The chapter describes the author's second visit to the Galápagos Islands, where he arrived on November 3, 1801.
Description of the Gallipagos Islands; with remarks upon them, and the observations made during my first visit, in 1800, and at several subsequent visits.
My first visit to the Gallipagos Islands was in the year 1800. On the 30th of June we saw Chatham Island bearing north-northwest, ten leagues distant; soon after saw Hood's Island bearing west by north, six leagues distant; and on the 1st day of July anchored in twenty-eight fathoms, muddy bottom, in Stephen's bay, Kicker rock bearing west by north. Captain Colnett describes this bay as having a bason at the bottom of it, fit for vessels of one hundred and fifty or two hundred tons burden to be hove down in. On the second examination of the large bay, I discovered the bason, or cove, which captain Colnett speaks of, and found it entirely unsafe for anchorage; it was as convenient for landing, and for taking off wood, as any other place on the island. It was a remarkably pleasant little boat harbour, having mangrove trees growing in the water's edge, nearly all round the bay. I presume when captain Colnett recommended it for vessels of two hundred tons to be hove down in, he had not sounded round its mouth, or within the cove; if he had, he would have found that there are many places which have not more than six feet water, and a very rough ledge of rocky bottom, with a ground swell till getting quite into the bason. It lies east-south-east from Kicker rock. We examined all the shores of Stephen's bay, and found the next best place to land was in the south west part of it on several sand beaches. We found rocky ground in the easterly part, and it is recommended in going in, or coming out, to the eastward of Kicker rock, not to run near the shore within it, or to the southward of the high head on the easterly side of the bay, it being foul ground; for in case an anchor should be let go it would most probably be lost. There was very little to be obtained in this bay, except green turtle.
As we sailed round the westerly end of Chatham Island, we did not observe any dangers till near the shore. I navigated from three or four leagues to the southward of the west point of it all the west and north parts, within a small distance of the land, and saw nothing that was dangerous but one small island rock, lying off the north east extreme of the main island, about three or four miles distant. I went with the boat, but could not land on any part of it; observed some sunken rocks lying near it in different directions. Its greatest length is not more than two hundred feet, and little more than half that in breadth. A ship sould not come near it on any account. Found several convenient landing places on the north side, between the east end of the island and the Kicker rock, which is very remarkable for its stupendous height and perpendicular sides; as likewise for its being split from top to bottom, and the two parts separated from each other at least twenty feet. It is split in the middle, and is as smooth as a piece of timber could be sawed. We passed within what is called Dalrymple's rock, which lies about north-north-west from the westerly point of Chatham Island, four miles distant. It is three hundred feet in circumference, nearly round, and is considerably high. We found very indifferent anchorage after we left the first bay that we anchored in; as all the north side of the island was deep water, foul ground, and there was no kind of a harbour. The southerly and easterly being the windward parts of the island, and of course not likely to afford any landing. The whole of this island appeared unfavourable to any kind of cultivation, as the greater part of it was mountains of rocks burnt to a cinder; and it appeared as if the whole island had undergone a revolution by a volcano, and it is a remarkable fact, that it never rained at these islands.
The best general account of the Gallipagos Islands, that I have seen, is that of captain Colnett, which is tolerably correct information, though we found some things different from his statement. We made the easterly part of Chatham and Hood's Islands nearly at the same time, and stood in between them, and found Hood's Island to lie south westerly from the west end of Chatham Island, about seven leagues distant. The latter island lies its longest way from east-south-east to west-north-west, and is about ten leagues in length, and not far from half that in width. We traversed all the south west side of Hood's Island, from the most extreme south part of it to the north west end, and tried to land with the boat; but found it all an iron bound shore, until we rounded its north west point, where we found a good landing place. All the northerly part of the island appeared to be easy of access. On a succeeding voyage we found, on examination, several small sand beaches on the easterly side of the island, where boats could land. We went over all parts of the island, and procured plenty of tortoises. We saw many albatrosses with their young, and some sitting on their eggs. There were snakes, and a very large kind of lizard. Plenty of green turtles were to be obtained. We likewise saw marks of former visitors. There were some very large trees which had drifted on shore here, that were much larger than any to be seen growing on either of these islands. They must have drifted from the continent, and most probably from some where to the northward of the bay of Panama. They were of the kind of wood commonly called Spanish cedar, which is nearly as handsome as mahogany. It is a convenient place for procuring wood and tortoises, which are all the island afforded. We had not a very good opportunity to ascertain the latitude and longitude; but by the best authority we were possessed of, we made the centre of the island to lie in latitude 1° 20' south, and in longitude 89° 40' west, which I presume is not materially incorrect. Its longest way is from south-south-east to north-north-west, being from five to six miles long, and two thirds that in width. The land is not so much elevated as Chatham Island, having no mountain or hill upon it. The surface is burnt stones and sand, with some small shrubby wood growing on it.
I found it best, as captain Colnett says, to make Hood's Island first, if bound to the northward, as you will then have all the rest of the islands to leeward. He speaks of a reef which lies at a distance off to the north west of this island; but as we cruised off that part of it nearly two days without seeing any thing of it, we were led to suppose it to be only tide ripples, or two currents meeting, that he saw. We then proceeded to Charles' Island, and made a tack or two to the south east of it. There is said to be a reef off its south east ends about three leagues distant. I obtained the information from a captain William Anderson of London, who told me he saw it when he was in the ship Castor and Pollux; but we cruised over the spot where he said he saw the reef, and could find nothing of it, and from that circumstance concluded that it does not exist. We attempted to land on the three small islands to the south east of Charles' Island, at three or four miles distance from it, called Gardner's, Watson's, and Caldwell's Islands; but found there was no possibility of effecting it. We passed to the northward of them, and landed in a very convenient cove for that purpose, on the main island, where we found marks of people having very recently left it. There were some seal skins left pegged out by them, and fresh ashes where they had made fires. Plenty of tortoises were to be obtained here. This landing place is nearly west, and right within the most southerly small island which lies on the east side, and near to Charles' Island. We next landed on a small island, that can scarcely be called so, as it connects so nearly with Charles' Island to the northward of the cove, and with the other small island, last mentioned, to the eastward of it. A little further to the northward the land forms a fine bay, to appearance four or five miles distant; after which the land trends away to the westward more. It was my intention to have examined that bay; but the current swept us to leeward so far in the course of the night, that I found in the morning we should not be able to recover the place in several days. We bore away and run to the northward for James' Island.
Charles Island lies in the same parallel of latitude with Hood's, and about fifteen leagues west of it. On a succeeding voyage we found that there was a good harbour on the south west side, we anchored there, and found it very commodious for wooding. Its soil was much better than either of the islands, which have been already described, and I believe it to be the best for cultivation of any one of the group that I have seen. The trees at the southward of the anchoring place, in ascending the moderately elevated land, appeared to be of a good growth, which indicates a rich soil. This island is not so much torn to pieces with volcanos as the others that I have visited, and it is my opinion, from what I saw, together with the information I have obtained since I was there of the progress that an Irishman was making in cultivating the interior of this island, that it might be very easily made to support many inhabitants with its own productions. There are salt lagoons adjacent to the beach where we landed in the easterly part of the bay, in which may be often found good shooting of teals and flamingoes. It is best to anchor a quarter of a mile off shore, in five and six fathoms water, sandy bottom; the west point of the bay bearing west by south, and the east point north east by east. This island is about the same in length as in breadth, and is estimated to be ten miles in diameter. In making the harbour, pass to the southward of the island, when coming from the eastward, by which means a steady fresh breeze of wind will be experienced till quite up with the westerly point of the bay. If a ship attempts to come in to the northward and eastward of the island, she will be most likely to have baffling winds and calms.
In our run to James's Island, we passed between Albermarle [sic], Barrington, Duncan, and Jarvis's Islands, down to James's bay, which is formed on the north west side of James's Island. We saw in this run a number of others, which captain Colnett has not laid down, but all the large ones were on the easterly side of us, and all the small ones lay to the westward of us. The latter lie off the south east end of Albermarle; but did not appear to be dangerous. Indeed we saw no dangers off any of the islands in the whole cluster, that were a quarter of a mile off shore, except the one already described to the north east of Chatham Island. When we were in the narrowest part of the passage, between Albermarle and James's Island, night came on and we had to make short boards through the night. In the morning we found that the current had set us to leeward twelve or fifteen miles, notwithstanding we had beat to windward, during the night, with a good fresh breeze from the southward. We stood into James's bay, where we anchored in seven fathoms, good bottom; and found it to be a good safe harbour, sheltered from all prevailing winds. We likewise found fresh water here, as captain Colnett mentions, which was very good, and filled eighteen or twenty of our butts. We caught plenty of fish; but they were not very good. We also killed some flamingoes and teals, in the salt ponds that lie just within the sand beach, abreast of the anchoring place. We cut a supply of wood between the ponds and the sea, and found it to be the best to burn of any I ever saw.
When we arrived in this bay we found two Spanish brigs riding together by another brig which had been sunk for that purpose. They had all three been cut out of Pisco. They were prizes to the ship Henry of London, commanded by captain William Watson, who arrived on the 23d of July, from a whaling cruise. I had flattered myself that on the arrival of the Henry, I should have much pleasure in the company of the captain. As the two Spanish brigs were left with only one man, one boy, and a Spanish negro prisoner, I was confident the ship could not be long absent; but when she arrived I was very much disappointed in my anticipations. The captain was, in my opinion, the greatest drunkard, and the most low and mean spirited man, that ever was put in charge of property. Here was one instance of the abuse of power, that was given to a villian, who made use of it to rob and plunder on the high seas. He had it in contemplation to plunder me, and I have no doubt he would have attempted it, had his officers and crew been willing to have assisted in such an outrage. He found me with only ten men on board my ship, when he came into the bay. Several of them were sick with the scurvy and other complaints. I had buried one but a few days previous, who died of a scorbutic complaint. In this weak and helpless condition he threatened, with other insults, to take away my men as British subjects. He came on board once and demanded my chief officer. I found that I must either let him take him, or have recourse to some very hostile measures. On my telling him, however, that he should take no advantage of me with impunity, alghough I was in such a disabled state, he did not seem to be disposed to pursue his designs, especially when he found there was some appearance of opposition in the way. The Henry mounted fourteen six pounders, most of which were too light for actual service, and I found her commander to be not of the fighting cast, but one of the blustering sort of men. They left us on the 30th of July, to our great satisfaction. They left captain Anderson late of the Castor and Pollux, of London, who will be hereafter mentioned, and who had been put, with seven of his men, on shore on the weather-head of Albermarle Island to recruit from the scurvy, which they all have very badly. During their stay on shore, a Spanish privateer ship, called the Atlantic, fell in with and captured his, and one more English ship, that was in company. Captain Anderson had no knowledge of his ship, or what had happened to her, at the time he left this bay. He was left there in charge of one of the Henry's Spanish prizes, called the St. Bartholomew. He fitted and rigged her and left this place, intending to proceed to London by way of Cape Horn.
Whilst we were at James's bay, we examined all the westerly part of the island, and found several good landing places to the southward of where our ship was moored. The direction of the shore is from south to south-south-west. We likewise examined all the north, and part of the easterly side of it, and found good landing in several places; but all very ragged rocky shores. James's bay is, as has been before stated, on the north west side of James's island. There is a small island lying about four miles to the north west of the anchoring ground, by which strangers may know how to find the bay. Before anchoring, run in till abreast the middle of the white sandy beach, and come to in seven fathoms water. This island is nearly seven leagues in length, from north to south, and its breadth about five leagues. The equator passed near its north extreme. The westerly part of it has some soil from two miles to the northward to ten miles to the southward of the anchoring place. Most of the hills and valleys are clothed with trees of a good growth, and in some parts the under wood and shrubbery are so thick, that is is difficult for a person to penetrate them. It may appear strange to some, that land should produce verdure where there is no rain, rivers, or springs, whereby it can be watered; but in this place the dew falls so heavily at some seasons, that it would wet a man's clothes to be out at night, as much as a small rain. All the animals that are found here are the terrapin, (or tortoise,) guanas, of two species, land and sea; snakes, of two or three kinds; and lizards of different sorts. The feathered race is the pelican, which lays its eggs in nests built in trees; flamingoes, and a small kind of albatross which does not lay its eggs in rookeries, but is found here sitting and hatching on the burnt stony ground; gulls, teals, rooks; a small kind of heron, which is in this country vulgarly called shite-poke; the ring dove, and two or three kinds of small sparrows. There are some seals of both the fur and hair kind, and green turtles are found on the beaches.
As it may be gratifying to the reader, I shall give a description of some of the animals that are mentioned above. The terrapin, or as it is sometimes called the land tortoise, that is found here, is by far the largest, best, and most numerous of any place I have ever visited. Some of the largest weigh three or four hundred pounds; but their common size is between fifty and one hundred pounds. Their shape is somewhat similar to that of our small land tortoise, which is found upon the upland, and is like it high and round on the back. They have a very long neck, which, together with their head, has a very disagreeable appearance, very much resembling a large serpent. I have seen them with necks between two and three feet long, and when they saw anything that was new to them, or met each other, they would raise their heads as high as they could, their necks being nearly vertical, and advance with their mouths wide open; appearing to be the most spiteful of any reptile whatever. Sometimes two or them would come up to each other in that manner, so near as almost to touch, and stand in that position for two or three minutes, appearing so angry that their mouths, heads, and necks, appeared to quiver with passion; when by the least touch of a stick against their necks or heads, they would shrink back in an instant and draw their necks, heads, and legs into their shells. This is the only quick motion I ever saw them perform. I was put in the same kind of fear that is felt at the sight or near approach of a snake, at the first one I saw, which was very large. I was alone at the time and he stretched himself as high as he could, opened his mouth, and advanced towards me. His body was raised more than a foot from the ground, his head turned forward in the manner of a snake in the act of biting, and raised two feet and a half above its body. I had a musket in my hand at the time, and when he advanced near enough to reach him with it, at the touch of which, he dropt himself upon the ground and instantly secured all his limbs within his shell. They are perfectly harmless, as much so as any animal I know of, notwithstanding their threatening appearance. They have no teeth, and of course they cannot bite very hard. They take their food into their mouths by the assistance of the sharp edge of the upper and under jaw, which shut together one a little within the other, so as to nip grass, or any flowers, berries, or shrubbery, the only food they eat.
Those who have seen the elephant have seen the exact resemblance of the leg and foot of a terrapin. I have thought that I could discover some faint resemblance to that animal in sagacity. They are very prudent in taking care of themselves and their eggs, and in the manner of securing them in their nests; and I have observed on board my own ship as well as others, that they can easily be taught to go to any place on the deck, which may be wished for them to be constantly kept in. The method to effect this is, by whipping them with a small line when they are out of place, and to take them up and carry them to the place assigned for them; which being repeated a few times will bring them into the practice of going themselves, by being whipped when they are out of place. They can be taught to eat on board a ship as well as a sheep, or a goat, and will live for a long time if there is proper food provided for them. This I always took care to do when in a place where I could prucure it. The most suitable to take on board a ship, is prickly pear-trees, the trunk of which is a soft pithy substance, of a sweetish taste, and full of juice. Sometimes I procured grass for them. Either of these being strewed on the quarter deck, the pear-tree being cut fine, would immediately entice them to come from all parts of the deck to it; and they would eat in their way as well as any domestic animal. I have known them live several months without food; but they always in that case grow lighter and the fat diminishes, as common sense teaches, notwithstanding some writers have asserted to the contrary. If food will fatten animals, to go without it will make them lean.
I carried at one time from James's Island three hundred very good terrapins to the island of Massa Fuero; and there landed more than one half of them, after having them sixty days on board my ship. Half of the number landed, died as soon as they took food. This was owing to their stomachs having got so weak and out of tone, that they could not digest it. As soon as they eat any grass after landing, they would froth at the mouth, and appeared to be in a state of insanity, and died in the course of a day or two. This satisfied me that they were in some degree like other animals, and only differed from them by being slower in their motions, and that it takes a longer time to produce an effect upon their system than upon that of other creatures. Those that survived the shock which was occasioned by this sudden transition from total abstinence to that of abundance, soon became tranquil and appeared to be as healthy and as contented with the climate as when they were at their native place, and they would probably have lived as long had they not been killed for food. Their flesh, without exception, is of as sweet and pleasant a flavour as any that I ever eat. It was common to take out of one of them ten or twelve pounds of fat, when they were opened, besides what was necessary to cook them with. This was as yellow as our best butter, and of a sweeter flavour than hog's lard. They are the slowest in their motions of any animal I ever saw except the sloth. They are remarkable for their strength; one of them would bear a man's weight on his back and walk with him. I have seen them at one or two other places only. One instance was those brought from Madagascar in the Isle of France; but they were far inferior in size, had longer legs, and were much more ugly in their looks than those of the Gallipagos Islands. I think I have likewise seen them at some of the Oriental Islands which I visited.
I have been more particular in describing the terrapin, than I otherwise should have been, had it not been for the many vague accounts given of it by some writers, and the incorrect statements made of the country in which it is to be found. The frequent political comparisons and allusions, which have been made by our public papers and orators to this animal, may have led the people of this country into incorrect notions concerning them. It has been publicly said that terrapins are common in China, which I am confident is incorrect; for I have carried them to Canton at two different times, and every Chinese who came on board my ship, was particularly curious in inspecting and asking questions about them, and not one, I am positive, had any knowledge of the animal before.
The land guana is very similar in shape to the lizard or alligator, having four legs, and is about two feet and a half long. Their shape is like a short thick snake with four legs; but it is a very innocent animal. Its colour is like that of burned rocks, or cinder, and their skin looks almost as coarse and rough. They are tolerably good eating and would be made use of for food were there not so many terrapins and sea turtles to be got at this place.
The sea guana resembles the land guana in its shape, being about the same size; but its back and head go up to a sharp ridge on the top, and a comb runs from near the nose over the top of its head to near the end of its tail, on the top of this ridge, which gives it the most disagreeable appearance of any animal to be found here. The colour of the skin is nearly black and has as rough and coarse an appearance as the land kind. It obtains its living entirely out of the sea. The other kind feeds upon the same vegetable substance as the terrapin.
The largest kind of lizards found here resembles the land guana, in every thing except size; they being only a little more than half the length. Their colour and coarse appearance are the same with the exception of a bright vermilion red throat, which makes it appear as if bloody. There are to be found here also two smaller kinds of lizards. The smallest is not much longer than a man's finger. The size of the other kind is between the two. There is no particular difference in the shape of the three kinds; but the colour of the two latter is gray. They are very harmless animals. The snakes that we found here appeared to be most of them harmless; none possessing any venomous qualities that we had any knowledge of. One kind of them is four or five feet long, and not thicker than a person's finger, and is striped. There was a short thick snake which is not more than two feet and a half long, and about the size of the one described above. Its colour is clouded with a mixture of dark gray, black, and red. One or two other small kinds were seen by us, but not worth being particularly described.
The pelican of this place is in appearance much like those in the West Indies. They have a monstrous large bill, which is more than a foot long, with a cot, or bag, growing to the under part of the bill, from near its end up to its throat. The under jaw is divided in such a manner that it can be spread open similar to a new bow, and the cot will expand, so as to contain near a peck of grain. With this net they are able to catch fish for food, for themselves and for their young. They are the most clumsy bird that I ever saw. When in the act of diving they make the most awkward appearance that can be imagined; which cannot be better described than by comparing it to the manner in which a sailor washes his clother, by making them fast to the end of a rope and throwing them from the forecastle into the sea; when they strike the water, they spread out, with the trowsers in one direction, the shirt in another, and the jacket in a third. The pelican makes a plunge into the water for the purpose of obtaining its food in a similar manner, its wings being extended, its mouth open, and its bill expanded; and with two enormously large feet spread out behind exhibits itself in a very ludicrous and sprawling manner.
The small albatross has been before described.
The ring dove is not so large as a turtle dove, and is more of the colour of the quail of this country, than that of the dove. It has a ring of feathers round its neck, of a light colour, and is a little simple, stupid kind of a bird. They are commonly found on the ground, amongst the groves of trees, where is not much under brush. They are a very delicate bird, and good eating. The method we practised to take them, was by going into the woods and taking with us small sticks, five or six feet long, and start a flock of them, when they would light upon the little bushes, and then walk up near enough to reach them with our sticks, and with a gentle motion place our stick close to the side of their neck, and while they would sit nodding, and looking stupidly at the stick, give them a sudden blow and break their neckkks. By these means, three or four of the crew could go into a grove and kill five or six dozen in two hours, which would be sufficient to make our ship's company a good dinner.
There is another remarkable bird found here, which has not before been described. It is known by the name of the diver. They resemble the small kind of booby, and something similar to the kind which is described at the Lobas [sic] Islands, called Bonaparte's army, excepting they are of rather a darker colour on the breast and neck, and their beaks and feet are of a Prussian blue. These birds collect together in small flocks for the purpose of diving. They fly round in a circle and continue to rise till they get to the height of from sixty to a hundred yards in the air, when one of them makes a pitch to dive, at which motion every one follows, and they fly down with remarkable swiftness, till within four or five yards of the surface, and then suddenly clasp their wings together and go into the water with the greatest velocity that can be conceived of, exceeding any thing of the kind that I ever witnessed. This bird should be contrasted with the pelican. I have often stood upon the ship's taferal rail, and sometimes have gone into the tops, to observe the motions of these birds whilst they were diving, especially when they came near the ship. They go into the water with such force as to form a curve of thirty or forty yards in length, before coming to the top again, going to a great depth under water. They glide under water at almost as great a degree of swiftness as when flying in the air. The water was so very transparent where the ship lay, thay they could very plainly be seen when near, during all their submarine course.
These islands afford some seals of both the fur and hair kind; and I think a vessel might procure several thousands of the two kinds, upon the whole of this cluster of islands, as all of them afford some. Green turtles are found here in the greatest plenty; and they are the easiest procured, of any place that I ever visited in any part of the world.
The south east part of James's Island we did not explore sufficiently to give much account of it; but from what we did see, I was led to believe that it has not so much soil on it as the westerly part. There are two salt lagoons directly back of the sandy beach, abreast where ships anchor, not more than ten rods from the shore; and we often shot teals and flamingoes here. All the watering place on this island yet found is between two and three miles to the northward of the lagoons. It is easily discovered in rowing along near the shore, as there will be observed a remarkable nook make [sic, made?] into the land to the eastward, where the rocks on each side are from twenty to fifty feet perpendicular height. It will be seen that there are trenches, or gutturs cut in the rock at the head of the cove, to lead the water that oozes out into a bason, which holds not more than fifteen or twenty gallons. It has the appearance at the head of the nook as if a brook had wore away the rocks, as it run down from the high land. At this place a person can with some difficulty get up to the top. I have been at this place when there was water standing in several little basins on the upland above the brow, which appeared to have come down a valley between two moderately elevated hills; and at other times when there was no sign of a drop of fresh water either above or below the brink of the hill.
The method we took to fill with water here, was to raft our empty casks on shore and haul them on to the shelf of the rock by means of a hauling line, place them beside the basin, already mentioned, and leave a man with them constantly night and day, to attend and dip up the water as fast as the basin filled. By this means we could sometimes save three hundred gallons in twenty-four hours. We got the casks off to the boat again by means of a hauling line being made fast to them. After this it was rolled into a kind of pit, which was wore into the rocks by the contant surging of the sea. They were then hauled to and taken into the boat by means of a par-buckle, if the boat was sufficiently large and strong to receive them, otherwise we towed them to the ship. This watering place is immediately to the southward and eastward of the most extreme north west high head of the island.
There is one very large island§ to the south east of James's Island, eight or ten leagues distant, which I know very little of, as I never visited it, neither have I seen any one that did. Its appearance as I passed it, within four or five leagues distance, was more favourable than any one of the cluster. I should recommend to any person that was in pursuit of seals or terrapins, to examine this island, as from its appearance I should think it worth their attention.
§ The present Isla Santa Cruz.
Albermarle is much the largest, and is the most westerly of the Gallipagos Island. Its largest way is from north to south, and its north point by our observations lies in latitude 0° 15' north, and in longitude 91° 15' west. Its south extreme 0° 52' south. The extreme width of the island we estimated at six leagues. It has a spacious bay on the west side, with an island lying in the middle of it, called Narborough, estimated at sixteen miles in circumference, and has a large and very remarkable rock, lying three or four leagues off the north point, in nearly a west direction, which is called Rodondo. The land on it is much higher than on any other island of the group, and has some very high mountains. Its appearance is like most of the other large islands, a great part of it appearing to have been torn to pieces by volcanos. I have seen places on this island and also on James's, and Chatham Island for a mile square, which had the appearance of once being a solid rock; but had been heated by volcanos to such a degree as to cause it to melt and run off the sides of the hills, which resemble the waves of the sea; having the appearance in many places of the surf, as it rolls on shore on flat beaches, with one sea following on the back of another. It is very dangerous attempting to pass over those burned places, as there are very deep chasms, some of them perhaps twenty feet in depth, which a person would be liable to fall into. If this accident was to happen to an adventurer, if he was not killed by the fall, it would be very difficult for him to get out again, as the rocks are so much burned that they have but little strength in them. When we walked over this clinker the tread of our feet would cause a remarkable sound, as if walking on bell metal. Albermarle Island is similar to the others in the production of terrapins, and sea turtles, seals, and all the other animals common to them.
Were it not for the advantages which these islands afford to the American and English whaling ships, in getting a supply of fresh provisions when in these seas, I know not what they would do, especially in time of war, as they then cound not possibly obtain any from the Spanish settlements. The advantages which ships derive from these islands are very important, in consequence of their lying so much in the way of those employed in the whaling business, who can always get a supply of fresh provision here, and not be put much out of their course; without which they would not be able to keep to sea but a few months, before their people would die of the scurvy. There is a great number of islands lying between Almermarle on the west, James's on the north, Chatham on the east, and Hood's and Charles's Islands on the south. I presume I saw more than twenty within the above space besides two to the northward, and in sight of Albermarle, and James's Island. The distance from Albermarle to the nearest port of James's is about nine or ten miles. It is good navigation between them, although I never have known of any one who had been through previous to ourselves.
The most extraordinary phenomenon, happened while we were riding in James's bay, in the year 1800, that I ever witnessed in my life; and as I do not remember to have heard or read of any thing like it either before or since, I will here insert an extract from the ship's Journal, describing it, as it was minuted down at the time it took place, by the officer who had the care of the log book.
As our boat was coming from the watering place on the evening of the 21st of August, between sunset and dark, with a load of water, we saw a large black cloud gathering over the highest mountain on Albermarle Island,§ which was the same place where one of the men on board our ship has asserted that he had seen a volcano burning in 1797; soon after the cloud gathered, it formed a spire or piked end similar to that of a cloud when about to meet a water spout. It descended to the top of the mountain, with a body of fire following it, apparently of the size of the largest part of the steeple of a meeting house. Its illumination was go great, that it attracted the attention of all the people in the boat, although they were at the time rowing with their backs toward it. After the file had descended to the top of the mountain it continued some seconds, when it broke like a water spout and left a streak where it had passed, which appeared as brilliant as a column of fire, and continued for near half an hour before it wholly disappeared.
§ Subsequently named Volcán Wolf after German geologist Theodor Wolf.
The watering place on Albermarle Island is in a cove§ directly to the eastward of Narborough, and on the westerly side of the island. The passage between the two islands being not more than two miles across. In going into the cove it may be approached from the northward, or from the southward; but it is most common for ships to go in from the northward. A red head, or cliff on Albermarle will be seen before getting so far to the southward as where the cove makes in. The shore to the northward of the red head, for several miles, is all green mangroves, and to the southward it is all burnt, rocky, mountainous land, for about half a mile, after which the cove makes in; but it is so small, and the land so very high round it, that it will not be seen until very near.
§ now, Tagus Cove.
To enter the cove when coming from the southward, it must be found in the best manner that circumstances make practicable. The best guide that I can recommend is, to keep Albermarle shore on board as near as possible and be safe; when in passing by the cove it cannot help being seen, as it makes in a north east direction. The winds are generally very light and variable in the passage between Albermarle and Narborough, which will make it necessary to always have the boats in readiness for the purpose of towing, either to keep the ship off shore, or get her into the cove, as circumsances may require. When a ship gets in, she can anchor in from nine to twenty-five fathoms water, in good muddy bottom; but there will be no soundings soon after passing without the last mentioned depth. The watering places are to be found on the south east side of the cove, and are eight or ten in number. They are formed by holes which are cut out of the rock just above the surf, and will contain about one barrel each. They are situated underneath some little hillocks or knolls, which will be a good mark to find them by. There are likewise two or three little gullies near them, in which water sometimes runs. A ship may fill at this place from fifty to one hundred and fifty barrels in twenty-four hours, by attending night and day as has been recommended at James's Island. Plenty of wood can be procured to the northward of the red head, from the green mangoves before mentioned, or from Narborough Island. This litte cove is as snug a place as any I know amongst the islands for a ship to lie in and overhaul her rigging, or make any repairs that may be found necessary, and likewise to fill up with water; but any communication with the shore, excepting for water, is not so convenient as at several of the other islands. There are many advantages which unite about this place, and are seldom to be found any where else. The plentiful supply of the best of fresh meat; together with the fresh fish, which are as plenty as in any place I ever was at; and good wood for fuel which is easily obtained; and all to be procured without any expense, and with very little trouble. It is considered to be as good whaling ground about these islands as any in these seas.
The greatest number of the Gallipagos Islands received their names from Colnett, who visited them about the year 1792 and 1793, in the ship Rattler from London. The constant south east trade winds prevail as near the equator as Hood's and Charles's Islands; and they blow for the most part of the time from that quarter, till after passing to the northward of the equator. It is necessary here to remark, that to get to windward when amongst these islands, or to get round the weather head of Albermarle, will be found to be almost impossible. After passing the latitude of one or two degrees north, a ship will be always subject to have variable and light winds and calms, with squalls and rain, till after getting as far as ten, and sometimes fifteen degrees north latitude. We found the currents among these islands most generally setting to the north west, and commonly at the rate of one or two miles an hour; but at some seasons they take a different course and set to the south east, for several days together. They commonly set very strongly to the northward and westward off the north point of Albermarle, for several degrees to the north of it; and if a ship should get to leeward of the islands and be becalmed, it is difficult to say how far she might be carried before she would get clear of the current. In case such an event should happen, I would recommend to stand to the eastward, if the intention is to regain the islands; for by standing to the westward, it would be impossible for me to say how far a ship would be obliged to run in that direction, before she would obtain a wind, that would enable here to recover her station at the islands.
I found the variation of the compass here to be nearest 9° easterly.
I should recommend to those bound to the southward, if they are to the eastward of the south head of Albermarle, when amongst these islands, to bear away and go round its north point, where there is a good opportunity to send a boat on shore and procure sea turtles, and cray-fish; and to shoot teals, flamingoes, and perhaps some other kinds of birds. Then steer off close hauled upon a wind to the southward, in the same manner as if to the westward of Albermarle, keeping the wind, till far enough to the southward to be out of the trade winds.
When bound to the northward, or to the westward for China, as I have been at two different times when I left these islands, I have steered nearest a north west course, till in the latitude of 10° north, then more to the westward, so as to bring me, when I was in the latitude of 15° north, to be in 115° west longitude; from which I sailed nearly on a north west course till I was in latitude 20° north, and longitude 120° west. I would here remark, that during the whole run of my last course described, I saw boobies, man-of-war hawks, egg birds, and some other kind of birds, that indicated land in this vicinity; and I have no doubt of its existence, or of my having been able to have found it, if time would have permitted me to look for it.