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Port Desire — Eastern Magellan Straits — Punta Arenas — Western Magellan Straits — Patagonian Channels
The most southerly portion of the South American continent, called Patagonia, first became known in the endeavour to find a new way into the Pacific. Magellan was commissioned by Charles of Spain to try to find by the south that ocean passage to the Indies which Columbus had sought in vain further north. He sailed in August 1519, and began his search along the coast at the River Plate; on October 21st, the day of the Eleven Thousand Virgins, he came in sight of a large channel opening out to the west: the promontory to the north of this channel still bears the name he bestowed of Cape Virgins. He proceeded cautiously, sending boats ahead to explore, and on November 28th entered the Pacific. When he saw the open sea he is said to have wept for joy, and christened the last cape "Deseado," or the "Desired."
The sea power of England, which had been negligible in the time of the first voyages to the New World, was growing in strength; and, though she had attempted no settlement on the southern continent, she saw no reason to acquiesce in the edicts of the King of Spain, shutting her off from all trade with the New World. In 1578 Drake took Magellan's route, with the object of intercepting galleons on the Pacific coast, and passed through the Straits in sixteen days. On entering the Pacific he was blown backward towards Cape Horn, and was the first to realise that there was another waterway, yet further south, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Up till this time the land had been supposed to extend to the Antarctic.
A hundred years later Charles II of England sent an expedition under Sir John Narborough to explore this part of the world and trade with the Indians, which wintered on the eastern coast of Patagonia.
Anson's squadron avoided the Straits, taking the way by the Horn.
The Chilean and Argentine Boundary Commission divided Patagonia between the two countries, giving the west and south to Chile and bisecting Tierra del Fuego, 1902.
We flatter ourselves our experience in detecting mendacity would qualify us as police-court magistrates, but we never saw any reason to doubt the substantial accuracy of Freeman's stories. His experience dated back to the time when mares of two or three years old were sold for ten shillings, or were boiled down for fat, as, after the Spanish fashion, no man would demean himself by riding one. He had at one time ridden across the continent from the Patagonian to the Chilean coast, a journey of six weeks, half of which time he never saw a human being; he was followed all the way by a dog, though the poor animal was once two or three days without water; it got left behind at times, but always managed to pick up his trail. He was most candid about the means by which he had made money when at one time employed on the railway, for honesty was not in his opinion the way that the game was played in South America, and therefore no individual could afford to make it part of his programme: it did happen to be one of the rules on Mana, and we never knew him break it. He was once running away after some drunken escapade, when a policeman appeared and took pot-shots at him with a rifle. Freeman turned and dropped him with his revolver; he did it the more reluctantly as he knew and liked the man. Happily the shot was not fatal, and he felt convinced that he himself had not been recognised.
After, therefore, carefully arranging an alibi elsewhere he returned, condoled with the victim on the lawless deed, and gave him what assistance he could; he felt, however, that that part of the country had become not very "healthy," and subsequently moved on. Even our experiences of the ports had scarcely prepared us for the cynical indifference to human life which his experiences incidentally revealed as an everyday affair in "the camp." In sparsely inhabited districts, with their very recent population, the factors are absent through which primitive societies generally secure justice, clans do not exist, families are the exception, and in almost every case a man is simply a unit. The more advanced methods of keeping the peace have either not been formed or are not effective, for crime is often connived at by the authorities themselves. The result is that the era of vendetta and private revenge seems civilised in comparison with a state of things where no notice is taken of murder, and the victim who falls in a brawl or by fouler means simply disappears unknown and unmissed, while the murderer goes scot-free to repeat his crime on the next occasion.
Freeman had, inter alia, been employed on one of the farms in Patagonia, along the coast of which we were sailing, and told tales of the pumas, or South American lions, which abounded in a certain neighbourhood. This district had railway connection with a little anchorage known as Port Desire, and as one of our intervals in harbour was now due S. arranged to turn in here, and go up-country with him to try to get a shot at the animals. We therefore put into the port on October 3rd. It is a small inlet, of which the surrounding country is covered with grass, but flat and dreary in the extreme, the only relief being a distant vision of blue hills. Sir John Narborough, who spent part of the winter here in 1670, said he never saw in the country "a stick of wood large enough to make the handle of a hatchet.''
The human dwellings are a few tin shanties. In a walk on shore we were able to see in a gully, a few remains of the walls of the old Spanish settlement. As to the puma, fortunately from its point of view, the railway service left a good deal to be desired. We arrived on Friday, and there turned out to be no train till the following Tuesday, so it lived to be shot another day — unless indeed it met a more ignominious end, for the South American lion is so unworthy of its name that it is sometimes killed by being ridden down and brained with a stirrup-iron. We took three sheep on board, as mutton at twopence a pound appealed to the housekeeping mind, and were able to secure some water, which is brought down by rail; it was a relief to have our tanks well supplied, as the ports further down the coast are defended by bars, and would have been difficult of access in bad weather. Drake, on whose course we were now entering, selected St. Julian, the next bay to the southward, for his port of call before entering the Straits of Magellan; it was there he had trouble with his crew, and was obliged to hang Doughty.
We sailed from Port Desire on Monday morning, but were not to say good-bye to it so speedily. We soon encountered a strong head-wind, with the result that Wednesday evening found us fifteen miles backwards on a return journey to Buenos Aires, and the whole of Thursday saw us still within sight of it. We amused ourselves by discussing the voyage, which had now lasted more than seven months. One of the company declared that he had lost all sense of time and felt like a native or an animal: things just went on from day to day; there was neither before nor after, neither early nor late. It did not, he said, seem very long since we left Falmouth, but on the other hand our stay at Pernambuco was certainly in the remote past, and so with everything else. We had now, in fact, done about three-quarters of the distance from Buenos Aires towards the Straits of Magellan, and had 300 miles left before we reached their entrance at Cape Virgins.
Ever since the Expedition was originally projected the passage of the Straits had been spoken of in somewhat hushed tones; but now, when with a more favourable wind we began to approach them, instead of going into Arctic regions, as some of us had anticipated, the weather improved, the sun went south faster than we did, and the days lengthened rapidly. Our numerous delays had at least one fortunate result — they secured us a much better time of year in the Straits than we had expected would fall to our lot. The feeling in the air was that of an English April, bright and sunny, but fresh; we kept the saloon cold on principle during the daytime, living in big coats; in the evening we had on the hot-water apparatus, so as to go warm to bed. It was quite possible to write on deck, and the sea was almost too beautifully calm. We had a great many ocean callers, who seemed attracted by the vessel: porpoises tumbled about the bows till we could nearly stroke them, a whale would go round and round the yacht, coming up to blow at intervals, while seals reared their heads and shoulders out of the waters and looked at us in a way that was positively bewitching; once a whale and seal paid us a visit at the same time. One night S., who was keeping a watch for one of the officers who was indisposed, was interested in watching the gulls still feeding during the dark hours.
At 10 p.m. on October 15th the light of Cape Virgins was sighted, and we woke to find ourselves actually in the Straits of Magellan. The Magellan route, as compared with that by the Horn, is not only a short road from the Atlantic to the Pacific, cutting off the islands to the south of the continent, but ensures calm waters, instead of the stupendous seas of the Antarctic Ocean. For a sailing-ship, however, the difficulties are great; the prevailing wind is from the west, and there is no space for a large vessel to beat up against it, nor does she gain the advantage that can be derived from any slight shift of wind; outside the gale may vary a point or two, but within the channel it always blows straight down as in a gully. The early mariners could overcome these obstacles through the strength of their crews; in case of necessity they lowered their boats and towed the ship, but the vessels of the present no longer carry sufficient men to make such a proceeding possible. Sailing-ships therefore take to-day the Cape Horn route, in spite of its well-known delays, trials, and hardships. When later the German cruiser turned up at Easter Island with her captured crews, the great regret of the latter was that they had been taken just too late, after they had gone through the unpleasantness of the passage round the Horn.
The first sight of Tierra del Fuego is certainly disappointing. The word calls up visions of desolate snowy mountains inhabited by giants; what is seen are low cliffs, behind which are rolling downs, sunny and smiling, divided up into prosaic sheep farms. A reasonably careful study of the map would of course have shown what was to be expected, as on the Atlantic coast the plains continue to the extreme south of the continent, while the chain of the Andes looks only on to the Pacific. Nevertheless^ if not thrilling, it was at least enjoyable to be in a stretch of smooth water, with Patagonia on the north and Tierra del Fuego on the south. The land on either hand is excellent pasture for sheep, and there is said to be sometimes as much as 97 per cent, increase in a flock. The largest owners are one or two Chilean firms, but the shepherds employed are almost all Scotsmen, and indeed the scenery recalls some of the less beautiful districts in the Highlands. When sheep-farming was established, the Indians, not unnaturally from their point of view, made raids on the new animals, with the result that the representatives of the company were consumed with wrath at seeing their stock eaten by lazy natives; they started a campaign of extermination, shooting at sight and offering a reward for Indian tongues. Our friend Freeman had worked on one of the farms, which had a stock of 200,000 sheep, and the information he gave on this head was fully confirmed later in conversations at Punta Arenas. The destruction of the Indians was spoken of there as a matter for regret, but as rendered inevitable by circumstances.
The navigation through the straits of a craft like ours makes it necessary to anchor in the dark hours: the first night we spent off the Fuegian coast, in sight of one of the pillars which define the boundary of Chile and Patagonia; the second we lay in Possession Bay, which is on the Patagonian side. We had time at the latter anchorage to examine the pathetic wreck of a steamer, which had gone aground. She was a paddle-boat, which was being towed presumably from one lake or river area to another, and had to be cut adrift. Even in such an unheroic vessel it was touching to see the sign of departed and luxurious life cast away on this lonely shore, stained-glass doors bearing the inscription of "smoking" or "dining-room," and good mahogany fittings such as washing-stands still in place. It is said that the outer coast is strewn with wrecks containing valuable articles which it is worth no one's while to remove. S. walked up to the neighbouring lighthouse, and was presented with three rhea eggs.
FIG. 8. — IN THE MAGELLAN STRAITS.
S. and an ostrich.
The next morning we were under way at 5 o'clock, in order to pass with the correct tide through what are known as the First Narrows. The current here is so strong that it would have been impossible for us to make headway against it; as it was, the wind sank soon after we started, and we only just accomplished the passage, anchoring in St. Jago Bay. The following day, Sunday, we negotiated successfully the Second Narrows. From our next anchorage we saw from the yacht several rhea, or South American ostriches, on a small promontory. S. went ashore on the point and shot two of them, while Mr. Ritchie and Mr. Gillam, who had landed on the neck of the promontory, endeavoured to cut off the retreat of the two remaining birds. The one marked by Mr. Ritchie went through some water and escaped him; the onlookers then viewed with much interest a duel between Mr. Gillam on the one hand, running about in sea-boots armed with a revolver, and the last ostrich on the other, vigorously using its legs and wings and on its own ground. Victory remained with the bird, which reached the mainland triumphantly, or at least disappeared behind a bush and was no more seen. Seven miles south-west of the Second Narrows lies Elizabeth Island, so named by Drake. We took the passage known as Queen's Road on the Fuegian side of the island, and reached Punta Arenas next afternoon, Monday, October 20th. We had intended to be there for two or three days only, but fate willed otherwise, and we sat for weeks in a tearing wind among small crests of foam, gazing at a little checkered pattern of houses on the open hillside opposite.
It will be remembered that the motor engine, to our great chagrin, was practically useless through heated bearings, and that all our endeavours at Buenos Aires to diagnose and remedy its ailment had been ineffectual. We had consequently to rely on passing through the Straits either under sail, or, as the late Lord Crawford had suggested to us before starting, through getting a tow from some passing tramp by means of a £50 cheque to the skipper, a transaction which would probably not appear in their log. However, in mentioning our disappointment to the British Consul, who was one of an engineering firm, he and his partner hazarded the suggestion that the defect lay, not in the engine, where it had been sought, but in the installation; that the shaft was probably not "true." They bravely undertook the job of overhauling it on the principle of "no cure, no pay," and were entirely justified by the result. The alteration was to have been finished in ten days, but there were the usual delays, one of which was a strike at the "shops," when a piece of work could only be continued by inducing one man to ply his trade behind closed doors while S. turned the lathe. It was six weeks before the anxious moment finally came for the eight hours' trial, which had been part of the bargain, but the motor did it triumphantly without turning a hair. We found what consolation for the delay was possible in the reflection that we had at least done all in our power to guard against such misfortune. The engine had been purchased from a first-class firm who had done the installation; the work had been supervised on our behalf by a private firm and passed by Lloyds; nevertheless it was peculiarly aggravating, for not only did it involve great money loss, but it sacrificed some of the strictly limited time of our navigator and geologist. We had the pleasure at this time of welcoming the said geologist, Mr. Lowry-Corry, who now joined the Expedition after successfully completing his work in India.
Punta Arenas, with which we became so well acquainted, is a new and unpretentious little town, but it is the centre of the sheep-grazing districts, and its shops are remarkably good. Anything in reason can be purchased there, and on the whole at more moderate prices than elsewhere in South America. The beautiful part of the Straits is not yet reached, and save for some distant views the place is ugly, but it gives a sensation of cleanliness and fresh air, and our detention might have been worse. There is indeed, on occasion, too much air, for it was at times impossible to get from the ship to the shore or vice versa, and if members of the party were on land when the wind sprang up they had to spend the night at the little hotel; the waves were not big, but the gales were too strong for the men to pull against them. I was with reluctance obliged to give up some promising Spanish lessons, with which I had hoped to occupy the time, for it was impossible to be sure of keeping any appointment from the yacht. Punta Arenas boasts an English chaplain, and Boy Scouts are in evidence. The chief celebrity is an Arctic spider-crab, which multiplies in the channels and is delicious eating, but we never discovered anything of much local interest.
I made one day a vain attempt to find the graves of the officers and crew of H.M.S. Dotterel, which was blown up off Sandy Point some thirty years ago. The cemetery overlooked the Straits; it was desolate and dreary, the ground being unlevelled and the tufted grass, with which it was covered, unkept and unmown. Most of the graves were humble enclosures, some of which gave the impression of greenhouses, being covered with erections of wood and glass; but here and there were small mausoleums, the property of rich families or corporations. It is the custom with some Chileans so to preserve the remains that the faces continue visible; an Englishman at Santiago told us that after a funeral which he had attended, the mourners expressed a desire to "see Aunt Maria," whereupon the coffin of a formerly deceased relative was taken down from its niche for her features to be inspected. The police of Punta Arenas had their home together in a large vault, which was apparently being prepared for a new occupant; while the veterans of '79 (the war between Chile and Peru) slept as they had fought, side by side. There was apparently no Protestant corner, for the graves of English, Germans, and Norwegians were intermingled with those of Chileans. The resting-places of all, rich and poor alike, were lovingly decorated with the metal wreaths so prevalent in Latin countries, but unattractive to the English eye. Whilst I wandered among the tombs a storm burst, which had been gathering for some time amongst distant mountains, and chilly flakes of snow swept down in force, with biting wind and hail. I sheltered in the lee of a mausoleum, on whose roof balanced a large figure of the angel of peace bearing the palm-branch of victory, and the inscription on which showed it to be the property of a wealthy family, whose name report specially connected with the poisoning of Indians. The landscape was temporarily obscured by the driving storm, not a soul was in sight, and the iron wreaths on hundreds of graves rattled with a weird and ghostly sound. Presently, however, the tempest passed and the sun shone out, while over the Straits, towards the Fuegian land, there came out in the sky a wonderful arc of light edged by the colours of the rainbow, which turned the sea at its foot into a translucent and sparkling green.
But if there was not much occupation on shore, the unexpected length of our stay provided us unpleasantly with domestic employment. We had on arrival parted from our friend Freeman, his object in coming to Punta Arenas was, it transpired, to collect the remainder of a sum due to him in connection with the sale of a skating-rink, which he had at one time started there and run with considerable success: we were proud to think that service on an English scientific vessel would now be added to his experiences. Life below deck was then in the hands of Luke, the under-steward, who, as will be remembered by careful readers, had been the salvation of the inner man during our first gale in the North Atlantic . We had engaged him at Southampton on the strength of a character from a liner on which he had served in some subordinate capacity, and he. signed on for the voyage of three years at the rate of £2 10s. a month. Though never what registry offices would call "clean in person and work," he plodded through somehow, and again in the Freeman episode rescued the ship from starvation; we accordingly doubled his wages as a testimonial of esteem. My feelings can therefore be imagined when one morning, after we had been some weeks at Punta Arenas, I was told that Luke was not on board and his cabin was cleared. He had somehow in the early morning eluded the anchor watch and had gone off in a strange boat. A deserter forfeits of course his accumulated wages, which, by a probably wise regulation, are payable to Government and not to the owner; but there is nothing to prevent a man who is leaving a vessel recouping himself by means of any little articles that he may judge will come in handy in his new career. The one that I grudged most to Luke was my cookery book, to which he had become much attached, and which was never seen again after his departure; it was really a mean theft, from which I suffered much in the future.
S. offered, through the police, a reward for his detention, and enlarged his knowledge of the town by going personally through every low haunt, but without success. A rumour subsequently reached us that a muffled figure had been seen going on board one of the little steamers which plied backwards and forwards to the ports in Tierra del Fuego, and we heard, when it was too late, that Luke had been enticed to a sheep farm there, with the promise of permanent employment at £10 a month, with £2 bonus during shearing-time, which was then in progress. The temptation was enormous, and I have to this day a sneaking kindliness for Luke, but for those who tempted him no pardon at all. The condition in which the successive defaulters had left their quarters is better pictured than described, and so stringent is the line of ship's etiquette between work on deck and below, that, as the simplest way and for the honour of the yacht, the Stewardess did the job of cleaning out cabin and pantry herself. The moral for shipowners is — do not dally in South American ports.
Now began a strange hunt in the middle of nowhere for anything that could call itself a cook or steward. The beachcombers who applied were marvellous; one persistent applicant was the pianist at the local cinema; our expedition, as already discovered, had a certain romantic sound, which was apt to attract those who had by no means always counted the cost. Mail steamers pass Punta Arenas every fortnight, once a month in each direction, and these we now boarded with the tale of our woes. Both captain and purser were most kind in allowing us to ask for a volunteer among the stewards, but the attempt was only temporarily successful; the routine work of a big vessel under constant supervision proved not the right training for such a post as ours.
FIG. 9. — PUNTA ARENAS.
Finally, we were told of a British cook who had been left in hospital by a merchant ship passing through the Straits. The cause of his detention was a broken arm, obtained in fighting on board; this hardly seemed promising, but the captain was reported to have said that he was "sorry to lose him," and we were only too thankful to get hold of anything with some sort of recommendation. On the whole Bailey was a success. He too had knocked about the world; at one time he had made money over a coffee-and-cake stall in Australia, and then thrown it away. We had our differences of course; he once, for instance, told me that as cook he took "a superior position on the ship's books to the stewardess," but his moments of temper soon blew over. I shall always cherish pleasant memories of the way in which he and I stood by one another for weeks and months in a position of loneliness and difficulty; but this is anticipating.
As departure drew near, provisioning for the next stage became a serious business, as, with the exception of a few depots for shipwrecked mariners, there was no possibility of obtaining anything after we sailed, before we reached our Chilean destination of Talcahuano. S.'s work was more simple, as he had only to fill up to the greatest extent with coal and oil, knowing that at the worst the channels provide plenty of wood and water.
The next few weeks, when we traversed the remainder of the Magellan Straits and the Patagonian Channels, were the most fascinating part of the voyage. The whole of this portion of South America is a bewildering labyrinth of waterways and islands; fresh passages open up from every point of view, till the voyager longs to see what is round the corner, not in one direction, but in all. It has, too, much of the charm of the unknown: such charts as exist have been made principally by four English men-of-war at different periods, the earliest being that of the Beagle, in the celebrated voyage in which Darwin took part. A large portion of the ways and inlets are, however, entirely unexplored. The effect of both straits and channels is best imagined by picturing a Switzerland into whose valleys and gorges the sea has been let in; above tower snow-clad peaks, while below precipices, clothed with beautiful verdure, go straight down to the water's edge. The simile of a sea-invaded Alps is indeed fairly accurate, for this is the tail of the Andes which has been partially submerged. The mountains do not rise above 5,000 feet, but the full benefit of the height is obtained as they are seen from the sea-level. The permanent snow line is at about 1,200 feet. The depths are very great, being in some places as much as 4,000 feet, and the only places where it is possible to anchor are in certain little harbours where there is a break in the wall of rock. These anchorages lie anything from five miles to twenty or thirty miles apart, and as it was impossible to travel at night it was essential to reach one of them before dark. If for any reason it did not prove feasible to accomplish the necessary distance, there was no option but to turn back in time to reach the last resting-place before daylight failed, and start again on the next suitable day. On the other hand, when things were propitious, we were able on occasion to reach an even further harbour than the one which had been planned.
The proceeding amusingly resembled a game, played in the days of one's youth, with dice on a numbered board, and entitled "Willie's Walk to Grandmamma": the player might not start till he had thrown the right number, and even when he had begun his journey he might, by an unlucky cast, find that he was "stopping to play marbles" and lose a turn, or be obliged to go back to the beginning; if, however, he were fortunate he might pass, like an express train, through several intermediate stopping-places, and outdistance all competitors. The two other sailing yachts with whose record we competed were the Sunbeam in 1876 and the Nyanza in 1888: the match was scarcely a fair one, as the Sunheam had strong steam power and soon left us out of sight, while the Nyanza, though a much bigger vessel, had no motor, and we halved her record.
It will be seen that it was of first-rate importance to make the most of the hours of daylight, which were now at their longest, and to effect as early a start as possible, so that in case of accident or delay we should have plenty of time in hand before dark. We therefore, long before such became fashionable, passed a summer-time bill of a most extended character, the clock being put five hours forward. Breakfast was really at 3 a.m., and we were under way an hour later, when it was broad daylight; but as the hours were called eight and nine everyone felt quite comfortable and as usual, it was a great success. The difficulty lay in retiring proportionately early. Stevenson's words continually rose to mind: "In summer quite the other way — I have to go to bed by day." The greatest drawback was the loss of sunset effects; we should, theoretically, have had the sunrise instead, but the mornings were often grey and misty, and it did not clear till later in the day.
One of the charms of the channels, is the smoothness of the water: we were able to carry our cutter in the davits as well as the dinghy. It also suited the motor, which proved of the greatest use, entirely redeeming its character, there is no doubt however, that to become accustomed to sailing is to be spoilt for any other method of progression. The photographers accomplished something, but the scenery scarcely lends itself to the camera and the light was seldom good. The water-colour scribbles with which I occupied myself serve their purpose as a personal diary.
We speculated from time to time whether these parts will ultimately turn into the "playground of South America," when that continent becomes densely populated after the manner of Europe, and amused ourselves by selecting sites for fashionable hotels: golf-courses no mortal power will ever make. On the whole the probability seems the other way, for the climate is against it; it is too near to the Antarctic to be warm even under the most favourable conditions, and the Andes will always intercept the rain-clouds of the Pacific. One of the survey-ships chronicled an average of eleven hours of rain in the twenty-four, all through the summer months. We ourselves were fortunate both in the time of year and in the weather. It resembled in our experience a cold and wet October at home; but there were few days, I cannot recall more than two, when we lost the greater part of the view through fog and rain. On the rare occasions when it was sunny and clear the effect was disappointing, and less impressive than when the mountains were seen partially veiled in mist and with driving cloud. The last hundred miles before the Gulf of Peñas it became markedly warmer, and the steam-heating was no longer necessary.
It was far from our thoughts that exactly one year later these same channels would witness a game of deadly hide-and-seek in a great naval war between Germany and England. In them the German ship Dresden lay hidden, after making her escape from the battle of the Falkland Islands, while for two and a half months English ships looked for her in vain. They explored in the search more than 7,000 miles of waterway, not only taking the risks of these uncharted passages, but expecting round every corner to come upon the enemy with all her guns trained on the spot where they must appear.
We left Punta Arenas on Saturday, November 29th, 1913, spending the night in Freshwater Bay, and the next afternoon anchored in St. Nicholas Bay, which is on the mainland. Opposite to it, on the other side of the Straits, is Dawson Island, and separating Dawson from the next island to the westward is Magdalen Sound, which leads into Cockburn Channel; it was in this last that the Dresden found her first hiding-place after escaping from Sturdee's squadron and obtaining an illicit supply of coal at Punta Arenas. St. Nicholas Bay forms the mouth of a considerable river, the banks of which are clothed with forests which come down to the sea; near the estuary is a little island, and on it there is a conspicuous tree. Mr. Corry and I went out in the boat, and found affixed to the tree a number of boards with the names of vessels which had visited the place. Jeffery scrambled up and added Mana's card to those already there. This was our first introduction to a plan frequently encountered later in out-of-the-way holes and corners, and which subsequently played a part in the war. At the outbreak of hostilities the Dresden was in the Atlantic, and had to creep round the Horn to join the squadron of Von Spee in the Pacific. She put into Orange Bay, one of the furthest anchorages to the south; there she found that many months before the Bremen had left her name on a similar board. Moved by habit someone on the cruiser wrote below it "Dresden, September 11th, 1914"; then caution supervened, and the record was partially, but only partially, obliterated; there it was shortly afterwards read by the British ships Glasgow and Monmouth, and formed a record of the proceedings of the enemy.
FIG. 10 — RIVER SCENE, ST. NICHOLAS BAY
On Monday, December ist, we started at daylight and made our way with motor and sail as far as Cape Froward, the most southerly point of the Straits; but the sea was running too high to proceed. We had to retrace our steps, and cast anchor again in St. Nicholas Bay. This time S. and I were determined to explore the river, so, after an early luncheon, in order to get the benefit of the tide, we made our way up it in the cutter. It was most pleasant rowing between the banks of the quiet stream, and so warm and sheltered that we might almost have imagined ourselves on the Cherwell, if the illusion had not been dispelled by the strange vegetation which overhung the banks,, amongst which were beautiful flowering azaleas. Every here and there also a bend in the course of the river gave magnificent views of snow-clad peaks above. A happy little family of teal, father, mother, and children, disported themselves in the water. Later in the voyage, as the mountains grew steeper, we had many waterfalls, but never again a river which was navigable to any distance. Some of the crew had been left to cut firewood, and we found on our return that they had achieved a splendid collection, which Mr. Ritchie and Mr. Corry had kindly been helping to chop. Burning wood was not popular in the galley, but we were anxious to save our supplies of coal.
Tuesday, December 2nd, we again left the bay, and this time were more fortunate. It was misty and sunless, but as we rounded Cape Froward it stood out grandly, with its foot in grey seas and with driving clouds above. We had now definitely entered on the western half of the Straits and were amongst the spurs of the Andes. As the day advanced the wind freshened^ the clouds were swept away, and blue sky appeared, while the sea suddenly became dark blue and covered with a mass of foaming, tumbling waves; on each coast the white-capped mountains came out clear and strong. This part of the channel, which is known as Froward Reach, is a path of water, about five miles wide, lying between rocky walls; and up this track Mana beat to windward, rushing along as if she thoroughly enjoyed it. Every few minutes came the call "Ready about, lee oh!” and over she went on a fresh tack, travelling perfectly steadily, but listed over until the water bubbled beneath the bulwarks on the lee side. It would have been a poor heart indeed that did not rejoice, and every soul on board responded to the excitement and thrill of the motion: that experience alone was worth many hundred miles of travel. As evening came the wind sank, and we were glad of the prosaic motor to see us into our haven at Fortescue Bay.
The next day the wind was too strong to attempt to leave the harbour, and we went to bed with the gale still raging, but during the night it disappeared, and before dawn we were under way. As light and colour gradually stole into the dim landscape, the grey trunks and brown foliage of trees on the near mountainsides gave the effect of the most lovely misty brown velvet. Rain and mist subsequently obscured the view, but it cleared happily as we turned into the harbour of Angosto on the southern side of the channel. Rounding the corner of a narrow entrance, we found ourselves in a perfect little basin about a quarter of a mile across, surrounded with steep cliffs some 300 feet in height, on one side of which a waterfall tore down from the snows above. Our geologist reported it as a glacier tarn, which, as the land gradually sank, had been invaded by the sea. We left it with regret at daylight next morning.
FIG. 11 — CAPE FROWARD, MAGELLAN STRAITS.
The Straits became now broader and the scenery was more bleak, the great grey masses being scarcely touched with vegetation till they reached the water's edge. It was decided to spend the night at Port Churruca in Desolation Island, rather than at Port Tamar on the mainland opposite, which is generally frequented by vessels on entering and leaving the Straits. We passed through the entrance into a rocky basin, but when we were at the narrowest part between precipitous cliffs the motor stopped. It had been frequently pointed out, when we were wrestling with the engine, how perilous would be our position if anything went wrong with it in narrow waters. I confess that I held my breath. S. disappeared into the engine-room, the Navigator's eyes were glued to the compass, and the Sailing-master gave orders to stand by the boats in case it was necessary to run out a kedge anchor and attach the yacht to the shore. It was a distinct relief when the throb of the motor was once more heard; the difficulty had arisen from the lowness of the temperature, which had interfered with the flow of the oil. The ship, how ever, was luckily well under control, with the wind at the moment behind her. In an inner basin soundings were taken, “twenty-five fathoms no bottom, thirty fathoms no bottom," till, when the bowsprit seemed almost touching the sheer wall of rock, the Nassau Anchorage was found and down went the hook.
We grew well acquainted with Churruca, as we were detained there for five days; Saturday through the overhauling of the engine; Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday by bad weather; of Wednesday more anon. The position was not without a certain eeriness: we lay in this remote niche in the mountains, while the storm raged in the channel without and in the peaks above; at night, after turning in, the gale could be heard tearing down from above in each direction in turn, and the vessel's chain rattling over the stony bottom as she swung round to meet it. The heavy rain turned every cliff-face into a multitude of waterfalls, which vanished at times into the air as a gust of wind caught t he j et of water and converted it into a cloud of spray. Although the weather prevented our venturing outside, it was quite possible to explore the port by means of the ship's boats. It proved not unlike Angosto, but on a larger and more complicated scale. Beyond our inner anchorage, although invisible from it, was a further extension known as the Lobo Arm, and there were also other small creeks and inlets
Even the prosaic Sailing Directions venture on the statement that the scenery at Port Churruca is "scarcely surpassed," and one of the fiords must be described, although the attempt seems almost profane. In its narrow portion it was about a mile in length and from loo to 200 yards in width; the sheer cliffs on either hand were clothed to the height of many hundreds of feet with various forms of fern and most brilliant moss. Above this belt of colour was bleak crag, and higher again the snow-line. The gorge ended in a precipice, above which was a mountain-peak; a glacier descending from above had been arrested in its descent by the precipice and now stood above it, forming part of it, a sheer wall of ice and snow as if cut off by a giant knife. There was little life to be seen, but an occasional gleam was caught from the white breast of a sea-bird against the dark setting of the ravine . In one part , high up on the cliff, where the wind was deflected by a piece of overhanging rock, was a little colony of nests; the mother birds and young broods sat on the edge in perfect shelter, even when to venture off it was to be beaten down on to the surface of the water by the strength of the wind. Some of our party visited the fiord on a second occasion to try to obtain photographs; it was blowing at the time a severe gale, and the effect was magical. The squalls, known as "williwaws," rushed down the ravine in such force that the powerful little launch was brought to a standstill. They lashed the water into waves, and then turned the foaming crests into spray, till the whole surface presented the aspect of a fiercely boiling cauldron, through which glimpses could be caught from time to time of the dark cliffs above.
FIG. 12. — THE GLACIER GORGE,
While S. and I were visiting the glacier gorge, the two other members of the party were exploring the last portion of the inlet named on the chart the Lobo Arm. It terminated on low ground, on which stood the frame of an Indian hut, and pieces of timber had been laid down to form a portage for canoes. A few steps showed that the low ground extended only for some i6o yards, while beyond this was another piece of water which had the appearance of an inland lake, some three miles long and a mile wide. The portage end of the water was vaguely shown on the chart of Port Churruca, but there was no indication of anything of the kind on the general map of Desolation Island. Our curiosity was mildly excited, and we all visited the place; one of our number remarked that "the water was slightly salt," another that there "were tidal indications," a third that "from higher ground the valley seemed to go on indefinitely." At last the map was again and more seriously examined, and it was seen that, while there were no signs of this water, there were on the opposite side of the island the commencements of two inlets from the open sea, neither of which had been followed up: the more northerly of these was immediately opposite Port Churruca. “If," we all agreed, “our lake is not a lake at all, but a fiord" — and to this every appearance pointed — "it is in all probability the termination of this northern inlet, and Desolation Island is cut in two except for the small isthmus with the portage." Then a great ardour of exploration seized us, Mr. Corry fell a victim to it, Mr. Gillam fell likewise, and we refused to be depressed by Mr. Ritchie's dictum that it had "nothing to do with serious navigation." We wrestled with a conscientious conviction that it had certainly nothing to do with Easter Island, and we ought to go forward at the earliest possible moment, but the exploration fever conquered. We discussed the possibility of getting the motor-launch over the portage, and were obliged reluctantly to abandon it as too heavy, but it was concluded that it would be quite feasible with the cutter.
The next day proved too wet to attempt anything, but Wednesday dawned reasonably fine, though with squalls at intervals. Great were the preparations, from compasses, notebooks, and log-lines, to tinned beef and dry boots. At last at 11.30 (or 6.30 a.m. by true time) we sallied forth. The launch towed us down the Lobo Arm, and then came the work of passing the boat across the isthmus, at which all hands assisted. It was the prettiest sight imaginable; the portage, which had been cut through the thick forest undergrowth, had the appearance of a long and brilliant tunnel between the two waters, it was carpeted with bright moss and overhung by trees which were covered with lichen (fig. 14). The bottom was soft and boggy, and I at one time became so firmly embedded that I could not get out without assistance. In less than half an hour the boat was launched on the other side, and Mr. Corry, Mr. Gillam, our two selves, and two seamen set forth on our voyage. Soon after starting the creek divided, part going to the north-west and part to the south-east. We decided to follow the latter as apparently the main channel.
We rowed for an hour and a quarter, taking our rate of speed by the log. The mountains on each side were of granite, showing very distinct traces of ice action. At 2 p.m. we landed on the left bank for luncheon. It was, it must be admitted, a somewhat wet performance; the soaked wood proved too much even for our expert campers-out, who had been confident that they could make a fire under all circumstances, and had disdainfully declined a proffered thermos. Enthusiasm was, however, undamped. Mr. Corry ascended to high ground and discovered that there was another similar creek on the other side of the strip of ground on which we had landed, which converged towards that along which we were travelling. After rowing for an hour and a half we reached the point where the two creeks joined; here we landed and scrambled up through some brushwood to the top of a low eminence. Looking backwards we could see up both pieces of water, while looking forward the two fiords, now one, passed at right angles, after some four miles, into a larger piece of water. This was where we had expected to find the open sea, and some distant blue mountains on the far horizon were somewhat of an enigma. As we had to row back against a head wind, it was useless to think of going further, unless we were prepared to camp out, so all we could do was to make as exact sketches as possible to work out at home.
The return journey was easier than had been expected, for the wind dropped; we kept this time to the right bank, and stopped for "tea" by some rocks, which added mussels to the repast for the taking. The portage was gained four hours after the time that the rest of the crew had been told to meet us there; and it was a relief to find that they had possessed their souls with patience. Mana was finally reached at 11 p.m. It was found by calculating the speed at which we had travelled and its direction, that our creek had led into the more southerly of the unsurveyed inlets, and not as we had expected into that to the northward. The distant blue hills were islands. Like all great explorers, from Christopher Columbus downwards, our results were therefore not precisely those we had looked for, but we had undoubtedly proved our contention that Desolation Island is in two halves, united only by the 160 yards covered by the portage on the Lobo Isthmus.
FIG. 13. — MANA INLET
A knowledge of the existence of this channel, connecting the Pacific Ocean with the Magellan Straits, might be of high importance to the crew of a vessel lost to the south of Cape Pillar, when making for the entrance to the Straits. Instead of trying to round that Cape against wind at sea, her boats should run to the southward until the entrance to the inlet is reached; they can then enter the Magellan Straits without difficulty at Port Churruca. With the consent of the Royal Geographical Society, it has been christened "Mana Inlet." 1
The next morning, December 1st, we left Churruca with a fair wind, so that the engine was only needed at the beginning and end of the day; but the weather was drizzling and unpleasant, so that we could see little of Cape Pillar,2 where the Magellan Straits enter the Pacific Ocean. Our own course was up the waterways between the western coast of Patagonia and the islands which lie off the coast. It is a route that is little taken, owing to the dangers of navigation. Not only is much of it uncharted and unsurveyed, but it is also unlighted, and its passage is excluded by the ordinary insurance terms of merchant ships; they consequently pass out at once into the open sea at Cape Pillar. We turned north at Smyth's Channel, the first of these waterways, and made such good progress that, instead of anchoring as we had intended at Burgoyne's Bay, we were able to reach Otter Bay. It is situated amid a mass of islands, and the sad vision of a ship with her back broken emphasised the need for caution. The general character of the Patagonian Channels is of the same nature as the Magellan Straits, but particularly beautiful views of the Andes are obtained to the eastward. The next day Mount Burney was an impressive spectacle, although only glimpses of the top could be obtained through fleeting mists; and the glistening heights of the Sarmiento Cordillera came out clear and strong. We anchored that night at Occasion Cove on Piazzi Island; and on Saturday, December 13th, had a twelve hours' run, using the engine all the way. Here there was a succession of comparatively monotonous hills and mountains, so absolutely rounded by ice action as to give the impression of apple dumplings made for giants. The lines show always, as would be expected, that the ice-flow has been from the south. Later a ravine on Esperanza Island was particularly remarkable; its mysterious windings, which it would have been a joy to explore, were alternately hidden by driving cloud or radiant with gleams of sun. Glimpses up Peel Inlet gave pleasant views, and two snowy peaks on Hanover Island, unnamed as usual, were absorbing our attention when we turned into Latitude Cove.
14th the landscape was absolutely grey and colourless, so that Guia Narrows
were not seen to advantage. Later the channel was wider and the possibility of
sailing debated, but abandoned in view of the head wind. We had been struck
with the absence of life and fewness of birds, but we now saw some albatrosses.
In slacking away the anchor preparatory to
letting go in Tom Bay, in a depth stated to be seventeen fathoms, it hit an
uncharted rock at eleven fathoms. It was still raining as we left Tom Bay, but
when we turned up Brassey Pass, which lies off the regular channel, the clouds
began to lift, and Hastings Fiord and Charrua Bay were grand beyond
description. From time to time the mists rose for an instant, and revealed the
immediate presence of reach beyond reach of wooded precipices; or a dark summit
appeared without warning, towering overhead at so great a height that, severed
by cloud from its base, it seemed scarcely to belong to the earth. Then as
suddenly the whole panorama was cut off, and we were alone once more with a
grey sea and sky.
FIG. 14 — CANOE CORDUROY PORTAGE BETWEEN PORT CHURRUCA AND MANA INLET.
FIG. 15. — PATAGONIAN WATERWAYS.
Showing water near the land smoothed by growing kelp.
As we approached Charrua, we caught sight among the trees on a neighbouring island of something which was both white and nebulous; it might, of course, be only an isolated wreath of mist, but after watching it for a while we came to the conclusion that it was undoubtedly a cloud of smoke. Our hopes of seeing Indians, which had grown faint, began to revive. As soon as we were anchored, orders were given that immediately after dinner the launch should be ready for us to inspect what we hoped might prove a camping-ground. This turned out to be unnecessary, as the neighbours made the first call. In an hour's time S. came to inform me that two canoes were approaching full of natives "just like the picture-books," whereon the anthropologists felt inclined to adapt the words of the immortal Snark-hunters and exclaim:
"We have sailed many weeks, we have sailed many days,
Seven days to the week I allow,
But an Indian on whom we might lovingly gaze
We have never beheld until now."
The crew, however, were fully convinced that the hour had arrived when they would have to defend themselves against ferocious savages. They had been carefully primed in every detail by disciples of Ananias at Buenos Aires, and by the bloodcurdling accounts of a certain mariner named Slocum, who claimed to have sailed the Straits single-handed and to have protected himself from native onslaught by means of tin-tacks sprinkled on the deck of his ship. The canoes were about 23 feet in length, with beam of 4 to 6 feet and a depth of 2 feet. Six Indians were in one and seven in the other; all were young with the exception of one older man, and each boat contained a mother and baby. Their skins were a dark olive, which was relieved in the case of the women and children by a beautiful tinge of pink in the cheeks, and they had very good teeth. Their hair was long and straight, and a fillet was habitually worn round the brow; the top was cut à la brosse, giving the impression of a monk's tonsure which had been allowed to grow. The height of the men was about 5 feet 4 inches. Most of the party were clad in old European garments, but a few wore capes of skins, and some seemed still more at home in a state of nature. They had brought nothing for sale, but begged for biscuits and old clothes. I parted with a wrench from a useful piece of calico, in the interests of one of the infants, which was still in its primitive condition; it was accepted, but with a howl of derision, which I humbly felt was well merited when it was seen that the rival baby was already wrapped in an old waistcoat given by the cook. One of the Indians talked a little Spanish, and was understood to say he was a Christian.
After dealing with them for a while we offered to tow them home, an offer readily understood, and accepted without hesitation. It was a strange procession amid weird surroundings; the sun had shown signs of coming out, but had thought better of it and retreated, and we made our way over a grey sea, between half-obscure cliffs in drizzling rain, taking keen note of our route for fear of losing our way back. Truly we seemed to have reached the uttermost ends of the earth. The lead was taken by that recent product of civilisation a motor-launch, containing our two selves and our Glasgow socialist engineer; then at the end of a rope came the dinghy, to be used for landing, the broad back of one of our Devonshire seamen making a marked object as he stood up in it to superintend the towing of the craft behind. The two canoes followed, full of these most primitive specimens of humanity, while the rear was brought up by a seal, which swam after us for a mile or so, putting up its head at intervals to gaze curiously at the scene. S. had brought his gun, and as we approached the camp thought it well to shoot a sea-bird, for the double reason of showing that he was armed and giving a present to our new friends. The encampment was situated in a little cove, and nothing could have been more picturesque. In front was a shingly beach, on which the two canoes were presently drawn up, flanked by low rocks covered with bright seaweed. In the background was a mass of trees, shrubs, and creepers, which almost concealed two wigwams, from one of which had issued the smoke which attracted our notice (fig. 16).
We returned next morning to photograph and study the scene. The size of the shelters, or tents, was about 12 feet by 9 feet, with a height of some 5 feet. They were formed by a framework of rods set up in oval form, the tops of which were brought together and interwoven, and strengthened by rods laid horizontally and tied in place: the opening was at the side and towards the sea. Over this structure seals' skins were thrown, which kept in place by their own weight, as the encampments are always made in sheltered positions in dense forests. With the exception that they do not possess a ridge-pole, the tents, which are always the same in size and make, closely resemble those of English gipsies, the skins taking the place of the blankets used by those people. No attempt was made to level the floor, the fire was in the middle, and in one the sole occupant was a naked sprawling baby, who occupied the place of honour on the floor beside it. In some of the old encampments, which we saw subsequently , there were as many as six huts, but it was doubtful if they had all been occupied at the same time. The middens are outside and generally near the door. Some of the Indians were quite friendly, but others were not very cordial, the old women in particular making it clear to the men of the party that their presence was not welcome. The old man, whose picture appears (fig. 17), was apparently the patriarch of the party, and quite amiable, though he firmly declined to part with his symbol of authority in the shape of his club; in order to keep him quiet while his photograph was taken he was fed on biscuits, which he was taught to catch after the manner of a pet dog. The staff of life is mussels and limpets, and we saw in addition small quantities of berries. A lump of seal fat weighing perhaps 10 lb. was being gnawed like an apple, and a portion was offered to our party. The dogs are smooth-haired black-and-tan terriers, like small heavy lurchers; they are, it is said, taught to assist their masters in the catching of fish.3
The company presently showed signs of unusual activity, and began to shift camp; the movement was not connected, as far as we could tell, with our presence, and, judging by the odour of the place, the time for it had certainly arrived. It was interesting to see their chattels brought down one by one to the canoes. Amongst them were receptacles resembling large pillboxes, about 12 inches across, made of birchwood, which was split thin and sewn with tendons. In these were kept running nooses made of whalebone for capturing wild geese, and also harpoon-lines cut out of sealskin: at one extremity of these last was a barbed head made of bone; this head, when in use, fits into the extremity of a long wooden shaft, to which it is then attached by the leather thong. The possessions included an adze-like tool for making canoes, the use of which was demonstrated, and resembled that of a plane; also an awl about 2 inches long, in form like a dumb-bell, with a protruding spike at one end. There were small pots made of birch bark for baling the boats, and some European axes. We did not see any form of cooking utensil. When all the objects, including the sealskin coverings of the huts, had been stowed in the canoes, the company all embarked and rowed off towards the open sea.
On leaving Charrua and returning to the main channel we obtained magnificent views of the Andes. Penguin Inlet leading inland opened up a marvellous panorama of snowy peaks, which can be visible only on a clear day such as we were fortunate in possessing; this range received at least one vote, in the final comparing of notes, as to the most beautiful thing seen between Punta Arenas and the Gulf of Pefias. A white line across the water showed where the ice terminated, while small pieces which reached the main channel, looked, as they floated past us, like stray water-lilies on the surface of the sea. We anchored at Ring Dove Inlet, and went on next day through Chasm Reach, where the channel is only from five hundred to a thousand yards in width. Our expectations, which had been greatly raised, were on the whole disappointed, but here again no doubt it was a question of lighting; the usually gloomy gorge was illuminated with the full radiance of the summer sun, leaving nothing to the imagination.
Chasm Reach leads into Indian Reach, in which sea, mountain, and sky formed a perfect harmony in varying shades of blue, with touches of white from high snow-clad peaks. Suddenly, in the middle of this vista, as if made to fit into the scene, appeared a dark Indian canoe with its living freight, evidently making for the vessel. We stopped the engine, threw them a line, and towed them to our anchorage in Eden Harbour. The weather had suddenly become much warmer, and the thermometer in the saloon had now risen to the comfortable but scarcely excessive height of 64°; the crew of the canoe, however, were so overcome with the heat that they spent the time pouring what must have been very chilly sea-water over their naked bodies.4
FIG. 16. — ENCAMPMENT OF THE PATAGONIAN INDIANS, BRASSEY PASS.
FIG. 17. — INDIANS OF BRASSEY PASS.
FIG. 18. — CANOE IN INDIAN REACH.
The party was conducted by two young men; a very old woman without a stitch of clothing crouched in the bow; while in the middle of the boat, in the midst of ashes, mussel-shells, and other debris, a charming girl mother sat in graceful attitude. She was, perhaps, seventeen, and wore an old coat draped round her waist, while her baby, of some eighteen months, in the attire of nature, occupied itself from time to time in trying to stand on its ten toes. A younger girl of about fourteen sat demurely in the stern with her folded arms resting on a paddle which lay athwart the canoe, beneath which two shapely little brown legs were just visible. Her rich colouring, and the faded green drapery which she wore, made against the dark background of the canoe a perfect study for an artist, but the moment an attempt was made to photograph her she hid her face in her hands. The party was completed by a couple of dogs and a family of fat tan puppies, who were held up from time to time, but whether for our admiration or purchase was not evident.
The belongings were similar to those seen at the encampment and there were also baskets on board. The young mother had a necklace which looked like a charm, and therefore particularly excited our desires: in response to our gestures she handed to us a similar one worn by the baby, which was duly paid for in matches. When we were still unsatisfied she beckoned to the young girl to sell hers, but stuck steadfastly to her own, till finally a mixed bribe of matches and biscuits proved too much, and the cherished ornament passed into our keeping. The young men readily came on deck of the yacht, but the women were obviously frightened, and kept saying mala, mala in spite of our efforts to reassure them. After we had cast anchor, the party went with our crew to show them the best spot in which to shoot the net, and on their return ran up the square sail of their canoe, the halyard passing over a mast like a small clothes-prop with a Y-shaped extremity, got out their paddles, and vanished downstream.
At Eden Harbour a wreck was lying in mid-stream, where she had evidently struck on an uncharted rock when trying to enter the bay, a danger from which no possible foresight can guard those who go down to the sea in ships. English Narrows, which was next reached, is considered the most difficult piece of navigation in the channels: a small island lies in the middle of the fairway, leaving only a narrow passage on either side, down which, under certain conditions, the tide runs at a terrific rate. It was exciting, as the yacht approached her course between the island and opposing cliff which are separated by only some 360 yards, to hear Mr. Ritchie ask Mr. Gillam to take the helm himself, and the latter give the order to "stand by the anchor" in case of mishap; but we had hit it off correctly at slack water and got through without difficulty. From there our route passed through Messier Channel, which has all the appearance of a broad processional avenue, out of which we presently turned to the right and found ourselves in Connor Cove. The harbour terminates in a precipitous gorge, down which a little river makes its way into the inlet. We endeavoured to row up it, but could not get further than 100 or 200 yards; even that distance was achieved with difficulty, owing to the number of fallen trees which lay picturesquely across the stream.
The plant life, which had always been most beautiful, became even more glorious with the rather milder climate, which we had now reached. When the trees were stunted it was from lack of soil, not from atmospheric conditions. Tree-ferns abounded, and flowering plants wandered up moss-grown stems; among the most beautiful of these blooms were one with a red bell and another one which almost resembled a snowdrop.5 The impression of the luxuriant mêlé was rather that of a tropical forest than of an almost Antarctic world, while the intrusion of rocks and falling water added peculiar charm. Butterflies were seen occasionally, and sometimes humming-birds.
Since our detention at Churruca we had been favoured with unvarying good fortune, and the crew were beginning to say that thirteen, which we had counted on board since Mr. Corry joined us, was proving our lucky number. Now, however, our fate changed; twice did we set forth from this harbour only to be obliged to return and start afresh, till we began to feel that getting under way from Connor Cove was rapidly becoming a habit. On the first occasion the weather became so thick that in the opinion of our Navigator it was not safe to proceed: the second time the wind was against us. We tried both engine and sails, but though we could make a certain amount of headway under either it was obviously impossible, at the rate of progression, to reach the next haven before nightfall; when, therefore, we were already half-way to our goal we once more found it necessary to turn round. It was peculiarly tantalising to reflect that there were, in all probability, numerous little creeks on the way in which we could have sheltered for the night, but as none of them had been surveyed there was no alternative but to go back to our previous anchorage. Residence there had the redeeming point that it proved an excellent fishing-ground. On each of the three nights the trammel was shot at a short distance from the spot where the stream entered the bay, and we obtained in all some 200 mullet. They formed an acceptable change of diet, and those not immediately needed were salted. From that time till we left the channels we were never without fresh fish, catching, in addition to mullet, bream, gurnet, and a kind of whiting; they formed part of the menu at every meal, till the more ribald persons suggested that they themselves would shortly begin to swim.
Our third effort to leave Connor Cove was crowned with greater success, and we safely reached Island Harbour, which, as its name suggests, is sheltered by outlying islands. This bay and the neighbouring anchorage of Hale Cove are the last two havens in the channels before the Gulf of Pefias is reached, and in either of them a vessel can lie with comfort and await suitable weather for putting out to sea. It is essential for a sailing vessel to obtain a fair wind, for not only has she to clear the gulf, but must, for the sake of safety, put 200 miles between herself and the land; otherwise, should a westerly gale arise, she might be driven back on to the inhospitable Patagonian coast. In Island Harbour we filled our tanks, adorned the ship for'ard with drying clothes and fish, and for three days waited in readiness to set forth. At the end of that time it was still impossible to leave the channels, but we decided to move on the short distance to Hale Cove, which we reached on December 24th. Christmas Eve was spent by three of our party, Mr. Ritchie, Mr. Corry, and Mr. Gillam, on a small rock "taking stars" till 2 a.m. The rock, which had been selected at low tide, grew by degrees unexpectedly small, and to keep carefully balanced on a diminishing platform out of reach of the rising water, while at the same time being continuously bitten by insects, was, they ruefully felt, to make scientific observations under difficulties. On Christmas Day it poured without intermission, but it was a peaceful if not an exciting day. It is, I believe, the correct thing to give the menu on these occasions: the following was ours.
Yacht MANA, R.C.C.
Christmas Day, 1913.
Potages aux légumes à I'Anglais.
Mulets d'eaux Patagonia.
Bœuf rôti d'Argentine. Pommes de terre de Punta Arenas.
Petits Pois à I'Angleterre.
Pouding Noël de Army & Navy Stores, garni "Holly Antarctic."
Fromage Gouda, Beurre, Pain de Mana, Biscuits Matelote.
Bonbons Peppermint à la School-girl.
Café de Rio de Janeiro.
The forecastle was visited after dinner and each man given a half-pound tin of tobacco. Boxing Day was comparatively fine, and a laundry was organised on shore with great success; a fire was made, old kerosene tins turned into boilers, and the articles washed in camp-baths with water from a streamlet. It is one thing, however, to wet clothes in the Patagonian Channels; it is quite another to dry them. For days afterwards the rain descended in torrents, while the wind blew persistently from the north-west; with one short intermission we lay in Hale Cove weather-bound for thirteen days, till, as some one remarked, “it was a pity that we had not given it as a postal address." It was tiresome of course, but an interval of rest for all on board after the strenuous passage of the channels was not without advantage; for ourselves journals were written up, flowers pressed, and photographs developed.
Hale Cove was fortunately one of those few ports in which it was possible to get a little exercise, which the denseness of the undergrowth generally rendered impossible. The cliffs, at the foot of which Mana lay, were precipitous and clothed with vegetation to the sky-line, they thus scarcely lent themselves to exploration. There was, however, across the small bay a southern spur, on the top of which for some reason trees had not flourished and which was comparatively clear; this it was possible to reach by landing on a little beach and scrambling along an old track which had been cut through an intermediate belt of wood. We could in this way get some sort of a walk, at the cost of course of becoming soaked through from bogs and dripping vegetation.
Not far from the cove there were traces of a small frame house, and near it flourished European wheat and grass, which had obviously taken root from stray seed. Its history was difficult to guess. Why had a white man lived there, and on what had he subsisted? The only solution suggested was that it might at one time have been a port of call for a line of steamers, and a woodman had been employed to cut fuel. Another dwelling, but made of material found on the spot, had obviously been destroyed by fire, and on its abandoned site native wigwams had been erected. The place was evidently the resort of Indians; when, therefore, we noted near the old track, and not far from the water-course, part of two rough boards protruding from the earth, we hoped that we had chanced on an Indian burial-ground, which would naturally have been of much anthropological interest. The soil which had originally covered the boards had been partially washed away by the rain, and on moving them we found, as had been guessed, that just below were human bones; they were so deeply encrusted with roots and earth that it was only by much digging with our fingers we could get them out at all. Then they proved to be in much confusion, two parts of the skull even were in different places, and it was difficult at first to say whether the body, which was that of a man in middle life, had been buried full length or in the folded attitude so common among primitive peoples. It was my first experience in scientific body-snatching, a proceeding to which later I became fairly well inured, and it felt not a little weird being thus in contact with the dead in his lonely resting-place. A great tree-fern kept guard over the grave on one side, a gnarled trunk bent over it from the other, and the sun gleamed at intervals through the thick branches of surrounding cedars. At last it became obvious that the body had been outstretched, and the grave lined as well as covered with boards, in addition to which there had been a wrapping of some woven material; it seemed therefore evident that the corpse had been that of a civilised man. Who was he? the lumberman, the remains of whose hut we had seen? one of the crew of some vessel which had put in here? or possibly a ship-wrecked mariner? for there were traces of an ill-fated vessel in a quantity of coal washed up on the beach. Why, though he had been buried with considerable care, was the grave so shallow, and why had it been left unmarked? We buried him again reverently, and though he was very possibly an unpleasant person when alive, the thoughts of one of us at least, who is naturally mid-Victorian, turned to the mother who had once borne and tended him somewhere and who could so little have pictured where he would lie.
"One midst the forest of the west
By a dark stream is laid;
The Indian knows his place of rest,
Far in the cedar shade."
The wind still being contrary, charts and sailing directions were ransacked for change of scene, and on New Year's Eve we shifted our quarters, proceeding up Kriiger Channel, and anchoring in a little cove called after De Wet: as Joubert was also in the neighbourhood, officials of the Chilean Government who had surveyed the district had apparently been of pro-Boer sympathies. On January 1st, 1914, we went out into the Gulf of Peñas, only to find that it was useless to attempt to put to sea, and we returned again to Hale Cove. The Challenger had, we found, anchored in the same spot on New Year's Day, 1876. During the next few days Mr. Ritchie, with the help of Mr. Corry, occupied himself at my husband's request in surveying a small cove as a possible anchorage for lesser craft.
A shooting expedition also took place after kelp-geese, which are large birds about the size of Aylesbury ducks. When cruising in the launch we saw at some distance a couple of them swimming in the sea; we circled round them in the endeavour to get a shot, till we were about a hundred yards distant, when they took the alarm and made off. They are unable to fly, but when, as in this case, they anticipate danger scuttle along on the top of the water, lashing it up with their webbed feet. The surface was smooth as a mirror, and the boat went about seven miles an hour, but for some two miles we were unable to overhaul them. Presently they dived and separated, and on their reappearance we continued to follow one of them. During the whole of the pursuit, whenever the wobbling of the boat and the antics of the bird permitted the fore and back sights to be brought in line, a .275 mauser bullet was sent somewhere in the neighbourhood of the fleeing object. The goose apparently came to the conclusion that the white launch, with its spluttering motor, was a peculiarly formidable sea-beast, and the safest place would be on land; he therefore went on shore, climbed up some rocks, and looked at it; a bullet between his feet, however, unsettled his mind on the subject, and he once more took to the water, where he finally met his doom. Light, who happened to be with us, witnessed the chase with intense delight, and constantly referred to it afterwards as the most exciting recollection of the voyage. As was not astonishing in the case of such an athletic bird, no part of him proved to be eatable except his liver, which was excellent.6
FIG. 19 — HALF COVE.
On Tuesday, January 6th, we at last got our favourable wind and said good-bye to Hale Cove. It is the usual resort for vessels entering and leaving the channels, but we had lain there for nearly a fortnight in the height of the season without seeing a trace of a ship, a fact which shows how little these waterways are frequented. As we passed out of the Gulf of Peñas we gazed with interest on the unfriendly and barren peaks of Wager Island, where Anson's store-ship of that name was lost on May 14th, 1740, after the squadron had rounded the Horn. The members of the crew who survived the wreck, one hundred and forty-five in number, were there for five months, at the end of which time they had been reduced by about one-third, chiefly through starvation. Seventy or eighty of the remainder then took to the longboat and cutter, of whom thirty finally reached the coast of Brazil via the Magellan Straits. The rest of the survivors, a party of twenty, including the captain and an officer named Byron, a great-uncle of the poet, made their way northward, and through the aid of Indians four of them managed to reach the Spanish settlements in Chile. The graphic account given by Byron of their surroundings on the island would be equally applicable to-day, and has already been quoted in these pages.
1 We were subsequently interested to learn from a private diary kept on board The Challenger that they had also taken their boat over into this water; they had, however, neither explored it nor marked it on the map.
2 Cape Pillar is the name which has been given to Magellan's "Cape Deseado" since the days of Sir John Narborough; it has two peaks, of which the western one is like a pillar. The point which on the chart is named Deseado lies two miles to the south-west and could not possibly have been seen by Magellan: see Early Spanish Voyages and the Straits of Magellan, edited by Sir C. Markham, Hakluyt Series II. vol. xxviii.
3 "The Indians had taught their dogs to drive the fish into a corner of some pond or lake, from whence they were easily taken out by the skill and address of these savages." — Narrative of Hon. J. Byron, ed. 1768, p. 56.
4 "We were well clothed, and though sitting close to the fire were far from too warm; yet these naked savages (Fuegians), though further off, were observed, to our great surprise, to be streaming with perspiration." — Voyage of H.M.S. "Beagle" (Darwin), ed. 1870, p. 220.
5 Philesia buxifolia and Luzuriaga erecta.
6 "Among the birds we generally shot was a bird much larger than a goose, which we called the Racehorse, from the velocity with which it moved upon the surface of the water in a sort of half-flying, half-running motion." — The Narrative of the Hon. John Byron, ed. 1768, p. 50.