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Voyages in the Southern Hemisphere, Vol. IVoyaging Accounts
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Cape Pillar to Masasuero


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Cape Pillar to Masasuero (continued)

From the time of our clearing the Streight, and during our passage along this coast, we saw a great number of sea birds, particularly albatrosses, gannets, sheerwaters, and a thick lumpish bird, about as big as a large pigeon, which the sailors call a Cape of Good Hope hen: they are of a dark brown or blackish colour, and are therefore sometimes called the black gull: we saw also a great many pintado birds, of nearly the same size, which are prettily spotted with black and white, and constantly on the wing, though they frequently appear as if they were walking upon the water, like the peterels, to which sailors have given the name of Mother Carey's chickens; and we saw also many of these.

In the evening of Monday the 27th, which was very dark, as we were standing to the westward under our courses, and a close reefed top-sail, the wind, in a hard squall, suddenly shifted, and took the vessel right ahead; the violent jerk with which the sails were instantly thrown a-back, was very near carrying the masts away by the board, and oversetting the ship: the sails being at this time extremely wet, and the gale in the highest degree violent, they clung so fast to the masts and rigging, that it was scarcely possible to get them either up or down; yet by the dexterous activity of our people, we got the main-sail up, clewed up the main topsail, and got the ship's head round without receiving much damage. The violence of the wind continued several hours, but before morning it veered again to the N.W. and continued in that quarter till the afternoon of the 29th, when it died away, and we had a dead calm for six hours. During this time we had a high sea, which ran in great confusion from all quarters, and broke against the ship in a strange manner, making her roll with so violent and sudden a motion, that I expected every moment to lose our masts. The wind afterwards sprung up at W.S.W. which was fair, and we carried all the sail we could set to make the most of it. It blew very hard in this direction, with heavy rain for a few hours, but by noon on the 30th, it returned to its usual quarter, the N.W. and was so violent as to bring us again under our courses, there being at the same time a prodigious swell, which frequently broke over us. At five o'clock the next morning, as we were lying to under the reefed main-sail and balanced mizen, a vast sea broke over the quarter where the ship's oars were lashed, and carried away six of them, with the weather-cloth; it also broke the mizen gaff close where the sail was reefed, and the iron strap of one of the main dead eyes, laying the whole vessel for some time under water: we were however fortunate enough to haul up the main sail without splitting, though it blew a hurricane, and a deluge of rain, or rather of half melted ice, at the same time poured down upon us. The wind soon after shifted again from N.W. to S.W. and for about an hour blew, if possible, stronger than ever. This wind made the ship come up with her head right against the vast sea which the north west wind had raised, and at every pitch which she made against it, the end of the bowsprit was under water, and the surge broke over the forecastle as far aft as the main-mast, in the same manner as it would have broke over a rock, so that there was the greatest reason to apprehend she would founder. With all her defects she was indeed a good sea boat, and if she had not, it would have been impossible for her to have outlived this storm, in which, as well as on several other occasions, we experienced the benefit of the bulk-heads which we had fixed on the fore-part of the half deck, and to the after-part of the forecastle.

Natural Phenomena in South Seas Companion: Mother Carey's Chickens (Wilson's Petrel)

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© Derived from Volume I of the London 1773 Edition: National Library of Australia call no. FERG 7243, pages 538 - 540, 2004
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