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FIG. 20. — JUAN Fernandez: an impression.
Juan Fernandez was discovered by the navigator of that name on a voyage from Peru to Chile in 15 12. He rightly judged that the southerly wind, which impeded all navigation in that direction, might be adjacent only to the mainland; he therefore stood out to the west in the hope of avoiding it, and so came across the island. His voyage was so short that he was accused of witchcraft, and suffered accordingly at the hands of the Inquisition; he was rescued from its power by the Jesuits, to whom he ceded his rights in the newly discovered land. The Order founded a colony there, but it proved a failure. The abandoned island then became the resort of the buccaneers, who preyed on Spanish commerce, and who used it to refit their vessels, so that Spanish merchantmen had special orders to avoid it. The privateers turned down goats to provide meat, on which the Spaniards imported dogs to kill the goats; these achieved their purpose on the low ground, but in the hills the goats held their own, and the battle was therefore a drawn one. It was from an English privateer that the Scotsman, Alexander Selkirk, was landed in 1704; while some of the incidents in the life of Robinson Crusoe, such as those connected with the goats, rats, and cats, were taken by Defoe from the experiences of Selkirk, he is, if looked upon as the prototype of the immortal hero, somewhat of a fraud. Not only is the scene of Crusoe's adventures laid in the West Indies, but Selkirk was put on shore at his own request, with such stores as he required, because he had an objection to the captain. He knew that sooner or later the place would be visited by some ship coming to refit, and he was only there altogether four years and four months. Selkirk reported that he had slit the ears of some of the goats and let them go; a number of these animals so marked and of "venerable aspect" were found in 1741 by Anson's sailors when they arrived on the island after their passage of the Horn.
Anson's own ship, the Centurion, lay in Cumberland Bay for three months, during which time two others of the squadron and the victualler arrived at the rendezvous; the Gloucester had a terrible experience, being a month within sight of the island with her men dying daily of scurvy, and unable through contrary winds to make the anchorage. The crews of the three men-of-war had numbered on their departure from England 961: only 335 of these were alive when they left Fernandez. The state of affairs is less surprising considering that Anson was obliged to take a large consignment of Chelsea pensioners; the almost incredible age of some of the company comes out incidentally in the statement 'that owing to scurvy the wound of one man reopened which had been received in the battle of the Boyne fifty years before.1 The island was subsequently occupied by the Spanish, and after the independence of Chile it was for a while used as a convict settlement.
Our time in "quarantine" at Juan Fernandez proved most enjoyable. We lay in Cumberland Bay, which is the only anchorage; being on the north side, it is sheltered from the southeast trade wind. The island is volcanic, but the actual craters have broken down in course of ages, and their form can no longer be traced, at least by the superficial observer; it is now a mass of mountains of striking shapes, interspersed with wooded ravines. We were able to see certain portions, mounted on ponies, but much of the ground must be impossible to traverse. S. had a day's goat-stalking, but saw only two animals, and those were out of rifle shot; the ponies, he said, scrambled about like cats, putting their fore feet on the higher rocks and so dragging themselves up. The cattle which roam over the island are not infrequently killed by falling down the precipices. Our meat orders were executed by four men in a boat armed with rifles, who went round by sea to some spot where the beasts were likely to be found, and having shot one cut it up and brought it back. The result was rather a plethora of Sunday beef even for a yacht's hungry crew.
FIG. 21. — CUMBERLAND BAY, JUAN FERNANDEZ
A spot known as Selkirk's Look-out (fig. 20B), on the dividing ridge of the island, commands glorious views of the other side and the adjacent island of Santa Clara; to gaze down from the wooded heights on to the panorama of sea and land 2,000 feet below seemed like a glimpse into an enchanted land. The tablet which marks the spot was put up by H.M.S. Topaze in 1868. We also visited a cave (d) which tradition points out as Selkirk's first residence, rowing in the boat round cliffs so steep that a stone dropped from the top would fall more than 1,000 feet clear into the sea; flights of pigeons wheeled out from the rocks, looked at us, and went away again. The landing-place for the cave is somewhat dangerous from the view of safety to the ship's boats, being in a cove whose beach is composed of big boulders. Once on shore the way lies through a mountain-spur on the right, which has been worn by the force of the waves into an imposing natural arch. It leads on to a little lawn at the end of a valley running up into the mountains, down which flows a small stream. In the hillside is the cave opening on to the meadow and looking out to sea; the fireplace is visible, also a shelf cut in the rock and niches to hold utensils. A prominent feature near the anchorage are six or eight large caves (c), like big halls, the roofs of which are adorned with drooping ferns, giving the effect of a beautiful greenhouse: if originally natural they have probably been much enlarged. They are said to have been used by the Spaniards for their prisoners. Someone had been digging in the floor for treasure, under the assumption that it had been left by pirates, presumably of an earlier day.
FIG. 22. — SELKIRK’S CAVE, JUAN FERNANDEZ
Juan Fernandez has at present some 300 inhabitants; its industry is lobster-canning. Lobsters are also taken alive in the tank of a motor-schooner to Valparaiso, their value growing en route from 2d. each in the island to 3s. 9d. in the city. The schooner was also the mail-carrier, and we took a mutual and friendly interest in one another, as she and Mana were about the same size. An old gentleman was in charge of the island as governor, supported by four gendarmes; serious offenders are exported to the mainland. The means of communication will shortly be more rapid, as a house was already built to be used for wireless installation (A).
On March 9th, 1915, one year precisely from the date we left the island, the German ship Dresden arrived in Cumberland Bay. She had been driven by want of coal out of her hiding-places in the southern channels and sought refuge at Juan Fernandez. Here after five days she was found by the Glasgow with her flag still flying. She had many times broken neutrality regulations, and the Chilean governor with his gendarmes could scarcely, as will have been seen, be expected to intern her. The Glasgow fired, the Dresden replied, tried to negotiate, and then blew herself up. The crew had all been landed, and the officers were conveyed to Chile with the mails and lobsters. Thus in the twentieth century did Fernandez once again play its part as a place of resort in time of war.
After five days, no illness having appeared, we felt we might with safety depart, and we started therefore on our 2,000 mile voyage, the last stage of the outward journey.
1 See Anson's Voyage Round the World, quarto ed., 1748, p. 102.