IN THE YEARS 1823, 24, 25, AND 26.
BY OTTO VON KOTZEBUE,
POST CAPTAIN IN THE RUSSIAN IMPERIAL NAVY.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
HENRY COLBURN AND RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET. 1830.
PRINTED BY SAMUEL BENTLEY, Dorset Street, Fleet Street.
The flattering requisitions of those readers who found amusement in the narrative of my former voyage, independently of its scientific details, form an incentive to my present publication. All mere nautical minutiae, which might be deemed tedious, with the exception of such as were indispensable, have been omitted. Various contingencies have delayed the appearance of these Volumes; but I still hope they will not have altogether lost the charm of novelty.
With respect to my style, I rely upon the favour formerly shewn me. Devoted from my earliest youth to the sea-service, I have had no leisure for cultivating the art of authorship.
TO HIS EXCELLENCY ADMIRAL VON KRUSENSTERN,
THE FIRST RUSSIAN CIRCUMNAVIGATOR;
WHOSE NAME WILL BE IMMORTALIZED BY HIS ACTIVE AND BENEFICIAL PATRONAGE OF THE NAUTICAL SCIENCE:
TO MY PATERNAL FRIEND,
WHOM, WHILE STILL A BOY, I ACCOMPANIED ON HIS CELEBRATED EXPEDITION, AND UNDER WHOSE AUSPICES I RECEIVED MY EARLY EDUCATION AS A SEAMAN;
THESE VOLUMES ARE DEDICATED WITH THE MOST AFFECTIONATE RESPECT.
THE FIRST VOLUME.
VOYAGE TO BRAZIL 5
DOUBLING OF CAPE HORN, AND RESIDENCE IN CHILI 57
THE DANGEROUS ARCHIPELAGO 101
O TAHAITI 119
PITCAIRN ISLAND 225
NAVIGATORS' ISLANDS 251
RADACK ISLANDS 289
LIST OF PLATES.
Reception of Captain Kotzebue at the Island of Otdia, To face Title of Vol. I.
Plan of Mattaway Bay and Village 200
Chart of the Navigators' Islands 250
Chart of the Islands of Radak and Ralik 288
Nomahanna, Queen of the Sandwich Islands, To face Title of Vol. II.
In the month of March of the year 1823, I was appointed by his Imperial Majesty Alexander the First, of glorious memory, to the command of a ship, at that time unfinished, but named the Predpriatie (the Enterprise). She had been at first destined for a voyage purely scientific, but circumstances having occurred which rendered it necessary to change the object of the expedition, I was ordered to take in at Kronstadt a cargo to Kamtschatka, and to sail from the latter place to the north-west coast of America, in order to protect the Russian American Company from the smuggling carried on there by foreign traders. On this station my ship was to remain for one year, and then, being relieved by another, to return to Kronstadt. The course to be followed, both in going and returning, was left entirely to my own discretion.
On the first of May, the ship, whose Russian name, Predpriatie, I shall for the future omit, was declared complete. She was the first vessel built in Russia under a roof, (a very excellent plan,) was the size of a frigate of a middling rank, and, that she might not be unnecessarily burdened, was provided with only twenty-four six-pounders.
My crew consisted of Lieutenants Kordinkoff, Korsakoff, Bordoschewitsch, and Pfeifer; the Midshipmen Gekimoff, Alexander von Moller, Golowin, Count Heiden, Tschekin, Murawieff, Wukotitsch, and Paul von Moller; the Mates, Grigorieff, Gekimoff, and Simokoff, eight petty officers, and one hundred and fifteen sailors. We were accompanied by Professors Eschscholz and Lenz as Naturalists; Messrs. Preus and Hoffman as Astronomer and Mineralogist; and Messrs. Victor and von Siegwald as Chaplain and Physician; so that, in all, we reckoned one hundred and forty-five persons.
We were richly stored with astronomical and other scientific instruments: we possessed two pendulum apparatus, and a theodolite made expressly for our expedition by the celebrated Reichenbach. This valuable instrument was executed with wonderful precision, and was of the greatest use in our astronomical observations on shore.
In June the ship arrived at Kronstadt, and on the 14th of July (old style, according to which all reckonings will be made in this voyage,) she lay in the harbour fully equipped and ready to sail. On that day the cannon of the fortress and of the fleet in the roads announced the arrival of the Emperor, whom we had the pleasure of receiving on board our vessel.
His Majesty, after a close examination of the ship, honoured us by the assurance of his imperial satisfaction; the sailors received a sum of money, and I and my officers a written expression of thanks.
With the gracious cordiality peculiar to him, the amiable monarch wished us a happy voyage, and retired followed by our enthusiastic blessings.
We did not then anticipate that we had seen him for the last time. On our return, his lofty spirit had ascended to the regions of bliss: from whence he looks down on his beloved brother, rejoicing to be even surpassed by him in the virtues of a sovereign.
VOYAGE TO BRAZIL.
VOYAGE TO BRAZIL.
We remained in the roads of Kronstadt till the 28th of July, when, after a painful parting from a beloved and affectionate wife, the wind proving favourable, I gave the order to weigh anchor.
The whole crew was in high spirits, and full of hope: the task of weighing anchor and setting sail was executed with alertness and rapidity; and as the ship began her course, cutting the foaming billows, the men joyfully embraced each other, and with loud huzzas expressed their hearty wishes for the success of our undertaking. To me this scene was highly gratifying. Such a disposition in a crew towards an enterprise from which toils and dangers must be anticipated, afforded a satisfactory presumption that their courage and spirits would not fail when they should be really called into exercise. With a good ship and a cheerful crew the success of a voyage is almost certain. We fired a salute of seven guns, in reply to the farewell from the fortress of Kronstadt, and, the wind blowing fresh, soon lost sight of its towers.
As far as Gothland all went well, and nothing disturbed the general cheerfulness; but here a sudden storm from the west attacked us so unexpectedly as scarcely to give time for the necessary precautions. Tossed to and fro by the swelling and boisterous waves, I was not, I must confess, altogether free from anxiety.
With a new and untried ship, and men somewhat out of practice, a first storm is naturally attended by many causes of disquiet not afterwards so seriously felt. In the present instance, however, these untoward circumstances were rather productive of the ludicrous than the terrific; and whatever might be my solicitude as commander, I experienced but little sympathy from my officers. The strength and extent of the motion to which we were about to be exposed had not been duly estimated, and the movable articles in the cabins were generally ill secured. This was particularly the case in the state-cabin, occupied by twenty persons: not a table or a chair would remain in its place; every thing rolling about in its own stupid way, in defiance of all rule and order. The frolicsome young officers were delighted with the confusion; and even our seasick men of science could not refrain from laughter when a well-fed pig, which, disturbed by the inconvenience, had taken refuge on the hatchway, ventured from thence to intrude itself among them by a spring through the open window, and looked around in pitiable amazement on finding that, amidst the general clamour, repose was no more attainable in a state-cabin than in its own humble abode. I was meanwhile occupied in narrowly observing the vessel that was to bear us through so many and long-enduring difficulties. Amidst the conflict of the elements, a commander becomes acquainted with his ship, as in the storms of life we learn duly to appreciate our friends. I weighed the defects of mine against its good qualities, and rejoiced that the latter had greatly the preponderance. She was a friend on whom I might rely in case of need. Such a conviction is necessary to the captain: through it alone can his actions acquire the decision and certainty so indispensable in time of danger, and so essential to success. In the course of four-and-twenty hours the storm abated; a favourable wind again swelled our sails, and we enjoyed it doubly after the little troubles we had undergone. At daybreak on the 8th of August we left the island of Bornholm, and found ourselves surrounded by a Russian fleet cruising under the command of Admiral Crown. This meeting with our countrymen was an agreeable surprise to us: they could carry to our beloved homes the assurance, that thus far at least our voyage had been prosperous. We saluted the Admiral with nine guns, received a similar number in return, and continued our course with full sails.
On the 10th of August we anchored opposite the friendly capital of Denmark, where we received on board the theodolite, which had been prepared for us at Munich by Reichenbach, and sent hither. Before the sun appeared above the horizon on the 12th, we were again under sail, with a good wind and a tranquil sea. The sail along the Danish coast was interesting from its beautiful prospects, and numerous buildings illumined by the morning sun.
We passed the Sound the same day, and entered the Categat. Here we were visited in the night by another violent storm. The sky, pealing with incessant thunder, hung heavy and black above us, and spread a fearful darkness over the sea, broken only by tremendous flashes of lightning. The electric fluid, in large masses of fire, threatened us momentarily with destruction; but thanks be to the strong attractive power of the sea, which forms so good a conductor for ships,—without it we had been lost! In the North Sea our voyage was tedious, from the continuance of contrary winds; and in the English Channel dangerous, from the uninterrupted fog. We however reached Portsmouth roads in safety on the 25th of August.
Since it was my intention to double Cape Horn in the best season, namely January or February, it was necessary to lose no time in England. I therefore hastened to London, and resisting all the allurements offered by the magnificence of the capital, immediately procured my charts, chronometers, and astronomical instruments, and returned on board my ship on the 2nd of September, to be in waiting for the first fair wind. The wind however chose, as it often does, to put our patience to the proof. Its perverseness detained us in the roads till the 6th; and though a temporary change then enabled us to sail, we had scarcely reached Portland point when a strong gale again set in directly in our teeth.
The English Channel, on account of its numerous shallows and strong irregular currents, is at all times dangerous: vessels overtaken there by storms during the night are in imminent peril of wreck, and thus every year are great numbers lost.
I myself, on my former voyage in the Rurik, should have infallibly suffered this fate, had the day dawned only half an hour later. Warned therefore by experience, I resolved not to trust to the chance of the night; and fortunately our English pilot, from whom we had not yet parted, was of the same opinion.—This man, who had grown grey in his employment, and was perfectly acquainted with these waters, advised our immediate return to Portsmouth, and that every effort should be made to reach it before sunset. I therefore had the ship put about, and setting as much sail as the violence of the wind would allow, we fled towards our place of refuge, the storm continually increasing. Although we ran pretty quick, we had scarcely got half-way back, before it became so foggy and dark, that the land, which had hitherto been our guide, was no longer discernible. We could not see three hundred fathoms from the ship. The change in our pilot's countenance showed that our situation had become critical. The little, stout, and hitherto phlegmatic fellow became suddenly animated by a new spirit. His black eyes lightened; he uttered several times the well-known English oath which Figaro declares to be "le fond de la langue," rubbed his bands violently together, and at length exclaimed, "Captain! I should like a glass of grog—Devil take me if I don't bring you safe into Portsmouth yet!" His wish was of course instantly complied with. Strengthened and full of courage, he seized the helm, and our destiny depended on his skill.
It was now barely possible to reach Portsmouth with daylight by taking the shortest way through the Needles, a narrow strait between the Isle of Wight and the mainland, full of shallows, where even in clear weather a good pilot is necessary. The sun was already near setting, when an anxious cry from the watch announced the neighbourhood of land, and in the same instant we all perceived, at about a hundred fathoms' distance, a high fog-enveloped rock, against which the breakers raged furiously.
Our pilot recognised it for the western point of the Isle of Wight at the entrance of the Needles, and the danger we were in only animated his spirits. He seized the helm with both hands, and guiding it with admirable dexterity, the ship flew, amidst the storm, through the narrow and winding channels to which the shallows confined it, often so close upon the impending rocks, that it seemed scarcely possible to pass them without a fatal collision.
A small vessel that had sailed with us for some time at this moment struck, and was instantly swallowed by the waves without a possibility of saving her. This terrible sight, and the consciousness that the next moment might involve us in a similar fate, made every one on board gaze in silent anxiety on the direction we were taking: even the pilot said not a word.
The twilight had nearly given way to total darkness when we reached Portsmouth roads; the joy with which we hailed this haven of safety, and our mutual congratulations on our preservation, may be easily imagined: our pilot now fell back into his former phlegm, and seating himself with a glass of grog by the fireside, received our thanks and praises with equal indifference.
This equinoctial storm raged itself out during the night, and the first rays of the sun again brought us fine weather and a fair wind, which enabled us once more to quit the English harbour. In no situation are the vicissitudes so striking as those experienced at sea. The wind, which had so lately attacked us with irresistible fierceness, was now become too gentle, and we were detained nine days in the Channel by calms, before we could reach the Atlantic Ocean.
Here a fresh north wind occasioned near our track the appearance called a water-spout; which consists of a three-cornered mass of foaming water, with the point towards the sea, and the broad upper surface covered with a black cloud.—We now held a southerly course, and after encountering much rough weather, on the 22nd of September reached the parallel of Lisbon, where we enjoyed the warmer temperature, and congratulated ourselves on having left behind us the region of storms. We steered straight for the island of Teneriffe, where we intended providing ourselves with wine. A fresh trade-wind carried us rapidly and smoothly forward; the whole crew was in fine health and cheered by one of the most beautiful mornings of this climate, when our pleasure in the near prospect of a residence on this charming island was most painfully interrupted by the accident of a sailor falling overboard. The rapidity with which we were driving before the wind frustrated all our efforts to save him, and the poor fellow met his death in the waves. Our cheerfulness was now perfectly destroyed; and my regret for the accident was increased by the fear of the evil impression it might make on the minds of the other men.—Sailors are seldom free from superstition, and if mine should consider this misfortune as a bad omen, it might become such in reality by casting down the spirits so essential in a long and perhaps dangerous voyage. A crew tormenting itself with idle fears will never lend that ready obedience to a commander which is necessary for its own preservation. The messmates of the unfortunate man continued to gaze mournfully towards the spot where he had sunk, till the sight of land, as we sailed about noon past the small rocky island of Salvages, seemed to divert their thoughts from the occurrence; their former cheerfulness gradually returned, and my apprehensions subsided.
This evening the island of Teneriffe became perceptible amidst the mist and clouds which veiled its heights. During the night we reached the high black rocks of lava which form its northern points; and at break of day I determined to tack, in order to run into Santa Cruz, the only place in the island where ships can lie at anchor.
The night was stormy, and the high land occasioned violent gusts of wind from various directions. Towards morning the weather improved, but we found that the current had carried us twenty miles to the south-east. These strong currents are common here in all seasons, and, to vessels not aware of them, may in dark nights produce injurious consequences. Having now passed the northern promontory, we steered southward for the roads of Santa Cruz. The shore here, consisting of high, steep masses of lava, presents a picturesque but desolate and sterile landscape, amidst which the eye seeks in vain for some spot capable of producing the rich wine of Teneriffe. Upon a point of rock about a thousand feet above the level of the sea, we saw a telegraph in full activity, probably announcing our arrival. The town next came in sight, and with its numerous churches, convents, and handsome houses, rising in an amphitheatre up the side of a mountain, would have offered a noble and pleasing prospect to eyes accustomed to the monotony of a sea view, but that the majestic Peak, that giant among mountains, rearing in the background its snow-crowned head 13,278 feet above the level of the sea, now stood clear and cloudless before us, enchaining all our faculties, the effect of its appearance rendered still more striking by the sudden parting of the clouds which had previously concealed it from us. This prodigious conical volcano is from its steepness difficult of access, and the small crater on the summit is so closely surrounded by a wall of lava, that in some places there is scarcely room to stand. He who is bold enough to climb it, however, will find himself rewarded with one of the finest prospects in the world. Immediately beneath him, stretches the entire extent of the Teneriffe, with all its lovely scenery; round it the other nineteen Canary Islands; the eye then glances over an immense expanse of waters, beyond which may be descried in the distance the dark forests of the African coast, and even the yellow stripe which marks the verge of the great Desert. With thoughts full of the enjoyments which awaited us, we approached the town. We planned parties to see the country and climb the Peak; and our scientific associates, holding themselves in readiness to land as soon as the boat could be lowered, already rejoiced over the new treasures of mineralogy and botany of which the island seemed to promise so ample a store: meanwhile we had made the usual signal for a pilot; but having in vain waited his appearance, I resolved, as the road was not altogether unknown to me, to cast anchor without him; when, just as we had made our preparations, a ball from the fortress struck the water not far from the ship. At the same time we perceived that all was bustle on the walls; the cannons were pointed, the matches lighted, and plenty of Spanish balls were ready for our reception. Our government being at peace with Spain, this hostile conduct was quite unintelligible to us; but as I had no desire for a battle, I contented myself with drawing off the ship, and lying to beyond the reach of cannon shot, in the hope that a boat would be sent to us with some explanation of it. After, however, waiting a considerable time in vain, perceiving the continuance of warlike preparations on the walls, we were reluctantly obliged to renounce all hopes of visiting the island or the Peak, and to continue our voyage to Brazil, where we might reckon upon a kinder welcome.
Here, then, was an end to all our promised pleasures. The enrichment of our museum, the merry parties and the choice wine all forfeited to a simple misunderstanding! Whatever might be their motive, it was an inconsiderate action in the Spaniards wantonly to insult the Russian flag; and even if they mistook us for enemies, it was silly to be afraid of a single ship, considering that the renowned Nelson, with an English fleet, had found the fortifications impregnable.
After a few miles' sail we perceived a large three-masted ship endeavouring, with the wind against her, to reach the roads of Santa Cruz. We steered towards her, in hopes that we might obtain some information that should explain the riddle of the treatment we had received. But the ship seemed as much afraid of us as the fortress; and, as soon as she perceived our intention, made all possible haste to avoid us.
It was really laughable enough, but it was also vexatious, that such peaceful people as we were should be considered so terrible. I sent a bullet after the ship, to induce her to stop; she then hoisted the English flag, but never slackened her speed; so that finding we could get no satisfaction, we thought it advisable to take advantage of the fresh trade-wind, to bear away from Teneriffe as quickly as possible. On the following morning we could still see the Peak, a hundred miles off, among the clouds; and we called to mind, as we gazed upon it, the mysterious accounts of its aborigines, of whom it was said, from the resemblance of their teeth to those of grazing animals, that they could only live on vegetables. They embalmed corpses in the manner of the ancient Egyptians, and preserved them in grottoes in the rocks, where they are still to be found. The Spaniards, the first discoverers and appropriators of the island, have described in high terms the state of civilization, methods of agriculture, and remarkably pure morality of these ancient inhabitants, who nevertheless were entirely exterminated by the tyranny and cruelty of their conquerors.
The trade-wind and continued fine weather brought us rapidly on our way towards Brazil. Dolphins, flying-fish, and the large and beautiful gold-fish, called by the Spaniards bonito, constantly surrounded the ship, and formed by day a relief from the tedium of gazing on the unvarying billows, as did during the darkness of the night the innumerable phosphorescent animals of the muscle kind, which, studding the black ocean with sparks of fire, produced a dazzling and living illumination. Our naturalist, Professor Eschscholz, has already communicated to the world his microscopical observations upon these marine curiosities.
On the first of October we doubled the Cape Verd Islands, without however seeing the land, which is almost always lost in mist, and steered direct for the Equator. Our progress was now impeded by calms, and the heat began to be oppressive; but care and precaution preserved the crew in perfect health, an effect which strict cleanliness, order, and wholesome diet, will seldom fail to produce, even in long voyages.
At five degrees North latitude, we took advantage of a calm to draw up water from a depth of five hundred fathoms, by means of a machine invented by the celebrated Russian academician Parrot. We found the temperature five degrees by Reaumur, while that of the water on the surface reached twenty-five degrees. To us it appeared ice-cold, and we felt ourselves much refreshed by washing our heads and faces with it. The machine weighed forty pounds, and might contain about a moderate pail-full; but the pressure of the column of water over it was such, that six sailors with a windlass were hardly able to draw it up. We made an attempt to sink it to a thousand fathoms' depth, but the line broke, and we lost the machine; fortunately, however, we were provided with a second.
While we were still more than a hundred miles from land, a swallow alighted on the deck. It is wonderful how far these little animals can fly without resting. At first, it seemed weary, but soon recovered, and flew gaily about. When far out at sea, cut off from every other society than that of our shipmates, any guest from land, even a bird, is welcome. Ours soon became a general favourite, and was so tame, that it would hop on our hands and take the flies we offered him without any symptom of fear. He chose my cabin to sleep in at night; and at sunrise flew again upon deck, where he found every one willing to entertain him, and catch flies for his subsistence. But our hospitality proved fatal to him; he over-ate himself, and died of an indigestion, universally lamented.
On the 11th of October we crossed the Equator at twenty-five degrees W. longitude, reckoning from Greenwich. Having saluted the Southern hemisphere by the firing of guns, our crew proceeded to enact the usual ceremonies. A sailor, who took pride in having frequently passed the Line, directed the performance with much solemnity and decorum. He appeared as Neptune, attired in a manner that was meant to be terribly imposing, accompanied by his consort, seated on a gun-carriage instead of a shell, drawn by negroes, as substitutes for Tritons. In the evening, the sailors represented, amidst general applause, a comedy of their own composition. These sports, while they serve to keep up the spirits of the men, and make them forget the difficulties they have to go through, produce also the most beneficial influence upon their health; a cheerful man being much more capable of resisting a fit of sickness than a melancholy one. It is the duty of commanders to use every innocent means of maintaining this temper in their crews; for in long voyages, when they are several months together wandering on an element not destined by nature for the residence of man, without enjoying even occasionally the recreations of the land, the mind naturally tends to melancholy, which of itself lays the foundation of many diseases, and sometimes even of insanity. Diversion is often the best medicine, and, used as a preservative, seldom fails of its effect.
Below the Equator, we met with a fresh south-east wind, and having also fine weather, we soon reached the coast of Brazil.
On the morning of the 1st of November, consequently in the spring of the Southern hemisphere, we perceived Cape Frio, and in the evening plainly distinguished, by its well-known conical mountain, the entrance to the Bay of Rio Janeiro. A dead calm deprived us of the pleasure of running into the port that night, so that we were compelled to drop our anchor before it; but we found some compensation for our disappointment, in contemplating so much of this charming country as was visible from our ship. The magnificent scenery of Brazil has often been described, but no expression can do justice to its ravishing beauty. Imagination can scarcely picture the exquisite variety of form and colouring of the luxuriant and gigantic vegetation that thickly clothes the valleys and mountains even to the sea-shore. A breeze from the land wafted to us the most delicious perfumes; and crowds of beautiful insects, butterflies, and birds, such as only the tropics produce, hovered about us. Nature seems to have destined these lovely regions for the unmixed enjoyment of her creatures; but, alas! hard labour and a tyrant's whip have, to the unhappy Negro, transformed this Paradise into a place of torment.
The sight of two slave-ships formed a revolting contrast to the enchantment of the prospect: they had that day arrived from Africa, and lay near us at anchor. The trade in human flesh, that foul blot on civilized nations, of which most of them are already ashamed, yet flourishes here in detestable activity, and is carried on, with all the brutality of avarice, under the sanction of the laws. The ships employed in this abominable traffic are so over-crowded that the slaves have scarcely room to move. They are brought up by turns to inhale for a while the refreshing breeze, but the deck being only capable of accommodating a small portion at once, they are soon returned to the confined and pestilential atmosphere below. One third of the human cargo, as a necessary consequence, generally perishes on the voyage, and the remainder reach their place of destination in a state of miserable suffering. The decks of the ships I have just mentioned, were crowded with these unfortunate creatures, naked, fettered, and diseased. Even mothers with infants at their breasts had not been spared by these speculators! What still greater misery might not be concealed beneath the decks!
The darkness, which at once closed from our view all that had delighted and disgusted us, rendered visible an almost incessant flight of rockets, and we heard occasionally, throughout the night, the discharge of guns and musketry from the town. These demonstrations of rejoicing led to the supposition that some important festival was celebrating, or that a great victory had probably been gained; we afterwards learnt, however, that they were occasioned only by the arrest of three ministers, accused of a conspiracy against the Emperor.
At daybreak the chief pilot came on board. This little fat man, proud of his name of Vasco de Gama, which he professed to have inherited in a direct line from the celebrated navigator to the East Indies, was in many respects a good specimen of his countrymen. He was wholly uneducated, as they mostly are; and, next to his ancestry, that in which he took the greatest pride was the independence of Brazil. This feeling, which is general among all classes, enlists each individual personally in support of the existing government, and is its surest guarantee.
Although our pilot had not attained to the renown of his great ancestor, I must do him the justice to say that he understood his business, and guided us very skilfully through the narrow mouth of the Bay. This small entrance, commanded by a fort on a height, is tolerably well secured from the approach of an enemy; and might, by stronger batteries, be made wholly inaccessible, as the channel is so narrow, that a ship in working its way in must always be within half-shot distance. We anchored near the town, among numerous vessels of various nations, and set foot once more on terra-firma, after being fifty-two days at sea since leaving England.
Beautiful as this country always appears to an European eye, it has perhaps no scene so strikingly splendid and picturesque as that which presents itself within this Bay. The rich and novel peculiarity of the landscape is contrasted with the handsome buildings of the town, rising amphitheatrically round the harbour; and these again derive a curious effect from the tall and slender palm-trees, which, thickly interspersed among them, throw their strongly defined and waving shadows upon the white surface of the contiguous houses; and the whole is crowned by the numerous convents which are seen above the town, in the distance, clinging like swallows'-nests, to the precipitous sides of the mountains.
We had hardly reefed our sails, when the Russian Vice-Consul, Von Kielchen, and an officer of the Brazilian government, came on board to congratulate us on our arrival. The latter acquainted me with the order of his Government, that every ship of war coming in should salute the fortress with one-and-twenty guns; and in order to remove all doubt that the compliment was designed for the Brazilian flag, he had brought one which, during the salute, he requested us to hoist at the fore-mast.
New and unprecedented as this order was, from a state not yet acknowledged by our government, I determined, rather than risk any disagreement, to comply with it; and having fired the one-and-twenty guns, received from the fortress a similar number in return. Being very anxious not to lose the favourable season for doubling Cape Horn, I urged the Vice-Consul to expedite as much as possible the delivery of provisions and other necessaries to the ship; for this purpose, however, a delay of four weeks was required, and this time I determined to employ in astronomical observations. M. Von Kielchen procured me for this purpose a convenient country-house, situated on the romantic little bay of Botafogo, of which I took possession on the following day, accompanied by our astronomer, M. Preus; leaving the care of the ship to my officers.
In the supposition that the history of Brazil may not be familiar to every reader, male and female,—for I hope to have many of the latter,—I will preface the narration of my residence here with the following notices.
This great empire in South America, called Brazil, from a wood which grows there in great abundance, resembling in colour a red-hot coal, (in the Portuguese "Brasa,") is one of the richest and most fertile countries in the world. It was accidentally discovered in the year 1500, by a Portuguese named Cabral, who with a fleet bound for the East Indies, was thrown on these shores.
The riches of the country being at first unknown, it was used as a place of banishment for criminals; but subsequently, when the convicts began to cultivate the sugar-cane, and the gold and diamond mines were discovered, Brazil acquired a higher value in the eyes of the Portuguese government.
A Viceroy was therefore sent out, with the strongest injunctions to close the Brazilian ports against all foreign powers, in order to preserve to Portugal the exclusive trade in the diamonds and other precious stones with which it was now found that the country abounded. For a long time, this beautiful land, rich in all the gifts of nature, languished under the rule of Portuguese Viceroys, with a thinly-scattered population, poor, oppressed, and destitute of all mental culture. At length, the year 1807 opened to it a brighter prospect. Napoleon's ambitious views extending even to Portugal, forced the Royal Family to take refuge in the colonies. They were followed by fourteen thousand soldiers, and about twelve thousand other adherents. The presence of a court and government in the capital, Rio Janeiro, had the most beneficial influence on all the interests of the country. The ports were opened to all European ships, and commerce, wealth, and civilization advanced rapidly.
Napoleon's victories having found a final termination, in his banishment to St. Helena, the King of Portugal returned, in 1821, to his European dominions, leaving the Regency of Brazil to his son, the Crown Prince, Pedro, already married to an Austrian princess.
But the example of the newly-established republics of America had a powerful effect on the minds of the people; the King's departure was a signal for the breaking out of revolutionary disturbances, which, though the Crown Prince could not appease, he was, nevertheless, by means of a strong party he had gained over, enabled to direct. In the year 1822, he declared Brazil independent of the mother-country,—promised the people a Constitution,—and was at last proclaimed Emperor, by the title of Pedro the First. From the day when the nation tendered its allegiance, the Emperor and all patriots have worn on the left arm a green cockade inscribed with the words, "Independence or Death." At the coronation, the order of the Southern Cross was founded, and the new national flag hoisted: it is green, with a yellow square in the middle, on which is represented the Earth, surrounded by thirteen stars (the number of the provinces), and leaves of coffee and tobacco, as the produce of the country.
The government, at the time of our residence in Brazil, was nothing less than constitutional. This is sufficiently proved by the tumultuary arrest of the above-mentioned three Ministers, by the arbitrary dispersion of the Deputies from the provinces, called together expressly to form a Constitutional Assembly, and by the expression of the Emperor, that he required unconditional submission, even if he should choose, like Charles the Twelfth, to send his boot to them as his representative. It is possible that the Emperor has been in some measure forced to these violent proceedings by the contentions of the various parties, each of which seeks its own interest without concerning itself about the general welfare. His personal character is much praised.
A captain of one of the Russian-American Company's ships, who had been in Rio Janeiro, related to me the following anecdote of his benevolence. Two sailors belonging to his crew had been ashore, and having got drunk, were found lying senseless on the road to Corcovado. The Emperor and Empress happening to ride that way, attended only by a few servants, saw them, and supposed them to be sick. The Emperor immediately dismounted, rubbed their temples with his own hand, and endeavoured to restore them to their senses, but in vain. He then sent for his own surgeon, and dispatched them under his care to the hospital, from whence on the following morning, having slept off their intoxication, they were dismissed as cured.—Another, and a different anecdote, I heard from a painter from Vienna, who was residing in Rio Janeiro. The Emperor, wishing to have a whole-length portrait of himself, sent for the painter to place his easel in a room in the palace, and commenced sitting. The first outline was scarcely made, when an officer, whose business it was to report the arrival of ships, entered with the list. The names of the ships and captains, of various nations and languages with which the officer was unacquainted, puzzled him, and he read so stammeringly, and sometimes almost unintelligibly, that the Emperor, enraged at his ignorance, seized a stick, and the officer, only by a rapid flight round the easel, in which he was at first pursued by the monarch, escaped the intended chastisement. We shall be less surprised at this conduct, if we consider the point of civilization to which the country had attained when this Prince first seized the helm. May he succeed in elevating it to what his government may make it,—the happiest, as well as the loveliest and most fruitful empire in the world!
The Brazilian fleet, then commanded by the celebrated Lord Cochrane, consisted of one ship of the line, two frigates, three brigs, and some smaller vessels. Inconsiderable as was this force, it was in good order, and under the direction of its skilful and heroic commander, had done wonders. Lord Cochrane had recently, with his single ship of the line and one frigate only, attacked and defeated a Portuguese squadron of two ships of the line and four frigates, pursued them to the port of Lisbon, and made prize of forty merchant vessels they were convoying. For this exploit, he received from the Emperor the appointment of Grand Admiral, and the title of Marquis of Marenham, after one of the provinces. He had before served the republic of Chili; and, it is said, in the midst of his warlike ardour, he had not forgotten the care of his private finances.
This was his first year in the Brazilian service. I was curious to see so celebrated a man, and soon found an opportunity of forming an acquaintance with him, which led to a frequent intercourse. His external deportment is repulsive rather than attractive; he is somewhat taciturn; and it is difficult, in ordinary conversation, to discover the intelligence and information which he really possesses. He is turned of fifty years of age, tall and thin: his attitude is stooping, his hair red, his features strongly marked, and the expression of his countenance serious: his sparkling, lively eyes, concealed by overhanging eyebrows, are generally fixed on the ground, and seldom even raised to the person he is addressing. His lady forms a striking contrast with him: she is young, handsome, lively in conversation, extremely amiable, and so devotedly attached to him, that she exposes her life to the greatest danger rather than leave his side, and has remained in his ship during all his battles in the South American service.
Cochrane frequently expressed to me a wish to enter the Russian service, in order to assist the Greeks, and fight the Turks. This object he has since attained by other means. War appears to be an indispensable necessity to his nature; and a dangerous struggle in a just cause is his highest enjoyment. How this enthusiasm can be united to the great love of money of which he is accused, it is not easy to imagine.
My short residence in Brazil passed rapidly and agreeably in my necessary occupations, and the enjoyment of the charming environs of my country-house. The effect which so total a change of climate and scenery produces on European spirits, even when not experienced for the first time, is really astonishing. The eye can fix on no one object which is not directly the reverse of any thing to which it has been accustomed. The birds, insects, trees, flowers, all wear a foreign aspect, even to the blades of grass. By its strange forms and colourings, but especially by its overflowing abundance, all nature here demands attention. Throughout the day, myriads of the most beautiful butterflies, beetles, and humming-birds, display their various colours in the sun, which has scarcely set, before innumerable swarms of fire-flies illuminate the scene. I had seldom time for excursions; therefore, as it usually happens to sailors, I can say little of the interior.
Botafogo, where, on account of the salubrity of the air, the richest and most distinguished of the inhabitants of Rio Janeiro have fixed their country-houses, is the most attractive spot in the immediate environs of the capital. Among the mountains which form the background of the view from the Bay, is one solid rock, very remarkable from the resemblance of its figure to an enormous church-steeple; it rises, according to a geometrical admeasurement of our scientific companion Lenz, to the height of fifteen hundred and eighty feet above the level of the sea. With infinite pains, a road has been conducted to the summit, where the space is so confined that a few persons only can be accommodated at the same time, but from whence the prospect is indescribably magnificent: it is called Corcovado, and is a favourite ride with the Emperor.
From Botafogo the road to the capital is studded on both sides with pretty villas. The town derives its name, Rio Janeiro, or January river, from an error on the first discovery of the bay, which, owing to the narrowness of its mouth, was mistaken for a river, and named after the current month. Its interior by no means corresponds with its handsome appearance from the bay, the streets being narrow and dirty, and the buildings very tasteless. Clumsy churches and convents are found in plenty, but there is little worthy the attention of the traveller, except the Museum, which has a rich collection of rare natural curiosities, and valuable minerals. The extent of the town is considerable, and it contains about two hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants, of which however two-thirds are negroes, and the rest principally mulattoes and other people of colour. A white face is seldom to be seen in the streets; but the blacks are so numerous, that one might fancy oneself in Africa.
Among these are a few free men; but the greater part are slaves degraded to beasts of burden. The immense weights they carry are usually fastened on a plank, each end of which is borne by a negro, keeping time to his steps by a monotonous and melancholy song in his native language, and goaded by the whip to renewed efforts, when the failing of his voice indicates almost utter exhaustion. They often carry heavily laden baskets on their heads; and even women are not exempt from this labour.
On Sundays and holidays they also sing in time to their steps, as they stroll about, but the tune has a more lively character; and they sometimes accompany their voices on a little instrument composed of a few steel springs. They understand no other language than that of their distant country, and therefore, though the ceremony of baptism is never omitted, they receive no instruction in the doctrines of Christianity; thus, while an appearance of anxiety concerning the salvation of their souls is maintained, they continue sunk in the state of misery and darkness which hopeless bodily suffering is so calculated to produce. The few free blacks are either manumitted slaves or their descendants: they are mostly mechanics engaged in trade. The mulattoes are generally of illegitimate birth, but are sometimes the offspring of marriages between blacks and the lowest class of whites. From their connexion with blacks or whites spring all the various gradations of colour met with among the inhabitants of Brazil. The mulattoes and free negroes form the middle classes; the few whites found among them being the worst of characters, ignorant and vicious to the last degree; their repulsive exterior is worthy of their abandoned lives: they are usually retail slave dealers, and keep shops where these miserable beings are exposed to view, and may be examined and purchased like any other ware. About twenty thousand negroes are annually brought to Brazil; the average price of a female is three hundred, and of a man six hundred piastres.
The principal food of the negroes is a sort of thick paste called Manioc, which is prepared from Tapioca by kneading in hot water; to an European palate it has a disagreeable flavour, but may be nutritious, as the slaves mostly look well-fed; I doubt, however, its being wholesome without a mixture of other food, and I even think it possible that it may be the original cause of a terrible disease to which the negroes alone are subject, and of which they know nothing in their own country. Large tumours appear on their faces and legs, which do not break, but increase in size till in some of the sufferers the human form can scarcely be recognised. A convent situated on a little island, called Dos Fradres, in the bay of Rio Janeiro, and not far from the town, contains a hospital, under the superintendence of the government, for sick negro slaves. I have not been able to learn whether this disease has been successfully treated here. The father of the Emperor, while he remained in Rio Janeiro, often visited the convent; and a room is shown where he used to take refuge when it thundered, as he was excessively fearful in a storm, and, from some unknown cause, esteemed this chamber peculiarly safe.
On the 19th of November, the celebration of the anniversary of the coronation, and the establishment of the Order of the Southern Cross, attracted me to the capital.
It was scarcely daybreak when the thunder of the cannon from all the batteries, and from the ships in the roads, recalled the remembrance of this happy event, which had taken place only the preceding year. The streets were filled with people; soldiers in their dress-regimentals hastened to their various places of rendezvous; and the negroes, released from labour, formed a part of the cheerful throng. At eleven o'clock, the Emperor and Empress, in a magnificent carriage drawn by eight horses, and escorted by a troop of guards in handsome uniforms, arrived at the principal church. A number of carriages, containing the suite of the Imperial pair, followed, all at a slow pace, that the people might have more time to enjoy the spectacle.
At some distance from the door, the Emperor and Empress alighted, and entered the church in procession, surrounded by the Knights of the Southern Cross; they were met by the Bishop and the whole body of the clergy, and conducted with great pomp to a throne erected at the right side of the altar, which the Emperor ascended, while his consort took her place in a pew on the left. After the service, performed by a good choir to excellent music, the Bishop came forward and delivered a very long discourse, descriptive of the various virtues of the Emperor, comparing him to Peter the Great of Russia, and pointing out how he ought to administer the government for the good of his subjects. The comparison he was pleased to institute between the monarch and his illustrious namesake is only so far just, as, in the uncultivated state of the two nations, both have had similar materials to work upon. Whether Don Pedro, with much greater means, will effect as much as our immortal Peter, time will show. One of the hopes of Brazil is already extinguished by the death of the Empress, who in a short time had done much for science and the arts. When the sermon was over, their Majesties returned to the Palace, amidst an uninterrupted firing of cannon. They then received the congratulations of the court, and at four o'clock the Emperor reviewed in the great market-place, where a temple was erected for the imperial family, a body of four thousand five hundred troops, formed in a half circle round the temple. In their venerable commander, Don Jose de Currado, a field-marshal, of eighty years of age, I joyfully recognised the former governor of St. Katharine's, who, on my first voyage round the world, under the command of the present Admiral Krusenstein, received me so hospitably. The observations I had an opportunity of making upon the soldiers, before the arrival of the Emperor, were not altogether unfavourable; though, it must be confessed, the good people seemed to have no very high notion of discipline; smoking, and all kinds of irregularities, being permitted even in the front ranks. Their uniform was handsome and suitable; that of the musicians chiefly attracted my attention. Every colonel of a regiment has the right of dressing his band according to his fancy; and as tastes are very various, so of course are these costumes, though the Asiatic predominates; some being attired as Turks, others as Indians. In one regiment, indeed, a quantity of coloured feathers, worn on the head and round the body, formed the only covering.
As soon as the Emperor and Empress, both on horseback and surrounded by a splendid court, were seen in the distance, the cannon sent forth its loudest roar, the soldiers threw away their cigars, the multitude waved their hats, the ladies in the balconies their white pocket-handkerchiefs, and all shouted "Viva l'Emperador." The cortege approached slowly; the Emperor, from the superior richness of his uniform, glittering amidst the splendid throng, like Syrius in the starry sky. His colossal figure seemed literally covered with gold lace; his breast sparkled with diamonds, and his strong features were shaded by a hat richly decorated with jewels. The Express was more tastefully attired in a simple black riding-dress, embroidered with gold. When she had taken her place in the temple, his Majesty assumed the command of the troops and paraded them before her. As soon as his powerful voice was heard, the thunder of the cannon again burst forth; the Turks, Indians, and above-mentioned Popinjays, blew their trumpets, while the shout from the people of "Viva l'Emperador" was loudest amidst the uproar. The columns of the military having several times defiled before the Empress, the parade terminated, and the Imperial family and their court repaired to the theatre. I had been seated in my box a few minutes before they entered the building, which was suffocatingly full, and I was surprised to find it as good in its architecture and arrangements as the generality of European theatres. The boxes were occupied by whites only, and many female faces were there to be seen as fair as those of Northern Europe; the tender red of the youthful cheek, the bright, black eye and jetty hair increased the attraction of these brilliant complexions; but many of the ladies have brown, and even very light hair. Their dress was tastefully arranged in the Parisian fashion: the art of the toilet appears indeed to be the only one they study, as their education does not always proceed so far as reading and writing, although they are not deficient in natural capabilities; their conversation is often as graceful and piquant as that of European ladies. Nor is general information much more extended among the gentlemen, as the following anecdote will testify. When, in 1817, the Russian frigate Kamschatka anchored in the Port of Rio Janeiro, it was visited by many Brazilians of rank, and amongst others by an officer who expressed much surprise at finding a crucifix in the cabin. He knew, indeed, that the Russians professed the Greek religion, but was wholly ignorant that this church formed any part of the Christian community.
It is the custom here to pay visits in the theatre, which are indeed more highly prized than those made at their houses, as the attention is more publicly manifested. On these occasions the animated intercourse between the young people of the different sexes is frequently accompanied by glances sufficiently expressive to betray its object.
The pit presented a very singular appearance, from its assemblage of various complexions, including every possible shade from black to white, although the darker tints had greatly the preponderance. Nor was the distinction of manners among the different portions of the audience less striking. No theatre in Europe can boast of more decorum and politeness than prevails here in the boxes; but the noisy and coarse vulgarity of the pit would not be tolerated in a more refined nation. All eyes were eagerly directed towards the Imperial box, when its curtain, which before had been close drawn, was thrown open; their Majesties then appeared standing in the front, the back of the box being filled by Knights of the Southern Cross. Hats and handkerchiefs were now again waved, and on every side resounded "Viva l'Emperador, l'Emperadriza, la Monarchia!" This enthusiasm having been rewarded by gracious acknowledgments, the drop curtain rose, and an actress came forward to recite a prologue in praise of the Emperor. Then followed a piece of which I understood very little; and the whole was concluded by a ballet, greatly superior to my expectations. During the performance, the Emperor gave audience in his box to many of his subjects, the interview always beginning with the homage of kissing hands on the bended knee. As soon as the curtain rose, the company in the pit became tolerably quiet, and much more attentive than those in the boxes; the latter appearing to take more interest in conversation with their acquaintances than in the performance. I paid my respects to Lord Cochrane and his amiable wife in their box, and remained with them till the conclusion of the piece.
He spoke much of Chili, and wore even on this day of ceremony, a Chilian uniform and a blue scarf, its honorary decoration. This surprised me the more, as he seemed dissatisfied with the Chilian government. His explanation was, that the Emperor had not yet decided what his Brazilian uniform should be, and consequently, that he was still obliged to wear that of Chili. The lady preferred Chili to Brazil, and believed that the heat of this climate did not agree with her health.
On the 27th of November, all our stores being laid in, bidding a cordial farewell to Brazil, I returned to my ship, intending to continue our voyage on the following day. Accordingly at five o'clock on the morning of the 28th we spread our sails, and the ebb-tide and a light breeze from the North, bore us slowly from this lovely coast. The wind soon slackened; and we should have been greatly embarrassed but for a number of boats sent by the English squadron, then lying in the roads, to tow us out to sea, by which seasonable assistance we were enabled to clear the bay before evening. The heat of Brazil had not injured the health of our crew. Fresh provisions, much fruit and vegetables, good lemonade instead of the ordinary drink, and a sea bath every evening, were the means I employed for the prevention of sickness. The men were in the best spirits for encountering the storms of the Southern ocean; and I destined the port of Conception, on the coast of Chili, for a resting-place, after having surmounted the difficulties of doubling Cape Horn.
The result of our repeated observations on land, are as follows:—
Latitude of Botafogo 21 deg. 56' 5" South. Medium Longitude from various observations 43 deg. 7' 32" West.
Every longitude which is given in the course of this voyage is reckoned by the distance from Greenwich, going from West to East. The variation of the needle amounted to 3 deg. East, its inclination to 9 deg. 28'. As the longitude of Cape Frio has been variously laid down, I took much pains to ascertain it exactly. By a very good chronometer, I found the difference between Cape Frio and Botafogo 1 deg. 6' 20"; so that the true longitude of Cape Frio from Greenwich must be 42 deg. 1' 12".
DOUBLING OF CAPE HORN, AND RESIDENCE IN CHILI.
DOUBLING OF CAPE HORN, AND RESIDENCE IN CHILI.
We continued our course to the South very agreeably, with fine weather and a favourable wind. Under thirty-nine degrees of latitude, however, we could already perceive how much further the South pole extends its unfavourable influence than the North. The sky was no longer clear, the wind became changeable and violent, the air much colder, and the frequent sight of the whale, and of a giant bird called the albatross, warned us that we were approaching the stormy region. We afterwards shot one of these birds on the coast of Chili, which measured twelve feet across the wings.
In the parallel of Rio de la Plata, although two hundred miles from land, we were daily carried by the current thirty-nine miles out of our course towards the south-west; so great is the influence of this mighty river at the distance of two hundred and forty miles from its mouth.
On the 15th of December, in the beginning of the southern summer, under forty-seven degrees of latitude, where, if the temperature of both hemispheres were equal, the climate would have been that of the South of Germany, or the middle of France, we were overtaken by a violent storm, accompanied by hail and snow. It began from the south-west, but the wind, in the course of twenty-four hours, veered the whole round of the compass, and raised such high and furious billows, that our escape from destruction afforded ample proof, notwithstanding a considerable leak, of our ship's strength, and her architect's skill. From this time we continued our voyage with a fair wind and serene weather.
Between Falkland Islands and the west of Patagonia, we saw great numbers of storm-birds, betokening the neighbourhood of land, and we sailed within speaking distance of a North-American whaler. The dirty ship, and the crew smeared with blubber, had indeed a disgusting appearance; but if we consider to what toils and dangers these poor men are exposed during their voyages, which commonly last several years, in the most tempestuous seas, sometimes sailing about for months without seeing a fish, and suffering in the meanwhile from the want of wholesome food, yet pursuing their object with invincible perseverance, it is impossible to deny them compassion, and even commendation. The North Americans display an industry and perseverance in their commercial undertakings, which is not exceeded even by the English: they are to be met with upon every sea, and in the most unfrequented regions, disdaining nothing, however trivial, from which they can derive profit. On the north-west coast of America, they barter with the savages all kinds of European trifles for the beautiful skin of the sea-otter, which they sell for a high price in China. Many of their vessels take in cargoes of sandal-wood in the South-Sea Islands, for which they also find a good market in China, where it is in great estimation; others pursue the spermaceti whale in the neighbourhood of Cape Horn, and carry on an important traffic in this article.
On the morning of the 23rd of December, we saw in the distance the snow-covered points of the mountains in the dreaded Staten-land. A fresh breeze carried us so near to this inhospitable and desolate island, that we could plainly distinguish the objects on it, even without a telescope. What a contrast to the beauty of Brazil! There nature seems inexhaustible in her splendour and variety; here she has sparingly allowed a thin clothing of moss to the lofty masses of black rock. Seldom do the sun's rays lighten this or the neighbouring island of Terra del Fuego. Vegetation is so blasted by the perpetual cold and fogs, that a few miserable stunted trees can scarcely find subsistence at the foot of the mountains. The sea-birds avoid these barren shores; the very insects disdain them; the dog, the faithful companion of man, and man himself, the inhabitant of every climate under heaven, can alone exist in this; but the warmth of the sun is essential to the development of his faculties. Here he is a mere animal, and of disgusting appearance; small, ill-shaped, with dirty copper-coloured skin, black bristly hair, and devoid of beard. He inhabits a miserable hut made of boughs covered with dried rushes, and appeases his hunger on the raw and often half-decayed flesh of the sea animals, whose skins furnish him with a scanty covering: this is the utmost extent to which his invention has yet led him, in providing defences against the roughness of the climate; and the dreariness of his existence is still unenlivened by any notion of amusement. Yet is this benumbing country situated in the same degree of southern latitude in which in the northern lies my beloved Esthonia, where every comfort of civilization may be enjoyed—the land of my birth, where in the charming form of woman is "garnered up" the happiness of my life, and where I hope to rest at last in the haven of friendship and love, till I set out on that final voyage from which I shall never return.
We had so little wind, that we were only able on the following morning to double the eastern promontory of Staten-land, Cape John; which our chronometers fixed, almost precisely, in the same longitude assigned to it by Captain Cook. I now steered a westerly course along the south coast of Staten-land, contrary to the usual practice of navigators, who run from hence to 60 degrees South, expecting in that latitude to meet with fewer impediments to their passage into the South Sea. Experience has taught me, moreover, that Cape Horn may be doubled with least loss of time by keeping near land, where in the summer months good east winds will often blow, when westerly winds prevail at a distance of forty miles to sea-ward. When we had passed Staten-land, the Terra del Fuego lay in equally fearful form to our right. We continued our course with a moderate north-east wind, and remarked a strong current to the north.
On the noon of the following day we perceived the terrible Cape Horn at a distance of twenty-five miles, lying in the form of a high, round mountain before us. A calm, of which we took advantage to shoot some albatrosses, delayed us for a few hours; but on Christmas-day we doubled the Cape without the slightest difficulty. In the evening, after sailing close alongside the little rocky island of Diego Ramirez, inhabited by immense numbers of sea-birds, we found ourselves in the South Sea. A favourable east wind swelling our sails, on the 28th of December, we did our best to clear the island of Terra del Fuego, before a west wind should impede our progress; but in this we were disappointed, for a sudden storm drove us out of our course to latitude 59-1/2 deg. Here, for a New Year's gift, we fell in with a fresh south wind, which helped us forward at the rate of eleven miles an hour, and continued to swell our sails, till on the 5th we lost sight of the Terra del Fuego, and joyfully continued our voyage northwards. At Cape Horn, Reaumur's thermometer stood at four degrees; a temperature rendered very disagreeable by our having so recently suffered from oppressive heat. We now hailed with renewed enjoyment the daily increasing warmth.
My sailors had heard much of the dreadful storms which raged at all seasons round Cape Horn, and destroyed so many ships. One of them had recently read to his messmates the history of Lord Anson's unfortunate voyage: they were therefore not quite free from apprehension on approaching this dangerous point, and were agreeably surprised at passing it so quietly. In their joy they hit on the proud, poetical idea, that the very elements themselves respected the Russian flag. This bold imagination took such possession of their minds, that, in the elevation of their spirits, they resolved to represent it in a pantomime, to which I willingly assented, as my own cheerfulness greatly depended on theirs. Accordingly, a throne was erected on the capstan, adorned with coloured flags and streamers, which we were to take for the extreme point of Cape Horn, upon which, shrouded in red drapery, with all becoming dignity and seriousness of aspect, sat the hitherto unknown God Horn, (begotten and born of the sailors' fancy,) the tremendous ruler of the winds and waves in this tempestuous ocean. In his strong right hand he held a large three-pronged oven fork, and in his left a telescope, with which he surveyed the watery expanse seeking for a sacrifice. A grey beard smeared with tar, hung down to his knees, and, probably as a symbol of his marine dominion, instead of a crown, his head was decorated by a leathern pail. Before him lay a large open book, and a pen was stuck behind his ear, to write down the names of the ships which sailed by. The exact purpose of this I could not understand, but the effect was equally good. Upon the lower step of the throne stood two full-cheeked sailors, very much painted, holding bellows, to represent the Winds ready to produce a raging whirlwind at the nod of their ruler. The God seemed in a very ill humour, till at the appearance of a three-masted ship, made of some planks nailed together, his visage suddenly cleared. The crew of the vessel, which was in full sail, pointed to the Cape, and appeared to rejoice in the expectation of doubling it safely. Then did the God Horn give the ominous nod, and the bellows began to work. The ship took in her sails with all possible expedition, but was nevertheless terribly tossed about. The crew, in danger of perishing, offered their supplications to the God, who at length relenting, commanded the winds to subside, and suffered the vessel to pass on in safety. Soon after another vessel appeared bearing our flag, which the God no sooner perceived than he descended from his throne, took the pail respectfully from his head, and made a profound obeisance, in token of homage to the Russian flag. The AEolian attendants blew the gentlest gales, and we soon vanished with out-stretched sails behind our own main-mast. The piece concluded amidst universal applause, and a double portion of grog served to increase the general cheerfulness.
Thus opened the year 1824.—The crew believed that, with the passage of Cape Horn, the greatest danger of the voyage was over, and were full of life and spirits. On the 15th of January we saw far off the Island of St. Maria, and on the following morning knew, by the two high mountains called Biobio's Bosom, from the river which flows between them, that we were approaching the Bay of Conception. As soon as these hills are clearly distinguished, the entrance to the bay is easily found.—In fine weather they are excellent guides.
A brisk south wind carried us swiftly towards the land, which, far from charming the eye with the picturesque beauty of Brazil, presents an almost undeviating straight line.—The round sides of the mountains are but sparingly covered with vegetation, and in this dry season had a sterile appearance. At noon, having doubled the Island of Quiquirino, at the the mouth of the bay, we found ourselves in a smooth and spacious sheet of water, surrounded by crowds of sea-dogs, dolphins, whales, and water-birds, which abound on the coasts of Chili. This part of the country is but thinly inhabited, and a few poor and scattered huts only are visible. During the centuries that it has been in possession of the Spaniards, it has advanced as little as their other colonies in cultivation or civilization.
The calm made it impossible on that day to reach the village of Talcaguana, where ships usually lie at anchor, and we were consequently obliged in the evening to lay-to at some miles distance.
At twelve o'clock at night, the watch on deck observed a large boat approaching with caution to within reach of musket-shot. This slinking about in the dark had a suspicious appearance, especially as the colony having revolted against the mother-country, was in a state of war. Want of light prevented our learning the strength of the boat's crew, or what arms it carried; but we prepared to repel an attack, in which, however, it was manifest the advantage would be greatly on our side. I ordered the watch to hail the boat, which in return addressed us through a trumpet, first in Spanish, and immediately afterwards in English, inquiring to what nation we belonged, and whence, and for what purpose, we were come. Upon our reply that we were Russians and good friends, the boat came nearer, and an officer, well armed with sword and pistols, came on deck, but was so alarmed on perceiving our state of warlike preparations, that he did not utter a word till he had satisfied himself that we were really Russians, and had no hostile intentions.
The cause of his fear lay in the report of a Spanish frigate having been seen cruising on the coast. This officer was an Englishman, in the service of the republic of Chili, and lieutenant of a corvette lying before Talcaguana. He left us with a request, (which was immediately complied with,) that we would hoist a lantern at our fore-mast, as a signal of peace to the inhabitants of Talcaguana, among whom our appearance had spread the greatest anxiety.
Early in the morning I sent an officer ashore to notify our arrival in proper form to the commandant of the place, and to request his permission to furnish ourselves with water and fresh provisions, which was granted in the most courteous manner possible.
Sure of a favourable reception, I immediately weighed anchor, and, having a good wind, dropped it again at noon, at the distance of a musket-shot from Talcaguana, in a depth of five and a half fathoms, after having been fifty days on the voyage from Rio Janeiro, during the whole of which time the crew had enjoyed the most perfect health. Besides our own ship, and the above-mentioned corvette, commanded by Captain Simson, three merchant ships under Chilian, and three whalers under English colours also lay here. In the afternoon I went ashore myself, and paid the Commandant a visit; I was received in the most friendly manner, but with a good deal of Spanish etiquette, by an old man, who was evidently a zealous republican. He told me, that the first President of the Republic, Freire, whose authority, he gave me to understand, would be very instrumental in furthering his efforts to assist us, was at that moment in the town of Conception. Thither, therefore, I determined to proceed, hoping to see the President, and procure from him a written order for our accommodation.
And here, though it interrupt the course of my narrative, I apprehend some particulars concerning this country may be agreeable to such of my readers as are strangers to it.
The fruitful Chili is a long and narrow strip of coast-land, bathed on the West by the Great Ocean, so falsely called the Pacific; divided on the North from Peru by the desert tract of Atacoma; and on the East, from Buenos Ayres, by the chain of the Cordilleras, or Andes, whose snow-covered summits are diversified by the columns of fire continually emitted from numerous volcanoes; on the South it extends as far as the Straits of Magellan, and indeed also claims the wholly useless island of Terra del Fuego, which is rarely, if ever, visited by a Chilian.
The Spaniard Valdivia may be considered as the real discoverer of Chili. He established here the first Spanish settlement, the present capital, St. Jago, and subsequently, the town of Conception. For a long time the Spaniards were engaged in bloody and uninterrupted war with the original inhabitants of the country, called Araucanians. This strong and enterprising people withdrew into the mountains, where they were invincible, and from whence they have continued, to the present day, to annoy the descendants of the intruders, who acknowledge and have hitherto respected their independence. They still preserve in their mountains and fastnesses their ancient mode of living, and remain faithful to the religion and manners of their ancestors. Unluckily for the Spaniards, they have become very dangerous neighbours by providing themselves with horses, which, as they are skilful riders, enable them to execute their predatory expeditions with a rapidity that renders them almost always successful. A few of them have settled in the valleys, at the foot of the mountains, and adopted the Christian religion, without however amalgamating with the Spaniards, or losing their freedom.
The lower class of the present inhabitants of Chili is a mixed race, sprung from the union of Spaniards with Araucanian women: they are well grown, of a dark brown complexion, and have a lively red in their cheeks. The men are all good riders, and have brought to great perfection the art of catching wild animals with the lasso. The upper classes have preserved their Spanish blood pure: they are also very well formed, the females nearly always handsome, and some of them remarkably beautiful. La Perouse found them decorated with metal rings; they now adorn themselves with much taste in Parisian fashions, which reach them by the way of Peru: their manners, though they do not approach so nearly to the forms of European society as do those of the upper ranks in Rio Janeiro, are nevertheless not deficient in refinement.
The climate resembles that of the middle of France, and vegetation thrives abundantly in its fertile soil. Among many kinds of native animals, the wild goats are the most numerous, and are scarcely ever tamed. Chili is particularly rich in beautiful birds; troops of parrots are seen on the wing; humming-birds, and butterflies of all kinds, hover round the flowers, and swarms of lantern-flies sparkle through the night; while venomous insects and snakes are unknown.
This fine country has been long neglected. Spanish jealousy allowed no trade with foreign nations; and the introduction of the Inquisition was sufficient to prevent all mental advancement. The inhabitants are also justly accused of idleness, in not having taken more advantage of the productiveness of their soil. Now, however, that they have thrown off the yoke under which their industry was oppressed, and burst the fetters of the Inquisition, which bowed down their minds, they begin to be ashamed of the low grade of civilization on which they stand, in comparison with other nations, and are exerting themselves to attain a more respectable station in the scale.
The Chilians are chiefly indebted for their independence to the well-known General San Martin. In the year 1817, he made the celebrated campaign over the Andes from Buenos Ayres, attacked and completely defeated the Spaniards, and laid the foundation of the freedom of Chili. It is now governed by plenipotentiaries from all the provinces, under the presidency of General Freire.
The Bay of Conception is a most eligible resting-place for the voyager in these seas to touch at, on account of its safe and commodious harbour, its abundant supply of provisions, and the healthiness of its climate. Evidently destined by nature for the central point of Chilian commerce, it must certainly supersede the unsafe roads of Valparaiso. Freire has already determined to establish an Admiralty in the neighbourhood of Talcaguana, and as much as possible to encourage the population of that part of the country. The village of Talcaguana, consisting of about fifty small and poor houses, and another still smaller, called Pencu, have been the only settlements on this bay since the destruction, in the year 1751, of the old town of Conception by an earthquake—no uncommon occurrence in these regions. The new town of this name has been built farther inland, on the banks of the beautiful river Biobio, and is seven miles distant from Talcaguana.
Early in the morning on the 18th of January, I went with Dr. Eschscholtz to Talcaguana, where horses were in waiting to take us to Conception. The heavy, clumsy cars drawn by oxen, which I believe I described in my former voyage, are the only kind of carriage known here; and as even the ladies use these only on state occasions, they perform all their journeys, as in days of old, on horseback.
The Russian flag having waved here but twice since the foundation of the world, curiosity had brought a great crowd to witness my disembarkation; and as it was now ascertained that the Captain was the same who, eight years before, had so much delighted the inhabitants with a ball, many of my old acquaintances and guests had assembled to welcome me. I could not resist their kind and pressing invitations to visit them once more, before going to Conception. I was received with the greatest cordiality, and all possible pains were taken to entertain me; but they complained sadly of the ravages of war, which had brought its usual concomitants, poverty and ruin, in its train. A melancholy change had taken place since my former visit; some of the wealthiest families had removed from Lima, and a striking difference was perceptible in the establishments of those that remained; while the silver utensils which formerly had been so common even among the poorer inhabitants, had wholly disappeared, and were replaced by a bad description of stone ware.
The same traces of desolation were visible along the once beautiful road to Conception, whither we proceeded on spirited horses, as soon as we had paid the required visits. Instead of the numerous flocks and herds which once adorned the meadows, burnt villages, uncultivated fields, devastated orchards, and swarms of beggars, presented a painful picture of universal want and misery. Such are the heavy sacrifices with which Chili has purchased her independence. May she enjoy their fruits under a government sufficiently wise and powerful to restore her prosperity!
Our two hours' ride afforded ample time and scope for these reflections; and on reaching the town, we were concerned to find similar symptoms of misfortune. A great part of it lay in ruins; and the houses yet standing were occupied, not by useful citizens, or active, speculating merchants, but by soldiers. The former have, with few exceptions, withdrawn from Conception to Mexico and Peru. But the war of the Revolution is not chargeable with all the desolation which has befallen this unhappy town. A year before it broke out, a great horde of wild Araucanians, availing themselves of an opportunity when the Chilian troops were elsewhere employed, fell so suddenly upon the town during the night, that the inhabitants, who had not the slightest warning till the enemy was within their walls, were unable to defend themselves. Well knowing that they could not maintain their post, the Araucanians were active in the work of rapine and murder, and at length withdrew to their mountains laden with rich booty.
These Araucanians, among whom such expeditions are not unfrequent, are, according to the accounts of officers here, a very warlike people, well armed with bows, arrows, and lances: they make their onset in great hordes, with a wild yell, and with such fury and rapidity that it is not easy even for regular troops to resist. If this, however, can be firmly withstood, they are in a few minutes defeated and put to flight. When pursued, they escape shots and sabre strokes by the dexterity with which they fling themselves on either side of their horses; sometimes even hanging under the horse's belly while it is going at full gallop. When escape is impossible, they defend themselves to the last, preferring death to captivity.
From Rio Janeiro I had brought a letter of introduction to a once rich and still prosperous merchant in Conception, named Mendiburu; I immediately sought him out, and was received and entertained with the kindest hospitality. His house proved to be the same which, on my former visit to Conception, the then Governor had appointed for my accommodation. At that time many discontented spirits had already shown themselves, had assumed the appellation of patriots, and were persecuted by the Government; Mendiburu was one of these, and having made his escape, the Government, till its overthrow, had kept possession of his house.
My complaisant host, a little man, rather advanced in years, who in many respects was extremely useful to us, accompanied us, as soon as we had arranged our dress, to the President Freire. The latter received us in the full uniform of a general officer, with the most ceremonious politeness, but still kindly, although something of distrust might be perceived in his deportment.
Our circumstances with respect to Spain were known; and, as I afterwards learned, it was absurdly enough imagined, that Russia had designs upon Chili, and that these formed the secret motive of our visit. Freire, who had already distinguished himself as a general, is a stately-looking man, at that time about forty-five years of age, and of a very agreeable exterior; he was born in Talcaguana, of very poor parents, and, without enjoying any particular advantage of education, has raised himself, by his own merit alone, to the high rank he occupies.
After an unmeaning sort of conversation, consisting of little else than civilities, I endeavoured to procure the permission of the President for our naturalist and mineralogist to make a journey into the Cordilleras, which he, however, politely but positively refused, on the ground that the Chilians were at war with the people in the mountains. I afterwards learnt from Mendiburu, that this was merely a pretence, as the President had already succeeded in establishing peace and an amicable league with the Araucanians. A small military escort would therefore have been amply sufficient to protect the travellers from all danger of annoyance; but here the weakness of the newly established government betrayed itself. They are distrustful of strangers, and act upon the old Spanish maxim,—to close the interior of the country against them. The recent discovery of gold and silver mines in the mountains, which was still kept secret, from the fear that foreign powers might covet these treasures, probably, also, contributed to a refusal which has undoubtedly proved, for the present, a serious loss to science. All the arguments I could urge to obviate the President's objections were ineffectual: all I could obtain for our learned associates was permission to travel round the bay of Conception and the environs of Talcaguana, for which a passport was made out; and a subaltern officer was appointed to accompany them, who in all probability had also his private instructions to see that the journey extended no farther.
Overwhelmed with courtesies and promises to make our residence here as agreeable as possible, we left the President, and concluded the day in pleasant society at the house of our host Mendiburu, who on the following morning accompanied us back to Talcaguana. He had the complaisance to surrender for our accommodation and the convenience of our astronomical observations, a large house belonging to him in Talcaguana, which had once been inhabited by La Perouse. I took immediate possession of it, and our time was now very agreeably divided between the necessary attention to the repairs and provisioning of the ship, scientific observations, and the society of the hospitable natives.
The little town was soon filled with warlike tumult. A grenadier regiment from Conception marched in with drums beating and a very good band playing. The uniform was in the French fashion, clean and substantial; the muskets were in the best order.
Freire has most zealously exerted himself to raise a respectable army; but to bring a rabble of adventurers from all nations into proper discipline is no easy task, especially where there is not money enough to pay them punctually; even the officers are mostly foreigners, and, with few exceptions, ignorant and stupid beyond all belief. With such a soldiery, patriotism or enthusiasm in the cause is of course out of the question. The Chilian soldier fights like a robber, for the sake of the booty he hopes to acquire; and covetousness will form the foundation of his valour, till increase of population shall permit the organization of a national militia.
A few regiments had been sent over to the island of Quiquirino, perhaps in order to render desertion more difficult: here they had formed a camp, and were exercised in various manoeuvres. The whole force, consisting of three thousand men, was destined, under the command of the President, to attack the island of Chiloe, the only spot still remaining in possession of the Spaniards. They were now waiting the arrival of the requisite vessels from Valparaiso.
On the 20th of January, amidst the thunder of the artillery, a new Constitution was proclaimed at Conception, signed there in great form by Freire, and afterwards read in many other towns of the Republic. Some of the inhabitants received it with enthusiasm, but it by no means gave satisfaction to all. In Talcaguana, opinions were much divided, and loudly and undisguisedly expressed. In every company the new Constitution became the chief subject of conversation, and often gave occasion to violent disputes. Even the ladies were not exempt from this political mania: they gave their opinions with unhesitating confidence and decision, and, in fact, often appeared fully as capable of forming a correct judgment as the men.
Without entering into these criticisms, I shall only remark, that one regulation of the Chilian Constitution must certainly be disadvantageous—the public exercise of any other religion than the Catholic is forbidden; Catholics only can fill civil offices (with the military such strictness is impracticable); nor is any one permitted to carry on a mechanical trade who does not belong to this Church.
If the advantage of universal toleration is so evident in the most flourishing states, how much more desirable must it be for one so thinly peopled, and where industry and knowledge are so little advanced.
We frequently received visits on board from the ladies and gentlemen of Chili; and once from an Araucanian chief, accompanied by his daughter and some attendants. A collation was prepared for the Araucanians, of which they heartily partook; and despising the knife and fork, helped themselves plentifully with their fingers. The meal being concluded, we made them some trifling presents, with which they were much delighted; the chief also begged a piastre, and his daughter (a true woman, though a savage,) a looking-glass. After she had contemplated her features for some time with much satisfaction, the treasure was passed from hand to hand among her people, who all appeared extremely well content with the reflection of their own faces, although, according to our ideas of beauty, none of them had any cause for vanity. They are of the middle stature, strongly built, and of dark complexions. Their hair is black, and hangs loosely over their shoulders; and their little Chinese eyes, and prominent cheek-bones, seemed to indicate an Asiatic origin. The expression of their faces is good-natured, lively, and rather intelligent. Their dress is very simple, consisting merely of a piece of many-coloured striped woollen stuff of their own manufacture: in shape, it is an oblong square, with a hole in the centre through which the head is passed, the longer ends hanging down to the knee before and behind, the shorter at each side falling over the shoulders, and the lower part of their limbs remaining bare. The Spanish Chilians call this garment a pancho, and often use it in winter as a surtout: among the common people it makes the daily, and sometimes even the only clothing.
The officers of the regiment stationed here politely gave a ball in our honour, which, as might be expected in this poor village, did not prove very brilliant; but as my young officers found plenty of pretty and agreeable partners, they were perfectly satisfied. The old custom of opening a ball with a minuet is still practised here, and the Chilians dance it remarkably well.
Besides the dances common among us, a sort of fandango is a favourite here: it is expressly adapted to display the graces of a fine figure to the best advantage, and is danced by two persons, whose picturesque attitudes and motions are accompanied on the guitar, and by tender songs, according in expression with the pantomimical representations of the dance.
We determined to return the complaisance of the natives by giving a ball on board our ship to our acquaintances in Talcaguana, and some from Conception. My officers made every effort to surpass the Chilians in the elegance of their entertainment; and having been detained on shore during their preparations, and till the hour appointed for the ball, I was really astonished to see how much they had been able to achieve. The deck was changed into a large illuminated saloon, decorated with fine myrtle trees, luxuriant garlands, and bouquets of flowers of every colour, exhaling the sweetest perfumes, and appropriate transparencies in the background opposite the entrance. The cabins had been cleared for refreshment-rooms; and the musicians, concealed behind a curtain, were to pour forth their animating strains unseen by the dancers. The cheerful scene was rapidly filled with cheerful faces; graceful figures moved in the lively dances; and love and beauty alone seemed to preside within the joyous precincts. But suddenly a universal confusion and panic terror was spread among the company, and chiefly among the ladies. Some suspicious simpleton or mischievous wag had whispered that we had a design of secretly weighing anchor during this festivity, and sailing away with our beautiful prisoners. My friend Mendiburu, however, at length succeeded in banishing this ridiculous apprehension, and restoring tranquillity. Pleasure and confidence again reigned over the revels, till the sun stood high in the heavens; and like every other earthly enjoyment, even our ball drew to a close, though it bade fair to linger long in the recollection as well of our returning guests as of some of the young entertainers.