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in spring, and did not finish till August, on the 10th of which month the survivers departed for Kamtschatka, and on the 25th entered the Bay of Awatscha, whence they had departed with such bright hopes. In the Port of Petropaulski they found a good store of provisions, left by their companionship the St. Paul, from which storms had early separated Behring's vessel ; and with the help of these supplies another winter was passed. In the following spring the crew of the wrecked St. Peter reached the part of Okotsk on the southeast coast of Siberia, having been exposed for nearly three years to the vicissitudes of a navigation on those storny shores.
Thus closed the last voyage of Behring, in which, having completed his work, and put the key-stone to his labours, he died in the midst of his discoveries, leaving to Russia the reward of his toils, and to succeeding navigators the task of enlarging our knowledge of the regions first explored by himself. A monument to his memory may be seen by the northern navigator in the garden of the governor of Petropaulski, raised by the Russian government near the spot where Behring took his last departure for the shores of Kamtschatka.
THE MIDSHIPMAN'S ADVENTURE ;
THE SUFFERINGS OF BYRON AND THE CREW OF HER MAJESTY'S
SHIP WAGER, ON THE COAST OF SOUTH AMERICA.
AR was declared against Spain by England, in the
year 1739, in consequence of the injuries inflic
ted by the navy of the former power upon the and commerce of the latter in the West Indies. Admiral Vernon and Commodore Anson were despatched with their respective fleets to attack the Spanish settlements on the coasts of South America, and succeeded in causing much damage to the sea-ports and trade of the enemy. The warlike proceedings of these squadrons require no discussion in the ensuing pages, as neither the conquest of Porto Bello by Vernon, nor the capture of the treasureladen galleon by Anson, form any portion of the adventures detailed in this chapter. Commodore Anson left England with a fleet of eight sail in September, 1740, and sailed directly for the western coasts of South America, which the squadron was prevented from reaching by a furious tempest scattering the ships whilst attempting to beat through the Straits of Le Maire* between the island of Staten Land and the coast of Terra del Fuego. Two of the vessels returned to Rio Janiero, whilst the others harassed the coasts, attacking towns and capturing merchant-ships. One ship, The Wager, of twenty-eight guns and 160 men, must now engage our exclusive attention, as she never returned to England, and few of her crew again beheld the shores of Britain.
* These straits were discovered in the early part of the seventeenth century by Le Maire, a Dutchman, from whom they are named.
+ This group of islands received the name of Terra del Furgo (land of fire), from a volcano on one of the highest peaks.
John Byron, afterwards commodore, and grandfather of the famous poet, was a midshipman on board this vessel, and shared the sufferings of her crew on the desolate shores and wild districts of the Indian country.
Of these adventures Byron afterwards wrote a detailed account, from which the ensuing particulars are principally derived. To these maritime perils of his ancestry Lord Byron has referred in various parts of his poems ; thus, when feeding his melaucholy and discontented spirit with bitter reflections on the past events of his life, a comparison is made between the sea-storms which wrecked the ship of his grandfather, and those tempests of the heart which had drifted him far from peace :
“ He had no rest at sea, nor I on shore !”
The Wager accompanied the squadron as a store-ship, carrying not only the heavy artillery of the fleet, but provisions and merchandize, which rendered her movements more slow than the less cncumbered ships. In addition to these impediments she was unfitted to cope with the heavy storms of the Southern Ocean, in consequence of the bad state of the timbers, and her general unfitness for the purposes of a war-ship, she having formerly been employed in the Indian trade, and so better qualified for commercial than for war
These defects were not compensated by the efficiency of the crew, part of which consisted of feeble old men drafted from Chelsea Hospital. So shamefully was the administration of the navy then neglected that ships were thus despatched to an enemy's coast, at the extremity of the globe, with such feeble equipments. The vessel was with difficulty navigated through the rough Straits of Le Maire, narrowly escaping shipwreck on the rocky shores of Staten Land ; but a heavy storm from the west soon coming on, the ship was so terribly shattered as to be unable to hold her course. The rest of the fleet became invisible, and the battered Wager began to drive towards the dangerous coast of Patagonia, by which it was at last apprehended the vessel would be landlocked, as the captain persisted in kecping too much to the east, hoping thus to rejoin the commodore at the Isle of Neustro Senoro del Socoro, near the coast of Chili.
To this point the captain had positive instructions to sail, and therefore made direct for the rendezvous, with the laudable object of supplying the commodore with the ammunition and stores necessary for the siege of the Spanish fortified towns. Captain Cheap imagined that he was but fearlessly fulfilling his duty by thus desperately holding his course on a lee shore, forgetting, like most men of mere blind courage, that an officer must possess a keen eye to foresee, and circumspection to ward off, danger, in addition to that bravery which is ever ready to grapple with the foc. Those qualities were, however, little regarded by the commander of the Wager, who pushed along the dangerous coast heedless of the fears expressed by his officers, who were justly alarmed by the appearance of weeds and land birds--certain signs of a dangerous proximity to the shore.
At last a cloudy dim-shaped mass loomed through the misty air, which to some appeared like the vast rounded summits of the giant Cordilleras, though others, sharing the captain's reckless confidence, deemed them but airy shapes floating in the heated atmosphere. The appearance, however, grew more and more defined, and at length the terrible conviction, that the ship was sailing directly for the land, flashed upon the whole crew. Those misty-looking mountain summits, which had been so recently observed, were at length regarded as neglected monitors of a danger now menacing the doomed ship. The land bore north-west of the Wager, which it was impossible to steer from the shore, as the wind blew a furious hurricane from the sea, and resisted every attempt to wear the ship. Every heave of the Pacific now bore the vessel nearer to the peril ; and whilst the crew were battling with wind and wave, night came on, accompanied by tempest and thick darkness, thus not only increasing their dangers but diminishing the means of extricating themselves fro the chain of breakers, upon whose foam crested ridge they were drifting when the sun went down.
After nightfall the Wager became almost unmanagable, the few sails which were set being torn from the masts, whilst vast waves broke incessantly over her, sweeping the whole length of the deck. Amidst this confusion and horror many of the sick crawled upon the deck, as if dreading to meet death in their suffocating holes below. They appeared but to die ; one after another these half-dead and enfeebled men were torn from the rigging and timbers, grasped in vain by their skeleton hands, and borne unnoticed over the sides of their ship by the wild waters. None could even attempt to assist his fellow in the darkness, and few cries were heard amid the shrieking of the hurricane, as it tore like some maddened sea-demon, through the rigging. At one moment a long-sustained wailing sound broke so horribly over the waves that all expected the ship must be torn in pieces ; at another the ocean rolled on, like the roar of some mighty cataract, dashing its whole collected force upon the shivering bulwarks of the groaning ship. To add to the terror, all this proceeded amidst darkness so dense that neither captain, officers, nor men could distinguish the true nature of the perils which each knew to be close at hand. About four o'clock in the morning the crew felt as if some crushing wave had split the timbers of the Wager ; the shock was instantly repeated, and the ship flung upon her beam ends, with a force which loosened every plank. The ship had struck : all now expected to enter in a few moments those whirling waters, and there find a grave. Whilst awaiting the effect of this blow a huge wave lifted the Wager from the breaker, and hove her upon another rock which smashed her rudder, and crushed in the stoutest timber. Hope now seemed to leave the crew, who began to exhibit traces of frenzy ; some drawing cutlasses rushed upon the rest, and were knocked down in self defence ; others sat stupified and utterly helpless, though these consisted chiefly of the sick who saw no hope of escape. A few, however, preserved the calm courage of the British sailor, standing nobly to their duty amid the savage desolation of the scene. The man at the helm displayed that presence of mind without which, in the moment of danger, man becomes not only helpless but contemptible. Though the rudder' had been carried away, he kept his station, waiting quietly for the word from his officers, and when they inquired of him “whether the ship would steer," he first tried the wheel and then answered with