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Biblioteca Patagónica

Tierra del Fuego: Historias de Marineros y Salvajes (1851—1900)
Contactos entre barcos y grupos nativos, según reportajes en la prensa de habla inglesa [en inglés]

SPRAY  [1896]

(Note: Text dealing with natives is displayed with a contrasting background colour.)


Captain Joshua Slocum, in his solitary voyage around the world in the sloop Spray, found a new and exciting use for carpet tacks. In the October number of the "Century Magazine" he thus describes an encounter with the natives of Tierra del Fuego:—

Canoes manned by savages from Fortesque now came in pursuit. The wind falling light, they gained on me rapidly, till coming within hail, when they ceased paddling, and a bow legged savage stood up and called to me, "Yammerschooner! Yammerschooner!" which is their begging term. I said "No!" Now, I was not for letting them know that I was alone, and so I stepped into the cabin, and, passing through the hold, came out at the fore scuttle, changing my clothes as I went along. That made two men. Then the piece of bowsprit which I had sawed off at Buenos Ayres,and which I had still on board. I arranged forward on the look-out, dressed as a seaman, attaching a line by which I could pull it into motion. That made three of us, and we did not want to "yammerschooner;" but for all that the savages came on faster than before. I saw that, besides four at the paddles in the canoe nearest to me, there were others in the bottom, and that they were shifting hands often. At eighty yards I fired a shot across the bow of the nearest canoe, at which they all stopped, but only for a moment. Seeing that they persisted in coming nearer, I fired the second shot so close to the chap who wanted to "yammerschooner," that he changed his mind quickly, enough, and bellowed with fear, "Bueno jo via Isla," and sitting down in his canoe, he rubbed his starboard cathead for some time. I was thinking of a good port captain's advice when I pulled the trigger, and I must have aimed pretty straight; however, a miss was as good as a mile for Mr "Black Pedro," as he it was and no other — a leader in several massacres. He now directed the course of his canoe for the island, and the others followed him. I knew him by his Spanish lingo and by his full beard, that he was the villain I have named, a renegade mongrel, and the worst murderer in Tierra del Fuego. The authorities, have been in search of him for two years. The Fuegans are not bearded. At night, March 8, at anchor in a snug cove at the Turn, every heart beat counted thanks. Here I pondered on the events of the last two days, and strangely enough, instead of feeling rested from sitting or lying down, I now began to feel jaded and worn; but a hot meal of venison stew soon put me right, so that I could sleep. As drowsiness came on, I first sprinkled the deck with the tacks that my old friend Samblich had given me, and then I turned in. I saw to it that not a few of them stood "business end" up; for when the Spray passed Thieves' Bay two canoes put out and followed in her wake, and there was no disguising the fact any longer that I was alone.

Now, it is well known that one cannot step on a tack without saying something about it. A pretty good Christian will whistle when he steps on the "commercial end" of a carpet tack; a savage will howl and claw the air; and that was just what happened that night about 12 o'clock while I was asleep in the cabin, where the savages thought they "had me," sloop and all. They changed their minds, however, when they stepped on deck; for then, they thought that I or somebody else had them. I had no need of a dog. They howled like a pack of hounds. I had hardly use for a gun. They jumped pell mell, some into their canoes and some into, the sea, to cool off, I suppose, & there was a deal of free language over it as they went. I fired the rascals a salute of several guns when I came on deck, and then I turned in again, feeling sure that I should not be disturbed any more by people who left in so great a hurry.