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Historical Materials from Southern Patagonia
Midshipman Alexander Campbell, HMS Wager, 1740-46
Shipwreck and rescue on the Pacific coast of Patagonia
  Preamble   |   Book :    1     2     3     4  
Byron's plagiarism
A succinct narrative of Commodore Anson's voyage to the South Seas, from his setting out in the year 1740, to the loss of the ship Wager.

When our unhappy ship was lost, there was not one journal saved out of her; therefore I shall not pretend to give a more circumstantial account of the voyage, than merely what occurs to my memory. But what I relate I perfectly remember, and will stake my reputation on the truth of every circumstance.

Sept. 18th, the fleet consisting of eight sail, store-ships included, sailed from St. Helen's [Isle of Wight, opposite Portsmouth, Ed.]. October 28th. anchored in the bay of Madeira. I was then on board the Tryal, Capt. Murray. Here we wooded and watered, and took in wines for the use of the fleet. In Nov. the Hon. Capt. Murray's command was transferred to the Wager, and I was removed with him. Here Commodore Anson received information of a squadron of ten sail of Spanish men-of-war, under Admiral Pizarro cruising to the westward. On the 28th crossed the Equinoctal [equator, Ed.]; and, December 19th anchored at the isle of Santa Catarina [on the coast of Brazil, Ed.], in Lat. 28. S. January 18th sailed for the river of San Julian, on the coast of Patagonia. The 22nd, lost sight of the Pearl, Capt. Kidd. February 17th, the Pearl rejoined us. During her absence she had been chased by five men-of-war, of Pizarro's fleet; but throwing her boat, fresh water, and a great quantity of stores overboard, she was thereby greatly lightened, and outran the enemy. Meantime Capt. Kidd died, and Capt. Murray succeeding him in the Pearl, Capt. Cheap was appointed Commander of the Wager.

On the 28th, sailed from San Julian /*/, and March 7th, passed the straits of Le Maire. April 19th, lost sight of the Commodore. This was a great misfortune to us, we being at that time in a very bad condition, having lost our mizzen-mast some days before. Here I must observe, in behalf of our lieutenant, Mr. Beans, who had the watch that night, and has had some reflections cast on him, for losing sight of the Commodore, that I had the watch with him that night, and was most of the time on the foretop-sail-yard, in order to take in the foretop-sail; and I could not see the Commodore. But the lieutenant did often call to know if I could see Mr. Anson's lights. The 23rd, I narrowly escaped drowning. Going up the fore-shrouds, I was knocked down by a man falling from the futtock-shrouds; but I lighting between the sheet anchor-stock and the shrouds, was preserved, though the other man was drowned.

* For, what particularly regards the fleet from this time to our separation from the Commodore, I refer the reader to the accounts published by the gentlemen of the other ships, whose journals were not lost.

We now understood that the fleet was to rendezvous at the Island of N. S. del Socorro, in Lat. 45 S. May 14th, the straps of the fore-jeer blocks unfortunately broke, and the fore-yard came down about our ears: the same day also we saw land. Hereupon the Captain ordered me to get up the fore-yard as soon as possible; but most of the people being sick, this could not be done very speedily, and now a constant series of misfortunes began to fall on us. First, our Captain had the mishap to fall down the after-ladder, as he was coming forward to see us get the fore-yard up, and dislocated his shoulder. This accident was the more unfortunate, as it happened at a juncture, when his care and skill, and authority were most wanted. Probably, had he not been thus disabled from discharging the duties of his post, the ship had not been lost; for not a man in her ever doubted his abilities, both as a commander and a sailor. Besides, his authority, had he been capable of stirring about and exerting himself, would have kept every one to the duty of his station, which might have gone a great way towards preserving the ship.

May 14th, between four and five o'clock in the morning, the vessel struck. I was then in my berth shifting myself; and on feeling the shock, I ran up and asked the master what was the matter. He answered, Nothing, it was only a great sea under the counter. He had no sooner spoken these words, than she struck again, with a more dreadful shock than before. All in the ship were now alarmed, and running forward to get hands to wear the ship, I saw breakers to the leeward; whereupon I ran aft again, and told what I had seen, upon which we hauled the wind again. The Captain ordered to let go the anchor, but the bite of the cable being over the cat-head, we could not clear the anchor till it was too late; for in the meantime the ship struck so hard that she broke the tiller, and an anchor of 48 hundred, belonging to the Centurion, and which lay in the main hatchway, went through her bottom. Hereupon, we were obliged to haul up our mainsail, and bear away for the land, steering the vessel by the braces and sheets. But we were unable to make the shore, and the ship had immediately been lost outright, had not Providence conducted us between two rocks, where the ship stuck fast, unable either to proceed or sink. I now went to the Captain, who was in a miserable condition, on account of his dislocated shoulder; and asked him if he would go ashore, for I was afraid she would part very soon. His answer was, Go and save all the sick, and don't mind me. He also gave orders for hoisting the boats out as soon as possible; and thereupon we all were immediately employed in getting things necessary for our preservation. The yawl went on shore first, and carried as many people as could get into her. Then the barge and cutter went with as many as would yet go ashore.

I observed that this very day, the spirit of discord and dissension had entered the people. When I required some of them to return with me in the yawl, to fetch such things from the ship as were necessary for every man, (seeing there was nothing to be got on this desolate island, for such we then guessed, and soon found it to be), they plainly answered, that they would not go. However, some of the petty officers went with me, and we informed the Captain that if he pleased to go ashore, the yawl was ready to carry him. But he would not for a good while consent to go, saying, Carry everybody else first, and afterwards I will go. I then informed him that everyone that would go was already on shore, whereupon the Captain raised himself in his bed, but not being able to move along, we helped him into the boat, and carried him ashore. There was on the island two or three huts built by the Indians, who frequently land on it, and stay several days. One of these was fixed on for the Captain; and happy for him it was, that any habitation could be had: for in his condition he had certainly lost his life without such a shelter, as many of the people afterwards did.

As soon as the Captain got into this hut, he ordered me to take the yawl, and see if the men on board would come ashore. Accordingly I went, but found them all in such confusion as cannot be imagined by any who were not eye-witnesses of it. Some were singing psalms, others fighting, others swearing, and some lay drunk on the deck. Seeing them in this strange disorder, I spoke not a word to anybody, but observing some casks of ball and powder on the quarterdeck, I began to put them into the boat; whereupon two of the men came to me, crying out, Damn ye! You shall not have them, for the ship is lost and it is ours. A third came with a bayonet, swearing he would kill me; adding these words, Damn you! You have carried a straight arm all the voyage, and you shall suffer for it. And with that he threw the bayonet at me, but missed his mark, and I immediately got into the yawl, and returned to the shore.

About the middle of the ensuing night, when the tide and wind together made a great sea, and the ship was violently working, the people on board began to be afraid, expecting every moment that she would part. At last they pointed one of the guns (a four pounder, that lay on the quarterdeck) towards the Captain's hut, and had like to have hit it, which if they had, it must infallibly have been beat to pieces, and might have proved fatal to those within. The Captain not liking that they should send cannonballs on messages to him, ordered me and three others of the petty officers to fetch the people from on board. But it was now impossible for us to get on board, by reason of the mast that lay alongside, and a great sea; so we went back and informed the Captain of these impediments, I cannot help it, replied he, but should be very glad if they were all safe on shore. So these people were left some time longer on board, to continue their outrageous disorders. Some of them broke open the lazaretto, where the wine was stowed, scuttled the pipes, made themselves drunk, and several tumbled into the water that was in the ship, and were drowned, which was more owing to the liquor within than without. Others broke open the chests and cabins, and loaded themselves with plunder, which, however, they were soon forced to relinquish.

Next day the Captain again ordered the boat to go and try to bring the people from on board; but when the petty officers called for hands to row the boat off to the ship, the men refused, declaring plainly that they would not go, for the ship was lost, and everyone was at liberty to shift for himself. Hereupon I being always willing to obey my Captain, attempted to persuade the men, by dint of dry blows, to go into the boat. But though the strongest arguments of this nature, that I could use, were in some measure effectual, yet they served to exasperate the men against me to that degree, that I was in danger of my life. But this I never suspected, till the lieutenant, Mr. Beans, informed me, that the gunner's mate, and one of the boatswain's mates were plotting to murder me; upon which I took proper precautions for my own security. Meantime the Captain was taking all possible care to prevent mutiny, ordering the officers to disarm the seamen as they came ashore; and a bell tent was erected, in which the arms and ammunition were deposited. But this proved of very little service; for the men went on board in the night, and again furnished themselves with both, so that in a short time they were all in a capacity of bidding their officers defiance. Thus the ship being in effect entirely lost, we were involved in a state of anarchy and confusion, which lasted till part of the people went off in the longboat, and which added not a little to the hardships we endured on this island.

... Book 2