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A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 11
by Robert Kerr
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On their return, they had the good fortune to fall in with several pieces of beef, swimming in the sea, which had been washed out of the wreck, which afforded them a most seasonable relief, after the hardships they had endured. To complete their good fortune, there came shortly afterwards to the place two canoes with Indians, among whom there happened to be a native of Chiloe, who spoke a little Spanish. The surgeon who accompanied Captain Cheap understood that language, and made a bargain with the Chiloe Indian, that, if he would carry the captain and his people in the barge to Chiloe, he should have her and all her furniture for his reward. Accordingly, on the 6th of March, the eleven persons, to which the company was now reduced, embarked again in the barge on this new expedition. After having proceeded a few days, the captain and four of his principal officers being on shore, the six, who remained in the barge along with an Indian, shoved her off and put to sea, and never returned again.

Captain Cheap, together with Mr Hamilton, lieutenant of marines, the honourable Mr Byron and Mr Campbell, midshipmen, and Mr Elliot, the surgeon, were thus left on shore in the most deplorable situation imaginable. It might be thought that their distresses, long before this time, were hardly capable of being increased: Yet they found their present situation much more dismaying than any thing they had hitherto experienced; being left on a desert coast, far from the haunts of men, without provisions, or the means of procuring any, and with no visible prospect of relief; for their arms and ammunition, and every convenience that had hitherto remained to them, except the few tattered garments they had on, were all carried away in the barge. While revolving the various circumstances of this new and unlooked-for calamity, and sadly persuaded that they had no possible relief to hope for, they perceived a canoe at a distance, which proved to be that belonging to the Indian of Chiloe, who had undertaken to convey them to that island. He it seems had left Captain Cheap and his people, only a little before, to go a fishing in his canoe, accompanied by his family, leaving the barge in the mean time under the care of the other Indian, whom the sailors had carried with them to sea. When he came on shore, and found the barge and his companion gone, he was much concerned, and was with difficulty persuaded that his companion had not been murdered; yet, being at last satisfied with the account that was given him by Mr Elliot, he still undertook to carry them to the Spanish settlements, and, being well skilled in fishing and fowling, he undertook also to provide them in provisions by the way.

About the middle of March, Captain Cheap and his four remaining companions set out for Chiloe; their Indian conductor having provided several canoes, and gathered many of his countrymen together for that purpose. Mr Elliot, the surgeon, soon afterwards died, so that there now only remained four of the whole company. At last, after a very complicated passage, partly by sea and partly by land, Captain Cheap, Mr Byron, and Mr Campbell, arrived at the island of Chiloe, where they were received by the Spaniards with great humanity; but, on account of some quarrel among the Indians, Mr Hamilton did not get there till two months later. It was thus above a twelvemonth, from the loss of the Wager, before this fatiguing peregrination terminated. The four who now remained were brought so extremely low, by their fatigues and privations, that in all probability none of them would have survived, had their distresses continued only a few days longer. The captain was with difficulty recovered; and the rest were so reduced by labour, the severity of the weather, scantiness of food, and want of all kinds of necessaries, that it was wonderful how they had supported themselves so long.

After some stay at Chiloe, the captain and the other three who were with him, were sent to Valparaiso, and thence to St Jago, the capital of Chili, where they continued above a year, and where they were joined by Mr Hamilton. News arriving that a cartel had been settled between Great Britain and Spain, Captain Cheap, Mr Byron, and Mr Hamilton, were permitted to return to Europe in a French ship. Mr Campbell, the other midshipman, having changed his religion while at St Jago, chose to go from thence to Buenos Ayres along with Pizarro and his officers, overland, and went with them afterwards to Spain in the Asia: But failing in his endeavours to procure a commission from the court of Spain, he returned to England, and attempted in vain to get reinstated in the British navy. He has since published a narration of his adventures in which he complains of the injustice that has been done him and strongly disavows having ever been in the Spanish service: but, as the change of his religion and his offering himself to the court of Spain, though he was not accepted, are matters which he must be conscious can be incontestably proved, he has been entirely silent on these two heads.[5]

[Footnote 5: The circumstances connected with the loss of the Wager, and of the separation of the Severn and the Pearl, will be given more at large, by way of supplement to the circumnavigation. The incidents which occur to bold and unfortunate navigators are certainly curious and interesting; but the author of Anson's Voyage seems to have forgotten, that the circumstances respecting the countries they visited, especially such of these which are so little known, are of infinitely greater utility.—E.]



SECTION XIV.

Conclusion of Proceedings at Juan Fernandez, from the Arrival of the Anna Pink, to our final Departure from thence.

About a week after the arrival of the Anna pink, the Tryal sloop, which had been sent to examine the island of Masefuero, returned to an anchor at Juan Fernandez, having gone entirely round that island, without seeing any one of our squadron. As, on this occasion, the island of Masefuero was more particularly examined, I have no doubt, than it had ever been before, or perhaps ever may be again, and as the knowledge of it may be of great consequence hereafter, under peculiar circumstances, I think it incumbent to insert the accounts given of it by the officers of the Tryal.

The Spaniards have generally mentioned two islands, under the same of Juan Fernandez, naming them the greater and the less;[1] the greater being that island, where we anchored, and the less that we are now about to describe; which, because it is more distant from the continent, they call Masefuero. The Tryal found that it bore from the greater Juan Fernandez, W. by S. about twenty-two leagues distant. It is much larger and better than has been usually represented, being reported by former writers as a small barren rock, destitute of wood and water, and altogether inaccessible. Whereas our people found that it was covered with trees, and that there were several fine falls of water pouring down its sides into the sea. They found, also, that there is a place on its north side, where a ship might come to an anchor, though indeed the anchorage be inconvenient; for the bank is steep, and extends only a little way, and has very deep water, so that she must anchor very near the shore, and be there exposed to all winds, except those from the southward. Besides the inconvenience of the anchorage, there is also a reef of rocks, about two miles in length, running off the eastern point of the island, though these are little to be feared, because always to be seen, by the sea breaking over them. This island has at present one advantage beyond Juan Fernandez, as it abounds in goats; and as these are not accustomed to be disturbed, they were no way shy till they had been frequently fired at. These animals reside here in great tranquillity, as the Spaniards, not thinking this island sufficiently considerable to be frequented by their enemies, have not been solicitous to destroy the provisions it contains, so that no dogs have hitherto been put on shore there. Besides goats, the people of the Tryal found there vast numbers of seals and sea lions; and upon the whole, though they did not consider it as the most eligible place for ships to refresh at, yet, in case of necessity, it might afford some sort of shelter, and prove of considerable use, especially to a single ship, apprehensive of meeting an enemy at Juan Fernandez.

[Footnote 1: They also distinguish the greater by the name of Isla de Tierra, as being nearer the main land of Chili. There is yet a third and smallest island, a little way from the S.W. extremity of the largest, called J. de Cabras or Conejos, Goat or Rabbit island.—E.]

The latter end of the month of December was spent in unloading the provisions from the Anna pink; when we had the mortification to find, that great quantities of our provisions, as bread, rice, groats, &c. were decayed and unfit for use. This had been occasioned by the Anna taking in water, by her working and straining in bad weather; owing to which several of her casks had rotted, and many of her bags were soaked through. Having now no farther occasion for her services, the commodore, pursuant to his orders from the admiralty, sent notice to her master, Mr Gerard, that he now discharged the Anna pink from attending the squadron, and gave him a certificate at the same time, specifying how long she had been employed. In consequence of this dismission, her master was left at liberty, either to return directly to England, or to make the best of his way to any port where he thought he could take in such a cargo as might serve the interest of his owners. But, sensible of the bad condition of his ship, and her unfitness for any such voyage, the master wrote next day to the commodore, stating, that he had reason to apprehend the bottom of the Anna to be very much decayed, from the great quantity of water she had let in on her passage round Cape Horn, and ever since, in the tempestuous weather she had experienced on the coast of Patagonia; that her upper decks were rotten abaft; that she was extremely leaky; that her fore-beam was broken; and, in short, that, in his opinion, it was impossible to proceed with her to sea, unless she were thoroughly repaired. He therefore requested of the commodore, that the carpenters of the squadron might be directed to survey her, so that their judgment of her condition might be known. In compliance with this request, the carpenters were ordered to make a careful and accurate survey of the Anna, and to give in a faithful report to the commodore of her condition; directing them to proceed with such circumspection, that they might be able, if hereafter called upon, to confirm the veracity of their report upon oath. Pursuant to these orders, the carpenters immediately set about the examination, and made their report next day. This was in substance, That the Anna had no less than fourteen knees and twelve beams broken, and decayed; one breast-hook broken, and another decayed; her water-ways open and decayed; two standards and several clamps broken, besides others much rotten; all her iron-work greatly decayed; her spirkiting and timbers very rotten; that, having ripped off part of her sheathing, her wales and outside planks were extremely defective; and her bows and decks were very leaky. From all these defects and decays, they certified that, in their opinion, the vessel could not depart from Juan Fernandez, without great hazard, unless previously thoroughly repaired.

In our present situation, this thorough repair was impracticable, all the plank and iron in the squadron being insufficient for that purpose. Wherefore, the opinion of the master being confirmed by this report, he presented a petition to the commodore, in behalf of his owners, praying, as his vessel was incapable of leaving the island, that her hull, materials, and furniture, might be purchased for the use of the squadron. The commodore, therefore, ordered an inventory to be taken of every thing belonging to the pink, with its just value; and as many of her stores might become useful in repairing the other ship, these articles having become very scarce, in consequence of the great quantities already expended, he agreed with Mr Gerard to purchase the whole for L300. The pink was now broken up, Mr Gerard and her hands being sent on board the Gloucester, as that ship had buried the greatest number of men in proportion to her complement. Two or three of them were afterwards received into the Centurion on their petition, as they were averse from sailing in the same ship with their old master, on account of some ill usage they alledged to have suffered from him.

This transaction brought us down to the beginning of September, by which time our people were so far recovered from the scurvy, that there was little danger of burying any more for the present. I shall therefore now sum up the whole of our loss since our departure from England, the better to convey some idea of our past sufferings and our then remaining strength. In the Centurion, since leaving St Helens, we had buried 292 men, and had 214 remaining. This will doubtless appear a most extraordinary mortality, yet that in the Gloucester had been much greater; as, out of a much smaller crew than ours, she had lost the same number, and had only 82 remaining alive. It might have been expected that the mortality would have been the most terrible in the Tryal, as her decks were almost constantly knee deep in water: But it happened otherwise, for she escaped more favourably than the other two, having only buried 42, and had 39 remaining alive. The havoc of this cruel disease had fallen still more severely on the invalids and marines, than on the sailors. For, in the Centurion, out of 50 invalids and 79 marines, there only remained four invalids, including officers, and 11 marines. In the Gloucester every invalid perished; and of 48 marines, only two escaped. It appears from this account, that the three ships departed from England with 961 men on board, of whom 626 were dead, and 335 men and boys only remained alive; a number greatly insufficient for manning the Centurion alone, and barely capable of navigating all the three with the utmost exertion of their strength and vigour.

This prodigious reduction of our men was the more alarming, as we were hitherto unacquainted with the fate of the squadron under Pizarro, and had reason to suppose that some part of it, at least, had got round into the South Seas. We were, indeed, much of opinion, from our own sad experience, that they must have suffered greatly in the passage: but then every port in the South Sea was open to them, and the whole power of Peru and Chili would be exerted for their refreshment and repair, and for recruiting their loss of men. We had, also, some obscure information of a force to be fitted out against us from Paluo; and, however contemptible the ships and sailors of this part of the world may have been generally esteemed, it was hardly possible for any thing bearing the name of a ship of war, to be feebler or less considerable than ourselves. Even if there had been nothing to apprehend from the naval power of the Spaniards in these seas, yet our enfeebled situation necessarily gave us great uneasiness, as we were incapable of making an attempt against any of their considerable places; for, in our state of weakness, the risking even of twenty men, would have put the safety of the whole in hazard. We conceived, therefore, that we should be forced to content ourselves with what prizes we might be able to fall in with at sea, before we were discovered, and then to depart precipitately, and esteem ourselves fortunate to regain our native country; leaving our enemies to triumph on the inconsiderable mischief they had suffered from a squadron which had filled them with such dreadful apprehensions. We had reason to imagine the Spanish ostentation would remarkably exert itself on this subject, though our disappointment and their security neither originated in their valour nor our misconduct. Such were the desponding reflections which at this time arose, on the review and comparison of our remaining weakness with our original strength: And, indeed, our fears were far from being groundless, or disproportionate to our feeble and almost desperate condition: For, though the final event proved more honourable than we foreboded, yet the intermediate calamities did likewise surpass our most gloomy apprehensions; and, could these have been predicted to us while at Juan Fernandez, they would doubtless have appeared insurmountable.

In the beginning of September, as already mentioned, our men being tolerably well recovered, and the season of navigation in these seas drawing nigh, we exerted ourselves in getting our ships ready for sea. We converted the foremast of the Anna into a new main-mast for the Tryal; and, still flattering ourselves with the possible hope of some other ships of our squadron arriving, we intended to leave the main-mast of the Anna, to make a new mizen-mast for the Wager. All hands being thus employed in preparing for our departure, we espied a sail to the N.E. about eleven a.m. of the 18th September, which continued to approach us till her courses appeared even with the horizon. While advancing, we had great hopes that this might prove one of our squadron; but she at length steered away to the eastward, without hauling in for the island, on which we concluded that she must be Spanish. Great differences of opinion now took place, as to the possibility of her people having discovered our tents on shore; some of us strongly insisting, that she certainly had been near enough to have seen something that had given them a jealousy to an enemy, which had occasioned her standing away to the eastwards. Leaving these contests to be settled afterwards, it was resolved to pursue her; and, as the Centurion was in the greatest forwardness, all her hands were got immediately on board, her rigging set up, and her sails bent with all possible expedition, and we got under sail by five in the evening.

At this time we had so very little wind, that all the boats were employed to tow us out of the bay, and what wind there was lasted only long enough to give us an offing of two or three leagues, when it fell dead calm. As night came on we lost sight of the chase, and were extremely impatient for the return of light, in hopes to find that she had been becalmed, as well as we; yet her great distance from the land was 3 reasonable ground for suspecting the contrary, as we actually found in the morning, to our great mortification; for, though the weather was then quite clear, we had no sight of the chase from the mast-head. But, being now quite satisfied that she was an enemy, and the first we had seen in these seas, we resolved not to give over the chase lightly; and, on a small breeze springing up from the W.N.W. we got up our top-gallant masts and yards, set all the sails, and steered S.E. in hopes of retrieving the chase, which we imagined might be bound for Valparaiso. We continued on this course all that day and the next; and then, seeing nothing of the chase, gave over the pursuit, believing that she had, in all probability, reached her port.

Resolving to return to Juan Fernandez, we hauled up to the S.W. having very little wind till the 12th, at three a.m. when a gale sprung up at W.S.W. which obliged us to tack and stand to the N.W. At day-break, we were agreeably surprised by the appearance of a sail on our weather-bow, between four and five leagues distant, on which we crowded all sail and stood towards her, soon perceiving she was a different vessel from that we had chased before. She at first bore down towards us, shewing Spanish colours, and making a signal as to a consort; but, seeing we did not answer her signal, she instantly loofed close to the wind and stood to the southward. Our people were now all in high spirits, and put about ship with great briskness; and, as the chase appeared a large ship, and had mistaken us for her consort, we imagined that she must be a man of war, and probably belonged to the squadron of Pizarro. This induced the commodore to order all the officers cabins to be knocked down and thrown overboard, along with several casks of water and provisions, that stood between the guns; so that we had a clear ship, ready for action. About nine a.m. it came on thick hazy weather, with a shower of rain, during which we lost sight of the chase, and were apprehensive, if this weather should continue, she might escape us, by going on the other tack, or some other device. The weather cleared up, however, in less than an hour, when we found that we had both weathered and fore-reached upon her considerably, and were then near enough to perceive that she was only a merchant ship, without a single tire of guns. About half an hour after twelve noon, being within reasonable distance, we fired four shot among her rigging; on which they lowered their top-sails and bore down to us, but in very great confusion, their top-gallant-sails and stay-sails all fluttering in the wind. This was owing to their having let run their sheets and halyards, just as we fired at them; after which not a man among them would venture aloft to take them in, as our shot had passed there just before.

As soon as the vessel came within hail of us, the commodore ordered her to bring to under his lee quarter; and having the boat hoisted out, sent our first lieutenant, Mr Saumarez, to take possession of the prize, with orders to send all the prisoners on board the Centurion, the officers and passengers first. When Mr Saumarez boarded the prize, he was received by her people at the side with the most abject tokens of submission; as they were all, especially the passengers, who were twenty-five in number, extremely terrified, and under the greatest apprehensions of meeting with very severe and cruel usage. But the lieutenant endeavoured, with great courtesy, to dissipate their terror, assuring them that their fears were altogether groundless, and that they would find a generous enemy in the commodore, who was no less remarkable for his lenity and humanity, than for courage and resolution. The prisoners who were first sent on board the Centurion, informed us, that the prize was called Neustra Lenora del Monte Carmelo, and her commander Don Manuel Zamorra. Her cargo consisted chiefly of sugar, and a great quantity of blue cloth, made in the province of Quito, somewhat resembling our coarse English broad cloth, but inferior. They had also several bales of a coarser cloth, of different colours, somewhat like Colchester baize, called by them Panniada Tierra; with a few bales of cotton, and some tolerably well-flavoured tobacco, though strong. These were her principal goods; but we found besides, what was much more valuable than the rest of her cargo, some trunks full of wrought silver plate, and twenty-three serons of dollars, each weighing upwards of two hundred pounds.[2] This ship was of about 450 tons burden, having on board 53 sailors, including whites and blacks. She came from Calao, bound for Valparaiso, and had been twenty-seven days at sea. Her return cargo from Chili was to have been corn and Chili wine, with some gold, dried beef, and small cordage, which is afterwards converted at Calao into larger rope. This vessel had been built thirty years before; yet, as they lie in harbour all winter, and the climate is remarkably favourable, she was not considered as very old. Her rigging and sails were very indifferent, the latter being of cotton. She had only three four-pounders, which were quite unserviceable, as their carriages could scarcely support them; and they had no small arms on board, except a few pistols belonging to the passengers. They had sailed from Callao in company with two other ships, which they had parted from a few days before, and had at first taken our ship for one of their consorts; and, by the description we gave of the ship we had chased from Juan Fernandez, they assured us that she was one of their number; although the coming in sight of that island is directly contrary to the merchant's instructions, as knowing, if any English ships should be in these seas, that this island is most likely to be their place of rendezvous.

[Footnote 2: A seron is a species of package made and used in Spanish America, consisting of a piece of raw bullock's hide with the hair on, formed while wet into the shape of a small trunk, and sewed together. The quantity of dollars taken on this occasion may have been between seventy and eighty thousand.—E.]

We met with very important intelligence in this prize, partly from the prisoners, and partly from letters and papers that fell into our hands. By these we first learnt with certainty the force and destination of that squadron which cruised off Madeira at our arrival there, and had afterwards chased the Pearl in our passage to Port St Julian. This squadron we now knew to be composed of five large Spanish ships, commanded by Admiral Pizarro, and purposely fitted out to traverse our designs, as has been already more amply related in our third section. We had now the satisfaction to find, that Pizarro, after his utmost endeavours to get round into these seas, had been forced back to the Rio Plata, after losing two of his largest ships; which, considering our great weakness, was no unacceptable intelligence. We also learnt, that, though an embargo had been laid on all shipping in the ports of South America, by the viceroy of Peru, in the preceding month of May, on the supposition that we might then arrive on the coast, yet it now no longer subsisted: For, on receiving the account overland of the distresses of Pizarro, part of which they knew we must also have suffered; and, on hearing nothing of us for eight months after we were known to have left St Catharines, they were fully satisfied we must either have been shipwrecked, have perished at sea, or have been obliged to put back again; as they conceived it impossible for any ships to have continued at sea for so long an interval, and therefore, on the application of the merchants, and the persuasion that we had miscarried, the embargo had been lately taken off.

This intelligence made us flatter ourselves, as the enemy was still ignorant of our having got round Cape Horn, and as navigation was restored, that we might meet with some valuable captures, and might indemnify ourselves in that way, of our incapacity to attempt any of their considerable settlements on shore. This much at least we were certain of, from the information of our prisoners, that, whatever might be our success in regard to prizes, we had nothing to fear, weak even as we were, from the Spanish force in that part of the world, though we discovered that we had been in most imminent peril, when we least apprehended any, when our other distresses were at the greatest height. As we found, by letters in the prize, that Pizarro, in the dispatch he sent by express to the viceroy of Peru overland, after his own return to the Rio Plata, had intimated the possibility of some part of our squadron getting round; and as, from his own experience, he was certain any of our ships that might arrive in the South Seas must be in a very weak and defenceless condition, he advised the viceroy to send what ships of war he had to the southwards, in order to be secure at all events, where, in all probability, they would intercept us singly, before we had an opportunity of touching any where for refreshment; in which case he had no doubt of our proving an easy conquest. The viceroy approved this advice, and as he had already fitted out four ships of force at Callao, one of 50 guns, two of 40 each, and one of 24, which were intended to have joined Pizarro, three of these were stationed off the port of Conception, and one at the island of Juan Fernandez, where they continued cruising for us till the 6th of June; and then, conceiving it impossible that we could have kept the sea so long, they quitted this station and returned to Callao, fully persuaded we must either have perished, or been driven back.

Now, as the time when they left Juan Fernandez was only a few days before our arrival at that island, it is evident, if we had made it on our first search, without hauling in for the main to secure our easting, a circumstance we then considered as very unfortunate, on account of the many men we lost by our long continuance at sea; had we made the island 28th of May, when we first expected to see it, and were in reality very near to have so done, we had inevitably fallen in with some part of the squadron from Callao; and in our then distressed condition, the encounter of a healthy and well-provided enemy might have proved fatal, not only to us in the Centurion, but also to the Tryal, Gloucester, and Anna pink, which separately joined us, and were each less capable to have resisted than we. I may also add, that these Spanish ships, sent out to intercept us, had been greatly shattered by a storm during their cruise, and had been laid up after their return to Callao; and we were assured by our prisoners, that, when intelligence might be received at Lima of our being in the South Seas, it would require two months at least, before this armament could be refitted for going to sea. The whole of this intelligence was as favourable as we, in our reduced circumstances, could wish for; and we were now at no loss to account for the broken jars, ashes, and fish bones, which we had observed at Juan Fernandez on our first landing; these things having been doubtless the relics of the cruisers stationed at that island. Having thus satisfied ourselves in the most material articles of our enquiry, got all the silver on board the Centurion, and most of the prisoners, we made sail to the northward at eight that same evening, in company with our prize. We got sight of Juan Fernandez at six next morning, and the day following both we and our prize got safe there to anchor. When the prize and her crew came into the bay, in which the rest of our squadron lay, the Spaniards, who had been sufficiently informed of the distresses we had gone through, and were astonished we had been able to surmount them, were still more surprised when they saw the Tryal sloop, that, after all our fatigues, we should have had the industry to complete such a vessel in so short a time, besides refitting our other ships, as they concluded we had certainly built her there; nor was it without great difficulty they could be brought to believe that she came from England with the rest of the squadron; for they long insisted, that it was impossible for such a bauble as she was to have passed round Cape Horn, when the best ships of Spain were forced to put back.

By the time of our arrival at Juan Fernandez, the letters found on board our prize were more minutely examined, and it appeared from them, and from the examination of our prisoners, that several other merchant-ships were bound from Callao to Valparaiso. Whereupon, the commodore dispatched the Tryal sloop, the very next morning, to cruise off the port of Valparaiso, reinforcing her crew with ten men from the Centurion. The commodore resolved also, on the above intelligence, to employ the ships under his command in separate cruises, as by this means he might increase the chance of taking prizes, and should run less risk of being discovered, and alarming the coast. The spirits of our people were now greatly raised, and their despondency dissipated, by this earnest of success, so that they forgot all their past distresses, resumed their wonted alacrity, and laboured incessantly in completing our water, receiving our lumber, and preparing to leave the island.

These necessary occupations took us up four or five days, with all our industry and exertions; and in this interval, the commodore directed the guns of the Anna pink, being four six-pounders and four four-pounders, with two swivels, to be mounted in the Carmelo, our prize. He sent also on board the Gloucester, six Spanish passengers and twenty-three captured seamen, to assist in navigating that ship, and directed Captain Mitchell to leave the island as soon as possible, the service demanding the utmost despatch, giving him orders to proceed to the latitude of 5 deg. S. and there to cruise off the high-land of Payta, at such distance from shore as should prevent his being discovered. He was to continue on this station till joined by the Centurion; which was to be whenever it should be known that the viceroy had fitted out the ships of war at Callao, or on the commodore receiving any other intelligence that should make it necessary to divide our strength. These orders being delivered to Captain Mitchell of the Gloucester, and all our business completed, we weighed anchor in the Centurion, on Saturday the 19th of September, in company with our prize the Carmelo, and got out of the bay, taking our last leave of Juan Fernandez, and steering to the eastward, with the intention of joining the Tryal sloop, on her station off Valparaiso, leaving the Gloucester still at anchor.



SECTION XV.

Our Cruise, from leaving Juan Fernandez, to the taking of Payta.

Although we left the bay on the 19th of September, yet, by the irregularity and fluctuation of the wind in the offing, it was the 22d of that month, in the evening, before we lost sight of Juan Fernandez; after which we continued our course to the eastward, in order to join the Tryal off Valparaiso. Next night the weather proved squally, and we split our main top-sail, which we then handed; but got it repaired and set again by next morning. In the evening, a little before sunset, we saw two sail to the eastward, on which our prize stood directly from us, to avoid any suspicion of our being cruisers, while we made ready for an engagement, and steered with all our canvass towards the two ships we had descried. We soon perceived, that one of them, which seemed a very stout ship, stood directly for us, while the other kept at a great distance. By seven o'clock we were within pistol-shot of the nearest, and had a broadside ready to pour into her, the gunners having their lighted matches in their hands, only waiting orders to fire. But, as the commodore knew that she could not now escape, he ordered the master to hail the ship in Spanish; on which her commanding officer, who happened to be Mr Hughes, lieutenant of the Tryal, answered us in English, that she was a prize, taken by the Tryal a few days before, and that the other vessel at a distance was the Tryal, disabled in her masts.

We were soon after joined by the Tryal, when her commander, Captain Saunders, came on board the Centurion. He acquainted the commodore, that he had taken this ship on the 18th, being a prime sailor, which had cost him thirty-six hours chase before he could get up with her, and that for some time he gained so little upon her, that he almost despaired of ever making up with the chase. The Spaniards were at first alarmed, by seeing nothing but a cloud of sail in pursuit of them, as the hull of the Tryal lay so low in the water, that no part of it appeared; yet knowing the goodness of their ship, and finding how little the Tryal neared them, they at last laid aside their fears, and, recommending themselves to the protection of the blessed Virgin, they began to think themselves quite secure. Indeed, their success was near doing honour to their Ave Marias; for, altering their course in the night, and shutting close their cabin windows to prevent any of their lights from being seen, they had some chance of escaping: But a small crevice in one of their shutters rendered all their invocations of no avail; as the people of the Tryal perceived a light through this crevice, which they chased till they got within gun-shot; and then Captain Saunders alarmed them with a broadside, when they flattered themselves they were beyond his reach. For some time, however, the chase still kept the same sail abroad, and it was not observed that this first salute had made any impression; but, just as the Tryal was about to repeat her broadsides the Spaniards crept from their holes, lowered their sails, and submitted without opposition. She was named the Arranzazu, being one of the largest merchantmen employed in these seas, of about 600 tons burden, bound from Calao to Valparaiso, having much the same cargo with the Carmelo, our former prize, except that her silver amounted only to about 5000l. sterling.

To balance this success, we found that the Tryal had sprung her main-mast, and that her main-top-mast had come by the board; and next morning, as we were all standing to the eastward in a fresh gale at S. she had the additional misfortune to spring her fore-mast, so that now she had not a mast left on which she could carry sail. These unhappy circumstances were still further aggravated, by the impossibility of our being then able to assist her, for the wind blew so hard, and raised such a hollow sea, that we could not venture to hoist out a boat, and consequently could not have any communication with her; so that we were obliged to lie-to for the greatest part of forty-eight hours to attend upon her, as we could not possibly leave her in such a condition of distress. It was no small addition to our misfortunes, on this occasion, that we were all the while driving to leeward of our intended station, and at the very time, when, by our intelligence, we had reason to expect several of the enemy's ships would appear on the coast, and would now get into the port of Valparaiso unobstructed; and, I am convinced, the embarrassment we suffered by the dismasting of the Tryal and our consequent absence from our intended station, deprived, us of some very considerable captures.

The weather proved somewhat more moderate on the 27th, when we sent our boat for Captain Saunders, who came on board the Centurion, where he produced an instrument, signed by himself and all his officers, representing that the Tryal, besides being dismasted, was so very leaky in her hull, that it was necessary to ply the pumps continually, even in moderate weather, and that they were then scarcely able to keep her free; insomuch that, in the late gale, though all the officers even had been engaged in turns at the pumps, yet the water had increased upon them; and that, on the whole, they apprehended her present condition to be so defective, that they must all inevitably perish if they met with much bad weather: For all which reasons, he petitioned the commodore to take measures for their safety. The refittal of the Tryal, and the repair of her defects, were utterly beyond our power on the present conjuncture, for we had no masts to spare, no stores to complete her rigging, and no port in which she could be hove down, to examine and repair her bottom. Even had we possessed a port, and proper requisites for the purpose it would yet have been extremely imprudent, in so critical a conjuncture to have loitered away so much time as would have been necessary for these operations. The commodore, therefore, had no choice left, but was under the necessity of taking out her people and destroying her. Yet, as he conceived it expedient to keep up the appearance of our force, he appointed the Tryal's prize, which had often been employed by the viceroy of Peru as a man-of-war, to be a frigate in his majesty's service, manning her with the crew of the Tryal, and giving commissions to the captain and all the inferior officers accordingly. This new frigate, when in the Spanish service, had mounted thirty-two guns; but she was now to have only twenty, which were the twelve that belonged to the Tryal and eight that had been on board the Anna pink.

This affair being resolved on, the commodore gave orders to Captain Saunders to carry it into execution, directing him to take all the arms, stores, ammunition, and every thing else that could be of use from the sloop, and then to scuttle and sink her. After all this was done, Captain Saunders was to proceed with his new frigate, now called the Tryal's prize, to cruise off the high-land of Valparaiso, keeping it from him N.N.W. at the distance of twelve or fourteen leagues: for, as all ships from Valparaiso bound to the northward, steer that course, the commodore proposed, by this means, to stop any intelligence that might be dispatched to Callao, of two of their ships being amissing, which might give them apprehensions of the English squadron being in their neighbourhood. The Tryal's prize was to continue on this station for twenty-four days, and, if not joined by the commodore before the expiration of that time, was then to proceed along the coast to Pisco, or Nasca, where she would be certain to find the Centurion. The commodore also ordered Lieutenant Saumarez, who commanded the Centurion's prize, to keep company with Captain Saunders, both to assist in unloading the Tryal, and that, by spreading in their cruise off Valparaiso, there might be less danger of any ships of the enemy slipping past unobserved. These orders being dispatched, the Centurion parted from the other vessels at eleven at night of the 27th September, directing her course towards Valparaiso, with the view of cruising for some days to windward of that port. By this distribution of our ships, we flattered ourselves that we had taken all the advantages we possibly could of the enemy with our small force, as our disposition was certainly the most prudent that could be devised: For, as we might suppose the Gloucester to be now drawing nigh the high-land of Payta, we were thus enabled, by our separate stations, to intercept all vessels employed either between Peru and Chili to the southward, or between Panama and Peru to the northward, since the principal trade from Peru to Chili being carried on with the port of Valparaiso, the Centurion, cruising to windward of that port, would probably meet with them, as it is the constant practice of these ships to fall in with land to windward of that place. The Gloucester, also, would be in the way of all ships bound from Panama, or any other place to the northward, to any port in Peru, since the highland, off which she was ordered to cruise, is constantly made by every ship on that voyage. While the Centurion and Gloucester were thus conveniently situated for intercepting the trade of the enemy, the Tryal's prize, and Centurion's prize, were as conveniently stationed for preventing the communication of intelligence, by intercepting all vessels bound from Valparaiso to the northward; as by such vessels it was to be feared that some account of us might be transmitted to Peru.

But the most judicious dispositions only produce a probability of success, and cannot command certainty; since those chances, which may reasonably enough be overlooked in deliberation, are sometimes of most powerful influence in execution. Thus, in the present instance, the distress of the Tryal, and our necessary quitting our station to assist her, which were events that no degree of prudence could either foresee or obviate, gave an opportunity to all the ships bound for Valparaiso to reach that port without molestation during this unlucky interval: so that, after leaving Captain Saunders, we used every expedition in regaining our station, which we reached on the 29th at noon; yet, in plying on and off till the 6th of October, we had not the good fortune to fall in with a sail of any sort. Having lost all hope of meeting with any better fortune by longer stay, we then made sail to leeward of the port, in order to rejoin our prizes; but when we arrived off the high-land, where they were directed to cruise, we did not find them, though we continued there three or four days. It was supposed, therefore, that some chase had occasioned them to quit their station, wherefore we proceeded to the northward to the high-land of Nasca, in lat. 15 deg. 20' S. being the second rendezvous appointed for Captain Saunders to join us. We got there on the 21st of October, and were in great expectation of falling in with some of the enemy's vessels, as both the accounts of former voyagers, and the information of our prisoners, assured us, that all ships bound to Callao consequently make this land to prevent the danger of falling to leeward of the port.

Notwithstanding the advantages of this station, we saw no sail whatever till the 2d November, when two ships appeared together, to which we immediately gave chase, and soon perceived that they were the Tryal's and Centurion's prizes. As they were to windward, we brought to and waited their coming up; when Captain Saunders came on board the Centurion, and acquainted the commodore that he had cleared and scuttled the Tryal according to his orders, and remained by her till she sunk. It was, however, the 4th of October before this could be effected; for there ran so large and hollow a sea that the sloop, having neither masts nor sails to steady her, rolled and pitched so violently, that, for the greatest part of the time, it was impossible for a boat to lie alongside of her; and, during this attendance on the sloop, they were all driven so far to the N.W. that they were afterwards obliged to stretch a long way to the westward, in order to regain the ground they had lost, which was the reason we had not met them on their station. They had met with no better fortune on their cruise than ourselves, never having seen a single vessel since we left them.

This want of success, and our certainty if any ships had been stirring in these seas for some time past, that we must have fallen in with them, made us believe that the enemy at Valparaiso, on missing the two ships we had taken, had suspected us to be in these seas, and had consequently laid an embargo on all trade in the southern parts. We likewise apprehended they might, by this time, be fitting out the ships of war at Callao; as we knew that it was not uncommon for an express to reach Lima from Valparaiso in twenty-nine or thirty days, and it was now more than fifty since we had taken the first prize. These apprehensions of an embargo on the coast, and of the equipment of the Spanish squadron at Callao, determined the commodore to hasten down to the leeward of Callao, to join the Gloucester as soon as possible off Payta, that, our strength being united, we might be prepared to give the ships from Callao a warm reception, if they dared to put to sea. With this view we bore away that same afternoon, taking particular care to keep at such a distance from the shore that there might be no danger of our being discovered from thence; for we knew that all the ships of that country were commanded, under the severest penalties, not to sail past the harbour of Callao without stopping: as this order is always complied with, we should undoubtedly be known for enemies if we were seen to act contrary to that regulation. In this new navigation, being uncertain if we might not meet the Spanish squadron on the way, the commodore took back a part of the crew of the Centurion which had been for some time on board the Carmelo.

While standing to the northward, we had sight of the small island of St Gallan[1] before night, bearing from us N.N.E. 1/2 E. about seven leagues distant. This island lies in about the latitude of 14 deg. S. and about five miles to the northward of a high-land called Morro Viejo, or the Old-man's Head, which island and high-land near it are here more particularly mentioned, because between them is perhaps the most eligible station on all this coast for cruising against the enemy, as hereabouts all ships bound for Callao, whether from the northward or southward, run well in with the land. By the 5th November, at 3 p.m. we were within sight of the high-land of Barranca, in lat. 10 deg. 36' S. bearing from us N.E. by E. eight or nine leagues distant; and an hour and a half afterwards we had the satisfaction, so long wished for, of seeing a sail. She appeared to leeward, and we all immediately gave chase; but the Centurion so much outsailed the two prizes that we soon ran them both out of sight, and gained considerably upon the chase. Night, however, came on before we could make up with her, and about seven o'clock the darkness concealed her from our view, and we were in some perplexity what course to steer; but our commodore resolved, being then before the wind, to keep all his sails set and not to change his course: For, although there was no doubt the chase would alter her course in the night, as it was quite uncertain what tack she might go upon, he thought it more prudent to continue the same course, rather than change it on conjecture, as, should we mistake, she would certainly get away. Continuing the chase about an hour and a half after dark, one or other of our people constantly believing they saw her sails right a-head of us, our second lieutenant, Mr Brett, at length actually discovered her about four points on the larboard bow, steering off to seawards, on which we immediately clapped the helm a-weather, standing right towards her, and came up with her in less than an hour, and, having fired fourteen shots at her, she struck. Mr Dennis, our third lieutenant, was sent in the boat with sixteen men to take possession of the prize, and to shift the prisoners to our ship.

[Footnote 1: This island of San Gallan is in lat. 14 deg. S. long. 76 deg. W. about twelve miles S.W. of Pisco.—E.]

This vessel was named the Santa Teresa de Jesus, built at Guayaquil, of about 300 tons burden, commanded by Bartolome Urrunaga, a Biscayan. She was bound from Guayaquil to Callao, her loading consisting of timber, cocoa, cocoa-nuts, tobacco, hides, Pito thread, (which is made of a kind of grass and is very strong,) Quito cloth, wax, and various other articles; but the specie on board was very inconsiderable, being principally small silver coin, not exceeding 170l. sterling in value. Her cargo, indeed, was of great value, if we could have sold it; but the Spaniards have strict orders never to ransom their ships, so that all the goods we captured in the South Seas, except what little we had occasion for ourselves, were of no advantage to us; yet it was some satisfaction to consider, that it was so much real loss to the enemy, and that despoiling them was no contemptible part of the service in which we were employed, and was so far beneficial to our country. Besides her crew of forty-five hands, she had on board ten passengers, consisting of four men and three women, who were natives of the country, but born of Spanish parents, together with three negro slaves who attended them. The women were a mother and two daughters, the elder about twenty-one, and the younger about fourteen. It is not to be wondered that women of these years should be excessively alarmed at falling into the hands of an enemy whom they had been taught to consider as the most lawless and brutal of all mankind, owing to the former excesses of the buccaneers, and by the artful insinuations of their priests. In the present instance these apprehensions were much augmented by the singular beauty of the youngest of the women, and the riotous disposition they might naturally enough expect to find in a set of sailors who had not seen a woman for near a twelvemonth.

Full of these terrors, the women all hid themselves on the lieutenant coming on board, and, when found out, it was with difficulty he could persuade them to come to the light. But he soon satisfied them, by the humanity of his conduct, and by his assurances of their future safety and honourable treatment, that they had nothing to fear. The commodore, also, being informed of their fears, sent directions that they should continue in their own ship, with the use of the same apartments and all other conveniences they had before enjoyed, giving strict orders that they should experience no inquietude or molestation; and, that they might be the more certain of having these orders complied with, or having the means of complaining if they were not, the commodore appointed the pilot, who is generally the second person in Spanish ships, to remain with them as their guardian and protector. He was particularly chosen on this occasion, as he seemed extremely interested in all that concerned these women, and had at first declared that he was married to the youngest; though it afterwards appeared that he had asserted this merely with the view of securing them from the insults they dreaded on falling into our hands. By this compassionate and indulgent behaviour of the commodore, the consternation of our female prisoners entirety subsided, and they continued easy and cheerful during the time they were with us.

I have before mentioned that the Centurion ran her two consorts out of sight at the commencement of this chase, on which account we lay to for them all the night after we had taken the prize, firing guns and shewing false fires every half hour, to prevent them from passing us unobserved. But they were so far astern, that they neither heard nor saw any of our signals, and were not able to come up with us till broad day. When they had joined, we proceeded together to the northward, being now four sail in company. We here found the sea for many miles of a beautiful red colour, owing, as we found upon examination, to an immense quantity of spawn floating on its surface: For, taking some of the water in a glass, it soon changed from a dirty aspect to be perfectly clear, with some red globules of a slimy nature floating on the top. Having now a supply of timber in our new prize, the commodore ordered all our boats to be repaired, and a swivel-stock to be fitted in the bow of the barge and pinnace, in order to increase their force, in case we should have occasion to use them in boarding ships, or making any attempt on shore.

Continuing our course to the northward, nothing remarkable occurred for two or three days, though we spread our ships in such a manner that it was not probable any vessel of the enemy should escape us. During our voyage along this coast, we generally observed that a current set us to the northward, at the rate of ten or twelve miles every day. When in about the latitude of 8 deg. S. we began to be attended by vast numbers of flying fish and bonitos, which were the first we had seen after leaving the coast of Brazil. It is remarkable that these fish extend to a much higher latitude on the east side of America than on the west, as we did not lose them on the coast of Brazil till near the southern tropic. The reason, doubtless, of this diversity, is owing to the different degrees of heat obtaining on different sides of the continent in the same latitude; and, on this occasion, I use the freedom to make a short digression on the heat and cold of different climates, and on the variations which occur in the same places at different times of the year, and in different places in the same degree of latitude.

The ancients conceived that of the five zones into which they divided the surface of the globe, two only were habitable; supposing that the heat between the tropics, and the cold within the polar circles, were too intense to be supported by mankind. The falsehood of this idea has been long established; but the particular comparison of the heat and cold of these various climates have as yet been very imperfectly considered. Enough is known, however, safely to determine this position, that all the places within the tropics are far from being the hottest on the globe, as many within the polar circle are far from enduring that extreme degree of cold to which their situation seems to subject them; that is to say, that the temperature of a place depends much more upon other circumstances, than upon its distance from the pole, or its proximity to the equinoctial line.

This proposition relates to the general temperature of places taking the whole year round, and, in this sense, it cannot be denied that the city of London, for instance, enjoys much warmer seasons than the bottom of Hudson's Bay, which is nearly in the same latitude, but where the severity of the winter is so great as scarcely to permit the hardiest of our garden plants to live. If the comparison be made between the coast of Brazil and the western shore of South America, as, for example, between Bahia and Lima, the difference will be found still more considerable; for, though the coast of Brazil is extremely sultry, yet the coast of the South Sea, in the same latitude, is perhaps as temperate and tolerable as any part of the globe; since we, in ranging it along, did not once meet with such warm weather as is frequently felt in a summer day in England, which was still the more remarkable, as there never fell any rain to refresh and cool the air.

The causes of this lower temperature in the South Sea are not difficult to be assigned, and shall be mentioned hereafter. I am now only solicitous to establish the truth of this assertion, that the latitude of a place alone is no rule by which to judge of the degree of heat and cold which obtains there. Perhaps this position might be more briefly confirmed by observing that on the tops of the Andes, though under the equator, the snow never melts the whole year round; a criterion of cold stronger than is known to take place in many parts far within the polar circle.

Hitherto I have considered the temperature of the air all the year through, and the gross estimations of heat and cold which every one makes from his own sensations. But if this matter be examined by means of thermometers, which are doubtless the most unerring evidences in respect to the absolute degrees of heat and cold, the result will be indeed most wonderful; since it will appear that the heat in very high latitudes, as at Petersburgh for instance, is, at particular times, much greater than any that has been hitherto observed between the tropics. Even at London in the year 1746, there was a part of one day considerably hotter than was at any time felt in one of the ships of our squadron in the whole voyage out and home, though four times passing under the equator; for, in the summer of that year, the thermometer in London, graduated according to the scale of Fahrenheit, stood at 78 deg., and the greatest observed heat, by a thermometer of the same kind in the same ship, was 76 deg., which was at St Catharines in the latter end of December, when the sun was within about 3 deg. of the vertex. At St Petersburgh, I find by the acts of the Academy, in the year 1734, on the 20th and 25th of July, that the thermometer rose to 98 deg. in the shade, or 22 deg. higher than it was found to be at St Catharines; which extraordinary degree of heat, were it not authenticated by the regularity and circumspection with which the observations appear to have been conducted, would appear altogether incredible.

If it should be asked, how it comes then to pass, that the heat, in many places between the tropics, is esteemed so violent and insufferable, when it appears, by these instances, that it is sometimes rivalled, and even exceeded, in very high latitudes, not far from the polar circle? I shall answer, That the estimation of heat, in any particular place, ought not to be founded upon that particular degree of it which may now and then obtain there; but is rather to be deduced from the medium observed during a whole season, or perhaps in a whole year; and in this light, it will easily appear how much more intense the same degree of heat may prove, by being long continued without remarkable variation. For instance, in comparing together St Catharines and St Petersburg, we shall suppose the summer heat at St Catharines to be 76 deg., and the winter heat to be only 56 deg.. I do not make this last supposition upon sufficient authority, but am apt to suspect the allowance is full large. Upon this supposition, therefore, the medium heat all the year round will be 66 deg.; and this perhaps by night as well as by day, with no great variation. Now, those who have attended to thermometrical observation will readily allow, that a continuance of this degree of heat for a length of time, would be found violent and suffocating by the generality of mankind. But at Petersburg, though the heat, as measured by the thermometer, may happen to be a few times in the year considerably higher than at St Catharines, yet, at other times, the cold is intensely sharper, and the medium for a year, or even for one season only, would be far short of 60 deg.. For I find, that the variation of the thermometer at Petersburgh, is at least five times greater, from its highest to its lowest point, than I have supposed it to be at St Catherines.[2]

[Footnote 2: On his own principles, the lowest heat of Petersburg ought to be -2 deg., and the medium temperature of the year 48 deg.; but the data are loosely expressed and quite unsatisfactory, as indeed is the whole reasoning on the subject.—E.]

Besides this estimation of the heat of a place, by taking the medium for a considerable time together, there is another circumstance which will still farther augment the apparent heat of the warmer climates, and diminish that of the colder, though I do not remember to have seen it remarked by any author. To explain myself more distinctly upon this head, I must observe, that the measure of absolute heat, marked by the thermometer, is not the certain criterion of the sensation of heat with which human bodies are affected; for, as the presence and perpetual succession of fresh air is necessary to our respiration, so there is a species of tainted or stagnated air often produced by the continuance of great heats, which, being less proper for respiration, never fails to excite in us an idea of sultriness and suffocating warmth, much beyond what the heat of the air alone would occasion, supposing it pure and agitated. Hence it follows, that the mere inspection of the thermometer will never determine the heat which the human body feels from this cause; and hence also, the heat, in most places between the tropics, must be much more troublesome and uneasy, than the same degree of absolute heat in a high latitude. For the equability and duration of the tropical heat contribute to impregnate the air with a multitude of steams and vapours from the soil and water; and many of these being of an impure and noxious kind, and being not easily removed, by reason of the regularity of the winds in those parts, which only shift the exhalations from place to place, without dispersing them, the atmosphere is by this means rendered less capable of supporting the animal functions, and mankind are consequently affected by what they call a most intense and stifling heat. Whereas, in the higher latitudes, these vapours are probably raised in smaller quantities, and are frequently dispersed by the irregularity and violence of the winds; so that the air, being in general more pure and less stagnant, the same degree of absolute heat is not attended by that uneasy and suffocating sensation.

This may suffice, in general, with respect to the present speculation; but I cannot help wishing, as it is a subject in which mankind are very much interested, especially travellers of all sorts, that it were more thoroughly and accurately examined, and that all ships bound to the warmer climates were furnished with thermometers of a known fabric, and would observe them daily, and register their observations. For, considering the turn to philosophical enquiries which has obtained in Europe since the beginning of the eighteenth century, it is incredible how very rarely any thing of this kind has been attended to. For my own part, I do not remember to have ever seen any observations of the heat and cold, either in the East or West Indies, which were made by marines or officers of vessels, excepting those made by order of Commodore Anson on board the Centurion, and those by Captain Legg on board the Severn, another ship of our squadron.

I have been in some measure drawn into this digression, by the consideration of the fine weather we experienced on the coast of Peru, even under the equinoctial, but I have not yet described the particularities of this weather. I shall now therefore observe, that every circumstance concurred, in this climate, that could render the open air and the day-light desirable: For, in other countries, the scorching heat of the sun in summer renders the greater part of the day unapt either for labour or amusement, and the frequent rains are not less troublesome in the more temperate parts of the year: But, in this happy climate, the sun rarely appears. Not that the heavens have at any time a dark or gloomy aspect; for there is constantly a cheerful gray sky, just sufficient to screen the sun, and to mitigate the violence of its perpendicular rays, without obscuring the air, or tinging the light of day with an unpleasant or melancholy hue. By this means, all parts of the day are proper for labour or exercise in the open air; nor is there wanting that refreshing and pleasing refrigeration of the air which is sometimes produced by rains in other climates; for here the same effect is brought about by the fresh breezes from the cooler regions to the southward. It is reasonable to suppose, that this fortunate complexion of the heavens is principally owing to the neighbourhood of those vast mountains called the Andes, which, running nearly parallel to the shore, and at a small distance from it, and extending immensely higher than any other mountains upon the globe, form upon their sides and declivities a prodigious tract of country, where, according to the different approaches to the summit, all kinds of climates may be found at all seasons of the year.

These mountains, by intercepting great part of the eastern winds, which generally blow over the continent of South America, and by cooling that part of the air which forces its way over their tops, and by keeping besides a large portion of the atmosphere perpetually cool, from its contiguity to the snows by which they are always covered, and thus spreading the influence of their frozen crests to the neighbouring coasts and seas of Peru, are doubtless the cause of the temperature and equability which constantly prevail there. For, when we had advanced beyond the equinoctial to the north, where these mountains left us, and had nothing to screen us to the eastward but the high lands on the Isthmus of Darien, which are mere mole-hills compared to the Andes, we then found that we had totally changed our climate in a short run; passing, in two or three days, from the temperate air of Peru, to the sultry and burning atmosphere of the West Indies.

To return to our narration. On the 10th of November we were three leagues south of the southern island, of Lobos, in lat. 6 deg. 27' S. This is called Lobos de la Mar; and another, which is to the northward of it, and resembles it so much in shape and appearance as to be often mistaken for it, is called Lobos de Tierra.[3] We were now drawing near the station that had been appointed for the Gloucester, and fearing to miss her, we went under easy sail all night. At day-break next morning, we saw a ship in shore and to windward, which had passed us unseen in the night, and soon perceiving that she was not the Gloucester, we got our tacks on board and gave her chase. But as there was very little wind, so that neither we nor the chase had made much way, the commodore ordered his barge and pinnace, with the pinnace of the Tryal's prize, to be manned and armed, and to pursue and board the chase. Lieutenant Brett, who commanded our barge, came up with her first about nine o'clock, a.m. and, running alongside, fired a volley of small shot between her masts, just over the heads of her people, and then instantly boarded with the greatest part of his men. But the enemy made no resistance, being sufficiently intimidated by the dazzling of the cutlasses, and the volley they had just received. Lieutenant Brett now made the sails of the prize be trimmed, and bore down towards the commodore, taking up the other two boats in his way. When within about four miles of us, he put off in the barge, bringing with him a number of the prisoners, who had given him some material intelligence, which he was desirous of communicating to the commodore as soon as possible. On his arrival, we learnt that the prize was called Nuestra Senora del Carmin, of about 270 tons burden, commanded by Marcos Moreno, a native of Venice, having on board forty-three mariners. She was deeply laden with steel, iron, wax, pepper, cedar plank, snuff, rosarios, European bale-goods, powder-blue, cinnamon, papal indulgences, and other kinds of merchandize; and, though this cargo was of little value to us, in our present circumstances, it was the most considerable capture we had made, in respect to the Spaniards, as it amounted to upwards of 400,000 dollars, prime cost at Panama. This ship was bound from Panama to Callao, and had stopped at Payta on her way, to take on board a recruit of water and provisions, and had not left that place above twenty-four hours when she fell into our hands.

[Footnote 3: The Southern Lobos, or Lobos de la Mar, is in fact two contiguous islands, N. and S. from each other, in lat. 6 deg. 57' S. and long. 80 deg. 43' W. Lobos de Tierra, called also Inner Lobos, from being nearer the land, lying in the same longitude, is in lat. 6 deg. 28' S. There is still a third, or Northern Lobos, in lat. 5 deg. 10' S. long. 81 deg. W.]

The important intelligence received by Mr Brett, which he was so anxious to communicate to the commodore, he had learnt from one John Williams, an Irishman, whom he found in the prize, and which was confirmed by examination of the other prisoners. Williams was a papist, who had worked his passage from Cadiz, and had travelled over the whole of the kingdom of Mexico as a pedlar. He pretended that, by this business, he had at one time cleared four or five thousand dollars, but at length got entangled by the priests, who knew he had money, and was stripped of every thing. At present he was all in rags, having just got out of Payto gaol, where he had been confined for some misdemeanour. He expressed great joy in thus meeting his countrymen, and immediately informed them, that a vessel had come into Payta, only a few days before, the master of which had informed the governor, that he had been chased in the offing by a very large ship, which he was persuaded, from her size and the colour of her sails, must be one of the English squadron. This we conjectured to have been the Gloucester, as we found afterwards was the case. On examining the master, and being fully satisfied of his account, the governor sent off an express with all expedition to the viceroy at Lima; and the royal officer residing at Payta, apprehensive of a visit from the English, had been busily employed, from his first hearing of this news, in removing the king's treasure and his own to Piura, a town in the interior, about fourteen leagues distant.[4] We learnt farther, from our prisoners, that there was at this time a considerable sum of money in the custom-house of Payta, belonging to some merchants of Lima, which was intended to be shipped on board a vessel, then in the harbour of Payta, and was preparing to sail for the bay of Sansonnate, on the coast of Mexico, in order to purchase a part of the cargo of the Manilla ship.

[Footnote 4: San Migual de Piura is about 50 English miles E. by S. from Payta, and nearly the same distance from the mouth of the Piura river.—E.]

As the vessel in which this money was to be shipped was reckoned a prime sailer, and had just received a new coat of tallow on her bottom, and might, in the opinion of the prisoners, be able to sail the succeeding morning, we had little reason to expect that our ship, which had been nearly two years in the water, could have any chance to get up with her, if she were once allowed to escape from the port. Wherefore, and as we were now discovered, and the whole coast would soon be alarmed, and as our continuing to cruise any longer in these parts would now answer no purpose, the commodore determined to endeavour to take Payta by surprise, having in the first place informed himself minutely of its strength and condition, by examining the prisoners, and being fully satisfied that there was little danger of losing many of our men in the attempt.

This attack on Payta, besides the treasure it promised, and its being the only enterprise in our power to undertake, had also several other probable advantages. We might, in all probability, supply ourselves with great quantities of live provisions, of which we were in great want; and we should also have an opportunity of setting our prisoners on shore, who were now very numerous, and made a greater consumption of our food than our remaining stock was capable of furnishing much longer. In all these lights, the attempt was most eligible, and to which our situation, our necessities, and every prudential consideration, strongly prompted. How it succeeded, and how far it answered our expectations, shall be the subject, of the succeeding section.



SECTION XVI.

Capture of Payta, and Proceedings at that Place.

The town of Payta is in lat 50 deg. 12' S. [long. 81 deg. 15' W.] being situated in a most barren soil, composed only of sand and slate. It is of small extent, being about 275 yards in length along the shore of the bay, and 130 yards in breadth, containing less than two hundred families. The houses are only ground floors, their walls composed of split canes and mud, and the roofs thatched with leaves. Though thus extremely slight, these edifices are abundantly sufficient for a climate where rain is considered as a prodigy, and is not seen in many years: Insomuch that, a small quantity of rain falling in the year 1728, is said to have ruined a great number of buildings, which mouldered away, and melted as it were before it. The inhabitants are chiefly Indians and black slaves, or of mixed breed, the whites being very few. The port of Payta, though little more than a bay, is reckoned the best on this coast, and is indeed a very secure and commodious anchorage, and is frequented by all vessels coming from the north, as here only the ships from Acapulco, Sonsonnate, Realejo, and Panama, can touch and refresh in their passage to Callao; and the length of these voyages, the wind for the greatest part of the year being full against them, renders it indispensably necessary for them to call in here for a recruit of fresh water. Payta itself, however, is situated in so parched a spot, that it does not furnish a drop of fresh water, neither any kind of vegetables or other provisions, except fish and a few goats. But, from an Indian town named Colan, two or three leagues to the northward, water, maize, vegetables, fowls, and other provisions, are conveyed to Payta on balsas or floats, for the supply of ships which touch there; and cattle are sometimes brought from Piura, a town about thirty miles up the country. The water brought from Colan is whitish and of a disagreeable appearance, but is said to be very wholesome; for it is pretended by the inhabitants that it runs through large tracks overgrown with sarsaparilla, with which it is sensibly impregnated. Besides furnishing the trading ships bound from the north for Callao with water and other necessary refreshments this port of Payta is the usual place where passengers from Acapulco and Panama, bound to Lima, disembark; as the voyage from hence to Callao, the port of Lima, is two hundred leagues, and is extremely tedious and fatiguing, owing to the wind being almost always contrary; whereas there is a tolerably good road by land, running nearly parallel to the coast, with many stations and villages for the accommodation of travellers.

Payta is merely an open town, unprovided with any defence, except a small fort or redoubt near the shore of the bay. It was of much consequence to us to be well informed of the fabric and strength of this fort; which, we learnt from our prisoners, had eight pieces of cannon, but neither ditch nor outwork, being merely surrounded by a plain brick wall; and that the garrison consisted of one weak company, though the town might possibly be able to arm three hundred men. Having informed himself of the strength of the place, the commodore determined upon making an attempt for its capture that very night, the 12th November. We were then about twelve leagues from shore; a sufficient distance to prevent being discovered, yet not so far but that, by making all the sail we could carry; we might arrive in the bay long before day-break. The commodore considered, however, that this would be an improper manner of proceeding, as our ships, being large bodies, might easily be seen at a distance, even in the night, and might alarm the inhabitants, so as to give them an opportunity of removing their most valuable effects. He resolved therefore, as the strength of the place did not require the employment of our whole force, to make the attempt with the boats only, ordering our eighteen-oared barge, with our own and the Tryal's pinnaces, on this service. Fifty-eight men, well furnished with arms and ammunition, were picked out to man them, and the command of the expedition was entrusted to Lieutenant Brett, to whom the commodore gave the necessary orders and instructions.

The better to prevent the disappointment and confusion which might arise in the darkness of the night, and from the ignorance of our people of the streets and passages of the place, two of the Spanish pilots were appointed to attend Mr Brett, to conduct him to the most convenient landing-place, and afterwards to be his guides on shore. Likewise, that we might have the greater security for their fidelity on this occasion, the commodore publicly assured all our prisoners, that they should be set on shore and released at this place, provided the pilots acted faithfully: But, in case of any misconduct or treachery, the pilots were threatened with being instantly shot, and all the rest were assured of being carried prisoners to England. Thus the prisoners were themselves interested in our success, and we had no reason to suspect our guides of negligence or perfidy. It is worthy of remark, on this occasion, as a singular circumstance, that one of these pilots, as we afterwards learnt, had been taken by Captain Clipperton above twenty years before, and had then been obliged to guide Captain Clipperton and his people to the surprizal of Truxillo, a town to the southward of Payta; where, however, he contrived to alarm and save his countrymen, though the place was carried and pillaged. It is certainly an extraordinary incident, that the only two attempts on shore, and at so long an interval, should have been guided by the same person, a prisoner both times, and forced upon, the service contrary to his inclination.

During our preparation, the ships continued to stand for the port with all the sail they could carry, secure that we were still at too great a distance to be seen. About ten at night, being then within five leagues of Payta, Lieutenant Brett put off with the boats under his command, and arrived at the mouth of the bay undiscovered. He had no sooner entered the bay, than some of the people in a ship riding there at anchor perceived him, and getting instantly into their boat, rowed towards the fort, shouting and crying, The English! the English dogs! By this the whole town was suddenly alarmed, and our people soon observed several lights hurrying backwards and forwards in the fort, and other indications of the inhabitants being all in motion. On this, Mr Brett encouraged his men to pull briskly, that they might give the enemy as little time as possible to prepare for defence. Yet, before our boats could reach the shore, the people in the fort had got some of their cannons ready, and pointed them towards the landing-place; and though, in the darkness of the night, chance may be supposed to have had a greater share in their direction than skill, yet the first shot passed extremely near one of our boats, whistling just over the heads of the crew. This made our people redouble their efforts, so that they had reached the shore, and were in part landed, by the time the second shot was fired.

As soon as our men were landed, they were conducted by one of the pilots to the entrance of a narrow street, not above fifty yards from the beach, where they were covered from the fire of the fort; and being here formed as well as the shortness of the time would allow, they marched immediately for the parade, a large square at the other end of this street, on one side of which stood the fort, while the governor's house formed another side of the same square. In this march, though performed with tolerable regularity, the shouts and clamours of nearly threescore sailors, who had been so long confined on ship board, and who were now for the first time on shore of an enemy's country, joyous as seamen always are when they land, and animated on the present occasion with the hopes of immense pillage, joined with the noise of their drums, and favoured by the night, had augmented their numbers, in the opinion of the astonished enemy, to at least three hundred; by which estimation, the inhabitants were so greatly intimidated, that they were infinitely more solicitous about the means of flight than of resistance. Hence, though upon entering the parade, our people received a volley from the merchants to whom the treasure then in the town belonged, who were ranged in a gallery that went round the governor's house, yet that post was immediately abandoned on the first fire made by our people, who were thereby left in quiet possession of the parade.

Mr Brett now divided his men into two parties, ordering one of them to surround the governor's house, and if possible to secure the governor, while he went himself at the head of the other party, with the intention of forcing possession of the fort. But the enemy abandoned it on his approach, making their escape over the walls, and he entered it without opposition. Thus the place was mastered in less than a quarter of an hour after landing, and with no other loss on our side than one man killed and two wounded. One of these was the Spanish pilot of the Teresa, who received a slight bruise by a ball, which grazed his wrist. The honourable Mr Keppell, son to the Earl of Albemarle, had on this occasion a narrow escape. He wore a jockey-cap, one side of the peak of which was shaved off by a ball, close to his temple, yet did him no other injury.

Having thus far happily succeeded, Mr Brett placed a guard at the fort, and another in the governor's house, and fixed centinels at all the avenues of the town, both to prevent any surprise from the enemy, and to secure the effects in the place from being embezzled. His next care was to seize upon the custom-house, in which the treasure was lodged, and to examine if any of the inhabitants remained in the town, that he might know what farther precautions were necessary. He soon found that the numbers remaining were no ways formidable; for by far the greatest part of them, being in bed when the place was surprised, had run away with so much precipitation, that they had not taken time to put on their clothes. The governor was not the last to secure himself in this general rout; for he fled betimes half-naked, leaving his wife behind, a young lady of about seventeen, to whom he had only been married three or four days; yet she also was carried off half-naked, by a couple of centinels, just as our detachment, ordered to invest the house, arrived for that purpose. This escape of the governor was an unpleasant circumstance, as the commodore had particularly recommended to Mr Brett to secure him if possible, as by that means he might have treated for the ransom of the place; but his alacrity in flight rendered this impracticable. The few inhabitants who remained were confined in one of the churches under a guard, except some stout negroes, who were employed the remaining part of the night in carrying the treasure, from the custom-house and other places, to the fort, each party of them being attended by a file of musketeers. This transportation of the treasure was the chief employment of Mr Brett's people after getting possession of the place; yet the sailors, while thus busied, could not be prevented from entering the houses in their way, in search of private pillage; when the first things that occurred to them, were the clothes left by the Spaniards, and which were mostly embroidered or laced, according to the fashion of the country. Our people eagerly seized these glittering dresses, and put them on over their own dirty trowsers and jackets, not forgetting the tye or bag-wigs, and laced hats, which were generally found along with the clothes. When this had once begun, there was no possibility of preventing the whole detachment from imitating the example; but those who came latest into the fashion, not finding men's clothes sufficient to equip them, were forced to take up with women's gowns and petticoats, which, provided these were fine enough, they made no scruple of putting on and blending with their own greasy dress: So that, when a party of them first made they appearance in that guise before Mr Brett, he was extremely surprised at their grotesque exhibition, and could hardly believe they were his own men.

While these transactions were going on at Payta, we lay-to till one in the morning, from the time when our boats pushed off; and then, supposing the detachment to be near landing, we went on under easy sail for the bay. This we began to open about seven a.m. of the 13th, and soon after had a view of the town. Though we had no reason to doubt the success of the enterprise, yet we saw with much joy an infallible sign of its being effected, as, by means of our telescope, we could see the English flag hoisted on the flag-staff of the fort. We plied into the bay with as much expedition as the wind, which then blew from the shore, would, allow; and at eleven a.m. the Tryal's pinnace came on board us, laden with dollars and church plate, when the officer who commanded her gave an account of the transactions of the preceding night. About two p.m. we anchored in ten and a half fathoms, about a mile and half from the town, and were consequently near enough to have direct intercourse; with the shore.

Mr Brett had hitherto gone on, collecting and removing the treasure, without interruption; but the enemy had now rendezvoused from all parts of the country, on a hill at the back of the town, where they made no inconsiderable appearance; as, among the rest of their force, there were two hundred horse, seemingly well armed and mounted, and, as we conceived, properly trained and regimented, as they were furnished with trumpets, drums, and standards. These troops paraded about the hill with much ostentation, sounding their military music; and, as our small force on shore was by this time known to them, practising every art to intimidate us, in hopes we might be induced, by our fears of them, to abandon the place before completing its pillage. We were not, however so ignorant as to believe that this body of horse, which seemed to be what they chiefly depended on, would dare to venture themselves among the streets and houses, even had they been three times more numerous; and we went on calmly, as long as day-light lasted, in sending off the treasure, and carrying on board refreshments, such as hogs, poultry, and the like, which we found in great abundance. At night, to prevent surprise, the commodore sent a reinforcement on shore, who were posted in all the avenues leading to the parade; and, for farther security, all the streets were traversed with barricades six feet high. But the enemy continued quiet all night, and at day-break we resumed our labour, in loading and sending off the boats.

We were now thoroughly convinced of what consequence it would have been, had fortune seconded the prudent views of the commodore, by enabling us to have secured the governor. For we found many warehouses full of valuable effects, which were quite useless to us in our present circumstances, as we could not find room for them on board. But, had the governor been in our power, he would have treated, in all probability, for the ransom of this merchandize, which would have been extremely advantageous, both for him and us. Whereas, he being at liberty, and having collected all the force of the country for many leagues around, and having even got a body of militia from Piura, he was so elated by his numbers, and so fond of his new military command, that he did not seem to care about the fate of his government. Insomuch that, although our commodore sent several messages to him, by some of the inhabitants who were made prisoners, offering to enter into treaty for the ransom of the town and goods, even giving an intimation that we should be far from insisting on a rigorous equivalent, and might perhaps be satisfied with some live cattle and other necessaries for the use of the squadron, yet the governor despised all these reiterated overtures, and did not deign to give the slightest answer, though repeatedly threatened, if he would not condescend to treat, that we would set the town and all the warehouses on fire.

On the second day of our possessing the place, several negro slaves deserted from the enemy on the hill, and voluntarily entered into our service, one of them being well known to a gentleman on board, who remembered to have seen him formerly at Panama. We now learnt that the Spaniards, without the town, were in extreme distress for water; for many of their slaves crept into town by stealth, and carried away several jars of water to their masters on the hill; and, though some of these were seized in the attempt, yet their thirst was so pressing, that they continued the practice as long as we remained in possession of the place. In the course of this second day, we were assured, both by deserters and prisoners, that the Spaniards were now increased to a formidable number, and had resolved to storm the town and fort next night, under the command of one Gordon, a Scots papist, and captain of a ship in these seas. We continued, however, to prosecute our work, without hurry, loading and sending off the boats as long as we had light; and at night, a reinforcement was again sent on shore by the commodore, and Mr Brett doubled his guards at all the barricades, all his posts being connected, by means of centinels placed within call of each other, and the whole visited by frequent rounds, attended by a drum. These marks of our vigilance and readiness to receive the enemy, which they could not be ignorant of, cooled their resolution, and made them forget the vaunts of the preceding day; so that we passed this second night with as little molestation as we had done the first.

We had finished sending the treasure on board the evening before, so that the third morning, being the 15th of November, the boats were employed in carrying off the most valuable part of the effects from the town. As the commodore proposed to sail in the afternoon, he this day about ten o'clock, pursuant to his promise, sent all his prisoners on shore, to the number of eighty-eight, giving orders to Lieutenant Brett to have them secured in one of the churches under a strict guard, till he and his men were ready to embark. Mr Brett was also ordered to set the whole town on fire, except the two churches, which fortunately stood at some distance from the houses, after which he was to abandon the place and return on board. Mr Brett punctually complied with these orders, and immediately distributed pitch, tar, and other combustibles, of which there was great abundance to be had, into various houses in the several streets of the town, so that as the place was to be fired in many different quarters at the same time, the destruction might be the more violent and sudden, and the enemy might not be able to extinguish it after his departure. All these preparations being made, Mr Brett made the cannon in the fort be spiked; and setting fire to the houses most to windward, he collected his men and marched them to the beach, where the boats waited to take them off.

As that part of the beach where he intended to embark was an open place without the town, near the churches, his retreat was perceived by the Spaniards on the hill, on which they resolved to endeavour to precipitate his departure, in order to have a pretext for future boasting. For this purpose, a small squadron of their horse, consisting of about sixty, selected probably for this service, marched down the hill with much seeming resolution, as if they had proposed to have charged our men now on the open beach without any advantage or situation. But no sooner did Mr Brett halt his men and face about, than they stopped their career, and did not venture to advance any farther. On arriving at the boats, and being quite ready to embark, our people were detained some time by missing one of their number; and, after some considerable delay, being unable to learn where he was left, or by what accident he was detained, they resolved to depart without him. Just when the last man was embarked, and the boats were going to shove off they heard him calling to be taken in; at which time the town was so thoroughly on fire, and the smoke so covered the beach, that they could hardly discern him, though he was quite well heard. Mr Brett, however, instantly ordered one of the boats to his relief, which found him up to the chin in the water, for he had waded as far as he durst, being extremely terrified at the idea of falling into the hands of the enemy, enraged as they doubtless were at the pillage and destruction of their town. On enquiring into the cause of his staying behind the rest, he acknowledged having taken too large a dose of brandy, which had thrown him into so profound a sleep that he did not wake till the fire began to scorch him. At first opening his eyes, he was amazed to see all the houses in a blaze on one side, and several Spaniards and Indians not far from him on the other. The great and sudden terror instantly restored him to sobriety, and gave him sufficient presence of mind to push through the thickest of the smoke, as the most likely means of escaping from the enemy; and, making the best of his way to the beach, he ran into the water as far as he durst, for he could not swim, before he ventured to look back.

It was certainly much to the honour of our people, that though there were great quantities of wine and spirits found in the town, yet this was the only one who was known to have so far neglected his duty as to get drunk: indeed, their whole behaviour, while on shore, was greatly more regular than could well have been expected, from sailors who had been so long confined on board ship; and, though much of this good conduct must doubtless be imputed to the diligence of the officers, and to the excellent discipline they had been constantly inured to under the commodore, it was certainly not a little to the reputation of the men, that they should so generally have refrained from indulging in these intoxicating liquors, which they found in abundance in every warehouse.

There was another singular incident occurred here which merits being recorded. An Englishman, who had formerly wrought as a ship-carpenter in Portsmouth yard, had left his country and entered into the Spanish service, and was at this time employed by them at the port of Guayaquil; and, as it was well known to his friends in England that he was in that part of the world, they had put letters for him on board the Centurion. This man happened at the present time to be among the Spaniards who had retired to the hill of Payta; and ambitious, as it would seem, of acquiring reputation among his new masters, he came down unarmed to one of our centinels, who was posted at some distance from the fort towards the enemy, pretending that he was desirous of surrendering himself and returning to the service of his country. Our centinel had a cocked pistol in his hand, but, deceived by the fair speeches of the carpenter, he allowed him very imprudently to come much too near him, so that, watching his opportunity, the carpenter wrenched the pistol from his hand, and ran away with it up the hill. By this time two others of our men, who had seen the carpenter advance, and suspected his intentions, were making towards him, and now pursued him, but he got up the hill before they could reach him, and then turned round and fired the pistol. His pursuers immediately returned the fire, though at a great distance, and the crest of the hill covered him as soon as they had fired, so that they took it for granted they had missed him: yet we afterwards learnt that he was shot through the body, and had fallen dead the very next step he took after firing his pistol and getting out of sight. The centinel, too, whom he had so grossly imposed upon, did not escape unpunished; as he was ordered to be severely whipt, for allowing himself to be so shamefully surprised on his post, and giving an example of carelessness, which, if followed in other instances, might have proved fatal to us all.

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