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Patagonia Bookshelf






Leave Monte Video — Coast of Patagonia — Port San Julian — Wild ostrich — The Tehuelches, or natives of Patagonia— Early discoverers — Stalking guanaco — Description of guanaco — A bad shot — Patagonian partridge — Wild fowl — Wide-awakes — Tale of a skunk — Leave San Julian — Possession Bay — More guanaco and ostrich — Death of a guanaco — A successful shot — Terrific effects of Express bullet.

On the 23rd of December we left Monte Video, and next day picking up a rattling fair wind, logged our greatest number of knots in an hour, i. e. ten : a very unusual rate of speed for the old " dummy." We were in great glee, and anticipated a wonderful run to Magellan. However, next day we had a gale in our teeth, a regular " pampero," or violent wind from across the pampas, and for the next four days we were knocking about under close-reefed top-sails in a heavy cross sea, that reminded us most unpleasantly of the weather we had experienced in the Bay of Biscay.

On the 3rd we sighted Cape Blanco. The weather was most unsettled ; barometer low, and even the standard compass affected to such a degree that the needle jumped about in an erratic and uncertain fashion, which rendered it most difficult to steer by. The wind came strong from the south-west, and we


shaped our course for Port Santa Cruz, to get shelter until the gale should have moderated.

Next morning, on approaching the land, we found that we would be unable to fetch the harbour, and being utterly incapable of doing anything against the strong southerly wind, ran up the coast for Port San Julian, a well-sheltered uninhabited inlet on the east coast of Patagonia, Lat. 49° 15' S., and Long. 67° 42' W. The seaboard here very much resembled that of Kent between Ramsgate and Margate. Perpendicular white cliffs, about three hundred feet high, form the coast line, and where any indentation occurred we were able to get glimpses of the country, which consisted of gently undulating plains, covered with short herbage, something similar at a distance to park land at home. A few small patches of short thick scrub were the only cover, and not a tree or mountain was to be seen.

As we neared the inlet, several distant mountains of considerable magnitude appeared in view, all singularly flattened out at apparently the same elevation above the sea. Some extended in long ranges for miles, forming plains of table-land on their summits ; while others ran up in conical forms, but with the apex of the cone cut off, to make a diminutive plateau in uniformity with the longer ranges about them : but every hill, no matter how rugged or precipitous its sides might be, invariably exhibited the same flat-topped peculiarity.

On the 5th of January, 1875, we reached Port San Julian. It was rather ticklish work entering the harbour, no chart of it being supplied, and the


weather still squally and uncertain. A long reef uncovered at low water ran for about a mile across the entrance, after which we had to work over a bar of sand on which at one time the leadsman reported only ten feet of water, i. e., one foot more than the Rocket's draught.

A heavy squall, against which the engines were powerless to force us, suddenly broke down, and, though not at our intended anchorage, we were compelled to " let go " until it was over.

In half an hour it cleared up and we were again able to get under weigh, and again a severe squall compelled us to anchor before we had steamed two hundred yards. Again we made an effort, and this time anchored off "Sholl point," so called from a monument being erected there over the grave of a lieutenant of that name belonging to a surveying ship.

The weather with unusual capriciousness suddenly cleared up, and four ostriches being seen close to the ship, H. and self got our rifles and set out after them.

The ground was most unfavourable for stalking : we not knowing exactly where the birds were, they saw us before we saw them, their long necks enabling them, even when lying down, to command a very considerable extent of country. They did not appear much alarmed, and looked at us for some time before they moved slowly away, leaving, however, one of their number to keep a watch over our movements. So unembarrassed, indeed, was their exit, that I fancied, if we waited until the sentry had crossed a little ridge to which he was slowly making, that by


running hard after he had disappeared, we might get a shot at him before he had gone many yards. We accordingly waited patiently until he had got over the ridge, and then ran as hard as we were able for our shot, expecting to find him close to us. However, it was not to be, as, much to our disgust, we saw he had joined the main body, who were by this time quite half a mile away and still going on, their long necks poked clumsily out before them, as they covered the ground at a pace which put all idea of pursuit out of the question.

A little further on we saw a herd of guanaco, but too far off to do anything with, and as it was rapidly getting dark we retraced our way to the ship. On our way back I got a snap shot at some animal about the size of a wolf; but he ran into some scrub, from which it was useless at this time of the night and without dogs to attempt to dislodge him.

Though devoid of either water or inhabitants, Port San Julian must always command a certain interest, as being mixed up with the early discovery of the country.

Magellan, three hundred and fifty years ago, anchored at and named this port. Starting from it, the pilot Serrano explored the coast to the southward and discovered a river, which he named Santa Cruz, where also he unfortunately lost his ship. Magellan remained at Port San Julian and Santa Cruz from April till October, 1520, when he sailed southward and discovered the straits that bear his name. Two months after his arrival at Port San Julian, a man of gigantic stature appeared on the


beach, larger and taller than any of his crew ; and shortly afterwards eighteen natives arrived, dressed in cloaks of skins and shoes of guanaco hide, which made huge foot-marks, whence they were called " Patagones," or " Large feet," by the Spaniards ; and thus originated in a nickname, the name of the country of Patagonia.

The " Tehuelches," or Patagonians, have not by any manner of means feet in reality so extraordinarily large as those ascribed to them by the Spaniards. All Indian races have naturally small feet ; and Musters in his interesting work states that on exchanging boots he found their feet to be smaller and better shaped than his own. On certain occasions, and in wet or snowy weather, hide overshoes are worn similar to our galoshes, which so disenchanted Leech's lover in Punch, that seeing his fair one's foot-prints in the sand, — horror-stricken he exclaimed, "Beetle-crushers, by Jove!" and fled incontinently to distant climes ; so might the early Spaniards have been mistaken about the Tehuelches, and the term " patagon," or large feet, as applied to the inhabitants by their early discoverers, really be a complete misnomer, owing to the extra covering on their " potro " boots.

Drake next visited Port San Julian in 1578, and, curiously enough, as Magellan had in this place put to death two, and marooned a third of his captains who had mutinied, so also Sir Francis Drake executed Mr. Doughty, who chose rather to be beheaded than to be put on shore.

In the year 1581 Sarmiento was sent from Spain


with two thousand five hundred men, in twenty-three ships, to found new colonies in the Straits and Patagonia. On his way back his ship was captured by the English, the colonists were forgotten, and five years afterwards Thomas Cavendish, visiting the Straits, found at Port Famine twelve men and three women alone surviving. Starvation and disease had killed the rest.

In the reign of Charles II, Sir John Narborough took possession of the country near Port Desire in the name of the king. In the eighteenth century Byron and Wallis visited Patagonia, and again Spain made an effort to colonize ; Francesco, and Antonio Viedma were sent in command. Antonio selected Port S. Julian as the site of another colony, and from it explored to the foot of the Cordillera. No further knowledge was gained of the interior until the survey of the Beagle described by Fitzroy and Darwin, and lately the manners and customs of the natives by Musters.

The morning after our arrival I started at daybreak, taking with me Martin and Major, the former happy in carrying my gun and the latter delighted at once more being on shore.

We had a long and tedious walk for many miles, over sandy and pebbly ground thickly covered with small prickly shrubs and stunted evergreens. I had selected this line of country the previous evening, having perceived from the top of a high hill that it contained the only cover of any extent within reach, and that being apparently rushy in places, it might probably hold a little water.


The ground was covered in all directions with the tracks and droppings of many animals. I picked up several lamellated shells of armadillo, and some ostrich eggs, and though we saw no spoor of any carnivorous beasts, we perceived most unmistakeable evidences of their occasional presence, from the skeletons of guanaco, whose bones were scattered in a manner that showed quite plainly what had been the way they perished.

Finding that it was hopeless to continue in this valley and that the rushes only grew in sandy patches and were quite devoid of moisture, we ascended to the higher land, and shortly after discovered a herd of guanaco quietly feeding about a mile off.

The ground was dreadfully unpromising for approaching them ; however, the herd was to windward, which gave me a slight chance, and, leaving Martin in charge of my dog, I commenced to stalk, crawling on hands and knees, and taking advantage of every bush, though none of them were much larger than a cabbage. Gradually and with the utmost caution I worked my way within four hundred yards of where they were feeding. There were five females, four young ones, and one very large male, whose head was fully nine feet from the ground. He was a noble-looking fellow, large in the body as a fair-sized cow, and meat enough on him for the entire ship's company, could I only succeed in bowling him over.

I saw there was not a twig to conceal me any further ; so, taking out my field-glass, I watched


quietly in hope that they might take it into their head to feed up to where I was lying hid. My rifle was an Express, and very uncertain at anything over two hundred yards.

The guanaco (Auchenia Huanaca) is a singular-looking animal, and may perhaps be best described by analogy. The legs are like a deer ; his feet like a camel, only very much smaller ; his barrel (that of a full-grown male) as large as a cow's, but resembling in shape a sheep, and covered with a long light-red wool ; his neck rises straight and somewhat ungracefully from his shoulders, like a llama's ; and his tail is bushy, like a Cape sheep's. Their action when galloping is clumsy, and though they cover the ground at a great pace, from the straight and awkward way they carry their long necks, which are poked clumsily out before them, and their lolloping stride, they appear to be going much slower than they actually are.

They are, however, fine animals, not particularly shy, and well worth a sportsman's attention, though I believe when mounted it is easy enough to kill them.

All this time the herd were quietly feeding away from me, so my only chance lay in trying to wriggle within shot. I commenced my crawl, got about forty yards nearer, and was then found out. The does immediately formed group, placing their young ones in the centre, and commenced neighing fiercely, while the buck, detaching himself from the herd, reconnoitred my position, neighing and chattering most vociferously the whole time. The does then moved slowly away at a gentle trot, halting from


time to time and looking round, the buck remaining well in rear guarding them from the danger, and rather circling round, as if to get my wind, evidently being bothered to make out what so unusual an object on his feeding-ground could possibly be. The chances are a hundred to one he never saw a human creature before, the country being, as far as we could judge, entirely devoid of water, and consequently unable to support the wandering tribes of Tehuelches who inhabit Patagonia. As for vessels, nothing but the stress of weather while in the absolute vicinity of the port would ever induce them to call here.

The herd soon trotted away over the brow of a little hill and were out of sight, and as my inquisitive friend was about to follow their example, I let drive, and, much to my satisfaction, saw him go over. He immediately recovered himself, and, at a slinging gallop, made for the herd, now some distance ahead. My feet, unaccustomed to much exercise on board ship, were blistered from my long walk ; my right leg, which I smashed two years ago, had broken down, and I was quite unequal to following up the wounded guanaco; however, I mustered up a "spurt" for the occasion, and ran on as fast as I was able, to cut him off; the rest having circled to my left, and the buck being quite unable to reach them.

It was hard work, but I succeeded ; and turning away for a line of his own, he gave me two more shots, at from five to seven hundred yards, both of which I missed, and, to my inexpressible mortification, saw him go away, slowly certainly, but still


much too far for a cripple to think of following him up, and much to my disgust I hobbled away towards the ship, not at all certain of getting there without assistance.

On our way back Major found and put up some very large partridges, one of which I managed to bag. He was of a dusky-brown colour, had short wings, long neck, remarkably small head, no tail, and about the size and weight of a well-fed hen pheasant, and proved excellent eating a day or so afterwards.

On getting near the coast, I picked up a goose, a few wild duck, and several bandurria, the latter a large and handsome species of ibis ; but I was precious glad of a pair of slippers, and enjoyed my bath uncommonly when I got on board.

In the afternoon a party went away with the seine, under charge of the gunner ; but not appearing to understand the business they caught no fish, though there must have been quantities about, judging from the number of birds we saw diving after them, and the shoals of porpoise cruising inside the harbour. H. and self, after visiting the seining party in the galley, sailed down to a small island about five miles from our anchorage, which was literally alive with sea-birds.

The quantities of wide-awakes [popular name for the sooty tern, Ed.] even exceeded those at Ascension, and anyone who has ever witnessed the celebrated " wide-awake fair " at that most abominable of islands will be able to judge what numbers of them must have been here. The ground was so thickly covered with their eggs, that it was quite impossible to walk about without treading on them,


and the sky was absolutely darkened by the clouds of birds who, alarmed at our approach, were wheeling and screaming in frightened circles round our heads.

They are pretty, graceful little birds ; pure white body, with a black cap and forked tail, about the size of a golden plover, and have a flight not unlike them. Their eggs, both in size, colour, and taste, resemble the lapwing's. We took away about a bushel, and found them excellent for cakes and omelettes, as well as eaten cold, hard boiled. They are a species of tern, and it was interesting to watch them dashing from a height into the water, throwing up a splash like the rise of a large trout in their headlong dive after their fishy prey. Another island was inhabited by shags, both black and white breasted, and quantities of geese, duck, and all kinds of wild fowl were to be found everywhere. We killed a good many different kinds during the afternoon, and fired at a couple of magnificent black-necked swans (Cygnus nigricollis). On our way back, H. landed with the dogs to look for guanaco, and my feet being still tender, I remained in the boat and shot wild fowl of various descriptions as we coasted along.

Failing to get within shot of some guanaco which he saw, he vented his rage on a skunk, which he made Martin carry down to the boat, and as long as I live never shall I forget the odour. Major, who was with him, had been permitted to retrieve it, and smelt as badly as the " varmint " itself, and everything that even went near the brute became tainted with its dreadful smell.

The whole ship stank, as he very foolishly brought


it on board, and the galley retained its stench for days, though carbolic and other disinfectants were freely used. In the cabin we burned brown paper, pastilles, and sprinkled carbolic acid. Poor Major was rubbed with train oil and sulphur, to, if possible, deaden the smell ; but it was weeks before the " bouquet de skunk " became entirely eradicated.

Early next morning we went after guanaco again. H. got a shot, which he missed, and they did not come near me. I was much struck with the enormous quantities of huge fossil oyster-shells which we saw everywhere ; on all the hills they were strewn thickly, and even on Mount Wood, nearly a thousand feet above the level of the sea, they were lying in hundreds ; while in the sea, at the very lowest water, we were unable to find any live ones. On the 7th of January we left Port San Julian, and after experiencing all kinds of unsettled weather, the wind often shifting all round the compass in a single day, we anchored in Possession Bay, off Tandy Point, on the 10th of January, about thirty miles from Cape Dungeness, and well inside the Straits of Magellan.

The aspect of the country was somewhat similar to that in the vicinity of Port San Julian, except that the herbage was thicker, more luxuriant, and evidently far better feeding-ground. The land was undulating, and consisted of a succession of small hills, with occasional patches of what would be in winter swampy ground, but which were now perfectly dry, and only marked by the luxurious growth of grass, which was at least four feet high in parts of them.


Not a single tree was to be seen, and far off in the distance, across the pampas, were lofty ranges of mountains flattened into table-land on the summit, and of similar appearance to those we had already remarked more to the northward. H. and self went on shore as early as possible, and after some little difficulty in landing, in consequence of the long extent of beach and shallow water occasioned by the tide being out, succeeded in settling our camp for the day, and lit a fire for the boat's crew to cook by during our absence.

We had not gone many hundred yards before the innumerable paths made by guanaco (whose disposition in this respect, i. e., that of following a leader on the line of march, strongly resembles that of sheep) convinced us we were in a country abounding with game, and almost immediately afterwards, by way of corroborating the idea, we saw a large troop of ostriches, who were however far too wary to allow us to get within shot. As we went farther inland guanaco appeared all round. Singly and in herds they were grazing in all directions, nor did those who saw us seem particularly alarmed at our presence, for, after having apparently satisfied their curiosity by a prolonged stare, they recommenced their grazing as if nothing had happened to disturb the usual serenity of their existence.

We got within four hundred yards of one herd before they showed any alarm, and on lying flat down were surprised at their actually approaching us, an old male neighing fiercely, stamping his feet, and always some distance in advance. He was


much larger than any of the others and of a darker colour, his head in particular being more massive and coarser in appearance.

We remained quiet, hoping their curiosity would induce them to come still nearer ; but something happening to alarm them in another quarter, some of the herd took to flight, and fearing we should lose our shot, we both fired, and both missed, when they were about three hundred yards distant.

Men missing a fair shot invariably find an excuse for their clumsiness, and I certainly ascribe the fault to my Express rifle, whose shooting at anything over two hundred yards is faulty in the extreme.

I aimed with the greatest care and caution, resting on my elbows, and can only say that with an ordinary service rifle I have more than once put twenty shots running on a smaller target and at a greater range. An Express is the best of weapons for a short range at dangerous game, but is not to be depended on at anything over one hundred and fifty yards.

On returning to camp for our breakfast, we heard that another party from the ship had been more successful, and had succeeded in getting a guanaco, and catching a young ostrich alive ; so sending some men to assist in carrying it to the boats, we started off in an opposite direction to try our luck anew.

The game on our fresh beat was by no means as numerous as on the ground we had travelled over in the morning ; and though we saw several guanaco, they were generally alone, very wary, and seemed to be young males, not yet sufficiently dignified to be trusted with the duties and responsibilities of a harem.


After walking some miles without being able to get close enough to risk a shot at any of them, we agreed to separate at the foot of a range of hills, so that by each taking a different side, one of us might get a chance at the quarry disturbed by the other.

For over an hour I tramped along without seeing anything except a couple of wolves and some foxes ; the latter were very numerous, and later on we saw still more of them at all the harbours along this part of the coast until we reached Punta Arenas.

The spoors of many wild animals crossed my path, chiefly puma and wolf, and somewhat despondent from our bad luck in the morning, and seeming to starve in the midst of plenty, the traces of game both from tracks and droppings being so very plentiful, I was thinking of retracing my way to camp, when through my glasses, on a distant hill, I observed a guanaco feeding by himself, and on examining the ground carefully, found that it was tolerably favourable for a stalk.

Leaving Martin with my spare gun and Major, I set off; and having taken bearings with great care, managed my ground so that I got within one hundred and fifty yards of him, without either seeing the guanaco or being suspected myself, and then lying quite flat I wriggled on both elbows to a slightly rising ground where I expected to get my first view, and where I got it.

The ground was covered with small but needle-like thorns, which went through my light tweed shooting-coat as if it had been paper ; elbows and knees were like a pin-cushion and bleeding freely,


but I do not think I knew it or felt the slightest pain, as I watched this noble-looking animal quietly grazing at little over one hundred yards from where I lay panting with excitement and fatigue.

To get an inch nearer without discovery was an impossibility, and not daring to risk a shot in my present breathless and excitable condition, I remained motionless watching his movements and hoping he would come a little nearer.

He was feeding quietly, occasionally scratching himself, but being almost broadside on did not lessen the distance, and having quite recovered my breath I raised myself on my elbow to take aim.

He saw me instantly, and uttering the usual shrill neigh of alarm and challenge, half turned to where I lay ; the movement was favourable, and the same instant my Express bullet crashed through his shoulder, smashing the bone completely, but not sufficiently high to pierce the body or cause instant death ; and plunging madly forward, he galloped and stumbled some five hundred yards down the hill, where he lay down, and without a struggle permitted me to put him out of pain with my hunting-knife.

Sending Martin to the camp for help, I lighted my pipe and had a nice quiet smoke. Major, and the dead guanaco, formed a picture in the foreground, while far away in the distance stretched these grand unconfined plains, extending into boundless space, one great undulating meadow, inconceivable in extent and alive with game.

Shortly afterwards I had the good fortune to see H. and a couple of men in the distance. I fired a


few shots in the air to attract them, and was exceedingly glad when they joined me, not being at all confident in " Mr. Martin's " powers of finding the spot again, and not relishing the idea of being left by myself half the night.

Having cleaned the guanaco, which proved to be a young buck about three years old, we set to work to drag him to the camp which was about four miles off, by a couple of dog-chains round the hind-legs ; but afterwards getting more men, we slung him on an oar and eventually got him on board, where, minus head and interior, he weighed one hundred and eighty pounds.

In firing signals, one of my cartridges in the shotgun burst in the breech, and gave me a nasty burn in the wrist, driving in grains of unconsumed powder in a manner which has slightly tattooed me for life, and may in the event of a disputed identity help to prove me — myself.

Having abused the Express rifle as a weapon for guanaco-shooting at long ranges, I must now testify to its truly terrific powers when the bullet gets well home, as it did in the instance I have just narrated. On examining the guanaco next day, I was astonished at the terrible wound produced by so light a ball, the large bone of the shoulder just below the socket having not only been broken to bits, but the pieces themselves actually driven through the thick hide (thicker if anything than a bullock's) on the opposite side, where they came through with the ball in several small holes, covering a space a little larger than the palm of my hand.



Gregory Bay — Camp out — Duck-shooting in the Straits of Magellan — A quiet little lough — Hard work for Major — Contents of the bag — Elizabeth Island — Sold — Upland geese— Santa Magdalena — Laredo Bay — Black-necked swan — Punta Arenas — Don Enrique — Gold and Coal— Friendly relations with the natives — Ladies of Patagonia — Chus — Terra del Fuego— The Fuegans— A Chilian feed— Scenery in the Straits of Magellan — Williwaws — Extraordinary growth of moss — Ladies of Terra del Fuego — Seals.

Early in the morning of the 12th of January, we left Possession Bay, and after passing through the " first narrows," — the country on the Patagonian side much resembling what we had already seen, while that of Terra del Fuego was more stony, barren, and cheerless, — we anchored the same afternoon in Gregory Bay, and shortly afterwards H. and myself, taking with us my tent and canteen (both of which I can recommend if portability be an object, though of course more comforts are obtained by more weight), set off to camp out on the banks of a small river some six miles from our anchorage, and where we hoped, on the principle of. the early bird, to get good sport the next morning.

After pitching our tent and rigging up a sail for a couple of the boat's crew, and Martin and the steward who remained with us, we collected firewood


and dried guanaco dung, the latter proving excellent fuel for the canteen stove ; and, after a mess of guanaco hash for all hands, turned in and slept most comfortably, though it was blowing half a gale of wind all night. From the exposed position in which we were placed, which enabled an unusually strong breeze to act freely on the tent, I was most gratified at finding the next morning that it stood successfully so severe an ordeal.

Next morning, a little before daylight, I sounded the " rouse," and after a cup of hot cocoa, H. and I started along the banks of the little stream, which ran a few yards from our encampment. The country we shot over consisted chiefly of a line of small hills, making a well-watered valley between them and Gregory Range — a high and long line of mountains some seven miles distant, rather rugged and precipitous on the sides, but flat-topped, with apparently table-land on the summit.

A few stunted bushes grew along the coast line, but nowhere else, the country being either marsh or pampas, while the low hills were plentifully covered with califate berries {Berberis axifolia), and wild celery, which afford at this time of the year the principal food of the upland goose.

A bird so fed we discovered afterwards formed a dish well worthy of notice.

Little seemed to be stirring in the early dawn, and for the first half-hour a stray snipe, and a couple of crafty-looking foxes returning from their nocturnal rambles, were all we met. The ground was well-marked with guanaco paths, though we saw nothing


of them. Shortly afterwards we entered a thick bed of long rank grass and water-weeds, covering some swampy ground, through the centre of which percolated a small sluggish stream. Here the fun commenced, and for about twenty minutes we got some of the prettiest duck-shooting imaginable, the birds rising singly and in pairs, and affording most excellent sport.

Major retrieved them very creditably, and after picking up a snipe, and getting a few very long shots at geese, we passed over a hill, from the brow of which we saw a small lagoon completely covered with wild fowl of all descriptions. Sea-gulls and wide-awakes hovered in hundreds over the water, on whose bosom floated in stately pride two magnificent black-necked swans ; while numerous flocks of duck and teal disported and plumed themselves on its tranquil and sunlit depths.

A more beautiful sight I have seldom witnessed than this quiet little lough, so seldom disturbed by man in these unfrequented wilds of Southern Patagonia.

Being pressed for time, we were unable to contemplate its charms for many minutes, and, rapidly descending, soon altered its peaceful character by rapid discharges at the geese and duck who came flying round us. The edges of the lake were covered with floating lilies, and as the ground near it was soft mud, merely covered with a thick matting of aquatic plants, which were only strong enough to support a man's weight in certain parts, we were unable to get many of the birds that fell in the


water, the thin lace-work of weeds preventing Major from swimming. We constantly went up to our waists through these plants, into the soft slush they covered, but had some exceedingly pretty shooting, which far more than compensated for our wetting.

Unfortunately we were obliged to be back at the camp by nine o'clock. Had we continued shooting all day, our list I am confident would have been something worth recording. As it was, our two men were quite satisfied with their load ; and considering that we had some miles to march back to the camp, and that we packed up, struck tents, and embarked by 9 a.m., I think our bag, for a before-breakfast one — consisting of seventeen ducks, three geese, five snipes, five large water-hens (Fulica chilensis), one teal, and a grebe — was not a bad one. Could we have picked up all we knocked over, it would have been considerably larger ; but at any rate it is sufficient to give an idea of what might have been done had we been enabled to remain for a whole day instead of only for a few hours. On our way back we crossed some plains quite covered with califate berries, and saw several large flocks of geese feeding on them ; but they were much too wary to allow us to get within shot.

The ship having dropped down from her anchorage (close to a long isthmus at the head of the bay) to pick us up, we passed through the " second narrows," some nine miles long and from three to five broad, and went on to Elizabeth Island, where we expected to get the cream of Magellan shooting, but where we were doomed to be bitterly disappointed.


This island, named after our virgin queen by Sir Francis Drake, is about eight miles long, and seldom more than one broad. It is composed of ranges of heights extending in ridges in the direction of its length, the highest hill, on the north-east side, being one hundred and seventy feet above the sea. The sides are precipitous, and at the time we visited it, some half-dozen dried up lagoons constituted the only signs of fresh water. The hills were covered with berries of various kinds, and wild celery grew in profusion everywhere, affording excellent feeding for the swans and geese who visit it at various seasons for breeding purposes.

We heard such accounts of the number of geese killed here on different occasions by ships visiting the island, that We went on shore regularly prepared for slaughter. We brought several sacks which we expected to fill — the ship's company, some of whom had been here before in the Nassau and other surveying vessels, knowing the capabilities of the island, anticipated fresh rations for some days — and visions of foi gras, which was not only to last the entire commission, but to be given away wholesale, crossed our eager imagination.

" L'homme propose" etc. — the birds had all flown; and these grand anticipations ended in our only killing three geese. We were just a fortnight late ; and the island, which appears to be inhabited in rotation during the summer months by these different birds for a nursery, was now occupied by immense flocks of tern (the wide-awake), whose eggs and young ones were in thousands at a point not far


from where we landed. We got enough fresh eggs to keep us in omelettes, and to serve for other culinary purposes for some time, but it was a poor compensation for our disappointment concerning the wild geese.

These geese, commonly called " upland " to distinguish them from the " kelp," or coast goose, are the very handsomest of their species ; and though I have shot many different kinds in China (which abounds with all sorts of wild fowl), as well as in other parts of the world, I never yet met any which could compare with them in personal appearance. Quite as large as the ordinary wild goose of Europe, they are distinguished by a more gamey look, and a far more brilliant plumage. The head and bill are smaller, the breast is covered with feathers very like those on a cock grouse, and exhibiting the same glossy sheen so noticeable in a healthy bird ; the head and neck are of a delicate brown ; the underneath part of the wing pure white ; the upper, white and indigo black ; the latter feathers in the sunshine taking the brilliant colouring seen in the plumage of a magpie or mallard.

Many other islands in the Straits of Magellan are daring the breeding-season thus occupied, and to the innumerable foxes who frequent the mainland may be ascribed the reason that the birds wisely resort to those sea-protected abodes to escape their ravages.

Passing close to Santa Magdalena, an island covered with penguins, and having traces of the recent visit of some whaling or sealing vessels, whose old casks and useless spars were scattered about the beach, we


anchored at Laredo Bay, where we entered on our first experience of wooding. A profusion of excellent drift wood for firing purposes was lying along the beach, and in a short time our decks were piled with huge stacks in every direction.

The country here began to change in appearance, and the first signs of wooded land showed themselves.

A large plain of high grass, with a few swampy places in it, lay opposite our anchorage, and in it we killed a few brace of wild duck and snipe. A mile across it was situated a large circular lagoon about two miles in diameter, on which were almost always eight or a dozen black-necked swans ; they, however, carefully remained in or about the centre. The sides of the lake were partly wooded, and the scenery very pretty; clumps of timber being scattered on the hills resembling ornamental planting, so admirably were they placed by nature with regard to picturesque effect. The ground was covered with thick herbage well adapted for horse and cattle pastures, and the sheltered little valleys running towards the lake were covered with all kinds of flowers and berries, chiefly black and red currant.

Outside these wooded and wind protected spots, the country was bleak and desolate, and ran in one vast undulating pampa far away to some distant snow-capped mountains ; dreary, uninteresting, covered with patches of tussac grass and clumps of moss, through which we sank above our knees, and utterly devoid of game.

A couple of Chilians had in charge a considerable number of horses belonging to the settlement at


Sandy Point which were being summered here, and we also saw two encampments or " toldos " of the Patagonians. They resembled gipsy huts in England in shape, only guanaco hides were substituted for the usual canvas covering used at home. Apropos of guanaco, the one I shot at Possession Bay was excellent eating; it had dark flesh, like Highland mutton, and tasted something like veal. As fresh meat was utterly unprocurable, and owing to the steward getting drunk at Monte Video we had left harbour without any sheep (a great sell, as they only cost six shillings apiece there), the guanaco was a perfect god-send — soups, steaks, haunch, hashed, boiled and roast ; in fact, in every conceivable form we consumed our friend, and the dogs came in for a share of meat and scraps which I have no doubt they considered a very favourable addition to their usual diet of ship's biscuits and chicken-bones.

A severe gale of wind delayed us a day longer at Laredo than we first intended, which quieted down towards evening. A short passage of a few hours enabled us to reach the Chilian Colony of Punta Arenas, named after a sandy point near which it is built, and by which name it also is not unfrequently known. A Chilian man-of-war, the "Chacabuco", commanded by Captain Enrique Simpson, was lying at anchor, being on her way to place some pyramids for observation purposes on Cape Dungeness; and her captain kindly constituting himself master of the ceremonies, rendered our stay at the Settlement, through his exceeding kindness and hospitality, unusually jolly and pleasant.


Punta Arenas is a penal settlement, but has various colonists of different nationalities, all of whom are given grants of land by the Government on declaring their intention of fencing them in and undertaking their cultivation. This land becomes bona fide their own property on these conditions being complied with. The inhabitants, all told, muster about fifteen hundred, and live in small wooden houses with shingle roofs. The town is laid out on the principle of all Spanish-American ones, and has places marked out for future greatness, in squares and plazas, but which at present look somewhat straggling and unfinished. The military element consists of a small guard of soldiers ; and as none of the convicts are very desperate characters, and are allowed almost perfect liberty under certain restrictions, and the natives who approach the settlement for purposes of barter are well disposed and friendly, their duties can hardly be termed onerous.

The settlement is ruled by a governor, his Excellency at present being Señor Don D. [Dublé, Ed.], a shrewd, intelligent Chilian, who, though quite recently appointed, will, I feel certain, soon develop many resources at present lying dormant, having far less of the fatal mañana in his disposition than the generality of his countrymen. He was exceedingly good-natured, placed his house at our disposal, and kindly gave us the run of his stud.

Situated in the centre of the Straits of Magellan, and possessing a coal mine of considerable dimensions (though badly worked, and at present producing an inferior quality of coal) Punta Arenas may at


any time make a sudden jump into prosperity. No shafts of any depth have as yet been sunk, and there is every reason to suppose that a stratum of superior quality exists, should they but take the trouble of working down on it.

Gold has been found in paying quantities in nearly all the small streams in the immediate vicinity of the town, and the Governor showed me a small portion, of great purity, which in a short time he had collected out of one of them himself. That other metals exist I have not the slightest doubt, and should coal, which is of course the first qualification towards success, only be properly worked, and prove of a superior quality to that already produced, all the other advantages to the colony will necessarily follow ; and situated on the high seas between Europe and the west coast of South America, a prospector could hardly pitch upon a more favourable spot for an outlay of capital. With the Tehuelches the colonists do a very considerable trade, the former easily recognising the benefits of having a ready sale for their guanaco skins and ostrich feathers ; and being quite alive to the advantages of breech-loaders and gunpowder, over the bolas and spear, are peaceable and well conducted. Both parties are amicable in their relations and willing to conciliate, so that each may obtain the benefit of trade, and a considerable amount of cordiality exists between them. Guanaco robes are made out of the skins of the young guanaco when they are only a few days old, the full-grown animal's hide being in every respect as tough and coarse as a bullock's.


A large tribe had left the day previous to our arrival, but a few remained either to complete their purchases or to finish a quantity of skin robes, at which we found some of their women employed when we visited them.

They were slightly above the average height of European females, but much broader across the shoulder and back, though without the slightest appearance of being fat. Their limbs were beautifully formed on massive proportions, their flesh hard and firm; but their features were quite as ugly as the Southern Chinese, to whose low-bridged noses, and ugly long eyes, their own had a remarkable similarity. Their hair was black and coarse, confined round the forehead by a fillet, which gave the skull a peculiar conical appearance ; their teeth were beautifully white and regular ; their skin a light brown; but they were all so filthily dirty that it might have been almost any colour beneath the mask of grime with which they were covered. The children were, if possible, more dirty than their parents, and more unprepossessing savages I have seldom come across. What their behaviour may be, away from the temptations of civilization and strong drink, I cannot pretend to say ; but all the tribes who visit Punta Arenas, if they have any morality, invariably leave it behind them.

Having arranged a shooting-party, for which the Governor provided horses and a guide, H., myself, the Chilian captain, and Dr. P., a young Cornishman in the Chilian service, started for the day ; but though we rode as far as the Rio Negro [river unidentified, Ed.], with the


exception of a few wild duck and some bandurria, we killed nothing.

The country being thickly wooded near the settlement, we were obliged to keep for some miles to the sea coast, where, as little in the shape of game could be expected, our Chilian friends, who had lately seen some Indian hunting at Rio Santa Cruz, amused themselves in describing and illustrating the mysteries of the Tehuelches' circle formed for driving guanaco and ostrich. When completed and sufficiently narrow, the magic word chus is given, upon which, with loud yells, the warriors armed with the " bolas " rush upon their encircled prey. Our horses appeared perfectly acquainted with this familiar sound, as at each " chus " given they started off at full speed, which was anything but pleasant over the log-encumbered ground, as we were seated in high wooden saddles, with stirrups formed out of great balks of timber, each of them at least seven pounds in weight, and much larger than a quartern loaf. On emerging from the forest, we got to some pampas land, which was covered in many places with a very pretty evergreen, having a leaf something like a rhododendron, but bearing a bright red pendulous flower growing in clusters. Nothing could be more ornamental or more adapted for park growth at home ; and as the weather here is infinitely severer than any experienced in England, there would be little fear of its not thriving in many exposed situations at home, where the more delicate rhododendron fails to flourish.

In conversing about Patagonia and Terra del


Fuego with Captain S., who having been lately on a government survey of both coasts was naturally well acquainted with the subject, he gave me a good deal of information about them.

The Chilians claim both lands, and point to the ancient maps drawn up by their early Spanish ancestors in proof of the country having been formally annexed by Spain many years ago. For similar reasons Buenos Ayres claims Patagonia, and both nations pay rations of cattle to native chiefs, whom they endow with honorary rank in their respective armies.

A Frenchman who commenced his career with Jules Gérard, " The lion slayer," had lately been prospecting in Fuego and its neighbouring isles ; and getting some people to join him, had appareled them in fantastic attire, and gone, after the bombastic manner of his countrymen, to conquer or to die ; having obtained, by some means or another, immense grants of land from the Chilian Government.

The inducements he offered to his followers were of the most high-flown description, but the expedition proved a fiasco, and, neither dying nor conquering, returned to Punta Arenas, where I saw a couple of his men loafing about the settlement, their chief having returned to Europe with fresh schemes for further development.

The Fuegans are mostly cannibals, and looking upon Europeans not only in the light of enemies, but also as game, have a double object in their destruction : firstly, in self-preservation, and secondly as food. They are a miserable race, and inhabit a


country which, if judged by the outline I saw of it, has but little to tempt the most greedy of promoters for annexation.

Captain S. gave me an arrow taken by one of the Frenchmen before alluded to. He had been attacked by five natives, and had (so he said) killed them all, but had been wounded by five arrows which had been discharged simultaneously by his foes. The arrow I had was beautifully finished, the barb being made of a piece of glass, evidently a bit of broken bottle picked up along the shore, and fitted so as to come out of the wood and remain in the wound on the arrow being withdrawn. The other arrows taken at the same time were almost all flint-headed, and from the extra care taken in the finish of the glass one, it was evidently looked upon as a great advance in the warlike art.

The settlers at Punta Arenas seemed industrious and contented, but even their little community had gone through certain state convulsions, and about twenty years ago had a revolution, in which they killed their governor and the chaplain, and, placing their dead bodies on a fire, danced hand-in-hand round the flames.

Having had many chuses, seen the lasso used by our guide, and experienced thoroughly the discomforts of a native saddle and wooden stirrups, Captain S. insisted on our finishing the day with what he termed the appropriate " wind up " of an entirely Chilian dinner, which he provided for us at Señor Ballester's, the most original of Bonifaces. Cazuela was our "pièce de resistance" It is the national dish


of Chili, and a more excellent one I have seldom tasted ; and though Señor Ballester was more than slightly inebriated, and showed his adherence to liberty, equality, fraternity, and the rights of man, as became the citizen of a free and enlightened republic untrammelled by social distinctions, by insisting on embracing us all round, I must take off my hat and do homage to his pre-eminence as a cook. Cazuela is a kind of " cock a leeky," only far superior, highly seasoned, and eaten with its soup. Another dish was a pie, with a potato crust, of minced meat, chicken, olives, raisins, pepper and spices, uncommonly good also, and the whole was washed down by native wines, agreeable to the taste, and, leaving no ill effects the next morning, were I presume sound in quality also.

Early in the morning on the 20th of January we left Punta Arenas, and, by the time I found my way on deck, discovered that a complete change of scenery had taken place. It seemed as if the ship was on a lake, so surrounded were we on all sides by land. The shores were thickly wooded and mountainous, varying in height, from Mount Tarn, 2602 feet, to Mount Sarmiento, covered entirely with snow, 6800 feet above the level of the sea, lying some distance off in Terra del Fuego. The view was exquisite. The mountains, rugged and precipitous, took every conceivable form, and varied in aspect as each yard we steamed past them disclosed fresh beauties. They were covered with a variegated foliage which somewhat reminded me of the autumnal tints at Killarney; the trunks of the trees showing, in a


white-thread-like and peculiar manner, where the biting winds had at some period checked the undergrowth and apparently nipped the lower branches. The summits were occasionally fringed with the brightest of very bright green verdure ; and in the crevices, and on some of the highest peaks, the snow still remained unthawed, though the time of the year was midsummer. Nearly opposite Cape Froward, a bold promontory of 1200 feet, we saw an extensive glacier. Towards evening the wind freshening up prevented our proceeding; and as a succession of williwaws came on we anchored in San Nicolas Bay at the mouth of the De Gennes River.

San Nicolas is a picturesque and well-protected harbour, surrounded by high mountains whose rugged peaks were covered with snow. A dense and impenetrable forest ran close to the water's edge. A small islet lay in the centre of the bay, exactly opposite the river, and, nailed upon a tree growing in the middle, we saw several boards recording the times it had been visited by various vessels. We got a quantity of drift wood similar to that picked up at Laredo, and our seining party were particularly fortunate, bringing over two hundred salmon bass on board with them. We tried to pull up the river, but found it so full of old trees and snags that it could not be managed, and as it was impossible to penetrate through the entangled mass of undergrowth and moss skirting the forest, but little could be done with the guns. We got a few shots at duck on the river, the only birds worth mentioning that we came across, though we saw some green parrots also, which,


for want of better, make a tolerable pie. We met quite fresh footmarks of Indians, but were unable to discover their wigwams.

Our next halt was under the lee of Cape Holland, in Woods Bay ; rain and williwaws driving us there for shelter. "Williwaw" is the Magellan name for the sudden bursts of wind which come rushing down between the mountains. They vary much in degree of strength, but are at times so powerful that a ship is utterly unable to resist them, and for sailing vessels they are dangerous in the extreme. Fortunately the Straits abound in excellent and well-protected harbours, where safe anchorage and shelter can generally be obtained, and as those storms are seldom of long duration, common caution enables the mariner to avoid any very serious damage, by taking refuge in time.

Inside a belt of trees encircling the harbour, lay about two miles of as likely looking snipe ground as I ever walked over; but though we worked it carefully, not a bird was to be seen. In some thick swampy undergrowth I put up a brace of woodcock. They were smaller than our English birds and much lighter in colour, but had the same kind of flight, and required very close beating to induce them to rise.

The depth of moss and luxuriousness of its growth exceeded anything I had ever seen. All the small shrubs were choked by it ; fallen trees, so thickly covered that they lay completely screened, and often we went over our knees through the soft velvety covering.

Lichens were equally abundant, many of them


throwing out large leaves like broccoli. Quantities of parasites, more or less resembling mistletoe, hung from the various trees ; and a profusion of edible berries of several varieties grew everywhere. Most of the shrubs were in flower, and several of them had delicious perfume, while the common fuchsia grew quite luxuriantly, and attained a size seldom met with in Europe. We left early next morning. The day was wet and misty, but what little could be seen of the coast was truly magnificent. Opposite Port Gallant, on both sides of the Strait, it was exquisite. Lofty and precipitous mountains, based with forests, and capped with snow — black-looking valleys and ravines — huge boulders of rock and precipices — glaciers — long, partly wooded islands, topped with plains of grass — rocky islets of different sizes, bare or wooded, jutting out of the sea — and the whole marked by a variety of different colourings, so rich and varied, that it would be almost impossible to even imagine a scene more full of beauty.

Off Rupert's Island, a ship's boat, with a crew of Fuegan women, came alongside, evidently with the intention of bartering their sealskin clothing. They were considerably smaller than the Patagonian ladies we met at Punta Arenas, of slighter make and different features ; but, being in a hurry to get to our next anchorage before the tide turned, we could not stop to trade, and, as we took no notice of their solicitations, in a short time they shoved off. How they came by a ship's boat it would be hard to say ; they looked in good condition, and had probably eaten the original proprietors. One woman had a terrible


mouth ; as she grinned it extended from ear to ear, disclosing a set of fangs capable of crunching anything ; a more unprepossessing female I never saw.

During the day shoals of whales were seen spouting all round, and as from the winding nature of the passage we always appeared in a lake of not particularly extensive dimensions, it seemed odd how such big fish could inhabit such small waters. Occasionally we met seals and otters. A large rock near Whale Sand was so completely covered with the former animals, that it was only when they took to the water that we discovered what they were. Some hundreds must have been on it. The fish Indians wear no covering but seal skins, sewn together with threads of sinew, and, if we judge by the readiness of their owners to part with them for any rubbish offered in exchange, they must be easily enough procured; as a matter of choice, they will most likely prefer tobacco.



Borja Bay— Coast scenery— Wild geese— Puerto Churruca— Terrible aspect of the country — The otter islands — Enormous bee — Mount Burney — First view of the Cordilleras — Trip for a yachtsman with a predilection for sport— Mayne Harbour— Puerto Bueno— Alarm of Martin at strange sounds — Quarts versus Quartz— Guia Narrows- Chasm Beach— Quantities of seals— Grey Harbour— A tough old warrior — A tempting river — I air my rods— Halt Bay — Island Harbour — Fly-fishing in Patagonia a pitfall, a snare, and a delusion —Sombrero Island — We get on shore — Gulf of Peñas— Utter inefficiency of the Rocket and Boxer class of gun-boat — Remarkable kelp in Straits of Magellan— Massacre of the innocents.

On the 23rd of January we arrived at Borja Bay, the Island Bay of Byron. It is situated on the northern shore of Crooked Reach, two miles to the eastward of Cape Quod. At the entrance are some small islands — the Ortiz Islets, or Big and Little Borja — on the larger of which we found a wooden cross, but without any inscription to say what it meant. The shores are wooded with many different descriptions of trees, red and white cedar predominating ; and a variety of shrubs, most of them covered with sweet-scented flowers, grow in wild profusion. A bright and sparkling stream runs into the bay near its centre, and a few hundred yards from its mouth, but concealed from the anchorage by a wooded hill, lies a small lake most exquisitely


situated. The mountains on its distant side rise almost precipitously out of the water and are thickly covered with trees for about half-way up ; at the head, a deep gorge led over the mountains towards the interior. The day was bright and sunny, and the reflection of the snow-clad mountains on the smooth mirror-like surface of the little tree- embowered lough, the perfume of the flowers, and the carolling of the birds, exulting in such unusual warmth and sunshine, combined to make a picture quite fairylike and charming.

In the afternoon we rowed along the coast, finding plenty to admire in the wonderful shades of moss and lichen which covered the rocks to the tide-mark. Every creek and corner formed a morsel varied and distinct, and some of these little pieces of colouring quite beggar description. The vegetation was of rank luxuriousness, but far more beautiful than anything tropical, which, though luxurious, undoubtedly wants that exquisite variety of colouring and depth of tone so perfect in Magellan.

The trees in places grew overhanging the water, which was deep enough close to the rocks, to have floated an " ironclad," and occasionally from some little precipice would project the gnarled remains of some old cedar of gigantic proportions, covered with mosses and mistletoe, and growing through them a profusion of long, pendulous, bright magenta-coloured blossoms, not unlike the foxglove in shape, flowers of the prevailing creeper.

I shot a couple of very handsome geese, one a pure white, and the other white body, black wings, and


grouse-coloured breast. We killed some woodpeckers and several kinds of water-fowl, all of them afterwards eaten by the boat's crew and pronounced excellent, though I fancy a somewhat monotonous diet on ship's provisions must have assisted materially in disguising a fishy taste. Mussels were in abundance, but so full of small pearls as to be almost uneatable.

We made an early start from Borja Bay, leaving at daylight, i.e., about 3 a.m. ; our next anchorage being some distance off. The scenery grew wilder, and vegetation scarcer as we advanced, the mountains being only wooded at their bases, and all more or less covered with snow. We passed a magnificent glacier, running apparently into the sea ; but the weather was too cloudy to discern very distinctly, and the mist occasionally enclosing the mountains prevented our obtaining a satisfactory view.

It was almost dark when we arrived at Puerto Churruca, our anchorage for the night. The entrance was exceedingly narrow, and we had almost to feel our way in with the lead, a matter of no small difficulty owing to the extreme depth of water so close to shore. Puerto Churruca is without exception the most weird spot I ever saw ; and Desolation Island, which it is on, well deserves the name. We left " Nassau " anchorage at eleven next morning. The day was clear and bright ; the scenery can only be described as being terrible ; and as we steamed slowly through the narrow entrance, we had ample opportunity for looking about us. Such a combination of the horrid and the beautiful I feel utterly powerless


to portray, and no one but a Doré [French artist and illustrator Gustave Doré (1832-1883), Ed.] could possibly imagine, or a Bierstadt [German-American landscape artist Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902), Ed.] paint.

Precipitous mountains, towering one above the other in indescribable confusion ; the coast line, slightly wooded but steep and rocky ; brilliant round its edges with the deep colourings of moss, lichen, and flowering shrubs so noticeable through Magellan where the coast touches the water, but they soon become lost in a mass of huge boulders, entirely bare, which continue for some thousand feet above the sea, until they reach the snow, which in its turn becomes buried in the clouds.

Deep and gloomy gorges, frightful precipices, black and unfathomable water, inlets and fiords, scooped as if with mighty power by a Vril-ya race [fictional cavern-dwellers popularized by the 1871 novel "The Coming Race, Ed".] out of the solid rock ; glaciers, cataracts, and a scattering of wild fowl ; group all these during some nightmare in their wildest and most terrible combination, and you may form a slight idea of Puerto Churruca. " Right in the jaws of hell rode the six hundred;" and a very slight attack of "the blues " might have led its possessor to imagine we were steaming out of the entrance to the same locality.

Sighting Cape Pillar, the south point of the western entrance to Magellan, and passing Westminster Hall and Las Evangelistas, four singular-looking rocky islets, rugged and barren, we bid adieu to the strait and entered Smyth's Channel, which separates a succession of islands of considerable magnitude — Wellington Island, one hundred and thirty-eight miles long, being the largest — from the


western coast of Patagonia, ending at the entrance to the Gulf of Peñas.

The general features of the coast consist of innumerable peaks, bold headlands, and rock-covered mountains capped with snow when anything over a thousand feet high ; all remarkably like in character, and desolate in the extreme. In the evening we anchored at a snug little billet among the Otter Islands, opposite Mount Burney, a lofty mountain, 5800 feet above the sea.

These islands — evidently well named, the ground being covered with the runs of the animal they are christened after — are a pretty little group, situated in the centre of Smyth's Channel. They afford an excellent harbour, the anchorage being well protected, and the holding-ground in six and seven fathoms of water, clean and good. They were full of sweet-scented flowering shrubs, the fuchsia attaining quite a tree-like size. Our wooding-party got some excellent fuel, chiefly cedar, and the seiners had a fair haul of fish. We killed some wild fowl, and saw besides a variety of singing birds, and several diminutive specimens of humming bird, some of them quite as small as many of the same species I had met in the West Indies. I also saw — and an extremely unpleasant object I considered it as it buzzed viciously in close proximity to my nose — an enormous bee, quite as large as a wren, and considerably bigger than most of the humming birds. I had not the slightest curiosity to examine it closer, and felt considerably relieved when it took itself off'.

On the 27th of January, we left the Otter Islands


at daybreak, passing close to Vereker and Foley islands. The weather was quite altered, and, instead of the usual misty covering to the mountains, half obscuring their altitude, the atmosphere was dry and clear, and the view as we steamed along perfectly magnificent.

Mount Burney, covered with snow, was visible to its very summit — a somewhat unusual phenomenon in this cloudy locality; and as we progressed further, we saw for the first time the magnificent Cordilleras, standing in bold relief against the bright blue sky, some distance in the interior.

Pinnacle upon pinnacle, of the purest white, towered like clouds above the dark outline of the nearer mountains. The sea was smooth and landlocked ; the numerous bays well wooded and bright with the exquisite varieties of colouring, for which the seaboard of southern Patagonia is so remarkable. Steamer-duck, a species peculiar to these latitudes (Micropterus cinereus), and wild fowl, plumed their feathers, rejoicing in the unusual heat and sunshine ; and enormous seagulls poised themselves, motionless, as they watched their prey. The sides of the mountains near us were rugged and torn, streaked with silvery cascades foaming and dashing over boulder and through glen ; all these, with the snow-clad Cordilleras as a back-ground, formed a picture once seen not easily forgotten.

Columbine Cove was our next halt. We wooded, caught fish, and then went to Mayne Harbour on Owen Island, a most picturesque and lovely anchorage. The day was dreadfully wet, and we had


reason to congratulate ourselves on the good fortune which enabled us to see the Cordillera, as had we passed it in weather like we experienced afterwards, one of the most magnificent views it is almost possible to conceive would have been lost. I cannot help feeling that in this very feeble description of the country we passed through there is a certain amount of sameness of expression, and that each place I attempt to describe has the never-failing characteristic of being lovely or beautiful. It would almost be a relief to have to write of something flat and uninteresting, but it cannot be helped. The entire scenery is so perfectly lovely everywhere. Each harbour visited, though possessing the same characteristics, differed so entirely in the grouping, that though descriptions of re-occurring scenes may pall on the reader, I can assure him that witnessing them would never satiate.

To any one with a predilection for yachting, a love of nature in its most charming garb, and a fondness for sport, I could not recommend any part of the world where the three combined can be had to such an extent as during a cruise between Monte Video and the western entrance to Magellan. From Cape Corrientes to Punta Arenas, a distance of over a thousand miles, there is not a single harbour in whose immediate vicinity a sportsman, using his yacht as a base for operations, might not obtain shooting to almost any extent.

From the Rio Negro to Cape Virgins the country absolutely swarms with guanaco and ostrich ; while to a naturalist a land so little known, yet possessing


such mines of hidden wealth, would be a positive Utopia. The climate is more than merely healthy ; it is re-invigorating and salubrious. The natives are seldom seen, but when met with are friendly and predisposed towards Englishmen ; and I only regret that circumstances prevent my again taking a cruise I can so strongly recommend to others.

After leaving Laredo Bay, the shooting becomes indifferent, but the scenery grander ; still, taking the limits I have defined, no other part of the world affords such a combination to a yachtsman.

Mayne Harbour, which has an outer and an inner anchorage, is about a mile long, narrow in parts, and has several small islands scattered about it, on which were nailed the names of various vessels who had visited it for the same purpose as ourselves, i.e., shelter for a night and fuel ; indeed, at every place we touched, the wooding party provided sufficient to take us to our next anchorage with scarcely any consumption of coal. Among its recent visitors, H.M.S. Albatross's card was conspicuous, a large board nailed to a tree on one of the rocky islets announcing that she had been there about a fort-night previous to our arrival.

From a small lough, " Lake William," a stream runs into the head of the bay, forming a picturesque cascade at its entrance. The rock scenery on the small islets and shores was perfect. Growing close to the water were many varieties of shrubs in blossom, or with bright red and purple berries. Twisted and crooked cedars, covered with moss and pretty bell-shaped flowers, overhung the banks. Massive boulders,


with every conceivable shade of mossy green, from the lightest pale to the darkest olive, intermingled with various lichens and ferns, lined the coast ; and to an amateur in artificial rockeries, such a lesson from nature would have been invaluable. Each creek was in itself a study, each nook a perfect gem.

It rained in torrents while we remained here, and judging from the luxuriousness of moss, which over the fallen logs of timber nearly reached a man's shoulders, I should fancy that incessant rain was its [normal, Ed.] state.

The mountains after we left' Mayne Harbour became barren and rocky, streaked with deep fissures, but holding less snow. Some of the headlands were very grand, and one precipice in particular, rising like a wall for over a thousand feet, was extremely fine. The wind was against us all day, and though the distance we had to travel was only twenty miles, it was evening before we anchored in Puerto Buena, an excellent and well-sheltered harbour on the eastern shore of the channel ; beautiful, of course, like every other anchorage we had visited.

Above the inner harbour a large fresh-water lake empties itself by a cascade into a little bight at its head. On ascending the mountains, I found that this lake was but the last of a series of four others, which, connected by a small stream running over a succession of falls between each of them, stretches a considerable distance into the interior of the country, hidden in a valley between the lofty mountains which spread away for miles from the seaboard.

Next morning, though the weather was anything


but promising, H., his factotum Martin, and myself, landed at the cascade. We worked the dogs over some good-looking ground round the border of the lake — (H. had a great, ugly, useless, long-legged brute, called " Joe," that he set great store by, and always took with him), — but without success ; and finding nothing on the lowlands, I determined on climbing to the top of the range of hills to see if any game lay higher up.

The day was showery, and, disgusted with our bad luck, H. returned to the ship, sending Martin on to join me. The sides were steep and bare, and in places our only means of ascent lay in the watercourses, where the tangled scrub and small trees enabled us to crawl from plateau to plateau ; though on gaining a couple of thousand feet, the walking became easy enough, and we were able to admire the magnificent view as it opened out more fully to our gaze.

Loughs, woods, snowy cascades, and rivers lay in a vast panorama at our feet. Miles and miles of unoccupied land, as far as the eye could reach, stretched away into misty indistinctness ; not one human creature inhabited its vast space, and a couple of eagles, soaring high, even above the snowy ranges still above us, alone seemed monarchs of a land so uninhabited by man.

Our solitude was occasionally interrupted by strange sounds, which added to the weird aspect of all around ; possibly wild cats, or wolves. On my asking Martin if he heard them, I was a good deal amused by his solemnly replying, " Aye, and I be thinking the


captain must a heard them tew ; they be wild beastesses, lions or bears most like, for he went on board uncommon quick, when he told me as how I was to go to you." H. had been chaffing him to such an extent about bears, pumas, and Indians, that though in an undeniable fright at the curious noises we both heard, he jumped at a chance of turning the tables on his master ; firstly, for thinking so lightly of his personal courage ; and, secondly, for leaving him in a moment, of what he evidently thought considerable peril. I remarked he kept unusually close to " heel " for the remainder of the day, though he constantly assured me he feared nothing.

We walked for three or four hours after gaining the first brow, over ranges of hills varying in height, and making for the highest peak, found that the same mountain formation continued as far as we could see. With the exception of some small birds like grey plover we met nothing, and sport being so very indifferent, I did a little prospecting for gold in the streams which flowed over masses of quartz rock, explaining to Martin at the same time that the precious metal was found in considerable quantities at Punta Arenas, where the river washed ground of similar formation, and that where he saw quartz he might possibly see gold also.

Shortly after, on looking back, I found him paddling about in a large splash of rain-water, which had accumulated in a slight hollow on the mountain side. " Hullo!" I shouted, "what are you doing there ? It's getting too late for dawdling." " I be a-looking for gold," was the answer. " Why, you


muff," I replied ; " you are seeking in a splash of rainwater, that did not exist yesterday and may be dry to-morrow." " Well," he sung out, with a grunt of discontent ; " you said as how I might find it when I seed quarts, and I be certain shure there be gallons here ; but I never does nothink right ; " and he shambled on, much disgusted with my evident want of appreciation for his talents as a prospector.

Leaving Puerto Bueno, we passed through the Guia Narrows, named after Sarmiento's boat. They lay between Hanover and Chatham islands ; and are about six miles long, and from one to one and a half broad, except at the north end, where it is only two cables across. High precipices, of from two to nearly three thousand feet, were on either side ; but the incessant rain prevented our seeing as well as we should have wished, though what we could make out was extremely grand. Off Innocents' Island we saw several large whales, and shortly afterwards anchored in Walker's Bay for the night. The weather was too wet and stormy to progress very far in such an infamous sailer and steamer as the Rocket, which, even in the smoothest water, was quite unable to steam against the slightest puff of wind ; so our next halt was only four miles off, being at Molyneux Sound, which we left the morning after.

The scenery was fine on the Wellington Island side of the Channel; but on entering Chasm Reach, it became simply exquisite. The channel was the narrowest we had yet passed through, and, most fortunately, the sea was smooth and the day bright and clear.


The sides were precipitous masses of almost bare granite, trees only growing at the bottom, and along the clefts which occasionally cut into the surface. Cascades on each coast, like streaks of silver, came dashing with sullen roar into the sea. The spire-pointed summits of the distant mountains were draped in white. Occasional glaciers, sparkling in the sun, peeped from their snow-enshrouded beds. Quantities of otters and seals sported about in the dark, tranquil, o'ershadowed water, and a couple of small icebergs were seen floating slowly past the ship. To add extra picturesque effect to this romantic-looking spot, we went to " general quarters ; " and the bright flashes from the guns, the reverberation after each shot or shell, as echo upon echo came ringing through the mountains, added considerably to the charm of all around.

Our destination for the night was Port Grappler, but, owing to extreme darkness by the time we got opposite it, we missed the entrance, and had to remain under steam until next morning, when we anchored in Eden Harbour — an anchorage formed by a group of thickly wooded islands on the western shore of Indian Reach, about five miles south of the English Narrows. The harbour was full of seals, who played and tumbled about in all directions, occasionally jumping several feet clean out of the water as they chased each other in the exciting game of " follow my leader," at which they evidently were proficients. We tried hard to find some game or wild fowl, but one wretched snipe was the sole reward of our industry. The seining party were


fairly successful. They caught several fish beside the inevitable " bass," and among them a curious little pig-headed creature (Agriopus Peruvianus), which I kept alive in a basin of water for some hours before returning him to his native element.

After passing through the charming little archipelago of islands that form Eden Harbour, we came to the English Narrows, with its lofty, thickly wooded sides, and entered Messier Channel, a fine piece of water, extending for a distance of seventy-five miles, from the north end of the English Narrows to Tarn Bay in the Gulf of Peñas ; free from all impediments, and containing safe and convenient anchorages throughout its length — an important consideration in these latitudes, where for ten minutes it is impossible ever to reckon on a continuance of fine weather.

On the 6th of February we anchored in Grey Harbour, two miles east of Halt Bay, at the head of Liberta Bay, and found it a well-protected anchorage surrounded by high, thickly wooded hills. At the head of the harbour, a channel affords easy boat passage at all times of the tide to a large freshwater lough, about two miles in length, into the top of which flows a river of considerable size.

The lake was extremely beautiful ; but though we rowed nearly all round it and hunted in various directions, saw no wild fowl except a steamer-goose, who, compassionating with us on our want of sport, kindly afforded us an hour's very fair shooting. The old story of the Jack-snipe, who lasted a man two years, and was eventually killed by a friend, to whom in a weak moment he offered a day's shooting,


and Punch's " Frenchman," " whose woodcock remained to him for the season," rose vividly in my mind, as shot after shot was fired by H. and myself at this invincible old bird, who received our fusillade with the most extreme indifference. After each discharge he simply dived, swam a hundred yards or so under water before rising to the surface, and then, with the most insouciant sang-froid, flapped his wings in seeming derision of our efforts, before quietly settling down as if nothing unusual had happened. We fired at least twenty shots at this invulnerable abomination whose only value was to the boat's crew — men of " Jack Tar's" true definition for the word epicure: " kind of beggars as will eat anything," — before a successful cartridge from the captain laid the tough old warrior low. A more unprepossessing goose I never saw. Its head was ugly and enormous, and the thick matting of down and feathers which protected its body accounted to some extent for its immunity from small shot.

Tempted by the similarity of the river to a fine salmon stream in Europe, we brought our rods next day, and diligently strove with small fish, which had been taken the previous evening in the seine, artificial minnow, and spoon-bait, to allure some of the finny monsters who, by all the rules of similitude, should have inhabited its waters.

The lake seemed formed for pike, or its opposite number south of the Equator, whatever they might happen to be, should our own fresh-water shark not exist in propria persona; and the clear sparkling river dashing over its rock-strewn bed, with whirl


and foam, or gliding — dark, swift and deep — by the black, tree o'ershadowed, precipitous sides of the stream, appeared absolutely created for some Patagonian fish, answering in habits to the salmon. We trolled round the most likely parts of the lake, over spots that a fisherman would have expected every instant to have got a run, but without success ; and H. at length, disgusted with our bad luck, landed to make a cazuela, and left me to try the river alone.

The forest grew so thick, and the under-cover was so dense, we were unable to go beyond the water commanded from the boat. The scenery was exquisite, and the day, for a wonder, almost tropical. The river, as far as we could see, ran in a torrent over crag and boulder, forming a succession of cascades and pools, until it became lost by a sudden bend in a forest of cedar-trees. The wooded hills ran up on either side to a great height, and in the distance a waterfall of nearly a thousand feet fell into the river from the higher mountains, whose summits were covered with perpetual snow.

After a few casts in the rapids I got a run, and before our luncheon was ready succeeded in landing a dozen and a half fish about herring size. They were shaped somewhat like a trout, but longer in proportion to their size, had no scales, and were a greenish colour, like the hue on a mackerel's back ; not bad-looking fish, and turned out eventually to be pretty good eating also. They were all killed with a small fish caught by a seining party the previous evening, which I mounted on a flight of hooks with


a spinner; but I was a good deal disappointed at not getting something heavier, as more likely-looking water I never threw a line across.

It was, however, a pleasant outing. The thin cloud of blue smoke from our wood fire, the perfume of flowers, the warbling of birds, the splashing of rapid water as it dashed over the rocks (sweet music to a fisherman), the knowledge that a chef was preparing food, that the drinks were cooling, and the magnificent scenery all around, unsurpassed I truly believe, in the world, all combined to make a " marked day," even in the eventful career of such wanderers as ourselves.

The weather, which for a couple of days had been quite delightful, next morning changed to wind and rain, and on our starting, compelled us to put into Halt Bay, only three miles from Grey Harbour ; a short distance that took our " old tub " three hours' hard steaming to accomplish. The water here is deep, but space confined ; and before anchoring in twenty-four fathoms, we were dodging about alternately from side to side of the little bay, and could have easily jumped on shore dry-shod. The coasts are lofty, precipitous, and wooded ; and were marked by a line of trees, torn in a lane from about half-way up to the sea by some avalanche which had carried them away bodily, roots and all.

Our next anchorage was at Island Harbour, on the eastern shore, twenty miles from the Gulf of Peñas — a small but land-locked anchorage, well placed for vessels entering or leaving these channels, and possessing good holding-ground, with plenty of


wood and water. Its position is marked by an island a short mile to the southward, and near the entrance are two small islets, called Brown and Phipps islands. A bank or bar of rocky ground stretches across from Phipps Island to the main on each side. Tempted by the appearance of a small river at the head of the harbour, I took my rod, and following the course of the stream, arrived at a picturesque little lake overhung with trees, but having on one side a gently shelving bank of pebbles and sand, which enabled me to wade well out of reach of the trees, and fish in comparatively deep water. A more propitious day for fishing one could hardly have wished for. It was cloudy, yet without any sign of rain, and sufficient wind to raise a gentle curl over the water ; just, in fact, what a man would order were there any choice in the matter. The water looked most alluring. Sand and gravel on one side, and deep water with peat-like banks on the other ; rushes and lilies to afford shelter, and a strong current of running water passing through the centre, carried food from the mountains to the fish who ought to have inhabited so fair a territory.

I worked for some hours with many kinds of fly, and tried both natural and artificial minnow without success. The streams also I searched diligently, and at last was reluctantly compelled to admit that the promising appearance of both lake and river was merely a pitfall, a snare, and a delusion, and that the angler has no place for his calling in the lovely but deceitful waters of Patagonia.

The country was very lovely, but the ground


lying in ridges about a hundred feet high, the valleys between them, being thickly timbered with the usual amount of undercover and fallen trees covered with moss, and which had to be got through somehow, we found it hard work getting along ; and after beating several likely-looking covers without seeing anything except a few green parrots, we gave up all hopes of sport, by either land or water, and returned to our floating home.

Next morning we again attempted to get into the Gulf of Peñas. It had been our object to effect this without any stoppages ever since leaving Halt Bay ; but again squalls of wind and blinding rain, shortly after starting, compelled a premature anchoring on the lee-side of Sombrero Island — a small thickly wooded spot, with one very high precipitous hill in the centre, which gives an outline, when seen from a distance, sufficiently resembling a man's hat to warrant the island receiving its name.

The gale continuing, we remained here a couple of days, amusing ourselves by catching some bright red perch-like fish, which were excellent eating, shooting a few small birds, and sending parties to cut wood ; and on the 13th of February we again made an effort to cross the gulf.

Fate, however, as well as the wind, was dead against us, and no sooner had we cleared the island, than a succession of " williwaws " drove us back to our old quarters under Sombrero. As we were coming to an anchor, the wind suddenly shifted completely round ; and the ship, as was constantly the case, not answering her helm, we tailed, before


the anchor which we let go could prevent it, quietly on to the rocks. A kedge was immediately got out ; another hawser was fastened to a convenient tree on shore ; the ship was lightened where she struck, and in about five hours, with the help of a rising tide, we managed to haul her off. Had there been a swell on we should have found it rather inconvenient ; as most likely, in that case, we should have broken up and gone to pieces in about a quarter of an hour, and had to camp on Sombrero for perhaps months before anyone even heard of us. As it was, we only touched once very lightly, and succeeded in hauling off with but comparatively little trouble, and no apparent damage. Next day we again tried to cross this troublesome gulf, which was rapidly becoming to us what the Cape of Good Hope was to the " Flying Dutchman ;" and again, after burning any quantity of coal and wood, we were driven into harbour at Port Ballenas, not more than ten miles from Sombrero Island, and not over two on our straight road. I never remember a continuance of more unpleasant weather — very cold and squally, with rain and hail ; and this, too, in the height of summer, with flowers and fruit in profusion, and humming-birds fluttering over the open blossoms in every sheltered vale. I wonder what the winter can be like — cold, I expect, very.

On the 15th we left Port Ballenas, a swell, but no wind, being all we had against us ; and at last got fairly into the Gulf of Peñas, after five separate attempts, and being six days doing fifty miles.

Of all the utterly useless, makeshift, waste-of-money


ships, we have in the British Navy, these double-screw composite gun-vessels of the Rocket and Boxer [Author directs the reader to see Appendix A, "The Boxer", Ed.] class are the most so. They are badly built, can neither sail nor steam, and are at times utterly unmanageable, answering neither screw nor helm when wanted to go round, and are even unfitted for carrying the 7-inch 6½-ton gun they are armed with, the concussion, when fired with a battering charge, shaking them far more than they can properly bear. The few shots fired by way of practice once a quarter are all they can stand ; but if required for a bombardment, half a day's incessant firing would completely knock them out of time.

As a matter of course, they were built for purposes of economy, i.e., by way of utilizing the engines of a very small class of gun-boat no longer required after the Crimean War, by putting two of them together to do the work of one.

Had the brilliant originator studied the fifth chapter of St. Luke, and remembered the 36th and 37th verses, ["And he spake also a parable unto them ; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old ; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. / And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.", Ed.] he never would have built new ships for his old engines. As it is, his neglected religious education has caused the country considerable expense, and given our Navy the disgrace of possessing a class of vessel like the Rocket, which took five weeks going through the Straits as far as Port Ballenas, and the Boxer, who was ninety-six days going from Esquimault to Callao. That the constructor should be able to say " he never heard any complaints about them," is more than probable, and very easily accounted for. Notwithstanding their utter uselessness,


ness, they are the best commands a lieutenant can have ; and as it is far more pleasant to be captain of one's own ship, no matter what her defects may be, than subordinate in another, no growl is ever likely to reach their Lordships ; and if the accommodation is pretty good, and the rate of speed only four knots, except in very exceptional cases, what does it matter ? A commission can only last a certain time, and going four knots, or fourteen, will not shorten its duration, nor render the expected day of promotion or orders for England one moment the sooner.

Before bidding farewell to these regions, I must not omit to notice one of the most striking features of the Straits, and that is, the immense quantity of kelp, or sea-weed, which over the entire sea-board envelopes the coast. Through all the numerous bays and channels of Tierra del Fuego and Southern Patagonia are to be found enormous fields of Macrocystis pyrifera ; many of the plants attaining a length of between three and four hundred feet. On shaking a bunch, which, as it is perpetually fouling boats, anchors, and fishing-lines, I had to do more than once, innumerable Crustacea are discovered adhering to its leaves. Cuttle-fish, crabs, small fish, shells, sea-eggs, star-fish, holothuriae, planariae, and nereidous animals of a thousand forms, all tumble about together. The leaves below the surface of the water are so thickly encrusted with corallines, their natural dark olive is rendered entirely white with the delicate lace-like tracery.

Amid these vast aquatic forests are found quantities of fish who prey on the crustacea, and who are


in their turn preyed upon by cormorants, kelp-geese, seals, and porpoises, so that each gigantic bed teams with life and animation.

Their advantage to the mariner can hardly be overrated. The sea inside these huge masses of Macrocystis pyrifera, in the roughest weather, is smooth as a mill-pond, no storm being capable of affecting their tough but yielding beds ; so that a "kelp harbour" becomes a term synonymous with a safe one. As buoys they are even more useful, and no ship keeping the most ordinary look-out need fear sunken rocks, even in chartless and unsurveyed localities, every place of danger being distinctly marked by patches of kelp.

Off Cape Tres Montes, a bold and remarkable headland rising from the sea to a height of 2000 feet, at the southern extremity of the peninsula of the same name, which we wished to get round, the wind shifted, and for a short time we thought it possible that once more we should be driven back ; but our ill-luck at length deserted us, and rounding the Cape we at last started fairly for Valparaiso, everybody in the ship except myself being heartily glad to get clear of the Straits, hard work and bad weather having completely extinguished all traces of their love (if it ever existed) of the picturesque. Off the Chonos Archipelago, we met with quantities of albatross, and one day, being nearly becalmed, caught eighteen in less than two hours.

The process of capture is simple. A stout line and hook, baited with pork and floated with pieces of wood, is dropped astern. Should the ship be


moving, it is necessary to retain in hand a sufficient quantity of line to enable the fisher to play out enough to prevent the bait being dragged before the bird, after lighting in the water, has time to seize it. On the albatross taking the bait, the hook sticks in his strong horny beak, and after a good deal of hauling he is landed on deck.

The largest I caught measured ten feet six inches across the wings, and was as large and heavy in the body as a big swan. The long pinion bones make admirable pipe stems, the feet tobacco-pouches, the heads paper-weights, and the bodies were invariably skinned and eaten by the least particular of the ship's company, to whom nothing in the shape of fresh food ever seemed to come amiss.

The slaughter of these birds seemed to act on our fortunes in a manner very different from the fate which pursued the " Ancient Mariner," who " with his cross-bow did kill the albatross," as after their destruction we were blessed with strong favourable gales, which sending us one hundred and sixty-two, and one hundred and fifty miles in two successive days, culminated in a run of one hundred and ninety-two on the third, and landed us on the 25th of February, 1875, at Valparaiso.

Source: "The Two Americas: An Account of Sport and Travel" (Chapters 3-5), Major Sir Rose Lambart Price, London 1877
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