And on this occasion I cannot help mentioning another adventure which happened to some of our people in the bay of Petaplan, as it may help to give the reader a just idea of the temper of the inhabitants of this part of the world. Some time after our arrival at Chequetan, Lieutenant Brett was sent by the commodore, with two of our boats under his command, to examine the coast to the eastward, particularly to make observations on the bay and watering-place of Petaplan. As Mr Brett with one of the boats was preparing to go on shore towards the hill of Petaplan, he, accidentally looking across the bay, perceived, on the opposite strand, three small squadrons of horse parading upon the beach, and seeming to advance towards the place where he proposed to land. On sight of this he immediately put off the boat, though he had but sixteen men with him, and stood over the bay towards them; and he soon came near enough to perceive that they were mounted on very sightly horses, and were armed with carbines and lances. On seeing him make towards them they formed upon the beach, and seemed resolved to dispute his landing, firing several distant shot at him as he drew near; till at last, the boat being arrived within a reasonable distance of the most advanced squadron, Mr Brett ordered his people to fire, upon which this resolute cavalry instantly ran in great confusion into the wood. In this precipitate flight one of their horses fell down and threw his rider; but whether he was wounded or not we could not learn, for both man and horse soon got up again, and followed the rest. In the mean time the other two squadrons, who were drawn up at a great distance behind, out of the reach of our shot, were calm spectators of the rout of their comrades; for they had halted on our first approach, and never advanced afterwards. It was, doubtless, fortunate for our people that the enemy acted with so little prudence, and exerted so little spirit, for had they concealed themselves till our men had landed, it is scarcely possible but the whole boat's crew must have fallen into their hands, since the Spaniards were not much short of two hundred in number. However, the discovery of so considerable a force collected in this bay of Petaplan, obliged us constantly to keep a boat or two before it; for we were apprehensive that the cutter, which we had left to cruise off Acapulco, might, on her return, be surprised by the enemy, if she did not receive timely information of her danger.
After our unsuccessful attempt to engage the people of the country to furnish us with the necessaries we wanted, we were obliged to be contented with what we could procure in the neighbourhood of the port. We caught fish here in tolerable quantities, especially when the smoothness of the water permitted us to hale the seyne. Amongst the rest, we got here cavallies, breams, mullets, soles, fiddle-fish, sea eggs, and lobsters; and here, and in no other place, met with that extraordinary fish called the Torpedo, or numbing fish, which is in shape very like the fiddle-fish, and is not to be known from it but by a brown circular spot of about the bigness of a crown-piece near the centre of its back; perhaps its figure will be better understood when I say it is a flat fish, much resembling the thorn-back. This fish is of a most singular nature, productive of the strangest effects on the human body; for whoever handles it, or happens even to set his foot upon it, is presently seized with a numbness all over him, but more distinguishable in that limb which was in immediate contact with it. The same effect, too, will be, in some degree, produced by touching the fish, with any thing held in the hand; for I myself had a considerable degree of numbness conveyed to my right arm through a walking cane, which I rested on the body of the fish for some time, and I make no doubt but I should have been much more sensibly affected had not the fish been near expiring when I made the experiment: For it is observable that this influence acts with most vigour when the fish is first taken out of the water, and entirely ceases when it is dead, so that it may be then handled, or even eaten, without any inconvenience. I shall only add that the numbness of my arm on this occasion did not go off on a sudden, as the accounts of some naturalists gave me reason to expect, but diminished gradually, so that I had some sensation of it remaining till the next day.
To the account given of the fish we met with here, I must add, that though turtle now grew scarce, and we met with none in this harbour of Chequetan, yet our boats, which, as I have mentioned, were stationed off Petaplan, often supplied us therewith; and though this was a food that we had now been so long as it were confined to, (for it was the only fresh provisions which we had tasted for near six months,) yet we were far from being cloyed with it, or finding that the relish we had of it at all diminished.
The animals we met with on shore were principally guanos, with which the country abounds, and which are by some reckoned delicious food. We saw no beasts of prey here, except alligators, several of which our people discovered, but none of them very large. However, we were satisfied there were tygers in the woods, though none of them came in sight; for we every morning found the beach near the watering-place imprinted with their footsteps: But we never apprehended any mischief from them, for they are by no means so fierce as the Asiatic or African tyger, and are rarely, if ever, known to attack mankind. Birds were in sufficient plenty, especially pheasants of different kinds, some of them of an uncommon size, but they were very dry and tasteless food. Besides these we had a variety of smaller birds, particularly parrots, which we often killed for food.
The fruits and vegetable refreshments at this place were neither plentiful, nor of the best kinds: There were, it is true, a few bushes scattered about the woods, which supplied us with limes, but we scarcely could procure enough for our present use; and these, with a small plumb of an agreeable acid, called in Jamaica the hog-plumb, together with another fruit called a papah, were the only fruits to be found in the woods. Nor is there any other useful vegetable here worth mentioning, except brook-lime: This indeed grew in great quantities near the fresh-water banks; and, as it was esteemed an antiscorbutic, we fed upon it frequently, though its extreme bitterness made it very unpalatable.
By all that has been said, it will appear that the conveniences of this port of Chequetan, particularly in the articles of refreshment, are not altogether such as might be desired: But, upon the whole, it is a place of considerable consequence, as the only secure harbour in a vast extent of coast, except Acapulco.
Account of Proceedings at Chequetan and on the adjacent Coast, till our setting sail for Asia.
The next morning, after our coming to an anchor in the harbour of Chequetan, we sent about ninety of our men well armed on shore, forty of whom were ordered to march into the country, as has been mentioned, and the remaining fifty were employed to cover the watering-place, and to prevent any interruption from the natives.
Here it was agreed, after mature consultation, to destroy the Tryal's prize, as well as the Carmelo and Carmin whose fate had been before resolved on. Indeed the ship was in good repair and fit for the sea; but as the whole numbers onboard our squadron did not amount to the complement of a fourth-rate man of war, we found it was impossible to divide them into three ships, without rendering them incapable of navigating in safety in the tempestuous weather we had reason to expect on the coast of China, where we supposed we should arrive about the time of the change of the monsoons.
During our stay here there happened an incident, which, as it proved the means of convincing our friends in England of our safety, which for some time they were in doubt about, I shall beg leave particularly to recite. I have observed, that from this harbour of Chequetan there was but one path-way which led through the woods into the country. This we found much beaten, and were thence convinced that it was well known to the inhabitants. As it passed by the spring-head, and was the only avenue by which the Spaniards could approach us, we, at some distance beyond the spring-head, felled several large trees, and laid them one upon the other across the path; and at this barricado we constantly kept a guard: And we besides ordered our men employed in watering to have their arms ready, and, in case of any alarm, to march instantly to this post. Though our principal intention was to prevent our being disturbed by any sudden attack of the enemy's horse, yet it answered another purpose, which was not in itself less important; this was to hinder our own people from straggling singly into the country, where we had reason to believe they would be surprised by the Spaniards, who would doubtless be extremely solicitous to pick up some of them, in hopes of getting intelligence of our future designs. To avoid this inconvenience, the strictest orders were given to the centinels, to let no person whatever pass beyond their post: But, notwithstanding this precaution, we missed one Lewis Leger, who was the commodore's cook; and as he was a Frenchman, and suspected to be a papist, it was by some imagined that he had deserted with a view of betraying all that he knew to the enemy; but this appeared by the event to be an ill-grounded surmise, for it was afterwards known that he had been taken by some Indians, who carried him prisoner to Acapulco, from whence he was transferred, to Mexico, and then to Vera Cruz, where he was shipped on board a vessel bound to Old Spain: And the vessel being obliged by some accident to put into Lisbon, Leger escaped on shore, and was by the British consul sent from thence to England; where he brought the first authentic account of the safety of the commodore, and of what he had done in the South Seas. The relation he gave of his own seizure was, that he had rambled into the woods at some distance from the barricade, where he had first attempted to pass, but had been stopped and threatened to be punished; that his principal view was to get a quantity of limes for his master's store; and that in this occupation he was surprised by four Indians, who stripped him naked, and carried him in that condition to Acapulco, exposed to the scorching heat of the sun, which at that time of the year shone with its greatest violence: And afterwards at Mexico his treatment in prison was sufficiently severe, and the whole course of his captivity was a continued instance of the hatred which the Spaniards bear to all those who endeavour to disturb them in the peaceable possession of the coasts of the South Seas. Indeed, Leger's fortune was upon the whole extremely singular; for after the hazards he had run in the commodore's squadron, and the severities he had suffered in his long confinement amongst the enemy, a more fatal disaster attended him on his return to England: For though, when he arrived in London, some of Mr Anson's friends interested themselves in relieving him from the poverty to which his captivity had reduced him, yet he did not long enjoy the benefit of their humanity, for he was killed in an insignificant night brawl, the cause of which could scarcely be discovered.
And here I must observe, that though the enemy never appeared in sight during our stay in this harbour; yet we perceived that there were large parties encamped in the woods about us; for we could see their smokes, and could thence determine that they were posted in a circular line surrounding us at a distance; and just before our coming away they seemed, by the increase of their fires, to have received a considerable reinforcement.
Towards the latter end of April, the unloading of our three prizes, our wooding and watering, and, in short, all our proposed employments at the harbour of Chequetan were completed: So that, on the 27th of April, the Tryal's prize, the Carmelo, and the Carmin, all which we intended to destroy, were towed on shore and scuttled, and a quantity of combustible materials were distributed in their upper works; and the next morning the Centurion and the Gloucester weighed anchor, but as there was but little wind, and that not in their favour, they were obliged to warp out of the harbour. When they had reached the offing, one of the boats was dispatched back again to set fire to our prize, which was accordingly executed. And a canoe was left fixed to a grapnel in the middle of the harbour, with a bottle in it well corked, inclosing a letter to Mr Hughes, who commanded the cutter, which was ordered to cruise before the port of Acapulco, when we came off that station. And on this occasion I must mention more particularly than I have yet done, the views of the commodore in leaving the cutter before that port.
When we were necessitated to make for Chequetan to take in our water, Mr Anson considered that our being in that harbour would soon be known at Acapulco; and therefore he hoped, that on the intelligence of our being employed in port, the galleon might put to sea, especially as Chequetan is so very remote from the course generally steered by the galleon: He therefore ordered the cutter to cruise twenty-four days off the port of Acapulco, and her commander was directed, on perceiving the galleon under sail, to make the best of his way to the commodore at Chequetan. As the Centurion was doubtless a much better sailer than the galleon, Mr Anson in this case resolved to have got to sea as soon as possible, and to have pursued the galleon across the Pacific Ocean: And supposing he should not have met with her in his passage, (which considering that he would have kept nearly the same parallel, was not very improbable,) yet he was certain of arriving off Cape Espiritu Santo, on the island of Samal, before her; and that being the first land she makes on her return to the Philippines, we could not have failed to have fallen in with her, by cruising a few days in that station. But the viceroy of Mexico ruined this project by keeping the galleon in the port of Acapulco all that year.
The letter left in the canoe for Mr Hughes, the commander of the cutter, the time of whose return was now considerably elapsed, directed him to go back immediately to his former station before Acapulco, where he would find Mr Anson, who resolved to cruise for him there for a certain number of days; after which it was added, that the commodore would return to the southward to join the rest of the squadron. This last article was inserted to deceive the Spaniards, if they got possession of the canoe, (as we afterwards learnt they did) but could not impose on Mr Hughes, who well knew that the commodore had no squadron to join, nor any intention of steering back to Peru.
Being now in the offing of Chequetan, bound cross the vast Pacific Ocean in our way to China, we were impatient to run off the coast as soon as possible; for as the stormy season was approaching apace, and as we had no further views in the American seas, we had hoped that nothing would have prevented us from standing to the westward, the moment we got out of the harbour of Chequetan: And it was no small mortification to us, that our necessary employment there had detained us so much longer than we expected; and now we were farther detained by the absence of the cutter, and the standing towards Acapulco in search of her. Indeed, as the time of her cruise had been expired near a fortnight, we suspected that she had been discovered from the shore; and that the governor of Acapulco had thereupon sent out a force to seize her, which, as she carried but six hands, was no very difficult enterprize. However, this being only conjecture, the commodore, as soon as we got clear of the harbour of Chequetan, stood along the coast to the eastward in search of her: And to prevent her from passing by us in the dark, we brought to every night; and the Gloucester, whose station was a league within us towards the shore, carried a light which the cutter could not but perceive if she kept along shore, as we supposed she would do; and as a farther security, the Centurion and the Gloucester alternately showed two false fires every half hour.
By Sunday, the 2d of May, we were advanced within three leagues of Acapulco, and having seen nothing of our boat, we gave her over for lost, which, besides the compassionate concern for our shipmates, and for what it was apprehended they might have suffered, was in itself a misfortune in our present scarcity of hands, we were all greatly interested in: For the crew of the cutter, consisting of six men and the lieutenant, were the very flower of our people, purposely picked out for this service, and known to be every one of them of tried and approved resolution, and as skilful seamen as ever trod a deck. However, as it was the general belief among us that they were taken and carried into Acapulco, the commodore's prudence suggested a project which we hoped would recover them. This was founded on our having many Spanish and Indian prisoners in our possession, and a number of sick negroes, who could be of no service to us in the navigating of the ship. The commodore therefore wrote a letter the same day to the governor of Acapulco, telling him that he would release them all, provided the governor returned the cutter's crew; and the letter was dispatched the same afternoon by a Spanish officer, of whose honour we had a good opinion, and who was furnished with a launch belonging to one of our prizes, and a crew of six other prisoners who all gave their parole for their return. The officer, besides the commodore's letter, carried with him a petition signed by all the prisoners, beseeching his excellency to acquiesce in the terms proposed. From a consideration of the number of our prisoners, and the quality of some of them, we did not doubt but the governor would readily comply, and therefore we kept plying on and off the whole night, intending to keep well in with the land, that we might receive an answer at the limited time, which was the next day, being Monday: But both on the Monday and Tuesday we were driven so far off shore, that we could not hope to receive any answer; and on the Wednesday morning we found ourselves fourteen leagues from the harbour of Acapulco; but as the wind was now favourable, we pressed forwards with all our sail, and did not doubt of getting in with the land in a few hours. Whilst we were thus standing in, the man at the mast-head called out that he saw a boat under sail at a considerable distance to the south-eastward: This we took for granted was the answer of the governor to the commodore's message, and we instantly edged towards it; but when we drew nearer, we found to our unspeakable joy that it was our own cutter. While she was still at a distance, we imagined that she had been discharged out of the port of Acapulco by the governor; but when she drew nearer, the wan and meagre countenances of the crew, the length of their beards, and the feeble and hollow tone of their voices, convinced us that they had suffered much greater hardships than could be expected from even the severities of a Spanish prison. They were obliged to be helped into the ship, and were immediately put to bed, and with rest, and nourishing diet, which they were plentifully supplied with, from the commodore's table, they recovered their health and vigour apace. We learnt that they had kept the sea the whole time of their absence; that when they finished their cruise before Acapulco, and had just begun to ply to the westward in order to join the squadron, a strong adverse current had forced them down the coast to the eastward in spite of all their efforts; that at length their water being all expended, they were obliged to search the coast farther on to the eastward, in quest of some convenient landing-place, where they might get a fresh supply; that in this distress they ran upwards of eighty leagues to leeward, and found every where so large a surf, that there was not the least possibility of their landing; that they passed some days in this dreadful situation without water, and having no other means left them to allay their thirst than sucking the blood of the turtle which they caught; and at last, giving up all hopes of relief, the heat of the climate augmenting their necessities, and rendering their sufferings insupportable, they abandoned themselves to despair, fully persuaded that they should perish by the most terrible of all deaths; but that they were soon after happily relieved by a most unexpected incident, for there fell so heavy a rain, that by spreading their sails horizontally, and by putting bullets in the centres of them to draw them to a point, they caught as much water as filled all their casks; that immediately upon this fortunate supply they stood to the westward in quest of the commodore; and being now luckily favoured by a strong current, they joined us in less than fifty hours, from the time they stood to the westward, after having been absent from us full forty-three days. Those who have an idea of the inconsiderable size of a cutter belonging to a sixty-gun ship, (being only an open boat about twenty-two feet in length,) and who will attend to the various accidents to which she was exposed during a six weeks continuance alone, in the open ocean, on so impracticable and dangerous a coast, will readily own that her return to us, after all the difficulties which she actually experienced, and the hazards to which she was each hour exposed, was little short of miraculous.
I cannot finish this article without remarking how little reliance navigators ought to have on the accounts of the Buccaneer writers: For though in this run eighty leagues to the eastward of Acapulco, she found no place where it was possible for a boat to land, yet those writers have not been ashamed to feign harbours and convenient watering-places within these limits, thereby exposing such as should confide in their relations to the risk of being destroyed by thirst.
Having received our cutter, the sole object of our coming a second time before Acapulco, the commodore resolved not to lose a moment's time longer, but to run off the coast with the utmost expedition, both as the stormy season on the coast of Mexico was now approaching apace, and as we were apprehensive of having the westerly monsoon to struggle with when we came upon the coast of China; and therefore he no longer stood towards Acapulco, as he now wanted no answer from the governor; but yet he resolved not to deprive his prisoners of the liberty which he had promised them; so that they were all immediately embarked in two launches which belonged to our prizes, those from the Centurion in one launch, and those from the Gloucester in the other. The launches were well equipped with masts, sails, and oars, and, lest the wind might prove unfavourable, they had a stock of water and provisions put on board them sufficient for fourteen days. There were discharged thirty-nine persons from on board the Centurion, and eighteen from the Gloucester, the greatest part of them Spaniards, the rest Indians and sick negroes: But as our crews were very weak, we kept the mulattoes and some of the stoutest of the negroes, with a few Indians, to assist us; but we dismissed every Spanish prisoner whatever. We have since learnt, that these two launches arrived safe at Acapulco, where the prisoners could not enough extol the humanity with which they had been treated; and that the governor, before their arrival, had returned a very obliging answer to the commodore's letter, and had attended it with a present of two boats laden with the choicest refreshments and provisions which were to be got at Acapulco; but that these boats not having found our ships, were at length obliged to put back again, after having thrown all their provisions overboard in a storm which threatened their destruction.
The sending away our prisoners was our last transaction on the American coast; for no sooner had we parted with them, than we and the Gloucester made sail to the S.W., proposing to get a good offing from the land, where we hoped, in a few days, to meet with the regular trade-wind, which the accounts of former navigators had represented as much brisker and steadier in this ocean, than in any other part of the globe: For it has been esteemed no uncommon passage to run from hence to the eastermost parts of Asia in two months; and we flattered ourselves that we were as capable of making an expeditious passage as any ships that had ever run this course before us; so that we hoped soon to gain the coast of China, for which we were now bound. And conformable to the general idea of this navigation given by former voyagers, we considered it as free from all kinds of embarrassment of bad weather, fatigue, or sickness; and consequently we undertook it with alacrity, especially as it was no contemptible step towards oar arrival at our native country, for which many of us by this time began to have great longings. Thus, on the 6th of May, we, for the last time, lost sight of the mountains of Mexico, persuaded, that in a few weeks we should arrive at the river of Canton in China, where we expected to meet with many English ships, and numbers of our countrymen; and hoped to enjoy the advantages of an amicable, well-frequented port, inhabited by a polished people, and abounding with the conveniences and indulgences of a civilized life, which for near twenty months had never been once in our power.
[It is judged advisable to omit altogether the next section of the original, as occupied by mere reckoning on the advantages "which might have been expected from the squadron, had it arrived in the South Seas in good time." They are in part specified at the beginning.]
The Run from the Coast of Mexico to the Ladrones or Marian Islands.
When we left the coast of America, we stood to the S.W. with a view of meeting with the N.E. trade-wind, which the accounts of former writers made us expect at seventy or eighty leagues distance from the land: We had another reason for standing to the southward, which was the getting into the latitude of 13 deg. or 14 deg. north; that being the parallel where the Pacific Ocean is most usually crossed, and consequently where the navigation is esteemed the safest: This last purpose we had soon answered, being in a day or two sufficiently advanced to the south. At the same time we were also farther from the shore, than we had presumed was necessary for the falling in with the trade-wind: But in this particular we were most grievously disappointed; for the wind still continued to the westward, or at best variable. As the getting into the N.E. trade-wind, was to us a matter of the last consequence, we stood more to the southward, and made many experiments to meet with it; but it was seven weeks, from our leaving the coast, before we got into it. This was an interval, in which we believed we should well nigh have reached the easternmost parts of Asia: But we were so baffled with the contrary and variable winds, which for all that time perplexed us, that we were not as yet advanced above a fourth part of the way. The delay alone would have been a sufficient mortification; but there were other circumstances attending it, which rendered this situation not less terrible, and our apprehensions perhaps still greater than in any of our past distresses. For our two ships were by this time extremely crazy; and many days had not passed, before we discovered a spring in the fore-mast of the Centurion, which rounded about twenty-six inches of its circumference, and which was judged to be at least four inches deep: And no sooner had our carpenters secured this with fishing it, but the Gloucester made a signal of distress; and we learnt that she had a dangerous spring in her main-mast, twelve feet below the trussel-trees; so that she could not carry any sail upon it. Our carpenters, on a strict examination of this mast, found it so very rotten and decayed, that they judged it necessary to cut it down as low as it appeared to have been injured; and by this it was reduced to nothing but a stump, which served only as a step to the topmast. These accidents augmented our delay, and occasioned us great anxiety about our future security: For on our leaving the coast of Mexico, the scurvy had begun to make its appearance again amongst our people; though from our departure from Juan Fernandes we had till then enjoyed a most uninterrupted state of health. We too well knew the effects of this disease, from our former fatal experience, to suppose that any thing but a speedy passage could secure the greater part of our crew from perishing by it: And as, after-being seven weeks at sea, there did not appear any reasons that could persuade us we were nearer the trade-wind than when we first set out, there was no ground for us to suppose but our passage would prove at least three times as long as we at first expected; and consequently we had the melancholy prospect, either of dying by the scurvy, or perishing with the ship for want of hands to navigate her. Indeed, some amongst us were at first willing to believe, that in this warm climate, so different from what we felt in passing round Cape Horn, the violence of this disease, and its fatality, might be in some degree mitigated; as it had not been unusual to suppose that its particular virulence in that passage was in a great measure owing to the severity of the weather; but the havock of the distemper, in our present circumstances, soon convinced us of the falsity of this speculation; as it likewise exploded some other opinions, which usually pass current about the cause and nature of this disease.
[Footnote 1: Some remarks respecting the nature and treatment of this disease are now given in the original, but being imperfect and conjectural, are omitted here.—E.]
Our surgeon (who, during our passage round Cape Horn, had ascribed the mortality we suffered to the severity of the climate) exerted himself in the present run to the utmost, and at last declared, that all his measures were totally ineffectual, and did not in the least avail his patients. When we reached the trade-wind, and it settled between the north and the east, yet it seldom blew with so much strength, but the Centurion might have carried all her small sails abroad with the greatest safety; so that now, had we been a single ship, we might have run down our longitude apace, and have reached the Ladrones soon enough to have recovered great numbers of our men, who afterwards perished. But the Gloucester, by the loss of her main-mast, sailed so very heavily, that we had seldom any more than our top-sails set, and yet were frequently obliged to lie to for her: And, I conceive, that in the whole we lost little less than a month by our attendance upon her, in consequence of the various mischances she encountered. In all this run it was remarkable, that we were rarely many days together, without seeing great numbers of birds; which is a proof that there are many islands, or at least rocks, scattered all along, at no very considerable distance from our track. Some indeed there are marked in a Spanish chart; but the frequency of the birds seems to evince, that there are many more than have been hitherto discovered: For the greatest part of the birds we observed were such as are known to roost on shore; and the manner of their appearance sufficiently made out, that they came from some distant haunt every morning, and returned thither again in the evening; for we never saw them early or late; and the hour of their arrival and departure gradually varied, which we supposed was occasioned by our running nearer their haunts, or getting farther from them.
The trade-wind continued to favour us without any fluctuation, from the end of June till towards the end of July. But on the 26th of July, being then, as we esteemed, about three hundred leagues distant from the Ladrones, we met with a westerly wind, which did not come about again to the eastward in four days time. This was a most dispiriting incident, as it at once damped all our hopes of speedy relief, especially too as it was attended with a vexatious accident to the Gloucester: For in one part of these four days the wind-flatted to a calm, and the ships rolled very deep; by which means the Gloucester's forecap split, and her top-mast came by the board, and broke her fore-yard directly in the slings. As she was hereby rendered incapable of making any sail for some time, we were obliged, as soon as a gale sprung up, to take her in tow; and near twenty of the healthiest and ablest of our seamen were taken from the business of our own ship, and were employed for eight or ten days together on board the Gloucester in repairing her damages: But these things, mortifying as we thought them, were but the beginning of our disasters; for scarce had our people finished their business in the Gloucester, before we met with a most violent storm in the western board, which obliged us to lie to. In the beginning of this storm our ship sprung a leak, and let in so much water, that all our people, officers included, were employed continually in working the pumps: And the next day we had the vexation to see the Gloucester, with her top-mast once more by the board; and whilst we were viewing her with great concern for this new distress, we saw her main-top mast, which had hitherto served as a jury main-mast, share the same fate. This completed our misfortunes, and rendered them without resource; for we knew the Gloucester's crew were so few and feeble, that without our assistance they could not be relieved: And our sick were now so far increased, and those that remained in health so continually fatigued with the additional duty of our pumps, that it was impossible for us to lend them any aid. Indeed we were not as yet fully apprized of the deplorable situation of the Gloucester's crew; for when the storm abated, (which during its continuance prevented all communication with them) the Gloucester bore up under our stern; and Captain Mitchel informed the commodore, that besides the loss of his masts, which was all that had appeared to us, the ship had then no less than seven feet of water in her hold, although his officers and men had been kept constantly at the pump for the last twenty-four hours.
This last circumstance was indeed a most terrible accumulation to the other extraordinary distresses of the Gloucester, and required, if possible, the most speedy and vigorous assistance; which captain Mitchel begged the commodore to send him: But the debility of our people, and our own immediate preservation, rendered it impossible for the commodore to comply with his request. All that could be done was to send our boat on board for a more particular condition of the ship; and it was soon suspected that the taking her people on board us, and then destroying her, was the only measure that could be prosecuted in the present emergency, for the security of their lives and our own.
Our boat soon returned with a representation of the state of the Gloucester, and of her several defects, signed by Captain Mitchel and all his officers; by which it appeared, that she had sprung a leak by the stern-post being loose, and working with every roll of the ship, and by two beams a midships being broken in the orlope; no part of which the carpenters reported was possible to be repaired at sea. That both officers and men had worked twenty-four hours at the pump without intermission, and were at length so fatigued, that they could continue their labour no longer; but had been forced to desist, with seven feet of water in the hold, which covered their cask, so that they could neither come at fresh water, nor provision: That they had no mast standing, except the fore-mast, the mizen-mast, and the mizen top-mast, nor had they any spare masts to get up in the room of those they had lost: That the ship was besides extremely decayed in every part, for her knees and clamps were all worked quite loose, and her upper works in general were so loose, that the quarter-deck was ready to drop down: And that her crew was greatly reduced, for there remained alive on board her no more than seventy-seven, men, eighteen boys, and two prisoners, officers included; and that of this whole number, only sixteen men and eleven boys were capable of keeping the deck, and several of these very infirm.
The commodore, on the perusal of this melancholy representation, presently ordered them a supply of water and provisions, of which they seemed to be in immediate want, and at the same time sent his own carpenter on board them, to examine into the truth of every particular; and it being found, on the strictest enquiry, that the preceding account was in no instance exaggerated, it plainly appeared, that there was no possibility of preserving the Gloucester any longer, as her leaks were irreparable, and the united hands on board both ships, capable of working, would not be able to free her, even if our own ship should not employ any part of them. What then could be resolved on, when it was the utmost we ourselves could do to manage our own pumps? Indeed there was no room for deliberation; the only step to be taken was, the saving the lives of the few that remained on board the Gloucester, and getting out of her as much as was possible before she was destroyed. And therefore the commodore immediately sent an order to Captain Mitchel, as the weather was now calm and favourable, to send his people on board the Centurion as expeditiously as he could; and to take out such stores as he could get at, whilst the ship could be kept above water. And as our leak required less attention, whilst the present easy weather continued, we sent our boats with as many men as we could spare, to Captain Mitchel's assistance.
The removing the Gloucester's people on board us, and the getting out such stores as could most easily be come at, gave us full employment for two days. Mr Anson was extremely desirous to have gotten two of her cables and an anchor, but the ship rolled so much, and the men were so excessively fatigued, that they were incapable of effecting it; nay, it was even with the greatest difficulty that the prize-money, which the Gloucester had taken in the South-Seas, was secured, and sent on board the Centurion: However, the prize-goods on board her, which amounted to several thousand pounds in value, and were principally the Centurion's property, were entirely lost; nor could any more provision be got out than five casks of flour, three of which were spoiled by the salt-water. Their sick men, amounting to near seventy, were removed into boats with as much care as the circumstances of that time would permit; but three or four of them expired as they were hoisting them into the Centurion.
It was the 15th of August, in the evening, before the Gloucester was cleared of every thing that was proposed to be removed; and though the hold was now almost full of water, yet, as the carpenters were of opinion that she might still swim for some time, if the calm should continue, and the water become smooth, she was set on fire; for we knew not how near we might now be to the island of Guam, which was in the possession of our enemies, and the wreck of such a ship would have been to them no contemptible acquisition. When she was set on fire, Captain Mitchel and his officers left her, and came on board the Centurion: And we immediately stood from the wreck, not without some apprehensions (as we had now only a light breeze) that if she blew up soon, the concussion of the air might damage our rigging; but she fortunately burnt, though very fiercely, the whole night, her guns firing successively, as the flames reached them. And it was six in the morning, when we were about four leagues distant, before she blew up; the report she made upon this occasion was but a small one, but there was an exceeding black pillar of smoke, which shot up into the air to a very considerable height.
Thus perished his majesty's ship the Gloucester. And now it might have been expected, that, being freed from, the embarrassments which her frequent disasters had involved us in, we would proceed on our way much brisker than, we had hitherto done, especially as we had received some small addition to our strength, by the taking on board the Gloucester's crew; but our anxieties were not yet to be relieved; for, notwithstanding all that we had hitherto suffered, there remained much greater distresses, which we were still to struggle with. For the late storm, which had proved so fatal to the Gloucester, had driven us to the northward of our intended course; and the current setting the same way, after the weather abated, had forced us still a degree or two farther, so that we were now in 17 deg. 1/4 of north latitude, instead of being in 13 deg. 1/2, which was the parallel we proposed to keep, in order to reach the island of Guam: And as it had been a perfect calm for some days since the cessation of the storm, and we were ignorant how near we were to the meridian of the Ladrones, and supposed ourselves not to be far from it, we apprehended that we might be driven to the leeward of them by the current, without discovering them: In this case, the only land we could make would be some of the eastern parts of Asia, where, if we could arrive, we should find the western monsoon in its full force, so that it would be impossible for the stoutest best-manned ship to get in. And this coast being removed between four and five hundred leagues farther, we, in our languishing circumstances, could expect no other than to be destroyed by the scurvy, long before the most favourable gale could carry us to such a distance: For our deaths were now extremely alarming, no day passing in which we did not bury eight or ten, and sometimes twelve of our men; and those, who had hitherto continued healthy, began to fall down apace. Indeed we made the use we could of the present calm, by employing our carpenters in searching after the leak, which was now considerable, notwithstanding the little wind we had: The carpenters at length discovered it to be in the gunner's fore store-room, where the water rushed in under the breast-hook, on each side of the stein; but though they found where it was, they agreed that it was impossible to stop it, till we should get into port, and till they could come at it on the outside: However, they did the best they could within board, and were fortunate enough to reduce it, which was a considerable relief to us.
We had hitherto considered the calm which succeeded the storm, and which continued for some days, as a very great misfortune; since the currents were driving us to the northward of our parallel, and we thereby risqued the missing of the Ladrones, which we now conceived ourselves to be very near. But when a gale sprung up, our condition was still worse; for it blew from the S.W. and consequently was directly opposed to the course we wanted to steer: And though it soon veered to the N.E. yet this served only to tantalize us, for it returned back again in a very short time to its old quarter. However, on the 22d of August we had the satisfaction to find that the current was shifted; and had set us to the southward: And the 23d, at day-break, we were cheered with the discovery of two islands in the western board: This gave us all great joy, and raised our drooping spirits; for before this an universal dejection had seized us, and we almost despaired of ever seeing land again: The nearest of these islands we afterwards found to be Anatacan; we judged it to be full fifteen leagues from us, and it seemed to be high land, though of an indifferent length: The other was the island of Serigan; and had rather the appearance of a high rock, than a place we could hope to anchor at. We were extremely impatient to get in with the nearest island, where we expected to meet with anchoring-ground, and an opportunity of refreshing our sick: But the wind proved so variable all day, and there was so little of it, that we advanced towards it but slowly; however, by the next morning we were got so far to the westward, that we were in view of a third island, which was that of Paxaros, though marked in the chart only as a rock. This was small and very low land, and we had passed within less than a mile of it, in the night, without seeing it: And now at noon, being within four miles of the island of Anatacan, the boat was sent away to examine the anchoring-ground and the produce of the place; and we were not a little solicitous for her return, as we then conceived our fate to depend upon the report we should receive: For the other two islands were obviously enough incapable of furnishing us with any assistance, and we knew not then that there were any others which we could reach. In the evening the boat came back, and the crew informed us that there was no place for a ship to anchor, the bottom being every where foul ground, and all, except one small spot, not less than fifty fathom in depth; that on that spot there was thirty fathom, though not above half a mile from the shore; and that the bank was steep, and could not be depended on: They farther told us, that they had landed on the island, but with some difficulty, on account of the greatness of the swell; that they found the ground was every where covered with a kind of cane, or rush; but that they met with no water, and did not believe the place to be inhabited; though the soil was good, and abounded with groves of cocoa-nut trees.
This account of the impossibility of anchoring at this island, occasioned a general melancholy on board; for we considered it as little less than the prelude to our destruction; and our despondency was increased by a disappointment we met with the succeeding night; for, as we were plying under top-sails, with an intention of getting nearer to the island, and of sending our boat on shore to load with cocoa-nuts for the refreshment of our sick, the wind proved squally, and blew so strong off shore, as to drive us so far to the southward, that we dared not to send off our boat. And now the only possible circumstance, that could secure the few that remained alive from perishing, was the accidental falling in with some other of the Ladrone islands, better prepared for our accommodation; and as our knowledge of these islands was extremely imperfect, we were to trust entirely to chance for our guidance; only as they are all of them usually laid down near the same meridian, and we had conceived those we had already seen to be part of them, we concluded to stand to the southward, as the most probable means of falling in with the next. Thus, with the most gloomy persuasion of our approaching destruction, we stood from the island of Anatacon, having all of us the strongest apprehensions (and those not ill founded) either of dying of the scurvy, or of perishing with the ship, which, for want of hands to work her pumps, might in a short time be expected to founder.
Our Arrival at Tinian, and an Account of the Island, and of our Proceedings there, till the Centurion drove out to Sea.
It was the 26th of August, 1742, in the morning, when we lost sight of Anatacan. The next morning we discovered three other islands to the eastward, which were from ten to fourteen leagues from us. These were, as we afterwards learnt, the islands of Saypan, Tinian, and Aguigan. We immediately steered towards Tinian, which was the middlemost of the three, but had so much of calms and light airs, that though we were helped forwards by the currents, yet next day, at day-break, we were at least five leagues distant from it. However, we kept on our course, and about ten in the morning we perceived a proa under sail to the southward, between Tinian and Aguigan. As we imagined from hence that these islands were inhabited, and knew that the Spaniards had always a force at Guam, we took the necessary precautions for our own security, and for preventing the enemy from taking advantage of our present wretched circumstances, of which they would be sufficiently informed by the manner of our working the ship; we therefore mustered all our hands, who were capable of standing to their arms, and loaded our upper and quarter-deck guns with grape-shot; and, that we might the more readily procure some intelligence of the state of these islands, we showed Spanish colours, and hoisted a red flag at the fore-top-masthead, to give our ship the appearance of the Manilla galleon, hoping thereby to decoy some of the inhabitants on board us. Thus preparing ourselves, and standing towards the land, we were near enough, at three in the afternoon, to send the cutter in shore, to find out a proper birth for the ship; and we soon perceived that a proa came off the shore to meet the cutter, fully persuaded, as we afterwards found, that we were the Manilla ship. As we saw the cutter returning back with the proa in tow, we immediately sent the pinnace to receive the proa and the prisoners, and to bring them on board, that the cutter might proceed on her errand. The pinnace came back with a Spaniard and four Indians, which were the people taken in the proa. The Spaniard was immediately examined as to the produce and circumstances of this island of Tinian, and his account of it surpassed even our most sanguine hopes; for he informed us that it was uninhabited, which, in our present defenceless condition, was an advantage not to be despised, especially as it wanted but few of the conveniences that could be expected in the most cultivated country; for he assured us, that there was great plenty of very good water, and that there were an incredible number of cattle, hogs, and poultry running wild on the island, all of them excellent in their kind; that the woods produced sweet and sour oranges, limes, lemons, and cocoa-nuts in great plenty, besides a fruit peculiar to these islands (called by Dampier, Bread-fruit); that from the quantity and goodness of the provisions produced here, the Spaniards at Guam made use of it as a store for supplying the garrison; that he himself was a serjeant of that garrison, and was sent here with twenty-two Indians to jerk beef, which he was to load for Guam on board a small bark of about fifteen tun, which lay at anchor near the shore.
This account was received by us with inexpressible joy: Part of it we were ourselves able to verify on the spot, as we were by this time near enough to discover several numerous herds of cattle feeding in different places of the island; and we did not any ways doubt the rest of his relation, as the appearance of the shore prejudiced us greatly in its favour, and made us hope, that not only our necessities might be there fully relieved, and our diseased recovered, but that, amidst those pleasing scenes which were then in view, we might procure ourselves some amusement and relaxation, after the numerous fatigues we had undergone: For the prospect of the country did by no means resemble that of an uninhabited and uncultivated place, but had much more the air of a magnificent plantation, where large lawns and stately woods had been laid out together with great skill, and where the whole had been so artfully combined, and so judiciously adapted to the slopes of the hills, and the inequalities of the ground, as to produce a most striking effect, and to do honour to the invention of the contriver. Thus (an event not unlike what we had already seen) we were forced upon the most desirable and salutary measures by accidents, which at first sight we considered as the greatest of misfortunes; for had we not been driven by the contrary winds and currents to the northward of our course (a circumstance which at that time gave us the most terrible apprehensions) we should, in all probability, never have arrived at this delightful island, and consequently we should have missed of that place, where alone all our wants could be most amply relieved, our sick recovered, and our enfeebled crew once more refreshed, and enabled to put again to sea.
The Spanish serjeant, from whom we received the account of the island, having informed us that there were some Indians on shore under his command, employed in jerking beef, and that there was a bark at anchor to take it on board, we were desirous, if possible, to prevent the Indians from escaping, who doubtless would have given the governor of Guam intelligence of our arrival; and we therefore immediately dispatched the pinnace to secure the bark, which the serjeant told us was the only embarkation on the place; and then, about eight in the evening, we let go our anchor in twenty-two fathom; and though it was almost calm, and whatever vigour and spirit was to be found on board was doubtless exerted to the utmost on this pleasing occasion, when, after having kept the sea for some months, we were going to take possession of this little paradise, yet we were full five hours in furling our sails: It is true, we were somewhat weakened by the crews of the cutter and pinnace having been sent on shore; but it is not less true, that, including those absent with the boats and some negro and Indian prisoners, all the hands we could muster capable of standing at a gun amounted to no more than seventy-one, most of which number too were incapable of duty; but on the greatest emergencies this was all the force we could collect, in our present enfeebled condition, from the united crews of the Centurion, the Gloucester, and the Tryal, which, when we departed from England, consisted altogether of near a thousand hands.
When we had furled our sails, the remaining part of the night was allowed to our people for their repose, to recover them from the fatigue they had undergone; and in the morning a party was sent on shore well armed, of which I myself was one, to make ourselves masters of the landing place, as we were not certain what opposition might be made by the Indians on the island: We landed without difficulty, for the Indians having perceived, by our seizure of the bark the night before, that we were enemies, they immediately fled into the woody parts of the island. We found on shore many huts which they had inhabited, and which saved us both the time and trouble of erecting tents; one of these huts which the Indians made use of for a storehouse was very large, being twenty yards long, and fifteen broad; this we immediately cleared of some bales of jerked beef, which we found in it, and converted it into an hospital for our sick, who as soon as the place was ready to receive them were brought on shore, being in all a hundred and twenty-eight: Numbers of these were so very helpless that we were obliged to carry them from the boats to the hospital upon our shoulders, in which humane employment (as before at Juan Fernandes) the commodore himself, and every one of his officers, were engaged without distinction; and, notwithstanding the great debility and the dying aspects of the greatest part of our sick, it is almost incredible how soon they began to feel the salutary influence of the land; for, though we buried twenty-one men on this and the preceeding day, yet we did not lose above ten men more during our whole two months stay here; and in general, our diseased received so much benefit from the fruits of the island, particularly the fruits of the acid kind, that, in a week's time, there were but few who were not so far recovered, as to be able to move about without help.
[Footnote 2: The description of this beautiful island, and its most desirable productions, is deferred till we come to the voyage of Commodore Byron, who visited it in 1765.—E.]
Whilst we were employed in the removal of our sick on shore, four of the Indians, being part of the Spanish serjeant's detachment, came and surrendered themselves to us, so that with those we took in the proa, we had now eight of them in our custody. One of the four, who submitted, undertook to show us the most convenient place for killing cattle, and two of our men were ordered to attend him on that service; but one of them unwarily trusting the Indian with his firelock and pistol, the Indian escaped with them into the woods: His countrymen, who remained behind, were apprehensive of suffering for this perfidy of their comrade, and therefore begged leave to send one of their own party into the country, who they engaged should both bring back the arms, and persuade the whole detachment from Guam to submit to us. The commodore granted their request; and one of them was dispatched on this errand, who returned next day, and brought back the firelock and pistol, but assured us, he had met with them in a path-way in the wood, and protested that he had not been able to meet with any one of his countrymen: This report had so little the air of truth, that we suspected there was some treachery carrying on, and therefore, to prevent any future communication amongst them, we immediately ordered all the Indians who were in our power on board the ship, and did not permit them to return any more on shore.
When our sick were well settled on the island, we employed all the hands that could be spared from attending them; in arming the cables with a good rounding, several fathom from the anchor, to secure them from being rubbed by the coral rocks, which here abounded: And this being completed, our next attention was our leak, and in order to raise it out of water, we, on the first of September, began to get the guns aft to bring the ship by the stern; and now the carpenters, being able to come at it on the outside, ripped off the old sheathing that was left, and caulked all the seams on both sides the cut-water, and leaded them over, and then new-sheathed the bows to the surface of the water: By this means we conceived the defect was sufficiently secured; but upon our beginning to bring the guns into their places, we had the mortification to perceive, that the water rushed into the ship in the old place, with as much violence as ever: Hereupon we were necessitated to begin again; and that our second attempt might be more effectual, we cleared the fore store-room, and sent a hundred and thirty barrels of powder on board the small Spanish bark we had seized here, by which means we raised the ship about three feet out of the water forwards, and the carpenters ripped off the sheathing lower down, and new caulked all the seams, and afterwards laid on new sheathing; and then, supposing the leak lobe effectually stopped, we began to move the guns forwards; but the upper deck guns were scarcely in their places, when, to our amazement, it burst out again; and now, as we durst not cut away the lining within board, lest a but-end or a plank might start, and we might go down immediately, we had no other resource left than chincing and caulking within board; and indeed by this means the leak was stopped for some time; but when our guns were all in their places, and our stores were taken on board, the water again forced its way through a hole in the stem, where one of the bolts was driven in; and on this we desisted from all farther efforts, being now well assured, that the defect was in the stem itself, and that it was not to be remedied till we should have an opportunity of heaving down.
Towards the middle of September, several of our sick were tolerably recovered by their residence on shore; and, on the 12th of September, all those who were so far relieved, since their arrival, as to be capable of doing duty, were sent on board the ship: And then the commodore, who was himself ill of the scurvy, had a tent erected for him on shore, where he went with the view of staying a few days for the recovery of his health, being convinced, by the general experience of his people, that no other method but living on the land was to be trusted to for the removal of this dreadful malady. The place, where his tent was pitched on this occasion, was near the well, whence we got all our water, and was indeed a most elegant spot. As the crew on board were now reinforced by the recovered hands returned from the island, we began to send our cask on shore to be fitted up, which till now could not be done, for the coopers were not well enough to work. We likewise weighed our anchors, that we might examine our cables, which we suspected had by this time received considerable damage. And as the new moon was now approaching, when we apprehended violent gales, the commodore, for our greater security, ordered that part of the cables next to the anchors to be armed with the chains of the fire-grapnels; and they were besides cackled twenty fathom from the anchors, and seven fathom from the service, with a good rounding of a 41/2 inch hawser; and to all these precautions we added that of lowering the main and fore-yard close down, that in case of blowing weather the wind might have less power upon the ship, to make her ride a strain.
Thus effectually prepared, as we conceived, we expected the new moon, which was the 18th of September, and riding safe that and the three succeeding days, (though the weather proved very squally and uncertain) we flattered ourselves (for I was then on board) that the prudence of our measures had secured us from all accidents; but, on the 22d, the wind blew from the eastward with such fury, that we soon despaired of riding out the storm; and therefore we should have been extremely glad that the commodore and the rest of our people on shore, which were the greatest part of our hands, had been on board with us, since our only hopes of safety seemed to depend on our putting immediately to sea; but all communication with the shore was now effectually cut off, for there was no possibility that a boat could live, so that we were necessitated to ride it out, till our cables parted. Indeed it was not long before this happened, for the small bower parted at five in the afternoon, and the ship swung off to the best bower; and as the night came on, the violence of the wind still increased; but notwithstanding its inexpressible fury, the tide ran with so much rapidity, as to prevail over it; for the tide having set to the northward in the beginning of the storm, turned suddenly to the southward about six in the evening, and forced the ship before it in despight of the storm, which blew upon the beam: And now the sea broke most surprisingly all round us, and a large tumbling swell threatened to poop us; the long-boat, which was at this time moored a-stern, was on a sudden canted so high, that it broke the transom of the commodore's gallery, whose cabin was on the quarter-deck, and would doubtless have risen as high as the tafferel, had it not been for this stroke which stove the boat all to pieces; but the poor boat-keeper, though extremely bruised, was saved almost by miracle. About eight the tide slackened, but the wind did not abate; so that at eleven, the best bower-cable, by which alone we rode, parted. Our sheet-anchor, which was the only one we had left, was instantly cut from the bow; but before it could reach the bottom, we were driven from twenty-two into thirty-five fathom; and after we had veered away one whole cable, and two-thirds of another, we could not find ground with sixty fathom of line: This was a plain indication, that the anchor lay near the edge of the bank, and could not hold us. In this pressing danger, Mr Sanmarez, our first lieutenant, who now commanded on board, ordered several guns to be fired, and lights to be shown, as a signal to the commodore of our distress; and in a short time after, it being then about one o'clock, and the night excessively dark, a strong gust, attended with rain and lightning, drove us off the bank, and forced us out to sea, leaving behind us, on the island, Mr Anson, with many more of our officers, and great part of our crew, amounting in the whole to an hundred and thirteen persons. Thus were we all, both at sea and on shore, reduced to the utmost despair by this catastrophe, those on shore conceiving they had no means left them ever to leave the island, and we on board utterly unprepared to struggle with the fury of the seas and winds we were now exposed to, and expecting each moment, to be our last.
Transactions at Tinian after the Departure of the Centurion.
The storm, which drove the Centurion to sea, blew with too much turbulence to permit either the commodore or any of the people on shore bearing the guns, which she fired as signals of distress; and the frequent glare of the lightning had prevented the explosions from being observed: So that, when at day-break, it was perceived from the shore that the ship was missing, there was the utmost consternation amongst them: For much the greatest part of them immediately concluded that she, was lost, and entreated the commodore that the boat might be sent round the island to look for the wreck; and those who believed her safe, had scarcely any expectation that she would ever be able to make the island again: For the wind continued to blow strong at east, and they knew how poorly she was manned and provided for struggling with so tempestuous a gale. And if the Centurion was lost, or should be incapable of returning, there appeared no possibility of their ever getting off the island; For they were at least six hundred leagues from Macao, which was their nearest port; and they were masters of no other vessel than the small Spanish bark, of about fifteen tun, which they seized at their first arrival, and which would not even hold a fourth part of their number: And the chance of their being taken off the island by the casual arrival of any ship was altogether desperate; as perhaps no European ship had ever anchored here before, and it were madness to expect that like incidents should send another in an hundred ages to come: So that their desponding thoughts could only suggest to them the melancholy prospect of spending the remainder of their days on this island, and bidding adieu for ever to their country, their friends, their families, and all their domestic endearments.
Nor was this the worst they had to fear: For they had reason to expect, that the governor of Guam, when he should be informed of their situation, might send a force sufficient to overpower them, and to remove them to that island; and then, the most favourable treatment they could hope for would be to be detained prisoners for life; since, from the known policy and cruelty of the Spaniards in their distant settlements, it was rather to be expected, that the governor, if he once had them in his power, would make their want of commissions (all of them being on board the Centurion) a pretext for treating them, as pirates, and for depriving them of their lives with infamy.
In the midst of these gloomy reflections, Mr Anson had his share of disquietude; but he kept up his usual composure and steadiness: And having soon projected a scheme for extricating himself and his men from their present anxious situation, he first communicated it to some of the most intelligent; and being satisfied that it was practicable, he then endeavoured to animate his people to a speedy and vigorous prosecution of it. With this view he represented to them, how little foundation there was for their apprehensions of the Centurion's being lost: That he should have hoped, they had been all of them better acquainted with sea-affairs, than to give way to the impression of so chimerical a fright; and that he doubted not, if they would seriously consider what such a ship was capable of enduring, they would confess that there was not the least probability of her having perished: That he was not without hopes that she might return in a few days; but if she did not, the worst that could be supposed was, that she was driven so far to the leeward of the island that she could not regain it, and that she would consequently be obliged to bear away for Macao on the coast of China: That as it was necessary to be prepared against all events, he had, in this case, considered of a method of carrying them off the island, and joining their old ship the Centurion again at Macao: That this method was to hale the Spanish bark on shore, to saw her asunder, and to lengthen her twelve feet, which would enlarge her to near forty tun burthen, and would enable her to carry them all to China: That he had consulted the carpenters, and they had agreed that this proposal was very feasible, and that nothing was wanting to execute it, but the united resolution and industry of the whole body: He added, that, for his own part, he would share the fatigue and labour with them, and would expect no more from any man than what he himself was ready to submit to; he concluded with representing to them the importance of saving time; and that, in order to be the better prepared for all events, it was necessary to set to work immediately, and to take it for granted, that the Centurion would not be able to put back (which was indeed the commodore's secret opinion;) since, if she did return, they should only throw away a few days application; but, if she did not, their situation, and the season of the year, required their utmost dispatch.
These remonstrances, though not without effect, did not immediately operate so powerfully as Mr Anson wished: He indeed raised their spirits, by showing them the possibility of their getting away, of which they had before despaired; but then, from their confidence of this resource, they grew less apprehensive of their situation, gave a greater scope to their hopes, and flattered themselves that the Centurion would return and prevent the execution of the commodore's scheme, which they could easily foresee would be a work of considerable labour. By this means, it was some days before they were all of them heartily engaged in the project; but at last, being in general convinced of the impossibility of the ship's return, they set themselves zealously to the different tasks allotted them, and were as industrious and as eager as their commander could desire, punctually assembling at day-break at the rendezvous, whence they were distributed to their different employments, which they followed with unusual vigour till night came on.
And here I must interrupt the course of this transaction for a moment, to relate an incident which for some time gave Mr Anson more concern than all the preceding disasters. A few days after the ship was driven off, some of the people on shore cried out, A sail. This spread a general joy, every one supposing that it was the ship returning; but presently a second sail was descried, which quite destroyed their conjecture, and made it difficult to guess what they were. The commodore eagerly turned his glass towards them, and saw they were two boats; on which it immediately occurred to him that the Centurion was gone to the bottom, and that these were her two boats coming back with the remains of her people; and this sudden and unexpected suggestion wrought on him so powerfully, that, to conceal his emotion, he was obliged (without speaking to any one) instantly to retire to his tent, where he past some bitter moments, in the firm belief that the ship was lost, and that now all his views of farther distressing the enemy, and of still signalizing his expedition by some important exploit, were at an end.
But he was soon relieved from these disturbing thoughts, by discovering that the two boats in the offing were Indian proas, and, perceiving that they stood towards the shore, he directed every appearance that could give them any suspicion to be removed, and concealed his people in the adjacent thickets, prepared to secure the Indians when they should land; but, after the proas had stood in within a quarter of a mile of the land, they suddenly stopt short, and remaining there motionless for near two hours, they then made sail again, and stood to the southward.—To return to the projected enlargement of the bark.
If we examine how they were prepared for going through with this undertaking, on which their safely depended, we shall find, that, independent of other matters which were of as much importance, the lengthening of the bark alone was attended with great difficulty. Indeed, in a proper place, where all the necessary materials and tools were to be had, the embarrassment would have been much less; but some of these tools were to be made, and many of the materials were wanting; and it required no small degree of invention to supply all these deficiences. And when the hull of the bark should be completed, this was but one article; and there were many others of equal weight, which were to be well considered: These were the rigging it, the victualling it, and, lastly, the navigating it, for the space of six or seven hundred leagues, through unknown seas, where no one of the company had ever passed before. In some of these particulars such obstacles occurred, that, without the intervention of very extraordinary and unexpected accidents, the possibility of the whole enterprise would have fallen to the ground, and their utmost industry and efforts must have been fruitless. Of all these circumstances I shall make a short recital.
It fortunately happened that the carpenters, both of the Gloucester and of the Tryal, with their chests of tools, were on shore when the ship drove out to sea; the smith, too, was on shore, and had with him his forge and some tools, but unhappily his bellows had not been brought from on board, so that he was incapable of working, and without his assistance they could not hope to proceed with their design; their first attention, therefore, was to make him a pair of bellows, but in this they were for some time puzzled, by their want of leather; however, as they had hides in sufficient plenty, and they had found a hogshead of lime, which the Indians or Spaniards had prepared for their own use, they tanned some hides with this lime; and though we may suppose the workmanship to be but indifferent, yet the leather they thus made served tolerably well, and the bellows (to which a gun-barrel served for a pipe) had no other inconvenience than that of being somewhat strong-scented from the imperfection of the tanner's work.
Whilst the smith was preparing the necessary iron work, others were employed in cutting down trees, and sawing them into plank, and this being the most laborious task, the commodore himself wrought at it for the encouragement of his people. As there were neither blocks nor cordage sufficient for tackles to hale the bark on shore, it was proposed to get her up on rollers; and for these the body of the cocoa-nut tree was extremely useful, for its smoothness and circular turn prevented much labour, and fitted it for the purpose with very little workmanship; many of these trees were therefore felled, and the ends of them properly opened for the reception of hand-spikes; and in the mean time a dry dock was dug for the bark, and ways laid from thence quite into the sea to facilitate the bringing her up. Besides those who were thus occupied in preparing measures for the future enlargement of the bark, a party was constantly ordered for the killing and preparing of provisions for the rest: And though in these various employments, some of which demanded considerable dexterity, it might have been expected there would have been great confusion and delay, yet good order being once established, and all hands engaged, their preparations advanced apace. Indeed, the common men, I presume, were not the less tractable for their want of spirituous liquors; for, there being neither wine nor brandy on shore, the juice of the cocoa-nut was their constant drink, and this, though extremely pleasant, was not at all intoxicating, but kept them very cool and orderly.
And now the officers began to consider of all the articles necessary for the fitting out the bark; when it was found, that the tents on shore, and the spare cordage accidentally left there by the Centurion, together with the sails and rigging already belonging to the bark, would serve to rig her indifferently well, when she was lengthened. As they had tallow in plenty, they proposed to pay her bottom with a mixture of tallow and lime, which it was known was well adapted to that purpose; so that with respect to her equipment, she would not have been very defective. There was, however, one exception, which would have proved extremely inconvenient, and that was her size; for as they could not make her quite forty tun burthen, she would have been incapable of containing half the crew below the deck, and must have been so top-heavy, that if they were all at the same time on deck, there would be no small hazard of her oversetting; but this was a difficulty not to be removed, as they could not augment her beyond the size already proposed. After the manner of rigging and fitting up the bark was considered and regulated, the next essential point to be thought on was, how to procure a sufficient stock of provisions for their voyage; and here they were greatly at a loss what course to take; for they had neither grain nor bread of any kind on shore, their bread-fruit, which would not keep at sea, having all along supplied its place; and though they had live cattle enough, yet they had no salt to cure beef for a sea-store, nor would meat take salt in that climate. Indeed, they had preserved a small quantity of jerked beef, which they found upon the place at their landing, but this was greatly disproportioned to the run of near six hundred leagues, which they were to engage in, and to the number of hands they should have on board. It was at last, however, resolved to take on board as many cocoa-nuts as they possibly could; to make the most of their jerked beef, by a very sparing distribution of it, and to endeavour to supply their want of bread by rice; to furnish themselves with which, it was proposed, when the bark was fitted up, to make an expedition to the island of Rota, where they were told that the Spaniards had large plantations of rice under the care of the Indian inhabitants: But as this last measure was to be executed by force, it became necessary to examine what ammunition had been left on shore, and to preserve it carefully; and on this enquiry, they had the mortification to find, that the utmost that could be collected, by the strictest search, did not amount to more than ninety charges of powder for their firelocks, which was considerably short of one a-piece for each of the company, and was indeed a very slender stock of ammunition, for such as were to eat no grain or bread for a month, but what they were to procure by force of arms.
But the most alarming circumstance, and what, without the providential interposition of very improbable events, had rendered all their schemes abortive, remains yet to be related. The general idea of the fabric and equipment of the vessel was settled in a few days, and when this was done, it was not difficult to make some estimation of the time necessary to complete her. After this, it was natural to expect that the officers would consider on the course they were to steer, and the land they were to make. These reflections led them to the disheartening discovery, that there was neither compass nor quadrant on the island. Indeed, the commodore had brought a pocket compass on shore for his own use, but Lieutenant Brett had borrowed it to determine the position of the neighbouring islands, and he had been driven to sea in the Centurion, without returning it; and as to a quadrant, that could not be expected to be found on shore, for as it was of no use at land, there could be no reason for bringing it from on board the ship. It was eight days, from the departure of the Centurion, before they were relieved from this terrible perplexity: At last, in rummaging a chest belonging to the Spanish bark, they found a small compass, which, though little better than the toys usually made for the amusement of school-boys, was to them an invaluable treasure. And a few days after, by a similar piece of good fortune, they found a quadrant on the sea-shore, which had been thrown overboard amongst other lumber belonging to the dead: The quadrant was eagerly seized, but it unluckily wanted vanes, and therefore, in its present state, was altogether useless; however, fortune still continuing in a favourable mood, it was not long before a person, out of curiosity, pulling out the drawer of an old table, which had been driven on shore, found some vanes, which fitted the quadrant very well; and it being thus completed, it was examined by the known latitude of the place, and found to answer to a sufficient degree of exactness.
All these obstacles being in some degree removed (which were always as much as possible concealed from the vulgar, that they might not grow remiss with the apprehension of labouring to no purpose,) the work proceeded very successfully and vigorously: The necessary iron-work was in great forwardness; and the timbers and planks (which, though not the most exquisite performances of the sawyer's art, were yet sufficient for the purpose,) were all prepared; so that on the 6th of October, being the 14th day from the departure of the ship, they haled the bark on shore, and, on the two succeeding days, she was sawn asunder (though with great care not to cut her planks,) and her two parts were separated the proper distance from each other, and, the materials being all ready before-hand, they, the next day, being the 9th of October, went on with great dispatch in their proposed enlargement of her; and by this time they had all their future operations so fairly in view, and were so much masters of them, that they were able to determine when the whole would be finished, and had accordingly fixed the 5th of November for the day of their putting to sea. But their projects and labours were drawing to a speedier and happier conclusion; for on the 11th of October, in the afternoon, one of the Gloucester's men, being upon a hill in the middle of the island, perceived the Centurion at a distance, and running down with his utmost speed towards the landing-place, he, in the way, saw some of his comrades, to whom he hallooed out with extacy, The ship, the ship! This being heard by Mr Gordon, a lieutenant of marines, who was convinced by the fellow's transport that his report was true, Mr Gordon ran towards the place where the commodore and his people were at work, and being fresh and in breath, easily outstripped the Gloucester's man, and got before him to the commodore, who, on hearing this happy and unexpected news, threw down his axe with which he was then at work, and by his joy broke through, for the first time, the equable and unvaried character which he had hitherto preserved; the others, who were with him, instantly ran down to the sea-side in a kind of frenzy, eager to feast themselves with a sight they had so ardently wished for, and of which they had now for a considerable time despaired. By five in the evening the Centurion was visible in the offing to them all; and, a boat being sent off with eighteen men to reinforce her, and with fresh meat and fruits for the refreshment of her crew, she, the next afternoon, happily came to an anchor in the road, when the commodore immediately went on board, and was received with the sincerest and heartiest acclamations: For, from the following short recital of the fears, the dangers and fatigues we in the ship underwent during our nineteen days absence from Tinian, it may be easily conceived, that a harbour, refreshments, repose, and the joining of our commander and shipmates, were not less pleasing to us than our return was to them.
Account of the Proceedings on board the Centurion when driven out to Sea.
The Centurion being now once more safely arrived at Tinian, to the mutual respite of the labours of our divided crew, it is high time that the reader, after the relation already given of the projects and employment of those left on shore, should be apprised of the fatigues and distresses to which we, who were driven off to sea, were exposed during the long interval of nineteen, days that we were absent from the island.
It has been already mentioned, that it was the 22d of September, about one o'clock, in an extreme dark night, when, by the united violence of a prodigious storm, and an exceeding rapid tide, we were driven from our anchors and forced to sea. Our condition was truly deplorable; we were in a leaky ship, with three cables in our hawses, to one of which hung our only remaining anchor; we had not a gun on board lashed, nor a port barred in; our shrowds were loose, and our top-masts unrigged, and we had struck our fore and main-yards close down, before the storm came on, so that there were no sails we could set, except our mizen. In this dreadful extremity we could muster no more strength on board to navigate the ship, than an hundred and eight hands, several negroes and Indians included: This was scarcely the fourth part of our complement, and of these the greater number were either boys, or such as, being lately recovered from the scurvy, had not yet arrived at half their vigour. No sooner were we at sea, but by the violence of the storm, and the working of the ship, we made a great quantity of water through our hawse-holes, ports, and scuppers, which, added to the constant effect of our leak, rendered our pumps alone a sufficient employment for us all: But though this leakage, by being a short time neglected, would inevitably end in our destruction, yet we had other dangers then impending, which occasioned this to be regarded as a secondary consideration only. For we all imagined that we were driving directly on the neighbouring island of Aguiguan, which was about two leagues distant; and as we had lowered our main and fore-yards close down, we had no sails we could set but the mizen, which was altogether insufficient to carry us clear of this instant peril; we therefore immediately applied ourselves to work, endeavouring, by the utmost of our efforts, to heave up the main and fore-yards, in hopes that, if we could but be enabled to make use of our lower canvass, we might possibly weather the island, and thereby save ourselves from this impending shipwreck. But after full three hours ineffectual labour, the jeers broke, and the men being quite jaded, we were obliged, by mere debility, to desist, and quietly to expect our fate, which we then conceived to be unavoidable: For we imagined ourselves by this time to be driven just upon the shore, and the night was so extremely dark, that we expected to discover the island no otherwise than by striking upon it; so that the belief of our destruction, and the uncertainly of the point of time when it would take place, occasioned us to pass several hours under the most serious apprehensions, that each succeeding moment would send us to the bottom. Nor did these continued terrors of instantly striking and sinking end but with the day-break, when we, with great transport, perceived that the island we had thus dreaded was at a considerable distance, and that a strong northern current had been the cause of our preservation.
The turbulent weather which forced us from Tinian, did not begin to abate till three days after; and then we swayed up the fore-yard, and began to heave up the main-yard, but the jeers broke and killed one of our men, and prevented us at that time from proceeding. The next day, being the 26th of September, was a day of most severe fatigue to us all; for it must be remembered, that in these exigences no rank or office exempted any person from the manual application and bodily labour of a common sailor. The business of this day was no less than an attempt to heave up the sheet-anchor, which we had hitherto dragged at our bows with two cables an end. This was a work of great importance to our future preservation: For, not to mention the impediment to our navigation, and the hazard it would be to our ship, if we attempted to make sail with the anchor in its present situation, we had this most interesting consideration to animate us, that it was the only anchor we had left; and, without securing it, we should be under the utmost difficulties and hazards, whenever we made the land again; and therefore, being all of us fully apprized of the consequence of this enterprize, we laboured at it with the severest application for full twelve hours, when we had indeed made a considerable progress, having brought the anchor in sight; but, it then growing dark, and we being excessively fatigued, we were obliged to desist, and to leave our work unfinished till the next morning, when, by the benefit of a night's rest, we completed it, and hung the anchor at our bow.
It was the 27th of September in the morning, that is, five days after our departure, when we thus secured our anchor; And the same day we got up our main-yard: And having now conquered in some degree the distress and disorder which we were necessarily involved in at our first driving out to sea, and being enabled to make use of our canvass, we set our courses, and for the first time stood to the eastward, in hopes of regaining the island of Tinian, and joining our commodore in a few days: For we were then, by our accounts, only forty-seven leagues to the south-west of Tinian; so that on the first day of October, having then run the distance necessary for making the island according to our reckoning, we were in full expectation of seeing it; but we were unhappily disappointed, and were thereby convinced that a current had driven us to the westward. And as we could not judge how much we might hereby have deviated, and consequently how long we might still expect to be at sea, we had great apprehensions that our stock of water might prove deficient; for we were doubtful about the quantity we had on board, and found many of our casks so decayed, as to be half leaked out. However, we were delivered from our uncertainty the next day by having a sight of the island of Guam, by which we discovered that the currents had driven us forty-four leagues to the westward of our accounts. This sight of land having satisfied us of our situation, we kept plying to the eastward, though with excessive labour, for the wind continuing fixed in the eastern board, we were obliged to tack often, and our crew were so weak, that, without the assistance of every man on board, it was not in our power to put the ship about: This severe employment lasted till the 11th of October, being the nineteenth day from our departure; when, arriving in the offing of Tinian, we were reinforced from the shore, as hath been already mentioned; and on the evening of the same day, to our inexpressible joy, came to an anchor in the road, thereby procuring to our shipmates on shore, as well as to ourselves, a cessation from the fatigues and apprehensions which this disastrous incident had given rise to.