April the 17th 1681, about ten a Clock in the morning, being 12 leagues north-west from the island Plata, we left Captain Sharp and those who were willing to go with him in the ship and embarked into our launch and Canoas, designing for the river of Santa Maria, in the Gulf of St. Michael, which is about 200 leagues from the isle of Plata. We were in number 44 white men who bore arms, a Spanish Indian who bore arms also; and two Moskito Indians who always bear arms amongst the privateers and are much valued by them for striking fish, and turtle or tortoise, and manatee or sea-cow; and five slaves taken in the South Seas, who fell to our share.
The craft which carried us was a Launch, or Long-Boat, one Canoa, and another Canoa which had been sawn asunder in the middle in order to have made bumkins, or vessels for carrying water, if we had not separated from our ship. This we joined together again and made it tight; providing sails to help us along: and for 3 days before we parted we sifted so much flower as we could well carry, and rubbed up 20 or 30 pound of chocolate with sugar to sweeten it; these things and a kettle the slaves carried also on their backs after we landed. And, because there were some who designed to go with us that we knew were not well able to march, we gave out that if any man faltered in the journey overland he must expect to be shot to death; for we knew that the Spaniards would soon be after us, and one man falling into their hands might be the ruin of us all by giving an account of our strength and condition; yet this would not deter them from going with us. We had but little wind when we parted from the ship; but before 12 a Clock the sea-breeze came in strong, which was like to founder us before we got in with the shore; for our security therefore we cut up an old dry hide that we brought with us, and barricaded the launch all round with it to keep the water out. About 10 a Clock at night we got in about 7 leagues to windward of Cape Passao under the Line, and then it proved calm; and we lay and drove all night, being fatigued the preceding day. The 18th day we had little wind till the afternoon; and then we made sail, standing along the shore to the northward, having the wind at south-south-west and fair weather.
At 7 a Clock we came abreast of Cape Passao and found a small bark at an anchor in a small bay to leeward of the cape, which we took, our own boats being too small to transport us. We took her just under the Equinoctial Line, she was not only a help to us, but in taking her we were safe from being described: we did not design to have meddled with any when we parted with our consorts, nor to have seen any if we could have helped it. The bark came from Gallio laden with timber, and was bound for Guiaquil.
The 19th day in the morning we came to an anchor about 12 leagues to the southward of Cape St. Francisco to put our new bark into a better trim. In 3 or 4 hours time we finished our business, and came to sail again, and steered along the coast with the wind at south-south-west, intending to touch at Gorgonia.
Being to the northward of Cape St. Francisco we met with very wet weather; but the wind continuing we arrived at Gorgonia the 24th day in the morning, before it was light; we were afraid to approach it in the daytime for fear the Spaniards should lie there for us, it being the place where we careen'd lately, and there they might expect us.
When we came ashore we found the Spaniards had been there to seek after us, by a house they had built, which would entertain 100 men, and by a great cross before the doors. This was token enough that the Spaniards did expect us this day again; therefore we examined our prisoners if they knew anything of it, who confessed they had heard of a periago (or large Canoa) that rowed with 14 oars, which was kept in a river on the Main, and once in 2 or three days came over to Gorgonia purposely to see for us; and that having discovered us, she was to make all speed to Panama with the news; where they had three ships ready to send after us.
We lay here all the day, and scrubbed our new bark, that if ever we should be chased we might the better escape: we filled our water and in the evening went from thence, having the wind at south-west a brisk gale.
The 25th day we had much wind and rain, and we lost the Canoa that had been cut and was joined together; we would have kept all our Canoas to carry us up the river, the bark not being so convenient.
The 27th day we went from thence with a moderate gale of wind at south-west. In the afternoon we had excessive showers of rain.
The 28th day was very wet all the morning; betwixt 10 and 11 it cleared up and we saw two great ships about a league and a half to the westward of us, we being then two leagues from the shore, and about 10 leagues to the southward of point Garrachina. These ships had been cruising between Gorgonia and the Gulf 6 months; but whether our prisoners did know it I cannot tell.
We presently furled our sails and rowed in close under the shore, knowing that they were cruisers; for if they had been bound to Panama this wind would have carried them thither; and no ships bound from Panama come on this side of the bay, but keep the north side of the bay till as far as the keys of Quibo to the westward; and then if they are bound to the southward they stand over and may fetch Galleo, or betwixt it and Cape St. Francisco.
The glare did not continue long before it rained again, and kept us from the fight of each other: but if they had seen and chased us we were resolved to run our bark and Canoas ashore, and take ourselves to the mountains and travel overland; for we knew that the Indians which lived in these parts never had any commerce with the Spaniards; so we might have had a chance for our lives.
The 29th day at 9 a Clock in the morning we came to an anchor at point Garrachina, about 7 leagues from the Gulf of St. Michael, which was the place where we first came into the South Seas, and the way by which we designed to return.
Here we lay all the day, and went ashore and dried our clothes, cleaned our guns, dried our ammunition, and fixed ourselves against our enemies, if we should be attacked; for we did expect to find some opposition at landing: we likewise kept a good lookout all the day, for fear of those two ships that we saw the day before.
The 30th day in the morning at 8 a Clock we came into the Gulf of St. Michael's mouth; for we put from point Garrachina in the evening, designing to have reached the islands in the gulf before day; that we might the better work our escape from our enemies, if we should find any of them waiting to stop our passage.
About 9 a Clock we came to an anchor a mile without a large island, which lies 4 miles from the mouth of the river; we had other small islands without us, and might have gone up into the river, having a strong tide of flood, but would not adventure farther till we had looked well about us.
We immediately sent a Canoa ashore on the island, where we saw (what we always feared) a ship at the mouth of the river, lying close by the shore, and a large tent by it, by which we found it would be a hard task for us to escape them.
When the Canoa came aboard with this news some of our men were a little disheartened; but it was no more than I ever expected.
Our care was now to get safe overland, seeing we could not land here according to our desire: therefore before the tide of flood was spent we manned our Canoa and rowed again to the island to see if the enemy was yet in motion. When we came ashore we dispersed ourselves all over the island to prevent our enemies from coming any way to view us; and presently after high-water we saw a small Canoa coming over from the ship to the island that we were on; which made us all get into our Canoa and wait their coming; and we lay close till they came within pistol-shot of us, and then, being ready, we started out and took them. There were in her one white man and two Indians; who being examined told us that the ship which we saw at the river's mouth had lain there six months, guarding the river, waiting for our coming; that she had 12 guns and 150 seamen and soldiers: that the seamen all lay aboard, but the soldiers lay ashore in their tents; that there were 300 men at the mines, who had all small arms, and would he aboard in two tides' time. They likewise told us that there were two ships cruising in the bay between this place and Gorgonia; the biggest had 20 guns and 200 men, the other 10 guns and 150 men: besides all this they told us that the Indians on this side the country were our enemies; which was the worse news of all. However we presently brought these prisoners aboard and got under sail, turning out with the tide of ebb, for it was not convenient to stay longer there.
We did not long consider what to do; but intended to land that night or the next day betimes; for we did not question but we should either get a good commerce with the Indians by such toys as we had purposely brought with us, or else force our way through their country in spite of all their opposition; and we did not fear what these Spaniards could do against us in case they should land and come after us. We had a strong southerly wind which blew right in; and, the tide of ebb being far spent, we could not turn out.
I persuaded them to run into the river of Congo, which is a large river about three leagues from the island where we lay; which with a southerly wind we could have done: and, when we were got so high as the tide flows, then we might have landed. But all the arguments I could use were not of force sufficient to convince them that there was a large river so near us, but they would land somewhere, they neither did know how, where, nor when.
When we had rowed and towed against the wind all night we just got about Cape St. Lorenzo in the morning; and sailed about 4 miles farther to the westward, and run into a small creek within two keys, or little islands, and rowed up to the head of the creek, being about a mile up, and there we landed May 1 1681.
We got out all our provision and clothes and then sunk our vessel.
While we were landing and fixing our snap-sacks to march our Moskito Indians struck a plentiful dish of fish, which we immediately dressed, and therewith satisfied our hunger.
Having made mention of the Moskito Indians it may not be amiss to conclude this chapter with a short account of them. They are tall, well made, raw-boned, lusty, strong, and nimble of foot, long-visaged, lank black hair, look stern, hard favoured, and of a dark copper-colour complexion. They are but a small nation or family, and not 100 men of them in number, inhabiting on the Main on the north side, near Cape Gratia Dios; between Cape Honduras and Nicaragua. They are very ingenious at throwing the lance, fishgig, harpoon, or any manner of dart, being bred to it from their infancy; for the children, imitating their parents, never go abroad without a lance in their hands, which they throw at any object, till use has made them masters of the art. Then they learn to put by a lance, arrow, or dart: the manner is thus. Two boys stand at a small distance, and dart a blunt stick at one another; each of them holding a small stick in his right hand, with which he strikes away that which was darted at him. As they grow in years they become more dexterous and courageous, and then they will stand a fair mark to anyone that will shoot arrows at them; which they will put by with a very small stick, no bigger than the rod of a fowling-piece; and when they are grown to be men they will guard themselves from arrows, though they come very thick at them, provided two do not happen to come at once. They have extraordinary good eyes, and will descry a sail at sea farther, and see anything better, than we. Their chiefest employment in their own country is to strike fish, turtle, or manatee, the manner of which I describe elsewhere, Chapter 3. For this they are esteemed and coveted by all privateers; for one or two of them in a ship will maintain 100 men: so that when we careen our ships we choose commonly such places where there is plenty of turtle or manatee for these Moskito men to strike: and it is very rare to find privateers destitute of one or more of them when the commander or most of the men are English; but they do not love the French, and the Spaniards they hate mortally. When they come among privateers, they get the use of guns, and prove very good marksmen: they behave themselves very bold in fight, and never seem to flinch nor hang back; for they think that the white men with whom they are know better than they do when it is best to fight, and, let the disadvantage of their party be never so great, they will never yield nor give back while any of their party stand. I could never perceive any religion nor any ceremonies or superstitious observations among them, being ready to imitate us in whatsoever they saw us do at any time. Only they seem to fear the devil, whom they call Wallesaw; and they say he often appears to some among them, whom our men commonly call their priest, when they desire to speak with him on urgent business; but the rest know not anything of him, nor how he appears, otherwise than as these priests tell them. Yet they all say they must not anger him, for then he will beat them, and that sometimes he carries away these their priests. Thus much I have heard from some of them who speak good English.
They marry but one wife, with whom they live till death separates them. At their first coming together the man makes a very small plantation, for there is land enough, and they may choose what spot they please. They delight to settle near the sea, or by some river, for the sake of striking fish, their beloved employment.
For within land there are other Indians, with whom they are always at war. After the man has cleared a spot of land, and has planted it, he seldom minds it afterwards, but leaves the managing of it to his wife, and he goes out a-striking. Sometimes he seeks only for fish, at other times for turtle, or manatee, and whatever he gets he brings home to his wife, and never stirs out to seek for more till it is all eaten. When hunger begins to bite he either takes his Canoa and seeks for more game at sea or walks out into the woods and hunts about for peccary, warree, each a sort of wild hogs or deer; and seldom returns empty-handed, nor seeks for any more so long as any of it lasts. Their plantations are so small that they cannot subsist with what they produce: for their largest plantations have not above 20 or 30 plantain-trees, a bed of yams and potatoes, a bush of Indian pepper, and a small spot of pineapples; which last fruit as a main thing they delight in; for with these they make a sort of drink which our men call pine-drink, much esteemed by those Moskitos, and to which they invite each other to be merry, providing fish and flesh also. Whoever of them makes of this liquor treats his neighbours, making a little Canoa full at a time, and so enough to make them all drunk; and it is seldom that such feasts are made but the party that makes them has some design either to be revenged for some injury done him, or to debate of such differences as have happened between him and his neighbours, and to examine into the truth of such matters. Yet before they are warmed with drink they never speak one word of their grievances: and the women, who commonly know their husband's designs, prevent them from doing any injury to each other by hiding their lances, harpoons, bows and arrows, or any other weapon that they have.
The Moskitos are in general very civil and kind to the English, of whom they receive a great deal of respect, both when they are aboard their ships, and also ashore, either in Jamaica, or elsewhere, whither they often come with the seamen. We always humour them, letting them go any whither as they will, and return to their country in any vessel bound that way, if they please. They will have the management of themselves in their striking, and will go in their own little Canoa, which our men could not go in without danger of oversetting: nor will they then let any white man come in their Canoa, but will go a-striking in it just as they please: all which we allow them. For should we cross them, though they should see shoals of fish, or turtle, or the like, they will purposely strike their harpoons and turtle-irons aside, or so glance them as to kill nothing. They have no form of government among them, but acknowledge the King of England for their sovereign. They learn our language, and take the governor of Jamaica to be one of the greatest princes in the world.
While they are among the English they wear good clothes, and take delight to go neat and tight; but when they return again to their own country they put by all their clothes, and go after their own country fashion, wearing only a small piece of linen tied about their waists, hanging down to their knees.
Being landed May the 1st, we began our march about 3 a Clock in the afternoon, directing our course by our pocket compasses north-east and, having gone about 2 miles, we came to the foot of a hill where we built small huts and lay all night; having excessive rains till 12 a clock.
The 2nd day in the morning having fair weather we ascended the hill, and found a small Indian path which we followed till we found it run too much easterly, and then, doubting it would carry us out of the way, we climbed some of the highest trees on the hill, which was not meanly furnished with as large and tall trees as ever I saw: at length we discovered some houses in a valley on the north side of the hill, but it being steep could not descend on that side, but followed the small path which led us down the hill on the east side, where we presently found several other Indian houses. The first that we came to at the foot of the hill had none but women at home who could not speak Spanish, but gave each of us a good calabash or shell-full of corn-drink. The other houses had some men at home, but none that spoke Spanish; yet we made a shift to buy such food as their houses or plantations afforded, which we dressed and ate all together; having all sorts of our provision in common, because none should live better than others, or pay dearer for anything than it was worth. This day we had marched 6 mile.
In the evening the husbands of those women came home and told us in broken Spanish that they had been on board of the guard-ship, which we fled from two days before, that we were now not above 3 mile from the mouth of the river Congo, and that they could go from thence aboard the guard-ship in half a tide's time.
This evening we supped plentifully on fowls and peccary; a sort of wild hogs which we bought of the Indians; yams, potatoes, and plantains served us for bread, whereof we had enough. After supper we agreed with one of these Indians to guide us a day's march into the country, towards the north side; he was to have for his pains a hatchet, and his bargain was to bring us to a certain Indian's habitation, who could speak Spanish, from whom we were in hopes to be better satisfied of our journey.
The 3rd day having fair weather we began to stir betimes, and set out between 6 and 7 a clock, marching through several old ruined plantations. This morning one of our men being tired gave us the slip. By 12 a clock we had gone 8 mile, and arrived at the Indian's house, who lived on the bank of the river Congo and spoke very good Spanish; to whom we declared the reason of this visit.
At first he seemed to be very dubious of entertaining any discourse with us, and gave impertinent answers to the questions that we demanded of him; he told us he knew no way to the north side of the country, but could carry us to Cheapo, or Santa Maria, which we knew to be Spanish garrisons; the one lying to the eastward of us, the other to the westward: either of them at least 20 miles out of our way. We could get no other answer from him, and all his discourse was in such an angry tone as plainly declared he was not our friend. However we were forced to make a virtue of necessity and humour him, for it was neither time nor place to be angry with the Indians; all our lives lying in their hand.
We were now at a great loss, not knowing what course to take, for we tempted him with beads, money, hatchets, machetes, or long knives; but nothing would work on him, till one of our men took a sky-coloured petticoat out of his bag and put it on his wife; who was so much pleased with the present that she immediately began to chatter to her husband, and soon brought him into a better humour. He could then tell us that he knew the way to the north side, and would have gone with us, but that he had cut his foot two days before, which made him incapable of serving us himself: but he would take care that we should not want a guide; and therefore he hired the same Indian who brought us hither to conduct us two days' march further for another hatchet. The old man would have stayed us here all the day because it rained very hard; but our business required more haste, our enemies lying so near us, for he told us that he could go from his house aboard the guard-ship in a tide's time; and this was the 4th day since they saw us. So we marched 3 miles farther, and then built huts, where we stayed all night; it rained all the afternoon, and the greatest part of the night.
The 4th day we began our march betimes, for the forenoons were commonly fair, but much rain after noon: though whether it rained or shined it was much at one with us, for I verily believe we crossed the rivers 30 times this day: the Indians having no paths to travel from one part of the country to another; and therefore guided themselves by the rivers. We marched this day 12 miles, and then built our hut, and lay down to sleep; but we always kept two men on the watch; otherwise our own slaves might have knocked us on the head while we slept. It rained violently all the afternoon and most part of the night. We had much ado to kindle a fire this evening: our huts were but very mean or ordinary, and our fire small, so that we could not dry our clothes, scarce warm ourselves, and no sort of food for the belly; all which made it very hard with us. I confess these hardships quite expelled the thoughts of an enemy, for now, having been 4 days in the country, we began to have but few other cares than how to get guides and food, the Spaniards were seldom in our thoughts.
The 5th day we set out in the morning betimes, and, having travelled 7 miles in those wild pathless woods, by 10 a clock in the morning we arrived at a young Spanish Indian's house, who had formerly lived with the Bishop of Panama. The young Indian was very brisk, spoke very good Spanish, and received us very kindly. This plantation afforded us store of provisions, yams, and potatoes, but nothing of any flesh besides 2 fat monkeys we shot, part whereof we distributed to some of our company, who were weak and sickly; for others we got eggs and such refreshments as the Indians had, for we still provided for the sick and weak. We had a Spanish Indian in our company, who first took up arms with Captain Sawkins, and had been with us ever since his death. He was persuaded to live here by the master of the house, who promised him his sister in marriage, and to be assistant to him in clearing a plantation: but we would not consent to part from him here for fear of some treachery, but promised to release him in two or three days, when we were certainly out of danger of our enemies. We stayed here all the afternoon, and dried our clothes and ammunition, cleared our guns, and provided ourselves for a march the next morning.
Our surgeon, Mr. Wafer, came to a sad disaster here: being drying his powder, a careless fellow passed by with his pipe lighted and set fire to his powder, which blew up and scorched his knee, and reduced him to that condition that he was not able to march; wherefore we allowed him a slave to carry his things, being all of us the more concerned at the accident, because liable ourselves every moment to misfortune, and none to look after us but him. This Indian plantation was seated on the bank of the river Congo, in a very fat soil, and thus far we might have come in our Canoa if I could have persuaded them to it.
The 6th day we set out again, having hired another guide. Here we first crossed the river Congo in a Canoa, having been from our first landing on the west side of the river, and, being over, we marched to the eastward two miles, and came to another river, which we forded several times though it was very deep. Two of our men were not able to keep company with us, but came after us as they were able. The last time we forded the river it was so deep that our tallest men stood in the deepest place and handed the sick, weak and short men; by which means we all got over safe, except those two who were behind. Foreseeing a necessity of wading through rivers frequently in our land-march, I took care before I left the ship to provide myself a large joint of bamboo, which I stopped at both ends, closing it with wax, so as to keep out any water. In this I preserved my journal and other writings from being wet, though I was often forced to swim. When we were over this river, we sat down to wait the coming of our consorts who were left behind, and in half an hour they came. But the river by that time was so high that they could not get over it, neither could we help them over, but bid them be of good comfort, and stay till the river did fall: but we marched two miles farther by the side of the river, and there built our huts, having gone this day six miles. We had scarce finished our huts before the river rose much higher, and, overflowing the banks, obliged us to remove into higher ground: but the next night came on before we could build more huts, so we lay straggling in the woods, some under one tree, some under another, as we could find conveniency, which might have been indifferent comfortable if the weather had been fair; but the greatest part of the night we had extraordinary hard rain, with much lightning, and terrible claps of thunder. These hardships and inconveniencies made us all careless, and there was no watch kept (though I believe nobody did sleep) so our slaves, taking the opportunity, went away in the night; all but one who was hid in some hole and knew nothing of their design, or else fell asleep. Those that went away carried with them our surgeon's gun and all his money.
The next morning being the 8th day, we went to the river's side, and found it much fallen; and here our guide would have us ford it again, which, being deep and the current running swift, we could not. Then we contrived to swim over; those that could not swim we were resolved to help over as well as we could: but this was not so feasible: for we should not be able to get all our things over. At length we concluded to send one man over with a line, who should haul over all our things first, and then get the men over. This being agreed on, one George Gayny took the end of a line and made it fast about his neck, and left the other end ashore, and one man stood by the line to clear it away to him. But when Gayny was in the midst of the water the, line in drawing after him, chanced to kink or grow entangled; and he that stood by to clear it away stopped the line, which turned Gayny on his back, and he that had the line in his hand threw it all into the river after him, thinking he might recover himself; but the stream running very swift, and the man having three hundred dollars at his back, was carried down, and never seen more by us. Those two men whom we left behind the day before, told us afterwards that they found him lying dead in a creek where the eddy had driven him ashore, and the money on his back; but they meddled not with any of it, being only in care how to work their way through a wild unknown country. This put a period to that contrivance. This was the fourth man that we lost in this land-journey; for these two men that we left the day before did not come to us till we were in the North Seas, so we yielded them also for lost. Being frustrated at getting over the river this way, we looked about for a tree to fell across the river. At length we found one, which we cut down, and it reached clear over: on this we passed to the other side, where we found a small plantain-walk, which we soon ransacked.
While we were busy getting plantains our guide was gone, but in less than two hours came to us again, and brought with him an old Indian to whom he delivered up his charge; and we gave him a hatchet and dismissed him, and entered ourselves under the conduct of our new guide: who immediately led us away, and crossed another river, and entered into a large valley of the fattest land I did ever take notice of; the trees were not very thick, but the largest that I saw in all my travels; we saw great tracks which were made by the peccaries, but saw none of them. We marched in this pleasant country till 3 a clock in the afternoon, in all about 4 miles, and then arrived at the old man's country house, which was only a habitation for hunting: there was a small plantain-walk, some yams, and potatoes. Here we took up our quarters for this day and refreshed ourselves with such food as the place afforded, and dried our clothes and ammunition. At this place our young Spanish Indian provided to leave us, for now we thought ourselves past danger. This was he that was persuaded to stay at the last house we came from, to marry the young man's sister; and we dismissed him according to our promise.
The 9th day the old man conducted us towards his own habitation. We marched about 5 miles in this valley; and then ascended a hill and travelled about 5 miles farther over two or three small hills before we came to any settlement. Half a mile before we came to the plantations we light of a path, which carried us to the Indians habitations. We saw many wooden crosses erected in the way, which created some jealousy in us that here were some Spaniards: therefore we new-primed all our guns, and provided ourselves for an enemy; but coming into the town found none but Indians, who were all got together in a large house to receive us: for the old man had a little boy with him that he sent before.
They made us welcome to such as they had, which was very mean; for these were new plantations, the corn being not eared. Potatoes, yams, and plantains they had none but what they brought from their old plantations. There was none of them spoke good Spanish: two young men could speak a little, it caused us to take more notice of them. To these we made a present, and desired them to get us a guide to conduct us to the north side, or part of the way, which they promised to do themselves; if we would reward them for it, but told us we must lie still the next day. But we thought ourselves nearer the North Sea than we were, and proposed to go without a guide rather than stay here a whole day: however some of our men who were tired resolved to stay behind; and Mr. Wafer our surgeon, who marched in great pain ever since his knee was burned with powder, was resolved to stay with them.
The 10th day we got up betimes, resolving to march, but the Indians opposed it as much as they could; but, seeing they could not persuade us to stay, they came with us; and, having taken leave of our friends, we set out.
Here therefore we left the surgeon and two more, as we said, and marched away to the eastward following our guides. But we often looked on our pocket compasses and showed them to the guides, pointing at the way that we would go, which made them shake their heads and say they were pretty things, but not convenient for us. After we had descended the hills on which the town stood we came down into a valley, and guided ourselves by a river, which we crossed 22 times; and, having marched 9 miles, we built huts and lay there all night: this evening I killed a quaum, a large bird as big as a turkey, wherewith we treated our guides, for we brought no provision with us. This night our last slave ran away.
The eleventh day we marched 10 mile farther, and built huts at night; but went supperless to bed.
The twelfth in the morning we crossed a deep river, passing over it on a tree, and marched 7 mile in a low swampy ground; and came to the side of a great deep river, but could not get over. We built huts upon its banks and lay there all night, upon our barbecues, or frames of sticks raised about 3 foot from the ground.
The thirteenth day when we turned out the river had overflowed its banks, and was 2 foot deep in our huts, and our guides went from us, not telling us their intent, which made us think they were returned home again. Now we began to repent our haste in coming from the settlements, for we had no food since we came from thence. Indeed we got macaw-berries in this place, wherewith we satisfied ourselves this day though coarsely.
The fourteenth day in the morning betimes our guides came to us again; and, the waters being fallen within their bounds, they carried us to a tree that stood on the bank of the river, and told us if we could fell that tree across it we might pass: if not, we could pass no farther. Therefore we set two of the best axe-men that we had, who felled it exactly across the river, and the boughs just reached over; on this we passed very safe. We afterwards crossed another river three times, with much difficulty, and at 3 a clock in the afternoon we came to an Indian settlement, where we met a drove of monkeys, and killed 4 of them, and stayed here all night, having marched this day 6 miles. Here we got plantains enough, and a kind reception of the Indian that lived here all alone, except one boy to wait on him.
The fifteenth day when we set out, the kind Indian and his boy went with us in a Canoa, and set us over such places as we could not ford: and, being past those great rivers, he returned back again, having helped us at least 2 mile. We marched afterwards 5 mile, and came to large plantain-walks, where we took up our quarters that night; we there fed plentifully on plantains, both ripe and green, and had fair weather all the day and night. I think these were the largest plantain-walks, and the biggest plantains that ever I saw, but no house near them: we gathered what we pleased by our guide's orders.
The sixteenth day we marched 3 mile and came to a large settlement where we abode all day: not a man of us but wished the journey at an end; our feet being blistered, and our thighs stripped with wading through so many rivers; the way being almost continually through rivers or pathless woods. In the afternoon five of us went to seek for game and killed 3 monkeys, which we dressed for supper. Here we first began to have fair weather, which continued with us till we came to the North Seas.
The eighteenth day we set out at 10 a clock, and the Indians with 5 Canoas carried us a league up a river; and when we landed the kind Indians went with us and carried our burdens. We marched 3 mile farther, and then built our huts, having travelled from the last settlements 6 mile.
The nineteenth day our guides lost their way, and we did not march above 2 mile.
The twentieth day by 12 a clock we came to Cheapo River. The rivers we crossed hitherto run all into the South Seas; and this of Cheapo was the last we met with that run that way. Here an old man who came from the last settlements distributed his burthen of plantains amongst us and, taking his leave, returned home. Afterward we forded the river and marched to the foot of a very high mountain, where we lay all night. This day we marched about 9 miles.
The 21st day some of the Indians returned back, and we marched up a very high mountain; being on the top, we went some miles on a ridge, and steep on both sides; then descended a little, and came to a fine spring, where we lay all night, having gone this day about 9 miles, the weather still very fair and clear.
The 22nd day we marched over another very high mountain, keeping on the ridge 5 miles. When we came to the north end we, to our great comfort, saw the sea; then we descended, and parted ourselves into 3 companies, and lay by the side of a river, which was the first we met that runs into the North Sea.
The 23rd day we came through several large plantain-walks, and at 10 a clock came to an Indian habitation not far from the North Seas. Here we got Canoas to carry as down the river Concepcion to the seaside; having gone this day 7 miles. We found a great many Indians at the mouth of the river. They had settled themselves here for the benefit of trade with the privateers; and their commodities were yams, potatoes, plantains, sugarcane, fowls, and eggs.
The Indians told us that there had been a great many English and French ships here, which were all gone but one barcolongo, a French privateer that lay at La Sounds Key or Island. This island is about 3 leagues from the mouth of the river Concepcion, and is one of the Samballoes, a range of islands reaching for about 20 leagues from Point Samballas to Golden Island eastward. These islands or keys, as we call them, were first made the rendezvous of privateers in the year 1679, being very convenient for careening, and had names given to some of them by the captains of the privateers: as this La Sounds Key particularly.
Thus we finished our journey from the South Sea to the North in 23 days; in which time by my account we travelled 110 miles, crossing some very high mountains; but our common march was in the valleys among deep and dangerous rivers. At our first landing in this country, we were told that the Indians were our enemies; we knew the rivers to be deep, the wet season to be coming in; yet, excepting those we left behind, we lost but one man, who was drowned, as I said. Our first landing place on the south coast was very disadvantageous, for we travelled at least fifty miles more than we need to have done, could we have gone up Cheapo River, or Santa Maria River; for at either of these places a man may pass from sea to sea in three days time with ease. The Indians can do it in a day and a half, by which you may see how easy it is for a party of men to travel over. I must confess the Indians did assist us very much, and I question whether ever we had got over without their assistance, because they brought us from time to time to their plantations where we always got provision, which else we should have wanted. But if a party of 500 or 600 men or more were minded to travel from the North to the South Seas they may do it without asking leave of the Indians; though it be much better to be friends with them.
On the 24th of May (having lain one night at the river's mouth) we all went on board the privateer, who lay at La Sound's Key. It was a French vessel, Captain Tristian commander. The first thing we did was to get such things as we could to gratify our Indian guides, for we were resolved to reward them to their hearts' content. This we did by giving them beads, knives, scissors, and looking-glasses, which we bought of the privateer's crew: and half a dollar a man from each of us; which we would have bestowed in goods also, but could not get any, the privateer having no more toys. They were so well satisfied with these that they returned with joy to their friends; and were very kind to our consorts whom we left behind; as Mr. Wafer our surgeon and the rest of them told us when they came to us some months afterwards, as shall be said hereafter.
I might have given a further account of several things relating to this country; the inland parts of which are so little known to the Europeans. But I shall leave this province to Mr. Wafer, who made a longer abode in it than I, and is better able to do it than any man that I know, and is now preparing a particular description of this country for the press.
The privateer on board which we went being now cleaned, and our Indian guides thus satisfied and set ashore, we set sail in two days for Springer's Key, another of the Samballoes Isles, and about 7 or 8 leagues from La Sound's Key. Here lay 8 sail of privateers more, namely:
Captain Coxon, 10 guns, 100 men.
Captain Payne, 10 guns, 100 men.
Captain Wright, a Barcolongo. 4 guns, 40 men.
Captain Williams, a small Barcolongo.
|English Commanders and Englishmen.|
|Captain Yankes, a Barcolongo, 4 guns, about 60 men, English, Dutch and French; himself a Dutchman.|
Captain Archemboe, 8 guns, 40 men.
Captain Tucker, 6 guns, 70 men.
Captain Rose, a Barcolongo.
|French Commanders and men.|
An hour before we came to the fleet Captain Wright, who had been sent to Chagra River, arrived at Springer's Key with a large Canoa or periago laden with flour, which he took there. Some of the prisoners belonging to the periago came from Panama not above six days before he took her, and told the news of our coming overland, and likewise related the condition and strength of Panama, which was the main thing they enquired after; for Captain Wright was sent thither purposely to get a prisoner that was able to inform them of the strength of that city, because these privateers designed to join all their force, and, by the assistance of the Indians (who had promised to be their guides) to march overland to Panama; and there is no other way of getting prisoners for that purpose but by absconding between Chagra and Portobello, because there are much goods brought that way from Panama; especially when the armada lies at Portobello. All the commanders were aboard of Captain Wright when we came into the fleet; and were mighty inquisitive of the prisoners to know the truth of what they related concerning us. But as soon as they knew we were come they immediately came aboard of Captain Tristian, being all overjoyed to see us; for Captain Coxon and many others had left us in the South Seas about 12 months since, and had never heard what became of us since that time. They enquired of us what we did there? how we lived? how far we had been? and what discoveries we made in those seas? After we had answered these general questions they began to be more particular in examining us concerning our passage through the country from the South Seas. We related the whole matter; giving them an account of the fatigues of our march, and the inconveniencies we suffered by the rains; and disheartened them quite from that design.
Then they proposed several other places where such a party of men as were now got together might make a voyage; but the objections of some or other still hindered any proceeding: for the privateers have an account of most towns within 20 leagues of the sea, on all the coast from Trinidad down to La Vera Cruz; and are able to give a near guess of the strength and riches of them: for they make it their business to examine all prisoners that fall into their hands concerning the country, town, or city that they belong to; whether born there, or how long they have known it? how many families, whether most Spaniards? or whether the major I part are not copper-coloured, as Mulattoes, Mestizos, or Indians? whether rich, and what their riches do consist in? and what their chiefest manufactures? if fortified, how many great guns, and what number of small arms? whether it is possible to come undescribed on them? How many lookouts or sentinels; for such the Spaniards always keep? and how the lookouts are placed? Whether possible to avoid the lookouts, or take them? If any river or creek comes near it, or where the best landing; with innumerable other such questions, which their curiosities led them to demand. And if they have had any former discourse of such places from other prisoners they compare one with the other; then examine again, and enquire if he or any of them are capable to be guides to conduct a party of men thither: if not, where and how any prisoner may be taken that may do it; and from thence they afterwards lay their schemes to prosecute whatever design they take in hand.
It was 7 or 8 days after before any resolution was taken, yet consultations were held every day. The French seemed very forward to go to any town that the English could or would propose, because the governor of Pettit Guavos (from whom the privateers take commissions) had recommended a gentleman lately come from France to be general of the expedition, and sent word by Captain Tucker, with whom this gentleman came, that they should, if possible, make an attempt on some town before he returned again. The English, when they were in company with the French, seemed to approve of what the French said, but never looked on that general to be fit for the service in hand.
At length it was concluded to go to a town, the name of which I have forgot; it lies a great way in the country, but not such a tedious march as it would be from hence to Panama. Our way to it lay up Carpenter's River, which is about 60 leagues to the westward of Portobello. Our greatest obstruction in this design was our want of boats: therefore it was concluded to go with all our fleet to St. Andreas, a small uninhabited island lying near the isle of Providence, to the westward of it, in 13 degrees 15 minutes north latitude, and from Portobello north-north-west about 70 leagues; where we should be but a little way from Carpenter's River. And besides, at this island we might build Canoas, it being plentifully stored with large cedars for such a purpose; and for this reason the Jamaica men come hither frequently to build sloops; cedar being very fit for building, and it being to be had here at free cost; beside other wood. Jamaica is well stored with cedars of its own, chiefly among the Rocky Mountains: these also of St. Andreas grow in stony ground, and are the largest that ever I knew or heard of; the bodies alone being ordinarily 40 or 50 foot long, many 60 or 70 and upwards, and of a proportionable bigness. The Bermudas Isles are well stored with them; so is Virginia, which is generally a sandy soil. I saw none in the East Indies, nor in the South Sea coast, except on the Isthmus as I came over it. We reckon the periago's and Canoas that are made of cedar to be the best of any; they are nothing but the tree itself made hollow boat-wise, with a flat bottom, and the Canoa generally sharp at both ends, the periago at one only, with the other end flat. But what is commonly said of cedar, that the worm will not touch it, is a mistake, for I have seen of it very much worm-eaten.
All things being thus concluded on, we sailed from thence, directing our course towards St. Andreas. We kept company the first day, but at night it blew a hard gale at north-east and some of our ships bore away: the next day others were forced to leave us, and the second night we lost all our company. I was now belonging to Captain Archembo, for all the rest of the fleet were over-manned: Captain Archembo wanting men, we that came out of the South Seas must either sail with him or remain among the Indians. Indeed we found no cause to dislike the captain; but his French seamen were the saddest creatures that ever I was among; for though we had bad weather that required many hands aloft, yet the biggest part of them never stirred out of their hammocks but to eat or ease themselves. We made a shift to find the island the fourth day, where we met Captain Wright, who came thither the day before, and had taken a Spanish Tartan, wherein were 30 men, all well armed: she had 4 patereroes and some long guns placed in the swivel on the gunwale. They fought an hour before they yielded. The news they related was that they came from Cartagene in company of 11 armadillos (which are small vessels of war) to seek for the fleet of privateers lying in the Samballoes: that they parted from the armadillos 2 days before: that they were ordered to search the Samballoes for us, and if they did not find us then they were ordered to go to Portobello, and lay there till they had farther intelligence of us, and he supposed these armadillos to be now there.
We that came overland out of the South Seas, being weary of living among the French, desired Captain Wright to fit up his prize the Tartan, and make a man-of-war of her for us, which he at first seemed to decline, because he was settled among the French in Hispaniola, and was very well beloved both by the governor of Pettit Guavos, and all the gentry; and they would resent it ill that Captain Wright, who had no occasion of men, should be so unkind to Captain Archembo as to seduce his men from him, he being so meanly manned that he could hardly sail his ship with his Frenchmen. We told him we would no longer remain with Captain Archembo, but would go ashore there and build Canoas to transport ourselves down to the Moskitos if he would not entertain us; for privateers are not obliged to any ship, but free to go ashore where they please, or to go into any other ship that will entertain them, only paying for their provision.
When Captain Wright saw our resolutions he agreed with us on condition we should be under his command as one ship's company, to which we unanimously consented.
We stayed here about 10 days to see if any more of our fleet would come to us; but there came no more of us to the island but three, namely, Captain Wright, Captain Archembo, and Captain Tucker. Therefore we concluded the rest were bore away either for Boca Toro or Bluefield's River on the Main; and we designed to seek them. We had fine weather while we lay here, only some tornadoes, or thundershowers: but in this isle of St. Andreas, there being neither fish, fowl, nor deer, and it being therefore but an ordinary place for us, who had but little provision, we sailed from hence again in quest of our scattered fleet, directing our course for some islands lying near the Main, called by the privateers the Corn Islands; being in hopes to get corn there. These islands I take to be the same which are generally called in the maps the Pearl Islands, lying about the latitude of 12 degrees 10 minutes north. Here we arrived the next day, and went ashore on one of them, but found none of the inhabitants; for here are but a few poor naked Indians that live here; who have been so often plundered by the privateers that they have but little provision; and when they see a sail they hide themselves; otherwise ships that come here would take them, and make slaves of them; and I have seen some of them that have been slaves. They are people of a mean stature, yet strong limbs; they are of a dark copper-colour, black hair, full round faces, small black eyes, their eyebrows hanging over their eyes, low foreheads, short thick noses, not high, but flattish; full lips, and short chins. They have a fashion to cut holes in the lips of the boys when they are young, close to their chin; which they keep open with little pegs till they are 14 or 15 years old: then they wear beards in them, made of turtle or tortoiseshell, in the form you see in the margin. The little notch at the upper end they put in through the lip, where it remains between the teeth and the lip; the under-part hangs down over their chin. This they commonly wear all day, and when they sleep they take it out. They have likewise holes bored in their ears, both men and women when young; and, by continual stretching them with great pegs, they grow to be as big as a milled five-shilling piece. Herein they wear pieces of wood cut very round and smooth, so that their ear seems to be all wood with a little skin about it. Another ornament the women use is about their legs, which they are very curious in; for from the infancy of the girls their mothers make fast a piece of cotton cloth about the small of their leg, from the ankle to the calf, very hard; which makes them have a very full calf: this the women wear to their dying day. Both men and women go naked, only a clout about their waists; yet they have but little feet, though they go barefoot. Finding no provision here we sailed towards Bluefield's River, where we careen'd our Tartan; and there Captain Archembo and Captain Tucker left us, and went towards Boca Toro.
This Bluefield's River comes out between the rivers of Nicaragua and Veragna. At its mouth is a fine sandy bay where barks may clean: it is deep at its mouth but a shoal within; so that ships may not enter, yet barks of 60 or 70 tuns may. It had this name from Captain Bluefield, a famous privateer living on Providence Island long before Jamaica was taken. Which island of Providence was settled by the English, and belonged to the Earls of Warwick.
In this river we found a Canoa coming down the stream; and though we went with our Canoas to seek for inhabitants yet we found none, but saw in two or three places signs that Indians had made on the side of the river. The Canoa which we found was but meanly made for want of tools, therefore we concluded these Indians have no commerce with the Spaniards, nor with other Indians that have.
While we lay here, our Moskito men went in their Canoa and struck us some manatee, or sea-cow. Besides this Bluefield's River, I have seen of the manatee in the Bay of Campeachy, on the coasts of Boca del Drago, and Boca del Toro, in the river of Darien, and among the South Keys or little islands of Cuba. I have heard of their being found on the north of Jamaica a few, and in the rivers of Surinam in great multitudes, which is a very low land. I have seen of them also at Mindanao, one of the Philippine Islands, and on the coast of New Holland. This creature is about the bigness of a horse, and 10 or 12 foot long. The mouth of it is much like the mouth of a cow, having great thick lips. The eyes are no bigger than a small pea; the ears are only two small holes on each side of the head. The neck is short and thick, bigger than the head. The biggest part of this creature is at the shoulders where it has two large fins, one on each side of its belly. Under each of these fins the female has a small dug to suckle her young. From the shoulders towards the tail it retains its bigness for about a foot, then grows smaller and smaller to the very tail, which is flat, and about 14 inches broad and 20 inches long, and in the middle 4 or 5 inches thick, but about the edges of it not above 2 inches thick. From the head to the tail it is round and smooth without any fin but those two before mentioned. I have heard that some have weighed above 1200 pounds, but I never saw any so large. The manatee delights to live in brackish water; and they are commonly in creeks and rivers near the sea. It is for this reason possibly they are not seen in the South Seas (that ever I could observe) where the coast is generally a bold shore, that is, high land and deep water close home by it, with a high sea or great surges, except in the Bay of Panama; yet even there is no manatee. Whereas the West Indies, being as it were one great bay composed of many smaller, are mostly low land and shoal water, and afford proper pasture (as I may say) for the manatee. Sometimes we find them in salt water, sometimes in fresh; but never far at sea. And those that live in the sea at such places where there is no river nor creek fit for them to enter yet do commonly come once or twice in 24 hours to the mouth of any fresh-water river that is near their place of abode. They live on grass 7 or 8 inches long, and of a narrow blade, which grows in the sea in many places, especially among islands near the Main. This grass grows likewise in creeks, or in great rivers near the sides of them, in such places where there is but little tide or current. They never come ashore, nor into shallower water than where they can swim. Their flesh is white, both the fat and the lean, and extraordinary sweet, wholesome meat. The tail of a young cow is most esteemed; but if old both head and tail are very tough. A calf that sucks is the most delicate meat; privateers commonly roast them; as they do also great pieces cut out of the bellies of the old ones.
The skin of the manatee is of great use to privateers for they cut them into straps which they make fast on the sides of their Canoas, through which they put their oars in rowing, instead of tholes or pegs. The skin of the bull or of the back of the cow is too thick for this use; but of it they make horse-whips, cutting them 2 or 3 foot long: at the handle they leave the full substance of the skin, and from thence cut it away tapering, but very even and square all the four sides. While the thongs are green they wist them and hang them to dry; which in a week's time become as hard as wood. The Moskito men have always a small Canoa for their use to strike fish, tortoise, or manatee, which they keep usually to themselves, and very neat and clean. They use no oars but paddles, the broad part of which does not go tapering towards the staff, pole or handle of it, as in the oar; nor do they use it in the same manner by laying it on the side of the vessel; but hold it perpendicular, gripping the staff hard with both hands, and putting back the water by main strength, and very quick strokes. One of the Moskitos (for they go but two in a Canoa) sits in the stern, the other kneels down in the head, and both paddle till they come to the place where they expect their game. Then they lie still or paddle very softly, looking well about them; and he that is in the head of the Canoa lays down his paddle, and stands up with his striking-staff in his hand. This staff is about 8 foot long, almost as big as a man's arm at the great end, in which there is a hole to place his harpoon in. At the other end of his staff there is a piece of light wood called bob-wood, with a hole in it, through which the small end of the staff comes; and on this piece of bob-wood there is a line of 10 or 12 fathom wound neatly about, and the end of the line made fast to it. The other end of the line is made fast to the harpoon, which is at the great end of the staff, and the Moskito men keep about a fathom of it loose in his hand. When he strikes, the harpoon presently comes out of the staff, and as the manatee swims away the line runs off from the bob; and although at first both staff and bob may be carried under water, yet as the line runs off it will rise again. Then the Moskito men paddle with all their might to get hold of the bob again, and spend usually a quarter of an hour before they get in. When the Manatee begins to be tired, it lies still, and then the Moskito men paddle to the bob and take it up, and begin to haul in the line. When the manatee feels them he swims away again, with the Canoa after him; then he that steers must be nimble to turn the head of the Canoa that way that his consort points, who, being in the head of the Canoa, and holding the line, both sees and feels which way the manatee is swimming. Thus the Canoa is towed with a violent motion, till the manatee's strength decays. Then they gather in the line, which they are often forced to let all go to the very end. At length, when the creature's strength is spent, they haul it up to the Canoa's side, and knock it on the head, and tow it to the nearest shore, where they make it fast and seek for another; which having taken, they get on shore with it to put it into their Canoa: for it is so heavy that they cannot lift it in, but they haul it up in shoal water, as near the shore as they can, and then overset the Canoa, laying one side close to the manatee. Then they roll in, which brings the Canoa upright again; and when they have heaved out the water they fasten a line to the other manatee that lies afloat, and tow it after them. I have known two Moskito men for a week every day bring aboard 2 manatee in this manner; the least of which has not weighed less than 600 pound, and that in a very small Canoa, that three Englishmen would scarce adventure to go in. When they strike a cow that has a young one they seldom miss the calf, for she commonly takes her young under one of her fins. But if the calf is so big that she cannot carry it, or so frightened that she only minds to save her own life, yet the young never leaves her till the Moskito men have an opportunity to strike her.
The manner of striking manatee and tortoise is much the same; only when they seek for manatee they paddle so gently that they make no noise, and never touch the side of their Canoa with their paddle, because it is a creature that hears very well. But they are not so nice when they seek for tortoise, whose eyes are better than his ears. They strike the tortoise with a square sharp iron peg, the other with a harpoon. The Moskito men make their own striking instruments, as harpoons, fishhooks, and tortoise-irons or pegs. These pegs, or tortoise-irons, are made 4-square, sharp at one end, and not much above an inch in length, of such a figure as you see in the margin. The small spike at the broad end has a line fastened to it, and goes also into a hole at the end of the striking-staff, which when the tortoise is struck flies off, the iron and the end of the line fastened to it going quite within the shell, where it is so buried that the tortoise cannot possibly escape.
They make their lines both for fishing and striking with the bark of maho; which is a sort of tree or shrub that grows plentifully all over the West Indies, and whose bark is made up of strings, or threads very strong. You may draw it off either in flakes or small threads, as you have occasion. It is fit for any manner of cordage; and privateers often make their rigging of it. So much by way of digression.
When we had cleaned our Tartan we sailed from hence, bound for Boca Toro, which is an opening between 2 islands about 10 degrees 10 minutes north latitude between the rivers of Veragne and Chagre. Here we met with Captain Yankes, who told us that there had been a fleet of Spanish armadillos to seek us: that Captain Tristian, having fallen to leeward, was coming to Boca Toro, and fell in amongst them, supposing them to be our fleet: that they fired and chased him, but he rowed and towed, and they supposed he got away: that Captain Pain was likewise chased by them and Captain Williams; and that they had not seen them since they lay within the islands: that the Spaniards never came in to him; and that Captain Coxon was in at the careening-place.
This Boca Toro is a place that the privateers use to resort to as much as any place on all the coast, because here is plenty of green tortoise, and a good careening place. The Indians here have no commerce with the Spaniards; but are very barbarous and will not be dealt with. They have destroyed many privateers, as they did not long after this some of Captain Pain's men; who, having built a tent ashore to put his goods in while he careen'd his ship, and some men lying there with their arms, in the night the Indians crept softly into the tent, and cut off the heads of three or four men, and made their escape; nor was this the first time they had served the privateers so. There grow on this coast vinelloes in great quantity, with which chocolate is perfumed. These I shall describe elsewhere.
Our fleet being thus scattered, there were now no hopes of getting together again; therefore everyone did what they thought most conducing to obtain their ends. Captain Wright, with whom I now was, was resolved to cruise on the coast of Cartagene; and, it being now almost the westerly-wind season, we sailed from hence, and Captain Yankes with us; and we consorted, because Captain Yankes had no commission, and was afraid the French would take away his bark. We passed by Scuda, a small island (where it is said Sir Francis Drake's bowels were buried) and came to a small river to westward of Chagre; where we took two new Canoas, and carried them with us into the Samballoes. We had the wind at west, with much rain; which brought us to Point Samballas. Here Captain Wright and Captain Yankes left us in the Tartan to fix the Canoas, while they went on the coast of Cartagene to seek for provision. We cruised in among the islands, and kept our Moskito men, or strikers-out, who brought aboard some half-grown tortoise; and some of us went ashore every day to hunt for what we could find in the woods: sometimes we got peccary, warree or deer; at other times we light on a drove of large fat monkeys, or quames, curassows (each a large sort of fowl) pigeons, parrots, or turtle-doves. We lived very well on what we got, not staying long in one place; but sometimes we would go on the islands, where there grow great groves of sapadilloes, which is a sort of fruit much like a pear, but more juicy; and under those trees we found plenty of soldiers, a little kind of animals that live in shells and have two great claws like a crab, and are good food. One time our men found a great many large ones, and being sharp-set had them dressed, but most of them were very sick afterwards, being poisoned by them: for on this island were many manchaneel-trees, whose fruit is like a small crab, and smells very well, but they are not wholesome; and we commonly take care of meddling with any animals that eat them. And this we take for a general rule; when we find any fruits that we have not seen before, if we see them pecked by birds, we may freely eat, but if we see no such sign we let them alone; for of this fruit no birds will taste. Many of these islands have of these manchaneel trees growing on them.
Thus, cruising in among these islands, at length we came again to La Sound's Key; and the day before having met with a Jamaica sloop that was come over on the coast to trade, she went with us. It was in the evening when we came to an anchor, and the next morning we fired two guns for the Indians that lived on the Main to come aboard; for by this time we concluded we should hear from our five men that we left in the heart of the country among the Indians, this being about the latter end of August, and it was the beginning of May when we parted from them. According to our expectations the Indians came aboard and brought our friends with them: Mr. Wafer wore a clout about him, and was painted like an Indian; and he was some time aboard before I knew him. One of them, named Richard Cobson, died within three or four days after, and was buried on La Sound's Key.
After this we went to other keys, to the eastward of these, to meet Captain Wright and Captain Yankes, who met with a fleet of periago's laden with Indian corn, hog and fowls, going to Cartagene; being convoyed by a small armadillo of two guns and six patereroes. Her they chased ashore, and most of the periago's; but they got two of them off, and brought them away.
Here Captain Wright's and Captain Yankes's barks were cleaned; and we stocked ourselves with corn, and then went towards the coast of Cartagene. In our way thither we passed by the river of Darien; which is very broad at the mouth, but not above 6 foot water on a spring-tide; for the tide rises but little here. Captain Coxon, about 6 months before we came out of the South Seas, went up this river with a party of men: every man carried a small strong bag to put his gold in; expecting great riches there, though they got little or none. They rowed up about 100 leagues before they came to any settlement, and then found some Spaniards, who lived there to truck with the Indians for gold; there being gold scales in every house. The Spaniards admired how they came so far from the mouth of the river, because there are a sort of Indians living between that place and the sea who are very dreadful to the Spaniards, and will not have any commerce with them, nor with any white people. They use trunks about 8 foot long, out of which they blow poisoned darts; and are so silent in their attacks on their enemies, and retreat so nimbly again, that the Spaniards can never find them. Their darts are made of macaw-wood, being about the bigness and length of a knitting-needle; one end is wound about with cotton, the other end is extraordinary sharp and small; and is jagged with notches like a harpoon: so that whatever it strikes into it immediately breaks off by the weight of the biggest end; which it is not of strength to bear (it being made so slender for that purpose) and is very difficult to be got out again by reason of those notches. These Indians have always war with our Darien friendly Indians, and live on both sides this great river 50 or 60 leagues from the sea, but not near the mouth of the river. There are abundance of manatee in this river, and some creeks belonging to it. This relation I had from several men who accompanied Captain Coxon in that discovery; and from Mr. Cook in particular, who was with them, and is a very intelligent person: he is now chief mate of a ship bound to Guinea. To return therefore to the prosecution of our voyage: meeting with nothing of note, we passed by Cartagene; which is a city so well known that I shall say nothing of it. We sailed by in sight of it, for it lies open to the sea: and had a fair view of Madre de Popa, or Nuestra Senora de Popa, a monastery of the Virgin Mary, standing on the top of a very steep hill just behind Cartagene. It is a place of incredible wealth, by reason of the offerings made here continually; and for this reason often in danger of being visited by the privateers, did not the neighbourhood of Cartagene keep them in awe. It is in short the very Loreto of the West Indies: it has innumerable miracles related of it. Any misfortune that befalls the privateers is attributed to this lady's doing; and the Spaniards report that she was aboard that night the Oxford man-of-war was blown up at the isle of Vacca near Hispaniola, and that she came home all wet; as belike she often returns with her clothes dirty and torn with passing through woods and bad ways when she has been out upon any expedition; deserving doubtless a new suit for such eminent pieces of service.
From hence we passed on to the Rio Grande, where we took up fresh water at sea, a league off the mouth of that river. From thence we sailed eastwards passing by Santa Martha, a large town and good harbour belonging to the Spaniards: yet has it within these few years been twice taken by the privateers. It stands close upon the sea, and the hill within land is a very large one, towering up a great height from a vast body of land. I am of opinion that it is higher than the Pike of Tenerife; others also that have seen both think the same; though its bigness makes its height less sensible. I have seen it in passing by, 30 leagues off at sea; others, as they told me, above 60: and several have told me that they have seen at once Jamaica, Hispaniola, and the high land of Santa Martha; and yet the nearest of these two places is distant from it 120 leagues; and Jamaica, which is farthest off, is accounted near 150 leagues; and I question whether any land on either of those two islands may be seen 50 leagues. Its head is generally hid in the clouds; but in clear weather, when the top appears, it looks white; supposed to be covered with snow. Santa Martha lies in the latitude of 12 degrees north.
Being advanced 5 or 6 leagues to the eastward of Santa Martha, we left our ships at anchor and returned back in our Canoas to the Rio Grande; entering it by a mouth of it that disembogues itself near Santa Martha: purposing to attempt some towns that lie a pretty way up that river. But, this design meeting with discouragements, we returned to our ships and set sail to the Rio la Hacha. This has been a strong Spanish town, and is well built; but being often taken by the privateers the Spaniards deserted it some time before our arrival. It lies to the westward of a river; and right against the town is a good road for ships, the bottom clean and sandy. The Jamaica sloops used often to come over to trade here: and I am informed that the Spaniards have again settled themselves in it, and made it very strong. We entered the fort and brought two small guns aboard. From thence we went to the Rancho Reys, one or two small Indian villages where the Spaniards keep two barks to fish for pearl. The pearl-banks lie about 4 or 5 leagues off from the shore, as I have been told; thither the fishing barks go and anchor; then the divers go down to the bottom and fill a basket (which is let down before) with oysters; and when they come up others go down, two at a time; this they do till the bark is full, and then go ashore, where the old men, women, and children of the Indians open the oysters, there being a Spanish overseer to look after the pearl. Yet these Indians do very often secure the best pearl for themselves, as many Jamaica men can testify who daily trade with them. The meat they string up, and hang it a-drying. At this place we went ashore, where we found one of the barks, and saw great heaps of oyster-shells, but the people all fled: yet in another place, between this and Rio La Receba, we took some of the Indians, who seem to be a stubborn sort of people: they are long-visaged, black hair, their noses somewhat rising in the middle, and of a stern look. The Spaniards report them to be a very numerous nation; and that they will not subject themselves to their yoke. Yet they have Spanish priests among them; and by trading have brought them to be somewhat sociable; but cannot keep a severe hand over them. The land is but barren, it being of a light sand near the sea, and most savannah, or champaign; and the grass but thin and coarse, yet they feed plenty of cattle. Every man knows his own and looks after them; but the land is in common, except only their houses or small plantations where they live, which every man maintains with some fence about it. They may remove from one place to another as they please, no man having right to any land but what he possesses. This part of the country is not so subject to rain as to the westward of Santa Martha; yet here are tornadoes, or thundershowers; but neither so violent as on the coast of Portobello, nor so frequent. The westerly winds in the westerly-wind season blow here, though not so strong nor lasting as on the coasts of Cartagene and Portobello.
When we had spent some time here we returned again towards the coast of Cartagene; and, being between Rio Grande and that place, we met with westerly winds, which kept us still to the eastward of Cartagene 3 or 4 days; and then in the morning we descried a sail off at sea, and we chased her at noon: Captain Wright, who sailed best, came up with her, and engaged her; and in half an hour after Captain Yankes, who sailed better than the Tartan (the vessel that I was in) came up with her likewise, and laid her aboard, then Captain Wright also; and they took her before we came up. They lost 2 or 3 men, and had 7 or 8 wounded. The prize was a ship of 12 guns and 40 men, who had all good small arms. She was laden with sugar and tobacco, and 8 or 10 tuns of marmalett on board: she came from St. Jago on Cuba, and was bound to Cartagene.
We went back with her to Rio Grande to fix our rigging which was shattered in the fight, and to consider what to do with her; for these were commodities of little use to us, and not worth going into a port with. At the Rio Grande Captain Wright demanded the prize as his due by virtue of his commission: Captain Yankes said it was his due by the law of privateers. Indeed Captain Wright had the most right to her, having by his commission protected Captain Yankes from the French, who would have turned him out because he had no commission; and he likewise began to engage her first. But the company were all afraid that Captain Wright would presently carry her into a port; therefore most of Captain Wright's men stuck to Captain Yankes, and Captain Wright losing his prize burned his own bark, and had Captain Yankes's, it being bigger than his own; the Tartan was sold to a Jamaica trader, and Captain Yankes commanded the prize-ship. We went again from hence to Rio la Hacha, and set the prisoners ashore; and it being now the beginning of November we concluded to go to Querisao to sell our sugar, if favoured by W.erly winds, which were now come in.
We sailed from thence, having fair weather and winds to our mind, which brought us to Querisao, a Dutch island. Captain Wright went ashore to the governor, and offered him the sale of the sugar: but the governor told him he had a great trade with the Spaniards, therefore he could not admit us in there; but if we could go to St. Thomas, which is an island and free port belonging to the Danes, and a sanctuary for privateers, he would send a sloop with such goods as we wanted, and money to buy the sugar, which he would take at a certain rate; but it was not agreed to.
Querisao is the only island of importance that the Dutch have in the West Indies. It is about 5 leagues in length, and may be 9 or 10 in circumference: the northermost point is laid down in north latitude 12 degrees 40 minutes, and it is about 7 or 8 leagues from the main, near Cape Roman. On the south side of the east end is a good harbour called Santa Barbara; but the chiefest harbour is about 3 leagues from the south-east end, on the south side of it where the Dutch have a very good town and a very strong fort. Ships bound in thither must be sure to keep close to the harbour's mouth, and have a hawser or rope ready to send one end ashore to the fort: for there is no anchoring at the entrance of the harbour, and the current always sets to the westward. But being got in, it is a very secure port for ships, either to careen or lie safe. At the east end are two hills, one of them is much higher than the other, and steepest towards the north side. The rest of the island is indifferent level; where of late some rich men have made sugar-works; which formerly was all pasture for cattle: there are also some small plantations of potatoes and yams, and they have still a great many cattle on the island; but it is not so much esteemed for its produce as for its situation for the trade with the Spaniard. Formerly the harbour was never without ships from Cartagene and Portobello that did use to buy of the Dutch 1000 or 1500 Negroes at once, besides great quantities of European commodities; but of late that trade is fallen into the hands of the English at Jamaica: yet still the Dutch have a vast trade over all the West Indies, sending from Holland ships of good force laden with European goods, whereby they make very profitable returns. The Dutch have two other islands here, but of little moment in comparison of Querisao; the one lies 7 or 8 leagues to the westward of Querisao, called Aruba; the other 9 or 10 leagues to the eastward of it, called Bon-Airy. From these islands the Dutch fetch in sloops provision for Querisao to maintain their garrison and Negroes. I was never at Aruba, therefore cannot say anything of it as to my own knowledge; but by report it is much like Bon-Airy, which I shall describe, only not so big. Between Querisao and Bon-Airy is a small island called Little Querisao, it is not above a league from Great Querisao. The king of France has long had an eye on Querisao and made some attempts to take it, but never yet succeeded. I have heard that about 23 or 24 years since the governor had sold it to the French, but died a small time before the fleet came to demand it, and by his death that design failed.
Afterwards, in the year 1678, the Count D'Estree, who a year before had taken the isle of Tobago from the Dutch, was sent thither also with a squadron of stout ships, very well manned, and fitted with bombs and carcasses; intending to take it by storm. This fleet first came to Martinique; where, while they stayed, orders were sent to Pettit Guavos for all privateers to repair thither and assist the count in his design. There were but two privateers' ships that went thither to him, which were manned partly with French, partly with Englishmen. These set out with the count; but in their way to Querisao the whole fleet was lost on a reef, or ridge of rocks, that runs off from the isle of Aves; not above two ships escaping, one of which was one of the privateers; and so that design perished.
Wherefore, not driving a bargain for our sugar with the governor of Querisao, we went from thence to Bon-Airy, another Dutch island, where we met a Dutch sloop come from Europe, laden with Irish beef; which we bought in exchange for some of our sugar.
Bon-Airy is the eastermost of the Dutch islands, and is the largest of the three, though not the most considerable. The middle of the island is laid down in latitude 12 degrees 16 minutes. It is about 20 leagues from the Main, and 9 or 10 from Querisao, and is accounted 16 or 17 leagues round. The road is on the south-west side, near the middle of the island; where there is a pretty deep bay runs in. Ships that come from the eastward luff up close to the eastern shore: and let go their anchor in 60 fathom water, within half a cable's length of the shore. But at the same time they must be ready with a boat to carry a hawser or rope, and make it fast ashore; otherwise, when the land-wind comes in the night, the ship would drive off to sea again; for the ground is so steep that no anchor can hold if once it starts. About half a mile to the westward of this anchoring-place there is a small low island, and a channel between it and the main island.
The houses are about half a mile within land, right in the road: there is a governor lives here, a Deputy to the governor of Querisao, and 7 or 8 soldiers, with 5 or 6 families of Indians. There is no fort; and the soldiers in peaceable times have little to do but to eat and sleep, for they never watch but in time of war. The Indians are husbandmen, and plant maize and guinea-corn, and some yams, and potatoes: but their chiefest business is about cattle: for this island is plentifully stocked with goats: and they send great quantities every year in salt to Querisao. There are some horses, and bulls and cows; but I never saw any sheep, though I have been all over the island. The south side is plain low land, and there are several sorts of trees, but none very large. There is a small spring of water by the houses, which serves the inhabitants, though it is blackish. At the west end of the island there is a good spring of fresh water, and three or four Indian families live there, but no water nor houses at any other place. On the south side near the east end is a good salt pond where Dutch sloops come for salt.
From Bon-Airy we went to the isle of Aves, or Birds; so called from its great plenty of birds, as men-of-war and boobies; but especially boobies. The booby is a waterfowl, somewhat less than a hen, of a light grayish colour. I observed the boobies of this island to be whiter than others. This bird has a strong bill, longer and bigger than a crow's and broader at the end: her feet are flat like a duck's feet. It is a very simple creature and will hardly go out of a man's way. In other places they build their nests on the ground, but here they build on trees; which I never saw anywhere else; though I have seen of them in a great many places. Their flesh is black and eats fishy, but are often eaten by the privateers. Their numbers have been much lessened by the French fleet which was lost here, as I shall give an account.
The man-of-war (as it is called by the English) is about the bigness of a kite, and in shape like it, but black; and the neck is red. It lives on fish, yet never lights on the water, but soars aloft like a kite, and when it sees its prey it flies down head foremost to the water's edge very swiftly, takes its prey out of the sea with its bill, and immediately mounts again as swiftly, and never touching the water with his bill. His wings are very long; his feet are like other land-fowl, and he builds on trees where he finds any; but where they are wanting, on the ground.
This island Aves lies about 8 or 9 leagues to the eastward of the island Bon-Airy, about 14 or 15 leagues from the Main, and about the latitude of 11 degrees 45 minutes north. It is but small, not above four mile in length, and towards the east end not half a mile broad. On the north side it is low land, commonly overflown with the tide; but on the south side there is a great rocky bank of coral thrown up by the sea. The west end is, for near a mile space, plain even savannah land, without any trees. There are 2 or 3 wells dug by privateers, who often frequent this island, because there is a good harbour about the middle of it on the north side where they may conveniently careen. The reef or bank of rocks on which the French fleet was lost, as I mentioned above, runs along from the east end to the northward about 3 mile, then trends away to the westward, making as it were a half moon. This reef breaks off all the sea, and there is good riding in even sandy ground to the westward of it. There are 2 or 3 small low sandy keys or islands within this reef, about 3 miles from the main island.
The Count d'Estree lost his fleet here in this manner. Coming from the eastward, he fell in on the back of the reef, and fired guns to give warning to the rest of his fleet: but they supposing their admiral was engaged with enemies, hoisted up their topsails, and crowded all the sails they could make, and ran full sail ashore after him; all within half a mile of each other. For his light being in the main-top was an unhappy beacon for them to follow; and there escaped but one king's ship and one privateer. The ships continued whole all day, and the men had time enough, most of them, to get ashore, yet many perished in the wreck; and many of those that got safe on the island, for want of being accustomed to such hardships, died like rotten sheep. But the privateers who had been used to such accidents lived merrily, from whom I had this relation: and they told me that if they had gone to Jamaica with 30 pounds a man in their pockets, they could not have enjoyed themselves more: for they kept in a gang by themselves, and watched when the ships broke, to get the goods that came from them, and though much was staved against the rocks, yet abundance of wine and brandy floated over the reef, where the privateers waited to take it up. They lived here about three weeks, waiting an opportunity to transport themselves back again to Hispaniola; in all which time they were never without two or three hogsheads of wine and brandy in their tents, and barrels of beef and pork; which they could live on without bread well enough, though the newcomers out of France could not. There were about forty Frenchmen on board in one of the ships where there was good store of liquor, till the after-part of her broke away and floated over the reef, and was carried away to sea, with all the men drinking and singing, who being in drink, did not mind the danger, but were never heard of afterwards.
In a short time after this great shipwreck Captain Pain, commander of a privateer of six guns, had a pleasant accident befall him at this island. He came hither to careen, intending to fit himself very well; for here lay driven on the island masts, yards, timbers, and many things that he wanted, therefore he hauled into the harbour, close to the island, and unrigged his ship. Before he had done a Dutch ship of twenty guns was sent from Querisao to take up the guns that were lost on the reef: but seeing a ship in the harbour, and knowing her to be a French privateer, they thought to take her first, and came within a mile of her, and began to fire at her, intending to warp in the next day, for it is very narrow going in. Captain Pain got ashore some of his guns, and did what he could to resist them; though he did in a manner conclude he must be taken. But while his men were thus busied he spied a Dutch sloop turning to get into the road, and saw her at the evening anchor at the west end of the island. This gave him some hope of making his escape; which he did by sending two Canoas in the night aboard the sloop, who took her, and got considerable purchase in her; and he went away in her, making a good reprisal and leaving his own empty ship to the Dutch man-of-war.
There is another island to the eastward of the isle of Aves about four league, called by privateers the little isle of Aves, which is overgrown with mangrove-trees. I have seen it but was never on it. There are no inhabitants that I could learn on either of these islands, but boobies and a few other birds.
Whilst we were at the isle of Aves we careen'd Captain Wright's bark and scrubbed the sugar-prize, and got two guns out of the wrecks; continuing here till the beginning of February 168½.
We went from hence to the isles Roca's to careen the sugar-prize, which the isle of Aves was not a place so convenient for. Accordingly we hauled close to one of the small islands and got our guns ashore the first thing we did, and built a breast-work on the point, and planted all our guns there to hinder an enemy from coming to us while we lay on the careen: then we made a house and covered it with our sails to put our goods and provisions in. While we lay here, a French man-of-war of 36 guns came through the keys or little islands; to whom we sold about 10 tun of sugar. I was aboard twice or thrice, and very kindly welcomed both by the captain and his lieutenant, who was a cavalier of Malta; and they both offered me great encouragement in France if I would go with them; but I ever designed to continue with those of my own nation.
The islands Roca's are a parcel of small uninhabited islands lying about the latitude of 11 degrees 40 minutes about 15 or 16 leagues from the Main, and about 20 leagues N. W. by W. from Tortuga, and 6 or 7 leagues to the westward of Orchilla, another island lying about the same distance from the Main; which island I have seen, but was never at it. Roca's stretch themselves east and west about 5 leagues, and their breadth about 3 leagues. The northernmost of these islands is the most remarkable by reason of a high white rocky hill at the west end of it, which may be seen a great way; and on it there are abundance of tropic-birds, men-of-war, booby and noddies, which breed there. The booby and man-of-war I have described already. The noddy is a small black bird, about the bigness of the English blackbird, and indifferent good meat. They build in rocks. We never find them far off from shore. I have seen of them in other places, but never saw any of their nests but in this island, where there is great plenty of them. The tropic-bird is as big as a pigeon but round and plump like a partridge. They are all white, except two or three feathers in each wing of a light grey. Their bills are of a yellowish colour, thick and short. They have one long feather, or rather a quill about 7 inches long, grows out at the rump, which is all the tail they have. They are never seen far without either Tropic, for which reason they are called tropic-birds. They are very good food, and we meet with them a great way at sea, and I never saw of them anywhere but at sea and in this island, where they build and are found in great plenty.
By the sea on the south side of that high hill there's fresh water comes out of the rocks, but so slowly that it yield not above 40 gallons in 24 hours, and it tastes so copperish, or aluminous rather, and rough in the mouth, that it seems very unpleasant at first drinking: but after two or three days any water will seem to have no taste.
The middle of this island is low plain land, overgrown with long grass, where there are multitudes of small grey fowls no bigger than a blackbird, yet lay eggs bigger than a magpie's; and they are therefore by privateers called egg-birds. The east end of the island is overgrown with black mangrove-trees.
There are three sorts of mangrove-trees, black, red and white. The black mangrove is the largest tree; the body about as big as an oak, and about 20 feet high. It is very hard and serviceable timber, but extraordinary heavy, therefore not much made use of for building. The red mangrove grows commonly by the seaside, or by rivers or creeks. The body is not so big as that of the black mangrove, but always grows out of many roots about the bigness of a man's leg, some bigger some less, which at about 6, 8, or 10 foot above the ground join into one trunk or body that seems to be supported by so many artificial stakes. Where this sort of tree grows it is impossible to march by reason of these stakes, which grow so mixed one amongst another that I have, when forced to go through them, gone half a mile, and never set my foot on the ground, stepping from root to root. The timber is hard and good for many uses. The inside of the bark is red, and it is used for tanning of leather very much all over the West Indies. The white mangrove never grows so big as the other two sorts, neither is it of any great use: of the young trees privateers use to make loom, or handles for their oars, for it is commonly straight, but not very strong, which is the fault of them. Neither the black nor white mangrove grow towering up from stilts or rising roots as the red does; but the body immediately out of the ground, like other trees.
The land of this east end is light sand which is sometimes overflown with the sea at spring tides. The road for ships is on the south side against the middle of the island. The rest of the islands of Roca's are low. The next to this on the south side is but small, flat, and even, without trees, bearing only grass. On the south side of it is a pond of brackish water which sometimes privateers use instead of better; there is likewise good riding by it. About a league from this are two other islands, not 200 yards distant from each other; yet a deep channel for ships to pass through. They are both overgrown with red mangrove-trees; which trees, above any of the mangroves, do flourish best in wet drowned land, such as these two islands are; only the east point of the westermost island is dry sand, without tree or bush. On this point we careen'd, lying on the south side of it.
The other islands are low, and have red mangroves and other trees on them. Here also ships may ride, but no such place for careening as where we lay, because at that place ships may haul close to the shore; and, if they had but four guns on the point, may secure the channel, and hinder any enemy from coming near them. I observed that within among the islands was good riding in many places, but not without the islands, except to the westward or south-west of them. For on the east or north-east of these islands the common trade-wind blows, and makes a great sea: and to the southward of them there is no ground under 70, or 80, or 100 fathom, close by the land.
After we had filled what water we could from hence we set out again in April 1682 and came to Salt Tortuga, so called to distinguish it from the shoals of Dry Tortugas, near Cape Florida, and from the isle of Tortugas by Hispaniola, which was called formerly French Tortugas; though, not having heard any mention of that name a great while, I am apt to think it is swallowed up in that of Pettit Guavos, the chief garrison the French have in those parts. This island we arrived at is pretty large, uninhabited, and abounds with salt. It is in latitude 11 degrees north, and lies west and a little northerly from Margarita, an island inhabited by the Spaniards, strong and wealthy; it is distant from it about 14 leagues, and 17 or 18 from Cape Blanco on the Main: a ship being within these islands a little to the southward may see at once the Main, Magarita and Tortuga when it is clear weather. The east end of Tortuga is full of rugged, bare, broken rocks which stretch themselves a little way out to sea. At the south-east part is an indifferent good road for ships, much frequented in peaceable times by merchant-ships that come thither to lade salt in the months of May, June, July, and August. For at the east end is a large salt pond, within 200 paces of the sea. The salt begins to kern or grain in April, except it is a dry season; for it is observed that rain makes the salt kern. I have seen above 20 sail at a time in this road come to lade salt; and these ships coming from some of the Caribbean Islands are always well stored with rum, sugar and lime-juice to make punch, to hearten their men when they are at work, getting and bringing aboard the salt; and they commonly provide the more, in hopes to meet with privateers who resort hither in the aforesaid months purposely to keep a Christmas, as they call it; being sure to meet with liquor enough to be merry with, and are very liberal to those that treat them. Near the west end of the island, on the south side, there is a small harbour and some fresh water: that end of the island is full of shrubby trees, but the east end is rocky and barren as to trees, producing only coarse grass. There are some goats on it, but not many; and turtle or tortoise come upon the sandy bays to lay their eggs, and from thence the island has its name. There is no riding anywhere but in the roads where the salt ponds are, or in the harbour.
At this isle we thought to have sold our sugar among the English ships that come hither for salt; but, failing there, we designed for Trinidad, an island near the Main, inhabited by the Spaniards, tolerably strong and wealthy; but, the current and easterly winds hindering us, we passed through between Margarita and the Main, and went to Blanco, a pretty large island almost north of Margarita; about 30 leagues from the Main, and in 11 degrees 50 minutes north latitude. It is a flat, even, low, uninhabited island, dry and healthy: most savannah of long grass, and has some trees of lignum-vitae growing in spots, with shrubby bushes of other wood about them. It is plentifully stored with Guanos, which are an animal like a lizard, but much bigger. The body is as big as the small of a man's leg, and from the hindquarter the tail grows tapering to the end, which is very small. If a man takes hold of the tail, except very near the hindquarter, it will part and break off in one of the joints, and the Guano will get away. They lay eggs, as most of those amphibious creatures do, and are very good to eat. Their flesh is much esteemed by privateers, who commonly dress them for their sick men; for they make very good broth. They are of divers colours, as almost black, dark brown, light brown, dark green, light green, yellow and speckled. They all live as well in the water as on land, and some of them are constantly in the water, and among rocks: these are commonly black. Others that live in swampy wet ground are commonly on bushes and trees, these are green. But such as live in dry ground, as here at Blanco, are commonly yellow; yet these also will live in the water, and are sometimes on trees. The road is on the north-west end against a small cove, or little sandy bay. There is no riding anywhere else, for it is deep water, and steep close to the land. There is one small spring on the west side, and there is sandy bays round the island, where turtle or tortoise come up in great abundance, going ashore in the night. These that frequent this island are called green turtle, and they are the best of that sort, both for largeness and sweetness of any in all the West Indies. I would here give a particular description of these and other sorts of turtle in these seas; but because I shall have occasion to mention some other sort of turtle when I come again into the South Seas, that are very different from all these, I shall there give a general account of all these several sorts at once, that the difference between them may be the better discerned. Some of our modern descriptions speak of goats on this island. I know not what there may have been formerly, but there are none now to my certain knowledge; for myself, and many more of our crew, have been all over it.
Indeed these parts have undergone great changes in this last age, as well in places themselves as in their owners, and commodities of them; particularly Nombre de Dios, a city once famous, and which still retains a considerable name in some late accounts, is now nothing but a name. For I have lain ashore in the place where that city stood; but it is all overgrown with wood, so as to leave no sign that any town has been there.
We stayed at the isle of Blanco not above ten days, and then went back to Salt Tortuga again, where Captain Yankes parted with us: and from thence, after about four days, all which time our men were drunk and quarrelling, we in Captain Wright's ship went to the coast of Caraccos on the mainland. This coast is upon several accounts very remarkable: it is a continued tract of high ridges of hills and small valleys intermixed for about 20 leagues, stretching east and west but in such manner that the ridges of hills and the valleys alternately run pointing upon the shore from south to north: the valleys are some of them about 4 or 5, others not above 1 or 2 furlongs wide, and in length from the sea scarce any of them above 4 or 5 mile at most; there being a long ridge of mountains at that distance from the sea-coast, and in a manner parallel to it, that joins those shorter ridges, and closes up the south end of the valleys, which at the north ends of them lie open to the sea, and make so many little sandy bays that are the only landing-places on the coast. Both the main ridge and these shorter ribs are very high land, so that 3 or 4 leagues off at sea the valleys scarce appear to the eye, but all look like one great mountain. From the isles of Roca's about 15, and from the isle of Aves about 20 leagues off, we see this coast very plain from on board our ships, yet when at anchor on this coast we cannot see those Isles; though again from the tops of these hills they appear as if at no great distance, like so many hillocks in a pond. These hills are barren, except the lower sides of them that are covered with some of the same rich black mould that fills the valleys, and is as good as I have seen. In some of the valleys there's a strong red clay, but in the general they are extremely fertile, well-watered, and inhabited by Spaniards and their Negroes. They have maize and plantains for their support, with Indian fowls and some hogs.
But the main product of these valleys, and indeed the only commodity it vends, are the Cacoa-nuts, of which the chocolate is made. The Cacoa-tree grows nowhere in the North Seas but in the Bay of Campeachy, on Costa Rica, between Portobello and Nicaragua, chiefly up Carpenter's River; and on this coast as high as the isle of Trinidad. In the South Seas it grows in the river of Guiaquil, a little to the southward of the Line, and in the valley of Colima, on the south side of the continent of Mexico; both which places I shall hereafter describe. Besides these I am confident there's no places in the world where the Cacoa grows, except those in Jamaica, of which there are now but few remaining, of many and large walks or plantations of them found there by the English at their first arrival, and since planted by them; and even these, though there is a great deal of pains and care bestowed on them, yet seldom come to anything, being generally blighted. The nuts of this coast of Caraccos, though less than those of Costa Rica, which are large flat nuts, yet are better and fatter, in my opinion, being so very oily that we are forced to use water in rubbing them up; and the Spaniards that live here, instead of parching them to get off the shell before they pound or rub them to make chocolate, do in a manner burn them to dry up the oil; for else, they say, it would fill them too full of blood, drinking chocolate as they do five or six times a day. My worthy consort Mr. Ringrose commends most the Guiaquil nut; I presume because he had little knowledge of the rest; for, being intimately acquainted with him, I know the course of his travels and experience: but I am persuaded, had he known the rest so well as I pretend to have done, who have at several times been long used to, and in a manner lived upon all the several sorts of them above mentioned, he would prefer the Caraccos nuts before any other; yet possibly the drying up of these nuts so much by the Spaniards here, as I said, may lessen their esteem with those Europeans that use their chocolate ready rubbed up: so that we always chose to make it up ourselves.
The Cacoa-tree has a body about a foot and a half thick (the largest sort) and 7 or 8 foot high, to the branches, which are large and spreading like an oak, with a pretty thick, smooth, dark green leaf, shaped like that of a plum-tree, but larger. The nuts are enclosed in cods as big as both a man's fists put together: at the broad end of which there is a small, tough, limber stalk, by which they hang pendulous from the body of the tree, in all parts of it from top to bottom, scattered at irregular distances, and from the greater branches a little way up; especially at the joints of them or partings, where they hang thickest, but never on the smaller boughs. There may be ordinarily about 20 or 30 of these cods upon a well-bearing tree; and they have two crops of them in a year, one in December, but the best in June. The cod itself or shell is almost half an inch thick; neither spongy nor woody, but of a substance between both, brittle, yet harder than the rind of a lemon; like which its surface is grained or knobbed, but more coarse and unequal. The cods at first are of a dark green, but the side of them next the sun of a muddy red. As they grow ripe, the green turns to a fine bright yellow, and the muddy to a more lively, beautiful red, very pleasant to the eye. They neither ripen nor are gathered at once: but for three weeks or a month when the season is the overseers of the plantations go every day about to see which are turned yellow; cutting at once, it may be, not above one from a tree. The cods thus gathered they lay in several heaps to sweat, and then, bursting the shell with their hands, they pull out the nuts which are the only substance they contain, having no stalk or pith among them, and (excepting that these nuts lie in regular rows) are placed like the grains of maize, but sticking together, and so closely stowed that, after they have been once separated, it would be hard to place them again in so narrow a compass. There are generally near 100 nuts in a cod; in proportion to the greatness of which, for it varies, the nuts are bigger or less. When taken out they dry them in the sun upon mats spread on the ground: after which they need no more care, having a thin hard skin of their own, and much oil, which preserves them. Salt water will not hurt them; for we had our bags rotten, lying in the bottom of our ship, and yet the nuts never the worse. They raise the young trees of nuts set with the great end downward in fine black mould, and in the same places where they are to bear; which they do in 4 or 5 years' time, without the trouble of transplanting. There are ordinarily of these trees from 500 to 2000 and upward in a plantation or Cacoa-walk, as they call them; and they shelter the young trees from the weather with plantains set about them for two or three years; destroying all the plantains by such time the Cacoa-trees are of a pretty good body and able to endure the heat; which I take to be the most pernicious to them of anything; for, though these valleys lie open to the north winds, unless a little sheltered here and there by some groves of plantain-trees, which are purposely set near the shores of the several bays, yet, by all that I could either observe or learn, the Cacoas in this country are never blighted, as I have often known them to be in other places. Cacoa-nuts are used as money in the Bay of Campeachy.
The chief town of this country is called Caraccos; a good way within land, it is a large wealthy place, where live most of the owners of these Cacoa-walks that are in the valleys by the shore; the plantations being managed by overseers and Negroes. It is in a large savannah country that abounds with cattle; and a Spaniard of my acquaintance, a very sensible man who has been there, tells me that it is very populous, and he judges it to be three times as big as Corunna in Galicia. The way to it is very steep and craggy, over that ridge of hills which I say closes up the valleys and partition hills of the Cacoa coast.
In this coast itself the chief place is La Guaira, a good town close by the sea; and, though it has but a bad harbour, yet it is much frequented by the Spanish shipping; for the Dutch and English anchor in the sandy bays that lie here and there, in the mouths of several valleys, and where there is very good riding. The town is open, but has a strong fort; yet both were taken some years since by Captain Wright and his privateers. It is seated about 4 or 5 leagues to the westward of Cape Blanco, which cape is the eastermost boundary of this coast of Caraccos. Further eastward about 20 leagues is a great lake or branch of the sea called Laguna de Venezuela; about which are many rich towns, but the mouth of the lake is shallow, that no ship can enter.
Near this mouth is a place called Cumana where the privateers were once repulsed without daring to attempt it any more, being the only place in the North Seas they attempted in vain for many years; and the Spaniards since throw it in their teeth frequently, as a word of reproach or defiance to them.
Not far from that place is Verina, a small village and Spanish plantation, famous for its tobacco, reputed the best in the world.
But to return to Caraccos, all this coast is subject to dry winds, generally north-east, which caused us to have scabby lips; and we always found it thus, and that in different seasons of the year, for I have been on this coast several times. In other respects it is very healthy, and a sweet clear air. The Spaniards have lookouts or scouts on the hills, and breast-works in the valleys, and most of their Negroes are furnished with arms also for defence of the bays.
The Dutch have a very profitable trade here almost to themselves. I have known three or four great ships at a time on the coast, each it may be of thirty or forty guns. They carry hither all sorts of European commodities, especially linen; making vast returns, chiefly in silver and Cacoa. And I have often wondered and regretted it that none of my own countrymen find the way thither directly from England; for our Jamaica men trade thither indeed, and find the sweet of it, though they carry English commodities at second or third hand.
While we lay on this coast, we went ashore in some of the bays, and took 7 or 8 tun of Cacoa; and after that 3 barks, one laden with hides, the second with European commodities, the third with earthenware and brandy. With these 3 barks we went again to the island of Roca's, where we shared our commodities and separated, having vessels enough to transport us all whither we thought most convenient. Twenty of us (for we were about 60) took one of the vessels and our share of the goods, and went directly for Virginia.
In our way thither we took several of the sucking-fishes: for when we see them about the ship, we cast out a line and hook, and they will take it with any manner of bait, whether fish or flesh. The sucking-fish is about the bigness of a large whiting, and much of the same make towards the tail, but the head is flatter. From the head to the middle of its back there grows a sort of flesh of a hard gristly substance like that of the limpet (a shellfish tapering up pyramidically) which sticks to the rocks; or like the head or mouth of a shell-snail, but harder. This excrescence is of a flat and oval form, about seven or eight inches long and five or six broad; and rising about half an inch high. It is full of small ridges with which it will fasten itself to anything that it meets with in the sea, just as a snail does to a wall. When any of them happen to come about a ship they seldom leave her, for they will feed on such filth as is daily thrown overboard, or on mere excrements. When it is fair weather, and but little wind, they will play about the ship; but in blustering weather, or when the ship sails quick, they commonly fasten themselves to the ship's bottom, from whence neither the ship's motion, though never so swift, nor the most tempestuous sea can remove them. They will likewise fasten themselves to any other bigger fish; for they never swim fast themselves if they meet with anything to carry them. I have found them sticking to a shark after it was hauled in on the deck, though a shark is so strong and boisterous a fish, and throws about him so vehemently for half an hour together, it may be, when caught, that did not the sucking-fish stick at no ordinary rate, it must needs be cast off by so much violence. It is usual also to see them sticking to turtle, to any old trees, planks, or the like, that lie driven at sea. Any knobs or inequalities at a ship's bottom are a great hindrance to the swiftness of its sailing; and 10 or 12 of these sticking to it must needs retard it as much, in a manner, as if its bottom were foul. So that I am inclined to think that this fish is the remora, of which the ancients tell such stories; if it be not I know no other that is, and I leave the reader to judge. I have seen of these sucking-fishes in great plenty in the Bay of Campeachy and in all the sea between that and the coast of Caraccos, as about those islands particularly I have lately described, Roca's, Blanco, Tortugas, etc. They have no scales, and are very good meat.
We met nothing else worth remark in our voyage to Virginia, where we arrived in July 1682. That country is so well known to our nation that I shall say nothing of it, nor shall I detain the reader with the story of my own affairs, and the trouble that befell me during about thirteen months of my stay there; but in the next chapter enter immediately upon my second voyage into the South Seas, and round the globe.
Being now entering upon the relation of a new voyage which makes up the main body of this book, proceeding from Virginia by the way of Tierra del Fuego, and the South Seas, the East Indies, and so on, till my return to England by the way of the Cape of Good Hope, I shall give my reader this short account of my first entrance upon it. Among those who accompanied Captain Sharp into the South Seas in our former expedition, and leaving him there, returned overland, as is said in the Introduction and in the 1st and 2nd chapters there was one Mr. Cook, an English native of St. Christopher's, a Cirole, as we call all born of European parents in the West Indies. He was a sensible man, and had been some years a privateer. At our joining ourselves with those privateers, we met at our coming again to the North Seas; his lot was to be with Captain Yankes, who kept company for some considerable time with Captain Wright, in whose ship I was, and parted with us at our 2nd anchoring at the isle of Tortugas; as I have said in the last chapter. After our parting, this Mr. Cook being quartermaster under Captain Yankes, the second place in the ship according to the law of privateers, laid claim to a ship they took from the Spaniards; and such of Captain Yankes's men as were so disposed, particularly all those who came with us overland, went aboard this prize-ship under the new Captain Cook. This distribution was made at the isle of Vacca, or the isle of Ash, as we call it; and here they parted also such goods as they had taken. But Captain Cook having no commission, as Captain Yankes, Captain Tristian, and some other French commanders had, who lay then at that island, and they grudging the English such a vessel, they all joined together, plundered the English of their ships, goods, and arms, and turned them ashore. Yet Captain Tristian took in about 8 or 10 of these English, and carried them with him to Pettit Guavos: of which number Captain Cook was one, and Captain Davis another, who with the rest found means to seize the ship as she lay at anchor in the road, Captain Tristian and many of his men being then ashore: and the English sending ashore such Frenchmen as remained in the ship and were mastered by them, though superior in number, stood away with her immediately for the isle of Vacca before any notice of this surprise could reach the French governor of that isle; so, deceiving him also by a stratagem, they got on board the rest of their countrymen who had been left on that island; and going thence they took a ship newly come from France laden with wines. They also took a ship of good force, in which they resolved to embark themselves, and make a new expedition into the South Seas, to cruise on the coast of Chile and Peru. But first they went for Virginia with their prizes; where they arrived the April after my coming thither. The best of their prizes carried 18 guns; this they fitted up there with sails, and everything necessary for so long a voyage; selling the wines they had taken for such provisions as they wanted. Myself and those of our fellow-travellers over the Isthmus of America who came with me to Virginia the year before this (most of which had since made a short voyage to Carolina, and were again returned to Virginia) resolved to join ourselves to these new adventurers: and as many more engaged in the same design as made our whole crew consist of about 70 men. So, having furnished ourselves with necessary materials, and agreed upon some particular rules, especially of temperance and sobriety, by reason of the length of our intended voyage, we all went on board our ship.
August 23 1683 we sailed from Achamack § in Virginia under the command of Captain Cook bound for the South Seas. I shall not trouble the reader with an account of every day's run, but hasten to the less known parts of the world to give a description of them; only relating such memorable accidents as happened to us and such places as we touched at by the way.
§ The modern Accomac, Virginia.
We met nothing worth observation till we came to the Islands of Cape Verde, excepting a terrible storm which we could not escape: this happened in a few days after we left Virginia; with a south-south-east wind just in our teeth. The storm lasted above a week: it drenched us all like so many drowned rats, and was one of the worst storms I ever was in. One I met with in the East Indies was more violent for the time; but of not above 24 hours continuance.
After that storm we had favourable winds and good weather; and in a short time we arrived at the island Sal, which is one of the eastermost of the Cape Verde Islands. Of these there are ten in number (so considerable as to bear distinct names) and they lie several degrees off from Cape Verde in Africa, whence they receive that appellation; taking up about 5 degrees of longitude in breadth, and about as many of latitude in their length, namely, from near 14 to 19 north. They are most inhabited by Portuguese banditti. This of Sal is an island lying in the latitude of 16, in longitude 19 degrees 33 minutes west from the Lizard in England, stretching from north to south about 8 or 9 leagues, and not above a league and a half or two leagues wide. It has its name from the abundance of salt that is naturally congealed there, the whole island being full of large salt ponds. The land is very barren, producing no tree that I could see, but some small shrubby bushes by the seaside. Neither could I discern any grass; yet there are some poor goats on it.
I know not whether there are any other beasts on the island: there are some wildfowl, but I judge not many. I saw a few flamingos, which is a sort of large fowl, much like a heron in shape, but bigger, and of a reddish colour. They delight to keep together in great companies, and feed in mud or ponds, or in such places where there is not much water: they are very shy, therefore it is hard to shoot them. Yet I have lain obscured in the evening near a place where they resort, and with two more in my company have killed 14 of them at once; the first shot being made while they were standing on the ground, the other two as they rose. They build their nests in shallow ponds where there is much mud, which they scrape together, making little hillocks like small islands appearing out of the water a foot and a half high from the bottom. They make the foundation of these hillocks broad, bringing them up tapering to the top, where they leave a small hollow pit to lay their eggs in; and when they either lay their eggs or hatch them they stand all the while, not on the hillock but close by it with their legs on the ground and in the water, resting themselves against the hillock and covering the hollow nest upon it with their rumps: for their legs are very long; and building thus, as they do, upon the ground, they could neither draw their legs conveniently into their nests, nor sit down upon them otherwise than by resting their whole bodies there, to the prejudice of their eggs or their young, were it not for this admirable contrivance which they have by natural instinct. They never lay more than two eggs and seldom fewer. The young ones cannot fly till they are almost full-grown; but will run prodigiously fast; yet we have taken many of them. The flesh of both young and old is lean and black, yet very good meat, tasting neither fishy nor any way unsavoury. Their tongues are large, having a large knob of fat at the root, which is an excellent bit: a dish of flamingo's tongues being fit for a prince's table.
When many of them are standing together by a pond's side, being half a mile distant from a man, they appear to him like a brick wall; their feathers being of the colour of new red brick: and they commonly stand upright and single, one by one, exactly in a row (except when feeding) and close by each other. The young ones at first are of a light grey; and as their wing-feathers spring out they grow darker; and never come to their right colour, or any beautiful shape, under ten or eleven months old. I have seen flamingoes at Rio la Hacha, and at an island lying near the Main of America, right against Querisao, called by privateers Flamingo Key, from the multitude of these fowls that breed there: and I never saw of their nests and young but here.
There are not above 5 or 6 men on this island of Sal, and a poor governor, as they called him, who came aboard in our boat, and about 3 or 4 poor lean goats for a present to our captain, telling him they were the best that the island did afford. The captain, minding more the poverty of the giver than the value of the present, gave him in requital a coat to clothe him; for he had nothing but a few rags on his back and an old hat not worth three farthings; which yet I believe he wore but seldom, for fear he should want before he might get another; for he told us there had not been a ship in 3 years before. We bought of him about 20 bushels of salt for a few old clothes: and he begged a little powder and shot. We stayed here 3 days; in which time one of these Portuguese offered to some of our men a lump of ambergris in exchange for some clothes, desiring them to keep it secret, for he said if the governor should know it he should be hanged. At length one Mr. Coppinger bought for a small matter; yet I believe he gave more than it was worth.
We had not a man in the ship that knew ambergris; but I have since seen it in other places, and therefore am certain it was not right. It was of a dark colour, like sheep dung, and very soft, but of no smell, and possibly it was some of their goat's dung. I afterwards saw some sold at the Nicobars in the East Indies which was of a lighter colour, but very hard, neither had it any smell; and this also I suppose was a cheat. Yet it is certain that in both these places there is ambergris found.
I was told by one John Read, a Bristol man, that he was apprentice to a master who traded to these islands of Cape Verde and once as he was riding at an anchor at Fogo, another of these islands, there was a lump of it swam by the ship, and the boat being ashore he missed it, but knew it to be ambergris, having taken up a lump swimming in the like manner the voyage before, and his master having at several times bought pieces of it of the natives of the isle of Fogo so as to enrich himself thereby. And so at the Nicobars Englishmen have bought, as I have been credibly informed, great quantities of very good ambergris. Yet the inhabitants are so subtle that they will counterfeit it, both there and here: and I have heard that in the Gulf of Florida, whence much of it comes, the native Indians there use the same fraud.
Upon this occasion I cannot omit to tell my reader what I learnt from Mr. Hill the surgeon upon his showing me once a piece of ambergris, which was thus. One Mr. Benjamin Barker, a man that I have been long well acquainted with, and know him to be a very diligent and observing person, and likewise very sober and credible, told this Mr. Hill that, being in the Bay of Honduras to procure log-wood, which grows there in great abundance, and, passing in a Canoa over to one of the islands in that bay, he found upon the shore, on a sandy bay there, a lump of ambergris so large that, when carried to Jamaica, he found it to weigh a hundred pound and upwards. When he first found it it lay dry above the mark which the sea then came to at high-water; and he observed in it a great multitude of beetles: it was of a dusky colour, towards black, and about the hardness of mellow cheese, and of a very fragrant smell: this that Mr. Hill showed me, being some of it which Mr. Barker gave him. Besides those already mentioned, all the places where I have heard that ambergris has been found, at Bermuda and the Bahama Islands in the West Indies, and that part of the coast of Africa with its adjacent islands which reaches from Mozambique to the Red Sea.
We went from this Island of Sal to St. Nicholas, another of the Cape Verde Islands lying west-south-west from Sal about 22 leagues. We arrived there the next day after we left the other, and anchored on the south-east side of the island. This is a pretty large island; it is one of the biggest of all the Cape Verde, and lies in a triangular form. The longest side, which lies to the east, is about 30 leagues long, and the other two about 20 leagues each. It is a mountainous barren island, and rocky all round towards the sea; yet in the heart of it there are valleys where the Portuguese, which inhabit here, have vineyards and plantations, and wood for fuel. Here are many goats, which are but poor in comparison with those in other places, yet much better than those at Sal: there are likewise many asses. The governor of this island came aboard us with three or four gentlemen more in his company who were all indifferently well clothed, and accoutred with swords and pistols; but the rest that accompanied him to the seaside, which were about twenty or thirty men more, were but in a ragged garb. The governor brought aboard some wine made in the island, which tasted much like Madeira wine: it was of a pale colour, and looked thick. He told us the chief town was in the valley fourteen mile from the bay where we rode; that he had there under him above one hundred families, besides other inhabitants that lived scattering in valleys more remote. They were all very swarthy; the governor was the clearest of them, yet of a dark tawny complexion.
At this island we scrubbed the bottom of our ship, and here also we dug wells ashore on the bay, and filled all our water, and after 5 or 6 days stay we went from hence to Mayo, another of the Cape Verde Islands, lying about forty mile east and by south from the other, arriving there the next day and anchoring on the north-west side of the island. We sent our boat on shore, intending to have purchased some provision, as beef or goats, with which this island is better stocked than the rest of the islands. But the inhabitants would not suffer our men to land; for about a week before our arrival there came an English ship, the men of which came ashore pretending friendship, and seized on the governor with some others, and, carrying them aboard, made them send ashore for cattle to ransom their liberties: and yet after this set sail, and carried them away, and they had not heard of them since. The Englishman that did this (as I was afterwards informed) was one Captain Bond of Bristol. Whether ever he brought back those men again I know not: he himself and most of his men have since gone over to the Spaniards: and it was he who had like to have burnt our ship after this in the Bay of Panama; as I shall have occasion to relate.
This isle of Mayo is but small and environed with shoals, yet a place much frequented by shipping for its great plenty of salt: and though there is but bad landing, yet many ships lade here every year. Here are plenty of bulls, cows, and goats; and at a certain season of the year, as May, June, July, and August, a sort of small sea-tortoise come hither to lay their eggs; but these turtle are not so sweet as those in the West Indies. The inhabitants plant corn, yams, potatoes, and some plantains, and breed a few fowls; living very poor, yet much better than the inhabitants of any other of these islands, St. Jago excepted, which lies four or five leagues to the westward of Mayo and is the chief, the most fruitful, and best inhabited of all the islands of Cape Verde; yet mountainous, and much barren land in it.
On the east side of the isle St. Jago is a good port, which in peaceable times especially is seldom without ships; for this has been long a place which ships have been wont to touch at for water and refreshments, as those outward-bound to the East Indies, English, French and Dutch; many of the ships bound to the coast of Guinea, the Dutch to Surinam, and their own Portuguese fleet going for Brazil, which is generally about the latter end of September: but few ships call in here in their return to Europe. When any ships are here the country people bring down their commodities to sell to the seamen and passengers, namely, bullocks, hogs, goats, fowls, eggs, plantains, and coconuts, which they will give in exchange for shirts, drawers, handkerchiefs, hats, waistcoats, breeches, or in a manner for any sort of cloth, especially linen, for woollen is not much esteemed there. They care not willingly to part with their cattle of any sort but in exchange for money, or linen, or some other valuable commodity. Travellers must have a care of these people, for they are very thievish; and if they see an opportunity will snatch anything from you and run away with it. We did not touch at this island in this voyage; but I was there before this in the year 1670, when I saw a fort here lying on the top of a hill and commanding the harbour.
The governor of this island is chief over all the rest of the islands. I have been told that there are two large towns on this island, some small villages, and a great many inhabitants; and that they make a great deal of wine, such as is that of St. Nicholas. I have not been on any other of the Cape Verde Islands, nor near them; but have seen most of them at a distance. They seem to be mountainous and barren; some of these before-mentioned being the most fruitful and most frequented by strangers, especially St. Jago and Mayo. As to the rest of them, Fogo and Brava are two small islands lying to the westward of St. Jago, but of little note; only Fogo is remarkable for its being a volcano: it is all of it one large mountain of a good height, out of the top whereof issues flames of fire, yet only discerned in the night: and then it may be seen a great way at sea. Yet this island is not without inhabitants, who live at the foot of the mountain near the sea. Their substance is much the same as in the other islands; they have some goats, fowls, plantains, coconuts, etc., as I am informed. Of the plantains and coconuts I shall have occasion to speak when I come into the East Indies; and shall defer the giving an account of them till then.
The remainder of these Islands of Cape Verde are St. Antonia, St. Lucia, St. Vicente, and Buena Vista: of which I know nothing considerable.
Our entrance among these islands was from the north-east; for in our passage from Virginia we ran pretty fair toward the coast of Gualata in Africa to preserve the trade-wind, lest we should be borne off too much to the westward and so lose the islands. We anchored at the south of Sal and passing by the south of St. Nicholas anchored again at Mayo, as has been said; where we made the shorter stay, because we could get no flesh among the inhabitants, by reason of the regret they had at their governor, and his men being carried away by Captain Bond. So leaving the isles of Cape Verde we stood away to the southward with the wind at east-north-east, intending to have touched no more till we came to the Straits of Magellan. But when we came into the latitude of 10 degrees north we met the winds at south by W. and south-south-west. Therefore we altered our resolutions and steered away for the coast of Guinea, and in few days came to the mouth of the river of Sherborough, which is an English factory lying south of Sierra Leone. We had one of our men who was well acquainted there; and by his direction we went in among the shoals, and came to an anchor.
Sherborough was a good way from us so I can give no account of the place, or our factory there; save that I have been informed that there is a considerable trade driven there for a sort of red wood for dyeing, which grows in that country very plentifully, it is called by our people cam-wood. A little within the shore where we anchored was a town of Negroes, natives of this coast. It was screened from our sight by a large grove of trees that grew between them and the shore; but we went thither to them several times during the 3 or 4 days of our stay here to refresh ourselves; and they as often came aboard us, bringing with them plantains, sugar-cane, palm-wines, rice, fowls, and honey, which they sold us. They were no way shy of us, being well acquainted with the English, by reason of our Guinea factories and trade. This town seemed pretty large; the houses are but low and ordinary: but one great house in the midst of it where their chief men meet and receive strangers: and here they treated us with palm-wine. As to their persons, they are like other Negroes. While we lay here we scrubbed the bottom of our ship and then filled all our water-casks; and, buying up 2 puncheons of rice for our voyage, we departed from hence about the middle of November 1683, prosecuting our intended course towards the Straits of Magellan.
We had but little wind after we got out, and very hot weather with some fierce tornadoes, commonly rising out of the north-east which brought thunder, lightning, and rain. These did not last long; sometimes not a quarter of an hour, and then the wind would shuffle about to the southward again, and fall flat calm; for these tornadoes commonly come against the wind that is then blowing, as our thunder-clouds are often observed to do in England; but the tornadoes I shall describe more largely in my Chapter of Winds, in the Appendix to this book. At this time many of our men were taken with fevers yet we lost but one. While we lay in the calms we caught several great sharks; sometimes two or three in a day, and ate them all, boiling and squeezing them dry, and then stewing them with vinegar, pepper, etc., for we had but little flesh aboard. We took the benefit of every tornado, which came sometimes three or four in a day, and carried what sail we could to get to the southward, for we had but little wind when they were over; and those small winds between the tornadoes were much against us, at south by east and south-south-east till we passed the Equinoctial Line, which we crossed about a degree to the eastward of the meridian of the isle of St. Jago, one of the Cape Verde Islands.
At first we could scarcely lie south-west but, being got a degree to the southward of the Line, the wind veered most easterly, and then we stemmed south-west by south and as we got farther to the southward, so the wind came about to the eastward and freshened upon us. In the latitude of 3 south we had the wind at south-east. In the latitude of 5 we had it at east south where it stood a considerable time and blew a fresh top-gallant gale. We then made the best use of it, steering on briskly with all the sail we could make; and this wind, by the 18th of January carried us into the latitude of 36 south. In all this time we met with nothing worthy remark; not so much as a fish except flying fish, which have been so often described that I think it needless to do it.
Here we found the sea much changed from its natural greenness to a white or palish colour, which caused us to sound, supposing we might strike ground: for whenever we find the colour of the sea to change we know we are not far from land or shoals which stretch out into the sea, running from some land. But here we found no ground with one hundred fathom line. I was this day at noon by reckoning 48 degrees 50 minutes west from the Lizard, the variation by our morning amplitude 15 degrees 10 minutes east, the variation increasing. The 20th day one of our surgeons died much lamented, because we had but one more for such a dangerous voyage.
January 28 we made the Sibbel de Wards which are 3 islands lying in the latitude of 51 degrees 25 minutes south and longitude west from the Lizard in England, by my account, 57 degrees 28 minutes. The variation here we found to be 23 degrees 10 minutes. I had for a month before we came hither endeavoured to persuade Captain Cook and his company to anchor at these islands, where I told them we might probably get water, as I then thought, and in case we should miss of it here, yet by being good husbands of what we had we might reach John Fernando in the South Seas before our water was spent. This I urged to hinder their designs of going through the Straits of Magellan, which I knew would prove very dangerous to us; the rather because, our men being privateers and so more wilful and less under command, would not be so ready to give a watchful attendance in a passage so little known. For, although these men were more under command than I had ever seen any privateers, yet I could not expect to find them at a minute's call in coming to an anchor or weighing anchor: beside, if ever we should have occasion to moor or cast out two anchors, we had not a boat to carry out or weigh an anchor. These islands of Sibbel de Wards were so named by the Dutch. They are all three rocky barren islands without any tree, only some dildoe-bushes growing on them: and I do believe there is no water on any one of them, for there was no appearance of any water. The two northermost we could not come near; but the southermost we came close by, but could not strike ground till within two cables' length of the shore, and there found it to be foul rocky ground.
From the time that we were in 10 degrees south till we came to these islands we had the wind between east-north-east and the north-north-east, fair weather and a brisk gale. The day that we made these islands we saw great shoals of small lobsters which coloured the sea in red spots for a mile in compass, and we drew some of them out of the sea in our water-buckets. They were no bigger than the top of a man's little finger, yet all their claws, both great and small, like a lobster. I never saw any of this sort of fish naturally red but here; for ours on the English coast, which are black naturally, are not red till they are boiled: neither did I ever anywhere else meet with any fish of the lobster shape so small as these; unless, it may be, shrimps or prawns: Captain Swan and Captain Eaton met also with shoals of this fish in much the same latitude and longitude.
Leaving therefore the Sibbel de Ward Islands, as having neither good anchorage nor water, we sailed on, directing our course for the Straits of Magellan. But, the winds hanging in the wester-board and blowing hard, oft put us by our topsails, so that we could not fetch it. The 6th day of February we fell in with the Straits Le Maire, which is very high land on both sides, and the straits very narrow. We had the wind at north-north-west a fresh gale; and, seeing the opening of the straits, we ran in with it, till within four mile of the mouth, and then it fell calm, and we found a strong tide setting out of the straits to the northward, and like to founder our ship; but whether flood or ebb I know not; only it made such a short cockling sea as if it had been in a race, or place where two tides meet; for it ran every way, sometimes breaking in over our waist, sometimes over our poop, sometimes over our bow, and the ship tossed like an eggshell, so that I never felt such uncertain jerks in a ship. At 8 a clock in the evening we had a small breeze at west-north-west and steered away to the eastward, intending to go round the States Island, the east end of which we reached the next day by noon, having a fresh breeze all night.
The 7th day at noon, being off the east end of States Island, I had a good observation of the sun, and found myself in latitude 54 degrees 52 minutes south.
At the east end of States Island are three small islands, or rather rocks, pretty high, and white with the dung of fowls.
Wherefore having observed the sun, we hauled up south, designing to pass round to the southward of Cape Horne, which is the southermost Land of Tierra del Fuego. The winds hung in the western quarter betwixt the north-west and the west, so that we could not get much to the westward, and we never saw Tierra del Fuego after that evening that we made the Straits Le Maire. I have heard that there have been smokes and fires on Tierra del Fuego, not on the tops of hills, but in plains and valleys, seen by those who have sailed through the Straits of Magellan; supposed to be made by the natives.
We did not see the sun at rising or setting in order to make an amplitude after we left the Sibbel de Wards till we got into the South Sea: therefore I know not whether the variation increased any more or no. Indeed I had an observation of the sun at noon in latitude 59 degrees 30 minutes and we were then standing to the southward with the wind at west by north, and that night the wind came about more to the southward of the west and we tacked. I was then in latitude 60 by reckoning, which was the farthest south latitude that ever I was in.
The 14th day of February, being in latitude 57 and to the west of Cape Horne, we had a violent storm, which held us to the 3rd day of March, blowing commonly south-west and south-west by W. and west-south-west, thick weather all the time with small drizzling rain, but not hard. We made a shift however to save 23 barrels of rainwater besides what we dressed our victuals withal.
March the 3rd the wind shifted at once, and came about at south, blowing a fierce gale of wind; soon after it came about to the eastward, and we stood into the South Seas.
The 9th day, having an observation of the sun, not having seen it of late, we found ourselves in latitude 47 degrees 10 minutes and the variation to be but 15 degrees 30 minutes east.
The wind stood at south-east, we had fair weather, and a moderate gale, and the 17th day we were in latitude 36 by observation, and then found the variation to be but 8 degrees east.
The 19th day when we looked out in the morning we saw a ship to the southward of us, coming with all the sail she could make after us: we lay muzzled to let her come up with us, for we supposed her to be a Spanish ship come from Valdivia bound to Lima: we being now to the northward of Valdivia and this being the time of the year when ships that trade thence to Valdivia return home. They had the same opinion of us, and therefore made sure to take us, but coming nearer we both found our mistakes. This proved to be one Captain Eaton in a ship sent purposely from London to the South Seas. We hailed each other, and the captain came on board, and told us of his actions on the coast of Brazil, and in the river of Plate.
He met Captain Swan (one that came from England to trade here) at the east entrance into the Straits of Magellan, and they accompanied each other through the straits, and were separated after they were through by the storm before-mentioned. Both we and Captain Eaton being bound for John Fernando Isle, we kept company, and we spared him bread and beef, and he spared us water, which he took in as he passed through the straits.
March the 22nd 1684, we came in sight of the island, and the next day got in and anchored in a bay at the south end of the island, and 25 fathom water, not two cables' length from the shore. We presently got out our Canoa, and went ashore to see for a Moskito Indian whom we left here when we were chased hence by three Spanish ships in the year 1681, a little before we went to Arica; Captain Watling being then our commander, after Captain Sharp was turned out.
This Indian lived here alone above three years and, although he was several times sought after by the Spaniards, who knew he was left on the island, yet they could never find him. He was in the woods hunting for goats when Captain Watling drew off his men, and the ship was under sail before he came back to shore. He had with him his gun and a knife, with a small horn of powder and a few shot; which, being spent, he contrived a way by notching his knife to saw the barrel of his gun into small pieces wherewith he made harpoons, lances, hooks, and a long knife, heating the pieces first in the fire, which he struck with his gunflint, and a piece of the barrel of his gun, which he hardened; having learnt to do that among the English. The hot pieces of iron he would hammer out and bend as he pleased with stones, and saw them with his jagged knife; or grind them to an edge by long labour, and harden them to a good temper as there was occasion. All this may seem strange to those that are not acquainted with the sagacity of the Indians; but it is no more than these Moskito men are accustomed to in their own country, where they make their own fishing and striking-instruments, without either forge or anvil; though they spend a great deal of time about them.
Other wild Indians who have not the use of iron, which the Moskito men have from the English, make hatchets of a very hard stone, with which they will cut down trees (the cotton-tree especially, which is a soft tender wood) to build their houses or make Canoas; and, though in working their Canoas hollow, they cannot dig them so neat and thin, yet they will make them fit for their service. This their digging or hatchet-work they help out by fire; whether for the felling of trees or for the making the inside of their Canoa hollow. These contrivances are used particularly by the savage Indians of Bluefield's River, described in the 3rd chapter, whose Canoas and stone hatchets I have seen. These stone hatchets are about 10 inches long, 4 broad, and three inches thick in the middle. They are ground away flat and sharp at both ends: right in the midst and clear round it they make a notch, so wide and deep that a man might place his finger along it and, taking a stick or withe about 4 foot long, they bind it round the hatchet head, in that notch, and so, twisting it hard, use it as a handle or helve; the head being held by it very fast. Nor are other wild Indians less ingenious. Those of Patagonia particularly head their arrows with flint, cut or ground; which I have seen and admired. But to return to our Moskito man on the isle of John Fernando. With such instruments as he made in that manner, he got such provision as the island afforded; either goats or fish. He told us that at first he was forced to eat seal, which is very ordinary meat, before he had made hooks: but afterwards he never killed any seals but to make lines, cutting their skins into thongs. He had a little house or hut half a mile from the sea, which was lined with goat's skin; his couch or barbecue of sticks lying along about two foot distant from the ground, was spread with the same, and was all his bedding. He had no clothes left, having worn out those he brought from Watling's ship, but only a skin about his waist. He saw our ship the day before we came to an anchor, and did believe we were English, and therefore killed three goats in the morning before we came to an anchor, and dressed them with cabbage, to treat us when we came ashore. He came then to the seaside to congratulate our safe arrival. And when we landed a Moskito Indian named Robin first leapt ashore and, running to his brother Moskito man, threw himself flat on his face at his feet, who helping him up, and embracing him, fell flat with his face on the ground at Robin's feet, and was by him taken up also. We stood with pleasure to behold the surprise, and tenderness, and solemnity of this interview, which was exceedingly affectionate on both sides; and when their ceremonies of civility were over we also that stood gazing at them drew near, each of us embracing him we had found here, who was overjoyed to see so many of his old friends come hither, as he thought purposely to fetch him. He was named Will, as the other was Robin. These were names given them by the English, for they had no names among themselves; and they take it as a great favour to be named by any of us; and will complain for want of it if we do not appoint them some name when they are with us: saying of themselves they are poor men, and have no name.
This island is in latitude 34 degrees 45 minutes and about 120 leagues from the Main. It is about 12 leagues round, full of high hills, and small pleasant valleys; which if manured would probably produce anything proper for the climate. The sides of the mountains are part savannahs, part woodland. Savannahs are clear pieces of land without woods; not because more barren than the woodland, for they are frequently spots of as good land as any, and often are intermixed with woodland.
In the Bay of Campeachy are very large savannahs, which I have seen full of cattle: but about the river of Plate are the largest that ever I heard of, 50, 60, or 100 miles in length; and Jamaica, Cuba, and Hispaniola have many savannahs intermixed with woods. Places cleared of wood by art and labour do not go by this name, but those only which are found so in the uninhabited parts of America, such as this isle of John Fernando; or which were originally clear in other parts.
The grass in these savannahs at John Fernando is not a long flaggy grass, such as is usually in the savannahs in the West Indies, but a sort of kindly grass, thick and flourishing the biggest part of the year. The woods afford divers sorts of trees; some large and good timber for building, but none fit for masts. The cabbage trees of this isle are but small and low; yet afford a good head, and the cabbage very sweet. This tree I shall describe in the Appendix, in the Bay of Campeachy.
The savannahs are stocked with goats in great herds: but those that live on the east end of the island are not so fat as those on the west end; for though there is much more grass, and plenty of water in every valley, nevertheless they thrive not so well here as on the west end, where there is less food; and yet there are found greater flocks, and those too fatter and sweeter.
The west end of the island is all high champion ground without any valley, and but one place to land; there is neither wood nor any fresh water, and the grass short and dry.
Goats were first put on the island by John Fernando, who first discovered it on his voyage from Lima to Valdivia; (and discovered also another island about the same bigness, 20 leagues to the westward of this.) From those goats these were propagated, and the island has taken its name from this its first discoverer who, when he returned to Lima, desired a patent for it, designing to settle here; and it was in his second voyage hither that he set ashore three or four goats which have since, by their increase, so well stocked the whole island. But he could never get a patent for it, therefore it lies still destitute of inhabitants, though doubtless capable of maintaining 4 or 500 families, by what may be produced off the land only. I speak much within compass; for the savannahs would at present feed 1000 head of cattle besides goats, and the land being cultivated would probably bear corn, or wheat, and good peas, yams, or potatoes; for the land in their valleys and sides of the mountains is of a good black fruitful mould. The sea about it is likewise very productive of its inhabitants.
Seals swarm as thick about this island as if they had no other place in the world to live in; for there is not a bay nor rock that one can get ashore on but is full of them. Sea-lions are here in great companies, and fish, particularly snapper and rock-fish, are so plentiful that two men in an hour's time will take with hook and line as many as will serve 100 men.
The seals are a sort of creatures pretty well known, yet it may not be amiss to describe them. They are as big as calves, the head of them like a dog, therefore called by the Dutch the sea-hounds. Under each shoulder grows a long thick fin: these serve them to swim with when in the sea, and are instead of legs to them when on the land for raising their bodies up on end, by the help of these fins or stumps, and so having their tail-parts drawn close under them, they rebound as it were, and throw their bodies forward, drawing their hinder parts after them; and then again rising up, and springing forward with their fore parts alternately, they lie tumbling thus up and down all the while they are moving on land. From their shoulders to their tails they grow tapering like fish, and have two small fins on each side the rump; which is commonly covered with their fins. These fins serve instead of a tail in the sea; and on land they sit on them when they give suck to their young. Their hair is of divers colours, as black, grey, dun, spotted, looking very sleek and pleasant when they come first out of the sea: for these at John Fernando have fine thick short fur; the like I have not taken notice of anywhere but in these seas. Here are always thousands, I might say possibly millions of them, either sitting on the bays, or going and coming in the sea round the island; which is covered with them (as they lie at the top of the water playing and sunning themselves) for a mile or two from the shore. When they come out of the sea they bleat like sheep for their young; and, though they pass through hundreds of others' young ones before they come to their own, yet they will not suffer any of them to suck. The young ones are like puppies, and lie much ashore; but when beaten by any of us, they, as well as the old ones, will make towards the sea, and swim very swift and nimble; though on shore they lie very sluggishly and will not go out of our ways unless we beat them, but snap at us. A blow on the nose soon kills them. Large ships might here load themselves with seal-skins, and train-oil; for they are extraordinary fat. Seals are found as well in cold as hot climates; and in the cold places they love to get on lumps of ice, where they will lie and sun themselves, as here on the land: they are frequent in the northern parts of Europe and America, and in the southern parts of Africa, as about the Cape of Good Hope and at the Straits of Magellan: and though I never saw any in the West Indies but in the Bay of Campeachy, at certain islands called the Alceranes, and at others called the Desarts; yet they are over all the American coast of the South Seas, from Tierra del Fuego up to the Equinoctial Line; but to the north of the Equinox again, in these seas, I never saw any till as far as 21 north latitude. Nor did I ever see any in the East Indies. In general they seem to resort where there is plenty of fish, for that is their food; and fish, such as they feed on, as cods, groupers, etc., are most plentiful on rocky coasts: and such is mostly this western coast of the South America; as I shall further relate.
The sea-lion is a large creature about 12 or 14 foot long. The biggest part of his body is as big as a bull: it is shaped like a seal, but six times as big. The head is like a lion's head; it has a broad face with many long hairs growing about its lips like a cat. It has a great goggle eye, the teeth three inches long, about the bigness of a man's thumb: in Captain Sharp's time, some of our men made dice with them. They have no hair on their bodies like the seal; they are of a dun colour, and are all extraordinary fat; one of them being cut up and boiled will yield a hogshead of oil which is very sweet and wholesome to fry meat withal. The lean flesh is black, and of a coarse grain; yet indifferent good food. They will lie a week at a time ashore if not disturbed. Where 3 or 4 or more of them come ashore together they huddle one on another like swine, and grunt like them, making a hideous noise. They eat fish, which I believe is their common food.
The snapper is a fish much like a roach, but a great deal bigger. It has a large head and mouth, and great gills. The back is of a bright red, the belly of a silver colour: the scales are as broad as a shilling. The snapper is excellent meat. They are in many places in the West Indies and the South Seas: I have not seen them anywhere beside.
The rock-fish is called by seamen a grouper; the Spaniards call it a baccalao, which is the name for cod, because it is much like it. It is rounder than the snapper, of a dark brown colour; and has small scales no bigger than a silver penny. This fish is good sweet meat, and is found in great plenty on all the coast of Peru and Chile.
There are only two bays in the whole island where ships may anchor; these are both at the east end, and in both of them is a rivulet of good fresh water. Either of these bays may be fortified with little charge, to that degree that 50 men in each may be able to keep off 1000; and there is no coming into these bays from the west end but with great difficulty over the mountains, where if 3 men are placed they may keep down as many as come against them on any side. This was partly experienced by 5 Englishmen that Captain Davis left here, who defended themselves against a great body of Spaniards who landed in the bays, and came here to destroy them; and though the second time one of their consorts deserted and fled to the Spaniards, yet the other four kept their ground, and were afterwards taken in from hence by Captain Strong of London.
We remained at John Fernando sixteen days; our sick men were ashore all the time, and one of Captain Eaton's doctors (for he had four in his ship) tending and feeding them with goat and several herbs, whereof here is plenty growing in the brooks; and their diseases were chiefly scorbutic.
The 8th of April 1684 we sailed from the isle of John Fernando with the wind at south-east. We were now two ships in company: Captain Cook's, whose ship I was in, and who here took the sickness of which he died a while after, and Captain Eaton's. Our passage lay now along the Pacific Sea, properly so called. For though it be usual with our map-makers to give that name to this whole ocean, calling it Mare Australe, Mal del Zur, or Mare Pacificum; yet in my opinion the name of the Pacific Sea ought not to be extended from south to north farther than from 30 to about 4 degrees south latitude, and from the American shore westward indefinitely, with respect to my observation; who have been in these parts 250 leagues or more from land, and still had the sea very quiet from winds. For in all this tract of water of which I have spoken there are no dark rainy clouds, though often a thick horizon so as to hinder an observation of the sun with the quadrant; and in the morning hazy weather frequently, and thick mists, but scarce able to wet one. Nor are there in this sea any winds but the trade-wind, no tempests, no tornadoes or hurricanes (though north of the Equator they are met with as well in this ocean as in the Atlantic) yet the sea itself at the new and full of the moon runs with high, large, long surges, but such as never break out at sea and so are safe enough; unless that where they fall in and break upon the shore they make it bad landing.
In this sea we made the best of our way toward the Line till in the latitude of 24 south where we fell in with the mainland of the South America. All this course of the land, both of Chile and Peru, is vastly high; therefore we kept 12 or 14 leagues off from shore, being unwilling to be seen by the Spaniards dwelling there. The land (especially beyond this, from 24 degrees south latitude 17, and from 14 to 10) is of a most prodigious height. It lies generally in ridges parallel to the shore, and 3 or 4 ridges one with another, each surpassing other in height; and those that are farthest within land are much higher than others. They always appear blue when seen at sea: sometimes they are obscured with clouds, but not so often as the high lands in other parts of the world, for here are seldom or never any rains on these hills, any more than in the sea near it; neither are they subject to fogs. These are the highest mountains that ever I saw, far surpassing the Pike of Tenerife or Santa Martha and, I believe, any mountains in the world.
I have seen very high land in the latitude of 30 south, but not so high as in the latitudes before described. In Sir John Narborough's voyage also to Valdivia (a city on this coast) mention is made of very high land seen near Valdivia: and the Spaniards with whom I have discoursed have told me that there is a very high land all the way between Coquimbo (which lies in about 30 degrees south latitude) and Valdivia, which is in 40 south; so that by all likelihood these ridges of mountains do run in a continued chain from one end of Peru and Chile to the other, all along this South Sea coast, called usually the Andes, or Sierra Nevada des Andes. The excessive height of these mountains may possibly be the reason that there are no rivers of note that fall into these seas. Some small rivers indeed there are, but very few of them, for in some places there is not one that comes out into the sea in 150 or 200 leagues, and where they are thickest they are 30, 40, or 50 leagues asunder, and too little and shallow to be navigable. Besides, some of these do not constantly run, but are dry at certain seasons of the year; as the river of Ylo runs flush with a quick current at the latter end of January, and so continues till June, and then it decreases by degrees, growing less, and running slow till the latter end of September, when it fails wholly, and runs no more till January again: this I have seen at both seasons in two former voyages I made hither, and have been informed by the Spaniards that other rivers on this coast are of the like nature, being rather torrents or land-floods caused by their rains at certain seasons far within land than perennial streams.
We kept still along in sight of this coast but at a good distance from it, encountering with nothing of note till in the latitude of 9 degrees 40 minutes south. On the 3rd of May we descried a sail to the northward of us. She was plying to windward, we chased her, and Captain Eaton being ahead soon took her: she came from Guiaquil about a month before, laden with timber, and was bound to Lima. Three days before we took her she came from Santa, whither she had gone for water, and where they had news of our being in these seas by an express from Valdivia, for, as we afterwards heard, Captain Swan had been at Valdivia to seek a trade there; and he having met Captain Eaton in the Straits of Magellan, the Spaniards of Valdivia were doubtless informed of us by him, suspecting him also to be one of us, though he was not. Upon this news the viceroy of Lima sent expresses to all the sea ports, that they might provide themselves against our assaults.
We immediately steered away for the island Lobos which lies in latitude 6 degrees 24 minutes south latitude (I took the elevation of it ashore with an astrolabe) and it is 5 leagues from the Main. It is called Lobos de la Mar, to distinguish it from another that is not far from it, and extremely like it, called Lobos de la Terra, for it lies nearer the main. Lobos, or Lovos, is the Spanish name for a seal, of which there are great plenty about these and several other islands in these seas that go by this name.
The 9th of May we arrived at this isle of Lobos de la Mar and came to an anchor with our prize. This Lobos consists indeed of two little islands, each about a mile round, of an indifferent height, a small channel between, fit for boats only; and several rocks lying on the north side of the islands, a little way from shore. There is a small cove or sandy bay sheltered from the winds at the west end of the eastermost island, where ships may careen: the rest of the shore, as well round the two islands as between them, is a rocky coast consisting of small cliffs. Within land they are both of them partly rocky, and partly sandy, barren, without any fresh water, tree, shrub, grass, or herbs; or any land animals (for the seals and sea-lions come ashore here) but fowls, of which there are great multitudes; as boobies, but mostly penguins, which I have seen plentifully all over the South Seas, on the coast of Newfoundland, and of the Cape of Good Hope. They are a sea-fowl, about as big as a duck, and such feet; but a sharp bill, feeding on fish. They do not fly, but flutter, having rather stumps like a young gosling's than wings: and these are instead of fins to them in the water. Their feathers are downy. Their flesh is but ordinary food but their eggs are good meat. There is another sort of small black fowl that makes holes in the sand for their night habitations whose flesh is good sweet meat. I never saw any of them but here and at John Fernando.
There is good riding between the eastermost island and the rocks in ten, twelve, or fourteen fathom, for the wind is commonly at south or south-south-east, and the eastermost island lying east and west, shelters that road.
Here we scrubbed our ships and, being in a readiness to sail, the prisoners were examined to know if any of them could conduct us to some town where we might make some attempt; for they had before informed us that we were descried by the Spaniards, and by that we knew that they would send no riches by sea so long as we were here. Many towns were considered on, as Guiaquil, Zana, Truxillo, and others: at last Truxillo was pitched on as the most important, therefore the likeliest to make us a voyage if we could conquer it: which we did not much question though we knew it to be a very populous city. But the greatest difficulty was in landing; for Guanchaquo, which is the nearest sea port to it, but six miles off, is an ill place to land, since sometimes the very fishermen that live there are not able to go in three or four days.
However the 17th of May in the afternoon our men were mustered of both ships' companies, and their arms proved. We were in all 108 men fit for service besides the sick: and the next day we intended to sail and take the wood prize with us. But the next day, one of our men being ashore betimes on the island, described three sail bound to the northward; two of them without the island to the westward, the other between it and the continent.
We soon got our anchors up and chased: and Captain Eaton, who drew the least draught of water, put through between the westermost island and the rocks, and went after those two that were without the islands. We in Captain Cook's ship went after the other, which stood in for the mainland, but we soon fetched her up and, having taken her, stood in again with her to the island; for we saw that Captain Eaton wanted no help, having taken both those that he went after. He came in with one of his prizes; but the other was so far to leeward and so deep that he could not then get her in, but he hoped to get her in the next day: but being deep laden, as designed to go down before the wind to Panama, she would not bear sail.
The 19th day she turned all day, but got nothing nearer the island. Our Moskito strikers, according to their custom, went and struck six turtles; for here are indifferent plenty of them. These ships that we took the day before we came from Guanchaquo, all three laden with flour, bound for Panama. Two of them were laden as deep as they could swim, the other was not above half laden, but was ordered by the viceroy of Lima to sail with the other two, or else she should not sail till we were gone out of the seas; for he hoped they might escape us by setting out early. In the biggest ship was a letter to the president of Panama from the viceroy of Lima; assuring him that there were enemies come into that sea; for which reason he had dispatched these three ships with flour, that they might not want (for Panama is supplied from Peru) and desired him to be frugal of it, for he knew not when he should send more. In this ship were likewise 7 or 8 tuns of marmalade of quinces, and a stately mule sent to the president, and a very large image of the Virgin Mary in wood, carved and painted to adorn a new church at Panama, and sent from Lima by the viceroy; for this great ship came from thence not long before. She brought also from Lima 800,000 pieces-of-eight to carry with her to Panama: but while she lay at Guanchaco, taking in her lading of flour, the merchants, hearing of Captain Swan's being in Valdivia, ordered the money ashore again. These prisoners likewise informed us that the gentlemen (inhabitants of Truxillo) were building a fort at Guanchaquo (which is the sea port for Truxillo) close by the sea, purposely to hinder the designs of any that should attempt to land there. Upon this news we altered our former resolutions, and resolved to go with our three prizes to the Gallapagos; which are a great many large islands lying some under the Equator, others on each side of it. I shall here omit the description of Truxillo, because in my Appendix, at the latter end of the book, I intend to give a general relation of most of the towns of note on this coast from Valdivia to Panama, and from thence towards California.
The 19th day in the evening we sailed from the island Lobos with Captain Eaton in our company. We carried the three flour prizes with us, but our first prize laden with timber we left here at an anchor; the wind was at south by east which is the common trade-wind here, and we steered away N. W. by north intending to run into the latitude of the isles Gallapagos, and steer off west, because we did not know the certain distance, and therefore could not shape a direct course to them. When we came within 40 minutes of the Equator we steered west, having the wind at south, a very moderate gentle gale.
It was the 31st day of May when we first had sight of the islands Gallapagos: some of them appeared on our weather bow, some on our lee bow, others right ahead. We at first sight trimmed our sails and steered as nigh the wind as we could, striving to get to the southermost of them but, our prizes being deep laden, their sails but small and thin, and a very small gale, they could not keep up with us; therefore we likewise edged away again a point from the wind to keep near them; and in the evening the ship that I was in and Captain Eaton anchored on the east side of one of the eastermost islands, a mile from the shore, in sixteen fathom water, clean, white, hard sand.
The Gallapagos Islands are a great number of uninhabited islands lying under and on both sides of the Equator. The eastermost of them are about 110 leagues from the Main. They are laid down in the longitude of 181, reaching to the westward as far as 176, therefore their longitude from England westward is about 68 degrees. But I believe our hydrographers do not place them far enough to the westward. The Spaniards who first discovered them, and in whose charts alone they are laid down, report them to be a great number stretching north-west from the Line, as far as 5 degrees north, but we saw not above 14 or 15. They are some of them 7 or 8 leagues long, and 3 or 4 broad. They are of a good height, most of them flat and even on the top; 4 or 5 of the eastermost are rocky, barren and hilly, producing neither tree, herb, nor grass, but a few dildoe-trees, except by the seaside. The dildoe-tree is a green prickly shrub that grows about 10 or 12 foot high, without either leaf or fruit. It is as big as a man's leg, from the root to the top, and it is full of sharp prickles growing in thick rows from top to bottom; this shrub is fit for no use, not so much as to burn. Close by the sea there grows in some places bushes of burton-wood, which is very good firing. This sort of wood grows in many places in the West Indies, especially in the Bay of Campeachy and the Samballoes. I did never see any in these seas but here. There is water on these barren islands in ponds and holes among the rocks. Some other of these islands are mostly plain and low, and the land more fertile, producing trees of divers sorts unknown to us. Some of the westermost of these islands are nine or ten leagues long and six or seven broad; the mould deep and black. These produce trees of great and tall bodies, especially mammee-trees, which grow here in great groves. In these large islands there are some pretty big rivers; and in many of the other lesser islands there are brooks of good water. The Spaniards when they first discovered these islands found multitudes of Guanos, and land-turtle or tortoise, and named them the Gallapagos Islands. I do believe there is no place in the world that is so plentifully stored with those animals. The Guanos here are fat and large as any that I ever saw; they are so tame that a man may knock down twenty in an hour's time with a club. The land-turtle are here so numerous that 5 or 600 men might subsist on them alone for several months without any other sort of provision: they are extraordinary large and fat; and so sweet that no pullet eats more pleasantly. One of the largest of these creatures will weigh 150 or 200 weight, and some of them are 2 foot, or 2 foot 6 inches over the challapee or belly. I did never see any but at this place that will weigh above 30 pound weight. I have heard that at the isle of St. Lawrence or Madagascar, and at the English Forest, an island near it called also Don Mascarin and now possessed by the French, there are very large ones, but whether so big, fat, and sweet as these, I know not. There are 3 or 4 sorts of these creatures in the West Indies. One is called by the Spaniards hecatee; these live most in fresh-water ponds, and seldom come on land. They weigh about 10 or 15 pound; they have small legs and flat feet, and small long necks. Another sort is called tenapen; these are a great deal less than the hecatee; the shell on their backs is all carved naturally, finely wrought, and well clouded: the backs of these are rounder than those before mentioned; they are otherwise much of the same form: these delight to live in wet swampy places, or on the land near such places. Both these sorts are very good meat. They are in great plenty on the isles of Pines near Cuba: there the Spanish hunters when they meet them in the woods bring them home to their huts, and mark them by notching their shells, then let them go; this they do to have them at hand, for they never ramble far from thence. When these hunters return to Cuba, after about a month or six weeks' stay, they carry with them 3 or 400 or more of these creatures to sell; for they are very good meat, and every man knows his own by their marks. These tortoise in the Gallapagos are more like the hecatee except that, as I said before, they are much bigger; and they have very long small necks and little heads. There are some green snakes on these islands, but no other land animal that I did ever see. There are great plenty of turtle-doves so tame that a man may kill 5 or 6 dozen in a forenoon with a stick. They are somewhat less than a pigeon, and are very good meat, and commonly fat.
There are good wide channels between these islands fit for ships to pass, and in some places shoal water where there grows plenty of turtle-grass; therefore these islands are plentifully stored with sea-turtle of that sort which is called the green turtle. I have hitherto deferred the description of these creatures therefore I shall give it here.
There are 4 sorts of sea-turtle, namely, the trunk-turtle, the loggerhead, the hawksbill, and the green turtle. The trunk-turtle is commonly bigger than the other, their backs are higher and rounder, and their flesh rank and not wholesome. The loggerhead is so called because it has a great head, much bigger than the other sorts; their flesh is likewise very rank, and seldom eaten but in case of necessity: they feed on moss that grows about rocks. The hawksbill-turtle is the least kind, they are so called because their mouths are long and small, somewhat resembling the bill of a hawk: on the backs of these hawksbill turtle grows that shell which is so much esteemed for making cabinets, combs, and other things. The largest of them may have 3 pound and a half of shell; I have taken some that have had 3 pound 10 ounces: but they commonly have a pound and a half or two pound; some not so much. These are but ordinary food, but generally sweeter than the loggerhead: yet these hawksbills in some places are unwholesome, causing them that eat them to purge and vomit excessively, especially those between the Samballoes and Portobello. We meet with other fish in the West Indies of the same malignant nature: but I shall describe them in the Appendix. These hawksbill-turtles are better or worse according to their feeding. In some places they feed on grass, as the green tortoise also does; in other places they keep among rocks and feed on moss or seaweeds; but these are not so sweet as those that eat grass, neither is their shell so clear; for they are commonly overgrown with barnacles which spoil the shell; and their flesh is commonly yellow, especially the fat.
Hawksbill-turtle are in many places of the West Indies: they have islands and places peculiar to themselves where they lay their eggs, and seldom come among any other turtle. These and all other turtle lay eggs in the sand; their time of laying is in May, June, July. Some begin sooner, some later. They lay 3 times in a season, and at each time 80 or 90 eggs. Their eggs are as big as a hen's egg, and very round, covered only with a white tough skin. There are some bays on the north side of Jamaica where these hawksbills resort to lay. In the Bay of Honduras are islands which they likewise make their breeding-places, and many places along all the coast on the Main of the West Indies from Trinidad de La Vera Cruz in the Bay of Nova Hispania. When a sea-turtle turns out of the sea to lay she is at least an hour before she returns again, for she is to go above high-water mark, and if it be low-water when she comes ashore, she must rest once or twice, being heavy, before she comes to the place where she lays. When she has found a place for her purpose she makes a great hole with her fins in the sand, wherein she lays her eggs, then covers them 2 foot deep with the same sand which she threw out of the hole, and so returns. Sometimes they come up the night before they intend to lay, and take a view of the place, and so having made a tour, or semicircular march, they return to the sea again, and they never fail to come ashore the next night to lay near that place. All sorts of turtle use the same methods in laying. I knew a man in Jamaica that made 8 pound Sterling of the shell of these hawksbill turtle which he got in one season and in one small bay, not half a mile long. The manner of taking them is to watch the bay by walking from one part to the other all night, making no noise, nor keeping any sort of light. When the turtle comes ashore the man that watches for them turns them on their backs, then hauls them above high-water mark, and leaves them till the morning. A large green turtle, with her weight and struggling, will puzzle 2 men to turn her. The hawksbill-turtle are not only found in the West Indies but on the coast of Guinea, and in the East Indies. I never saw any in the South Seas.
The green turtle are so called because their shell is greener than any other. It is very thin and clear and better clouded than the hawksbill; but it is used only for inlays, being extraordinary thin. These turtles are generally larger than the hawksbill; one will weigh 2 or 3 hundred pound. Their backs are flatter than the hawksbill, their heads round and small. Green turtle are the sweetest of all the kinds: but there are degrees of them both in respect to their flesh and their bigness. I have observed that at Blanco in the West Indies the green turtle (which is the only kind there) are larger than any other in the North Seas. There they will commonly weigh 280 or 300 pound: their fat is yellow, and the lean white, and their flesh extraordinary sweet. At Boca Toro, west of Portobello, they are not so large, their flesh not so white, nor the fat so yellow. Those in the Bay of Honduras and Campeachy are somewhat smaller still; their fat is green, and the lean of a darker colour than those at Boca Toro. I heard of a monstrous green turtle once taken at Port Royal in the Bay of Campeachy that was four foot deep from the back to the belly, and the belly six foot broad; Captain Roch's son, of about nine or ten years of age, went in it as in a boat on board his father's ship, about a quarter of a mile from the shore. The leaves of fat afforded eight gallons of oil. The turtle that live among the keys or small islands on the south side of Cuba are a mixed sort, some bigger, some less; and so their flesh is of a mixed colour, some green, some dark, some yellowish. With these Port Royal in Jamaica is constantly supplied by sloops that come hither with nets to take them. They carry them alive to Jamaica where the turtles have wires made with stakes in the sea to preserve them alive; and the market is every day plentifully stored with turtle, it being the common food there, chiefly for the ordinary sort of people.
Green turtle live on grass which grows in the sea in 3, 4, 5, or 6 fathom water, at most of the places before mentioned. This grass is different from manatee-grass, for that is a small blade; but this a quarter of an inch broad and six inches long. The turtle of these islands Gallapagos are a sort of a bastard green turtle; for their shell is thicker than other green turtle in the West or East Indies, and their flesh is not so sweet. They are larger than any other green turtle; for it is common for these to be two or three foot deep, and their callapees or bellies five foot wide: but there are other green turtle in the South Seas that are not so big as the smallest hawksbill. These are seen at the island Plata, and other places thereabouts: they feed on moss and are very rank but fat.
Both these sorts are different from any others, for both he's and she's come ashore in the daytime and lie in the sun; but in other places none but the she's go ashore, and that in the night only to lay their eggs. The best feeding for turtle in the South Seas is among these Gallapagos Islands, for here is plenty of grass.
There is another sort of green turtle in the South Seas which are but small, yet pretty sweet: these lie westward on the coast of Mexico. One thing is very strange and remarkable in these creatures; that at the breeding time they leave for two or three months their common haunts, where they feed most of the year, and resort to other places only to lay their eggs: and it is not thought that they eat anything during this season: so that both he's and she's grow very lean; but the he's to that degree that none will eat them. The most remarkable places that I did ever hear of for their breeding is at an island in the West Indies called Caymans, and the isle Ascension in the Western Ocean: and when the breeding time is past there are none remaining. Doubtless they swim some hundreds of leagues to come to those two places: for it has been often observed that at Cayman, at the breeding time, there are found all those sort of turtle before described. The South Keys of Cuba are above 40 leagues from thence, which is the nearest place that these creatures can come from; and it is most certain that there could not live so many there as come here in one season.
Those that go to lay at Ascension must needs travel much farther; for there is no land nearer it than 300 leagues: and it is certain that these creatures live always near the shore. In the South Sea likewise the Gallapagos is the place where they live the biggest part of the year; yet they go from thence at their season over to the Main to lay their eggs; which is 100 leagues the nearest place. Although multitudes of these turtles go from their common places of feeding and abode to those laying-places, yet they do not all go: and at the time when the turtle resort to these places to lay their eggs they are accompanied with abundance of fish, especially sharks; the places which the turtle then leave being at that time destitute of fish, which follow the turtle.
When the she's go thus to their places to lay the male accompany them, and never leave them till they return: both male and female are fat the beginning of the season; but before they return the male, as I said, are so lean that they are not fit to eat, but the female are good to the very last; yet not so fat as at the beginning of the season. It is reported of these creatures that they are nine days engendering, and in the water, the male on the female's back. It is observable that the male, while engendering, do not easily forsake their female: for I have gone and taken hold of the male when engendering: and a very bad striker may strike them then, for the male is not shy at all: but the female, seeing a boat when they rise to blow, would make her escape, but that the male grasps her with his two fore fins, and holds her fast. When they are thus coupled it is best to strike the female first, then you are sure of the male also. These creatures are thought to live to a great age; and it is observed by the Jamaica turtlers that they are many years before they come to their full growth.
The air of these islands is temperate enough considering the clime. Here is constantly a fresh sea-breeze all day, and cooling refreshing winds in the night: therefore the heat is not so violent here as in most places near the Equator. The time of the year for the rains is in November, December, and January. Then there is oftentimes excessive hard tempestuous weather, mixed with much thunder and lightning. Sometimes before and after these months there are moderate refreshing showers; but in May, June, July, and August the weather is always very fair.
We stayed at one of these islands which lies under the Equator but one night because our prizes could not get in to anchor. We refreshed ourselves very well both with land and sea-turtles; and the next day we sailed from thence.
The next island of the Gallapagos that we came to is but two leagues from this: it is rocky and barren like this; it is about five or six leagues long and four broad. We anchored in the afternoon at the north side of the island, a quarter of a mile from the shore in 16 fathom water. It is steep all round this island and no anchoring only at this place. Here it is but ordinary riding; for the ground is so steep that if an anchor starts it never holds again; and the wind is commonly off from the land except in the night when the land-wind comes more from the west, for there it blows right along the shore, though but faintly. Here is no water but in ponds and holes of the rocks.
That which we first anchored at has water on the north end falling down in a stream from high steep rocks upon the sandy bay, where it may be taken up. As soon as we came to an anchor, we made a tent ashore for Captain Cook who was sick. Here we found the sea-turtle lying ashore on the sand; this is not customary in the West Indies. We turned them on their backs that they might not get away. The next day more came up, when we found it to be their custom to lie in the sun: so we never took care to turn them afterwards; but sent ashore the cook every morning, who killed as many as served for the day. This custom we observed all the time we lay here, feeding sometimes on land-turtle, sometimes on sea-turtle, there being plenty of either sort. Captain Davis came hither again a second time; and then he went to other islands on the west side of these. There he found such plenty of land-turtle that he and his men ate nothing else for three months that he stayed there. They were so fat that he saved sixty jars of oil out of those that he spent: this oil served instead of butter to eat with doughboys or dumplings, in his return out of these seas. He found very convenient places to careen, and good channels between the islands; and very good anchoring in many places. There he found also plenty of brooks of good fresh water, and firewood enough, there being plenty of trees fit for many uses. Captain Harris, one that we shall speak of hereafter, came thither likewise, and found some islands that had plenty of mammee-trees, and pretty large rivers. The sea about these islands is plentifully stored with fish such as are at John Fernando. They are both large and fat and as plentiful here as at John Fernando. Here are particularly abundance of sharks. The north part of this second isle we anchored at lies 28 minutes north of the Equator. I took the height of the sun with an astrolabe. These isles of the Gallapagos have plenty of salt. We stayed here but 12 days in which time we put ashore 5000 packs of flour for a reserve if we should have occasion of any before we left these seas. Here one of our Indian prisoners informed us that he was born at Ria Lexa, and that he would engage to carry us thither. He being examined of the strength and riches of it satisfied the company so well that they were resolved to go thither.
Having thus concluded; the 12th of June we sailed from hence, designing to touch at the island Cocos, as well to put ashore some flour there as to see the island, because it was in our way to Ria Lexa. We steered north till in latitude 4 degrees 40 minutes, intending then to steer west by north, for we expected to have had the wind at south by east or south-south-east as we had on the south side of the Equator. Thus I had formerly found the winds near the shore in these latitudes; but when we first parted from the Gallapagos we had the wind at south, and as we sailed farther north we had the winds at south by W. then at south-south-west, winds which we did not expect. We thought at first that the wind would come about again to the south; but when we came to sail off west to the island Cocos we had the wind at south-west by south and could lie but west by north. Yet we stood that course till we were in the latitude 5 degrees 40 minutes north and then despairing, as the winds were, to find the island Cocos, we steered over to the Main; for had we seen the island then, we could not have fetched it, being so far to the north of it.
The island Cocos is so named by the Spaniards because there are abundance of coconut-trees growing on it. They are not only in one or two places but grow in great groves, all round the island, by the sea. This is an uninhabited island, it is 7 or 8 leagues round and pretty high in the middle, where it is destitute of trees, but looks very green and pleasant with a herb called by the Spaniards gramadael. It is low land by the seaside.
This island is in 5 degrees 15 minutes north of the Equator; it is environed with rocks, which makes it almost inaccessible: only at the north-east end there is a small harbour where ships may safely enter and ride secure. In this harbour there is a fine brook of fresh water running into the sea. This is the account that the Spaniards give of it, and I had the same also from Captain Eaton, who was there afterward.
Any who like us had not experienced the nature of the winds in these parts might reasonably expect that we could have sailed with a flown sheet to Ria Lexa; but we found ourselves mistaken, for as we came nearer the shore we found the winds right in our teeth. But I shall refer my reader to the Chapter of Winds in the Appendix for a farther account of this.
We had very fair weather and small winds in this voyage from the Gallapagos, and at the beginning of July we fell in with Cape Blanco, on the Main of Mexico. This is so called from two white rocks lying off it. When we are off at sea right against the cape they appear as part of the cape; but being near the shore, either to the eastward or westward of the cape, they appear like two ships under sail at first view but, coming nearer, they are like two high towers; they being small, high and steep on all sides, and they are about half a mile from the cape. This cape is in latitude 9 degrees 56 minutes. It is about the height of Beachy Head in England, on the coast of Sussex. It is a full point, with steep rocks to the sea. The top of it is flat and even for about a mile; then it gradually falls away on each side with a gentle descent. It appears very pleasant, being covered with great lofty trees. From the cape on the north-west side the land runs in north-east for about 4 leagues, making a small bay called by the Spaniards Caldera. A league within Cape Blanco, on the north-west side of it and at the entrance of this bay, there is a small brook of very good water running into the sea. Here the land is low, making a saddling between 2 small hills. It is very rich land, producing large tall trees of many sorts; the mould is black and deep, which I have always taken notice of to be a fat soil. About a mile from this brook towards the north-east the woodland terminates. Here the savannah land begins, and runs some leagues into the country, making many small hills and dales. These savannahs are not altogether clear of trees, but are here and there sprinkled with small groves, which render them very delightful. The grass which grows here is very kindly, thick and long; I have seen none better in the West Indies. Toward the bottom of the bay the land by the sea is low and full of mangroves, but farther in the country the land is high and mountainous. The mountains are part woodland, part savannah. The trees in those woods are but small and short; and the mountain savannahs are clothed but with indifferent grass. From the bottom of this bay it is but 14 or 15 leagues to the Lake of Nicaragua on the North Sea coast: the way between is somewhat mountainous, but most savannah.
Captain Cook, who was then sick at John Fernando, continued so till we came within 2 or 3 leagues of Cape Blanco, and then died of a sudden; though he seemed that morning to be as likely to live, as he had been some weeks before; but it is usual with sick men coming from the sea, where they have nothing but the sea air, to die off as soon as ever they come within the view of the land. About four hours after we all came to an anchor (namely the ship that I was in, Captain Eaton, and the great meal prize) a league within the cape, right against the brook of fresh water, in 14 fathom clean hard sand. Presently after we came to an anchor Captain Cook was carried ashore to be buried, twelve men carried their arms to guard those that were ordered to dig the grave: for although we saw no appearance of inhabitants, yet we did not know but the country might be thick inhabited. And before Captain Cook was interred three Spanish Indians came to the place where our men were digging the grave and demanded what they were, and from whence they came? To whom our men answered they came from Lima and were bound to Ria Lexa, but that the captain of one of the ships dying at sea, obliged them to come into this place to give him Christian burial. The three Spanish Indians who were very shy at first began to be very bold and, drawing near, asked many silly questions; and our men did not stick to soothe them up with as many falsehoods, purposely to draw them into their clutches. Our men often laughed at their temerity; and asked them if they never saw any Spaniards before? They told them that they themselves were Spaniards and that they lived among Spaniards, and that although they were born there yet they had never seen 3 ships there before: our men told them that neither now might they have seen so many if it had not been on an urgent occasion. At length they drilled them by discourse so near that our men laid hold on all three at once; but before Captain Cook was buried one of them made his escape, the other two were brought off aboard our ship. Captain Eaton immediately came aboard and examined them; they confessed that they came purposely to view our ship and if possible to inform themselves what we were; for the president of Panama not long before sent a letter of advice to Nicoya, informing the magistrates thereof that some enemies were come into these seas, and that therefore it behoved them to be careful of themselves. Nicoya is a small Mulatto town about 12 or 14 leagues east from hence, standing on the banks of a river of that name. It is a place very fit for building ships, therefore most of the inhabitants are carpenters who are commonly employed in building new or repairing old ships. It was here that Captain Sharp (just after I left him in the year 1681) got carpenters to fix his ship before he returned to England: and for that reason it behoved the Spaniards to be careful (according to the governor of Panama's advice) lest any men at other times wanting such necessaries as that place afforded might again be supplied there.
These Spanish Indians told us likewise that they were sent to the place where they were taken in order to view our ships, as fearing these were those mentioned by the president of Panama: it being demanded of them to give an account of the estate and riches of the country; they said that the inhabitants were most husbandmen, who were employed either in planting and manuring of corn, or chiefly about cattle; they having large savannahs, which were well stored with bulls, cows and horses; that by the seaside in some places there grew some red-wood, useful in dyeing; of this they said there was little profit made, because they were forced to send it to the Lake of Nicaragua, which runs into the North Seas: that they sent thither also great quantities of bull and cow-hides, and brought from thence in exchange Europe commodities; as hats, linen and woollen, wherewith they clothed themselves; that the flesh of the cattle turned to no other profit than sustenance for their families; as for butter and cheese they make but little in those parts. After they had given this relation they told us that if we wanted provision there was a beef estancia, or farm of bulls and cows, about three mile off where we might kill what we pleased. This was welcome news for we had no sort of flesh since we left the Gallapagos; therefore twenty-four of us immediately entered into two boats, taking one of these Spanish Indians with us for a pilot, and went ashore about a league from the ship. There we hauled up our boats dry and marched all away, following our guide, who soon brought us to some houses and a large pen for cattle. This pen stood in a large savannah, about two mile from our boats: there were a great many fat bulls and cows feeding in the savannahs; some of us would have killed three or four to carry on board, but others opposed it, and said it was better to stay all night, and in the morning drive the cattle into the pen, and then kill 20 or 30, or as many as we pleased.
I was minded to return aboard, and endeavoured to persuade them all to go with me, but some would not, therefore I returned with 12, which was half, and left the other 12 behind. At this place I saw three or four tun of the redwood; which I take to be that sort of wood, called in Jamaica blood-wood, or Nicaragua-wood. We who returned aboard met no one to oppose us, and the next day we expected our consorts that we left ashore, but none came; therefore at four a clock in the afternoon ten men went in our Canoa to see what was become of them: when they came to the bay where we landed to go to the estancia they found our men all on a small rock, half a mile from the shore, standing in the water up to their waists. These men had slept ashore in the house and turned out betimes in the morning to pen the cattle; 2 or 3 went one way and as many another way to get the cattle to the pen, and others stood at the pen to drive them in. When they were thus scattered about 40 or 50 armed Spaniards came in among them. Our men immediately called to each other and drew together in a body before the Spaniards could attack them; and marched to their boat, which was hauled up dry on the sand. But when they came to the sandy bay they found their boat all in flames. This was a very unpleasing sight for they knew not how to get aboard unless they marched by land to the place where Captain Cook was buried, which was near a league. The greatest part of the way was thick woods, where the Spaniards might easily lay an ambush for them, at which they are very expert. On the other side, the Spaniards now thought them secure; and therefore came to them, and asked them if they would be pleased to walk to their plantations, with many other such flouts; but our men answered never a word. It was about half ebb when one of our men took notice of a rock a good distance from the shore, just appearing above water; he showed it to his consorts, and told them it would be a good castle for them if they could get thither. They all wished themselves there; for the Spaniards, who lay as yet at a good distance from them behind the bushes, as secure of their prey, began to whistle now and then a shot among them. Having therefore well considered the place together with the danger they were in, they proposed to send one of the tallest men to try if the sea between them and the rock were fordable. This counsel they presently put in execution and found it according to their desire. So they all marched over to the rock, where they remained till the Canoa came to them; which was about seven hours. It was the latter part of the ebb when they first went over, and then the rock was dry; but when the tide of flood returned again the rock was covered, and the water still flowing; so that if our Canoa had stayed but one hour longer they might have been in as great danger of their lives from the sea as before from the Spaniards; for the tide rises here about eight foot. The Spaniards remained on the shore, expecting to see them destroyed, but never came from behind the bushes where they first planted themselves; they having not above 3 or 4 hand-guns, the rest of them being armed with lances. The Spaniards in these parts are very expert in heaving or darting the lance; with which upon occasion, they will do great feats, especially in ambuscades: and by their good will, they care not for fighting otherwise, but content themselves with standing aloof, threatening and calling names, at which they are as expert as the other; so that if their tongues be quiet, we always take it for granted they have laid some ambush. Before night our Canoa came aboard, and brought our men all safe. The next day two Canoas were sent to the bottom of the bay to seek for a large Canoa, which we were informed was there. The Spaniards have neither ships nor barks here, and but a few Canoas, which they seldom use: neither are there any fishermen here, as I judge, because fish is very scarce; for I never saw any here, neither could any of our men ever take any; and yet wherever we come to an anchor we always send out our strikers, and put our hooks and lines overboard, to try for fish. The next day our men returned out of the bay and brought the Canoa with them, which they were sent for, and three or four days afterwards the two Canoas were sent out again for another, which they likewise brought aboard. These Canoas were fitted with thwarts or benches, straps and oars fit for service; and one of these Captain Eaton had for his share, and we the other, which we fixed for landing men when occasion required.
While we lay here we filled our water and cut a great many looms, or handles, or staves for oars; for here is plenty of lance-wood, which is most proper for that use. I never saw any in the South Seas but in this place: there is plenty of it in Jamaica, especially at a place called Bluefields (not Bluefield's River which is on the Main) near the west end of that island. The lance-wood grows straight like our young ash; it is very hard, tough, and heavy, therefore privateers esteem it very much, not only to make looms for oars, but scouring-rods for their guns; for they have seldom less than three or four spare rods for fear one should break, and they are much better than rods made of ash.
The day before we went from hence Mr. Edward Davis, the company's quartermaster, was made Captain by consent of all the company; for it was his place by succession. The 20th day of July we sailed from this bay of Caldera with Captain Eaton and our prize which we brought from Gallapagos in company, directing our course for Ria Lexa. The wind was at north, which although but an ordinary wind yet carried us in three days abreast of our intended port.
Ria Lexa is the most remarkable land on all this coast, for there is a high peaked burning mountain, called by the Spaniards Volcan Vejo, or the Old Volcano. This must be brought to bear north-east then steer in directly with the mountain, and that course will bring you to the harbour. The sea-winds are here at south-south-west, therefore ships that come hither must take the sea-winds, for there is no going in with the land-wind. The volcano may be easily known, because there is not any other so high a mountain near it, neither is there any that appears in the like form all along the coast; besides it smokes all the day, and in the night it sometimes sends forth flames of fire. This mountain may be seen twenty leagues; being within three leagues of the harbour, the entrance into it may be seen; there is a small flat low island which makes the harbour. It is about a mile long and a quarter of a mile broad, and is from the Main about a mile and a half. There is a channel at each end of the island, the west channel is the widest and safest, yet at the north-west point of the island there is a shoal which ships must take heed of going in. Being past that shoal, you must keep close to the island, for there is a whole sandy point strikes over from the Main almost half way. The east channel is not so wide, besides there runs a stronger tide; therefore ships seldom or never go in that way. This harbour is capable of receiving 200 sail of ships; the best riding is near the Main, where there is seven or eight fathom water, clean hard sand.
Ria Lexa Town is two leagues from hence, and there are 2 creeks that run towards it; the westermost comes near the back side of the town, the other runs up to the town, but neither ships nor barks can go so far. These creeks are very narrow, and the land on each side drowned and full of red mangrove-trees. About a mile and a half below the town, on the banks of the east creek, the Spaniards had cast up a strong breast-work; it was likewise reported they had another on the west creek, both so advantageously placed that ten men might with ease keep 200 men from landing. I shall give a description of the town in my return hither, and therefore forbear to do it here. Wherefore, to resume the thread of our course, we were now in sight of the volcano, being by estimation 7 or 8 leagues from the shore, and the mountain bearing north-east we took in our topsails and hauled up our courses, intending to go with our Canoas into the harbour in the night.
In the evening we had a very hard tornado out of the north-east with much thunder, lightning, and rain. The violence of the wind did not last long, yet it was 11 a clock at night before we got out our Canoas, and then it was quite calm. We rowed in directly for the shore and thought to have reached it before day, but it was 9 a clock in the morning before we got into the harbour.
When we came within a league of the island of Ria Lexa, that makes the harbour, we saw a house on it, and coming nearer we saw two or three men, who stood and looked on us till we came within half a mile of the island, then they went into their Canoa, which lay on the inside of the island, and rowed towards the Main; but we overtook them before they got over, and brought them back again to the island. There was a horseman right against us on the Main when we took the Canoa, who immediately rode away towards the town as fast as he could. The rest of our Canoas rowed heavily and did not come to the island till 12 a clock, therefore we were forced to stay for them. Before they came we examined the prisoners who told us that they were set there to watch, for the governor of Ria Lexa received a letter about a month before, wherein he was advised of some enemies come into the sea, and therefore admonished him to be careful; that immediately thereupon the governor had caused a house to be built on this island, and ordered four men to be continually there to watch night and day; and if they saw any ship coming thither they were to give notice of it. They said they did not expect to see boats or Canoas, but looked out for a ship. At first they took us in our advanced Canoa to be some men that had been cast away and lost our ship; till, seeing 3 or 4 Canoas more, they began to suspect what we were. They told us likewise that the horseman which we saw did come to them every morning, and that in less than an hour's time he could be at the town. When Captain Eaton and his Canoas came ashore we told them what had happened. It was now three hours since the horseman rode away, and we could not expect to get to the town in less than two hours; in which time the governor having notice of our coming might be provided to receive us at his breast-works; therefore we thought it best to defer this design till another time.
There is a fine spring of fresh water on the island; there are some trees also, but the biggest part is savannah, whereon is good grass, though there is no sort of beast to eat it. This island is in latitude 12 degrees 10 minutes north. Here we stayed till 4 a clock in the afternoon; then, our ships being come within a league of the shore, we all went on board, and steered for the Gulf of Amapalla, intending there to careen our ships.
The 26th of July Captain Eaton came aboard our ship to consult with Captain Davis how to get some Indians to assist us in careening: it was concluded that, when we came near the gulf, Captain Davis should take two Canoas well manned and go before, and Captain Eaton should stay aboard. According to this agreement Captain Davis went away for the gulf the next day.
The Gulf of Amapalla is a great arm of the sea running 8 or 10 leagues into the country. It is bounded on the south side of its entrance with Point Casivina, and on the north-west side with St. Michael's Mount. Both these places are very remarkable: Point Casivina is in latitude 12 degrees 40 minutes north: it is a high round point which at sea appears like an island; because the land within it is very low. St. Michael's Mount is a very high peaked hill, not very steep: the land at the foot of it on the south-east side is low and even, for at least a mile. From this low land the Gulf of Amapalla enters on that side. Between this low land and Point Casivina there are two considerable high islands; the southermost is called Mangera, the other is called Amapalla; and they are two miles asunder.
Mangera is a high round island, about 2 leagues in compass, appearing like a tall grove. It is environed with rocks all round, only a small cove, or sandy bay, on the north-east side. The mould and soil of this island is black, but not deep; it is mixed with stones, yet very productive of large tall timber trees.
In the middle of the island there is an Indian town, and a fair Spanish church. The Indians have plantations of maize round the town, and some plantains: they have a few cocks and hens, but no other sort of tame fowl; neither have they any sort of beast, but cats and dogs. There is a path from the town to the sandy bay, but the way is steep and rocky. At this sandy bay there are always 10 or 12 Canoas lie hauled up dry, except when they are in use.
Amapalla is a larger island than Mangera; the soil much the same. There are two towns on it, about two miles asunder; one on the north side, the other on the east side: that on the east side is not above a mile from the sea; it stands on a plain on the top of a hill, the path to it is so steep and rocky that a few men might keep down a great number only with stones. There is a very fair church standing in the midst of the town. The other town is not so big, yet it has a good handsome church. One thing I have observed in all the Indian towns under the Spanish government, as well in these parts in the Bay of Campeachy and elsewhere, that the images of the Virgin Mary and other saints (with which all their churches were filled) are still painted in an Indian complexion, and partly in that dress; but in those towns which are inhabited chiefly by Spaniards, the saints also conform themselves to the Spanish garb and complexion.
The houses here are but mean; the Indians of both plains have good field maize, remote from the town: they have but few plantains, but they have abundance of large hog-plum-trees growing about their houses. The tree that bears this fruit is as big as our largest plum-tree: the leaf is of a dark green colour and as broad as the leaf of a plum-tree; but they are shaped like the hawthorn leaf. The trees are very brittle wood; the fruit is oval, and as big as a small horse-plum. It is at first very green, but when it is ripe one side is yellow, the other red. It has a great stone, and but little substance about it: the fruit is pleasant enough; but I do not, remember that ever I saw one thoroughly ripe that had not a maggot or two in it. I do not remember that I did ever see any of this fruit in the South Seas but at this place. In the Bay of Campeachy they are very plentiful, and in Jamaica they plant them to fence their ground. These Indians have also some fowls, as those at Mangera: no Spaniards dwell among them but only one padre or priest, who serves for all three towns; these two at Amapalla and that at Mangera. They are under the governor of the town of St. Michael's, at the foot of St. Michael's Mount, to whom they pay their tribute in maize; being extremely poor, yet very contented. They have nothing to make money of but their plantations of maize and their fowls; the padre or friar has his tenths of it, and knows to a peck how much every man has, and how many fowls, of which they dare not kill one, though they are sick, without leave from him. There was (as I said) never another white man on these islands but the friar. He could speak the Indian language, as all friars must that live among them. In this vast country of America there are divers nations of Indians, different in their language, therefore those friars that are minded to live among any nations of Indians must learn the language of those people they propose to teach. Although these here are but poor, yet the Indians in many other places have great riches which the Spaniards draw from them for trifles: in such places the friars get plentiful incomes; as particularly in the Bay of Campeachy, where the Indians have large Cacoa-walks; or in other places where they plant cochineel-trees, or silvester-trees; or where they gather vinelloes, and in such places where they gather gold. In such places as these the friars do get a great deal of wealth. There was but one of all the Indians on both these islands that could speak Spanish; he could write Spanish also, being bred up purposely to keep the registers and books of account: he was secretary to both islands. They had a casica too (a small sort of magistrate the Indians have amongst themselves) but he could neither write nor speak Spanish.
There are a great many more islands in this bay, but none inhabited as these. There is one pretty large island belonging to a nunnery, as the Indians told us, this was stocked with bulls and cows; there were 3 or 4 Indians lived there to look after the cattle, for the sake of which we often frequented this island while we lay in the bay: they are all low islands except Amapalla and Mangera. There are two channels to come into this gulf, one between Point Casivina and Mangera, the other between Mangera and Amapalla: the latter is the best. The riding-place is on the east side of Amapalla, right against a spot of low ground; for all the island except this one place is high land. Running in farther ships may anchor near the Main, on the north-east side of the island Amapalla. This is the place most frequented by Spaniards: it is called the Port of Martin Lopez. This gulf or lake runs in some leagues beyond all the islands; but it is shoal water and not capable of ships.
It was into this gulf that Captain Davis was gone with the two Canoas to endeavour for a prisoner, to gain intelligence, if possible, before our ships came in: he came the first night to Mangera, but for want of a pilot did not know where to look for the town. In the morning he found a great many Canoas hauled up on the bay; and from that bay found a path which led him and his company to the town. The Indians saw our ships in the evening coming towards the island, and, being before informed of enemies in the sea, they kept scouts out all night for fear: who, seeing Captain Davis coming, ran into the town, and alarmed all the people. When Captain Davis came thither they all run into the woods. The friar happened to be there at this time; who, being unable to ramble into the woods, fell into Captain Davis's hands: there were two Indian boys with him who were likewise taken. Captain Davis went only to get a prisoner, therefore was well satisfied with the friar, and immediately came down to the seaside. He went from thence to the island Amapalla, carrying the friar and the two Indian boys with him. These were his pilots to conduct him to the landing-place, where they arrived about noon. They made no stay here, but left three or four men to look after the Canoas, and Captain Davis with the rest marched to the town, taking the friar with them. The town, as is before noted, is about a mile from the landing-place, standing in a plain on the top of a hill, having a very steep ascent to go to it. All the Indians stood on the top of the hill waiting Captain Davis's coming.
The secretary, mentioned before, had no great kindness for the Spaniards. It was he that persuaded the Indians to wait Captain Davis's coming; for they were all running into the woods; but he told them that if any of the Spaniard's enemies came thither it was not to hurt them, but the Spaniards whose slaves they were; and that their poverty would protect them. This man with the casica stood more forward than the rest, at the bank of the hill, when Captain Davis with his company appeared beneath. They called out therefore in Spanish, demanding of our men what they were, and from whence they came? To whom Captain Davis and his men replied they were Biscayers, and that they were sent thither by the king of Spain to clear those seas from enemies; that their ships were coming into the gulf to careen, and that they came thither before the ships to seek a convenient place for it, as also to desire the Indian's assistance. The secretary, who, as I said before, was the only man that could speak Spanish, told them that they were welcome, for he had a great respect for any Old Spain men, especially for the Biscayers, of whom he had heard a very honourable report; therefore he desired them to come up to their town. Captain Davis and his men immediately ascending the hill, the friar going before; and they were received with a great deal of affection by the Indians. The casica and secretary embraced Captain Davis, and the other Indians received his men with the like ceremony. These salutations being ended, they all marched towards the church, for that is the place of all public meetings, and all plays and pastimes are acted there also; therefore in the churches belonging to Indian towns they have all sorts of vizards, and strange antick dresses both for men and women, and abundance of musical hautboys and strumstrums. The strumstrum is made somewhat like a sittern; most of those that the Indians use are made of a large gourd cut in the midst, and a thin board laid over the hollow, and which is fastened to the sides; this serves for the belly; over which the strings are placed. The nights before any holidays, or the nights ensuing, are the times when they all meet to make merry. Their mirth consists in singing, dancing, and sporting in those antick habits, and using as many antick gestures. If the moon shine they use but few torches, if not, the church is full of light. There meet at these times all sorts of both sexes. All the Indians that I have been acquainted with who are under the Spaniards seem to be more melancholy than other Indians that are free; and at these public meetings, when they are in the greatest of their jollity, their mirth seems to be rather forced than real. Their songs are very melancholy and doleful; so is their music: but whether it be natural to the Indians to be thus melancholy, or the effect of their slavery, I am not certain: but I have always been prone to believe that they are then only condoling their misfortunes, the loss of their country and liberties: which although these that are now living do not know, nor remember what it was to be free, yet there seems to be a deep impression of the thoughts of the slavery which the Spaniards have brought them under, increased probably by some traditions of their ancient freedom.
Captain Davis intended when they were all in the church to shut the doors and then make a bargain with them, letting them know what he was, and so draw them afterwards by fair means to our assistance: the friar being with him, who had also promised to engage them to it: but before they were all in the church, one of Captain Davis's men pushed one of the Indians to hasten him into the church. The Indian immediately ran away, and all the rest taking the alarm sprang out of the church like deer; it was hard to say which was first: and Captain Davis, who knew nothing of what happened, was left in the church only with the friar. When they were all fled, Captain Davis's men fired and killed the secretary; and thus our hopes perished by the indiscretion of one foolish fellow.
In the afternoon the ships came into the gulf between Point Casivina and Mangera, and anchored near the island Amapalla on the east side in 10 fathom water, clean hard sand. In the evening Captain Davis and his company came aboard, and brought the friar with them; who told Captain Davis that if the secretary had not been killed he could have sent him a letter by one of the Indians that was taken at Mangera, and persuaded him to come to us; but now the only way was to send one of those Indians to seek the casica, and that himself would instruct him what to say, and did not question but the casica would come in on his word. The next day we sent ashore one of the Indians, who before night returned with the casica and six other Indians, who remained with us all the time that we stayed here. These Indians did us good service; especially in piloting us to an island where we killed beef whenever we wanted; and for this their service we satisfied them to their hearts' content. It was at this island Amapalla that a party of Englishmen and Frenchmen came afterwards, and stayed a great while, and at last landed on the Main, and marched overland to the Cape River, which disembogues into the North Seas near Cape Gratia Dios, and is therefore called the Cape River: near the head of this river they made bark-logs (which I shall describe in the next chapter) and so went into the North Seas. This was the way that Captain Sharp had proposed to go if he had been put to it; for this way was partly known by privateers by the discovery that was made into the country about 30 years since, by a party of Englishmen that went up that river in Canoas, about as far as the place where these Frenchmen made their bark-logs: there they landed and marched to a town called Segovia in the country. They were near a month getting up the river, for there were many cataracts where they were often forced to leave the river and haul their Canoas ashore over the land till they were past the cataracts, and then launch their Canoas again into the river. I have discoursed several men that were in that expedition, and if I mistake not Captain Sharp was one of them. But to return to our voyage in hand; when both our ships were clean and our water filled Captain Davis and Captain Eaton broke off consortships. Captain Eaton took aboard of his ship 400 packs of flour, and sailed out of the gulf the second day of September.