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Voyages in the Southern Hemisphere, Vol. IVoyaging Accounts
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Plymouth to Madeira and the Streight of Magellan


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Plymouth to Madeira and the Streight of Magellan (continued)

On the 9th, very early in the morning, the Lieutenant acquainted me that, in the night, nine of my best men had secretly set off from the ship to swim on shore, having stripped themselves naked and left all their clothes behind them, taking only their money, which they had secured in a handkerchief that was tied round their wa1st; that they proceeded together till they came very near the surf, which breaks high upon the shore, and that one of them, being then terrified at the sound, had swum back again to the ship, and been taken on board, but that the rest had ventured through. As the loss of these men would have been very severely felt, I immediately sat down to write a letter to the Consul, entreating his assistance to recover them; but, before I had finished it, he sent me word, that all of them having, to the great astonishment of the natives, been found naked on the beach, they had been taken into custody, and would be delivered up to my order. The boat was dispatched immediately, and as soon as I heard they were on board, I went upon the deck. I was greatly pleased to see a contrition in their countenances, which at once secretly determined me not to inflict the punishment by which they seemed most heartily willing to expiate their fault; but I asked them what could have induced them to quit the ship, and desert the service of their country, at the risk of being devoured by sharks, or dashed to pieces by the surf against the shore. They answered, that though they had indeed at such risks ventured to swim on shore, they never had any intention of deserting the ship, which they were determined to stand by as long as she could swim; but that being well assured they were going a long voyage, and none being able to tell who might live, or who might die, they thought it hard not to have an opportunity of spending their own money, and therefore determined, as they said, once more to get a skinful of liquor, and then swim back to the ship, which they hoped to have done before they were missed. As I had resolved to remit their punishment, I did not too severely scrutinize their apology, which the rest of the ship's company, who stood round them, seemed very much to approve; but, observing that with a skinful of liquor they would have been in a very unfit condition to swim through the surf to the ship, I told them that hoping they would for the future expose their lives only upon more important occasions, and that their conduct would thenceforward give me no cause of complaint, I would for this time be satisfied with the shame and regret which I perceived they suffered from a sense of their misbehaviour: I then admonished them to put on their clothes, and lie down, as I was confident they wanted rest; and added, that as I might possibly during the course of the voyage have occasion for good swimmers, I was very glad that I knew to whom I might apply. Having thus dismissed these honest fellows from their fears, I was infinitely gratified by the murmur of satisfaction which instantly ran through the ship's company; and was afterwards amply rewarded for my lenity, there being no service during all the toils and dangers of the voyage which they did not perform, with a zeal and alacrity that were much to their honour and my advantage, as an example to the rest.


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© Derived from Volume I of the London 1773 Edition: National Library of Australia call no. FERG 7243, page 527, 2004
Published by South Seas, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher
To cite this page use: http://nla.gov.au/nla.cs-ss-jrnl-hv01-527