NOTE: A complete transcript of Coan's original Falklands journal is available here.
Schooner Antarctic, off Cape Virgins, Sunday, Jan. 26, 1834. — Arose this morning and found the Antarctic passing out of the Strait and driving into the billows of the Atlantic. We made a fine run during the night, and we shall soon sink all land and get an open ocean horizon.
Our young English exile is with us, very feeble, and unable to perform any labor, but exceedingly joyful in the thought that he has escaped from the grasp of the savages, and that he once more sees the faces of the civilized and the merciful. It is a comfort to see his happiness.
Charles Palmer, also, is quite jubilant in view of his situation, and his health is fast improving. In fact, it is a bright and joyful day to all on board. Even our vessel seems to leap and dance and rush into the white foam "like a thing of life."
We have a large and fine cabin, and all the appointments of this schooner are excellent, much better than those of any other sealing vessel we have seen. It is the same schooner in which Captain Benjamin Morrell once visited the South Seas and wrote the narrative that I have mentioned.
Captain Nash informs us that his ship-stores are low, and that unless he can replenish them at the Falkland Islands he will be obliged to leave us there, where there will be no difficulty in our obtaining a passage to the States.
Arrangements were made for divine service this afternoon, but before the hour arrived the sea became rough, and we were so prostrated with seasickness that the service was given up. On coming out of the Strait this morning we saw a large brig, having the appearance of a man-of-war, going in under the north shore, but so far from us the captain could not speak her.
Jan. 28. At 9 A.M. we made the Falkland Islands, and in the afternoon ran into a little bay and dropped anchor near the shore in quiet water. Here we found the schooner Caroline, Captain Storer, of New York.
As nine of our crew were going on shore to find game, and as they invited us, we went with them. The islands and lagoons of this group abound in geese, ducks, and a great variety of other fowls, and the interior in wild cattle, hogs, and rabbits.
In a short time our sailors shot thirty geese, ducks, etc., and returned on board laden with game. On returning to our vessel we found Captain Storer, of the Caroline, and Captain Benjamin Pendleton, of Stonington, Ct., master of the whaleship Hamilton, of New York, in our cabin "gamming." Captain Pendleton's ship is moored at New Island, about 70 miles from us. The Caroline is a tender for the Hamilton, and goes out into the open ocean in search of whales, and when killed tows them into the harbor, where they are "cut in" and "tried out" on board the Hamilton. These vessels have been out twelve months from the United States.
Albemarle Harbor, Falkland Islands, Jan. 29. — We are anchored in a small lagoon almost surrounded by islets. On the south is Arch Island, so named on account of a natural arch opening a passage entirely through one end of the island, so that boats and small vessels can pass in and out of the harbor under this natural bridge.
The schooner Hancock, Captain Davison, of Stonington, Ct., came into our harbor this morning. She is bound on a sealing expedition. We learn that the brig we passed in coming out of the Strait is the Beagle, Captain Fitz Roy, a surveying vessel of the British Royal Navy. (Charles Darwin was on board of her, making his famous voyage; but of that we knew nothing at the time.)
Towards evening the Antarctic left Port Albemarle, ran down the island a few miles, and anchored in a little cove. From the deck we noticed a large number of hair-seals basking in the sun on a beautiful sand-beach opposite our vessel. A boat was launched, and eighteen men, armed with guns and clubs, went on shore to attack these animals. While rowing to the shore many of the huge creatures dove into the water and came swimming around our boat, snorting, growling, and gnashing their teeth. Not to disturb those which remained on the beach, our men landed at a distance from them, and came upon them by a circuitous route; but being so near the water they killed only three, while more than a hundred escaped into the sea. One of those captured is what is called a sea-lion (Platyrhunchus leoninus), a name probably given him from his huge dimensions, his bold front, and his power in combat.
This animal measured ten feet and four inches in length. On being fired upon the whole drove plunged into the water, making the bay foam with their splashings. Many of them came close to the shore, grunting and growling as if to defy us. The men shot several of them in the water, but this was a pity, as it was also cruel, for they all sunk at once and could not be taken. Two large foxes, coming boldly out of the bushes to reconnoitre, were unceremoniously shot.
Bay of St, Salvador, Falkland Islands, Jan. 30. — At daylight this morning the Antarctic was got under way, and we ran down through Falkland Sound, the beautiful sheet of water which separates the two principal islands of the group, East and West Falkland, and at 4 P.M. anchored in this bay, having sailed nearly one hundred miles. Our passage through the sound was delightful. With a fine breeze and a smooth sea we glided along at the rate of ten knots an hour. The island on our left presented in many places a bold shore of perpendicular rock, while inland a range of mountains rose to a considerable height, sprinkled here and there with patches of snow. On our right the land was low and level, resembling somewhat the pampas of Eastern Patagonia. On our way through the sound we spoke two vessels. The captain's object in visiting this bay is to get some spars and other articles left here by the Antarctic on her way out, and also to make some repairs on the vessel before going to sea.
Went ashore at 5 P.M. with several of the crew in search of game. Immediately on landing we saw a sea-elephant on the beach. Coming between it and the sea, it came towards us displaying enormous open jaws and strong teeth, when our officer fired directly into its mouth — the surest way of killing the monster — and brought him down. He measured fifteen and a half feet, and he will yield about three barrels of oil. The sea-elephant (Macrorhinus proboscidens) is the largest species of seal. It is said to be sometimes found measuring thirty feet in length and yielding twenty-five barrels of oil. It is a formidable-looking animal, but on account of its clumsiness on land it is not at all dangerous, though powerful in the water. Having flippers instead of legs, it only moves by awkward and slow hitches on the land, so that a boy of four years can outrun it. Our men shot several geese and ducks, and we returned to the schooner.
Feb. 1. Three men appearing on horseback upon the shore opposite our vessel, the captain sent a boat to communicate with them. The boat returned and reported that they were Mestizos and Indians from Buenos Ayres who had lived at Port Louis, and who roamed over the islands to slaughter wild cattle and other game. They are called Gauchos. Port Louis was a small Spanish settlement, and the, only village on the island, Port Egmont, a small English settlement, having been abandoned. We hear that there has been a massacre at Port Louis of late. This port was formerly under a governor named Vernet, who was commissioned by the Buenos Ayres Government, and a man of the name of Brisbane, an Englishman, acted as lieutenant-governor. This colony attempted to monopolize the seal-fishery about these islands, seizing American vessels, confiscating their cargoes, and putting their crews into confinement, or banishing them to other islands.
In 1831 the United States sloop-of-war Lexington was sent out to break up the establishment. Governor Vernet fled to Buenos Ayres, Brisbane was taken prisoner and sent to the same place, and the nest was broken up.
After this the English took possession of the islands, and a small colony was begun at Port Louis, to which Brisbane returned as acting-governor. Displeasing the few Spaniards, mestizos and Indians of the place, they arose, and on the 26th of August, 1833, murdered Brisbane and four others of the colonists, intending, obviously to massacre the whole English colony. In this they failed, as the rest of the residents rushed into a stone house with a few arms, barricaded it, and determined to sell their lives, if need be, at the highest cost. The murderers watched the house for a day or two, and finding it too dangerous to storm, they tore down the other houses of the village, broke up all the boats or sent them adrift, sacked the village, drove off all the domestic animals — horses, sheep, swine, horned cattle, etc. — and decamped to a sheltered valley on the other side of the island. After the murderers had left the place the barricaded men came out, and looked for some way of escape from the island.
Fortunately one of the boats which the mob had set adrift upon the water floated across the channel and beached on the opposite shore. One of the men, being a good swimmer, succeeded in reaching it, got it afloat, and sculled it across the channel to his companions, who ell embarked immediately and escaped to another island, where they awaited a vessel which relieved them. In due time the news of the massacre was sent to the British naval commander at Buenos Ayres, when a lieutenant of the Royal Navy with six marines was sent to Port Louis to hold the place until sufficient help should be sent.
This we understand to be the present state of things at the islands, and the three men seen on the shore to-day, armed to the teeth, are probably of the murderous gang from Port Louis. They inquired if our vessel wanted fresh beef and promised us a fat cow this afternoon if the captain would send his boat some four or five miles down the coast to a lagoon where they would deliver it. They also agreed to deliver the captain seven fat bullocks to-morrow at five dollars a head, taking pay in powder, balls, tobacco, rum, and other articles.
A boat was sent for the beef promised to-day, and Mr. Arms and I went in it. The sailors had a long and hard pull, and only reached the cove a little before sundown. Here in a most secluded nook, covered by hills and open only to the sea, we found seven armed men, Spaniards and Indians, dressing a fat cow. They looked wild and suspicious, and we supposed them to have been engaged in the massacre of last August. Our men took the beef, and we returned to the Antarctic arriving at 10 P.M.
Feb. 3. At an early hour this morning six men appeared on the shore with eleven horses and four beeves. The bullocks were purchased for our vessel, and a bright, active little Spaniard with one attendant came on board to receive the pay. These men are armed with double-barrelled guns, pistols, dirks, and knives. The Spaniard is the evident leader of the gang, and they call him Captain Antook. Having received the pay for the animals, he bowed a polite good-day and was off in trice. His eye was sharp and restless, and his bearing like that of one ill at ease.
Feb. 4. We saw two men on the beach this morning, and a boat was sent to speak them. They proved to be an Englishman and an Indian from Port Louis, on the opposite side of this island, and were supposed to have been sent by Lieutenant Smith to inquire about our vessel.
In the afternoon they came down again, and the Englishman came on board with a letter from the Governor to Captain Nash. This letter gave many particulars in regard to the bloody massacre at the Port, stating also that the Indian who accompanies the Englishman was one of the murderers who had given himself up to the Governor, and received pardon on promising to become a witness for the Crown.
This Indian brought back two horses, and these are all that can be mustered at Port Louis, the gauchos having taken off fifty when they left the place.
Feb. 5. Governor Smith came over from Port Louis to-day, accompanied by Captain Rea, six English marines, and the Indian who gave himself up. Captain Rea is in the service of the English Admiralty, and in attempting to reach the newly discovered "Graham's Land" lost his vessel, but succeeded in reaching the Falkland Islands with his secretary, Mr. Foxton, where they are now waiting for a chance to return to England.
Coming on board the Antarctic, the Governor and the captain began a conversation with Captain Nash about the massacre. Having heard that Captain Nash had aided and abetted these desperadoes, the Governor's language waxed warm and threatening. He even declared that if he had an armed vessel he would proceed immediately to seize the Antarctic. He blamed Captain Nash severely for trading with these ruffians and receiving them on board his vessel, styling it an act of hostility against "His Majesty's Government," and especially blaming him for not arresting the murderers when they came on board. The Governor affirmed that Captain Nash had involved himself and his country in serious difficulty with the Government of Great Britain. Captain Nash replied that he had been greatly misinformed: that only one of the company, Antook, with an attendant, had been on board the Antarctic, and that this was at a time when two of his sailors were on shore and in the power of the rest of the gang of supposed murderers. Besides, he asserted that he had no evidence but that of suspicion and rumor that the men with whom he traded were the party guilty of the massacre; that he had no legal warrant from any source to seize them; and finally, that, had he arrested them, he then had no authentic information of the reestablishment of any government on the islands, civil, military, or naval, to which he could deliver them. On these grounds he felt himself clear from all complicity with the crimes alleged, and from all blame in the offences charged upon him.
In reply to the threatenings of the Governor, Captain Nash stated that he had a good vessel armed with six brass nine-pounders, with plenty of powder and balls, also a full complement of muskets, pistols, cutlasses, harpoons, spades, and boarding pikes, and that he was well able to defend himself, but that notwithstanding this, since the Governor was without an "armed vessel," he would consent to take the Antarctic to Port Louis and deliver her up to him if he desired it.
The atmosphere of the cabin now became cooler; the Governor began to retract, saying, "No, no, I do not wish it," and after fuller explanations he became very pacific and courteous. All matters of difference were amicably settled, and the Governor cordially invited Captain Nash to visit Port Louis in the Antarctic, offering him any assistance in his power.
The Governor and Captain Rea then held a pleasant conversation with Mr. Arms and myself, and the Governor insisted on our going home with him to spend the night, offering to give us fresh milk and butter and the best of all he had, and then to send his marines to escort us back to the schooner on the morrow.
We accepted the invitation with pleasure, and at 4 P.M. set off for the Port, where we arrived at a quarter past eight, distance ten or twelve miles. There were but two horses in the party of eleven. One of these the pardoned Indian was permitted to ride as his own, while the other was appropriated to Captain Rea, my companion, and myself, by order of the Governor, who with his marines insisted on walking all the way. We had no road or trail, but took the direction towards Port Louis, passing over fields of grass, sometimes thick and tall like tussock-grass (Dactylis), and sometimes over low grassy plains. Where the tall or bunch grasses were abundant the rabbits were very numerous, and our company caught a full dozen on the way. These were found with great ease, simply by watching for the animals as they ran for shelter into thick tufts of grass.
The tussock has a succulent and nutritious root on which the rabbit, the wild hog, the rat, and other rodents feed.
Port Louis consists of a dozen low houses, some built of stone and others of turf or adobe, and all thatched with grass. As before stated, most of these houses were pulled down or unroofed by the gauchos, so that when Lieut. Smith came with his six marines to act as Governor of the islands, he had first to roof a part of a stone house to obtain comfortable shelter.
Into this house of one room we were kindly and courteously welcomed, and here with the Governor, Captain Rea, and Mr. Foxton we spent a pleasant night.
One or two other houses have been partially repaired, furnishing rude quarters for the marines and a few sailors, adventurers, etc., amounting in all to twenty-three men.
The Governor's quarters contained one old Franklin stove, a table, an old sideboard, a dingy sofa, a chest of drawers, a crib, and a few chairs.
In this room Governor Brisbane was murdered, and here we heard an account of the shocking event and its immediate cause.
Brisbane employed the Spaniard Antook as a shoemaker, and several Mestizos and South American Indians as herdsmen, bullock-hunters, etc. Failing to pay them promptly, from lack of means, as he said, they were angry, and determined to kill him and all his friends and plunder the village. According to the plot agreed on, Antook came to the door of this room one morning while Brisbane was sitting before the stove lighted with a fire of peat, the principal fuel of these islands, and demanded pay. Brisbane refused, and immediately a bullet went through his body. He grabbed for his pistol, in a cupboard on his left, arose to fire, but staggered and fell, when he received a blow upon his head from a cutlass and three stabs from a dirk. He was then dragged to the door, his feet bound with raw-hide rope, and this being attached to the saddle of a horse, he was drawn out into the field, where he was stripped, mutilated, and left unburied. His clerk was also killed with several others at the same time, and the town was sacked, a few Englishmen escaping as before stated.
Governor Smith had succeeded in catching two wild milch-cows, and he redeemed his hospitable word by giving us fresh milk and butter, with eggs, fresh beef, sea-biscuit, etc., making a delicious supper.
The evening passed pleasantly in talk with the Governor and Captain Rea on their expeditions, perils, and varied experiences in the wild regions of the Antarctic Ocean. The hour of sleep arriving, Mr. Arms and myself were furnished with a narrow crib bed and a sofa, while the other three were disposed, one on the broad window-sill, one on the table, and the other on the floor, and thus we passed the night, the marines standing their appointed watches until morning.
Feb. 6. At a little before 11 A.M. we left Port Louis and set out for Salvador Bay. We declined an escort of marines, very kindly offered by the Governor, telling him we only needed the old Gaucho to guide us. The Governor gave us the spare horse and a sailor to go with us and bring him back. In order to quicken our speed, we doubled the horses, the sailor riding behind the Indian, and Mr. Arms and I occupying the other saddle. But we worked our passages, for propelling the old worn-out horse was like setting an old leaky scow up stream. However, we arrived at the bay in good time, and were taken on board the Antarctic.
Feb. 8. Our anchor was taken up this morning and our sails spread for a visit to Eagle Island; but as the wind failed, the tide drifted the Antarctic towards the shore and she grounded. A kedge anchor was carried out from her bows, and she was soon hauled off into deep water. A breeze now sprung up and we beat out of the bay.
Learning that a French man-of-war and an English schooner had just arrived at Port Louis, our captain determined to pass that way and send a boat from the mouth of Berkley Sound, sixteen miles, to Port Louis, to ascertain what ship it was, and to get some small stores, if possible, for our vessel.
Feb. 9. Calm all the afternoon of yesterday and all last night. This morning we found our vessel drifted quite into the entrance of Berkley Sound, where we saw the French ship beating out against a head-wind. As she passed near us our captain spoke her, and found her to be the Victorious, twenty-two days from Rio and bound to Valparaiso.
Our boat returned at 10½ A.M. with an earnest request from Governor Smith for the Antarctic to visit Port Louis, and we immediately squared away and ran before the wind to the Port, and at 2 P. M. came to anchor in the harbor. Here we found the English schooner Hopeful, Captain Mallros, who with another gentleman came at once on board our vessel.
Feb. 11. Took a ramble on shore this morning to see the village cemetery. This, like the village and all its surroundings, is in a neglected and dilapidated condition. Four rude boards mark the resting-places of as many English and American seamen. All the other graves are undistinguished by any memorial of their tenants. We visited the great corral, or cattle-pen, in which a hundred horned cattle were sometimes collected for slaughter or for taming. Only eleven bullocks are now in this enclosure; for although there are numerous wild cattle on the group, yet for lack of horses and expert lasso-men but few have been taken since the massacre.
We called on the Governor and took a walk with him in his garden and in the fields. The former contains an acre of ground, but he arrived too late in the season to cultivate many vegetables this year. The soil is good, but the warm season is short in this high latitude. Irish potatoes, beans, turnips, and some other vegetables of quick growth can be raised here.
One of our boats went out on a fishing expedition to-day, and returned loaded with fishes as large as shad and greater in number than the surprising draught of Peter. The coves and lagoons of these islands are well stocked with fishes, which can be easily taken in a net in large quantities.
Choiseul Bay, Feb. 12. — We left Port Louis this morning for Eagle Island. While getting under way the Governor came on board to bring some despatches and to bid us farewell. Captain Mallros, of the Hopeful, also paid us a pleasant visit, sailing some distance down the sound with us, and then returning in his boat to his vessel.
Captain Prior, of the English sloop which was lost in the ice off the Southern Ocean, takes passage for himself and four of his crew for New Island on board the Antarctic.
While passing the South Rocks in the mouth of Berkley Sound we saw them covered with fur-seals, while the waters around the rocks were alive with the gambols of these animals. We supposed that there were at least a thousand of them.
Claris Harbor, Eagle Island, Feb. 14. — In consequence of calms we reached this port only this morning. Most of the crew have spent the day on shore in search of wild hogs and other game. Several geese and a variety of birds were taken, but no hogs.
Feb. 15. Went on shore in company with a boat's crew in search of wild geese. Twelve were shot, together with many smaller fowls and a beautiful white swan. Just at night two schooners came into the harbor and anchored near us: the Unicorn, an armed English vessel engaged in surveying these islands, and the Elizabeth Jane, Captain Alberton, of New York. Captain Alberton came on board our vessel.
Sunday, Feb. 16. — Captain Nash invited the masters, officers, and crews of the two schooners to attend divine service on board the Antarctic. At the hour appointed a signal was set, and these hardy sons of the ocean collected together and filled our cabin. It was a pleasure to meet so large a number of the human brotherhood on these lonely isles in the far south. Here the Englishman, the Frenchman, American, Scotchman, Irishman, German, and African met to recognize the one fatherhood of God, the one brotherhood of man, the one blood of all nations, the one Lord's day for all Christians, the one Bible as the light of the earth, and the one Saviour of a lost world. What ties can so truly bind the human family together as these?
Feb. 18. After beating all day against a headwind in company with the Elizabeth Jane, we were unable yesterday to reach the place of our destination, Arch Island, and so came to anchor at night under lee of the shore. Early this morning we entered Port Albemarle. Here we found the ship Charles Adams, Captain Staunton, of Stonington, Ct., with her tender, the brig Uxor; also the bark Commodore Barre, Captain Chester, of New York. These vessels are all engaged in whaling. There are now five sail lying in the port, giving it a lively appearance.
The safe and quiet harbors of this group are numerous, and many of them are landlocked. Many ships, barks, brigs, and schooners flock together in these bays.
Captain Nash tells us to-day that, not being able to obtain suitable provisions here, he will be obliged to leave us with some of the vessels at these islands, whence we will, as he thinks, soon find passage to the United States. He now purposes to visit St. Charles, in Brazil, for supplies and repairs. So our hopes of a speedy return to our country are again disappointed. But all will be right, and in God's good time we hope to see the land of our birth.
Fish Bay, Feb. 19. — Left Port Albemarle for New Island. We passed many islands of various forms and sizes, some of which were crowded with birds, which filled the air with wild and various notes. We estimated that twenty thousand birds were sometimes seen on an islet of two miles in circumference. There is a gregarious bird very common here which the sailors call "Johnny Rook." This rook (Corvus frugilegus) resembles the crow. Some of its habits are amusing, though often vexatious. He is an arrant rogue, and outdoes all the feathered tribe in impudence. Johnny is always watching the sailor when on shore, hovering and screaming just over his head, following him from place to place, and when he lays any small article upon the ground, slyly stealing it away, often from within two feet of him. He seems to delight in mischief for its own sake. He has often been known to break large quantities of eggs which sailors had gathered and left only for a few minutes unguarded. This is done wantonly, and not from hunger. He will even watch when any one buries a small article in the ground, and will dig it up and, if possible, destroy it, or carry it away and hide it. He has been known to take pocket-knives, powder-horns, flasks, caps, handkerchiefs, etc., and sometimes to drop them into the middle of a pond in sight of their owners. These vexatious habits render the rook an object of resentment to the sailors, and, as the bird is easily captured, the most shocking tortures are often inflicted upon it.
Feb. 20. Captain Nash has concluded to remain in this harbor until he leaves the islands. He therefore sent a boat to New Island — seven miles — to communicate with some ships lying there and with Captain Benjamin Pendleton, of the ship Hamilton.
Wishing to find a home for my companion and myself when the Antarctic shall leave us, I took passage in the boat this morning for Island Harbor. The day was very stormy and cold, but we reached the Hamilton in good time, and were kindly received by Captain Pendleton and invited to spend the night on board, which invitation was thankfully accepted. This is a fine ship of 500 tons, with two schooners attached as tenders. Captain Pendleton very generously offers us a home on board his vessel until we find an opportunity to sail for the States. Here I found some trunks and other articles we left on board the Mary Jane to be sent back to the United States.
I also found two young sailors who escaped from Patagonia in the Macdonough two days before we embarked in the Antarctic.
Feb. 21. We received an invitation to return to Fish Bay in the schooner Hancock, Captain Davison. In two hours we were alongside of the Antarctic.
Feb. 23. Yesterday was mostly spent by the crew in getting ready for sea, and by us in preparing letters, etc., for our friends, if this vessel should chance to reach home before us.
Feb. 24. We bade farewell to the Antarctic today, and took up our lodgings on board the Hamilton.
Captain Nash refuses to take any compensation for our board and passage. We have been with him a full month, and we feel under great obligations for the generous welcome he has given us and for all that we have enjoyed in his beautiful and comfortable vessel, in which we have been conveyed from port to port, until we have seen most that is to be seen among these islands.
Feb. 26. The Antarctic sailed this morning with fair weather and a brisk breeze, and was soon out of sight.
Captain Pendleton tells us to make ourselves quite at home, and gives us evidence of a sincere welcome. Two boats went out in search of whales. A large whale was harpooned, but as the sea was rough the line was cut in order to save the boat and the lives of the crew: so the monster made off with the barbed iron in his flesh.
Captain Davison, of the Hancock, came on board and told us that the schooner Talma, Captain Gordon Allyn, of New London, was daily expected in from the South Shetland Islands, and that he was quite sure he could procure for us a passage in her. He added that he was bound to a certain harbor where he expected to meet the Talma, as she was mated with the Hancock in the seal-fishery. He then invited one or both of us to come on board his vessel and make it our home, while we waited and watched for the Talma. It was soon arranged that I should go with Captain Davison, while Mr. Arms would remain on the Hamilton ready to sail for home should the opportunity present. The Hamilton immediately sailed down to West Point Harbor, a distance of thirty miles. Here we anchored for the purpose of taking fish and fowl.
Ship Harbor, Feb. 28. Spent the last two days chiefly in reading, in conversation with the captain and officers, etc., and in rambling on shore.
There is little variety in the scenery of these islands. Barren rocks, heath-clad hills, swales of coarse, rank grass, with here and there an island of peat and tussock, are the chief objects of an inanimate kind which meet the eye; while the ear is constantly saluted with the harsh croaking of unnumbered sea-fowls and the ceaseless roar of the surges as they dash among the craggy cliffs of an iron-bound shore.
March 1. Took a ramble this morning upon this desolate island, and here in this dreary solitude I found a little nameless cemetery where the remains of seven sailors sleep alone. The sight awakened sad reflections.
Sunday, March 2. The morning opened with great beauty and sweet serenity. Captain Davison is very kind and affable, and not averse to conversation on the most important of all themes which concern man. He seems candid and thoughtful, and his conduct is very courteous.
Arrangements were made by him for religious service in the afternoon, but just before the hour arrived the cry of " Sail ho!" rang from the deck. A schooner was descried coming rapidly into the harbor, and it was soon found to be the Talma, bound for New London! In she came and dropped anchor near the Hancock, and the "gamming" commenced immediately. There was general joy in meeting old friends and neighbors, and of telling the "yarns" of the sea. I was introduced to Captain Allyn, and when Captain Davison told him our Patagonian history and our desire to return to the United States, he at once offered us a passage, though he has a large crew and little provision. The fact that he intends to sail as soon as possible is cheering, after the delays and uncertainties of the past weeks.
March 5. We left Ship Harbor in the Hancock yesterday to return to the Hamilton. On account of a calm we made little progress all day and all the night, but at seven this morning we anchored near the Hamilton, and found one of her tenders "cutting in" what they called a hundred-barrel whale, while the whole train of large pots on deck were smoking with the boiling blubber. Captain Allyn remained at Ship Harbor to prepare for his voyage north, promising to come for us at New Island when he shall be ready for sea. We are under great obligations to Captain Davison for his prompt, kind, and courteous agency in securing us a passage in the Talma, to which he would convey us with our effects, even though ready to sail as soon as the wind shall favor, for the Strait of Magellan, could he obtain the consent of his crew.
March 6. A bright morning, with a crisp northerly wind. Shortly after the departure of the Hancock, the whaleship Atlantic, of Bridgeport, Conn., Captain Young, came into this harbor, which is to be his place of rendezvous. These whalers have many a sad tale of danger and disaster to tell. Captain Young has lost one man on his way out. Two of his boats were in pursuit of a large whale. One boat-steerer struck the whale with his harpoon and "made fast." The furious monster turned directly upon the boat, struck it a full blow with his fluke, cut it in two, shivered it, killed one man instantly, and scattered the rest of the boat's crew upon the water, where they would all have perished had it not been for the proximity of a second boat in which they were taken and saved. It is an important precaution observed by whalemen to send out their boats in pairs.
One of the Hamilton's boats fastened to a huge whale, but he towed the boat so swiftly through the water that the raw sailors took fright and leaped overboard, choosing rather to wait for a slower boat than to take passage in one that turned the blue into white, and seemed to them to outstrip the wind. The consequence of this plunge was that the boat-steerer was obliged to cut the line, stop the mad rush of the boat, pick up his men, and lose the whale.
At 4 P.M. to-day the Talma came in and anchored near the Hamilton. Captain Allyn has been faithful to his promise to come for us. Had it not been to accommodate us, he would have taken his departure for the United States directly from Ship Harbor. Thus all things work favorably for us, and we have abundant reason to be thankful. There are two ships and four schooners in this harbor to-day, and all the masters are from the little busy beehive State of Connecticut. There is much of "gamming," or visiting from vessel to vessel, except when whales are being taken. Then all hands are astir, and there is little rest by day or by night.
March 8. Went on shore with a guide this morning to take my last ramble upon these islands. After walking over a steep hill and through rank tussock-grass for a mile and a half, we came to a large rookery of penguins, albatrosses, mollemokes (Procellaria glacialis), and other birds.
This rookery covers several acres, and we are told that in the season of incubation it is so completely filled with birds that the ground can hardly be seen, and eggs can be gathered by thousands on thousands. Most of these birds have reared their young and left the rookery, but several thousands still remain, as their broods are not old enough to leave their nests.
When the penguins are sufficiently grown they are led like soldiers in single file to the shore, when they take to the sea and are seen no more until the time for laying returns. They are amphibious, seeming to be half fish, half fowl. They are web-footed, with feathers resembling large and coarse scales, and with only the stumps of wings.
They walk erect, but cannot fly. In the water they use both their stumps of wings and their webbed feet, and are expert swimmers and divers. They are often seen hundreds of miles, from land, where they are perfectly at home in storm or calm.
In the rookery we saw several nests of the albatross. These were built of mud, grass, small stones, and sticks, say two feet high, and as large as a barrel. These nests overlook the rookery, and they seem to stand as so many round towers for the posting of sentinels. The penguins and other fowls lay on the ground, making only a slight depression in the earth for a nest.
I found some of the nests with the young albatross on, about two thirds grown, or the size of a goose. These were not sufficiently fledged to fly, but kept to their towers day and night, too large to be brooded, but still receiving their daily food from the parent-birds. I saw but one bird in a nest, and inferred that the albatross lays but one egg in a season. On approaching one of these cumbrous young birds it seemed much disturbed, hissed angrily, and showed fight.
In the afternoon we took all our baggage on board the Talma, as the captain declares himself ready to sail to-morrow. Captain Pendleton not only refuses all remuneration for our board while with him, but he is also determined to supply us with "small stores" and other provisions for the voyage home. Captain Young, of the Atlantic, also begs the privilege to join in this generous work, while the masters of the schooners wish to have a hand in seeing us well supplied. Everywhere the true sailor is proverbial for his generosity, and everywhere we have experienced only kindness from our brethren of the sea and of the land.
We have now been at these islands forty days save one, and expect to leave on the fortieth. We have met hundreds of our fellow-men of about twelve different nationalities. We have received nothing but respect and kindness from all; and we have endeavored so to live among them as to convince all of our earnest desire for their welfare here and forever.
Source: «Adventures in Patagonia: a Missionary's
Exploring Trip», Titus Coan, New York, 1880
Original: Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC
Copied and transcribed: December 2006