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experienced at the height of between one and two thousand feet on the mountains of North Wales, having, however, less sunshine and less frost, but more wind and rain.” After this assertion had been proved to be totally incorrect, and after the evidence of Captain Sulivan's letters, it is surprising that in the second edition of “ A Naturalist's Voyage,” the author should have appended the following foot-note to p. 189
“ From accounts published since our voyage, and more especially from several interesting letters from Captain Sulivan, R.N., employed on the survey, it appears that we took an exaggerated view of the badness of the climate of these islands. But when I reflect on the almost universal covering of peat" (query, what has that to do with climate ?) and on the fact of wheat seldom ripening there” (incorrect), “I can hardly believe the climate in summer is so fine and dry as it has lately been represented.” Now the truth is, that the temperature of the Falklands is very
similar to that of Devon or Cornwall, with this difference, that it is rather milder, much drier in summer, but very windy. The evaporation is excessive ; so much so that, in this particular, it exceeds the Cape de Verds. This is, indeed, an extraordinary fact, especially when the latitude of the latter region is considered. So extreme a dryness of air may hereafter be turned to excellent account in the manufacture of salt; and should this anticipation turn out to be practically correct, a valuable article of commerce will be added to the productions of the Falklands. South America is now principally supplied with salt from Cheshire in England, and the Cape de Verds; the length of the voyage in both instances being much against a cheap and certain supply.
The Falklands are remarkably accessible to pedestrians (see Fitzroy, p. 247); and the earth is clothed with a variety of nourishing grasses, which are equally sweet with the delicate parts of the foliage of Indian
It is not at all surprising, therefore, that animals in these islands should grow to an enormous size, nor that their meat should be of very delicate flavour.
The tussock (see Ross's Voyage, p. 269), is a gigantic species of grass, frequently growing to the height of ten feet, and, where abundant, not only capable of sheltering, but absolutely concealing, herds of cattle or horses. Tussock is called “the glory of the Falklands.” An instance is mentioned in Ross's voyage of two American seamen (deserters), who lived solely on the core of this grass for fourteen months ; and, when reclaimed from their wild wanderings, were plump, healthy, and in excellent spirits! Cattle and horses are ravenously fond of tussock; so much so, that the author has a vivid remembrance of the wild cattle eating the dry thatch, composed of this material, from a small cabin he had erected as an armourer's forge. This was seen by him with a spyglass from the deck of the Arrow, when the beasts were descried, reared on their hind legs, easily pulling down what the crew with so much trouble had completed.*
In 1839, the cattle were computed to be about 30,000 head. Their increase since that time must have been enormous, as they are now estimated at 200,000. The only way to account for this prodigious
A small specimen of this grass is growing luxuriantly in the seed-warehouse of Messrs. Page and Son, above Bar, Southampton.
multiplication is, that since the former period, whalers and other marauders have been kept off from some of the stations, by the settlement and occupation of the islands. It is, however, to be regretted that in the remote parts great depredations are still committed on the cattle. This is beginning to be felt as a serious drawback to the outlay of capital. Pebble Island, for instance, and the islands adjacent, are admirably adapted for cattle-stations: unfortunately, however, this is the very locality now resorted to by marauders for stealthily obtaining beef, not merely for present supply, but for committing so wholesale & destruction as will enable them to salt down sufficient for a long cruise. It is pretty well known that in numerous vessels from England, America, and other places, a stock of salt is taken out for the purpose
of curing a supply of provisions at the expense of these islands. The only way to prevent this pillage, which years of impunity have seemed to sanction, would be by stationing on the spot one or two small vessels – for example, two cutters, rigged as ketches, under a commander : these, constantly moving about, would not only scare away the light-fingered gentry, but a portion of the crews would be eminently useful in erecting buildings for government purposes, cultivating gardens, and making preparations for colonisation, either penal or otherwise. The expense would be little or nothing : say, one commander, one lieutenant, two second masters, twenty able seamen, twenty marines, and sixteen others -in all, sixty. These officers and men could easily navigate one ketch of 120 tons and another of sixty, and be a complete protection to the whole islands.
It is believed that these islands are frequently made use of by fraudulent persons much in the same manner as the Bahama banks are in the West Indian seas; that is to say, ships are purposely lost there to defraud underwriters. Many instances are known of vessels being "cast away" in the most unaccountable manner. In several instances ships thus lost in some of the basin-like barbours, have been sold for a
mere song,” recovered at little expense, and are still bearing rich freights across the seas ! The fact of a naval officer being on the spot would prevent such disgraceful proceedings, and save thousands yearly
The undeservedly bad name borne by the Falklands, tempts fraudulent adventurers ; but were people in general well informed as to the admirable and safe ports in these islands, the utmost surprise would be expressed at ships being lost there. As it is, the unprincipled master has a certainty of a safe and comfortable wreck; preserves his life and as many private stores as he may think necessary; loudly trumpets forth the dangerous nature of the islands; and thus disarms and silences suspicion. From the enormous increase of trade in this direction, the author ventures to predict that the underwriters in England will be thoroughly fleeced in insuring vessels round the Horn, and that the islands will be innocently accused of being the cause ; but he asserts advisedly that no well-found, well-managed ship need be lost on the Falklands.
As a corroboration of the apparently marvellous increase of animals alluded to above, the following is quoted from the narrative of a voyage by Lopez in 1586, published in the third volume of "Hakluyt's Voyages and Travels :" “ Of all the men Don Pedro left behind him, there were
but 200 left alive, who, in the ship's boats, went higher up the river ; leaving in the place called Buenos Ayres their mares and horses. But it is a wonder to see, that of thirty inares and seven horses, which the Spaniards left there, the increase in forty years was so great, that the country twenty leagues up is full of horses; whereby a man can conjecture the goodness of the pasture and the fruitfulness of the soil.”
The following sketches are extracted from a diary kept by the author whilst surveying the Falklands in 1838 and 1839. On the site of the present town, Port Stanley, he shot five wild geese at one discharge. Before that time the harbour was unsurveyed, and consequently unknown; and the whole population, exclusive of the officers and men surveying, consisted of about one dozen persons !
PLEASANT HARBOUR. — The barometer fell so fast, that the surveying party did not think it prudent to leave the vessel. Every preparation was made for a heavy gale; as we knew, by experience, that the weather-glass is a faithful monitor. At noon we began to feel the breeze ; and by 2 P.M. we had as hard a gale of wind, accompanied by as fierce and powerful squalls, with numerous flakes of snow, as I ever experienced. Our situation was desolate in the extreme: to leeward, a range of rocky hills covered with snow, the harbour itself (a branch of Port Fitzroy) lashed by the furious gale into one sheet of foam ; and to windward, a small islet covered with tussock, the long leaves of which, bending and bowing as in despair, added to the dreariness of the prospect; while the entrance to the harbour and the head of the bay were hidden from our view by large flakes of snow driving furiously past us. To deepen the effect of this dismal picture, we were conscious of being 104° of latitude from Old England; and that, in case of need, we were several hundred miles away from the nearest assistance. In spite of all this, we were perfectly comfortable and jolly, and cared not one farthing for the gale, as we had not only full reliance on our own resources, but abundance of “creature comforts,” to say nothing of the appearance of our spritsail-yard, which was not merely decorated, but positively loaded, with game of all kinds.
Towards night, as usual, the gale abated. The next morning, after divisions, it being Sunday, divine service was performed (a ceremony omitted only on one occasion while Captain Sulivan and myself were aboard the vessel, when, during a very heavy gale of wind, we were battened down). After the ship's company had dined, some of the crew were allowed to land for a walk; but as no fire-arms were permitted to be carried on the Sabbath, it was customary to put the men on an islet, in order to avoid any danger from the wild animals which infested the mainland. On the day in question, about twenty were landed on the little tussock isle close to which we lay; and as certain of the officers, myself among the number, wished to go, we all went together, and soon began to amuse ourselves in the best way we could. These tussock beds are very singular places: they have been undisturbed for ages, and by the perpetual decay and renewal of the flags the whole place where they grow is covered with large lumps of vegetable matter as inflammable as tinder. The long thin leaves interlock above, and form,
here and there, little cloisters from five to twenty yards long in some places. The paths thus formed are trodden perfectly smooth by the numerous penguins, whose holes branch off in
direction. As we were looking about us, one of our party suddenly observed that he smelt smoke. Though such a remark on an uninhabited island was of a nature to excite surprise, no one seemed to heed it till, minutes, thick reeky volumes began to roll over our heads, when it struck me that some of our careless vagabonds had set fire to the weather-side. Off we started for very life, though we had only about 200 yards to go. The ground was exces
essively difficult, as some of the lumps above described were five feet high, and the flags on the summits many feet above our heads. The crackling of the flames was plainly heard, as if close to us, and we were nearly suffocated by the dense smoke. At length, after a desperate struggle, in which several shoes and caps were lost, we gained the beach, rushed into the boat, and pushed off. We were barely in time ; for the next instant the little bank over which we had scampered was a mass of bright flame. Not a moment was lost in sending a boat round to the weather-side (the leeward being impracticable, on account of heat and smoke) to look for the rest of our men, about whom we were, of course,
The thoughtless fellows were found sitting quietly on the beach smoking their pipes, and looking with vacant pleasure on their work, not dreaming that some of their shipmates might, as the Ameri
have been used up” by it. The next morning, anxious to see the effects of the fire, I landed early, and having examined the ashes, ascertained that a very great number of birds had been destroyed by the conflagration. The island consists of about 300 acres, of which, I am convinced, there are not a dozen square yards without a nest of some kind of bird containing four or five eggs, or callow brood. In the portion of land wherein the fire raged, the young birds were roasted alive, besides a few seals, whose remains we found pretty well singed. The authors of this wholesale destruction said it was quite pitiable to see the larger birds, such as geese, caranchos, &c., flying round the flames that were consuming their young, and screaming with horror. Now and then one of them would fall in, either suffocated by the smoke or scorched by the heat.
A day or two subsequently, Captain Sulivan and myself landed with our guns on an exploring excursion. After about an hour's walk round a lake, during which we jointly bagged upwards of forty teal, we saw, on turning the corner of a gully, a huge bull half hidden among the bushes, as if fast asleep. Dropping on our knees, we crawled back some distance, for the purpose of changing our small shot for ball. Having thrown down our game and shooting-jackets, we stealthily advanced on all-fours, and crept up to a small bank within fifteen yards of the brute's great head, which lay fully exposed to us ; then, resting our guns, we both fired our left barrels at a concerted signal, reserving the right. The beast did not move; and, to our mortification, we found, on a nearer approach, that we had valiantly been attacking a dead animal. It was some consolation, however, to discover that our two bullet-holes were touching each other in the centre of his brain. Knowing full well that we might reckon on a speedy detection of our exploit, and, consequently, on being well laughed at, we determined to ward off the expected ridicule by turning the tables on our shipmates ;
Oct,--VOL. LXXXVII. NO. CCCXLVI.
accordingly, going on board with joyful countenances, we said (which was true enough) that we had shot a bull through the brain, and that he had not stirred afterwards. On hearing this, a party was formed, and saws, knives, and other butchering instruments were taken, for the purpose of cutting up the spoil, towards which, after receiving the necessary directions, they started in high glee; while we sat down to dinner, chuckling at our ruse, which, if it did not deceive our companions, had the desired effect in diverting the laughter from ourselves.
When we had completed the survey of Pleasant Harbour, we took the vessel some miles further up. As we advanced towards the head of the harbour, the beauties of the place opened on us. Sometimes the passage was so narrow that one might have thrown one's hat ashore on either side ; and anon it spread out to a broad sheet of water. The whole scene was so desolate and dumb that, in giving the word of command, as the different windings made it necessary to shift the yards, my own voice startled me.
The water-fowl, noiselessly parting on each side of our bow as the vessel came up to them, did not appear alarmed, but stared at us with grave astonishment. At eight o'clock we came to and moored in a large sheet of water, about ten miles from the harbour's mouth.
While enjoying my cigar on deck, and deriving pleasure from the soft, serene air of evening, 1 perceived two bulls grazing close to the shore just ahead of the vessel. The surveyors, who were engaged below laying down their work, immediately stopped business and came up. Having only one day's beef on board, we determined to attack the bulls ; and, in a few minutes, four of us were pulling for the shore with well-loaded guns. Our proceedings had got wind on the lower deck, and all hands crowded up the rigging to see the battle. We landed under the bank, in such a position as not to be seen by our prey, who were quietly grazing all the time. Stealthily, like Indians, we climbed the bank, and jumped over the brow full before them. They immediately turned tail and fled. Captain Sulivan fired at the nearest brute as he turned, and, though at the distance of fifty yards, we could clearly hear the “ thud” of the ball striking him, which it did about six inches behind the heart. This was a staggering blow, but did not prevent his running away. La Porte (our dog) was immediately slipped, caught the bull about three hundred yards inland, and flew at his flank, which caused him to face about and attack the dog. Time was thus given me to get within fifteen yards of the spot, when, lowering his head, the brute charged me. My right-hand barrel, however, damped his ardour, and he turned half round as if to fly. My second bullet now went clean through his body a few inches above the heart, and, for a moment, brought him on his knees. While I drew my knife in order to hamstring him, he suddenly rallied, and appeared to collect what strength was left him for one last desperate effort -always the most dangerous. At this moment Mr. Sulivan jun. came up and presented his gun, but the vile Brummagem snapped without going off; and we should have been in rather an awkward predicament, had not Captain Sulivan, with his remaining barrel, within five yards, laid the bull dead at his feet, the bullet passing through the centre of the brain, and coming out at the back of his head. The moment he fell, we were greeted by three loud cheers from the people at our mast-head, and, in a few minutes, had thirty stout fellows with us. After disembowelling our prey, we attached a strong line to his horns, and, with a sailor-song