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Voyages in the Southern Hemisphere, Vol. IVoyaging Accounts
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Rio de Janeiro to Port Desire


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Rio de Janeiro to Port Desire (continued)

35° 50’S. and found the weather as cold as it is at the same season in England, although the month of November here is a spring month, answering to our May, and we were near twenty degrees nearer the line: to us, who within little more than a week had suffered intolerable heat, this change was most severely felt: and the men, who supposing they were to continue in a hot climate during the whole voyage, had contrived to fell not only all their warm clothes, but their bedding, at the different ports where we had touched, now applied in great distress for slops, and were all furnished for the climate.

On Friday the 2d of November, after administering the proper oath to the Lieutenants of both ships, I delivered them their commissions; for till this time they acted only under verbal orders from me, and expected to receive their commissions in India, whither they imagined we were bound. We now began to see a great number of birds about the ship, many of them very large, of which some were brown and white, and some black: there were among them large flocks of pintadoes, which are somewhat larger than a pigeon, and spotted with black and white. On the 4th, we saw a great quantity of rock weed, and several seals: our latitude was 38° 53’S., longitude 51° W.; the variation 13° E.: the prevailing winds here were westerly, so that being continually driven to the eastward, we foresaw that it would not be easy to get in with the coast of Patagonia. On the 10th, we observed the water to change colour, but we had no ground with one hundred and forty fathom: our latitude was now 41° 16’S.; our longitude 55° 17’W.; the variation was 18° 20’E. The next day we stood in for the land till eight in the evening, when we had ground of red sand with forty-five fathom. We steered S.W. by W. all night, and the next morning had fifty-two fathom with the same ground: our latitude was 42° 34’S., longitude 58° 17’W.; the variation 11° 3/4 E.

On Monday the 12th, about four o’clock in the afternoon, as I was walking on the quarter-deck, all the people upon the forecastle called out at once "Land right ahead;" it was then very black almost round the horizon, and we had had much thunder and lightning; I looked forward under the foresail, and upon the lee bow, and saw what at first appeared to be an island, rising in two rude craggy hills, but upon looking to leeward I saw land joining to it, and running a long way to the south east: we were then steering S.W. and I sent officers to the mast-head to look out upon the weather beam, and they called out that they saw land also a great way to the windward. I immediately brought to, and sounded; we had still fifty-two fathom, but I thought that we were embayed, and rather wished than hoped that we should get clear before night. We made sail and steered E.S.E. the land still having the same appearance, and the hills looking blue, as they generally do at a little distance in dark rainy weather, and now many of the people said that they saw the sea break upon the sandy beaches; but having steered out for about an hour, what we had taken for land, vanished all at once, and to our great astonishment appeared to have been a fog-bank. Though I had been almost continually at sea for seven and twenty years, I had never seen such a deception before; others however have been equally deceived; for the master of a ship, not long since, made oath, that he had seen an island between the west end of Ireland and Newfoundland, and even distinguished the trees that grew upon it. Yet it is certain that no such island exists, at least it could never be found, though several ships were afterwards sent out on purpose to seek it. And I am sure, that if the weather had not cleared up soon enough for us to see what we had taken for land disappear, every man on board would freely have made oath, that land had been discovered in this situation. Our latitude this day was 43° 46’S., longitude 60° 5’W.; and the variation 19° 30’E.

The next day, at four o’clock in the afternoon, the weather being extremely fine, the wind shifted at once to the S.W. and began to blow fresh, the sky at the same time becoming black to windward: in a few minutes all the people that were upon the deck were alarmed with a sudden and unusual noise, like the breaking of the sea upon the shore. I ordered the topsails to be handed immediately; but before it could be done, I saw the sea approaching at some distance, in vast billows covered with foam; I called to the people to hawl up the foresail, and let go the main sheet instantly; for I was persuaded that if we had any sail out when the gust reached us, we should either be overset, or lose all our masts. It reached us however before we could raise the main tack, and laid us upon our beam ends: the main tack was then cut, for it was become impossible to cast it off; and the main sheet struck down the First Lieutenant, bruised him dreadfully, and beat out three of his teeth: the main topsail, which was not quite handed, was split to pieces. If this squall, which came on with less warning and more violence than any I had ever seen, had taken us in the night, I think the ship must have been lost. When it came on we observed several hundred of birds flying before it, which expressed their terror by loud shrieks; it lasted about twenty minutes, and then gradually subsided. The Tamar split her main sail, but as she was to leeward of us, she had more time to prepare. In a short time it began to blow very hard

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© Derived from Volume I of the London 1773 Edition: National Library of Australia call no. FERG 7243, pages 9-10, 2004
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