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Historical Materials from Southern Patagonia
Narrative of Four Voyages (extract), 1823
a North American adventurer meets the canoe people of the Strait of Magellan
Journal -- May 1823:    10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18 

May 11th. — This morning our boats were lowered, and prepared for a week's cruise. A brass swivel with plenty of ammunition was placed in each of them, together with a due number of muskets, pistols, and lances. I selected ten men for our contemplated excursion, who were armed with cutlasses. When every thing was ready, my first officer having received his instructions respecting his deportment to the natives during our absence, we left the vessel and pulled for the village. The chief, Cheleule, was awaiting our arrival on the beach with four of his people: I immediately requested him to leave orders with his tribe for no one to go off to the vessel until we returned. With this request he readily complied, and his orders were strictly obeyed, for not a single canoe approached the Wasp during our absence.

Having received these honest savages on board our boats, we put on the sails, and at 5, A. M., steered for the head of the sound, in a west-north-west direction, with the wind from south-west, and clear weather. Although we passed along the shore very rapidly, I was enabled to perceive that the soil was rich, and the country very fine. The farther we advanced up the lagoon the heavier we found the timber, and the thicker the grass. In fact, the more I saw of this part of the continent the better I liked it, and the firmer became my conviction that there are few finer countries in the world.

At 12 o'clock we partook of a cold dinner with excellent appetites; and as we had now a leading wind, and were going at the rate of about seven miles an hour, I concluded not to stop until night, as there were no indications of the head of the bay being near at hand. In the evening my savage friend Cheleule informed me that a very large tribe of natives was located about ten miles farther; and therefore he thought it would be best to land at a spot he pointed out, and encamp for the night. I immediately adopted the suggestion, and steered for the point proposed.

At 9, P. M., we landed in a beautiful valley, covered with verdure, and interspersed with groves, meadows, and other rural scenery of the most picturesque description. I judged that we were now about eighty miles from the vessel; the southern extremity of the Cordilleras was far to the eastward of us, and other indications bore testimony that we were fanned by airs from the Pacific Ocean.

It being low water when we landed, we found an abundance of mussels and clams, and caught about two hundred fine mullet at the mouth of a small fresh-water river a few rods from the boats. Our four natives soon had a fire kindled, while the sailors were employed in felling some red-wood trees, they being the best fuel-timber that grows. The heat it produced was so intense that we could scarcely approach the fire near enough to cook our suppers, which was done by boiling about two barrels of clams and mussels, and frying a quantity of the mullet.

About 11, P. M., we all turned in, or, more correctly, lay down by the fire, keeping one man on the look-out through the night. At daylight I was awakened by Cheleule, who gave me to understand that it was time to be moving. Every man was soon on his feet, when we found a warm breakfast ready prepared for us by the sailor who had the morning watch. As soon as this agreeable duty had been properly performed, we re-embarked in our boats, and again proceeded on our northwesterly course.

Source: "Narrative of Four Voyages", Capt. Benjamin Morrell Jr., New York, 1832
Transcribed: April 2007