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20 January 1769
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20 January 1769

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1769

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in Falconer's Dictionary of the Marine
20 January 1769

20. Last night the weather began to moderate And this morn was very fine, so much so that we landed without any difficulty in the bottom of the bay and spent our time very much to our satisfaction in collecting shells and plants. Of the former we found some very scarce and fine particularly limpits of several species: of these we observd as well as the shortness of our time would permit that the limpit with a longish hole at the top of his shell is inhabited by an animal very different from those which have no such holes. Here were also some fine whelks, one particularly with a long tooth, and infinite variety of Lepades, Sertularias, Onisci &c &c &c much greater variety than I have any where seen, but the shortness of our time would not allow us to examine them so we were obligd to content ourselves with taking specimens of as many of them as we could in so short a time scrape together.

We returnd on board to dinner and afterwards went into the Countrey about two miles to see an Indian town which some of our people had given us intelligence of; we arrived at it in about an hour walking through a path which I suppose was their common road tho it was sometimes up to our knees in mud. The town itself was situate upon a dry Knowl among the trees, which were not at all cleard away, it consisted of not more than twelve or fourteen huts or wigwams of the most unartificial construction imaginable, indeed no thing bearing the name of a hut could possibly be built with less trouble. They consisted of a few poles set up and meeting together at the top in a conical figure, these were coverd on the weather side with a few boughs and a little grass, on the lee side about one eighth part of the circle was left open and against this opening was a fire made. Furniture I may justly say they had none: a little, very little dry grass laid round the edges of the circle furnishd both beds and chairs, and for dressing their shell Fish (the only provision I saw them make use of) they had no one contrivance but broiling them upon the Coals. For drinking indeed I saw in a corner of one of their hutts a bladder of some beast full of water: in one side of this near the top was a hole through which they drank by elevating a little the bottom which made the water spring up into their mouths.

In these few hutts and with this small share or rather none at all of what we call the nescessaries and conveniences of life livd about 50 men women and children, to all appearance contented with what they had nor wishing for any thing we could give them except beads; of these they were very fond preferring ornamental things to those which might be of real use and giving more in exchange for a string of Beids than they would for a knife or a hatchet.

As this is to be the last time of our going ashore on this Island I take this opportunity to give an account of such things the shortness of my stay allowd me to observe.

Notwithstanding almost all writers who have mentiond this Island have imputed to it a want of wood, soon after we first saw it even at the distance of some leagues, we plainly distinguish'd that the largest part of the countrey particularly near the sea coast was coverd with wood, which observation was verified in both the bays we put into, in either of which firing might have been got close by the beach in any quantity, and some trees which to all appearance might be fit for repairing a vessel or even in case of necessity to make masts.

The hills are high tho not to be calld mountains, the tops of these however are quite bare and on them frequent patches of snow were to be seen, tho the time of the year when we were there answerd to the beginning of July in England. In the valleys between these the Soil has much the appearance of Fruitfullness and is in some places of a considerable depth; at the bottom of almost every one of these runs a brook the water of which in general has a reddish Cast like that which runs through turf bogs in England but is very well tasted.

Quadrupeds I saw none in the Island, exept the Seals and Sea lions which we often saw swimming about in the bay might be calld such, but Dr Solander and myself when we were on the top of the highest hill we were upon observ'd the footsteps of a large beast imprinted on the surface of a bog, but could not with any probability guess of what kind it might be.

Land birds there are very Few. I saw none larger than an English blackbird except hawks and a vulture, but water fowl are much more plentyfull; in the first bay we were in I might have shot any quantity of ducks or geese but would not spare the time from gathering plants. In the other we shot some but probably the Indians in the neighbourhood had made them shy as well as much less plentiful, at least so we found them.

Fish we saw few nor could with our hooks take any fit to eat. Shell fish however are in the greatest abundance, limpits, muscles, Clams &c. none of them delicate yet such as they were we did not despise them.

Insects there are very few and not one species either hurtfull or troublesome; all the time we have been here we have seen neither gnat nor musqueto a circumstance which few if any uncleard countrey but this can boast of.Of

Plants here are many species and those truly the most extrordinary I can imagine, in stature and appearance they agree a good deal with the Europaean ones only in general are less specious, white flowers being much more common among them than any other colours. But to speak of them botanicaly, probably No botanist has ever enjoyd more pleasure in the contemplation of his Favourite pursuit than Dr Solander and myself among these plants; we have not yet examind many of them, but what we have have turnd out in general so intirely different from any before describd that we are never tird with wondering at the infinite variety of Creation, and admiring the infinite care with which providence has multiplied his productions suiting them no doubt to the various climates for which they were designd. Trees here are very Few, Birch Betula antarctica, Beach Fagus antarcticus, winters bark Winterana aromatica, the two first for timber the other for its excellent aromatick bark so much valued by Physicians are all worth mentioining; and of Plants we could not ascertain the virtues not being able to converse with the Indians who may have experiencd them, but the Scurvy grass Cardamine antescorbutica and wild Celery Apium antarcticum may easily be known to contain antescorbutick virtues capable of being of great service to ships who may in futurity touch here. Of these two therefore I shall give a short description. Scurvy grass is found plentifully in damp places near springs, in general every where near the beach especialy at the watering place in the Bay of Good Success; when young and in its greatest perfection it lays flat on the ground, having many bright green leaves standing in pairs opposite each other with an odd one at the end which makes in general the 5th on a footstalk; after this it shoots up in stalks sometimes 2 feet high at the top of which are small white blosoms which are succeeded by long podds. The whole plant much resembles that that is calld Ladys Smock or Cuckold flower in England only that the flowers are much smaller. Wild Celery resembles much the Celery in our gardens only that the leaves are of a deeper green, the flowers like it stand in small tufts at the tops of the Branches and are white; it grows plentifully near the Beach, generaly in the first soil which is above spring tides, and is not easily mistaken as the taste resembles Celery or parsley or rather is between. Both these herbs we us'd plentifully while we stayd here putting them in our soup &c, and found the benefit from them which seamen in general find from vegetable diet after having been long deprivd of it.

The inhabitants we saw here seemd to be one small tribe of Indians consisting of not more than 50 of all ages and sexes. They are of a reddish Colour nearly resembling that of rusty iron mixd with oil: the men large built but very clumsey, their hight from 5ft8 to 5ft10 nearly and all very much of the same size, the women much less seldom exceeding 5ft. Their Cloaths are no more than a kind of cloak of Guanicoe or seal skin thrown loose over their shoulders and reaching down nearly to their knees; under this they have nothing at all nor any thing to cover their feet, except a few of them had shoes of raw seal hide drawn loosely round their instep like a purse. In this dress there is no distinction between men and women, except that the latter have their cloak tied round their middle with a kind of belt or thong and a small flap of leather hanging like Eve's fig leaf over those parts which nature teaches them to hide; which precept tho she has taught to them she seems intirely to have omitted with the men, for they continualy expose those parts to the view of strangers with a carelessness which thoroughly proves them to have no regard to that kind of decency.

Their ornaments of which they are extreemly fond consist of necklaces or rather Solitaires of shells and braceletts which the women wear both on their wrists and legs, the men only on their wrists, but to compensate for the want of the other they have a kind of wreath of brown worsted which they wear over their Foreheads so that in reality they are more ornamented than the women.

They paint their faces generaly in horizontal lines just under their eyes and sometimes make the whole region of their eyes white, but these marks are so much varied that no two we saw were alike: whether as marks of distinction or mere ornaments I could not at all make out.

They seem also to paint themselves with something like a mixture of grease and soot for particular occasions, as when we went to their town there came two out to meet us who were dawb'd with black lines all manner of ways so as to form the most diabolical countenance imaginable, and these two seemd to exorcise us or at least made a loud and long harangue which did not seem to be address'd either to us or any of their countreymen.

Their language is guttural especialy in some particular words which they seem to express much as an Englishman when he hawks to clear his throat, but they have many words that sound soft enough. During our stay among them I could learn but two of their words, Nalleca which signified beads, at least so they always said when they wanted them instead of the ribbands or other trifles which I offerd them, and oouda which signified water, or so they said when we took them ashore from the ship and by signs ask'd where water was: oouda was their answer, making the sign of drinking and pointing to our casks as well as to the place where we put them ashore and found plenty of water.

Of Civil goverment I saw no signs, no one seemd to be more respected than another nor did I ever see the least appearance of Quarreling or words between any two of them. Religion also they seemd to be without, unless those people who made strange noises that I have mentiond before were preists or exorcisers which opinion is merely conjectural.

Their food at least what we saw them make use of was either Seals or shell fish. How they took the former we never saw but the latter were collected by the women, whose business it seemd to be to attend at low water with a basket in one hand, a stick with a point and barb in the other, and a satchel on their backs which they filld with shell fish, loosning the limpits with the stick and putting them into the basket which when full was emty'd into the satchel.

Their arms consisted of Bows and arrows, the former neatly enough made the latter neater than any I have seen, polishd to the highest degree and headed either with glass or flint very neatly; but this was the only neat thing they had and the only thing they seemd to take any pains about. Their houses which I have describd before are the most miserable ones imaginable and furniture they have none.

That these people have before had intercourse with Europaeans was very plain from many instances: first from the Europaean Commodities of which we saw Sail Cloth, Brown woolen Cloth, Beads, nails, Glass &c, and of them especialy the last (which they used for pointing their arrows) a considerable quantity; from the confidence they immediately put in us at our first meeting tho well acquainted with our superiority; and from the knowledge they had of the use of our guns which they very soon shewd, making signs to me to shoot a seal who was following us in the boat which carried them ashore from the ship. They probably travel and stay but a short time at a place, so at least it should seem from the badness of their houses which seem intirely built to stand but for a short time; from their having no kind of household furniture but what has a handle adapted to it either to be carried in the hand or on the back; from the thinness of their Cloathing which seems little calculated even to bear the summers of this countrey much less the winters; from their food of shell fish which must soon be exhausted at any one place; and from the deserted huts we saw in the first bay we came to where people had plainly been but a short time before, probably this spring.

Boats they had none with them but as they were not sea sick or particularly affected when they came onboard our ship, possibly they might be left at some bay or inlet which passes partly but not all the way through this Island from the Streights of Magellan, from which place I should be much inclind to beleive these people have come as so few ships before us have anchord upon any part of Terra del Fuego.

Their dogs which I forgot to mention seem also to indicate a commerce had some time or other with Europaeans, they being all of the kind that bark, contrary to what has been observd of (I beleive) all dogs natives of America.

The weather here has been very uncertain tho in general extreemly bad: every day since the first more or less snow has fallen and yet the glass has never been below 38: unseasonable as this weather seems to be in the middle of summer I am inclind to think it is generaly so here, for none of the plants appear at all affected by it, and the insects who hide themselves during the time a snow blast lasts are the instant it is fair again as lively and nimble as the finest weather could make them.


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© Derived from State Library of NSW 1998 Transcription of Banks's Endeavour Journal page (vol.1) 163, 2004
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