Web Text-ures Logo
Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio
1999-2016


(Return to Web Text-ures)
Click Here to return to
The Buccaneers of America
Content Page

 Return to the Previous Chapter
Kellscraft Studio Logo
(HOME)

CHAPTER XV.

The Buccaneers depart from Coquimbo for the Isle of Juan Fernandez. An exact account of this voyage. Misery they endure, and great dangers they escape very narrowly there. They mutiny among themselves, and choose Watling to be their chief commander. Description of the island Three Spanish men-of-war meet with the buccaneers, at the said island; but these ou.brave them on the one side, and give them the slip on the other.


BEING all embarked again, as was mentioned in the preceding chapter, the next morning, which was Tuesday, December 7th, twenty of us were sent ashore to observe the motion of the enemy. We went to the look-out, or watch-hill, but could learn nothing thence. Hereupon about noon we returned on board the ship, and at two in the afternoon we weighed anchor and set sail, directing our course for the Isle of Juan Fernandez. not far distant from the coast of Coquimbo. At night we were five leagues distant thence at N.W. by N. The southermost island of those which are called De los Paxaros, or the Islands of Birds, was then N.N.W. from us. Before our departure, I took this draft of the bay of Coquimo and city of La Serena.



December 8th we had but very little wind and a leeward current here, which we perceived did heave us to the Northward. The afore-mentioned island, de los Paxaros, at three in the afternoon, bore N.E. of us. At the distance of three leagues, more or less, it appeared thus:


It is distant from the main continent four leagues, and from the next island of the same name, about two. The mainland is extremely high and mountainous hereabouts. At evening we were west from the said island five leagues. About eight or nine leagues to windward of Coquimbo are certain white cliffs, which appear from the. shore to those that are off at sea.

On December 9th, we had likewise but little wind, as the day before. I supposed myself this day to be about thirteen leagues W. from the island above men- tioned. The weather was cloudy, with mizzling rain, so that no observation could be taken. However, this day it was thought convenient to put us to an allowance of water; for we had taken in little or none at Coquimbo. The same weather, or very like it, we had the next day, being the tenth; that is to say, stark calm and cloudy.

On December 11th, we had some small rain in the forepart of the day. But in the afternoon it cleared up, so that the weather was very hot. We had still but little wind.

The next day, December 12th, we had very fair weather, and by a clear observation made this day, we found lat. 30 06' S.

December 13th. By a W.S.W. way, we made forty-two leagues. By observation we found lat. 30 45' S. D.M. four leagues and two thirds.

On the 14th in the morning, we had a handsome shower of rain, which continued for some while. Then, about eight o'clock, there sprang up a S.S.W. breeze. My reckoning was by an E.S.E. way, fourteen leagues. And by observation, we found this day 30 30' S. In the afternoon of this day, died one of our men, whose name was William Cammock. His disease was occasioned by a surfeit, gained by too much drinking on shore at La Serena; which produced in him a calenture, or malignant fever and a hiccough. Thus in the evening we buried him in the sea, according to the usual custom of mariners, giving him three French vollies for his funeral.

The following day, we had an indifferent fresh wind on both tacks. Our way was W.S.W., and by it we reckoned thirty-four leagues. So likewise by an observation we had lat. 30 42' S. All the afternoon blew a S. by W. wind very fresh, with a short topping S.W. sea.

But on the next ensuing day, we had no small breeze, but rather hard gusts of wind. These grew so high, that they forced us to take in our top-sails. We made a S.W. half S. way, and forty-five leagues.

On the 17th we had likewise high winds, and withal a S.W. sea. Our way W. by S. By observation this day, lat. 30 51' S. In the afternoon we had a S.S.E. wind, our course being S.W.

December 18th. This day we had the same high winds as before, at S.S.E. We reckoned by a W.S.W. way forty-five leagues. At noon the wind was somewhat fallen, and then we had some rain.

The 19th we had both cloudy and windy weather. My reckoning was a S.W. by S. way, and hereupon fifty-eight miles. Yesterday we were assured by our pilot that we were now in the meridian of the island of Juan Fernandez, whither our course was directed for the present. What occasioned him to be so positive in his assertion, was the seeing of those great birds, of which we made mention in the foregoing chapter.

On the 20th, we had cloudy weather in the morning an both tacks. We made a S.W. and half S. way, and by it fifty-two leagues. By observation this day, lat. 32 20' S. D.M. one hundred and twenty-three leagues.

The next day likewise we had cloudy weather; yet by observation we found a W. way. On the 22nd by observation we found an E. way proved.

Thursday, December 23rd. All the night past we had a fresh wind. But in the morning, from top-mast head, we descried a hummock of land. In the evening we saw it again. We found afterwards that what we had seen was the westernmost island of Juan Fernandez; which is nothing but a mere rock, there being no riding, nor scarce landing, near to it.

Friday, December 24th. This morning we could descry the island of Juan Fernandez itself S. by E., it being at sixteen leagues distance when we saw it yesterday. At seven this morning the island stood E., the wind being N.W. or by N. At eight the same morning the island, at the distance of five leagues, little more or less, appeared thus:


 
Isle de JUAN FERNANDEZ


Here my observation was that I could see neither fowl nor fish near this island; both which things are usually to be seen about other islands. Having told my observation to our pilot, he gave me for answer, that he had made many voyages by this island, and yet never saw either fowl or fish any more than I. Our reckoning this day was an E.S.E. way, and hereby thirty-six leagues. By observation, lat. 33 30' S.

Saturday, December 25th. Yesterday in the afternoon, at three o'clock, we saw the other island, making two or three hummocks of land. This morning we were about eight leagues distant from it, the island bearing E.S.E. from us. At eight the same morning we were right abreast with it. Here therefore are two islands together, the biggest whereof is three leagues and a half in length, nearest N.W. and S.E., the other, and lesser, is almost one league, and no more in circumference. At ten o'clock we sent off from the ship one of our canoes, to seek for the best landing and anchoring for our vessel. As we approached, both islands seemed to us nothing but one entire heap of rocks. That which lies more to the N. is the highest, though we could not now see the tops thereof, for the clouds which covered it. In most places it is so steep that it becomes almost perpendicular.

This day being Christmas-day, we gave in the morning early three vollies of shot for solemnization of that great festival. I reckoned an E. by S. way. By a clear observation from the middle of the island, lat. 33 45' S., and M.D. ninety-nine leagues. In the evening of this day, we came to an anchor at the south end of the island, in a stately bay that we found there, but which lies open from the S, to the S.E. winds. We anchored in eleven fathom water, and at the distance of only one furlong from the shore. Here we saw multitudes of seals covering the bay everywhere, insomuch that we were forced to kill them to set our feet on shore.

Sunday, December 26th. This day we sent a canoe to see if we could find any riding secure from the southerly winds; these being the most constant winds that blow on these coasts. The canoe being gone, our commander sent likewise what men we could spare on shore, to drive goats, whereof there is great plenty in this island. They caught and killed that day to the number of threescore, or thereabouts. The canoe returning to the ship made report that there was good riding in another bay, situate on the North side of the island, in fourteen fathom water, and not above one quarter of a mile from the shore. Moreover that there was much wood to be had, whereas in the place where we had first anchored, not one stick of wood nor tuft of grass was to be found.

The next day, being the 27th, between two and four o'clock in the morning, we had a tempest of violent winds and fierce showers of rain. The same day we got in two hundred jars of water, bringing them the full distance of a league from the place of our riding. In the meanwhile, others were employed to catch goats, as they had done the day before.

On the 28th of the said month, in the morning, I went with ten more of our company and two canoes, to fetch water from the land. Being come thither, and having filled our jars, we could not get back to the ship, by reason of a southerly wind that blew from off the ocean, and hindered our return. Thus we were forced to lie still in a water-hole, and wait till the winds were over for a safer opportunity. Meanwhile, the violence of the wind increasing, our ship was forced to get under sail, and make away, not without danger of being forced ashore. Hereupon she sailed out of the harbour, to seek another place of anchoring. At noon I ventured out, to try if I could follow the ship, but was forced in again by the wind and a raging sea. Thus we lay still for some while longer, till the evening came on. This being come, we ventured out again both canoes together; but the winds were then so high, that we were forced to throw all our jars of water overboard to lighten our boats, otherwise we had inevitably perished. I ought to bless and praise God Almighty for this deliverance; for in all human reason, the least wave of that tempest must have sunk us. Notwithstanding, we came that night to our place or harbour, where we expected to have found our ship (called False Wild Harbour) but found her not. Hereupon, not knowing what to do, we went ashore, and hauled up our canoes dry. Having done this, we ascended higher within the island, along a gulley, for the space of half a mile, there to clear ourselves of the noise and company of the seals, which were very troublesome on the shore. Here we kindled a fire, dried our clothes, and rested ourselves all night, though with extremely hungry bellies, having eaten very little or nothing all the day before. In the sides of the hill, under which we lay, we observed many holes like coney-holes. These holes are the nests and roosting-places of multitudes of birds that breed in this island, called by the Spaniards Pardelas. One of these birds, as we lay drying and warming ourselves, fell down into our fire.

The next morning being come, very early before sunrise, we went farther to the northward, to seek for our ship, which we feared we had lost. But we were not gone far, when we soon spied her at sea. Hereupon we passed a point of land, and entered a certain bay, which was about a mile deep, and not above half a league over. Into this bay we put, and instantly made a fire, thereby to show the ship whereabouts we were. Here we found good watering and wooding close to the shore. In this bay also we saw another sort of amphibious animal, which I imagined to be the same that by some authors is called a Sea-Lion.1 These animals are six times bigger than seals. Their heads are like that of a lion, and they have four fins not unlike a tortoise. The hinder parts of these creatures are much like fins, but are drawn after them, being useless upon the shore. They roared as if they had been lions, and were full of a certain short and thick hair, which was of a mouse colour; but that of the young ones was somewhat lighter.

The old ones of these sea-lions are between twelve and fourteen feet long, and about eleven or twelve feet in circumference. A seal is very easily killed, as we often experimented, but two of our men with great stones could not kill one of these animals.

That day in the afternoon there came a canoe from on board the ship with provisions for us, they fearing lest we should be starved. In like manner the launch came with men to cut wood. They told us that the ship came to an anchor in the other bay, but that within half an hour the cable broke, and they were forced to leave their anchor behind them and get out to sea again. Night being come, we made our beds of fern, whereof there is huge plenty upon this island; together with great multitudes of trees like our English box, which bear a sort of green berries, smelling like pimento, or pepper. All this day the ship was forced to ply off at sea, not being able to get in.

December 30th. The morning of this day we employed in filling water and cutting down wood. But in the afternoon, eight of us eleven went aboard the ship, all in one and the same canoe, sending her ashore again with provisions for the men that were there. This day in like manner we could not get into the harbour, for no sooner the ship came within the parts of land but the wind, coming out of the bay, blew us clear out again. Thus we were forced to ply out all that night and great part of the following day.

On the next day, having overcome all difficulties and many dangers, we came to an anchor in the afternoon, in fifteen fathom water, at the distance of a cable's length from shore. Here it was observable that we were forced to keep men ashore on purpose to beat off the seals, while our men filled water at the sea-side, at high-water mark, for the seals covet hugely to lie in fresh water. About this island fish is so plentiful that, in less than one hour's time, two men caught enough for our whole company.

Saturday, January 1st, 1681. This day we put up a new main-top, larger than the old one, and we caught cray-fish that were bigger than our English lobsters.

The next day, being January 2nd, died a chief man of our company, whose name was John Hilliard. This man, until our weighing anchor from the port of Coquimbo, had been our Master all the space of this voyage. But from that time we chose John Cox for the starboard, and John Fall for the larboard watch. The disease whereof he died was the dropsy. That evening we buried our dead companion, and gave him a volley for his funeral, according to the usual custom.

On January 3rd we had terrible gusts of wind from the shore every hour. This day our pilot told us that many years ago a certain ship was cast away upon this island, and only one man saved, who lived alone upon the island five years before any ship came this way to carry him off. The island has excellent land in many valleys belonging thereunto. This clay likewise we fetched our anchor which we left in the other bay when the ship broke her cable.

Tuesday, January 4th, 1681. This day we had such terrible flaws of wind, that the cable of our ship broke, and we had undoubtedly been on shore had not the other held us fast. At last it came home and we drove outward. By the way it caught hold of a rock, and held some time, but at last we hauled it up, and the wind came with so much violence that the waves flew as high as our main-top, and made all the water of a foam.

January 5th, the same huge gusts of wind continued all the night last past, notwithstanding which this day at noon it was brave and calm. But in the morning the anchor of our ship gave way again, and we drove to the eastward more than half a mile; till at last we happened to fasten again in sixty fathom water. Here in this bay, where we rode at anchor, did run a violent current, sometimes into and at other times out of the bay, so that all was uncertain with us. But our greatest discomfort was, that our men were all in a mutiny against each other, and much divided among themselves, some of them being for going home towards England, or our foreign plantations, and that round about America through the Straits of Magellan, as Captain Sawkins had designed tc, do; others of them being for staying longer, and:earching farther into those seas, till such time as they had got more money. This day at noon our anchor drove again; whereupon to secure ourselves from that dangerous place, we sailed thence into the West bay, anchored there in twenty-five fathom water; and moored our ship one quarter of a mile from shore.

On Thursday, January 6th, our differences being now grown to a great height, the mutineers made a new election of another person to be our chief captain and commander, by virtue whereof they deposed Captain Sharp, whom they protested they would obey no longer. They chose therefore one of our company, whose name was John Wading, to command in chief, he having been an old privateer, and gained the esteem of being a stout seaman. The election being made, all the rest were forced to give their assent to it, and Captain Sharp gave over his command, whereupon they immediately made articles with Wading, and signed them.

The following day, being the 7th, we burnt and tallowed the starboard side of our ship. In this bay where we now anchored, we found a cross cut in the bark of a tree, and several letters besides. Hereupon, in another tree up the gulley, I engraved the two first letters of my name, with a cross over them. This day likewise William Cook, servant to Captain Edmund Cook, being searched, we found a paper with all our names written in it, which it was suspected he designed to have given to the Spanish prisoners. For these reasons this evening our Captain thought it convenient to put him in irons, which was accordingly done. The next day we finished the other side of our ship.

Sunday, January 9th. This day was the first Sunday that ever we kept by command and common consent, since the loss and death of our valiant commander, Captain Sawkins. This generous-spirited man threw the dice overboard, finding them in use on the said day.

January 10th. This day the weather was very clear and settled again. We caught every day in the bay where we now were great plenty of fish; and I saw the same day a shoal of fish a mile and more long.

On the next day, being the I all, we filled our water and carried our wood on board the ship. Moreover, our two canoes went to the other side of the island to catch goats, for on the barren side thereof are found and caught the best; and by land it is impossible to go from one side of the island to the other.

Wednesday, January 12th. This morning our canoes returned from catching goats, firing guns as they came towards us to give us warning. Being come on board, they told us they had espied three sail of ships, which they conceived to be men-of-war, coming about the island. Within half an hour after this notice given by our boats, the ships came in sight to leeward of the island. Hereupon we immediately slipped our cables and put to sea, taking all our men on board that were ashore at that time. Only one, William, a Mosquito Indian, was then left behind on the island, because he could not be found at this our sudden departure.2 Upon the Island of Juan Fernandez grow certain trees that are called by the name of bilby-trees. The tops of these trees are excellent cabbage, and of them is made the same use that we do of cabbage in England. Here fish abound in such quantity, that on the surface of the water I have taken fish with a bare and naked hook, that is to say unbaited. Much fish is taken here of the weight of twenty pounds; the smallest that is taken in the bay being almost two pound weight. Very good timber for building of houses and other uses is likewise found upon the island. It is distant from the main continent ninety-five leagues, or thereabouts, being situate in 33 40' S. The plats of the island lie N.W. and S.E.

Being got out of the bay we stood off to sea, and kept to windward as close as we could. The biggest of these Spanish men-of-war, for such they proved to be, was of the burden of eight hundred tons, and was called El Santo Christo, being mounted with twelve guns. The second, named San Francisco, was of the port of six hundred tons, and had ten guns. The third was of the carriage of three hundred and fifty tons, whose name I have forgot. As soon as they saw us, they instantly put out their bloody flags, and we, to show them that we were not as yet daunted, did the same with ours. We kept close under the wind, and were, to confess the truth, very unwilling to fight them, by reason they kept all in a knot together, and we could not single out any one of them, or separate him from the rest. Especially considering that our present commander Watling had showed himself at their appearance to be faint-hearted. As for the Spaniards themselves, they might have easily come to us, since we lay by several times; but undoubtedly they were cowardly given, and peradventure as unwilling to engage us as we were to engage them.

The following day, being January 13th, in the morning we could descry one of the fore-mentioned men-of-war under the leeward side of the island; and we believed that the rest were at anchor thereabouts. At W. by S. and at the distance of seven leagues the island appeared thus:

At noon that day we stood towards the island, making as if that we intended to be in with them. But in the afternoon our commander propounded the question to us, whether we were willing now that the fleet was to windward, to bear away from them? To this we all agreed with one consent. And hereupon, night being come, with a fresh wind at S.S.E. we stood away N.E. by N., and thus gave them handsomely the slip, after having outbraved them that day and the day before.

1 Or walrus.

2 From this statement and the subsequent remark of the Spanish pilot it is clear that Alexander Selkirk was not the first nor the only solitary who had inhabited this Island.


Book Chapter Logo Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.