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New England whalers and sealers at the Malvinas / Falkland Islands (Summer 1834)
Fishery operations, glimpsed through the journal of Rev. Titus Coan

Sunday, February 2nd, 1834 through Saturday, February 8th, 1834

Sabbath Feb. 2d. All has been bustle and labour on board today in overhauling the cargo, and fitting for sea, and we have had no preaching. It is painful to see such a disregard for the Sabbath among those who have been taught better things, but we hope ere long to see a change in this respect.

Johnson who has for some days been in shackles has become tired of his confinement and petitioned the Captain for a discharge from the Schooner and to be left on the Islands. The Captain has granted his request and will land him with a musket, ammunition, boat, provisions etc. before he sails.

Feb 3d. Early this morning six men appeared on shore with eleven horses and four fat bullocks. These beeves they sell at $5 per head and receive pay in powder and ball, rum, tobacco, bread etc. The cattle and horses on these Islands are very wild and often dangerous. Seamen usually take them with dogs and muskets; but besides these helps, the mestizos use the "Lasso" or noose, and "bolas".

Wild hogs, foxes and hares abound here, and fowls are actually innumerable. Of these there is a great variety, such as the Albatross, Mollymauk, five or six kinds of Penguins, several varieties of ducks, two kinds of geese, Port Egmont Hens, Shags, Gulls, Pigeons and a great diversity of small birds. These birds are constantly wheeling in the air, gliding on the water, spangling the shores, or perching in countless throngs upon the beetling clifts [sic], which rise like the ruined walls of some ancient castle. In the Spring of the year, eggs may be obtained at these Islands in any quantities. I am told that from 30 to 40 puncheons have been gathered from a single Rookery in a few days.

The land here is rather cold and the soil for the most part barren, though in many places fruits and vegetables might be cultivated with success under the hand of diligent husbandmen. There is no wood, but peat is abundant. Many of the Islands are covered with tussocks, or a large rush-like grass which grows on bogs and is sometimes six feet high, and so thick as to form a complete screen for wild animals and fowls. The roots of the tussock are very palatable, possessing a flavour much like that of a boiled chestnut.

Tuesday 4th. Two men appeared on the beach this morning and on the Captain's sending a boat, they were found to be an Englishman and an Indian from Port Louis. In the afternoon they came down again and the Englishman came on board with a line from Governor Smith to Captain Nash. He gave us more particular information respecting the horrid murders which had been committed at Port Louis, and stated that the Indian who accompanied him as guide was one of the murderers who had returned and given himself up after the arrival of Governor Smith, which was 4 weeks ago, and that on becoming King's Evidence he had received pardon. This Indian brought back two horses which are all now at the port, the murderers having taken the whole which belonged to the settlement, fifty in number, when they evacuated the place.

Feb. 5th. Governor Smith came over from Port Louis today accompanied by Captain Rea, an Indian and an escort of six British Marines. Captain Rea is in the service of the English Admiralty, and in attempting to reach the newly discovered "Grahams land" lost his vessel and is now waiting here for an opportunity to leave the Islands. The Governor and Captain Rea came on board and entered into conversation about the murderers, and having heard that Captain Nash had aided these desperadoes the language of the Governor soon became warm and threatening, even declaring that if he had an armed vessel he should proceed immediately to seize the "Antarctic". Captain Nash told him that he did not fear him nor all the force he could bring, and that he had done nothing for which he felt guilty. Mr. Smith said that Captain Nash had involved himself and his country in serious difficulty with the Government of Great Britain by aiding and abetting her enemies. He had been informed that the murderers had all been on board the "Antarctic", and he highly censured Captain Nash for not seizing and retaining them.

The fact was that matters had been misrepresented to the Governor, only one of them having been on board the "Antarctic", and this was at the time when two of her men were on shore with the rest of the Gougers [sic - Gauchos, Ed.] who would doubtless have murdered them had their leader been retained. Besides the fact that the Gougers never put themselves in the power of Captain Nash: he had then no legal warrant for taking them, nor did he know of any proper authority to whom they could be delivered, not having even heard that a government was [re?]established at Port Louis.

Captain Nash told the Governor that he had a good vessel, armed with six nine-pounders, and a full complement of muskets, pistols, cutlasses and boarding pikes; that he was well able to defend himself, but notwithstanding this he would take the "Antarctic" to Port Louis and deliver her up if the Governor desired it.

The Governor now began to retract and said no, he did not wish it, and after a fuller explanation of the subject on the part of Captain Nash he became very pacific, invited the Captain to Port Louis, offered him any assistance in his power etc. but requested him to have no more to do with the Gougers. Captain Nash told him that he had engaged four more beeves of them, but that he would not take them, but would leave the bay early tomorrow morning. Governor Smith replied that he might take the beef, but not pay the Gougers for it. He also insisted that the Captain should remain here as long as he chose, and as he and Mr. Rea wished to forward letters and documents by him he assented to remain a day or two.

When about to return to the settlement the Governor insisted that Brother Arms and myself should accompany him and spend the night at his house, offering to send some of his marines to conduct us back tomorrow. We accepted the invitation and at 4 P.M. set off for the port where we arrived at a quarter past eight - distance 10 or 12 miles. There were but two horses in the party, one of which the Gouger rode, and the other was used by Captain Rea, Brother Arms and myself in rotation; the Governor and the Marines walking all the way. Before we arrived at the settlement the men had taken at least a dozen rabbits, an animal which abounds on some of these Islands.

The Governor has two milch cows which were taken wild and kept by means of tethers, and we were regaled by milk and fresh butter, articles which we had not seen since we left New York.

Port Louis consists of 10 or 12 low houses, some built of stone and others of turfs with thatched roofs. At the time of the massacre these were mostly pulled down and plundered and the place now exhibits a sense of wild ruin, two or three only of the buildings having been repaired for the reception of the Governor and the few men with him, amounting only to 23 in all. The Government house contains one comfortable room, furnished with a stove, a table, a cupboard, an old sofa and chest of drawers and a few chairs. In this room Brisbane was butchered in open day, by receiving a musket ball through his body, a blow over his head with a cutlass, and three stabs with a knife. His body was then dragged a considerable distance by a horse and plundered. Brother Arms and myself were furnished with a Crick bed and a Sofa to sleep on, while the Governor, Captain Rea and a Mr. Foxton slept on the floor, all of us occupying the same room.

A regular watch is kept here night and day, and a reinforcement of horses and men is constantly expected, when a vigorous effort will probably be made to catch the murderers. The Governor stated that he had pursued these men for two days at a time, but that it was impossible to take them without horses.

Feb. 6th. At a little before 11 A.M. we bade farewell to the horrid desolations of Port Louis and to our hospitable friends there, and set out for Salvador Bay. We declined an escort of Marines, and were accompanied only by the Indian Gouger for a guide, and a sailor to take back our horse. In order to quicken our speed and prevent the fatigue of walking we doubled the horses, but it required about as much effort of muscle to propel the one my companion and I rode as to force a boat against wind and tide. We arrived however safe on board the "Antarctic" between one and two P.M.

When we came on board we learned that the Gougers had been down to the beach with four bullocks (dressed) the evening before, that Captain Nash had informed them of the prohibition to his taking them, or at least paying for them. The Gougers replied that they should not carry the beef back, and that if he did not choose to pay for it, he should be welcome to it. They then left it on the shore where it lay all night, and this morning it was brought on board the vessel.

[February 7th -- no entry]

Feb. 8th. Our anchor was weighed and our sails spread this morning for the purpose of going to Eagle Island, but as there was no wind the tide drifted the "Antarctic" towards the shore and she soon grounded. A kedge anchor was carried out from her bows and she was hauled off into deeper water. A breeze now sprung up and we beat out of the Bay.

Learning that a French Man of War, and an English Schooner had just arrived at Port Louis, the Captain determined to pass that way, and send a boat from the mouth of Berkeley Sound (16 miles) up to Port Louis to ascertain what Ship it was, and to get some little stores. Before noon the wind again died away, and at one P.M. the boat was sent to Port Louis though we were then more than 20 miles from the town. Brother Arms went in the boat. The calm continued all the afternoon so that we made no progress.