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Patagonia Bookshelf

Ostrich Tales — an Anthology
Observations of Darwin's rhea in southern Patagonia

"The World Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake", Francis Fletcher,
pub. Hakluyt Society, London 1854
Francis Fletcher was chaplain to Francis Drake in his voyage of circumnavigation, 1577-1580. Queen Elizabeth decreed that information concerning this journey be kept secret: Fletcher's account was finally published in 1628. The findings described here occurred on May 14th, 1578 at 47° South, in the vicinity of present-day Puerto Deseado. The expedition members deduced that the birds were stalked using a portable hide made out of ostrich feathers, and captured by chasing them with dogs into a trap which was then closed by nets.

[emphasis added; original spelling]

In this place (the people being remoued vp into the country, belike for feare of our comming) we found neere vnto the rocks, in houses made for that purpose, as also in diuers other places, great store of Ostriches, at least to the number of 50, with much other foule, some dried and some in drying for their prouision, as it seemed, to carry with them to the place of their dwellings. The Ostriches thighs were in bignes equal to reasonable legs of mutton. They cannot flie at all; but they runne so swiftly, and take so long strides, that it is not possible for a man in running by any means to take them, neither yet to come so nigh them as to haue any shot at them either with bow or peece; whereof our men had often proofe on other parts of that coast, for all the countrey is full of them. We found there the tools or instruments which the people vse in taking them.

Among other meanes they vse in betraying these ostriches, they haue a great and large plume of feathers, orderly compact together vpon the end of a staffe, in the forepart bearing the likenesse of the head, necke, and bulke of an Ostrich, and in the hinder part spreading itselfe out very large, sufficient (being holden before him) to hide the most part of the body of a man. With this it seemeth they staulke, driving them into some straite or necke of land close to the sea-side, when spreading long and strong nets, with their dogs which they haue in readinesse at all times, they ouerthrow them, and make a common quarry.

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