, or are absolutely necessary for carrying on the thread of the story.


Eastern Pampa Coast—Point Medanos—Mar-chiquito—Ranges of Hills—Direction of Inlets, Shoals, and Rivers—Cape Corrientes—Tosca Coast—Blanco Bay—Mount Hermoso—Port Belgrano—Mr. Harris—Ventana Mountain—View—Argentina—Commandant—Major—Situation—Toriano—Indians—Fossils—Animals—Fish—Climate—Pumice—Ashes—Conway—Deliberations—Consequent Decision—ResponsibHity incurred—Paz—Liebre—Gale—Hunger—Fossils at Hermoso—Fossils at Point Alta—Express sent to Buenos Ayres—Suspicions and absurd alarm—Rodriguez

Aug. 22. From Cape San Antonio (which, though so called, is only a low point) to rather more than half-way towards Cape Corrientes, the sea-coast is sandy and low. Behind the beach are sand-hills, and farther inshore are thickets affording shelter to numbers of jaguars. In sailing along, even with both leads going, we were, for a few minutes, in imminent danger of grounding upon a bank, or ledge, which extends six miles E.S.E. from Point Medanos [Medanos Point in FitzRoy's Table …]. The water shoaled so suddenly, and so irregularly, that I could not tell which way to steer; and as we had been running directly before the wind, it was impossible to retreat by the safest track (that which we had made in approaching): however, by persevering in pushing eastward, away from the land, steering one way or another as the water deepened, we at last got clear. We then stood out to gain an offing, rounded the bank, and hauled close inshore again nearly opposite to a large salt lagoon, called Mar-chiquito, [Mar Chiquito in FitzRoy's Table, and now, Laguna Mar Chiquita] which approaches the sea so closely as to have occasioned an idea that, by cutting through the narrow strip of land which separates them [about 1½ miles], a fine port might be formed.

Some persons assert that there is always a communication between the lagoon and the sea; that cattle cannot pass along the isthmus on account of that opening; and that a boat [boar?] might swim from one to the other. If this is the case, we were much deceived on board the Beagle; for when she passed so near the spot that the lagoon was overlooked by the officers at her mast-heads, nothing like an opening could be detected, though the beach was scrutinized with good glasses, as well from the deck as by those who looked down upon it from aloft as we sailed by. I suspect that there has been some confusion of ideas respecting the little river San Pablo, and a supposed entrance to the lagoon: but, be this as it may, very great difficulty would be found in attempting to form a large and permanent communication at a spot so exposed to heavy south-east gales.

At Port Valdez (in latitude 42° S.) the entrance § is sometimes completely blocked up by shingle and sand, during and after a strong south-east gale; and I think it probable that such an effect would be caused here, at times, whether there were a natural or an artificial opening; and as there is no great rise and fall of tide, I much doubt whether the opening would be again cleared, as at Port Valdez, by the mere ebb and flow of water.

§ Presumably, FitzRoy is referring to the modern Peninsula Valdés and his “the entrance” is to the small Golfo San José. Port San José and other nearby locations are listed in his Table of Positions.

In the vicinity of Mar-chiquito, the country (campo) is very fertile, and well watered. Sheltered to the south by a range of down-like hills, whence numerous small brooks originate, it gives abundant pasturage to many thousands of cattle, and is considered by the Buenos Ayreans to be the finest district of their territory. This range of hills extends in a west northwest direction for more than fifty leagues, and varies in name at different places. That part next to Cape Corrientes is called Sierra Vuūlcan;* twenty leagues inland is the ridge named Tandil, and at the western extreme is a height called Cayru. Between Tandil and Cayru there are many hills known by particular names, but they are all part of the range above-mentioned; and it is a remarkable fact, that not only this range, that nearer to Buenos Ayres called Cerrillada, and that of which the Sierra Ventana forms a part, extend nearly in an east-south-east and west-north-west direction; but that most of the ranges of high land, most of the rivers, and the greater number of inlets, between the Plata and Cape Horn, have a similar direction, not varying from it above one point, or at most two points of the compass. After we became aware of this peculiarity, it was far easier to avoid shoals, as they all lay in a similar direction.

* An Indian word, which means ‘opening,’ or ‘having openings.’

On a round-topped hill, near Mar-chiquito, we saw an immense herd of cattle, collected together in one dark-coloured mass, which covered many acres of ground. A few men, on horseback, were watching them, who, seeing us anchor, drove the whole multitude away at a gallop, and in a few minutes not one was left behind. Probably they suspected us of marauding inclinations.

Cape Corrientes [Corrientes Cape in FitzRoy's Table …] is a bold, cliffy promontory; off which, notwithstanding the name, I could not distinguish any remarkable current. It is said to be hazardous for a boat to go along-shore, near the high cliffs of that cape, because there are rocks under water which sometimes cause sudden and extremely dangerous ‘blind breakers.’ More than one boat's crew has been lost there, in pursuit of seals, which are numerous among the rocks and caves at the foot of those cliffs. Hence to Bahia Blanco is a long and dreary line of coast, without an opening fit to receive the smallest sailing vessel, without a remarkable feature, and without a river whose mouth is not fordable. Even the plan of it, on paper, has such a regular figure, that an eye accustomed to charts may doubt its accuracy; so rarely does the outline of an exposed sea-coast extend so far without a break. A heavy swell always sets upon it; there is no safe anchorage near the shore; and, as if to complete its uninviting qualities, in the interior, but verging on this shore, is a desert tract, avoided even by the Indians, and called, in their language, Huecuvu-mapu (country of the Devil). In exploring this exposed coast, southerly winds sometimes obliged us to struggle for an offing; and we lost several anchors in consequence of letting them go upon ground which we thought was hard sand lying over clay, but which turned out to be tosca, slightly covered with sand, and full of holes. The lead indicated a sandy, though hard bottom; but we found it every where so perforated and so tough, that, drop an anchor where we might, it was sure to hook a rock-like lump of tosca, which sometimes was torn away, but at others broke the anchor.

Finding this to be the case, I had a stout hawser ‘bent’ to the ‘crown’ of the anchor, and after shortening in cable, tripped the anchor by the hawser, and then weighed it, uninjured, without much difficulty.

Along this extent of sea-coast, half way between the currents in the vicinity of the Plata, and those occasioned by strong tides near Blanco Bay and the river Negro, we found no current. Whether there was a rise of tide it was not easy to ascertain by the lead-line, when at anchor, from the bottom being so uneven; and to land was impossible, on account of a furious surf.

Several kinds of fish were caught at our temporary anchorages, and noticed carefully by Mr. Darwin. Anchorage is not a word I should use in this case (where the anchor was only let go for a short time while the ship's position could be fixed with accuracy, and our triangulation carried on in a satisfactory manner), as it might deceive a stranger to the coast: stopping-place would be better.

While examining the positions nearest to Blanco Bay, we had occasional alarms—such as the wind shifting and blowing strong directly towards the land; our soundings shoaling suddenly to three, or less than three fathoms; or thick weather coming on while a boat was away sounding;—but these are every-day events in a surveying vessel actively employed.

Near Blanco Bay we found the water greatly discoloured, and the soundings were not such as to tempt us onwards; however, it was necessary to proceed. We steered towards a little hill, which I fancied must be Mount Hermoso,* and soon after sun-set, on the 5th, anchored in what we afterwards found to be the roadstead near that hillock, at the head of Blanco Bay, close to the entrance of Port Belgrano, but divided from it by a bank.

* Mount Hermoso is but 140 feet above the sea; yet, on this low coast, it is somewhat remarkable, as being the only peaked hill close to the water; and having under it a low cliffy point, the only one thereabouts.

As the bad apologies for charts of this place, which we possessed at our first visit, left us as much at a loss as if we had none, I set out with the boats next morning to seek for a passage into Port Belgrano.*

* Often erroneously called Bahia Blanco; a name originally given to the outer bay, in compliment to General Blanco.§

§ FitzRoy is mistaken: the larger bay was, and still is, Bahía Blanca (white bay), not named in honor of General Blanco.

Our boats were soon stopped by shoal water, and I found, to my vexation, that the Beagle was anchored at the head of an inlet, between the shore and a large bank extending far towards the south-east, and that before going farther west she must retreat eastward, and look for another passage. This was an unexpected dilemma; but our prospect was improved by the appearance of a small schooner running towards us, from Port Belgrano, with a Buenos Ayrean (or Argentine) flag flying.

Very soon she came near enough for our boat to reach her, and an Englishman came on board, who offered to pilot the Beagle to a safe anchorage within the port. This was Mr. Harris, owner of the little schooner in which he sailed, (a resident at Del Carmen, on the river Negro, and trading thence along the coast), with whom we had much satisfactory intercourse during the next twelvemonth.

By his advice we weighed anchor, stood across the great north bank, in very little more water than we drew, until we got into a channel where there was water enough for any ship, and a soft muddy bottom: there we hauled up west-northwest,* by his direction, and with a fresh wind sailed rapidly into the extensive and excellent, though then little known harbour, called Port Belgrano; and at dusk anchored near the wells under Anchorstock Hill (or Point Johnson).

* So constantly did Mr. Harris give this course, on subsequent occasions, that it became quite a joke; but it is nevertheless a strong corroboration of what I stated respecting the general direction of the inlets, and ridges, or ranges of hills.

To give an idea of the general appearance, or almost disappearance, of the very low land around this spacious port, I will mention, that when the Beagle had crossed the north bank, and hauled up in the fair way, Mount Hermoso was nearly beneath the horizon; some bushes on the flat land southward of us (Zuraita Island) could be just distinguished; and ahead in the north-west quarter, no land could be made out, except the distant Ventana mountain, which we saw for the first time on that day.

In consequence of this extent of water being intersected by banks, and having so few marks, it is very difficult of access; and no place can offer less that is agreeable to the eye, especially when the tide is out, and much of the banks shows above water. A more disagreeable place to survey, or one that would occupy more time, we were not likely to find, I thought, as I looked around from the mast-head; but upon questioning Mr. Harris, I learned that a succession of similar inlets indented a half-drowned coast, extending hence almost to the Negro; and that, although the dangers were numerous, tides strong, banks muddy, and the shores every where low, the intervening ports were so safe, and so likely to be useful, that it was absolutely necessary to examine them.

Sept. 7. Messrs. Darwin, Rowlett, and Harris set out with me to visit the Buenos Ayrean settlement, called Argentina.§ Mr. Harris undertook to be our guide, but after two hours' sailing and pulling we found ourselves near the head of a creek, between two soft mud banks, where we could neither row nor turn the boat. We could not land because the mud was too soft to bear our weight, so there we staid till the tide flowed. About two hours after this stoppage there was water enough for us to cross a large bank, and gain the right channel, from which we had deviated, and then, with a flowing tide, we made rapid progress, until the ‘Guardia’ was announced to us. This was a small hut near the water side, but to reach it we had to wind along a tortuous canal, between banks of soft mud: and when we arrived at the landing-place seven hours had been passed among rushy mud banks, surrounded by which we were often prevented from seeing any solid land. The water was every where salt, the tide running strongly, and the boat often aground.

§ Presumably, Fort Argentino.

Waiting to meet us was an assemblage of grotesque figures, which I shall not easily forget—a painter would have been charmed with them. A dark visaged Quixotic character, partly in uniform, mounted on a large lean horse, and attended by several wild looking, but gaily dressed gauchos,* was nearest to us. Behind him, a little on one side, were a few irregular soldiers, variously armed, and no two dressed alike, but well mounted, and desperate-looking fellows; while on the other side, a group of almost naked Indian prisoners sat devouring the remains of a half roasted horse; and as they scowled at us savagely, still holding the large bones they had been gnawing, with their rough hair and scanty substitutes for clothing blown about by the wind, I thought I had never beheld a more singular group.

* Countrymen, employed in keeping and killing cattle, breeding and training horses, hunting, war, &c.

The tall man in uniform was the Commandant of the settlement, or fortress, called Argentina: he and his soldiers had arrived to welcome us, supposing that we were bringing supplies from Buenos Ayres for the needy colony. The Indian prisoners had been brought to work, and assist in carrying the supplies which were expected. Finding that we were neither Buenos Ayreans, nor traders from any other place, it was supposed that we must be spies sent to reconnoitre the place previous to a hostile attack. Neither the explanations nor assertions of Mr. Harris had any weight, for as he was our countryman, they naturally concluded he was in league with us; yet, as the commandant had some idea that we might, by possibility, be what we maintained we were, he disregarded the whispers and suggestions of his people, and offered to carry us to the settlement for a night's lodging.

Leaving the boat's crew to bivouac, as usual, I accepted a horse offered to me, and took the purser up behind; Mr. Darwin and Harris being also mounted behind two gaucho soldiers, away we went across a flat plain to the settlement. Mr. Darwin was carried off before the rest of the party, to be cross-questioned by an old major, who seemed to be considered the wisest man of the detachment, and he, poor old soul, thought we were very suspicious characters, especially Mr. Darwin, whose objects seemed most mysterious.

In consequence, we were watched, though otherwise most hospitably treated; and when I proposed to return, next morning, to the boat, trifling excuses were made about the want of horses and fear of Indians arriving, by which I saw that the commandant wished to detain us, but was unwilling to do so forcibly; telling him, therefore, I should walk back, and setting out to do so, I elicited an order for horses, maugre [ie, in spite of] the fears and advice of his major, who gave him all sorts of warnings about us. However, he sent an escort with us, and a troop of gaucho soldiers were that very morning posted upon the rising grounds nearest to the Beagle, to keep a watch on our movements.

We afterwards heard, that the old major's suspicions had been very much increased by Harris's explanation of Mr. Darwin's occupation. ‘Un naturalista’ was a term unheard of by any person in the settlement, and being unluckily explained by Harris as meaning ‘a man that knows every thing,’ any further attempt to quiet anxiety was useless.

As this small settlement has seldom been visited by strangers, I will describe its primitive state. In the midst of a level country, watered by several brooks, and much of it thickly covered with a kind of trefoil, stands a mud-walled erection, dignified with the sounding appellation of ‘La fortaleza protectora Argentina.’ It is a polygon, 282 yards in diameter, having about twenty-four sides, and surrounded by a narrow ditch. In some places the walls are almost twenty feet high, but in others I was reminded of the brothers' quarrel at the building of ancient Rome, for there is a mere ditch, over which a man could jump. It is, however, said by the gauchos, that a ditch six feet wide will stop a mounted Indian, and that their houses require no further defence from attacks of the aborigines. How, or why it is that such excellent horsemen do not teach their horses to leap, I cannot understand.

Within, and outside the fort, were huts (ranchos) and a few small houses:—more were not required for the inhabitants, who, including the garrison, only amounted to four hundred souls. Some half-dozen brass guns were in a serviceable condition; and two or three other pieces occupied old carriages, but did not seem to be trustworthy.

The fort was commenced in April 1828, by a French engineer, named Parchappe. The first commandant was Estomba: his successor, Morel, was killed, with ninety followers, by a party of Indians under Chenil, in 1829. Valle and Rojas succeeded, and the latter was followed by Rodriguez. Placed in the first instance as an advanced post, at which to watch and check the Indians, rather than as a colony likely to increase rapidly, Argentina has scarcely made any progress since its establishment, though it is the beginning of what may hereafter be a considerable place. Situated favourably for communicating with Concepcion—by way of the pass through the Cordillera, near Tucapel—it is also the only port, between 25° S. and Cape Horn, capable of receiving in security any number of the largest ships.

There is pasture for cattle near the streams which descend from the ‘Sierra Ventana:’ large salinas (spaces covered with salt) lie within an easy distance of the settlement: of brush-wood for fuel there is plenty, though there are no large trees: and [a] report says that there are valuable minerals, including coal and iron,* in the Ventana† mountain. The most serious objection to the locality, as an agricultural, or even as a mere grazing district, is the want of rain. Two or three years sometimes pass without more than a slight shower; and during summer the heat is great. In winter, there are sharp frosts, sometimes snow; but neither ice nor snow ever lasts through the day.

* I believe there is no good foundation for this report.§ Mr. Darwin's opinion is [also] against the supposition.

§ FitzRoy does not identify “this report.”

† The name ‘Ventana’ was given because of an opening, at the south side, resembling a window.

Good fresh water may be generally obtained, independent of the few running streams, by digging wells between four and ten feet deep: and in this way we found no difficulty in obtaining an ample supply.

Three months before our visit to Argentina, a number of Indians had been surprised and taken prisoners by Rodriguez; and among them was the famous old cacique, Toriano, whose mere name was a terror to the frontier settlers. The commandant attacked their ‘tolderia’ (encampment) just before sunrise—when the young men were absent on an expedition—and made prisoners of the old men, women, and children. Toriano was shot in cold blood; with another cacique, and several Indians of inferior note: and his head was afterwards cut off, and preserved for some time at the fort, in order to convince his adherents of his death. Toriano was a noble Araucanian, upwards of seventy years old when surprised asleep and taken prisoner by his merciless enemies. So high was his acknowledged character as a warrior, that his followers supposed him invincible; and until convinced by the melancholy spectacle seen by their spies, they would not believe him gone.

Perhaps it is not generally known, that many of the most desperate incursions upon the Buenos Ayrean colonists have been made by flying troops, or hordes of Indians, whose head-quarters are in the Cordillera of the Andes, or even on the west coast, between Concepcion and Valdivia. Mounted upon excellent horses, and acquainted with every mile of the country, they think lightly of a predatory or hostile excursion against a place many hundred miles distant.

We returned to the Beagle without another delay among the mud-banks, and found the rising grounds (heights they could not be called), nearest the ship, occupied by the troop of gaucho soldiers. As they did not interfere with us, our surveying operations were begun, and carried on as usual. Mr. Darwin, and those who could be spared from duties afloat, roamed about the country; and a brisk trade was opened with the soldiers for ostriches and their eggs, for deer, cavies, and armadilloes.

My friend's attention was soon attracted to some low cliffs near Point Alta, where he found some of those huge fossil bones, described in his work; and notwithstanding our smiles at the cargoes of apparent rubbish which he frequently brought on board, he and his servant used their pick-axes in earnest, and brought away what have since proved to be most interesting and valuable remains of extinct animals.

The soldiers appointed to watch our movements soon relaxed so far as to spend nearly all their time in hunting animals for us. Besides those already mentioned, they one day brought a fine living puma, in hopes I should offer a good price, and embark it alive; but having no wish for so troublesome a companion in our crowded little vessel, I only bargained for its skin. The soldiers made a hearty meal of the flesh, and asserted that it was good, though inferior to that of a horse, which I had seen them eating a day or two previously.

Four kinds of armadilloes were described to us by these men, of which we saw but two: the quiriquincha, with nine bands; the mataca-bola, which rolls up into a ball; the peludo, which is large and hairy; and the molito, of which I heard only the name. Mr. Rowlett saw a black fox, and he was told that there are wolves in the neighbourhood. Two small burrowing animals are also found: the zorillo, or skunk; and the tucu-tucu. While speaking of animals, I should say that the commandant (Rodriguez) told me, that he had once seen, in Paraguay, a ‘gran bestia,’ not many months old, but which then stood about four feet high. It was very fierce, and secured by a chain. Its shape resembled that of a hog, but it had talons on its feet instead of hoofs; the snout was like a hog's, but much longer. When half-grown, he was told that it would be capable of seizing and carrying away a horse or a bullock. I concluded that he must have seen a tapir or anta; yet as he persisted in asserting that the animal he saw was a beast of prey,* and that it was extremely rare,* I here repeat what he said. (See extract from Falkner.—Appendix—No. 11.)§

* Neither of which remarks apply to thc Anta.

§ The extract comprises pp. 61-63 of Falkner's Patagonia.

Abundance—I may well say shoals of fish were caught by our men, whenever we hauled the nets at a proper time (the beginning of the flood-tide); and as they were chiefly unknown to naturalists, Mr. Earle made careful drawings of them, and Mr. Darwin preserved many in spirits. We procured plenty of good fresh water from wells near the beach, and small wood for fuel in their immediate neighbourhood. The climate is delightful, and healthy to the utmost degree, notwithstanding such extensive flats, half-covered with water, and so many large mud-banks. Perhaps the tides, which rise from eight to twelve feet, and run two or three knots an hour, tend to purify the air; indeed, as the whole inlet is of salt water, there may be no cause for such effects as would be expected in similar situations near fresh water.

In our rambles over the country, near Port Belgrano, we every where found small pieces of pumice-stone; and till Mr. Darwin examined the Ventana, supposed they had been thrown thence: he has, however, ascertained that it is not volcanic; and, I believe, concludes that these fragments came from the Cordillera of the Andes.—(See Vol. III. by Mr. Darwin.)

Falkner, in whose accounts of what he himself saw I have full faith, has a curious passage illustrative of this supposition; and it is not impossible—nor even, I think, improbable—that some of the pumice we saw fell at the time mentioned in the following extract:—

“Being in the Vuulcan, below Cape St. Anthony, I was witness to a vast cloud of ashes being carried by the winds, and darkening the whole sky. It spread over great part of the jurisdiction of Buenos Ayres, passed the river of Plata, and scattered its contents on both sides of the river, insomuch that the grass was covered with ashes. This was caused by the eruption of a volcano near Mendoza, the winds carrying the light ashes to the incredible distance of three hundred leagues or more.”—Falkner, p. 51.

As an indisputable, and very recent instance of the distance to which volcanic substances are sometimes carried, I might mention the fact of H.M.S. Conway having passed through quantities of pumice-stone and ashes, in latitude 7° north, and longitude 105° west, being more than seven hundred miles from the nearest land, and eleven hundred from the volcano near Realejo, whence it is supposed that they proceeded; but as it is possible that those substances might have been thrown out of a volcano in the Galapagos Islands, and drifted on the surface of the sea by currents, which near there run from twenty to eighty miles in twenty-four hours, towards the north-west, one cannot, with certainty, rely upon that fact as evidence of a distance to which pumice has been carried by wind.

Captain Eden informed me, that the Conway was surrounded by ashes and pumice-stone for a day and a half (on the 5th and 6th of May 1835), and that they were supposed to have been ejected from a volcano near Realejo, at the time of the great earthquake; and an eruption which darkened the air during three days.

The aborigines of these regions attach considerable importance to the Ventana,* chiefly on account of its use as a landmark; for, rising abruptly to the height of 3,340 feet in a flat country, where there is not another hill of consequence, it is of no small use to them in their wanderings. I was told by Mr. Darwin, that he found it to be chiefly of quartz formation; but I need not risk causing a mistake, by repeating here the information which he gave me, when it is given fully in his own words in the accompanying volume.

* The Puel Indians called the Ventana Casu-hati (high hill); and the Molu-che, Vuta-calel (great bulk.)—Falkner, p. 74.

After a few days' examination of Port Belgrano, and making inquiries of Harris, as well as those persons at Argentina who knew something of the neighbouring waters and shores, I was convinced that the Beagle alone could not explore them, so far as to make her survey of any real use, unless she were to sacrifice a great deal more time than would be admissible, considering the other objects of her expedition. What then was to be done? Open boats could not explore the seaward limits of those numerous shoals which lie between Blanco Bay and the river Negro, because there are dangerous ‘races,’* and often heavy seas. The Beagle herself, no doubt, could do so, and her boats might explore the inlets; but, the time that such a proceeding would occupy was alarming to contemplate. I might run along the outer line of danger in the Beagle, and connect it with the soundings in the offing; but how could an English ship surveying a frequented coast overlook six large ports,† only because their examination required time, and was dangerous? At last, after much anxious deliberation, I decided to hire two small schooners—or rather decked boats, schooner-rigged—from Mr. Harris, and employ them in assisting the Beagle and her boats. Mr. Harris was to be in the larger, as pilot to Lieutenant Wickham—and his friend Mr. Roberts, also settled at Del Carmen, on the river Negro, was to be Mr. Stokes's pilot in the smaller vessel. These small craft, of fifteen and nine tons respectively, guided by their owners, who had for years frequented this complication of banks, harbours, and tides, seemed to me capable of fulfilling the desired object—under command of such steady and able heads as the officers mentioned—with this great advantage; that, while the Beagle might be procuring supplies at Monte Video, going with the Fuegians on her first trip to the southward, and visiting the Falkland islands, the survey of all those intricacies between Blanco Bay and San Blas might be carried on steadily during the finest time of year. One serious difficulty, that of my not being authorized to hire or purchase assistance on account of the Government, I did not then dwell upon, for I was anxious and eager, and, it has proved, too sanguine. I made an agreement with Mr. Harris, ‡ on my own individual responsibility, for such payment as seemed to be fair compensation for his stipulated services, and I did hope that if the results of these arrangements should turn out well, I should stand excused for having presumed to act so freely, and should be reimbursed for the sum laid out, which I could so ill spare. However, I foresaw and was willing to run the risk, and now console myself for this, and other subsequent mortifications, by the reflection that the service entrusted to me did not suffer.

* Tide-races, or ripples.

† Blanco [sic, Blanca] Bay and Port Belgrano, False Bay, Green Bay, Brightman Inlet, Union Bay, and San Blas Bay.

‡ See Appendix. [6: “Agreement with Mr. Harris”]

The formal agreement with Mr. Harris being duly signed, I despatched him forthwith to the river Negro, in search of his vessels, and sent the purser with him to ascertain the state of things at Del Carmen, especially with a view to future supplies.

They went in a small coasting vessel, belonging to another Englishman (H. Elsegood), settled at Del Carmen; for the schooner, from which Mr. Harris came to us near to Mount Hermoso, did not delay, but continued her course towards the river Negro.

Our boats were constantly employed while these arrangements were pending, and directly they were finished, the Beagle got under sail to examine the entrance and outer parts of the port. For several days she was thus engaged, anchoring always at night. In a week the schooners arrived, bringing our purser and their owners. The Paz, of about fifteen tons burthen, was as ugly and ill-built a craft as I ever saw, covered with dirt, and soaked with rancid oil. The Liebre, of about nine tons burthen, was a frigate's barge,* raised and decked—oily like the other; but as both had done their owners good service in procuring seal and sea-elephant oil, I saw no reason to doubt our being able to make them answer our purpose. Yet the prospect for those who had so handsomely volunteered to go in any thing, with or without a deck, could not be otherwise than extremely unpleasant; for they did not then foresee how soon a thorough cleansing and complete outfit would be given to both vessels, and how different they would afterwards appear.

* She had been the barge of the Brazilian frigate Piranga.

Lieutenant Wickham, with the sailmaker, armourer, cooper, and a small party, were immediately established under tents, on the banks of a small creek (Arroyo Pareja ). The little schooners were hauled ashore for examination and a thorough refit; and then, having left them the stores and other necessaries which they would require, I went with the Beagle towards Blanco Bay; completed the examination of a narrow though deep channel, by which any ship may enter Port Belgrano, passed round the great north bank, and again anchored under Mount Hermoso. While some officers and men were on shore there, building a sea-mark on the mount, and otherwise employed for the survey, a gale of wind came on from S.E., which soon sent so heavy a sea into the roadstead near the mount, that the Beagle was obliged to strike topmasts and veer a long scope of cable upon two anchors, besides having another under foot. Unluckily, our party on shore had only one day's provisions, so while the gale lasted their situation was sufficiently disagreeable; the keen air and hard exercise sharpening their appetites, while they had nothing to eat after the first day; and having no guns, they had no prospect of procuring anything. Mr. Darwin was also on shore, having been searching for fossils, and he found this trial of hunger quite long enough to satisfy even his love of adventure. Directly it was possible to put a boat on the water, one was sent, with provisions secured in a cask which was thrown overboard at the back of the surf, and soon drifted ashore to the famishing party. This gale lasted several days, and proved to us not only how heavy a sea is thrown into this bight (rincon, Sp.), by a south-east gale; but also, that the holding-ground is sufficiently good to enable a ship to withstand its effects.

One of our party on shore (who is not likely to forget building a mark on Mount Hermoso) discovered many curious fossils in some low cliffs under the mount; and judging from what Mr. Darwin then found, future collectors may reap a rich harvest there, as well as at Point Alta.

We next returned to the Wells, and while some assisted the outfit of Lieutenant Wickham's little vessels, others explored the upper parts of the port, quite to its end, and Mr. Darwin took advantage of the opportunity to make some of those interesting excursions which he describes in his volume. At this time there were no soldiers to watch us, neither was there any longer a suspicion of our character; for it appeared that an express had been sent off to Buenos Ayres, at our first arrival, giving an exaggerated and rather ludicrous account of our officers, instruments and guns—to which an answer had been immediately returned, desiring the commandant to afford us every facility in his power, and checking the old major rather sharply for his officious and unnecessary caution. Had we not been hastily treated in the roads of Buenos Ayres, when I went there to communicate with the Government, and obtain information, I should doubtless have carried with me orders, or a letter, to this commandant, which would have prevented a moment's suspicion: but, as it happened, no real delay was occasioned, and no person was much disturbed except the major, who fancied that our brass guns were disguised field-pieces, our instruments lately invented engines of extraordinary power, our numerous boats intended expressly for disembarking troops; and an assertion of mine, that any number of line-of-battle ships might enter the port, a sure indication that the Beagle was sent to find a passage for large ships: which would soon appear, and take possession of the country. Such was the substance of his communication to the Government at Buenos Ayres, and as he acted as secretary—(Rodriguez being a man of action rather than words)—he had free scope for his disturbed imagination. I shall not easily forget his countenance, when I first told him—thinking he would be glad to hear it—that there was a deep channel leading from Blanco Bay to the Guardia near Argentina, and that a line-of-battle ship could approach within gunshot of the place where I first met the commandant. He certainly thought himself almost taken prisoner; and I really believe that if he had been commanding officer, we should have been sent in chains to Buenos Ayres, or perhaps still worse treated. Fortunately, Rodriguez the commandant, being a brave man, and a gentleman, contemplated no such measures.


Beagle sails with Paz and Liebre—Part company—Beagle visits Buenos Ayres—Nautical remarks on the Plata—Sail from Monte Video for San Blas—Lieut. Wickham and tenders—Butterflies—Sail for Tierra del Fuego—White water—Icebergs—Rocks—Cape San Sebastian—Oens men—Cape San Diego—Good Success Bay—Natives—Guanacoes—Cape Horn—St. Martin Cove—Gales—Heavy Seas—Nassau Bay—Goree Road—Prepare to land Matthews and the Fuegians

18th October. No person who had only seen the Paz and Liebre in their former wretched condition, would easily have recognised them after being refitted, and having indeed almost a new equipment. Spars altered, and improved rigging, well-cut sails, fresh paint,* and thorough cleanliness, had transformed the dirty sealing craft into smart little cock-boats: and as they sailed out of Port Belgrano with the Beagle, their appearance and behaviour were by no means discouraging.

* Or rather red-ochre, coal-tar, and white-wash.

At dusk, Lieutenant Wickham and his small party of venturous associates separated from us, and steered into False Bay.* The Beagle anchored for the night, and next day pursued her route towards Monte Video, where she arrived on the 26th.

* See orders to Lieut. Wickham, in the Appendix. [8: “Orders to Lieut. Wickham”]

Desirous of communicating with the Government at Buenos Ayres, and measuring the difference of meridians between that city and Monte Video, we weighed anchor on the 31st, proceeded up the river, and remained in the outer roadstead, off Buenos Ayres, until the 10th of November. We then employed three days in verifying the positions of some banks,* as laid down in Heywood's§ and other charts, and returned to Monte Video on the 14th.

§ Peter Heywood was a mutineer on HMS Bounty, sentenced to be hanged and subsequently pardoned. He resumed his career and as Hydrographer, produced charts of the Rio de la Plata area and elsewhere.

* Ortiz, Chico, and Ensenada.

It is not prudent for any vessel drawing more than ten feet water to remain under sail in this part of the river, while it is dark, unless a good pilot is on board; and even the best practical experience is not always a sure guide, so uncertain and fluctuating are the currents and depths of water. There are a few simple precautions, useful in such circumstances, of which I may be excused for reminding young sailors. A ground-log ought to be hove frequently, and compared with a common log; there should be a leadsman in each chains, one, at least, of whom should sound constantly: the deep-sea lead* ought to be used now and then, even in shallow water, as a check upon the hand-lead: from the vessel's draught of water to two fathoms more than that depth, the hand-line should be marked to feet, by alternate marks of dark-coloured hair and small line: strong lanterns should be suspended under the chain-wales, near the water, but close to the ship's side; while a careful person ought to superintend the leadsman, and occasionally take a line into his own hand, so that by ‘plumbing’ the bottom himself he may ascertain how far reliance is to be placed upon the leadsman's opinion.

* Massey's is preferable.

In the Plata, as well as in many other pilot-waters, to feel the ground thus is often more useful than knowing the precise depth of water, or even the colour, or nature, of the bottom.

27th Nov. Our arrangements and observations being satisfactorily completed, a sufficient quantity of provision on board to last eight months, at full allowance, and an extra supply of iron and coals for the forge, in case of any serious accident, the Beagle sailed from Monte Video; and, after filling water near Cape Jesu Maria,* hastened to look after her little assistants, left near Bahia Blanco.

* Above Monte Video, on the north shore.§

§ Now, Punta Jesús María.

In this trip we benefitted by the assistance of Mr. Robert N. Hamond, an early and much esteemed friend of mine, who was lent to the Beagle from H.M.S. Druid, of which he was then a mate.

December 3d. Soon after daylight we saw the very low islands, just to the northward of San Blas.§ I wished to have made Point Rubia, but was set twenty miles northward, during the night, by the flood tide. We stood directly towards the shore, but when eight miles from it found a wide breadth of discoloured water, and the depth shoaled suddenly from ten to three fathoms in a few casts of the lead. Hauling off, we steered southward, with the ebb tide. There was no ripple on the banks, but the water was quite yellow, and at the time we altered our course, in consequence of such shallow water, the nearest land was, at least, eight miles distant.

§ Viper Bank (Banco Víbera) & Snake Bank (Banco Serpiente).

While tracing the outer edge of this bank we descried our cock-boats coming out to meet us, and soon afterwards Mr. Wickham came on board. He gave us gratifying news with little drawback; but had he been half-roasted his own appearance could hardly have been more changed. Notwithstanding the protection of a huge beard, every part of his face was so scorched and blistered by the sun that he could hardly speak, much less join in the irresistible laugh, at his own expense. His companions were similarly sun-burned, though not to such a degree. They had been much occupied in sounding extensive banks and harbours, under a hot sun, and while a fresh wind kept them constantly wet with spray. But this inconvenience was trifling; one of more importance was excessive sea-sickness, in consequence of the short and violent movements of such small craft under sail among the tide-races and eddies so numerous on that coast.

In other respects all had prospered so well, that I determined to give Mr. Wickham fresh orders,* enlarging considerably his share of surveying operations. He was desired to continue exploring the coast, even as far as Port Desire, until the Beagle's return from her visit to Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands.

* See Appendix. [10: “Orders to Lieut. Wickham”]

As the weather promised well, an anchor was dropped where we were, outside the banks, but the schooners sought shelter in the harbour of San Blas. Next day they came out and anchored close to us, in order to receive stores and various supplies which we had brought for them from Buenos Ayres and Monte Video. I was a little uneasy when I saw that the pilot of the Liebre, Mr. Roberts, was one of the largest of men, and that his little vessel looked, by comparison, no bigger than a coffin; but Mr. Wickham allayed my doubts by assuring me that his moveable weight answered admirably in trimming the craft; and that, when she got a-ground, Mr. Roberts stepped overboard, and heaved her afloat. “Certainly,” said Mr. Wickham, “he did harm on one day, by going up to look-out, and breaking the mast.”

In the afternoon of this day (4th) we weighed anchor and parted company from the Paz and Liebre. They returned to San Blas, and the Beagle steered southward. Secure and capacious as is the port just mentioned, it is one of the most difficult and dangerous to enter on this coast. The best, indeed only approach to it, is called by those sealers and sea-elephant fishers who have hitherto frequented it,—‘Hell-gate.’

At about four the weather was very hot, the sky cloudless, and varying flaws of wind drove quantities of gossamer, and numbers of insects off from the land. The horizon was strangely distorted by refraction, and I anticipated some violent change. Suddenly myriads of white butterflies surrounded the ship, in such multitudes, that the men exclaimed, “it is snowing butterflies.” They were driven before a gust from the north-west, which soon increased to a double-reefed topsail breeze, and were as numerous as flakes of snow in the thickest shower. The space they occupied could not have been less than two hundred yards in height, a mile in width, and several miles in length.

Our next object was to visit Tierra del Fuego, examine some portions of that country—yet unexplored—and restore the Fuegians to their native places; but in our passage, strong southerly winds, severe squalls, and cold weather, though it was near midsummer in that hemisphere, caused delay and discomfort, as they must always in a small and deeply-laden vessel, where little can be done except in fine weather.

We passed through a space of sea,* many miles in extent, where the water was of a very much lighter colour than usual; not of a light-green or muddy hue, such as one sees near land, but of a milky white tint. Being in soundings, one naturally attributed such a change of colour to some peculiarity in the ground; but I have since thought differently, and am now inclined to believe that the light-coloured water came from a distance, in one of those great, though slow-moving currents, which sweep past the Falkland Islands, and thence northwards: but to what cause its unusual whiteness is to be attributed, I know not. The dissolution of a huge iceberg, or of many icebergs, might alter the colour, and certainly would change the temperature of a considerable body of water; but in this case, a thermometer immersed in the sea did not indicate a degree lower than that of the previous or following day. During the three days, our soundings varied only from fifty to sixty fathoms. The lead certainly brought up fine grey sand while the water was light-coloured, and dark sand at other times; but I can hardly think that so decided a change—different from any I noticed elsewhere—could have been caused in fifty fathoms water by so small an alteration in the quality of the bottom.

* Lat. 46° S. Long. 63° W.

Icebergs have been seen in latitude 40° S., and near the longitude of 50° W.; perhaps they are sometimes carried nearer the coast, in which case they would ground, and melt away.

I suspect that some of the rocks, so often, yet so fruitlessly, sought for—and instead of which many persons have supposed dead whales, wrecks, or large trees, were seen—may have been icebergs, against and upon which seaweed, drift-wood, or other substances, may have lodged temporarily, causing a rock-like appearance. In this way, perhaps, arose the report of a rock said to have been seen by Lieutenant Burdwood; of the Aigle and Ariel rocks—and even of those islets sought for ineffectually by Weddell, a few degrees eastward of the Falkland Islands.*

* On this subject there are a few more remarks, under the head—Currents of the ocean,—in the last chapter but one.§

§ No such remarks have yet been found in any chapter of FitzRoy's work.

In the first volume some notice was taken of the supposed Ariel Rocks, and I will avail myself of this opportunity to say that at various times the Beagle passed over and near their asserted position; and that she likewise searched for the reported Aigle shoal or rock, without ever finding the slightest indication of either.

On the 15th, we saw the land off Tierra del Fuego, near Cape San Sebastian, and next day closed the shore about Cape Sunday [Cabo Domingo], ran along it past Cape Peñas, and anchored off Santa Inez [sic, Santa Inés]. A group of Indians was collected near Cape Peñas, who watched our motions attentively. They were too far off for us to make out more than that they were tall men, on foot, nearly naked, and accompanied by several large dogs. To those who had never seen man in his savage state—one of the most painfully interesting sights to his civilized brother—even this distant glimpse of the aborigines was deeply engaging; but York Minster and Jemmy Button asked me to fire at them, saying that they were “Oens-men—very bad men.”

Our Fuegian companions seemed to be much elated at the certainty of being so near their own country; and the boy [Jemmy Button] was never tired of telling us how excellent his land was—how glad his friends would be to see him—and how well they would treat us in return for our kindness to him.

We remained but a few hours at anchor under Cape Santa Inez, for so heavy a swell set in, directly towards the shore, caused probably by a northerly gale at a distance, that our situation was dangerous as well as disagreeable. Our only chance of saving the anchor and chain was by weighing immediately; yet if we did so, there would be a risk of drifting ashore: however, we did weigh, and drifted some distance, rolling our nettings in; but a breeze sprung up, freshened rapidly, and soon carried us out of danger. This happened at three in the morning, so my hopes of observations and angles were frustrated, and I had no choice but to run for the strait of Le Maire.

At noon, very high breakers were reported by the mast-head man, off Cape San Diego; at that time the flood-tide was setting strongly against a northerly wind and high swell; but when the tide was slack, at one, the breakers disappeared; and when we passed close to the cape, at two, the water was comparatively smooth.

There is a ledge extending from Cape San Diego, over which the flood-tide, coming from the southward, sometimes breaks with such violence, that a small vessel might be swamped by the ‘bore’ which it occasions.

As we sailed into Good Success Bay, a Fuegian yell echoed among the woody heights, and shout after shout succeeded from a party of natives, posted on a projecting woody eminence, at the north head of the bay, who were seen waving skins, and beckoning to us with extreme eagerness. Finding that we did not notice them, they lighted a fire, which instantly sent up a volume of thick white smoke. I have often been astonished at the rapidity with which the Fuegians produce this effect (meant by them as a signal) in their wet climate, where I have been, at times, more than two hours attempting to kindle a fire.

Scarcely was our ship secured, when the wind shifted to south-west, and blew strongly, bringing much rain with it; and we had indeed reason to rejoice at having attained so secure an anchorage. During the night, heavy squalls (williwaws) disturbed our rest very often, but did no injury, the water being quite smooth.

18th. Mr. Darwin, Mr. Hamond and others, went with me to the natives who had so vociferously greeted our arrival; and deeply indeed was I interested by witnessing the effect caused in their minds by this first meeting with man in such a totally savage state.

There were five or six stout men, half-clothed in guanaco-skins, almost like the Patagonians in aspect and stature, being near six feet high, and confident in demeanour. They scarcely bore resemblance to the Fuegians, except in colour and class of features. I can never forget Mr. Hamond's earnest expression, “What a pity such fine fellows should be left in such a barbarous state!” It told me that a desire to benefit these ignorant, though by no means contemptible human beings, was a natural emotion, and not the effect of individual caprice or erroneous enthusiasm; and that his feelings were exactly in unison with those I had experienced on former occasions, which had led to my undertaking the heavy charge of those Fuegians whom I brought to England.

Disagreeable, indeed painful, as is even the mental contemplation of a savage, and unwilling as we may be to consider ourselves even remotely descended from human beings in such a state, the reflection that Cæsar found the Britons painted and clothed in skins, like these Fuegians, cannot fail to augment an interest excited by their childish ignorance of matters familiar to civilized man, and by their healthy, independent state of existence. One of these men was just six feet high, and stout in proportion; the others were rather shorter: their legs were straight and well formed, not cramped and misshapen, like those of the natives who go about in canoes; and their bodies were rounded and smooth. They expressed satisfaction or good will by rubbing or patting their own, and then our bodies; and were highly pleased by the antics of a man belonging to the boat's crew, who danced well and was a good mimic. One of the Fuegians was so like York Minster, that he might well have passed for his brother. He asked eagerly for “cuchillo.” About his eyes were circles of white paint, and his upper lip was daubed with red ochre and oil. Another man was rubbed over with black. They were (apparently) very good-humoured, talked and played with the younger ones of our party, danced, stood up back to back with our tallest men to compare heights, and began to try their strength in wrestling—but this I stopped. It was amusing and interesting to see their meeting with York and Jemmy, who would not acknowledge them as countrymen, but laughed at and mocked them. It was evident that both of our Fuegians understood much of the language in which the others talked; but they would not try to interpret, alleging that they did not know enough. York betrayed this by bursting into an immoderate fit of laughter at something the oldest man told him, which he could not resist telling us was, that the old man said he was dirty, and ought to pull out his beard. Now, if their language differed much from that of York Minster, or was indeed other than a dialect of the same original, it is not probable that York could have understood the old man's meaning so readily when he spoke quietly, without signs.

Richard Matthews was with us, but did not appear to be at all discouraged by a close inspection of these natives. He remarked to me, that “they were no worse than he had supposed them to be.”

20th. Soon after day-light this morning, some very large guanacoes were seen near the top of Banks Hill.* They walked slowly and heavily, and their tails hung down to their hocks. To me their size seemed double that of the guanacoes about Port Desire. Mr. Darwin and a party set off to ascend the heights, anxious to get a shot at the guanacoes and obtain an extended view, besides making observations. They reached the summit, and saw several large animals, whose long woolly coats and tails added to their real bulk, and gave them an appearance quite distinct from that of the Patagonian animal; but they could not succeed in shooting one.

* So named in remembrance of Sir Joseph Banks's excursion

§ Possibly a now un-named(?) hill, which agrees with Darwin's description of its height. Path shown may be that taken by Banks/Solander excursion on 16-17 January, 1769.

21st. Sailed from Good Success Bay. On the 22d we saw Cape Horn, and being favoured with northerly winds, passed close to the southward of it before three o'clock. The wind then shifted to north-west, and began to blow strong. Squalls came over the heights of Hermite Island, and a very violent one, with thick weather, decided my standing out to sea for the night under close-reefed topsails. The weather continued bad and very cold during that night and next day.

On the morning of the 24th, being off Cape Spencer, with threatening weather, a high sea, the barometer low, and great heavy-looking white clouds rising in the south-west, indicative of a gale from that quarter, I determined to seek for an anchorage, and stood into (the so-called*) St. Francis Bay [now, Bahía San Francisco ]. In passing Cape Spencer we were assailed by such a furious hail-squall, that for many minutes it was quite impossible to look to windward, or even to see what was a-head of us. We could not venture to wear round, or even heave to, for fear of getting so far to leeward as to lose our chance of obtaining an anchorage; however, we stood on at hazard, and the squall passed away soon enough to admit of our anchoring in seventeen-fathoms water, quite close to a steep promontory at the south side of St. Martin Cove.

* In the first volume doubts are expressed (in a note to page 199) respecting the place named by D'Arquistade, St. Francis Bay; or rather I said that “I do not think the bay adjacent to Cape Horn is that which was named by D'Arquistade, ‘St. Francis,’ and, if my supposition is correct, Port Maxwell is not the place which was called ‘St. Bernard's Cove.’ ”

If the modern chart be compared with that issued by the Admiralty a few years ago, published by Faden in 1818, it will be seen that the particular plan of St. Francis Bay, given in Faden's chart, agrees much better with the west side of Nassau Bay than with any other place; and that the “remarkable island, like a castle,” noticed in the plan, is evidently “Packsaddle Island,” of the modern chart. The rough sketch of land towards the north and east, as far as Cape Horn, on that plan, I take to be the random outline of land seen at a distance by the person who drew the plan, and the name “Cape Horn,” affixed to the southernmost land then in sight; which must have been Cape Spencer. But it is now too late to remedy the mistake, which is indeed of no consequence.

After being for some time accustomed to the low barren shores and shallow harbours of the Pampa and Patagonian coasts, our position almost under this black precipice was singularly striking. The decided contrast of abrupt, high, and woody mountains, rising from deep water, had been much remarked in Good Success Bay; but here it was so great that I could hardly persuade myself that the ship was in security—sufficiently far from the cliff.*

* As the shores of Tierra del Fuego are so much spoken of in other places, I say no more of them here.

25th. Notwithstanding violent squalls, and cold damp weather, we kept our Christmas merrily; certainly, not the less so, in consequence of feeling that we were in a secure position, instead of being exposed to the effects of a high sea and heavy gale.

At sun-set, there was a reddish appearance all over the sky—clouds shot over the summits of the mountains in ragged detached masses—and there was a lurid haze around, which showed a coming storm as surely as a fall of the barometer. The gale increased, and at midnight such furious squalls came down from the heights, that the water was swept up, and clouds of foam were driven along the sea. Although we were close to a weather shore, with our top-gallant masts down and yards braced sharp up, we hardly thought ourselves in security with three anchors down and plenty of chain cable out.*

* During such sudden, and at times tremendous squalls as these, it is absolutely necessary to have a long scope of cable out, although the vessel may be in smooth water, in order that the first fury of the blast may be over before the cable is strained tight; for otherwise, the chain or anchor might snap. When the violence of the squall is past, the weight of a chain cable sinking down, draws the ship a-head, so far as to admit of her recoiling again at the next williwaw; thus, a kind of elasticity may be given to a chain, in some degree equivalent to that always possessed bv a hemp cable.

Dec. 31. Tired and impatient at the delay caused by bad weather, we put to sea again the first day there was a hope of not being driven eastward; and during a fortnight we tried hard to work our way towards Christmas Sound. My purpose was to land York Minster and Fuegia Basket among their own people, near March Harbour, § and return eastward through the Beagle Channel, landing Jemmy Button also with his tribe, the Tekeenica.§ Part of Whale-boat Sound and the western arms of the Beagle Channel were to be surveyed: and by this scheme I proposed to combine both objects.

§ FitzRoy explains the origin of the name in Volume I, Chapter XXII.

§§ Phillip Parker King and Lucas Bridges (in a footnote) explain the origin of this word in Volume I, Chapter VI.

Jan. 2d. We were rather too near the Diego Ramirez Islands, during a fresh gale of wind, with much sea; but by carrying a heavy press of sail, our good little ship weathered them cleverly, going from seven and a half to eight knots an hour, under close-reefed topsails and double-reefed courses—the top-gallant-masts being on deck.

On the 5th, the same islands were again under our lee—a sufficient evidence that we did not make westing. In fact, no sooner did we get a few reefs out, than we began taking them in again; and although every change of wind was turned to account, as far as possible, but little ground was gained.

On the 11th we saw that wild-looking height, called York Minster, ‘looming’ among driving clouds, and I flattered myself we should reach an anchorage; but after tearing through heavy seas, under all the sail we could carry, darkness and a succession of violent squalls, accompanied by hail and rain, obliged me to stand to seaward, after being within a mile of our port. All the next day we were lying-to in a heavy gale—wearing occasionally.

At three in the morning of the 13th, the vessel lurched so deeply, and the main-mast bent and quivered so much, that I reluctantly took in the main-topsail (small as it was when close-reefed), leaving set only the storm-trysails (close-reefed) and fore-staysail.* At ten, there was so continued and heavy a rush of wind, that even the diminutive trysails oppressed the vessel too much, and they were still farther reduced. Soon after one, the sea had risen to a great height, and I was anxiously watching the successive waves, when three huge rollers approached, whose size and steepness at once told me that our sea-boat, good as she was, would be sorely tried. Having steerage way, the vessel met and rose over the first unharmed, but, of course, her way was checked; the second deadened her way completely, throwing her off the wind; and the third great sea, taking her right a-beam, turned her so far over, that all the lee bulwark, from the cat-head to the stern davit, was two or three feet under water.

* I have always succeeded in carrying a close-reefed main-topsail (five reefs) in the Beagle, excepting on this and two other occasions; but were I again under similar circumstances, I think I should try to carry it—even then—for some time longer.

For a moment, our position was critical; but, like a cask, she rolled back again, though with some feet of water over the whole deck. Had another sea then struck her, the little ship might have been numbered among the many of her class which have disappeared: but the crisis was past—she shook the sea off her through the ports, and was none the worse—excepting the loss of a lee-quarter boat, which, although carried three feet higher than in the former voyage (1826-1830), was dipped under water, and torn away.*

* It was well that all our hatchways were thoroughly secured, and that nothing heavy could break a-drift. But little water found its way to the lower deck, though Mr. Darwin's collections, in the poop and forecastle cabins on deck, were much injured. Next to keeping a sharp look-out upon the sky, the water, and the barometer, we were always anxious to batten down our hatches in time—especially at night, during a gale, or in very squally weather.

From that time the wind abated, and the sea became less high.* The main-topsail was again set, though with difficulty, and at four o'clock the fore-topsail and double-reefed foresail were helping us towards False Cape Horn, my intention being to anchor in Nassau Bay. When the quarter-boat was torn away, we were between the Ildefonsos and Diego Ramirez: the wind varying from W.S.W. to S.W.

* The roller which hove us almost on our beam ends, was the highest and most hollow that I have seen, excepting one in the Bay of Biscay, and one in the Southern Atlantic; yet so easy was our little vessel that nothing was injured besides the boat, the netting (washed away), and one chronometer.

This gale was severely felt on all parts of the coast, south of 48°, as I afterwards ascertained from sealing-vessels: and at the Falkland Islands, a French whaler, called Le Magellan, was driven from her anchors and totally wrecked in that land-locked and excellent port, Berkeley Sound.

Some persons are disposed to form a very premature opinion of the wind or weather to be met with in particular regions, judging only from what they may themselves have experienced. Happily, extreme cases are not often met with; but one cannot help regretting the haste with which some men (who have sailed round Cape Horn with royals set) incline to cavil at and doubt the description of Anson and other navigators, who were not only far less fortunate as to weather, but had to deal with crazy ships, inefficient crews, and unknown shores; besides hunger, thirst, and disease.

Before midnight we anchored under shelter of the land near False Cape Horn; and next morning (14th) crossed Nassau Bay in search of a convenient harbour near the Beagle Channel. Having found so much difficulty in getting to the westward by the open sea, I decided to employ boats in the interior passages, and leave the Beagle at a secure anchorage.

Furious squalls prevented our effecting this purpose; and we anchored for the night in Windhond Bay.* The following day (15th) we again tried to get to the head or north-west corner of Nassau Bay, but ineffectually, for repeated squalls opposed us, and at last obliged me to bear up for Goree Road; one of the most spacious, accessible, and safe anchorages in these regions. Here, to my surprise, York Minster told me that he would rather live with Jemmy Button in the Tekeenica country than go to his own people. This was a complete change in his ideas, and I was very glad of it; because it might be far better that the three, York, Jemmy, and Fuegia, should settle together. I little thought how deep a scheme master York had in contemplation.

* So named by the Dutch in 1624, after one of their ships, the Windhond. (See “Bahía Windhond” on the Locations of … Bahía Windhond page for more details.)

18th. Having moored the Beagle in security, and made arrangements for the occupation of those who were to remain on board, I set out with four boats (yawl and three whale-boats), carrying Matthews and the Fuegians, with all the stock of useful things which had been given to them in England.* A temporary deck having been put upon the yawl, she carried a large cargo, and was towed by the other boats when the wind was adverse. Matthews showed no sign of hesitation or reluctance; on the contrary, he was eager to begin the trial to which he had been so long looking forward. Messrs. Darwin, Bynoe, Hamond, Stewart, and Johnson, with twenty-four seamen and marines, completed the party.

* By far the larger part of their property, including Matthews's outfit, was sent by Mr. Coates, Secretary of the Church Missionary Society.§

§ Darwin's diary records his own impression of the “useful things” sent to the Fuegians.

My intention was to go round the north-east part of Navarin Island, along the eastern arm of the Beagle Channel, through Murray Narrow, to the spot which Jemmy called his country: there establish the Fuegians, with Matthews:—leave them for a time, while I continued my route westward to explore the western arms of the channel, and part of Whaleboat Sound: and at my return thence decide whether Matthews should be left among the natives for a longer period, or return with me to the Beagle.

But before I briefly relate this attempt to form a temporary settlement among the Fuegians, it may be advisable to give a general sketch of the aborigines who thinly people the southernmost regions of South America: including not only the various tribes of Fuegians (as far as we know them), but the Patagonians, and those natives of Western Patagonia who are supposed to be a remnant of the tribe called Chonos.


Southern Aborigines of South America

Of the tribes which scantily people Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, far less is yet known than might generally be expected. Although frequently seen by white men, and often holding intercourse with them, probably no person even moderately educated, excepting Falkner, has staid among them long enough to become acquainted with, and describe their peculiarities.

His description of the aboriginal natives who, in his time (1740-80), roamed over the fertile ‘Pampas’ of Buenos Ayres, or the sterile plains of Patagonia; of the western mountaineers; and of those unconquerable tribes which repulsed the Peruvian Yncas, opposed Spanish conquerors, and are still independent, is so decidedly corroborated by Molina, by many Spanish authors, and by modern testimony, that in attempting to describe the Patagonians, I shall try to unite his account (bearing in mind the time elapsed, and consequent changes) to the information which has been obtained during late years.§

§ FitzRoy refers here to Falkner, Chapter IV and Chapter V.

Of the Fuegians, a few notices are to be found in narratives of various voyagers; but the imperfect description here given is principally derived from the natives who went to England in the Beagle; and from Mr. Low, who has seen more of them in their own country than any other person.

About the middle of the last century, the aboriginal inhabitants of that portion of South America which lies between the parallels of thirty and forty, formed two principal divisions, more or less separated by the only real barrier existing in that extent of country, the Cordillera of the Andes, Those who lived eastward of the Andes were called ‘Puel-che,’ signifying east people; and those on the other side were known by the term ‘Molu-che,’ which signifies war people, or warriors: and these terms are still in habitual use.

Numerous subdivisions have perplexed all whose attention has been attracted to the aboriginal population of Southern America. Falkner's account is the least confused, in every way the most probable, and agrees the best with what is now found to be the condition of that portion of uncivilized man.§ For our present purpose, I believe, it will be sufficient to remark, that the Puel-che and Molu-che called the tribes who lived towards the south, ‘Tehuel-het’* and ‘Huilli-che,’ both of which terms signify people of the south. The Huilliche were again divided into Pichi Huilli-che and Vuta Huilliche; ‘pichi,’ meaning little; and ‘vuta,’ great. Both the Tehuel-het and the Vuta Huilli-che lived to the southward of forty degrees of latitude. A branch or tribe of the Tehuel-het who lived farthest towards the south, on the eastern side, had no horses, and that tribe was called ‘Yacana-kunny,’† (foot people). Westward of those people, separated from them by a ridge of mountains, was a tribe called Key-uhue, Key-yus, or Key-es; and northward, the Sehuau-kunny.‡

§ As above, FitzRoy again refers to Falkner, Chapter IV and Chapter V.

* Called by themselves ‘Tehuel-kunny.’

† ‘Che,’ ‘het,’ and ‘kunny,’ signify people, in different dialects

‡ The Sehuau-kunny are a part of the Tehuel-het.

Falkner, in his account, rather confuses the habits of the Yacana-kunny with those of the Key-uhue, which is not to be wondered at, as he described those tribes solely from the accounts of others. The Key-uhue have neither ‘bowls,’ or balls (bolas), nor ‘ostriches,’ (see Falkner, p. 111), in their rugged tempestuous islands: neither do the Yacana-kunny ‘live chiefly on fish.’ The former live on fish, while the latter kill guanacoes, birds, and seals.

Between the Key-uhue and the Chonos tribe were the Poyyus, or Pey-es, living on the sea-coast. The Chonos inhabited the Archipelago so called, and part of Chilóe.

These three last-mentioned tribes—Key-uhue, Poy-yus, and Chonos—were called ‘Vuta Huilli-che.’

Rather than occupy time in attempting to give an account of the past state of these ever-varying tribes,—whose numbers have been so much altered, and whose locations may be now changed,—I will endeavour to give some idea of the present condition, distribution, and probable numbers of the people called Patagonians; of the natives of Tierra del Fuego, or Fuegians, and of the western tribe called Chonos. By those who have frequented the Strait of Magalhaens or its vicinity, the latter are often called ‘Canoe Indians;’ and the Patagonians, ‘Horse Indians.’

The Patagonians (Tehuel-het) travel on horseback over the country between the River Negro and the Strait of Magalhaens; from the Atlantic to the Cordillera of the Andes. They have no boats or canoes of any kind; and their disposition, habits, and language are very different from those of the Fuegians (Yacana-kunny, Key-uhue, and Poy-yus). Those who live in the north-eastern part of Tierra del Fuego have neither canoes nor horses. The natives of the southern and western islands, and of the shores of Otway and Skyring waters, also the people who live upon the western islands and coast of Patagonia, have canoes, but no horses.

The Patagonians are now divided into four parties, each of which has a separate though ill-defined territory. Each of these parties has a leader, or cacique; but they speak one language, and are evidently subdivisions of one tribe. When mutually convenient, they all assemble in one place: but if food becomes scarce, or quarrels happen, each party withdraws to its own territory. At such times one body will encroach upon the hunting grounds of another, and a battle is the consequence. About four hundred adults, and a rather large proportion of children, are in each of these parties: the number of women being to that of the men as three to one. Near the Strait of Magalhaens about fourteen hundred Patagonians have been lately seen encamped together for a short time; but usually there is only one horde, of about four hundred grown people, in that neighbourhood.

Less is known of the Yacana-kunny than of any other tribe, or portion of a tribe. It may consist of about six hundred men and women, besides children.

Beyond a range of high mountains to the southward of the Yacana, is the tribe formerly called Key-uhue, now probably the Tekeenica. These are the smallest, and apparently the most wretched of the Fuegians. They inhabit the shores and neighbourhood of the Beaffle Channel. The number of adults in this tribe may be about five hundred. (Note 1.)

1. There is so much difficulty in deciding upon the orthography of words whose sounds are variously given by individuals even of the same tribe, and which, caught by ears of varying acuteness, are written down according to the pronunciation of different languages, that one may trace some connexion between the names Key-es, Key-yus; Keyuhues or Keyuhue; Kekenica, or Tekeenica, and Kenneka. This last term is taken from Van Noort. (Burney, vol ii. p. 215.) Perhaps the country there called ‘Coin’ may be that inhabited by Jemmy Button's Oens-men.

To the westward, between the western part of the Beagle Channel and the Strait of Magalhaens, is a tribe now called Alikhoolip (which may be the Poy-yus), whose numbers amount perhaps to four hundred.

About the central parts of Magalhaens Strait is a small and very miserable horde, whose name I do not know. Their usual exclamation is ‘Pecheray!’ ‘Pecheray!’ whence Bougainville and others called them the Pecherais. For want of a more correct term I shall here use the same word. The number of adults among them is about two hundred.

Near Otway and Skyring waters is a tribe, or fraction of a tribe, whose name I could not learn; for the present I shall call them ‘Huemul’—because they have many skins of a kind of roebuck, which is said to be the animal described by Molina as the ‘Huemul’*. Their number may be one hundred, or thereabouts. I am inclined to think that these Huemul Indians are a branch of the Yacana people, whom Falkner describes as living on both sides of the Strait.§

* See Note 2, at the end of this chapter. [This note is now immediately below.]

2. Molina's description of the Huemul is said by naturalists to be unsatisfactory and inconclusive; therefore, whether it is an animal hitherto unnoticed (except by him), or the ‘kind of roebuck,’ mentioned in page 132, remains to be decided. See Molina, vol. i. p. 364.

§ Falkner, Patagonia, p. 111.

On the western coast of Patagonia, between the Strait of Magalhaens and the Chonos Archipelago, there is now but one tribe, in which there are not above four hundred grown people.

Each of the [six] tribes here specified speaks a language differing from that of any other, though, as I believe, not radically different from the aboriginal Chilian. Some words are common to two or more tribes; as may be seen by reference to the fragment of a vocabulary in the Appendix;§ and differences must increase because neighbouring tribes are seldom at peace.

Appendix, 15: “Fuegian Vocabulary, &c.”

The numbers above stated are mere estimations. The difficulty of obtaining either language or information from the Fuegians can only be well appreciated by those who have had intercourse with them, or with the New Hollanders; whose mimickry of what one says is as perplexing as the same trick is when speaking to the Fuegians.

Allowing that theTehuel-het or Patagonians amount to1,600
Chonos   400
The total will be3,800

which I do not think is five hundred in error: and I should say, in round numbers, that there are about four thousand adults south of the latitude of forty degrees, exclusive of Chilóe.

By Patagonia is meant that part of South America which lies between the River Negro and the Strait of Magalhaens.

Eastern Patagonia is the portion of this district which lies eastward of the Cordillera; and Western Patagonia, the part lying between the summits of the Andes and the Pacific Ocean.

Tierra del Fuego takes in all the islands southward of the Strait of Magalhaens (including Staten Land), as far as the Diego Ramirez islets.

Before entering into a more detailed account of these aborigines, I will try to give a slight general idea of their personal appearance; of their horses and canoes; of their houses and country; in short, an outline sketch of that which is observed at the first glance of a stranger's eye. The minuter details, which will follow, may be tedious to many readers.

Magalhaens first gave the name of Patagones to the natives whom he saw at Port San Julian in 1520. They were of very large (gigantic) stature, and their feet, being wrapped in rough guanaco skin, by way of shoes, were remarked particularly. Probably their footsteps in the sand were noticed, and excited some such exclamation as ‘que patagones!’ (what great feet!) patagon meaning a very large foot.—(See note 3.)

3. Pennant, in his ‘Literary Life,’ quotes Cavendish's as well as Brouwer's measurement of footsteps eighteen inches long! As Pennant was personally acquainted with Falkner, and collected much information respecting the Patagonians from other sources likewise, I have inserted a short extract from his work in the Appendix to this volume.§ The original book is now becoming scarce, and some of the notices contained in it are very interesting in connexion with this subject.

§ Appendix, 12: “Extract of a Letter from Thomas Pennant, Esq. to the Hon. Daines Barrington. (Written in 1771).”

Tierra del Fuego was also named by Magalhaens,§ because many fires were seen, in the night, upon that land.

§ There is no known written record of Magellan naming the area Tierra del Fuego. See Some Place Names for more details.

The aboriginal natives of Eastern Patagonia are a tall and extremely stout race of men. Their bodies are bulky, their heads and features large, yet their hands and feet are comparatively small. Their limbs are neither so muscular nor so large boned as their height and apparent bulk would induce one to suppose: they are also rounder and smoother than those of white men. Their colour is a rich reddish-brown, between that of rusty iron and clean copper, rather darker than copper, yet not so dark as good old mahogany.* But every shade of colour between that just mentioned and the lighter hue of a copper kettle, may be seen among individuals of various ages. Excepting among old or sickly people, I did not notice a tinge, of yellow: some of the women are lighter coloured—about the tint of pale copper—but none are fair, according to our ideas.

* The colour of these aborigines is extremely like that of the Devonshire breed of cattle. From the window of a room in which I am sitting, I see some oxen of that breed passing through the outskirts of a wood, and the partial glimpses caught of them remind me strongly of the South American red men.

Nothing is worn upon the head except their rough, lank, and coarse black hair, which is tied above the temples with a fillet of platted or twisted sinews. A large mantle, made of skins sewed together, loosely gathered about them, hanging from the shoulders to their ankles, adds so much to the bulkiness of their appearance, that one ought not to wonder at their having been called ‘gigantic’ I am not aware that a Patagonian has appeared, during late years, exceeding in height six feet and some inches; but I see no reason to disbelieve Falkner's account of the Cacique Cangapol, whose height, he says, was seven feet and some inches.§ When Falkner stood on tiptoe he could not reach the top of Cangapol's head. It is rather curious, that Byron could only just touch the top of the tallest man's head whom he saw. Ever restless and wandering, as were the Tehuel-het, of which tribes that cacique was chief, might not Byron have measured Cangapol?* Who disbelieves that the Roman Emperor, Maximinus, by birth a Thracian, was more than eight feet in height? yet who, in consequence expects all Thracians to be giants? At present, among two or three hundred natives of Patagonia, scarcely half-a-dozen men are seen whose height is under five feet nine or ten; and the women are tall in proportion.

* Byron's Voyage, 1765.—Falkner, 1740-80.

§ Falkner, Patagonia, p. 26.

I have nowhere met an assemblage of men and women whose average height and apparent bulk approached to that of the Patagonians. Tall and athletic as are many of the natives of Otaheite, and other islands in the Pacific Ocean, there are also many among them who are slight, and of low stature. The Patagonians seem high-shouldered—owing perhaps to the habit of folding their arms in their mantles across the chest, and thus increasing their apparent height and bulk, as the mantles hang loosely, and almost touch the ground. Until actually measured, I could not believe that they were not much taller than was found to be the fact.

But little hair shews itself on their faces or bodies. From the former it is studiously removed by two shells, or some kind of pincers. Although they do not augment the coarseness of their features by piercing either nose or lips, they disfigure themselves not a little by red,* black,† or white‡ paint, with which they make grotesque ornaments, such as circles around their eyes, or great daubs across their faces. Upon particular occasions, all the upper part of their body, from the waist upwards, is strangely decorated (or disfigured) by paint, awkwardly laid on with very little design. On their feet and legs are boots made out of the skins of horses' legs. Wooden spurs, if they cannot get iron; sets of balls (bolas), and a long tapering lance of bamboo, pointed with iron, complete their equipment. These lances are seldom seen near the Strait of Magalhaens, but the natives are not always without them.

* Ochre.

† Charcoal and oil.

‡ Felspathic earth and oil.

The women are dressed and booted like the men, with the addition of a half petticoat, made of skins, if they cannot procure foreign coarse cloth. They clean their hair, and divide it into two tails, which are platted, and hang down, one on each side. Ornaments of beads, bits of brass, or silver, or any similar trifles, are much prized, and worn in necklaces, or as bracelets; sometimes also as ear-rings, or round their ankles. Mounted upon horses of an inferior size, averaging only about fourteen hands and a half in height, though rather well-bred, the Patagonians seem to be carried no better than the full-accoutred dragoons, who rode eighteen stone upon horses equal to twelve; yet those horses, so slight in comparison with their masters, carry them at full speed in chase of ostriches or guanacoes; and we all know what our dragoon horses have done under their heavily-weighted, but determined riders. With bridles of hide tied to the lower jaw, when there is not a Spanish bit, and a light saddle of wood, covered with some skins and placed upon others, a Patagonian rides hard when there is occasion—but frequently changes his horse. Many large dogs, of a rough, lurcher-like breed, assist them in hunting, and keep an excellent watch at night. (Note at end of Chapter VIII.)

The toldos (huts) of these wanderers are in shape not unlike gipsy tents. Poles are stuck in the ground, to which others are fastened, and skins of animals, sewed together, form the covering, so that an irregular tilt-shaped hut is thus made. Three sides and the top are covered; but the front, turned towards the east, is open. These toldos are about seven feet high, and ten or twelve feet square; they are lower at the back, or western side, than in front, by several feet. These are their ordinary dwellings; of other rather larger constructions a description will be given hereafter.

The country inhabited by these Patagonians is open and, generally speaking, rather level, but with occasional hills and some extensive ranges of level-topped heights (steppes). There are very few trees, and water is scarce. The eye wanders over an apparently boundless extent of parched, yellow-looking semi-desert, where rain* seldom falls, and the sky is almost always clear. The heats of summer are very great; but in winter, though the days are not cold, the frosts at night are severe; and at all times of the year, in the day-time, strong winds sweep over the plains.

* Except during a few days in each year, or perhaps at intervals of two or three years, when it pours down in torrents.

The Yacana-kunny, natives of the north-eastern part of Tierra del Fuego, resemble the Patagonians in colour, stature, and clothing.* They seem to be now much in the condition in which the Patagonians must have been before they had horses.† With their dogs, with bows and arrows, balls (bolas), slings, lances, and clubs, they kill guanacoes, ostriches, birds, and seals.

* Excepting boots.

† See Magalhaens' first interview. Burney, vol. i. p. 34.

The north-eastern portion of Tierra del Fuego is a better country than Patagonia. The woody mountains of the southwestern islands are succeeded, towards this north-east district, by hills of moderate height, partially wooded; northward of which are level expanses, almost free from wood, but covered with herbage adapted to the pasturage of cattle.

The climate is a mean between the extremes of wetness and drought, which are so much felt by the neighbouring regions; and when a settlement is made, at some future day, in that part of the world, San Sebastian Bay, in the Yacana country, called by Narborough, King Charles South Land,§ would be an advantageous position for its site.*

§ Narbrough called it Charles Island and Monmouth-Island, but it is “King Charles's South Land” on the map in his Journal.

* Falkner says (p. 93, speaking of this country), “It is evident that this place has the conveniences of wood, water, and soil; and, if there could be found a tolerable harbour, it would be much more convenient for a colony, and have a better command of the passage to the South Sea than Falkland's Islands.”

The Tekeenica, natives of the south-eastern portion of Tierra del Fuego, are low in stature, ill-looking, and badly proportioned. Their colour is that of very old mahogany, or rather between dark copper, and bronze. The trunk of the body is large, in proportion to their cramped and rather crooked limbs. Their rough, coarse, and extremely dirty black hair half hides yet heightens a villanous expression of the worst description of savage features.

Passing so much time in low wigwams, or cramped in small canoes, injures the shape and size of their legs, and causes them to move about in a stooping manner, with the knees much bent; yet they are very nimble, and rather strong.

They suffer very little hair to grow, excepting on their heads. Even their eyebrows are almost eradicated—two muscle-shells serving for pincers. This aversion to the smaller tufts of hair does not extend to the thatch-like covering of their ugly heads, which is lank, covered with dirt, hanging about their ears, and almost over their faces. Just above their eyes it is jagged away by a broken shell, if they have not a piece of iron hoop for a knife, the pieces cut off being scrupulously burned. In height varying from four feet ten to five feet six, yet in the size of their bodies equalling men of six feet, of course they look clumsy and ill-proportioned; but their hands and feet are rather small with respect to the size of their bodies, though not so in proportion to their limbs and joints, which, excepting the knees, are small. Their knees are all strained, and their legs injured in shape, by the habit of squatting upon their heels. Awkward and difficult as such a posture appears to us, it is to them a position of easy rest.

Sometimes these satires upon mankind wear a part of the skin of a guanaco or a seal-skin upon their backs, and perhaps the skin of a penguin or a bit of hide hangs in front; but often there is nothing, either to hide their nakedness or to preserve warmth, excepting a scrap of hide, which is tied to the side or back of the body, by a string round the waist. Even this is only for a pocket, in which they may carry stones for their slings, and hide what they pick up or pilfer. A man always carries his sling around his neck or waist, wherever he goes.

Women wear rather more clothing, that is, they have nearly a whole skin of a guanaco, or seal, wrapped about them, and usually a diminutive apron. The upper part of the wrapper, above a string which is tied around the waist, serves to carry an infant. Neither men nor women have any substitute for shoes.

No ornaments are worn in the nose, ears, or lips, nor on the fingers; but of necklaces, and bracelets, such as they are, the women are very fond. With small shells, or pieces of the bones of birds, strung upon lines made of sinews, these necklaces and bracelets are made, when nothing preferable is to be found; but beads, buttons, pieces of broken glass, or bits of fractured crockery-ware are most highly esteemed.

The hair of the women is longer, less coarse, and certainly cleaner than that of the men. It is combed with the jaw of a porpoise, but neither platted nor tied; and none is cut away, excepting from over their eyes. They are short, with bodies largely out of proportion to their height; their features, especially those of the old, are scarcely less disagreeable than the repulsive ones of the men. About four feet and some inches is the stature of these she-Fuegians—by courtesy called women. They never walk upright: a stooping posture, and awkward movement, is their natural gait. They may be fit mates for such uncouth men; but to civilized people their appearance is disgusting. Very few exceptions were noticed.

The colour of the women is similar to that of the men. As they are just as much exposed, and do harder work, this is a natural consequence: besides, while children, they run about quite naked, picking up shell-fish, carrying wood, or bringing water. In the colour of the older people there is a tinge of yellow, which is not noticed in the middle-aged or young.

Both sexes oil themselves, or rub their bodies with grease; and daub their faces and bodies with red, black, or white. A fillet is often worn round the head, which upon ordinary occasions is simply a string, made of sinews; but if going to war, or dressed for show, the fillet is ornamented with white down, white feathers, or pieces of cloth, if they have obtained any from shipping. Small lances, headed with wood; others, pointed with bone; bows, and arrows headed with obsidian, agate, or jasper; clubs; and slings; are the weapons used by the Tekeenica.

The smoke of wood fires, confined in small wigwams, hurts their eyes so much, that they are red and watery; the effects of their oiling, or greasing themselves, and then rubbing ochre, clay, or charcoal, over their bodies; of their often feeding upon the most offensive substances, sometimes in a state of putridity; and of other vile habits, may readily be imagined.

As a Tekeenica is seldom out of sight of his canoe or a wigwam, a slight idea of these—his only constructions—should be given with this sketch.

The canoe is made of several large pieces of bark, sewed together; its shape is nearly that which would be taken by the strong bark of the trunk of a tree (twelve to twenty feet in length, and a foot, or two feet, in diameter), separated from the solid wood, in one piece. If this piece of bark were drawn together at the ends, and kept open by sticks in the middle, it would look rather like a Fuegian canoe.

A Tekeenica wigwam is of a conical form, made of a number of large poles, or young trees, placed touching one another in a circle, with the small ends meeting. Sometimes, bunches of grass or pieces of bark are thrown upon the side which is exposed to the prevailing winds. No Fuegians, except the Tekeenica, make their huts in this manner.

The country of this people may be briefly described by saying that deep but narrow arms of the sea intersect high mountainous islands, many of whose summits are covered with snow, while the lee or eastern sides of their steep and rocky shores are more than partially covered with evergreen woods.

Between projecting rocky points are sandy or stony beaches, fronting very small spaces of level land, on which the huts of the natives are generally placed. Almost throughout the year, cloudy weather, rain, and much wind prevail; indeed, really fine days are very rare. Being so near the level of that great climate agent, the ocean, frost and snow are far less frequent than might be expected in a high latitude, among snow-covered mountains, of which the sight alone inclines one to shiver.

The men of the Alikhoohp tribe are the stoutest and hardiest, and the women the least ill-looking of the Fuegians. Though not very dissimilar, they are superior to the Tekeenica; but they are inferior to the Yacana, and far below the natives of Patagonia. Their canoes are rather better than those of the Tekeenica, made, however, in the same manner.

The wigwams of the Alikhoolip, and indeed of all the Fuegians, except the Tekeenica (and perhaps some of the Yacana, whom we have not seen), are shaped like bee-hives. Their height is not above four or five feet above the ground; but an excavation is usually made within, which gives another foot, making about five feet and a-half of height, inside, and they are two, three, or four yards in diameter. Branches of trees stuck in the ground, bent together towards the top, form the structure, upon which skins, pieces of bark, and bunches of coarse grass are roughly fastened. Of course, neither these nor the Tekeenica wigwams are wind or water tight, neither does the smoke need a chimney.

The country and climate of the Alikhoolip are similar to the Tekeenica, though wetter, more windy, and more disagreeable. Both men and women are better covered with seal or otter skins than the Tekeenica and Pecheray tribes. When surprised, or sure that they would not be plundered, the women of this tribe were always seen wrapped in large otter or seal skins.

The natives of the central parts of Magalhaens Strait appear to be almost as miserable a race as the Tekeenica. As in nothing but language, and the construction of their wigwams, is there any difference which has yet been found out (though probably existing), I shall say no more of them in this place.

Their climate is nearly the same as that of the Alikhoolip; and the country is similar, though more wooded in many places, because more sheltered.

Those whom I have hitherto called Huemul, who live near the Otway and Skyring Waters, seem to be a mixed breed, rather resembling the Yacana, of which tribe they are probably a branch. In habits, as well as in appearance, they partake of some of the peculiarities of Patagonians as well as Fuegians. Their country is like the Yacana—Tierra del Fuego blending or sinking into Patagonia, sharing the qualities of each region, and therefore preferable to either. They have very few canoes; and no horses: but large dogs are used by them in hunting the huemul and guanaco.

The tribe mentioned in a following page, which was met by Mr. Low at the north side of Fitz-Roy Passage, must have been chiefly composed of slaves (zapallos). The Huemul tribe is not numerous, and having plenty of land, with abundance of food, would hardly quit their own territory to submit to a Patagonian Cacique. These natives are neither inclined to serve a master, nor to learn new habits: besides, being separated from the Horse Indians by a little channel, they could not easily be caught, and obliged to remain with the Patagonians, as some persons have supposed.

The Chonos, who live on the western shores and islands of Patagonia, are rather like the Alikhoolip, but not quite so stout or so daring. In general they are less savage than the Fuegians; and though their habits of life are similar, traces are visible of former intercourse with the Spaniards, which doubtless has tended to improve their character.

Prior to the Spanish conquest, the Chonos Indians inhabited Chilóe and the Chonos Archipelago; but that now they are all south of Cape Tres Montes, there is good reason to suppose, though certainly no positive proof. The canoes of these Chonos Indians are made of planks, sewed together; and they are rowed with oars. Generally there is a cross at one end of the canoe, or rather boat. Their wigwams are like those already mentioned of the bee-hive form.

The climate of Western Patagonia is so disagreeable that the country is almost uninhabitable. Clouds, wind, and rain are continual in their annoyance. Perhaps there are not ten days in the year on which rain does not fall; and not thirty on which the wind does not blow strongly; yet the air is mild, and the temperature surprisingly uniform throughout the year. The country is like the worst part of Tierra del Fuego—a range of mountains, half sunk in ocean; barren to seaward, impenetrably wooded towards the mainland, and always drenched with the waters of frequent rain, which are never dried up by evaporation before fresh showers fall.

Having thus endeavoured to give a slight general idea of the more obvious peculiarities of these, the most southern aborigines on the globe, I will enter into rather more detail, even at the risk of being prolix. As there is much similarity in the habits of all the tribes above-mentioned who use canoes, and we know little of the Yacana, I shall speak of the Horse Indians, generally, in the first place; and of the Canoe Indians, as one body, in the second.

While I was revising my manuscript journal, Sir Woodbine Parish had the kindness to lend me ‘Viedma's Diary,’ with permission to make use of it: and, finding some interesting notices of the Patagonians which were quite new to me, I have added to the appendix of this volume a verbatim extract from Viedma, which I think will repay the curious reader, especially where their ideas of the transmigration of souls are mentioned.§

§ Appendix, 13: “Extract from Viedma.” Note: Apparently FitzRoy expected the curious reader to be fluent in Spanish, for he does not trouble himself to translate this 14-page extract.


Horse Indians of Patagonia:—Head—Physiognomy—Stature—Wanderings—Clothing—Armour—Arms—Food—Chase—Property—Huts—Wizards—Marriage—Children—Health—Illness—Death—Burial—War—Horsemanship—Gambling—Caciques—Superstitions—Warfare—Morality—Disposition—Chups—Zapallos

The head of a Patagonian is rather broad, but not high; and, except in a few instances, the forehead is small and low. His hair hangs loosely: it is black, coarse, and very dirty. A fillet which is worn around the top of the head may be intended as an ornament, for it is certainly of no use. The brow is prominent: the eyes are rather small, black, and ever restless. Deficiency of eyebrow adds to the peculiar expression of their eyes; and a mixture of simplicity and shrewdness, daring and timidity, with that singular wild look which is never seen in civilized man, is very conspicuous in the Patagonians. Its immediate effect is to remind one of the necessity of being always on guard while within reach: yet of all savage nations, perhaps the Patagonians are least inclined to attack or deceive strangers.

In general, the women's stature, physiognomy, and dress, so much resemble those of the men, that, except by their hair, it is difficult for a stranger to distinguish them.

By nature they have but little hair on either face or body, and that little they try to eradicate. Their faces are roundish, and the width or projection of the cheek-bones makes them look unusually wide. The nose is a little depressed, narrow between the eyes, but broad and fleshy about the nostrils, which are rather large. The mouth is large and coarsely formed, with thick lips. Their teeth are often very good,, though rather large; and those in front have the peculiarity, which will be discussed when speaking of the Fuegians, of being flattened, solid, and shewing an inner substance. The chin is usually broad and prominent: all the features, indeed, are large, excepting the eyes. The expression of their countenances is open and honest (compared with other savages), and their intrepid, contented look is rather prepossessing. The unhesitating manner in which, unarmed, they trust themselves among strangers whom they never before saw, or venture on board ship, even under sail in the offing (if they can obtain a passage in the boat), and go voluntarily from place to place with their white acquaintances, is very remarkable.

Of the stature and bulk of these Indians I have already spoken. It appears to me that those who now live on the northern side of Magalhaens' Strait are descendants of the Patagonians whose size excited so much surprise and discussion; and that, occasionally, individuals have exceeded the common height. Speaking of Cangapol, whose chief resort was the vicinity of the river Negro, though he and his tribe were restless wanderers, Falkner says—

“This chief, who was called by the Spaniards the ‘Cacique bravo,’ was very tall and well proportioned. He must have been seven feet and some inches in height, because, on tiptoe, I could not reach to the top of his head. I was very well acquainted with him, and went some journeys in his company. I do not recollect ever to have seen an Indian that was above an inch or two taller than Cangapol. His brother, Sausimian, was but about six feet high. The Patagonians are a large-bodied people; but I never heard of that gigantic race which others have mentioned, though I have seen persons of all the different tribes of southern Indians.”§

§ Here FitzRoy repeats his earlier reference to this Falkner quotation.

In another place he says, “there is not a part of all this extremity of the continent that some of these wandering nations do not travel over frequently.” Of their wanderings, many persons besides myself and those with me can bear witness. Patagonians, who were personally known by officers of the Beagle, were seen by them at the Spanish (now the Buenos Ayrean) settlement, Del Carmen, near the mouth of the river Negro, in September 1832; and by Mr. Low, at their usual abode, near the Strait of Magalhaens, in February 1833. The individual who was then most noticed, a half-breed Indian woman, named Maria,* once persuaded some of her companions to go with her to the Falkland islands, in a vessel commanded by Mr. Matthew Brisbane. They went, staid there some weeks, and returned in the same vessel, highly delighted by all the novelties, excepting sea-sickness. The chief wizard of the tribe was one of the party. Maria was then a person of much consequence, being almost their only interpreter, and the wife of a principal person. Her own history must be curious: she was born at Asuncion, in Paraguay; and has a son who is a cacique.

* Frequently mentioned by Captain King in vol. i. [first mention is here.]

The mantles are curiously painted, usually on one side only, but some have had the hair rubbed off and are painted on both sides. They are very neatly sewed together with thread made out of the split sinews of ostriches, which is the strongest and most durable material they can procure. Making mantles is one of the occupations of the women. The paint used is found on the hills: it is an earthy substance, of various colours. Moistened with water, and made into the shape of crayons, pieces of this substance are dried in the sun; and when used, one end of the crayon is dipped in water and rubbed on the part to be coloured. These mantles are tied about the neck, and usually round the middle, by sinew cords. Often the upper part is dropped, and the body left quite exposed above the waist, and while in active exercise on horseback, this is usually the case, if the mantle is not then entirely discarded. This substantial substitute for clothing is made with skins of the animals of their country; and among those of guanaco, puma, fox, skunk (a kind of weasel or polecat), cavy, dog, otter, seal, and colt, the most esteemed are the small grey fox skins. A kind of ‘maro’ is sometimes worn by the men; and their boots, I have already said, are made out of the hock part of the skins of mares' and colts' legs. After being cleaned from fat, or membranous substances, dried, and then made pliable with grease, these ready-shaped boots require neither sewing nor soles. Wooden substitutes for spurs are worn, if iron cannot be procured.

For warlike purposes the men clothe themselves in three of their thickest mantles: the two outer ones have no hair, but are gaily painted: all three are worn like ponchos. On their heads they then wear conical caps, made of hide; and surmounted by a tuft of ostrich feathers. Another kind of armour, worn by those who can get it, is a broad-brimmed hat, or helmet, made of a doubled bull's hide: and a tunic, or frock, with a high collar, and short sleeves, made of several hides sewed together; sometimes of anta skins, but always of the thickest and most solid they can procure. It is very heavy, strong enough to resist arrows or lances, and to deaden the blow of a stone ball (bola perdida); but it will not turn the bullet fired from a musket. Some say that it will do so, but that which I saw had been pierced through, in the thickest part, by the musket-ball which killed the wearer. When obliged to fight on foot, they use a shield made of hides sewed together (clypeus septemplex).

Their arms are balls (bolas), lances, bows and arrows, clubs, and swords when they can get them. But in hasty, unforeseen skirmishes, they engage in as light order as the more northern Indians, without head-cover or mantle, stripped to their spurs, and armed only with lances and balls; which latter they are never without.

The balls, bowls, or bolas, called by themselves ‘ōmai,’ are two or three round stones, lumps of earth hardened, iron or copper ore, or lead. If made of earth or clay, the material is enclosed in small bags of green (fresh) hide, which, placed in the sun, contract so much, that they become like stones in hardness; but these clay balls are not used by the Patagonians so much as by the Pampa Indians, in whose country stones or metals are so scarce that there probably the last-mentioned balls were invented. Two balls, connected by a thong of hide, two, three, or four yards in length, are called ‘sōmai.” Three such balls, connected by thongs, equal to one another in length, with their inner ends united, are called ‘achico.’ Taking one ball in the right hand, the other two are whirled around several times, and the whole then thrown at the object to be entangled. There are also balls of less weight and size, made of marble, lead, or metallic ore, with shorter cords or thongs, which are for small animals.

Sometimes two small balls, each of which has a cord about a yard in length, are fastened to the thong of the larger set. This is to entangle the victim more effectually. They do not try to strike objects with these balls, but endeavour to throw them so that the thong shall hit a prominent part; and then, of course, the balls swing around in different directions, and the thongs become so ‘laid up’ (or twisted), that struggling only makes the captive more secure. They can throw them so dexterously, as to fasten a man to his horse, or catch a horse without bruising him. If an animal is to be caught without being thrown down suddenly—an inevitable consequence of these balls swinging round his legs while at full speed—a ōmai is thrown at his neck. The two balls hang down, and perplex him so much by dangling about his fore-legs, that his speed is much checked; and another set of balls, or a lasso, may be used, to secure, without throwing him down. The lasso is not much used, so adroit are they with the balls. A formidable missile weapon is the single ball, called by the Spaniards ‘bola perdida.’ This is similar to the other in size and substance, but attached to a slighter rope, about a yard long. Whirling this ball, about a pound in weight, with the utmost swiftness around their heads, they dash it at their adversary with almost the force of a shot. At close quarters, it is used, with a shorter scope of cord, as an efficient head-breaker.

Several of these original, and not trifling offensive weapons, are kept in readiness by each individual; and many a Spaniard, armed with steel and gunpowder, has acknowledged their effect.

The lance (chuza) is a long bamboo cane, from twelve to twenty-four feet long, headed with iron or steel. The great length and tapering slightness of these spears makes them formidable to any adversaries, but often fatal to those who are unskilful or timorous, because their vibration, artfully increased to the utmost by the holders, makes it extremely difficult to parry the advance of their point; but, once parried they are useless—perhaps become encumbrances to their owners, who, if they do not turn and dash off at full speed, have recourse to their balls or to swords. Some have swords obtained from white men; others fasten long blades (knife-blades, perhaps, or pieces of iron hoop, straightened and sharpened) to handles three or four feet in length. Their bows are three or four feet long; and the arrows, about two feet in length, are headed with small triangular pieces of agate, jasper, obsidian, or even bone. But bows, arrows, shields, clubs, and heavy armour are daily less used; and may we not infer, that arms and armour, suited to foot encounters—such as arrows, heavy clubs or maces, shields, and many-fold tunics—have been laid aside by degrees, as horses have multiplied in the country? Fighting on foot is now seldom practised, except in personal quarrels. Falkner says, they used to envenom the points of their arrows with a species of poison, which destroyed so slowly, that the wounded person lingered for two or three months, till, reduced to a skeleton, he at last expired;§ but I have not heard of such a practice among the southern aborigines in these days.

§ Falkner, Patagonia, p. 129.

Those Indians who have felt the effects of fire-arms, and own abundance of horses, the men of Araucania, who are the terror of the Pampa tribes, have long abolished armour and the arms of former wars—wars so well sung by Ercilla, in which they gained unfading honour in maintaining the freedom of their country. Naked on their horses, armed with lances, swords, and balls, those men now rush like the whirlwind—destroy—and are gone!

The women of Patagonia wear nothing on their heads; their hair, parted before and behind, is gathered into two large tresses, one on each side. Ear-ornaments, necklaces, bracelets, and anklets, made of beads, pieces of brass, silver, or gold, are much esteemed. Their mantles are similar to those of the men; but they are pinned across the breast by a wooden skewer, or a metal pin, and are gathered about the waist, hanging loosely almost to their ankles. A short apron, or half-petticoat, made with skins of small animals, or coarse cloth, is tied about their waist, under the mantle. It only covers them in front, and reaches to the knee. Boots, similar to those of the men, and additional clothes, are worn when they ride distances; sitting astride, upon a heap of skins, which serve at night for bedding.

The principal subsistence of these Indians is the flesh of mares, ostriches, cavies, or guanacoes; but though they are not particular, and eat almost anything that they catch, the flesh of young mares is preferred to any other. They broil their meat, and eat it with a lump of fat, and salt. The fat of mares and that of ostriches are boiled together and put into bladders; but the fat of guanacoes is eaten raw, being preferred in that state. There are two roots which they eat, one called tus, the other chālăs. The tus is a bulbous root, growing wild, which when cleaned and baked, or rather roasted, becomes mealy, like a yam. They use it sometimes with their meat, but not often. The chālăs is a long, white root, about the size of a goose-quill. It is either roasted in the embers or put into broth, which they make for women and sick people. When on the sea-coast, limpets and muscles are gathered by the women and children; but fish or seals are seldom obtained. Dogs are not eaten, neither are horses, unless disabled by an accident.

Cattle are yet scarce in the southern regions, because pasture-land is rather deficient; but about the lately-discovered river, Chupat, (lat. 43.21. S.) which, though small, is supposed to cross the continent, they are rather numerous, but their flesh is not thought equal to that of mares.

The only prepared drink which they use, besides the decoction of chālăs, is the juice of barberries, mixed with water, and drank in its natural state. They have no fermented liquor.

Hunting is both amusing and necessary to the men. They go out to the chase in parties, more or less numerous, according to the strength of the tribe, the scarcity of food, and the supply of horses. An extent of country is enclosed by the horsemen; then drawing together, they drive before them all the animals; till, when tolerably collected together, the cacique, or leading man of the party rides at an animal and throws it down mth his balls. All then set to work, and ball away in every direction. They do not stop because one animal falls, since not one in a hundred escapes by his own exertions when once entangled; but another and another become the victims of a good hunter, before the collection escapes out of his reach. All their sets of balls being employed, and the game dispersed, thev begin to kill and divide. Each animal is knocked on the head with a ball, skinned, and cut into pieces, where it fell, and the pieces are then carried on horseback to their huts.

After reaching their settlement, the produce of the chase is brought together, and divided among the different families, in proportion to their respective numbers. If one family has eaten its share sooner than others, some one of that hungry house goes to any party which has meat left, and cuts off what is wanted, without a question.

A number of large dogs assist in the hunt: whether they scent the game I know not, but probably they run by eye, as so many animals are a-foot at once. Each regular hunter has a spare horse at hand; the best horses being carefully reserved for war and the chase. Upon others they travel, place the women and children, and their property.

The method of hunting abovementioned is that employed on set occasions; but if only a few men are together, they surprise and chase, as they can. Sometimes they ride together, and chase whatever they see, whether ostrich, skunk, guanaco, fox, or puma.

The wealth of these Indians consists chiefly in horses and dogs, the richer individuals having forty or fifty horses, and a large number of dogs; the poorer, only one or two horses, and but one dog.

The tents or huts called by themselves ‘cow,’ and by the Spaniards and their descendants, toldos (tolderia is the place of toldos, or Indian village, in Spanish), have already been partly described. Made of skins, sewed together and supported by poles, a tilt-like construction, open towards the east, is their hastily-formed dwelling. The top slopes towards the west side, which is not above two feet in height. The front is about six or seven feet high; and the inside space about twelve feet by nine. Both poles and skins are carried with them when they migrate from place to place. Water does not lodge on the hide covering, neither does wind penetrate; and as east winds are very rare in Patagonia, a temporary screen, such as a few skins, suffices for protection against them.

Two or three families sleep in one hut, unless it is the dwelling of a cacique, or person who has many wives. Poor people have but one wife. Those who are rich, and able to maintain them, have several wives—three, four, five, or even more.

In places where some of the tribe stay constantly, and which are considered the head-quarters, or central rendezvous of a tribe, there are larger huts, almost deserving the name of houses. Some of these are for the cacique and his wives; others are for the wizards, who, in their three-fold capacity of priests, magicians and doctors, have great influence over the superstitious minds of their countrymen. These larger dwelhngs are made with poles and skins, put together so as to form an oblong shed, with a sloping roof, shaped like a small cottage. The substitutes for walls are about five feet in height, and the roof is in the middle about eight feet from the ground. Some of these houses are four or five yards in width, and eight, ten, or twelve in length. I have never seen one myself; but those who gave me other information, which I found true, said that there were such houses in the interior, and described them minutely to me.

At night, skins are spread upon the ground to sleep on; two or three rolled up, along the length of the back part of the tent or hut, form a pillow for the whole party, on which each family has its place, and the dogs lie at their feet.

The children have a little square place to themselves, in one corner. Infants in the cradle (a piece of hide with a thong fast to its four comers, by which it is suspended from the roof of the dwelling), are placed near their mother.

Marriages are made by sale more frequently than by mutual agreement. Instead of receiving a dowry with his wife, a man pays a large price to her nearest relations. Sometimes girls are betrothed while very young, and a part of the stipulated price paid to the relations. Mutual inclination may sometimes determine the choice; but payment must in every case be made, in proportion to the supposed value of the damsel, and the property of her purchaser. If a girl dislikes a match made for her, she resists, and although dragged forcibly to the hut of her lawful owner, plagues him so much by her contumacy, that he at last turns her away, or sells her to the person on whom she has fixed her affections; but he seldom beats her, or treats her ill. Perhaps she does not wait to be so disposed of, but elopes and takes her choice of a protector; who, if more powerful than the husband, obliges him to submit to the double loss, unless a cacique, or a powerful friend of the losing party, forces the gallant to restore her, or compromise the matter, and these affairs are in general easy to settle. It has been already mentioned that each man who possesses any property has usually more than one wife; and that some few men, who have forty or fifty horses, and other riches in proportion, maintain four or five wives.

“Women who have accepted their husbands with good-will are in general very faithful and laborious,” says Falkner; “their lives are but one continued scene of labour; for, besides nursing and bringing up children, they are obliged to do much drudgery.”§ Except hunting, providing food, and fighting, all work is done by the women. Indeed they sometimes aid in battle. Some families have slaves who do household work; but if they should have no slaves, not even the wives of a cacique are exempt from every-day labour.

§ Falkner, Patagonia, p. 125.

Men do not marry before they are about twenty years of age. Girls are married earlier: from fourteen or fifteen they are considered to be marketable commodities. Falkner says,

“When once the parties are agreed, and have children, they seldom forsake each other, even in extreme old age. The husband protects his wife from all injuries, and always takes her part, even if she is in the wrong, which occasions frequent quarrels and bloodshed; but this partiality does not prevent him from reprimanding her, in private, for engaging him in these disputes.

“He very seldom beats her; if she is found unfaithful he lays blame on the gallant, and, if able, punishes him severely; unless the delinquent atones by some valuable gift. Sometimes, at the command of a wizard, a man orders his wife to go to an appointed place, usually a wood, and abandon herself to the first person she meets. Yet there are women who refuse to comply with such orders.”§

§ Falkner, Patagonia, p. 126.

When it does happen that a man and his wife quarrel, the woman is sometimes punished by having her two tails rather savagely pulled. I have been told that the husband scarcely ever beats her, except in the height of passion.

Children are left to take care of themselves soon after they can walk. With sets of little balls (bolas) they annoy the dogs not a little, practising their future occupation. While very young they climb upon old, or quiet, horses' backs. If a young guanaco is caught and tamed, or a bird with its wings clipped hops about the tolderia, the little ones have fine sport. While infants are suckling, the mothers use frames or cradles in which their charges are carried about: they are made of flat pieces of wood, with a few semi-circular guards of lath, or thin branches, whose ends are fixed into holes in the wood. In such frames, between pieces of guanaco skin, the babies are placed; and while travelling, these cradles are hung at the mothers' saddle-bows. The children are much indulged. Falkner says, “The old people frequently change their habitations to humour the caprices of their children. If an Indian, even a cacique, wish[es] to change his abode, and the tribe with whom he is living do not choose to part with him, it is customary to take one of his children, and pretend such a fondness for it, that they cannot part with the little favourite. The father, fond of his child, and pleased that it is so much liked, is induced to remain.”§

§ Falkner, Patagonia, p. 127.

Yet with all this apparent goodness of disposition, in moments of passion, these Indians have been seen to be like other savages, disgraced by the worst barbarity. Neither man, woman, wife, nor even a smiling innocent child, is safe from that tiger in human shape—a savage in a rage. “Nunca, nunca fiarse de los Indios,” is a Spanish maxim§, as well founded as it is common.

§ “Never, never trust the Indians.”

Education, and the beneficial effects of the opinions of others, an influence fully felt only in civilized society, have so tamed and diminished the naturally strong passion of anger, with its sequel, immediate violence, or hatred and revenge, that imagination must be called to the assistance of those who, happily, have never seen a furious savage.

Who can read that instance of child murder, related so well by Byron, in his narrative of the Wager's wreck, without a shudder? yet the man who, in a moment of passion, dashed his own child against the rocks, would, at any other time, have been the most daring, the most enduring, and the most self-devoted in its support and defence! (Appendix No. 14.) Generally speaking, the Patagonians are extremely healthy. Their constitutions are so good that wounds heal rapidly: but they are not ignorant of the healing properties of some herbs; nor of the purgative qualities of others. They know the effect of bleeding, and can adroitly open a vein with a sharp piece of shell or flinty stone.

When sick, the chālăs root, pounded and mixed with water, is a favourite specific. Should this, or the few other remedies which they think they know, fail, the wizard (who is also doctor) performs some absurd ceremonies, and then rattles together two pieces of dry bladder, in which are some loose stones, in order to frighten away the ‘Valichu,’ or evil spirits, who are opposing their art, and tormenting the unlucky patient. The diabolical noise caused by rattling these dried bladders, is continued until the disease takes a favourable turn, or the sufferer dies. If death ends the scene, the body is wrapped in the best mantle of the deceased, placed on his favourite horse, and carried to the burying-place of the tribe. The wizard rattles, and the other people howl over the corpse as it is carried to the sepulchre. In a square pit, about six feet deep, and two or three feet wide, where many others have been deposited, the corpse is placed in a sitting posture, adorned with mantles, plumes of feathers, and beads. The spurs, sword, balls, and other such property belonging to the deceased, are laid beside him; and the pit is then covered over with branches of trees, upon which earth is laid. His favourite horse is afterwards killed. It is held at the grave while a man knocks it on the head with one of the balls of the deceased. When dead, it is skinned and stuffed, then, supported by sticks (or set up) upon its legs, with the head propped up, as if looking at the grave. Sometimes more horses than one are killed. At the funeral of a cacique four horses are sacrificed, and one is set up at each corner of the burial place. The clothes and other effects belonging: to the deceased are burned: and to finish all, a feast is made of the horses' flesh.

But there are also other modes of disposing of dead bodies: and as I am certain that at least two of them are practised by the Patagonians of the present day, and we are assured by Falkner that other methods, one of which was carrying them into the desert by the sea-coast, were customary in his time, I shall here repeat what he says on the subject (p. 118).

“The burial of the dead and the superstitious reverence paid to their memory, are attended with great ceremony. When an Indian dies, one of the most distinguished women among them is immediately chosen to make a skeleton of his body; which is done by cutting out the entrails, which they burn to ashes, dissecting the flesh from the bones as clean as possible, and then burying them under ground till the remaining flesh is entirely rotted off, or till they are removed (which must be within a year after the interment, but is sometimes within two months) to the proper burial-place of their ancestors.

“This custom is strictly observed by the Molu-che, Taluhet, and Diuihet,* but the Chechehet and Tehuelhet, or Patagonians, place the bones on high, upon canes or twigs woven together, to dry and whiten with the sun and rain.

* The Taluhet, Chechehet, and Diuihet, were tribes of Puel-che.

“During the time that the ceremony of making the skeleton lasts, the Indians, covered with long mantles of skins, and their faces blackened with soot, walk round the tent, with long poles or lances in their hands, singing in a mournful tone of voice, and striking the ground, to frighten away the Valichus, or evil spirits. Some go to visit and console the widow, or widows, and other relations of the dead, that is, if there is any thing to be got; for nothing is done but with a view of interest. During this visit of condolence they cry, howl, and sing in the most dismal manner; straining out tears, and pricking their arms and thighs with sharp thorns, to make them bleed. For this shew of grief they are paid with glass beads, brass cascabels and such like baubles, which are in high estimation among them. The horses of the dead are also immediately killed, that he may have wherewithal to ride upon in the ‘alhue mapu,’ or country of the dead, reserving only a few to grace the last funeral pomp, and to carry the relics to their proper sepulchres.

“When they remove the bones of their dead, they pack them up together in a hide, and place them upon one of the deceased's favourite horses, kept alive for that purpose, which they adorn after their best fashion, with mantles, feathers, &c., and travel in this manner, though it be to the distance of three hundred leagues, till they arrive at the proper burial-place, where they perform the last ceremony.

“The Molu-che, Taluhet, and Diuihet, bury their dead in large square pits, about a fathom deep. The bones are put together, and secured by tying each in its proper place, then clothed with all the best robes they can get, adorned with beads, plumes, &c., all of which they cleanse or change once a year. They are placed in a row, sitting, with the sword, lance, bow and arrows, bowls, and whatever else the deceased had while alive. These pits are covered over with trees, canes, or branches woven together, upon which they put earth. An old matron is chosen out of each tribe, to take care of these graves, and on account of her employment is held in great veneration. Her office is to open every year these dreary habitations, and to clothe and clean the skeletons. Besides all this they every year pour upon these graves some bowls of their first made chicha, and drink some of it themselves to the good health of the dead. (N. B. Not the Tehuelhet.)

“These bvuying places are, in general, not far distant from their ordinary habitations; and they place, all around, the bodies of their dead horses, raised upon their feet and supported with sticks.

“The Tehuelhet, or more southern Patagonians, differ in some respects from the other Indians. After having dried the bones of their dead, they carry them to a great distance from their habitations, into the desert by the sea-coast; and after placing them in their proper form, and adorning them in the manner before described, they set them in order above ground, under a hut or tent erected for that purpose, with the skeletons of their dead horses placed around them.

“In the expedition of the year 1746, some Spanish soldiers, with one of the missionaries, travelling about thirty leagues within land, to the west of Port San Julian, found one of these Indian sepulchres, containing three skeletons, and having as many dead horses propped up around it.”

In the expeditions of the Adventure and Beagle, between 1826 and 1834, a few burial places of another kind were examined. These were piles of stones, upon the summits of the highest hills, on the eastern sea-coast. Some had been thrown down and ransacked; probably by the crews of sealing vessels: others there was no opportunity of visiting: only one untouched pile was found: and that one was examined by Lieutenant Wickham. It was on a height, near Cape Dos Bahias, in latitude forty-five south. Only bones were found, in a much decayed state, under a pile of stones about four feet high; and from the remains of the bones Mr. Bynoe ascertained that they had belonged to a woman of the ordinary stature. A pile of stones on a neighbouring height had been pulled down by the crew of a sealing vessel: under it were fragments of decayed bones, which were thought too much injured by time and weather to be worth removing; indeed they crumbled to the touch. Under similar heaps of stones the ‘gigantic skeletons’ which some voyagers have described, were said to have been found.

Doubtless these several methods of disposing of the dead are not those of one horde only, but of various tribes. But I prefer mentioning all that is yet known of the subject, as far as I am aware,* and leaving it for better-informed persons to decide upon the particular habits of each subdivision. Would any one tribe bury each of the five following persons in a similar manner, and in the same place? A powerful cacique—a wizard—a woman—an ordinary man—a child?

* Except about the tomb which is described by Captain King in the first volume.

“The widow or widows of the dead are obliged to mourn and fast for a whole year after the death of their husband. This consists in keeping themselves close shut up in their huts, without having communication with any one, or stirring out, except for the common necessaries of life; in not washing their faces or hands, but being blackened with soot, and having their garments of a mournful appearance; in abstaining from horse's and cow's flesh, and, within land where they are plenty, from the flesh of ostriches and guanacoes; but they may eat any thing else. During the year of mourning, they are forbidden to marry, and if, within this time, a widow is discovered to have had any communication with a man, the relations of her dead husband will kill them both, unless it appears that there has been violence. But I did not discover that the men were obliged to any such kind of mourning on the death of their wives.” (Falkner, p. 119.)

Manslaughter is not infrequent. When quarrels arise, the parties draw their knives, or take such weapons as are at hand, and fight, if not parted, till one is killed. War often occurs between the smaller tribes, but does not last long. When the small tribes unite against another nation, such as the Molu-che, or the Puel-che of the north, their preparations are more serious, and their hostilities of far longer duration.

When at war, or expecting an attack, the Patagonians exercise on horseback, in their armour, every other evening. Frequently the occasion of hostility is an encroachment upon the territories of a neighbouring tribe, either for hunting or plunder. War is, in such case, instantly declared by the insulted party. In armour, and upon their best horses, they sally forth to meet the intruders. Having met, they ask why their land has been invaded, and desire the strangers to return to the place whence they came. The non-compliance of the intruders is a signal for action; they close—fight—and one party, being vanquished, loses all its property. The manner of fighting has already been mentioned.

The horsemanship of the Patagonians is not equal to that of the northern Indians: yet it is not indifferent. From their weight, and the openness of their country, they do not habitually ride so hard, or practise so many manoeuvres as the Araucanian,* who can hang at the side of his horse while at speed, directing him by voice and rein; or even while going through a wood can cling quite beneath his belly for a short time, still urging on and directing him; but such feats, performed by naked men, who are almost centaurs, surpass the powers, or rather the dexterity, of the bulky, well-fed, and heavily-clothed Patagonian.

* The Araucanian hangs at one side of his horse to shelter himself from the lances, balls, or shot of his adversaries, or to avoid trees. At a distance, a troop of these Indians advancing irregularly, might seem to an inexperienced eye merely loose horses, of which so many are seen in the Pampas; but to another Indian, or to a trained gaucho, the attempt to conceal themselves would avail them nothing, because the horses' action, and manner of going, would, at a glance, show him that they were guided by riders.

The Patagonians are very fond of racing. At almost every leisure hour either horses or play engage their attention, for they are also great gamblers. Race-courses are regularly marked out, but they are very short, not a quarter of a mile in length. These short bursts at the utmost speed seem absurd, till one considers that in hunting wild animals, attacking or escaping from the sudden attack of an adversary, such short starts are of the utmost importance. They bet upon the horses, and sometimes stake even their wives and their children. Payment is faithfully made, even to the uttermost. The cards with which they play are pieces of skin, with figures painted upon them: perhaps rough imitations of the cards used by the Spaniards; but this may be doubted.

According to Falkner, the native of Patagonia is a superstitious polytheist. I cannot add to, nor have I reason to doubt his account; and shall therefore repeat what he says on this subject, abridging it slightly.§

§ Falkner, pp. 114-117.

“The Indians imagine that there is a multiplicity of deities, some good, others evil. At the head of the good deities is Guayara-kunny, or the lord of the dead. The chief evil agent is called Atskannakanatz, or Valichu. This latter name is applied to every evil demon.*

* The Patagonians call the good deity the Creator of all things, but consider him as one who afterwards has no concern about them. He is styled by some Soucha, or chief in the land of strong drink; by others, Guayara-kunny, or lord of the dead. The evil principle is called Huecovoe, or the wanderer without. Other spirits are supposed to take care of particular people—protect their own and injure others: they are called Valichu.—Pennant, p. 61.

“They think that the good deities have habitations in vast caverns under the earth, and that when an Indian dies his soul goes to live with the deity who presides over his particular family.

“They believe that their good deities made the world, and that they first created the Indians in the subterranean caverns above mentioned; gave them the lance, the bow and arrows, and the balls, to fight and hunt with, and then turned them out to shift for themselves. They imagine that the deities of the Spaniards created them in a similar manner, but that, instead of lances, bows, &c., they gave them guns and swords. They say that when the beasts, birds, and lesser animals were created, those of the more nimble kind came immediately out of the caverns; but that the bulls and cows being the last, the Indians were so frightened at the sight of their horns, that they stopped the entrances of their caves with great stones. This is the grave reason they give why they had no black cattle in their country, till the Spaniards brought them over; who, more wisely, had let them out of their caves.

“Some say that the stars are old Indians; that the milky way is the field where the old Indians hunt ostriches, and that the Magellan clouds are the feathers of the ostriches which they kill. They have an opinion that the creation is not yet exhausted; nor all of it yet come out to the daylight of this upper world. The wizards, beating their drums, and rattling their hide-bags full of shells, or stones, pretend to see into other regions under the earth. Each wizard is supposed to have familiar spirits in attendance, who give supernatural information, and execute the conjuror's will. They believe that the souls of their wizards, after death, are of the number of these demons, called Valichu, to whom every evil, or unpleasant event is attributed.

“Their religious worship is entirely directed to the powers of evil; except in some particular ceremonies made use of in reverence to the dead.

“To perform their worship they assemble together in the tent of the wizard, who is shut up from the sight of the rest in a corner. In this seclusion he has a small drum, one or two round calabashes or bags of dry hide, with small sea shells in them, and some square bags of painted hide in which he keeps his spells. He begins the ceremony by making a strange noise with his drum and rattle-bags; after which he feigns a fit, or struggle with the evil spirit, who it is then supposed has entered into him; keeps his eyes turned up, distorts his face, foams at the mouth, screws up his joints, and, after many violent and distorting motions, remains stiff and motionless, resembling a man seized with an epilepsy. After some time he comes to himself, as having overcome the demon's influence; next he feigns, behind his screen, a faint, shrill, mournful voice, as of the evil spirit, who, by this dismal cry, is supposed to acknowledge himself subdued; and then the wizard, from a kind of tripod, answers all questions that are put to him.

“Whether his answers are true or false, is of very little consequence; because, if his intelligence should prove false, it is the fault of the demon, or Valichu. On all these occasions the wizard is well paid.

“The profession of the wizards is very dangerous, notwithstanding the respect that is sometimes paid to them; for it often happens, when an Indian chief dies, that some of the wizards are killed; especially if they had any dispute with the deceased just before his death; the Indians, in this case, attributing the loss of their cacique to the wizards and their demons. In cases also of pestilence and epidemic disorders, when great numbers are carried off, the wizards often suffer.

“On account of the small-pox, which almost destroyed the Chechehet tribe, Cangapol ordered all the wizards to be killed, to see, if by such means, the distemper would cease.

“There are wizards and witches. The former are obliged to dress in female apparel, and are not allowed to marry. The latter are not restricted. Wizards are generally chosen when children; and a preference is always shewn to those who, at that time of life, discover an effeminate disposition. They are clothed very early in female attire, and presented with the drum and rattles belonging to the profession which they are to follow. Those who are seized with fits of the falling sickness, or the ‘Chorea Sancti Viti’ (St. Vitus's dance), are immediately chosen for this employment, as selected by the demons themselves; whom they suppose to possess them, and to cause all those convulsions and distortions common in epileptic paroxysms.”

The Patagonians, and indeed all the South-American aborigines, have faith in witchcraft. They all believe that the wizards or witches can injure whom they choose, even to deprivation of life, if they can possess themselves of some part of their intended victim's body, or that which has proceeded thence—such as hair, pieces of nails, &c.; and this superstition is the more curious from its exact accordance with that so prevalent in Polynesia.

The tribe, or subdivision of the Tehuelhet who generally live near Magalhaens' Strait, have learned to pay a sort of homage (perhaps it may be termed worship) to an image of wood, cut into the figure of a man's head and body, and called Cristo; this image they rarely produce to strangers, or even amongst themselves, except at deaths, or on very particular occasions. This attempt at an outward demonstration of faith in customs of the Romish church, appears to have been caused by a Captain Pelippa, who visited the Strait of Magalhaens some time before the Adventure and Beagle. Who or what he was, I could not discover.

There is a particular kind of tree, which is esteemed sacred, and never burned. It is like a thorn; a resinous gum issues from the knotty, close-grained stem, which has a pleasant aromatic smell, if put into the fire.

Regular government, or any forms and rules approaching to what may be called a civil constitution, no one would expect to find among tribes of wandering savages; but amongst the Araucanian tribes of Moluche, who do not wander, and have advanced towards civilization, there are regular laws, supporting a settled form of government; and their ideas have been communicated to the southern tribes, and have slightly influenced them. Thus, in many cases, offenders are tried by an assembly of the older people, and their sentence pronounced, after mature deliberation, instead of being at once dealt with as the cacique may, at first thought, deem expedient.

The caciques or chiefs are hereditary. Those who possess much property and have many followers are highly respected; but their authority, though absolute in some instances, is little exerted in the common occiurences of life. When meetings are held for the purpose of deciding upon any question, the cacique presides—that is, he is considered the principal person present; certainly he looks the most solemn, and is the least active. He gives orders to hunting parties, or to those who exercise for war: and if men quarrel, he sometimes causes them to be parted. In time of war he leads his tribe, and in proportion to his enterprise and success is his actual authority while the war lasts. Each person has a particular name, implying a quality or some peculiarity; sometimes a particular place.

“All the sons of a cacique,” says Falkner, “have a right to assume the dignity, if they can get any persons to follow them; but, on account of the small utility of the rank of cacique, it is often resigned.”§

§ Falkner, Patagonia, p. 120.

Falkner's account of the caciques§ ought to be, and is, no doubt, one of the best; it is as follows:—

§ Falkner, Patagonia, pp. 121-123.

“The cacique has the power of protecting as many as apply to him; of composing or silencing any difference; or delivering over the offending party to be punished with death, without being accountable for it. In these respects, his will is the law. He is generally too apt to take bribes, delivering up his vassals, and even his relations, when well paid for it. According to his orders, the Indians encamp, march, or travel from one place to another, to hunt or make war. He frequently summons them to his tent, and harangues them upon their behaviour; the exigencies of the time; the injuries they have received; the measures to be taken, &c. In these harangues, he always extols his own prowess and personal merit. When eloquent, he is greatly esteemed; and when a cacique is not endowed with that accomplishment, he generally has an orator, who supplies his place” (as in Polynesia).

“In cases of importance he calls a council of the principal Indians and wizards, with whom he consults about the measures to be taken, to defend himself or attack his enemies. In a general war, when many nations unite against a common enemy, as in the great alliances against the Spaniards, they choose a commander-in-chief, called Apo (or Toqui), from among the oldest or most celebrated caciques; but this honour though properly elective, has for many years been hereditary in the family of Cangapol. (Written in 1780.)

“The caciques have not the power to raise taxes, or to take away any thing from their vassals; nor can they oblige them to serve in the least employment, without paying them. They are obliged to treat their vassals with great humanity and mildness, and oftentimes to relieve their wants, or they will seek the protection of some other chief. For this reason, many of those who are born caciques refuse to have any vassals, as they cost them dear, and yield but little profit. No Indian, or body of Indians, can live without the protection of some cacique, according to their law of nations; and if any of them attempted to do so, they would undoubtedly be killed, or carried away as slaves, as soon as they were discovered.

“In case of any injury, notwithstanding the authority of the cacique, the party aggrieved often endeavours to do himself justice to the best of his power. They know of no punishment or satisfaction, but that of paying or redeeming the injury or damage done with something of value. If the offence is not very great, and the offender is poor, the injured party perhaps beats him with his balls on the back and ribs; but, in general, they do not chastise, except by death. When the offender is too powerful, they let him alone; unless the cacique interferes, and obliges him to make satisfaction.”

A curious plant is found in Patagonia (and at the Falkland Islands), somewhat like a very large and very solid cauliflower. It is greenish, or yellowish-green, tough, and very abundant. It grows upon and close to the ground, forming a lump like a large ant-hill overgrown with moss and grass. From the succulent stalks of this plant a balsamic juice or sap exudes, which is particularly good for healing wounds.

Battles between tribes are carried on similarly to their wars against a nation; but, of course, on a smaller scale. The attacking party halts at a great distance from the enemy, and sends out scouts to reconnoitre. These emissaries hide during the day, but at night examine every detail most minutely, and return to the camp with a full account of their opponent's strength and position. When the moon is near, or a little past the full, showing good light for their work, they advance to the attack. A few hours after midnight they make the assault, kill all the men who resist, and carry away the women and children for slaves.

Sometimes the Indian women follow their husbands, and share in the booty. Laden with plunder, they all retreat as hastily as possible, resting neither night nor day, till they are at a great distance, and out of the reach of their enemies. Sometimes they ride more than a hundred leagues from the place of attack before stopping to rest, and divide the booty.

On such occasions, if fearful of pursuit, or hard pressed by pursuers, they stop very little by the way—light no fire—eat but little food, and that raw—and some are even able to change horses without checking their speed, or touching the ground. A troop of loose horses is always driven along before the party: and when an Indian, at such a time, wants to change, he rides along-side of a loose horse, jumps on his back, bridle in hand, and in an instant, the bit is transferred from one to the other. Saddle they care not for, when thus pressed.

In guiding and managing their horses, the Indians use the voice with very good effect. The best of those animals are exceedingly well trained; and the owners are as reluctant to part with them as Arabs are to sell their steeds.

The natives of Patagonia breed their own horses as well as dogs: but their constant practice of killing the horses of men who die tends to prevent their being numerous. Upon such occasions, all, excepting the few which had been assigned to his children (generally one or two to each child at its birth), are killed. Dogs have a similar fate. With such laws, a man need not fear being put out of the way for the sake of his property; nor, while the women are enjoined to go through such a mourning ordeal, is it likely they would enter into or favour any combination made against their husbands, however harshly they might be treated by them.

Excepting that of the caciques, I believe there is no superiority of one person over another among the Patagonians. Those who have more property than others, or who are related to the chief, have influence over the rest, but are not considered by them to be their superiors.

The moral restraints of these people seem to be very slight. Each man is at liberty to do very much as he feels inclined; and, if he does not injure or offend his neighbour, is not interfered with by others. Their social habits are those handed down by their ancestors, and adapted to the life they are compelled to lead. Ideas of improvement do not trouble them. Contented with their fine climate—plenty of wholesome food, and an extensive range of country—they rather pity white people, who seem to them always in want of provisions, and tossed about at sea. These natives have a great dislike to the motion of a ship; yet, for novelty, they will go afloat when opportunity offers.

In landing at Gregory Bay, Mr. Low has had much trouble in preventing the natives from crowding into his boat, all being anxious to see the vessel. Once, when many strange Indians (of another tribe) were present, he was obliged to affect to quarrel with them; and afterwards they behaved better and were quite civil, but he never allowed his boat to be grounded. Having left a Dutchman as boat-keeper, the natives teased him into a quarrel, and then dragged him out of the water, boat and all, with their lassoes leaving him among the bushes, frightened and spluttering, while they galloped off, laughing heartily. The Dutchman hastened to Mr. Low; but while he was gone, the boat was put into the water by the authors of the trick, who then dashed off at full speed, highly amused at their feat. Mr. Low gave one of the women a gay gown; it was the first she had seen; and wishing to suckle her infant, she put it under the skirt of the gown, and, with some difficulty, forced the little thing upwards to her breast.

When the Patagonians meet white men, their inclinations are almost always friendly; but if they find themselves able to dictate to the strangers, a tribute of tobacco, bread, muskets, powder, ball, or such articles as they see and fancy, is often imposed.

A trading schooner called at Gregory Bay (in the Strait of Magalhaens) in 1834. Her mate landed, and was asked for various things which he could not or did not wish to give. The natives detained him as a prisoner; sent his boat away; and kept him till his ransom (tobacco and bread) was sent ashore.

Considerable traffic for knives, swords, muskets, ammunition, tobacco, bread, and, latterly, spirits, has been kept up between the southern Patagonians and the vessels which have touched on their shores (especially at Gregory Bay) in going through the Strait. Their returns have been mantles, skins, and fresh guanaco meat.

During late years, several persons, run-away seamen and others, have passed many months—some, indeed, have passed years—in their company,—living as they live.

In 1833-34, one of the most influential individuals among them was a Chilian, named San Leon, who had been carried to Patagonia by Mr. Brisbane, for the purpose of trading with the Indians for horses. He ran away from the vessel (1830-32), and has since lived with the tribe who are generally found near Gregory Bay. His wife is the daughter of an old native who possesses much property (according to their ideas); she speaks a little Spanish, and interprets for strangers better than her husband, whose knowledge of the Indian language is very slight. Bred in Chile, San Leon is a good horseman, and considered by the Indians to be an excellent hunter.

Mr. Low thinks that the natives would encourage and be friendly to a settlement of white people, made in Patagonia. They profess to like white men, and to wish some to live with them: when old Maria (the woman previously mentioned) was at the Falkland Islands, Mr. Low told her that he intended to build a house at Gregory Bay, and carry white people with him to live there, at which she and her party (including the wizard) seemed to be much pleased.

Mr. Low considers that those natives who live eastward and northward of the First Narrow are not of the same tribe as those who are generally about Gregory Bay, with whom, he says, they are frequently at war. He also thinks that those who live farther westward, near Otway and Skyring Waters, form another subdivision. The following notices, written from his dictation, will show that what I have already stated respecting these minor tribes, considered as subdivisions of one large body or nation, cannot be very far wrong:—

During the stay of the Unicorn (Mr. Low's vessel) in the channel between Otway and Skyring Waters,§ a fire was made, as a signal to the Indians. They soon began to arrive in small detached parties, some of whom were known to Mr. Low, whose acquaintance with them had been formed at Gregory Bay. They travelled in small parties, therefore were not in all probability, on bad terms with their neighbours at that time.

§ Now, Canal FitzRoy .

Those who first arrived were invited on board; but declined going, because their chief was expected: and with the last party came a boy, about nine years old, fantastically decked with ornaments of copper and brass, with beads, and with a new mantle. A tall, fine-looking man, of the Gregory Bay tribe, accompanied this young cacique, and made him known to Mr. Low, by the name of ‘Capitan Chups.’

These natives have adopted the word ‘capitan,’ and now always use it when addressing white men who they suppose have authority. When some Patagonians of the Gregory Bay party came on board the Beagle, in 1834, seeing a larger number of officers than is usual in small vessels, one of the first questions asked, in broken Spanish, was, “Quanto capitanes abordo?” §

§ “How many captains are on board?”

Little Capitan Chups seemed to have no small idea of his own consequence, and tried to affect much dignity. He willingly went on board the Unicorn; but not a native would enter the boat until the young chief was seated, when there was a most inconsistent scramble, which nearly swamped it. However, after pushing out a few of the intruders, the party reached the vessel in safety. On board her was a Patagonian boy, who had been four months with Mr. Low, and had been clothed at Monte Video. He had recognized Capitan Chups at a distance, said who he was, and showed by his manner that he considered him a person of high distinction. The little cacique called this boy, asked him many questions, and examined every part of his dress. Afterwards the boy joined some of his own family, who were present. He had before refused to go to the party at Gregory Bay, while there in the vessel, alleging that they were not his people.

Mr. Low said, that the tribe on the banks of this channel were mixed, being partly horse and partly canoe Indians. They were entirely under the dominion of the Gregory Bay party, who appointed their chiefs. Maria's son, called ‘Capitan Chico,’ was their ruler, until the arrival of Capitan Chups.

Yet Mr. Low did not think that the little capitan belonged to any of the families residing near Gregory Bay, but to some part of the same tribe who live far inland. Maria's son, Chico, was subsequently cacique, or acting as cacique of the Gregory Bay party. Had this western tribe been under the dominion of the Gregory Bay party, would the successor to Chico have been taken from a tribe who live far inland?

The apparent mixture of horse and canoe Indians appears to me to have been an accidental consequence of the fire made as a signal, which called to the spot horsemen from the north and canoes from the south. The novelty of a vessel anchoring in a place never before disturbed by such a visitor, might well suspend hostilities between neighbouring tribes, even had they been at war; but there is every reason to conclude that the canoe men of the south side of those waters have frequent and even amicable intercourse with the horsemen of Patagonia. A part though of that amicable intercourse consists in selling their children to the Patagonians for slaves. The following incident led to the discovery of this slave-trade: Mr. Low heard Maria talking of ‘zapallos,’* and asked her if she could get some for him—and how many? He thought she meant pumpkins (for which zapallos is Spanish); Maria replied, Ᾰtwo boat loads,” and to show of what, pointed to a young slave, lately purchased from the Fuegians. When there are more zapallos among them than are wanted for slaves, or than suits their convenience, what becomes of them? While young, they may be more useful than when they grow old; and a wandering people, subsisting by hunting, would not in all probability take the trouble of providing for useless slaves, who might maintain themselves. The Patagonians are not so barbarous as to kill them; then what becomes of those zapallos? If they are not sent to the borders of the Skyring and Otway Waters, there to shift for themselves, with perhaps a few old horses, and even some young men who help them to hunt, the employment of their later years is unexplained.

* ‘Zapallos,’ or some word of similar sound.

The canoe Indians are in reality despised by the Patagonians; but, for the sake of trade, are generally kept upon half-friendly terms. For dogs, old horses, guanaco meat, and old mantles, the former give pieces of iron pyrites (used for striking fire), their captives, or their children.

Patagonians have a great antipathy to negroes. As soon as they see a black man, they shout, hoot, hiss, and make faces at him.

No signs of hieroglyphics or writing have been noticed among the Patagonians. They can reckon as far as thousands. Time is counted by years and moons, days and nights. There are particular words denoting the various phases of the moon, the seasons of the year, and the times of day and night. In counting, the fingers and toes are used, as well as words expressing numbers, especially when trying to make their meaning clear to strangers. Once, when Mr. Low was leaving Gregory Bay, he gave Maria to understand that he would return again in four moons, and asked her to have some guanaco meat ready for him when he should arrive. He returned a fortnight before his time. No meat was ready. Maria said he was too soon, explaining herself by holding three fingers up, and the fourth bent half down. The few words of their language which have been collected by me are mentioned in the Appendix.§

Appendix, 15: “Fuegian Vocabulary, &c.”

The Patagonians pay respect to old people, taking great care of them; they seldom move about on ordinary occasions, but remain near the tolderia (village or encampment) with the herds of mares.

It has been mentioned that the Patagonians have lately taken a liking to spirits. When intoxicated, they are very noisy, but not quarrelsome. They are very fond of tobacco; and use some sort of pipe, frequently ornamented with brass and tassels: it is passed round from one to the other. They neither work, nor use any metal but what is obtained from white men. There is no kind of pottery made by them: wooden vessels, or bladders, being used for containing water. Many of them now have iron kettles, in which meat is sometimes boiled, but their usual mode of cookery is roasting; a piece of meat being put upon a wooden skewer, which is stuck, into the ground near their fire.

The conduct of the women does not correspond to their character drawn by Falkner;§ but their ideas of propriety may have been altered by the visits of licentious strangers. Both at Gregory Bay (on the north shore of Magalhaens Strait), and at the River Negro, the Patagonian women are now thought to be unfaithful to their husbands, and to care little about chastity. The men appear to give themselves no anxiety on the subject. Spirits, provisions, and (to them) valuable articles of hardware, or clothing which they receive, occupy much more of their attention.

§ Falkner, Patagonia, p. 126.

These Indians do not appear very sensible of heat or cold, if one may judge from their habits of life, and from their clothing; in the latter, the only difference made during the coldest part of winter is wearmg horse-hide boots more constantly. In summer, their feet and legs are generally naked. Both men and women wash themselves occasionally, neither regularly nor often; but the women are rather less uncleanly than the men. I have elsewhere mentioned that they comb their hair with the jawbone of a porpoise (obtained from the zapallos). They have also a small brush, made of coarse grass, twigs, or rushes, with which their toilet is assisted.

When Mr. Low was returning from Monte Video, with the boy on board who has been spoken of as recognizing Capitan Chups, some natives were seen on Elizabeth Island (Strait of Magalhaens). A boat was sent, with the boy in her, to trade with them for skins. When near enough to distinguish persons, he seemed extremely frightened—clung to the thwarts of the boat—and begged not to be landed. These were canoe Indians, but of what tribe was not ascertained: he said they would certainly kill him. Some time after this boy had rejoined his family, Mr. Low was informed, by the Gregory Bay people, that he had collected seal-skins for ‘Capitan Low,’ which he would not part with to any other person, as he knew they were the object of his friend's trading voyages. This instance of gratitude for kind treatment speaks well for both parties: but, indeed, every white man who has passed any time among the Patagonian Indians agrees in giving a favourable account of the treatment experienced. The ‘Basket-maker,’ however, would fare better than the ‘Scholar,’ I fancy, with these, as well as with most other tribes of savages, until ideas could be communicated clearly.*

* With reference to what has been already mentioned about their migratory inclinations, I will here annex an omitted date:—Maria and her companions were at Gregory Bay in November 1831: at the River Negro in September 1832: and again at Gregory Bay, in the Strait of Magalhaens, in March 1833.

The dogs now found in the southern part of Patagonia have a wolfish appearance—their size, colour, hair, ears, nose, tail, and form being in general much like those of a wolf; though some black or spotted dogs are also seen. The roof of the mouth is black: the ears are always erect, and the nose sharp-pointed. I should say that their usual height is about that of a large foxhound. Generally the coat is harsh or wiry, and rather short; but there are some dogs among them which have thick woolly coats, like those of Newfoundland or large shepherd's dogs, which some resemble; others being more like lurchers; but all have a wild wolf-like look, not at all prepossessing. I had a fine dog of this kind, rather like a Newfoundland, except in physiognomy, but his habits were so savage that he came to an untimely end. These dogs hunt by sight, without giving tongue; but they growl or bark loudly at the approach of strangers. As to attachment to their masters, the dogs we had could hardly give fair testimony, having been taken (bought) from them; but to strangers they were always snappish.


Fuegians—Form—Paint—Disposition—Food—Doctor—Religious ideas—Superstitions—Marriage—Death—Burial—Cannibalism—Weapons—Women's occupation—Training—Obtaining food—Fire—Language—Sagacity and local knowledge—Battles—Ceremony—Natives in Trinidad Gulf—Obstruction Sound—Potatoes—Dogs

The most remarkable traits in the countenance of a Fuegian are his extremely small, low forehead; his prominent brow; small eyes (suffering from smoke); wide cheek-bones; wide and open nostrils; large mouth, and thick lips. Their eyes are small, sunken, black, and as restless as those of savages in general. Their eyelids are made red and watery by the wood smoke in their wigwams. The chin varies much; that of a Tekeenica is smaller and less prominent than that of an Alikhoolip, in whom it is large and rather projecting, but there is much variety. The nose is always narrow between the eyes, and, except in a few curious instances, is hollow, in profile outline, or almost flat. The mouth is coarsely formed (I speak of them in their savage state, and not of those who were in England, whose features were much improved by altered habits, and by education)§; their teeth are very peculiar: no canine, or eye-teeth, project beyond the rest, or appear more pointed than those; the front teeth are solid, and often flat-topped like those of a horse eight years old, and enamelled only at the sides: the interior substance of each tooth is then seen as plainly, in proportion to its size, as in that of a horse. Their hair is black, coarse, and lank, excepting the few instances mentioned in the next page. It grows by single hairs, not by piles, or by little bunches like very small camel-hair pencils. It does not fall off, nor does it turn gray until they are very old. Little, if any, hair is seen on the eye-brow. They would have a straggling beard, but scrupulously pull out every hair with tweezers made of muscle-shells.

§ Apparently FitzRoy took his phrenology quite seriously, and actually believed that a short visit to civilized England could change the physical characteristics of a savage for the better. And then, on returning to the wild these improvements would be lost.

As exceptions to the general appearance of these people, it ought to be said that, among the Fuegians, I have seen several individuals, both men and women, with curly or frizzled hair (like that of some of the Polynesians or Malays), with rather high foreheads, straight or aquiline noses; and in other features allied to the natives of New Zealand rather than to their countrymen of Tierra del Fuego. I was much struck by those exceptions, and, at the time, conjectured that they might be descendants of the Spanish colonists at Port Famine: but since then, having seen the Polynesians, I have been led to think otherwise; as will be mentioned in a future page relating to New Zealand.

Phrenological remarks on the forms of their heads are added in the Appendix:§ some were made on the spot by Mr. Wilson, the former surgeon of the Beagle, and others by a person in London. Mr. Wilson's paper also contains anatomical remarks and measurements. In this place it will be sufficient to remark that their heads are remarkably low, but wide; and full from the ears backward. The neck of a Fuegian is short and strong. His shoulders are square, but high; his chest and body are very large. The trunk is long, compared to the limbs and head. His arms and legs are rounder, and less sinewy, than those of Europeans; his joints are smaller, and his extremities are likewise comparatively less. The hands are shaped like those of Europeans, but the feet, from always going barefooted, are square at the toes, and would, by some persons, be considered of the Papua form. Most of them are rather bow-legged, and they turn their feet a little inwards in walking. The knee is strained by the custom of sitting so long on their heels, so that, when straightened, there are considerable folds or wrinkles of loose skin above and below the joint. The muscles of their thighs are large, but those of the legs, small. Little children are nearly of the same hue as their parents' skin is when cleaned; but infants are, for a few days, rather lighter coloured.

§ Appendix, 17: “Phrenological Remarks.”

As I have already said, a small fillet is all that is worn around the head. Usually this is a mere string, made of the sinews of birds or animals; but, to make a show, they sometimes stick feathers, bits of cloth, or any trash given to them, into these head-bands. White feathers, or white down, on the fillet, is a sign of hostility, or of being prepared for war. Red is the favourite colour, denoting peace, or friendly intentions, and much admired as ornamental. Red paint, made with ochre, is profusely used. Their white* paint is added to the red when preparing for war; but the marks made are mere daubs, of the rudest, if of any design. Black is the mourning colour. After the death of a friend, or near relation, they blacken themselves with charcoal, and oil or grease. Any sort of clay is used, if their paint is scarce, to preserve warmth rather than as an improvement to their appearance.

* Aluminous earth, indurated pipe clay, or decomposed feldspar.

When discovered by strangers, the instant impulse of a Fuegian family is to run off into the wood with their children, and such things as they can carry with them. After a short time, if nothing hostile is attempted by the intruders, and if they are not too numerous, the men return cautiously, making friendly signs, waving pieces of skins, rubbing and patting their bellies, and shouting. If all goes on quietly, the women frequently return, bringing with them the children; but they always leave the most valuable skins hidden in the bushes. This hasty concealment of seal or otter skins is the result of visits from sealers, who frequently robbed Fuegian families of every skin in their possession, before the natives understood the motives of their expeditions in boats into the interior waters of Tierra del Fuego. Sometimes nothing will induce a single individual of the family to appear; men, women, and children hide in the thick woods, where it would be almost impossible to find them, and do not show themselves again until the strangers are gone: but during the whole time of their concealment a watchful look-out is kept by them upon the motions of their unwelcome visitors.

Scarcity of food, and the facility with which they move from one place to another in their canoes, are, no doubt, the reasons why the Fuegians are always so dispersed among the islands in small family parties, why they never remain long in one place, and why a large number are not seen many days in society. They never attempt to make use of the soil by any kind of culture; seals, birds, fish, and particularly shell-fish, being their principal subsistence; any one place, therefore, soon ceases to supply the wants of even one family; hence they are always migratory.

In a few places, where the meeting of tides causes a constant supply of fish, especially porpoises, and where the land is broken into multitudes of irregular islets and rocks, whose shores afford an almost inexhaustible quantity of shell-fish, a few families may be found at one time, numbering altogether among them from twenty to forty souls; but even those approaches towards association are rare, and those very families are so migratory by nature, that they do not remain many months in such a spot, however productive it may be, but go wandering away among the numerous secluded inlets or sounds of their country, or repair to the outer sea-coast in search of seals, a dead whale, or fragments of some wrecked ship. During the summer they prefer the coast, as they then obtain a great quantity of eggs and young birds, besides seal, which come ashore to breed at that season; and in the winter they retire more into the interior waters in search of shell-fish, and the small but numerous and excellent fish which they catch among the seaweed (kelp).

The substitutes for clothing, the arms, canoes, and dwellings of the Fuegians have been so often described already, that I will not tire the reader by a repetition. Some of their customs, hitherto not related, may be more interesting.

There is no superiority of one over another, among the Fuegians, except that acquired gradually by age, sagacity, and daring conduct; but the ‘doctor-wizard’of each party has much influence over his companions. Being one of the most cunning, as well as the most deceitful of his tribe, it was not surprising that we should always have found the ‘doctor’ concerned in all mischief and every trouble arising out of our intercourse with these natives. It became a saying among us, that such a person was as troublesome as a Fuegian doctor.

In each family the word of an old man is accepted as law by the young people; they never dispute his authority. Warfare, though nearly continual, is so desultory, and on so small a scale among them, that the restraint and direction of their elders, advised as they are by the doctors, is sufficient.

Ideas of a spiritual existence—of beneficent and evil powers—they certainly have; but I never witnessed or heard of any act of a decidedly religious nature, neither could I satisfy myself of their having any idea of the immortality of the soul. The fact of their believing that the evil spirit torments them in this world, if they do wrong, by storms, hail, snow, &c., is one reason why I am inclined to think that they have no thought of a future retribution. The only act I have heard of which could be supposed devotional, is the following. When Matthews was left alone with them for several days, he sometimes heard a great howling, or lamentation, about sun-rise in the morning; and upon asking Jemmy Button what occasioned this outcry, he could obtain no satisfactory answer; the boy only saying, “people very sad, cry very much.” Upon one occasion, when some canoes were alongside the Beagle, at a subsequent visit to the Beagle Channel (in 1834), a sudden howl from one of the Fuegians aroused several others who were near, and at the opposite side of the vessel, when a general howl of lamentation took place, which was ended by a low growling noise. By this, as well as by pulling their hair, and beating their breasts, while tears streamed down their faces, they evinced their sorrow for the fate of some friends who had perished, some days before the Beagle's arrival, by the upsetting of a loaded canoe.* There was no regular weeping, nor any thing at all like the downright cry of a civilized being; it was a noise which seemed to be peculiar to a savage. This howling was mostly among the men, only one young woman was similarly affected. Now whether the noises heard by Matthews were occasioned by similar feelings, or by those of a devotional nature, I cannot pretend to say.

* The bottom of a Fuegian canoe is full of mud, or clay, for the fireplace.

The natives whom I carried to England often amused us by their superstitious ideas, which showed, nevertheless, that their ideas were not limited by the visible world. If any thing was said or done that was wrong, in their opinion it was certain to cause bad weather. Even shooting young birds, before they were able to fly, was thought a heinous offence. I remember York Minster saying one day to Mr. Bynoe, when he had shot some young ducks with the old bird—“Oh, Mr. Bynoe, very bad to shoot little duck—come wind—come rain—blow—very much blow.”

A great black man is supposed to be always wandering about the woods and mountains, who is certain of knowing every word and every action; who cannot be escaped, and who influences the weather according to men's conduct. York related a curious story of his own brother, who had committed a murder. “In woods of my country,” said he, “some men go about alone; very wild men—have no belly (meaning probably that they were very thin), live by stealing from other men.” He then went on to say, that his brother had been getting birds out of a cliffy, and, on coming down, hid them among some long rushes, and went away. Soon afterwards he returned, and, seeing feathers blown away by the wind from the spot, suspected what was going on; so taking a large stone in his hand, he crept stealthily towards the place, and there saw one of these wild men plucking a bird which he had got out of the cliff. Without saying a word, he dashed the stone at the wild man's head, and killed him on the spot. Afterwards York's brother was very sorry for what he had done, particularly when it began to blow very hard. York said, in telling the story, “rain come down—snow come down—hail come down—wind blow—blow—very much blow. Very bad to kill man. Big man in woods no like it, he very angry.” At the word ‘blow,’ York imitated the sound of a strong wind; and he told the whole story in a very low tone of voice, and with a mysterious manner; considering it an extremely serious affair.

Jemmy Button was also very superstitious, and a great believer in omens and dreams. He would not talk of a dead person, saying, with a grave shake of the head, “no good, no good talk; my country never talk of dead man.” While at sea, on board the Beagle, about the middle of the year 1832, he said one morning to Mr. Bynoe, that in the night some man came to the side of his hammock, and whispered in his ear that his father was dead. Mr. Bynoe tried to laugh him out of the idea, but ineffectually. He fully believed that such was the case, and maintained his opinion up to the time of finding his relations in the Beagle Channel, when, I regret to say, he found that his father had died some months previously. He did not forget to remind Mr. Bynoe (his most confidential friend) of their former conversation, and, with a significant shake of the head said, it was “bad—very bad.” Yet those simple words, as Mr. Bynoe remarked, seemed to express the extent of his sorrow, for after that time he said no more about his father. This subsequent silence, however, might have been caused by the habit abready noticed, of never mentioning the dead.

When a person dies, his family wrap the body in skins, and carry it a long way into the woods; there they place it upon broken boughs, or pieces of solid wood, and then pile a great quantity of branches over the corpse. This is the case among the Tekeenica and Alikhoolip tribes, as well as the Pecheray; but how the others dispose of their dead, I know not, excepting that, on the west coast, some large caves have been found, in which were many human bodies in a dried state. One of these caves is mentioned in Byron's narrative of the wreck of the Wager: and another was seen by Mr. Low, which will be spoken of in describing the natives of the western coast of Patagonia (the Chonos Indians), who from their intercourse with the Spaniards may be supposed to have acquired ideas somewhat more enlarged than those of the southernmost regions—the Alikhoolip and Tekeenica. I prefer relating all that I know of these tribes, in consequence of the intercourse carried on with them by the Beagle's officers and myself, and the visit of York, Jemmy, and Fuegia to England, before any of Mr. Low's account is given; because, as his intercourse was chiefly with the Chonos tribe, and was quite unconnected with the Beagle's visit, it will be more satisfactory to the reader to be enabled to compare accounts from different sources, which in some points are so strikingly similar, that their agreement gives great weight to the whole.

The Fuegians marry young. As soon as a youth is able to maintain a wife, by his exertions in fishing or bird-catching, he obtains the consent of her relations, and does some piece of work, such as helping to make a canoe, or prepare seal-skins, &c. for her parents. Having built or stolen a canoe for himself, he watches for an opportunity, and carries off his bride. If she is unwilling, she hides herself in the woods until her admirer is heartily tired of looking for her, and gives up the pursuit; but this seldom happens. Although this is undoubtedly the custom among many of them, we had some reason to think there were parties who lived in a promiscuous manner—a few women being with many men. It is, however, hardly fair to judge from what we saw during our short visit, when the ordinary habits of their life were certainly much altered. We observed, while at Woollȳa, a disproportionately small number of females; but it ought to be remembered, that the people whom we then saw came to look at us from a distance, and that the greater part of their women and children were probably left in security at various places, as were the women and children of those who stole our boat in the former voyage (vol. i. p. 394) whom we found in a retired nook, far out of ordinary observation.

Jemmy Button often talked of his father, mother, brothers, and sisters, also of uncles* and aunts, after he knew enough of our language to understand distinctly the relationship. Now this could not have been the case had not his father and mother lived together permanently as man and wife, according to the clear account which he himself always gave of their custom in this respect.

* It was an uncle who gave him to me for some buttons.

From the concurring testimony of the three Fuegians above-mentioned, obtained from them at various times and by many different persons, it is proved that they eat human flesh upon particular occasions, namely, when excited by revenge or extremely pressed by hunger. Almost always at war with adjoining tribes, they seldom meet but a hostile encounter is the result; and then those who are vanquished and taken, if not already dead, are killed and eaten by the conquerors. The arms and breast are eaten by the women; the men eat the legs; and the trunk is thrown into the sea. During a severe winter, when hard frost and deep snow prevent their obtaining food as usual, and famine is staring them in the face, extreme hunger impels them to lay violent hands on the oldest woman of their party, hold her head over a thick smoke, made by burning green wood, and pinching her throat, choke her. They then devour every particle of the flesh, not excepting the trunk, as in the former case. Jemmy Button, in telling this horrible story as a great secret, seemed to be much ashamed of his countrymen, and said, he never would do so—he would rather eat his own hands. When asked why the dogs were not eaten, he said “Dog catch iappo” (iappo means otter). York told me that they always eat enemies whom they killed in battle; and I have no doubt that he told me the truth.

When the Dutch fleet were in Nassau Bay (1624), a boat's crew were attacked by the natives, murdered and partly eaten. But previous to this (in 1599), Oliver Van Noort had attacked some Fuegians in a cave near a cape, then called Nassau, where he killed several men, and took four boys and two girls prisoners.

Jemmy Button told me that there are two tribes of Tekeenica, differing only in situation, who go to war sometimes with one another, though usually at peace; they live east and west, respectively, of some islets in the Beagle Channel, a short distance north-eastward of Woollȳa. With these two tribes or subdivisions of the Tekeenica there is constant war made by the Yacana, called by Jemmy ‘Oens-men;’ but they (the Tekeenica) are sometimes at peace with the Alikhoolip.

The food of the Fuegians has been mentioned so often in the preceding pages of this or the former volume, that I will only add here a few remarks which have not hitherto been made. When there is time, the natives roast their shell-fish, and half-roast any other food that is of a solid nature; but when in haste, they eat fish, as well as meat, in a raw state. A seal is considered to be a grand prize; for, besides the flesh, they feast on the oil; and a porpoise is much valued, for a similar reason. Seal are often killed on the rocks, by striking them on the nose with a club, or large stick: and rather than let a seal go, which has been intercepted by getting between it and the water, they will risk having a severe bite by attacking it with a stone in hand. Both seal and porpoises are speared by them from their canoes. When struck, the fish usually run into the kelp, with the spear floating on the water, being attached by a short line to a moveable barb; and there the men follow with their canoe, seize the spear, and tow by it till the fish is dead. To them, the taking of a seal or porpoise is a matter of as much consequence as the capture of a whale is to our countrymen. On moonlight nights, birds are caught when roosting, not only by the men but by their dogs, which are sent out to seize them while asleep upon the rocks or beach; and so well are these dogs trained, that they bring all they catch safely to their masters, without making any noise, and then return for another mouthful. Birds are also frequently killed with arrows,* or by stones slung at them with unerring aim. Eggs are eagerly sought for by the natives; indeed, I may say that they eat any thing and every thing that is eatable, without being particular as to its state of freshness, or as to its having been near the fire. Penguins are much prized; the otter is also valued, excepting the body part, which they seldom eat unless hard pressed by hunger. Sometimes they spear fine fish, like cod-fish—fifteen or twenty pounds in weight. Small fish are caught in abundance by the method formerly described,† and they are the staple article of food among the Tekeenica. The fins of a dead whale are esteemed; but if other food is to be had, they do not eat the blubber.

* These arrows are of hard wood, well polished, and quite straight. They are about two feet in length, and in a notch at the point have a sharp triangular piece of agate, obsidian, or broken glass; which is not permanently fixed, and therefore remains in a wound, though the shaft may be drawn out. The bow is from three to four feet long, quite plain, with a string made of twisted sinews.

† See vol. i. p. 428.

In the Tekeenica country, near theBeagle Channel, there are many small animals, about the size of a cat, which they sometimes take and eat. These, I think, are nutria; for, on one occasion, a fresh nutria skin was obtained from them, the only sign I ever found of a small animal in that neighbourhood.

Of vegetable food they have very little: a few berries, cranberries, and those which grow on the arbutus, and a kind of fungus, which is found on the birch-tree, being the only sorts used. This fungus is very plentiful in some places: it grows upon the birch-tree much as the oak-apple upon an oak-tree. Mr. Darwin describes it fully in his journal (vol. iii)§. There is also another much larger kind of fungus, which is sometimes eaten. On what tree it grows, I know not, but it was mentioned to me as being about two feet in circumference. The Fuegians drink only pure water, but often, and in large quantities. The women or children fetch it in small buckets, made of birchbark; and two or three times in the course of a night they wake to eat and drink. In the day-time also they eat and drink very frequently.

§ FitzRoy's “birch-tree” becomes “beech-tree” in Darwin's account. Darwin's Chapter XIII in his 1839 Journal and Remarks, becomes Chapter XI in his 1845 second edition and all subsequent editions. The above link is to the 1905 Voyage of the Beagle text.

The men procure food of the larger kind, such as seal, otter, porpoises, &c.; they break or cut wood and bark for fuel, as well as for building the wigwams and canoes. They go out at night to get birds; they train the dogs, and of course undertake all hunting or warlike excursions.

The women nurse their children, attend the fire (feeding it with dead wood, rather than green, on account of the smoke), make baskets and water-buckets, fishing-lines and necklaces,* go out to catch small fish in their canoes, gather shell-fisli, dive for sea-eggs, take care of the canoes, upon ordinary occasions paddle their masters about while they sit idle;—and do any other drudgery.

* See note at end of chapter. [FitzRoy's note now appears immediately below.]

Note to page 185.—The Fuegian necklaces show some ingenuity in those who make therm, being composed of small shells, perforated very neatly, and fastened together on strings of sinews or gut, so finely divided and platted, that one is, at first, inclined to doubt their being the manufacture of such uncouth savages.

Swimming is a favovirite amusement of the Fuegians during summer; but the unfortunate women are obliged to go out into rather deep water, and dive for sea-eggs in the depth of winter as often as in summer. Men, women, and children are excellent swimmers; but they all swim like dogs. Directly they come out of the water they run to the fire, and rub their bodies all over with oil or grease and ochreous earth, to keep out the cold. Swinging between branches of trees, as our children do, is also a favourite pastime, the ropes being made of strips of seal-skin. Frequently the men are lowered down by such ropes over the faces of high cliffs in search of eggs and young birds, or to attack the seal which herd in caves washed by the surf, and [are] inaccessible to man from seaward.

When ill, however seriously, they know of no remedies but rubbing the body with oil, drinking cold water, and causing perspiration by lying near the fire, wrapped up in skins.

Both men and women are remarkably fond of the little children, and were always much pleased at any notice taken of them by our parties, when they felt sufficient confidence in us to bring the children forward. Much respect is said to be paid to age; yet we never saw either man or woman who appeared to be very old—certainly no one was decrepit.

It is rather curious that usually each of these natives is trained to a particular pursuit: thus, one becomes an adept with the spear; another with the sling; another with a bow and aiTows; but this excellence in one line does not hinder their attaining a considerable proficiency in all the others.*

* Mr. Low has seen Fuegians with balls (bolas) in the northern part of their country.

Hostilities are usually carried on with slings and stones rather than by close encounters; yet occasional surprises happen, especially when the Oens-men make an attack, and then there is savage work with clubs, stones in the hand, and spears.

In the winter, when snow lies deep on the ground, the Tekeenica people assemble to hunt the guanaco, which then comes down from the high lands to seek for pasture near the sea. The long legs of the animal stick deeply into the snow and soft boggy ground, disabling him from escape, while the Fuegians and their dogs hem him in on every side, and quickly make him their prey.

Jemmy Button's division of the Tekeenica, living westward of Murray Narrow, never obtain guanacoes; but the other division, who live eastward of that small passage, often kill them in winter; and at other times of the year they sometimes get them by lying in wait, and shooting them with arrows, or by getting into a tree near their track, and spearing them as they pass beneath the branches. An arrow was shewn to Low, which was marked with blood two-thirds of its length in wounding a guanaco, afterwards caught by dogs. Low held out his jacket, making signs that the arrow would not penetrate it: upon which the native pointed to his eye.

Some of the families of this eastern division of the Tekeenica have no canoes, living entirely at a distance from the shore, and subsisting upon berries, birch-fungus, guanacoes, and birds. The bows and arrows of those men are longer and better, and they have some very fine dogs, which are trained to search for and bring home food. These dogs often surprise the larger birds, while feeding on the ground, as well as when they are at roost, so quietly do they steal upon their prey. Byron mentions that the Chonos Indians send their dogs away to fish, and that they assist their owners in fishing, by swimming about, and driving the fish into a corner. This I have not witnessed or heard of among the Fuegians; but their dogs assist in a similar manner when in pursuit of an otter, by swimming and diving after it with the utmost eagerness.

Fire, that essential necessary to man in every state and every climate, is always kept alive by these savages wherever they go, either in their canoes, in their wigwams, or even in their hand, by a piece of burning wood; but they are at no loss to rekindle it, should any accident happen. With two stones (usually iron pyrites) they procure a spark, which received among tinder, and then whisked round in the air, soon kindles into a flame. The tinder used is the inner down of birds, well dried; very fine dry moss; or a dry kind of fungus found on the under side of half-rotten trees. Where the pyrites is [sic, are] usually obtained, I do not know; but it cannot be plentiful in the Tekeenica country, since every woman keeps small pieces by her, in the basket which holds their paint and ornaments, and will not easily be prevailed upon to part with them. Some of the sealers have fancied these pieces of pyrites were silver or gold ore, and have eagerly sought for the mines whence they came. One person finding a large quantity in a rock somewhere near the Gulf of Trinidad, employed his crew and himself for many days in loading his ship with it, being quite sure it was gold.

Of the Fuegian language we know but little, although three of the natives were so many months with us. I found great difficulty in obtaining words, excepting names for things which could be shown to them, and which they had in their own country; however, the few which I have collected are given in the Appendix§ to this volume, and I can assure the reader that the utmost pains were taken to spell each word so as to ensure having the correct sound when pronounced by other persons; and to place the marks of accent, as well as quantity, with precision. All the Fuegian sounds are imitable by using our letters, excepting one, a curious sort of ‘cluck,’ meaning ‘no.’ Many of their words are exceedingly guttural in their pronunciation, yet I have twice heard their women sing, and not disagreeably. Weddell, in his narrative (p. 173), gives some Fuegian words, and endeavours to trace a similarity to the Hebrew language. Molina also, in his vocabulary of the Araucanian language, which appears to be related to the Fuegian, traces some singular correspondences.

§ Appendix, 15: “Fuegian Vocabulary, &c.” Note: This is the third time FitzRoy refers to this vocabulary.

Mr. Low, who has had more intercourse with the Fuegians than perhaps any other individual, gave me much information about them. He says that, generally speaking, they appear to be friendly when meeting strangers, but that their subsequent conduct depends entirely upon their relative numbers. They ought never to be trusted, however, as they have hasty tempers, and are extremely revengeful. They show much hardiness and daring, being always ready to defend their own property, or resent any ill treatment; and they are enterprising thieves.

When the intentions of the natives are hostile, the women and children are kept out of the way; the men are quite naked, their bodies painted more than usual, and the leader of the party has a band of white feathers around his head.

Mr. Low had a Fuegian boy on board the Adeona,§ who learned to speak English very tolerably, during eighteen months that he staid on board as a pilot and interpreter. This boy, whose name, among the sealers, was Bob, was one of the Chonos tribe, and had never been south of Magalhaens Strait before he embarked with Mr. Low. He said, that in cases of extreme distress, caused by hunger, human flesh was eaten, and that when they had recourse to such food, the oldest women invariably suffered. The poor creatures escaped to the woods, if possible, at such a time, but were soon found and brought back by force. They were killed by suffocation, their heads being held over the thick smoke of a fire made of green wood, and their throats squeezed by the merciless hands of their own relations. This boy imitated the piercing cries of the miserable victims whom he had seen sacrificed. He also mentioned that the breasts, belly, hands, and feet, were most liked. When first questioned on this subject, he showed no reluctance in answering any questions about it; but after a time, perceiving how much shocked his English companions were at the story, and how much disgust it excited among the crew of the vessel, he refused to talk of it again.

§ Presumably a vessel owned by Low, perhaps in addition to his co-owndership of the Unicorn.

The different tribes of canoe Indians are generally upon hostile terms with each other, as well as with the horse Indians. This may be more particularly noticed about the western entrance of Magalhaens Strait, where the tribes which inhabit opposite sides* are particularly inveterate in their hostility.

* Chonos and Alikhoolip.

On the west coast of Patagonia, from the Strait of Magalhaens to Cape Tres Montes, Mr. Low found that the natives seemed to be of one tribe, and upon friendly terms with one another. A man, whose native name was Niqueaccas, was taken on board Mr. Low's vessel, near Cape Victory, as a pilot, and he afterwards proved to be acquainted with all the natives met with along the coast as far north as the parallel of 47°. He was always glad to see the various parties of Indians whom they met, and was invariably well received by them. Perfectly acquainted with every part of the coast, he was able to point out excellent harbours, as well as the best seal ‘rookeries.’ Niqueaccas and the boy Bob were of the same tribe; but whenever he was spoken to about eating people, he became sullen, and not a word could be obtained from him. He spoke English very fairly before leaving the vessel in his own country, after being with Mr. Low fourteen months.

The people of this tribe* are by no means without ideas of a superior Being. They have great faith in a good spirit, whom they call Yerri Yuppon, and consider to be the author of all good: him they invoke in time of distress or danger. They also believe in an evil spirit, called Yaccy-ma, who they think is able to do all kinds of mischief, cause bad weather, famine, illness, &c.: he is supposed to be like an immense black man. After being hard pressed for food, and then obtaining a good quantity, much form is observed in distributing the first supplies. Mr. Low witnessed a ceremony of this kind, during which the greatest order prevailed. The whole tribe was seated round a fire, and the oldest man gave each individual a share, repeatedly muttering a short prayer, and looking upwards. Not one of the party, although nearly starved, attempted to touch the food, a large seal, until this ceremony was ended: one share was offered to Mr. Low. At another time, on Madre de Dios Island, after having been detained in port upwards of three months, owing to very bad weather, during which time the natives were almost famished, being unable to reach the outer rocks in quest of food, Mr. Low went with his boats and procured a few seals, taking an Indian in each boat. At his return the carcasses of the seals were sent ashore, but not one of the natives, ravenous as they were, attempted to touch a morsel until all was landed, till the ceremony above-mentioned had been duly performed, and till the natives who had been in the boats had chosen what they pleased for their share.

* Chonos. See page 194.

This tribe appears to have regular places for depositing their dead; as on a small out-lying island, a little southward of Madre de Dios, Mr. Low found a cave which had been used for such a purpose: it was strewed with human bones, and the body of a native child was found in a state of putrefaction. The bodies seemed to have been placed in shallow graves, about a foot deep, which had been dug along the sides of the cave, and covered with twigs and leaves. Slips of a peculiar plant, resembling box, had been carefully planted along the outer sides of each grave, and those near the mouth of the cave had taken root and were growing, but all those in the interior had decayed.

One evening, while at sea, Mr. Low called the boy to him, and said, “Bob, look at the sun; it is going to be drowned.” The boy shook his head, saying, “No, no drown; to-morrow morning get up again. Sun go round earth; come again tomorrow.”

The natives of this tribe* suppose that all white people originally came from the moon; they call them “cubba;” and often make use of an expression with reference to them which means “White men of the Moon.” These Indians, in common with those of the other southern tribes, are exceedingly superstitious, implicitly believing omens, signs, and dreams, as well as the ‘wise men’ among them, who are thought infallible as prophets, doctors, and magicians. Once, when Mr. Low was detained about three weeks by contrary winds and bad weather, his crew became discontented, and attributed their ill-luck to a native who was detained on board against his will. To pacify those who were, in this instance, every bit as superstitious as the aborigines themselves, a fire was made on shore, to invite the Indians to approach; and when they came he delivered their countryman to them, explaining at the same time that he would depart as soon as the wind became fair. An old Indian, then, in a very ceremonious and mysterious manner, gave Low what he understood to be a charm, with strict injunctions not to look at it until next morning; when, at sunrise, there would be a fair wind, and the vessel might sail. Notwithstanding the old man's orders, he was no sooner out of sight than Low opened the mysterious packet, which appeared to contain human hair, mixed with the scrapings of the shaft of an arrow.

* Chonos.

Next morning, however, at sunrise, a fair (easterly) wind sprung up, and the vessel sailed. How the old man foreknew the change—whether he judged by the sky, the tides, or other indications, did not transpire; but this was by no means a singular instance of extraordinary accuracy shown by the natives in foretelling changes of weather.

The sagacity and extensive local knowledge of these people is very surprising; Niqueaccas was so well acquainted with all the coast between 47° and the Strait of Magalhaens, that, upon being taken to a high hill, immediately after landing from a cruise, in which they had been far out of sight of land, he pointed out the best harbours and places for seal then visible; and in one direction, a long way off (pointing towards Eyre Sound, then far out of sight), he said there were great numbers of fur seals. The boy Bob also described that same place, when he was with Mr. Low at the Galapagos Islands. On a calm day, while there was nothing going on, he made a chart with chalk upon the vessel's deck, reaching from the windlass to the taff-rail, and Mr. Low has since felt quite certain that the boy meant Eyre Sound, though at that time these interior waters on the west coast of Patagonia had not been explored by any white man.

Niqueaccas was always anxious and timid about taking the Adeona through a passage where he knew danger existed, and proportionably pleased when the dangers were safely passed, and the vessel anchored in a safe position.

The boy Bob, when only ten years old, was on board the Adeona at sea. As the vessel approached land, Low asked him where a harbour could be found? As soon as he understood what was meant, which was an affair of some difficulty, for he then could speak but very little English, he got up on the vessel's bulwark, and looked anxiously around. After some hesitation, he pointed to a place where the ship might go, and then went to the lead-line, and made signs to Mr. Low that he must sound as he approached the land. The cove was found to have a shoal and narrow entrance, but was safe and sufficiently spacious within. Such knowledge at so early an age is an extraordinary proof of the degree in which the perceptive and retentive faculties are enjoyed by these savages. Whenever the advice of Niqueaccas or any of his tribe was rejected, much sullenness and displeasure were shown. Upon one occasion his services were refused, and a harbour tried against his advice, which proved to be a bad one; it was left to seek for that which he had previously recommended, and his sullenness suddenly changed into delight; but when his harbour was pronounced excellent, and he was duly praised, his joy knew no bounds.

Generally speaking, both Niqueaccas and the boy Bob were well-behaved and good-tempered; but the boy was sometimes inclined to be mischievous, and would hide the people's clothes, or put salt into their mouths while asleep. When much annoyed, he would use both teeth and nails, and attack anyone, however superior to himself in size and strength.

Battles between parties of the same tribe seem to occur occasionally, as this boy showed Mr. Low two spots where quarrels had been decided. Both were open spaces, clear of trees, and near them were the remains of wigwams. One of those battles occurred in consequence of one party wishing to take some seal-skins away from the other; but it did not distinctly appear from the boy's account whether these encounters were between parties of his tribe, or whether an encroachment upon their territory, with a view to plunder, had been made by some other tribe. That parties occasionally cross overland from Skyring Water to Obstruction Sound is evident from Mr. Bynoe's account (page 198), and that people of the tribe to which Niqueaccas belonged either make excursions themselves southward of the Strait of Magalhaens, or that the Alikhoolip invade their territory and take away canoes, is evident from the fact of plank canoes* having been seen in and about the Barbara Channel. The arms used are similar to those of the Alikhoolip already described.

* Plank canoes are used on the west coast. See page 142.

A method of declaring war, ascertained by the following circumstance, is rather curious. The boy Bob had been taken on board the Adeona, in consequence of some dispute with the natives, who had stolen things from the vessel. Mr. Low intended to keep him as a hostage until the missing property should be restored; but the tribe decamped, and as Low was obliged to sail, he carried the boy away with him. At the return of the vessel, about eight months afterwards, the boy saw something on shore, at the entrance of the harbour, which he looked at for some time very earnestly, and then gave Mr. Low to understand that the natives had declared war against him and his ship, and intended to attack her at her return. No natives being visible, Low went ashore with the boy, to see what it was that had attracted his attention, and found a number of spears, arrows, and clubs, roughly cut out of wood, painted red, and stuck into the ground, across a point of the island, and having in the middle a large block of wood, roughly carved into a strange figure (said by the boy to be that of their evil spirit) curiously painted, with long red teeth, and having a short halter of hide (seal-skin) round the part intended to represent a neck. Notwithstanding this outward demonstration of anger and intent to revenge, not a native was seen in the neighbourhood during the many months which Low passed there, and in consequence he had no opportunity of restoring the boy to his own tribe; but he was afterwards kindly received, and treated as Low's son, among the Patagonians of Gregory Bay.

The natives of Niqueaccas' tribe (Chonos) are less dishonest and deceitful than those of the southernmost islands. Mr. Low has sometimes left his vessel, while he was away sealing, with only two men on board; and although in one instance, at Madre de Dios, there were about a hundred and fifty natives assembled, no hostile or predatory attempt whatever was made by them in his absence: indeed so careful were they to prevent any cause for misunderstanding, that in no instance did more than two of their party go on board the vessel during the absence of the boats; though, after their return with Low, they went to her as usual in great numbers. This tribe was in extreme distress for want of food; the whole party looked thin and miserable. Continual gales had prevented the rocks from being uncovered at low water, and no canoe could be launched on account of the surf, therefore they could get neither shell-fish nor seal. A small party were observed going away, as if on an excursion, and the others who remained explained to Low, by signs, that in four sleeps they would return with food. On the fifth day they were met by Low, returning, but almost dead with fatigue, each man having two or three great pieces of whale-blubber, shaped like a poncho with a hole in the middle, on his shoulders. The blubber was half putrid, and looked as if it had been buried under ground. When they entered the largest wigwam, an old man cut very thin slices off one piece, broiled each successively, and distributed to the party in rotation; but before doing so, he muttered a few words over each piece in a mysterious manner, while strict silence was kept by the by-standers. One slice was offered to Low. The boy Bob once noticed marks where a whale had been cast ashore; taking a sharp stick, he probed the sand in several places, and found many large pieces of blubber, which were taken on board and boiled down for oil. One of the men of this tribe, seeing two long powder-horns on board the Adeona, placed them to his head and made a noise like the bellowing of cattle; but he and his tribe were much frightened by sheep and pigs. They would not land on a small island where some pigs were turned loose, and when talking of them, made signs that they had very big noses which alarmed them. When a pig was killed by the crew and part of it cooked, the natives refused even to taste the meat. One day several of these people had gone on board the Adeona with some old axes and pieces of iron, which they wished to have ground at her grindstone (a favour which had often been granted); but in consequence of something having gone wrong in the vessel, which had ruffled Low's temper, he rather roughly refused to let them stay on board. They went away quietly, but left their axes, &c. behind; and while returning were met by the mate of the vessel, who asked if they had ground them; they replied negatively, and gave the mate to understand that the captain's face was too long, but that they would come again when it was shorter. This occurred before either Niqueaccas or the boy had been taken on board the Adeona.

Mr. Low remarked to me that the conduct of these Indians on this occasion of his harshly refusing to comply with a slight request, was quite different from that which the Fuegians would have shown under similar circumstances: they would have been angry, and in all probability have returned his ill-temper with a display of their own, evinced by a shower of stones. Once, when Low was in the Magdalen Channel, he desired some Fuegians who were on board to leave the vessel wliile his men were below at dinner. They refused to comply, and offered resistance; but being obliged to go, went in their canoes to a short distance a-head, and there remained slinging large stones on board, which broke several windows. To drive them away muskets were used, though without injuring any of their party. Next day the hardy fellows came alongside again, as unconcernedly as ever.

When the Fuegians are inclined to attack an enemy with stones, they generally try to raise a breastwork of boughs or logs; but no such preparation was ever noticed among the natives of the western coast of Patagonia.

While the Adelaide tender was examining the inner passages and sounds of the western shores of Patagonia, under Lieutenant Skyring, some interesting remarks were made by Mr. Bynoe, which do not appear in the narrative of that cruise given in the preceding volume. I shall here insert them in his own words:—

We entered the Gulf of Trinidad, and while surveying thereabouts met two large canoes, which were thought to be whale-boats when first seen at a distance; but as we concluded that some sealing vessel was in the neighbourhood, and that these were her boats, little notice was taken of them until they had approached very near, when, to our astonishment they proved to be large plank canoes, pulled with oars, and full of fine stout Indians. Just within hail they stopped, lay on their oars, halloed to us most vociferously, and waved skins above their heads. One man was very conspicuous, having on his head a tall leathern cap, tapering to a point, which was ornamented with feathers of various gaudy colours; and around the brim of this high conical hat there was also a fringe of feathers. This singular character was painted black all over from head to foot, except a circle of white round each eye, and a few white dots upon his cheeks. By signs we succeeded in tempting them to come alongside the schooner, and were then still more struck by their appearance: they were far superior to any Fuegians I had seen, being a taller race, more upright, and better proportioned; their limbs were better formed, more muscular, rounder, and fuller than those of any canoe Indians of the Strait of Magalhaens or Barbara Channel; and their skins were cleaner as well as clearer, which was probably the reason why we thought them lighter coloured than the others whom we had seen. The length of back, so remarkable in a Fuegian, was not very discernible in these people, neither were they by any means so ugly as the former; indeed a rather pleasing smile was sometimes noticed on the younger faces. None among them were much smoke-dried, nor did their eyes look red and watery. There did not appear to be one of the party above a middle age, and most of them were young. Three of the men had lost each an upper incisor tooth, and one had a long though not deep scar upon the breast. We all pronounced these people to belong to a finer race than we had seen on the water, and the size of their canoes was quite beyond anything hitherto noticed: they were near thirty feet in length and seven feet broad, with proportionate depth, being made of planks sewn together with strips of twisted bark and rushes: the bow and stern were flat, and nearly upright. Six round pieces of wood formed the thwarts, which were fastened to the gunwale by ropes of twisted rushes; and there were six short oars on each side. These oars were about seven feet long, the blade being a flat piece of wood about sixteen inches in length, fastened to the handle by rush rope passed through two holes in the blade. Of such burthen were these boats (rather than canoes), that two men standing on one gunwale did not bring it down to the water. Each was steered by an old woman, who sat silently abaft vith a paddle. All the party were quite naked excepting the old women.

From one of the old women a small bag was obtained, in exchange for a shirt and some woollen stuff, which proved to contain white dust, feathers, parrots' heads, hawks' feet, white earth, and red ochre. One of the men had an old hatchet, and made signs that he wanted to sharpen it at our grindstone: of course we complied with his request, and allowed a man and a young lad to come on board for that purpose. The lad turned the stone, while the man held the axe; and extremely well it was sharpened. The spears and slings were similar to those seen in other places.

Although these natives seemed to be remarkably well disposed, it was not quite pleasant to see thirty of them looking over the schooner's bulwark, while our boats were away and only five or six men left on board: however, they made no attempt to do any thing improper, and before sunset left us peaceably, striking up a song as they paddled away.

Mr. Bynoe remarked, that in the neighbourhood of Easter Bay (Obstruction Sound), the country had much the appearance of English park scenery; large clumps of trees growing straight and tall, with intervening spaces of clear ground covered with long grass. In this place he found great numbers of wigwams and deserted canoes. Some of the former were of large dimensions, and various shapes: two were like inverted whale-boats, each of which might hold forty or fifty people; and in the long ones (six feet high), Mr. Bynoe could walk upright. All of them were built of slight materials, such as branches of trees covered with long grass. Five or six large wigwams stood together in each place; and near them canoes had evidently been built, for many trees had been felled and barked close by. The traces of fire were visible, which had been trained around the roots of the trees; and many large pieces of bark were lying about, partly sewed together. Four good canoes were found in one place, one of the four being quite new: and there were many old or broken ones. They also saw on nearly every sandy point a neatly-constructed small wigwam, about two feet high, at the entrance of which was a platted rush noose, intended as a snare to catch swans probably, which were numerous about the adjoining grounds, and generally roost on those sandy points. Many deer, like a kind of roebuck, were seen by Mr. Bynoe, but he did not succeed in shooting one. Horse tracks were seen near the upper part of Obstruction Sound; showing that the eastern Patagonians occasionally visit this part of the western coast. Mr. Bynoe suggested the possibility of the natives of Skyring Water travelling overland, building canoes, and then going northward along the west coast; but I do not myself think it so likely as that the Chonos Indians should select such a spot, abounding in food, to pass their winter in, or to stay at for a considerable time while building canoes. Probably, when Mr. Bynoe was there (being summer-time) the tribe, whose winter quarters it had been, were dispersed along the sea-coast in search of seal, eggs, and young birds. In support of his idea Mr. Bynoe says, “I only met one canoe, and that of the bark kind, in the Mesier Channel: whence could that one have come? None of the bark canoes have been seen by us on the west coast, excepting in that instance, and in Obstruction Sound. The distance from Skyring Water to the head of Obstruction Sound is small, though sufficiently difficult to traverse to prevent transporting canoes, because of low prickly brushwood.

How can we account for the numerous canoes stranded in Obstruction Sound, excepting by a supposition that the natives, after using them in a north-westerly excursion, left them behind at their return, as they may have left others on the shores of Skyring Water? These canoes were all of bark, and rather smaller than those usually made by the southern Fuegians.” Should this be the case, there can no longer be any doubt of the non-existence of a direct passage between Skyring Water and the Smyth Channel (leading northwards from Magalhaens Strait). Perhaps the horse Indians sometimes stay in the neighbourhood of Obstruction Sound, and oblige their slaves (zapallos) to build canoes and swan-traps, to fish for them, and even make excursions for seal.

Mr. Bynoe saw many nutria among the islands of Western Patagonia, and a great number of otters. Brant-geese, swans, ducks, and rock-geese were also plentiful in particular places, but not generally. Besides the wild potato, found on the Guaianaco islands (mentioned in the first volume), Mr. Bynoe noticed, in the Gulf of Peñas [sic, Penas], an abundance of the plant called ‘pangue,’ which grows also in Chilóe, and is so much liked by the Chilotes.

Mr. Low said that natives whom he met in the Gulf of Trinidad relished potatoes which he gave them, and asked for more. They pointed towards the north and used the word ‘aquinas,’ which he recognized as being the term used for potatoes by the aborigines at the south of Chilóe.

A native who was on board the Adeona in one of her excursions among the western islands of Patagonia induced Low to take long walks in search of potatoes, which never were found; and afterwards, in the Mesier Channel, he persuaded him to go about in quest of seals, until an opportunity offered for escaping to a small party of his own tribe whom he met there. When taxed by the crew with deceiving Mr. Low about the potatoes, he fell into (or affected) a violent passion, and sprung at the nearest man, grappling him in a most determined and malicious manner.

Having now mentioned all that I know respecting the Canoe Indians (excepting some facts related by Capt. King in vol. i.), I will add a few words about their constant and faithful companion, the dog: and then continue the narrative.

The dog of a Fuegian or Chonos Indian is small, active, and wiry, like a terrier with a cross of fox. His hair is usually rough, and dusky, or dark-coloured; but there are many dogs among the Fuegians almost white, or prettily spotted, some of which have fine smooth hair. All that were examined had the roof of their mouth black, the ears erect, large, and pointed; the nose sharp, like that of a fox; the tail drooping, and rather inclined to be bushy. They are exceedingly vigilant and faithful. Their sagacity is shown in many ways, some of which I have already noticed; and not least, in their providing for themselves, each low-water, by cunningly detaching limpets from the rocks, or by breaking muscle and other shells, and then eating the fish.

These dogs bark at strangers with much fury: and they give tongue eagerly when hunting the otter.*

* Byron says they do so likewise when driving fish into corners.


Set out to land Matthews and the Fuegians—Their meeting with Natives—Supposed Volcano—Dream—Oens-men—Scene—Arrival at Woollȳa—Encampment—Concourse of Natives—Jemmy's Family—Wigwams—Gardens—Distrust—Experiment—Westward Exploration—Remove Matthews—Revisit Woollȳa—Gale—Sail for the Falkland Islands

At the end of Chapter vi., I described our preparations for landing the Fuegians, who had been in England, among their own countrymen; and now, having attempted to give a fuller idea of those people, the narrative of our proceedings shall be continued.

Jan. 19, 1833. The yawl, being heavily laden, was towed by the other three boats, and, while her sails were set, went almost as fast as they did; but after passing Cape Rees, and altering our course to the westward, we were obliged to drag her along by strength of arm against wind and current. The first day no natives were seen, though we passed along thirty miles of coast, and reached Cutfinger Cove. (This name was given because one of our party, Robinson by name, almost deprived himself of two fingers by an axe slipping with which he was cutting wood.)§ At this place, or rather from a hill above it, the view was striking. Close to us was a mass of very lofty heights, shutting out the cold southerly winds, and collecting a few rays of sunshine which contrived to struggle through the frequent clouds of Tierra del Fuego. Opposite, beyond a deep arm of the sea, five miles wide, appeared an extensive range of mountains, whose extremes the eye could not trace; and to the westward we saw an immense canal,§§ looking like a work of gigantic art, extending between parallel ranges of mountains, of which the summits were capped with snow, though their sides were covered by endless forests. This singular canal-like passage is almost straight and of nearly an uniform width (overlooking minute details) for one hundred and twenty miles.

§ Darwin's July 24, 1832 Diary entry lists a Robinson as one of the Beagle Fore top-men, so apparently the incident took place on the ship's second voyage. His first name (William) is found in the United Kingdom National Archives. See the Notes section on the Ship's Company page for further details. Cutfinger Cove location is estimated, since FitzRoy gives no coordinates for it.

§§ The Beagle Channel.

20th. We passed the clay cliffs, § spoken of in the former volume, first visited by Mr. Murray. They narrow the channel to less than a mile, but, being low, were beneath the horizon of our eye at Cutfinger Cove:—westward of them the channel widens again to its usual breadth of two miles. Several natives were seen in this day's pull; but as Jemmy told us they were not his friends, and often made war upon his people, we held very little intercourse with them. York laughed heartily at the first we saw, calling them large monkeys; and Jemmy assured us they were not at all like his people, who were very good and very clean. Fuegia was shocked and ashamed; she hid herself, and would not look at them a second time. It was interesting to observe the change which three years only had made in their ideas, and to notice how completely they had forgotten the appearance and habits of their former associates; for it turned out that Jemmy's own tribe was as inferior in every way as the worst of those whom he and York called “monkeys—dirty—fools—not men.”

§ Since FitzRoy neither names the “clay cliffs” nor gives location information, their position on the Google Earth 3D view is strictly an approximation.

We gave these ‘Yapoos,’ as York called them, some presents, and crossed over to the north side of the channel to be free from their importunities; but they followed us speedily, and obliged us to go on further westward than was at all agreeable, considering the labour required to make way against a breeze and a tide of a mile an hour. When we at last landed to pass the night, we found that the forests on the sides of the mountains had been burned for many leagues; and as we were not far from the place where a volcano was supposed to exist, in consequence of flames having been seen by a ship passing Cape Horn, it occurred to me that some conflagration, like that of which we found the signs, might have caused appearances resembling the eruption of a distant volcano: and I have since been confirmed in this idea, from having witnessed a volcano in eruption; and, not long afterwards, a conflagration, devouring many miles of mountain forest; both of which, at a distance, shewed lines of fire, fitful flashes, and sudden gleams.

Persons who have witnessed a forest burning on the side of a mountain, will easily perceive how, when seen from a distance, it may resemble the eruption of a volcano; but to those who have not seen fire on such a scale, I may remark that each gust of wind, or temporary calm; each thick wood, or comparatively barren space; augments or deadens the flames so suddenly, as the fire sweeps along the mountain side, that, at a distance of fifty miles or more, the deception may be complete.

22d. Favoured by beautiful weather, we passed along a tract of country where no natives were seen. Jemmy told us it was “land between bad people and his friends;” (neutral-ground probably). This evening we reached a cove near the Murray Narrow; § and from a small party of Tekeenica natives, Jemmy's friends, whom we found there, he heard of his mother and brothers, but found that his father was dead. Poor Jemmy looked very grave and mysterious at the news, but showed no other symptom of sorrow. He reminded Bennett* of the dream (related in the previous chapter), §§ and then went for some green branches, which he burned, watching them with a solemn look: after which he talked and laughed as usual, never once, of his own accord, recurring to the subject of his father's decease. The language of this small party, who were the first of Jemmy's own tribe whom we met, seemed softer and less guttural than those of the “bad men” whom we had passed near the clay cliffs; and the people themselves seemed much better disposed, though as abject and degraded in outward appearance as any Fuegians I had ever seen. There were three men and two women: when first we were seen they all ran away, but upon two of our party landing and advancing quietly, the men returned and were soon at their ease. Jemmy and York then tried to speak to them; but to our surprise, and much to my sorrow, we found that Jemmy had almost forgotten his native language, and that, of the two, York, although belonging to another tribe, was rather the best interpreter. In a few minutes the natives comprehended that we should do them no harm; and they then called back their women, who were hiding in the woods, and established themselves, very confidently, in a wigwam within a hundred yards of our tents. During this and the preceding day, we found the weather, by comparison, so mild, even warm, that several of our party bathed; yet the thermometer ranged only to 53° in the shade, and at night fell to 40°. The temperature of the sea was 48°.

§ Another case of too little information: A few paragraphs earlier, FitzRoy wrote that they “ … crossed over to the north side of the channel.” and in the paragraph immediately above, “ … we reached a cove near the Murray Narrow.” If still on the north side of the channel, this cove may have been the bay at the modern Ushuaia. .

* My coxswain.

§§ In the previous chapter Jemmy told Mr. Bynoe (not Bennett) of his dream.

Being within a few hours' pull (row) of Jemmy's ‘own land,’ which he called Woollȳa, we all felt eager, though anxious, and I was much gratified by seeing that Matthews still looked at his hazardous undertaking as steadily as ever, betraying no symptom of hesitation. The attentions which York paid to his intended wife, Fuegia, afforded much amusement to our party. He had long shewn himself attached to her, and had gradually become excessively jealous of her good-will. If any one spoke to her, he watched every word; if he was not sitting by her side, he grumbled sulkily; but if he was accidentally separated, and obliged to go in a different boat, his behaviour became sullen and morose. This evening he was quizzed so much about her that he became seriously angry, and I was obliged to interpose to prevent a quarrel between him and one of his steadiest friends.

On this and previous evenings, as we sat round the blazing piles, which our men seemed to think could never be large enough, we heard many long stories from Jemmy about the Oens, or Coin men, who live beyond the mountains at the north side of the Beagle Channel, and almost every year make desperate inroads upon the Tekeenica tribe, carrying off women and children, dogs, arrows, spears, and canoes; and killing the men whom they succeed in making prisoners. He told us that these Oens-men made their annual excursions at the time of ‘red leaf;’ that is in April or May, when the leaves of deciduous trees are changing colour and beginning to fall; just the time of year also when the mountains are least difficult to pass.

At that period these invaders sometimes come down to the shores of the Beagle Channel in parties of from fifty to a hundred; seize upon canoes belonging to the Yapoo division of the Tekeenica tribe, cross over to Navarin Island, and thence sometimes to others, driving the smaller and much inferior Tekeenica people before them in every direction. By Jemmy's own account, however, there are hard battles sometimes, and the Oens tribe lose men; but as they always contrive to carry away their dead, it seems that the advantage of strength is on their side.

These periodical invasions of a tribe whose abode is in the north-eastern quarter of Tierra del Fuego are not to be confounded with the frequent disputes and skirmishes which take place between the two Tekeenica tribes; and it is interesting to compare what we thus heard with the account obtained by Oliver Van Noort in 1589: who learnt that the people lived in caves dug in the earth,* and that there were five tribes—four of ordinary stature and one of gigantic size. These giants, called Tiremenen, lived in ‘Coin.’ The other tribes were called Enoo, Kemenites, Karaike, and Kenneka.

* The ground within a wigwam is scooped out considerably.

23d. While embarking our tents and cooking utensils, several natives came running over the hills towards us, breathless with haste, perspiring violently, and bleeding at the nose. Startled at their appearance, we thought they had been fighting; but it appeared in a few moments, that having heard of our arrival, they lost not a moment in hurrying across the hills from a place near Woollȳa, and that the bloody noses which had surprised us were caused by the exertion of running. This effect has been noticed among the New Hollanders, I believe the islanders of the Pacific Ocean, as well as the Esquimaux, and probably others; but to our party it was then a novelty, and rather alarming.

Scarcely had we stowed the boats and embarked, before canoes began to appear in every direction, in each of which was a stentor hailing us at the top of his voice. Faint sounds of deep voices were heard in the distance, and around us echoes to the shouts of our nearer friends began to reverberate, and warned me to hasten away before our movements should become impeded by the number of canoes which I knew would soon throng around us. Although now among natives who seemed to be friendly, and to whom Jemmy and York contrived to explain the motives of our visit, it was still highly necessary to be on our guard. Of those men and boys who ran over the hills to us, all were of Jemmy's tribe excepting one man, whom he called an Oens-man; but it was evident, from his own description, that the man belonged to the Yapoo, or eastern Tekeenica tribe, and was living in safety among his usual enemies, as a hostage for the security of a man belonging to Jemmy's tribe who was staying among the eastern people.

As we steered out of the cove in which our boats had been sheltered, a striking scene opened: beyond a lake-like expanse of deep blue water, mountains rose abruptly to a great height, and on their icy summits the sun's early rays glittered as if on a mirror. Immediately round us were mountainous eminences, and dark cliffy precipices which cast a very deep shadow over the still water beneath them. In the distant west, an opening appeared where no land could be seen; and to the south was a cheerful sunny woodland, sloping gradually down to the Murray Narrow, at that moment almost undistinguishable. As our boats became visible to the natives, who were eagerly paddling towards the cove from every direction, hoarse shouts arose, and, echoed about by the cliffs, seemed to be a continual cheer. In a very short time there were thirty or forty canoes in our train, each full of natives, each with a column of blue smoke rising from the fire amidships, and almost all the men in them shouting at the full power of their deep sonorous voices. As we pursued a winding course around the bases of high rocks or between islets covered with wood, continual additions were made to our attendants; and the day being very fine, without a breeze to ruffle the water, it was a scene which carried one's thoughts to the South Sea Islands, but in Tierra del Fuego almost appeared like a dream. After a few hours (pulling hard to keep a-head of our train) we reached Woollȳa, and selected a clear space favourably situated for our encampment, landed, marked a boundary-line, placed sentries, and made the various arrangements necessary for receiving the anticipated visits of some hundred natives. We had time to do all this quietly, as our boats had distanced their pursuers several miles, while running from the Murray Narrow before a favourable breeze which sprung up, and, to our joy, filled every sail.

We were much pleased by the situation of Woollȳa, and Jemmy was very proud of the praises bestowed upon his land. Rising gently from the water-side, there are considerable spaces of clear pasture land, well watered by brooks, and backed by hills of moderate height, where we afterwards found woods of the finest timber trees in the country. Rich grass and some beautiful flowers, which none of us had ever seen, pleased us when we landed, and augured well for the growth of our garden seeds.

At our first approach, only a few natives appeared, who were not of Jemmy's family. The women ran away and hid themselves, but Jemmy and York contrived (with difficulty) to make the men comprehend the reason of our visit; and their awkward explanation, helped by a few presents, gradually put them at ease. They soon understood our meaning when we pointed to the boundary-line which they were not to pass. This one was on the shore between our tents and the grassland; immediately behind the tents was a good landing-place, always sheltered, where our boats were kept in readiness in case of any sudden necessity.

Soon after our arrangements were made, the canoes which had been following us began to arrive; but, much to my satisfaction, the natives landed in coves at some distance from us, where the women remained with the canoes while the men and boys came overland to our little camp. This was very favourable for us, because it divided their numbers and left our boats undisturbed. We had only to guard our front, instead of being obliged to look out all round, as I had expected; and really it would have been no trifling affair to watch the pilfering hands and feet of some hundred natives, while many of our own party (altogether only thirty in number) were occupied at a distance, cutting wood, digging ground for a garden, or making wigwams for Matthews, York, and Jemmy.

As the natives thronged to our boundary-line (a mere mark made with a spade on the ground), it was at first difficult to keep them back without using force; but by good temper on the part of our men, by distributing several presents, and by the broken Fuegian explanations of our dark-coloured shipmates, we succeeded in getting the natives squatted on their hams around the line, and obtaining influence enough over them to prevent their encroaching.

Canoes continued to arrive; their owners hauled them ashore on the beach, sent the women and children to old wigwams at a little distance, and hastened themselves to see the strangers. While I was engaged in watching the proceedings at our encampment, and poor Jemmy was getting out of temper at the quizzing he had to endure on account of his countrymen, whom he had extolled so highly until in sight, a deep voice was heard shouting from a canoe more than a mile distant: up started Jemmy from a bag full of nails and tools which he was distributing, leaving them to be scrambled for by those nearest, and, upon a repetition of the shout, exclaimed “My brother!” He then told me that it was his eldest brother's voice, and perched himself on a large stone to watch the canoe, which approached slowly, being small and loaded with several people. When it arrived, instead of an eager meeting, there was a cautious circumspection which astonished us. Jemmy walked slowly to meet the party, consisting of his mother, two sisters, and four brothers. The old woman hardly looked at him before she hastened away to secure her canoe and hide her property, all she possessed—a basket containing tinder, firestone, paint, &c., and a bundle of fish. The girls ran off with her without even looking at Jemmy; and the brothers (a man and three boys) stood still, stared, walked up to Jemmy, and all round him, without uttering a word. Animals when they meet show far more animation and anxiety than was displayed at this meeting. Jemmy was evidently much mortified, and to add to his confusion and disappointment, as well as my own, he was unable to talk to his brothers, except by broken sentences, in which English predominated. After a few minutes had elapsed, his elder brother began to talk to him; but although Jemmy understood what was said, he could not reply. York and Fuegia were able to understand some words, but could not or did not choose to speak.

This first evening of our stay at Woollȳa was rather an anxious one; for although the natives seemed inclined to be quite friendly, and they all left us at sunset, according to their invariable practice, it was hard to say what mischief might not be planned by so numerous a party, fancying, as they probably would, that we were inferior to them in strength, because so few in number. Jemmy passed the evening with his mother and brothers, in their wigwam, but returned to us to sleep. York, also, and Fuegia were going about among the natives at their wigwams, and the good effect of their intercourse and explanations, such as they were, was visible next day (24th) in the confident, familiar manner of the throng which surrounded us while we began to dig ground for gardens, as well as cut wood for large wigwams, in which Matthews and his party were to be established. Canoes still arrived, but their owners seemed as well-disposed as the rest of the natives, many of whom assisted us in carrying wood, and bringing bundles of grass or rushes to thatch the wigwams which they saw we were making, in a pleasant sheltered spot, near a brook of excellent water. One wigwam was for Matthews, another for Jemmy, and a third for York and Fuegia. York told me that Jemmy's brother was “very much friend,” that the country was “very good land,” and that he wished to stay with Jemmy and Matthews.

A small plot of ground was selected near the wigwams, and, during our stay, dug, planted and sowed with potatoes, carrots, turnips, beans, peas, lettuce, onions, leeks, and cabbages. Jemmy soon clothed his mother and brothers, by the assistance of his friends. For a garment which I sent the old woman she returned me a large quantity of fish, all she had to offer and when she was dressed, Jemmy brought her to see me. His brothers speedily became rich in old clothes, nails and tools, and the eldest were soon known among the seamen as Tommy Button and Harry Button, but the younger ones usually staid at their wigwams, which were about a quarter of a mile distant. So quietly did affairs proceed, that the following day (25th) a few of our people went on the hills in search of guanacoes: many were seen, but they were too wild to approach. An old man arrived, who was said to be Jemmy's uncle, his father's brother; and many strangers came, who seemed to belong to the Yapoo Tekeenica tribe. Jemmy did not like their visit; he said they were bad people, ‘no friends.’

26th. While some of my party were washing in a stream, stripped to the waist, several natives collected round, and were much amused at the white skins, as well as at the act of washing, so new probably to them. One of them ran to the nearest wigwams, and a troop of curious gazers collected, whose hands, however, were soon so actively employed in abstracting the handkerchiefs, shoes, &c., which had been laid on the bank, that a stop was put to the ablutions.

We discovered that Jemmy's eldest brother was a ‘doctor,’ and though young for his occupation of conjuring and pretending to cure illness, he was held in high estimation among his own tribe. I never could distinctly ascertain whether the eldest man, or the doctor of a tribe had the most influence; but from what little I could learn, it appeared to me that the elder of a family or tribe had a sort of executive authority, while the doctor gave advice, not only in domestic affairs, but with respect to most transactions. In all savage nations, I believe there is a person of this description—a pretended prophet—conjuror—and, to a certain degree,—doctor.

This evening our party were employed for a short time in firing at a mark, with the three-fold object of keeping our arms in order—exercising the men—and aweing, without frightening, the natives. While this was going on, the Fuegians sat about on their hams, watching our proceedings, and often eagerly talking to each other, as successful shots were made at the target, which was intentionally placed so that they could see the effect of the balls. At sunset they went away as usual, but looking very grave, and talking earnestly. About an hour after dark, the sentry saw something moving along the ground near our tents, within the boundary line, which he thought was a wild animal, and had just levelled his musket to fire at it, when he discovered it was a man, who instantly darted off, and was lost in the darkness. Some native had doubtless stolen to the tents, to see what we were doing; perhaps with a view to surprise us, if asleep, perhaps only to steal.

27th. While a few of our party were completing the thatch of the last wigwam, and others were digging in the garden which was made, I was much surprised to see that all the natives were preparing to depart; and very soon afterwards every canoe was set in motion,—not half a dozen natives remaining. Even Jemmy's own family, his mother and brothers, left us; and as he could give no explanation of this sudden departure, I was in much doubt as to the cause. Whether an attack was meditated, and they were removing the women and cliildren, previous to a general assembly of the men, or whether they had been frightened by our display on the preceding evening, and feared that we intended to attack them, I could not ascertain; but deeming the latter by far the most probable, I decided to take the opportunity of their departure to give Matthews his first trial of passing a night at the new wigwams.

Some among us thought that the natives intended to make a secret attack, on account of the great temptation our property offered; and in consequence of serious offence which had been taken by two or three old men, who tried to force themselves into our encampment, while I was at a little distance; one of whom, when resisted by the sentry, spit in his face; and went off in a violent passion, muttering to himself, and every now and then turning round to make faces and angry gestures at the man who had very quietly, though firmly, prevented his encroachment.

In consequence of this incident, and other symptoms of a disposition to try their strength, having more than three hundred men, while we were but thirty, I had thought it advisable, as I mentioned, to give them some idea of the weapons we had at command, if obliged to use them, by firing at a mark. Probably two-thirds of the natives around us at that time had never seen a gun fired, being strangers, coming from the Beagle Channel and its neighbourhood, where no vessel had been; and although our exercise might have frightened them more than I wished, so much, indeed, as to have induced them to leave the place, it is not improbable that, without some such demonstration, they might have obliged us to fire at them instead of the target. So many strangers had arrived during the few days we remained, I mean strangers to Jemmy's family—men of the eastern tribe, which he called Yapoo—that his brothers and mother had no longer any influence over the majority, who cared for them as little as they did for us, and were intent only upon plunder. Finding this the case, I conclude that Jemmy's friends thought it wise to retreat to a neighbouring island before any attack commenced; but why they did not tell Jemmy their reasons for going, I know not, neither could he tell me more than that they said they were going to fish, and would return at night. This, however, they did not do.

In the evening, Matthews and his party—Jemmy, York, and Fuegia—went to their abode in the three new wigwams. In that made for Matthews, Jemmy also took up his quarters at first: it was high and roomy for such a construction; the space overhead was divided by a floor of boards, brought from the ship, and there most of Matthews' stores were placed; but the most valuable articles were deposited in a box, which was hid in the ground underneath the wigwam, where fire could not reach.

Matthews was steady, and as willing as ever; neither York nor Jemmy had the slightest doubt of their being all well-treated; so trusting that Matthews, in his honest intention to do good, would obtain that assistance in which he confided, I decided to leave him for a few days. The absence of the natives, every one of whom had decamped at this time, gave a good opportunity for landing the larger tools belonging to Matthews and our Fuegians, and placing them within or beneath his wigwam, unseen by any one except ourselves; and at dusk, all that we could do for them being completed, we left the place and sailed some miles to the southward.

During the four days in which we had so many natives about us, of course some thefts were committed, but nothing of consequence was stolen. I saw one man talking to Jemmy Button, while another picked his pocket of a knife, and even the wary York lost something, but from Fuegia they did not take a single article; on the contrary, their kindness to her was remarkable, and among the women she was quite a pet.

Our people lost a few trifles, in consequence of their own carelessness. Had they themselves been left among gold and diamonds, would they all have refrained from indulging their acquisitive inclinations?

Notwithstanding the decision into which I had reasoned myself respecting the natives, I could not help being exceedingly anxious about Matthews, and early next morning our boats were again steered towards Woollȳa.§ My own anxiety was increased by hearing the remarks made from time to time by the rest of the party, some of whom thought we should not again see him alive; and it was with no slight joy that I caught sight of him, as my boat rounded a point of land, carrying a kettle to the fire near his wigwam. We landed and ascertained that nothing had occurred to damp his spirits, or in any way check his inclination to make a fair trial. Some natives had returned to the place, among them one of Jemmy's brothers; but so far were they from showing the slightest ill-will, that nothing could be more friendly than their behaviour.

§ FitzRoy does not mention previously leaving Wulaia, but Darwin does: “Captain Fitz Roy, … thought it advisable for us to sleep at a cove a few miles distant.” The cove is not identified.

Jemmy told us that these people, who arrived at daylight that morning were his friends, that his own family would come in the course of the day, and that the ‘bad men,’ the strangers, were all gone away to their own country.

A further trial was now determined upon. The yawl, with one whale-boat, was sent back to the Beagle, and I set out on a westward excursion, accompanied by Messrs. Darwin and Hamond, in the other two boats: my intention being to complete the exploration of Whale-boat Sound, and the north-west arm of the Beagle Channel; then revisit Woollȳa, either leave or remove Matthews, as might appear advisable, and repair to our ship in Goree Road. With a fair and fresh wind my boat and Mr. Hamond's passed the Murray Narrow, and sailed far along the channel towards the west, favoured, unusually, by an easterly breeze. Just as we had landed, and set up our tent for the night, some canoes were seen approaching; so rather than be obliged to watch their movements all night, we at once embarked our tent and half-cooked supper, and pulled along the shore some miles further, knowing that they would not willingly follow us in the dark. About midnight we landed and slept undisturbed. Next day we made little progress, the wind having changed, and landed, earlier than usual, on the north side of the channel, at Shingle Point.§ Some natives soon appeared, and though few in number, were inclined to give trouble. It was evident they did not know the effect of fire-arms; for if a musket were pointed at them, and threatening gestures used, they only made faces at us, and mocked whatever we did. Finding them more and more insolent and troublesome, I preferred leaving them to risking a struggle, in which it might become necessary to fire, at the hazard of destroying life. Twelve armed men, therefore, gave way to six unarmed, naked savages, and went on to another cove, where these annoying, because ignorant natives could not see us.

§ FitzRoy gives no indication of where Shingle Point is located. Since they next passed Devil Island (see following paragraph), Shingle Point was apparently somewhat east of this island.

On the 29th we reached Devil Island, and found the large wigwam still standing, which in 1830 my boat's crew called the ‘Parliament House.’§ Never, in any part of Tierra del Fuego, have I noticed the remains of a wigwam which seemed to have been burned or pulled down; probably there is some feeling on the subject, and in consequence the natives allow them to decay naturally, but never wilfulaly destroy them. We enjoyed a grand view of the lofty mountain, now called [Mount] Darwin, with its immense glaciers extending far and wide. Whether this mountain is equal to Sarmiento in height,§§ I am not certain, as the measurements obtained did not rest upon satisfactory data; but the result of those measures gave 6,800 feet for its elevation above the sea. This, as an abstract height, is small, but taking into consideration that it rises abruptly from the sea, which washes its base, and that only a short space intervenes between the salt water and the lofty frozen summit, the effect upon an observer's eye is extremely grand, and equal, probably, to that of far higher mountains which are situated at a distance inland, and generally rise from an elevated district.

§ In context, it might seem that the wigwam was on the island, but in vol. 1, chap. XXIII, FitzRoy states that the wigwam was on the mainland, near—but not on—the island. Further, the crew said it had been a ‘Meeting-House,’ not ‘Parliament House.’

§§ Elevations (Wikipedia):

Mt. Darwin:7,999 ft.
Mt. Sarmiento:7,369 ft.

We stopped to cook and eat our hasty meal upon a low point of land, immediately in front of a noble precipice of solid ice; the cliffy face of a huge glacier, which seemed to cover the side of a mountain, and completely filled a valley several leagues in extent.

Wherever these enormous glaciers were seen, we remarked the most beautiful light blue or sea green tints in portions of the solid ice, caused by varied transmission, or reflection of light. Blue was the prevailing colour, and the contrast which its extremely delicate hue, with the dazzling white of other ice, afforded to the dark green foliage, the almost black precipices, and the deep, indigo blue water, was very remarkable.

Miniature icebergs surrounded us; fragments of the cliff, which from time to time fall into a deep and gloomy basin beneath the precipice, and are floated out into the channel by a slow tidal stream. In the first volume the frequent falling of these masses of ice is noticed by Captain King in the Strait of Magalhaens, and in the narrative of my first exploring visit to this arm of the Beagle Channel; therefore I will add no further remark upon the subject.

Our boats were hauled up out of the water upon the sandy point,§ and we were sitting round a fire about two hundred yards from them, when a thundering crash shook us—down came the whole front of the icy cliff—and the sea surged up in a vast heap of foam. Reverberating echoes sounded in every direction, from the lofty mountains which hemmed us in; but our whole attention was immediately called to great rolling waves which came so rapidly that there was scarcely time for the most active of our party to run and seize the boats before they were tossed along the beach like empty calabashes. By the exertions of those who grappled them or seized their ropes, they were hauled up again out of reach of a second and third roller; and indeed we had good reason to rejoice that they were just saved in time; for had not Mr. Darwin, and two or three of the men, run to them instantly, they would have been swept away from us irrecoverably. Wind and tide would soon have drifted them beyond the distance a man could swim; and then, what prizes they would have been for the Fuegians, even if we had escaped by possessing ourselves of canoes. At the extremity of the sandy point on which we stood, there were many large blocks of stone, which seemed to have been transported from the adjacent mountains, either upon masses of ice, or by the force of waves such as those which we witnessed. Had our boats struck those blocks, instead of soft sand, our dilemma would not have been much less than if they had been at once swept away.

§ Subsequently named Avalanche Point by FitzRoy. See the Placenames page or Google Earth animated view for location details.

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Embarking, we proceeded along a narrow passage, more like a river than an arm of the sea, till the setting sun warned us to seek a resting-place for the night; when, selecting a beach very far from any glacier, we again hauled our boats on shore. Long after the sun had disappeared from our view, his setting rays shone so brightly upon the gilded icy sides of the summits above us, that twilight lasted an unusual time, and a fine clear evening enabled us to watch every varying tint till even the highest peak became like a dark shadow, whose outline only could be distinguished. No doubt such scenes are familiar to many, but to us, surrounded even as we so often were by their materials, they were rare; because clouds continually hang over the heights, or obscure the little sunshine which falls to the lot of Tierra del Fuego.

The following day (30th) we passed into a large expanse of water, which I named Darwin Sound—after my messmate, who so willingly encountered the discomfort and risk of a long cruise in a small loaded boat. Desirous of finding an opening northwards, I traced the northern shore of this sound, mile by mile, leaving all islands to the southward until we entered Whale-boat Sound, and I recognized Cape Desolation in the distance, as well as a number of minor points which had become familiar to me during the search after our lost boat in the former voyage (1830).

Feb. 2. Having done what was necessary and attainable for the purposes of the survey, we traversed Whale-boat Sound, and stopped for a time at an old bivouac, used by me twice before, on an islet § near the east extremity of the largest Stewart Island. While the boat's crew were occupied in preparing our meal, I went to Stewart Island, and from a small eminence saw Mount Sarmiento quite distinctly. We next steered eastward, along the north side of the Londonderry Islands, and passed the night in a narrow passage. On the 3d we got to the open sea at the south side of Darwin Sound, and entered the south-west arm of the Beagle Channel rather too late, for it had become so dark we could distinguish no place fit to receive us; however, after much scrutiny and anxious sounding, to ascertain if our boats could approach without danger of being stove, we were guided by the sound of a cascade to a sheltered cove, where the beach was smooth. Excepting for the novelty and excitement of exploring unknown places, however uninteresting they may be, there was little in this trip worthy of general notice, considering how much has already been said of these unprofitable regions. Even to a professed naturalist, there was scarcely anything to repay the time and trouble, as it was impossible to delay long enough in any one place to give time for more than a most cursory examination.

§ Possibly, one of the Islas del Medio, northeast of Stewart Island.

I need hardly say that the survey of such places as were visited in this hasty manner is little more than an eye-sketch, corrected by frequent bearings, occasional latitudes by sun, moon, or stars, and meridian distances, measured by two chronometers, which were always kept in a large box and treated very carefully. To have attempted more, to have hoped for such an accurate dehneation of these shores, at present almost useless to civilized man, as is absolutely necessary where shipping may resort, would have been wrong, while so many other objects demanded immediate attention.

4th. We sailed along the passage very rapidly, a fresh wind and strong tide favouring us. The flood-tide stream set two or three knots an hour through this south-west arm of the Beagle Channel, but the ebb was scarcely noticed: certainly its strength did not, even in the narrowest places, exceed one knot an hour. A few Alikhoolip Fuegians were seen in a cove on the south shore, § ten miles west of Point Divide; the only natives, except a very small party in Darwin Sound, that had been met in the excursion since we left the Tekeenica people.

§ FitzRoy's “cove on the south shore” may be the modern Estero Penhoat.

Near Point Divide we saw a large fire, and approached the spot guardedly, supposing that a number of Fuegians must be there. No one appeared; but still the fire burned brightly and we began to think there might be an ambush, or that the natives who had been there had fled, but were still in the neighbourhood. Approaching nearer, we found that the fire was in a large tree, whose trunk it had almost consumed. Judging from the slow rate at which the tree burned while we were present, I should say it had been on fire two or three days, and that the frequent heavy rain had prevented the flames from making head. Had the weather been some time dry, the adjoining woodland would have blazed, and, as the mountain side is steep and covered with trees, the conflagration would have been immense. At Point Divide the slate rock seemed to be of excellent quality, fit for roofing; but when will roofing slates be required in Tierra del Fuego? Perhaps though sooner than we suppose; for the accidental discovery of a valuable mine might effect great changes.

On the south shore, nearly opposite to Shingle Point, we met a large party of natives, among whom those who disturbed us at that place as we passed westward were recognized. All of them appeared in full dress, being bedaubed with red and white paint, and ornamented, after their fashion, with feathers and the down of geese. One of their women was noticed by several among us as being far from ill-looking: her features were regular, and, excepting a deficiency of hair on the eyebrow, and rather thick lips, the contour of her face was sufficiently good to have been mistaken for that of a handsome gipsy. What her figure might be, a loose linen garment, evidently one that had belonged to Fuegia Basket, prevented our noticing. The sight of this piece of linen, several bits of ribbon, and some scraps of red cloth, apparently quite recently obtained, made me feel very anxious about Matthews and his party: there was also an air of almost defiance among these people, which looked as if they knew that harm had been done, and that they were ready to stand on the defensive if any such attack as they expected were put into execution. Passing therefore hastily on, we went as far as the light admitted, and at daybreak next morning (6th) were again hastening towards Woollȳa. As we shot through the Murray Narrow several parties of natives were seen, who were ornamented with strips of tartan cloth or white linen, which we well knew were obtained from our poor friends. No questions were asked; we thought our progress slow, though wind and tide favoured us: but, hurrying on, at noon reached Woollȳa. Several canoes were on the beach, and as many natives seemed to be assembled as were there two days before we left the place. All were much painted, and ornamented with rags of English clothing, which we concluded to be the last remnants of our friends' stock. Our boats touched the shore; the natives came hallooing and jumping about us, and then, to my extreme relief, Matthews appeared, dressed and looking as usual. After him came Jemmy and York, also dressed and looking well: Fuegia, they said, was in a wigwam.

Taking Matthews into my boat, we pushed out a short distance to be free from interruption, and remained till I had heard the principal parts of his story: the other boat took Jemmy on board, and York waited on the beach. Nearly all the Fuegians squatted down on their hams to watch our proceedings, reminding me of a pack of hounds waiting for a fox to be unearthed.

Matthews gave a bad account of the prospect which he saw before him, and told me, that he did not think himself safe among such a set of utter savages as he found them to be, notwithstanding Jemmy's assurances to the contrary. No violence had been committed beyond holding down his head by force, as if in contempt of his strength; but he had been harshly threatened by several men, and from the signs used by them, he felt convinced they would take his life. During the last few days, his time had been altogether occupied in watching his property. At first there were only a few quiet natives about him, who were inoffensive; but three days after our departure several canoes full of strangers to Jemmy's family arrived, and from that time Matthews had had no peace by day, and very little rest at night. Some of them were always on the look-out for an opportunity to snatch up and run off with some tool or article of clothing, and others spent the greater part of each day in his wigwam, asking for every thing they saw, and often threatening him when he refused to comply with their wishes. More than one man went out in a rage, and returned immediately with a large stone in his hand, making signs that he would kill Matthews if he did not give him what was demanded. Sometimes a party of them gathered round Matthews, and, if he had nothing to give them, teased him by pulling the hair of his face, pushing him about, and making mouths at him. His only partizans were the women; now and then he left Jemmy to guard the hut, and went to the natives' wigwams, where the women always received him kindly, making room for him by their fire, and giving him a share of whatever food they had, without asking for any thing in return. The men never took the trouble of going with him on these visits (which, however, ceased when so many strangers arrived), their attention being engrossed by the tools, clothes, and crockeryware at our shipmate's quarters. Fortunately, the most valuable part of Matthews' own things were underground, in a cave unsuspected by the natives, and other large tools were hidden overhead in the roof of his hut. York and Fuegia fared very well; they lost nothing; but Jemmy was sadly plundered, even by his own family. Our garden, upon which much labour had been bestowed, had been trampled over repeatedly, although Jemmy had done his best to explain its object and prevent people from walking there. When questioned about it, he looked very sorrowful, and, with a slow shake of the head, said, “My people very bad; great fool; know nothing at all; very great fool.” It was soon decided that Matthews should not remain. I considered that he had already undergone a severe trial, and ought not to be again exposed to such savages, however willing he might be to try them farther if I thought it right. The next difficulty was how to get Matthews' chest and the remainder of his property safely intn our boats, in the face of a hundred Fuegians, who would of coarse understand our object, and be much more than a match for us on land; but the less hesitation shown, the less time they would have to think of what we were about; so, dividing our party, and spreading about a little to create confidence—at a favourable moment the wigwam was quickly cleared, the cave emptied, and the contents safely placed in our boats. As I stood watching the proceedings, a few anxious moments passed, for any kind of skirmish would have been so detrimental to the three who were still to remain. When the last man was embarked, I distributed several useful articles, such as axes, saws, gimblets, knives and nails, among the natives, then bade Jemmy and York farewell, promising to see them again in a few days, and departed from the wondering throng assembled on the beach.

When fairly out of sight of Woollȳa, sailing with a fair wind towards the Beagle, Matthews must have felt almost like a man reprieved, excepting that he enjoyed the feelings always sure to reward those who try to do their duty, in addition to those excited by a sudden certainty of his life being out of jeopardy. We slept that night in a cove under Webley Head; [Cape Webley in FitzRoy's Table of Positions] sailed early the following morning (7th) along the north side of Nassau Bay, and about an hour after dark reached the Beagle—found all well, the surveying work about Goree Road done, the ship refitted, and quite ready for her next trip.

A day or two was required for observations and arrangements, after which (10th) we beat to windward across Nassau Bay, and on the 11th anchored in Scotchwell Bay. A rough night was passed under sail between Wollaston and Navarin Islands, in which we pretty well proved the clearness of that passage, as it blew fresh and we made a great many boards.

Next day I set out to examine the western part of Ponsonby Sound and revisit Woollȳa. In my absence one party was to go westward, overland, to look at the outer coast between False Cape [Horn] and Cape Weddell, and another was to examine and make a plan of the bay or harbour in which the Beagle lay. In 1830, Mr. Stokes had laid down its shores with accuracy on a small scale, but there was not then time to take many soundings; and as I conceived that Orange Bay and this harbour were likely to be useful ports, it was worth making a particular plan of each.

12th. With one boat I crossed Tekeenica Sound [now, Bahía Tekenika], and explored the western part of Ponsonby Sound. Natives were seen here and there, but we had little intercourse with them. Some curious effects of volcanic action were observed, besides masses of conglomerate, such as I had not noticed in any other part of Tierra del Fuego. On one islet I was placed in an awkward predicament for half an hour; it was a very steep, precipitous hill, which I had ascended by climbing or creeping through ravines and among trees; but, wishing to return to the boat's crew, after taking a few angles and bearings from its summit, I could find no place by which it appeared possible to descend. The ravine up which I crawled was hidden by wood, and night was at hand. I went to and fro, like a dog on a wall, unable to descend, till one of the boat's crew who was wandering about heard me call, and, ascending at the only accessible place, showed me where to plunge into the wood with a prospect of emerging again in a proper direction. This night we had dry beautiful weather, the leaves and sticks on the ground crackhng under our feet as we walked, while at the ship, only sixty miles distant, rain poured down incessantly.

The night of the 13th was passed on Button Island. This also was quite fine, without a drop of rain, while at the ship, in Packsaddle Bay, it rained frequently. I mention these instances to show how different the climate may be even in places so near one another as Packsaddle Bay and Woollȳa.§

§ Packsaddle Bay is about 25 miles south of Wulaia.

14th. With considerable anxiety I crossed over from Button Island to Woollȳa. Several canoes were out fishing, women only being in them, who did not cease their occupation as we passed: this augured well; and in a few minutes after we saw Jemmy, York, and Fuegia, in their usual dress. But few natives were about them, and those few seemed quiet and well disposed. Jemmy complained that the people had stolen many of his things, but York and Fuegia had contrived to take better care of theirs. I went to their wigwams and found very little change. Fuegia looked clean and tidily dressed, and by her wigwam was a canoe, which York was building out of planks left for him by our party. The garden was uninjured, and some of the vegetables already sprouting.

Jemmy told us that strangers had been there, with whom he and his people had ‘very much jaw,’ that they fought, threw ‘great many stone,’ and stole two women (in exchange for whom Jemmy's party stole one), but were obliged to retreat. Jemmy's mother came down to the boat to see us; she was decently clothed, by her son's care. He said that his brothers were all friendly, and that he should get on very well now that the ‘strange men’ were driven away. I advised Jemmy to take his mother and younger brother to his own wigwam, which he promised to do, and then, finding that they were all quite contented and apparently very happy, I left the place, with rather sanguine hopes of their effecting among their countrymen some change for the better. Jemmy's occupation was hollowing out the trunk of a large tree, in order to make such a canoe as he had seen at Rio de Janeiro.

I hoped that through their means our motives in taking them to England would become understood and appreciated among their associates, and that a future visit might find them so favourably disposed towards us, that Matthews might then undertake, with a far better prospect of success, that enterprise which circumstances had obliged him to defer, though not to abandon altogether.

Having completed our work in Packsaddle Bay on the 18th, the Beagle went to the inlet originally called Windhond Bay, a deep place full of islets: thence, on the 19th, she moved to Gretton Bay, on the north side of Wollaston Island, and to Middle Cove. On the 20th, it was blowing a gale of wind from the south-west, but we pushed across before it to Goree Road, knowing that we should there find secure anchorage, and be unmolested by the furious williwaws which whirled over the high peaks of Wollaston Island.

We weighed from Goree Road on the 21st, and ran under close-reefed topsails to Good Success Bay, where our anchors were dropped in the evening. The night of the 22d was one of the most stormy I ever witnessed. Although close to a weather shore in a snug cove, upon good holding ground, with masts struck and yards braced as sharp as possible, the wind was so furious that both bowers were brought a-head with a cable on each, and the sheet anchor (having been let go early) had half a cable on it, the depth of water being only ten fathoms. During some of the blasts, our fore-yard bent so much that I watched it with anxiety, thinking it would be sprung. The storm being from the westward, threw no sea into the cove, but I several times expected to be driven out of our place of refuge, if not shelter. During part of the time we waited in Good Success Bay for an interval of tolerable weather, in which we might cross to the Falkland Islands without being molested by a gale, there was so much surf on the shore that our boats could not land, even while the wind was moderate in the bay.

While we were prisoners on board, some fish were caught, among which was a skate, four feet in length and three feet wide. Several fine cod-fish, of the same kind as those off Cape Fairweather, were also hooked, and much relished.

On the 26th we sailed, passed through a most disagreeable swell off Cape San Diego, and ran before a fresh gale towards the Falkland Islands. Towards evening we rounded to for soundings, but the sea was so high and short, that a man* at the jib-boom-end was pitched more than a fathom under water. He held on manfully, both to the boom and the lead-line, and as he rose above the wave, blowing and dripping, hove the lead forward as steadily as ever.† My own feehngs at seeing him disappear may be imagined:—it was some time before we sounded again. This heavy though short sea seemed to be caused by the flood tide, coming from the southward, and meeting waves raised by strong north-west winds. The stream of tide set us a mile each hour north-eastward.

* Nicholas White.

† Two men in the staysail netting were also dipped under water, at a second plunge, from which White escaped.

At eight the wind and sea were too much for us to run with; therefore, watching an opportunity, we rounded to* under close-reefed main-topsail, trysails, and fore-staysail. Next morning (27th) we bore up, though the sea was still heavy, and steered to pass south of the Falklands. Our observations at noon showed that since leaving Good Success Bay we had been set more than thirty miles to the north-east. This effect, whether caused by the flood tide-stream, or by a current independent of the tide, would be dangerous to ships endeavouring to pass westward of the Falklands during bad weather, and in all probability caused the embayment of H.M.S. Eden, Captain W. F. W. Owen, when she was saved by his skill: also of a French storeship, the Durance; and of several other vessels. At noon, on the 28th, we found that the current or stream of tide had set us more towards the east than to the northward, during the preceding twenty-four hours, while we were at the south side of the islands.

* The barometer was below 29 inches. See Meteorological Journal in Appendix. [— “Meteorological Journal”]

At daylight on the 1st of March (having passed the preceding night standing off and on under easy sail), we made Cape Pembroke, at the eastern extremity of the Falklands.§ The weather was very cold and raw, with frequent hail-squalls, although in the month corresponding to September of our hemisphere; and while working to windward into Berkeley Sound, the gusts of wind were sometimes strong enough to oblige us to shorten all sail. I did not then know of Port William—so close to us, and so easy of access.

§ Links to Falkland Islands placenames in the above and concluding paragraph of this chapter will be found in Chapter XII & Chapter XIII.

The aspect of the Falklands rather surprised me: instead of a low, level, barren country, like Patagonia, or a high woody region, like Tierra del Fuego, we saw ridges of rocky hills, about a thousand feet in height, traversing extensive tracts of sombre-looking moorland, unenlivened by a tree. A black, low, and rocky coast, on which the surf raged violently, and the strong wind against which we were contending, did not tend to improve our first impressions of those unfortunate islands—scene of feud and assassination, and the cause of angry discussion among nations.

In a cove (called Johnson Harbour) at the north side of Berkeley Sound, was a wrecked ship, with her masts standing, and in other places were the remains of two more wrecks. We anchored near the beach on which Freycinet § ran the Uranie, after she struck on a rock §§ off Volunteer Point, at the entrance of Berkeley Sound; and from a French boat which came alongside learned that the Magellan, French whaler, had been driven from her anchors during the tremendous storm of January 12-13; that her crew were living on shore under tents, having saved every thing; that there were only a few colonists left at the almost ruined settlement of Port Louis; and that the British flag had been re-hoisted on the islands by H.M.S. Tyne and Clio.

§ Louis Claude de Saulces de Freycinet: Voyage autour du monde fait par ordre du Roi sur les corvettes de S. M. l'Uranie et la Physicienne, pendant les annĂ©es 1817, 1818, 1819 et 1820.

§§ Uranie Rock, also listed in FitzRoy's Table of Positions, and presumably named by him after Freycinet's l'Uranie.