This conduct of the Commodore to his prisoners, which was continued without interruption or deviation, gave them all the highest idea of his humanity and benevolence, and induced them likewise (as mankind are fond of forming general opinions) to entertain very favourable thoughts of the whole English nation.
All the prisoners left us with the strongest assurances of their grateful remembrance of his uncommon treatment. A Jesuit, in particular, whom the Commodore had taken, and who was an ecclesiastic of some distinction, could not help expressing himself with great thankfulness for the civilities he and his countrymen had found on board, declaring that he should consider it as his duty to do Mr. Anson justice at all times.
CHAPTER 20. A CLEVER TRICK. WATERING AT QUIBO. CATCHING THE TURTLE.
When we got under sail from the road of Paita we stood to the westward, and in the morning the Commodore gave orders that the whole squadron should spread themselves, in order to look out for the Gloucester; for we now drew near to the station where Captain Mitchel had been directed to cruise, and hourly expected to get sight of him, but the whole day passed without seeing him.
DOLLARS AMONGST THE COTTON.
At night having no sight of the Gloucester, the Commodore ordered the squadron to bring to, that we might not pass her in the dark. The next morning we again looked out for her, and at ten we saw a sail, to which we gave chase, and at two in the afternoon we came near enough her to discover her to be the Gloucester, with a small vessel in tow. About an hour after we were joined by them, and then we learned that Captain Mitchel in the whole time of his cruise, had only taken two prizes, one of them being a small snow, whose cargo consisted chiefly of wine, brandy, and olives in jars, with about 7,000 pounds in specie; and the other a large boat or launch which the Gloucester's barge came up with near the shore. The prisoners on board this vessel alleged that they were very poor and that their loading consisted only of cotton, though the circumstances in which the barge surprised them seemed to insinuate that they were more opulent than they pretended to be, for the Gloucester's people found them at dinner upon pigeon-pie served up in silver dishes. However, the officer who commanded the barge having opened several of the jars on board to satisfy his curiosity, and finding nothing in them but cotton, he was inclined to believe the account the prisoners gave him; but the cargo being taken into the Gloucester, and there examined more strictly, they were agreeably surprised to find that the whole was a very extraordinary piece of false package, and that there was concealed amongst the cotton, in every jar, a considerable quantity of double doubloons and dollars to the amount, in the whole, of near 12,000 pounds. This treasure was going to Paita, and belonged to the same merchants who were the proprietors of the greatest part of the money we had taken there; so that, had this boat escaped the Gloucester, it is probable her cargo would have fallen into our hands. Besides these two prizes which we have mentioned, the Gloucester's people told us that they had been in sight of two or three other ships of the enemy, which had escaped them; and one of them, we had reason to believe from some of our intelligence, was of an immense value.
Being now joined by the Gloucester and her prize, it was resolved that we should stand to the northwards, and get as soon as possible to the southern parts of California, or to the adjacent coast of Mexico, there to cruise for the Manila galleon, which we knew was now at sea, bound to the port of Acapulco. And we doubted not to get on that station time enough to intercept her, for this ship does not usually arrive at Acapulco till towards the middle of January, and we were now but in the middle of November, and did not conceive that our passage thither would cost us above a month or five weeks; so that we imagined we had near twice as much time as was necessary for our purpose. Indeed there was a business which we foresaw would occasions some delay, but we flattered ourselves that it would be despatched in four or five days, and therefore could not interrupt our project. This was the recruiting of our water. It was for some time a matter of deliberation where we should take in this necessary article, but by consulting the accounts of former navigators, and examining our prisoners, we at last resolved for the island of Quibo, situated at the mouth of the Bay of Panama.
Having determined, therefore, to go to Quibo, we directed our course to the northward.
On the 25th we had a sight of the island of Gallo, and hence we crossed the Bay of Panama. Being now in a rainy climate, which we had been long disused to, we found it necessary to caulk the sides of the Centurion, to prevent the rain-water from running into her. On the 3rd of December we had a view of the island of Quibo, and at seven in the evening of the 5th we came to an anchor in thirty-three fathoms.
The next morning, after our coming to an anchor, an officer was despatched on shore to discover the watering-place, who having found it, returned before noon; and then we sent the long-boat for a load of water. This island of Quibo is extremely convenient for wooding and watering; for the trees grow close to the high-water mark and a large rapid stream of fresh water runs over the sandy beach into the sea, so that we were little more than two days in laying in all the wood and water we wanted.
CATCHING THE TURTLE.
The sea at this place furnished us with turtle in the greatest plenty and perfection. The green turtle is generally esteemed, by the greatest part of those who are acquainted with its taste, to be the most delicious of all eatables; and that it is a most wholesome food we are amply convinced by our own experience. For we fed on it for near four months, and consequently, had it been in any degree noxious, its ill effects could not possibly have escaped us.
At this island we took what quantity we pleased with great facility; for as they are an amphibious animal, and get on shore to lay their eggs, which they generally deposit in a large hole in the sand, just above the high-water mark, covering them up and leaving them to be hatched by the heat of the sun, we usually dispersed several of our men along the beach, whose business it was to turn them on their backs when they came to land; and the turtle being thereby prevented from getting away, we carried them off at our leisure. By this means we not only secured a sufficient stock for the time we stayed on the island, but we took a number of them with us to sea, which proved of great service both in lengthening out our store of provision, and in heartening the whole crew with an almost constant supply of fresh and palatable food. For the turtle being large, they generally weighing about 200 pounds weight each, those we took with us lasted us near a month, and by that time we met with a fresh recruit on the coast of Mexico, where we often saw them in the heat of the day floating in great numbers on the surface of the water fast asleep. When we discovered them, we usually sent out our boat with a man in the bow, who was a dexterous diver, and when the boat came within a few yards of the turtle, the diver plunged into the water, and took care to rise close upon it, seizing the shell near the tail, and pressing down the hinder parts. The turtle, when awakened, began to strike with its claws, which motion supported both it and the diver, till the boat came up and took them in. By this management we never wanted turtle for the succeeding four months in which we continued at sea.
CHAPTER 21. DELAY AND DISAPPOINTMENT—CHASING A HEATH FIRE—ACAPULCO—THE Manila GALLEON—FRESH HOPES.
On the 12th of December we stood from Quibo to the westward. We had little doubt of arriving soon upon our intended station,* as we expected, upon increasing our offing from Quibo, to fall in with the regular trade wind. But, to our extreme vexation, we were baffled for near a month, either with tempestuous weather from the western quarter, or with dead calms and heavy rains, attended with a sultry air. As our hopes were so long baffled, and our patience quite exhausted, we began at length to despair of succeeding in the great purpose we had in view, that of intercepting the Manila galleon; and this produced a general dejection amongst us, as we had at first considered this project as almost infallible, and had indulged ourselves in the most boundless hopes of the advantages we should thence receive. However, our despondency was at last somewhat alleviated by a favourable change of the wind; for on the 9th of January a gale for the first time sprang up from the north-east. As we advanced apace towards our station our hopes began to revive, for though the customary season of the arrival of the galleon at Acapulco was already elapsed, yet we were by this time unreasonable enough to flatter ourselves that some accidental delay might, for our advantage, lengthen out her passage beyond its usual limits. On the 26th of January, being then to the northward of Acapulco, we tacked and stood to the eastward, with a view of making the land.
(*Note. Off Cape Corrientes (20 degrees 20 minutes north). Anson hoped to intercept the Manila galleon here.)
A MORTIFYING DELUSION.
We expected by our reckonings to have fallen in with it on the 28th; but though the weather was perfectly clear, we had no sight of it at sunset, and therefore we continued on our course, not doubting but we should see it by the next morning. About ten at night we discovered a light on the larboard-bow, bearing from us north-north-east. The Trial's prize, too, which was about a mile ahead of us, made a signal at the same time for seeing a sail; and as we had none of us any doubt but what we saw was a ship's light, we were all extremely animated with a firm persuasion that it was the Manila galleon, which had been so long the object of our wishes. And what added to our alacrity was our expectation of meeting with two of them instead of one, for we took it for granted that the light in view was carried in the top of one ship for a direction to her consort. We chased the light, keeping all our hands at their respective quarters, under an expectation of engaging in the next half-hour, as we sometimes conceived the chase to be about a mile distant, and at other times to be within reach of our guns; and some on board us positively averred that besides the light they could plainly discern her sails. The Commodore himself was so fully persuaded that we should be soon alongside of her, that he sent for his first Lieutenant, who commanded between decks, and directed him to see all the great guns loaded with two round-shot for the first broadside, and after that with one round-shot and one grape, strictly charging him at the same time not to suffer a gun to be fired till he, the Commodore, should give orders, which he informed the Lieutenant would not be till we arrived within pistol-shot of the enemy. In this constant and eager attention we continued all night, always presuming that another quarter of an hour would bring us up with this Manila ship, whose wealth, with that of her supposed consort, we now estimated by round millions. But when the morning broke and daylight came on, we were most strangely and vexatiously disappointed by finding that the light which had occasioned all this bustle and expectancy was only a fire on the shore. And yet I believe there was no person on board who doubted of its being a ship's light, or of its being near at hand. It was, indeed, upon a very high mountain, and continued burning for several days afterwards. It was not a volcano, but, rather, as I suppose, stubble or heath set on fire for some purpose of agriculture.
At sun-rising, after this mortifying delusion, we found ourselves about nine leagues off the land. On this land we observed two remarkable hummocks, such as are usually called paps; these a Spanish pilot and two Indians, who were the only persons amongst us that pretended to have traded in this part of the world, affirmed to be over the harbour of Acapulco. Indeed, we very much doubted their knowledge of the coast, for we found these paps to be in the latitude of 17 degrees 56 minutes, whereas those over Acapulco are said to be in 17 degrees only, and we afterwards found our suspicions of their skill to be well grounded.
And now, being in the track of the Manila galleon, it was a great doubt with us (as it was near the end of January) whether she was or was not arrived. And as we now began to want a harbour to refresh our people, the uncertainty of our present situation gave us great uneasiness, and we were very solicitous to get some positive intelligence, which might either set us at liberty to consult our necessities, if the galleon was arrived, or might animate us to continue on our present cruise with cheerfulness if she was not. With this view the Commodore, after examining our prisoners very particularly, resolved to send a boat, under colour of the night, into the harbour of Acapulco to see if the Manila ship was there or not. To execute this project, the barge was despatched the 6th of February. She did not return to us again till the 11th, when the officers acquainted Mr. Anson, that, agreeable to our suspicion, there was nothing like a harbour in the place where the Spanish pilots had at first asserted Acapulco to lie; that, when they had satisfied themselves in this particular, they steered to the eastward in hopes of discovering it, and had coasted along shore thirty-two leagues; that in this whole range they met chiefly with sandy beaches of a great length, over which the sea broke with so much violence that it was impossible for a boat to land; that at the end of their run they could just discover two paps at a very great distance to the eastward, which from their appearance and their latitude they concluded to be those in the neighbourhood of Acapulco, but that, not having a sufficient quantity of fresh water and provision for their passage thither and back again, they were obliged to return to the Commodore to acquaint him with their disappointment. On this intelligence we all made sail to the eastward, in order to get into the neighbourhood of that port, the Commodore resolving to send the barge a second time upon the same enterprise when we were arrived within a moderate distance. And the next day, which was the 12th of February, we being by that time considerably advanced, the barge was again despatched, and particular instructions given to the officers to preserve themselves from being seen from the shore. On the 19th of February she returned, and we found that we were indeed disappointed in our expectation of intercepting the galleon before her arrival at Acapulco; but we learned other circumstances which still revived our hopes, and which, we then conceived, would more than balance the opportunity we had already lost. For though our negro prisoners* informed us that the galleon arrived at Acapulco on our 9th of January, which was about twenty days before we fell in with this coast, yet they at the same time told us that the galleon had delivered her cargo and was taking in water and provisions for her return, and that the Viceroy of Mexico had by proclamation fixed her departure from Acapulco to the 14th of March, New Style.
(*Note. Three negroes in a fishing canoe had been captured by the Centurion's barge off Acapulco harbour.)
This last news was most joyfully received by us, as we had no doubt but she must certainly fall into our hands, and as it was much more eligible to seize her on her return than it would have been to have taken her before her arrival, as the specie for which she had sold her cargo, and which she would now have on board, would be prodigiously more to be esteemed by us than the cargo itself, great part of which would have perished on our hands, and no part of it could have been disposed of by us at so advantageous a mart as Acapulco.
Thus we were a second time engaged in an eager expectation of meeting with this Manila ship, which, by the fame of its wealth, we had been taught to consider as the most desirable prize that was to be met with in any part of the globe.
CHAPTER 22. THE Manila* TRADE.
(*Note. The capital of Luzon, the chief island of the Philippine group. The Philippines were discovered in 1521 by Magellan, who was killed there by the natives. They were annexed by Spain in 1571 and were ceded to the United States of America in 1898, together with Cuba, after the brave but futile attempt of the Spaniards to preserve what were almost the last relics of their colonial dominions.)
The trade carried on from Manila to China, and different parts of India, is principally for such commodities as are intended to supply the kingdoms of Mexico and Peru. These are spices; all sorts of Chinese silks and manufactures, particularly silk stockings, of which I have heard that no less than 50,000 pairs were the usual number shipped on board the annual ship; vast quantities of Indian stuffs—as calicoes and chintzes, which are much worn in America; together with other minuter articles—as goldsmith's work, etc., which is principally done at the city of Manila itself by the Chinese, for it is said there are at least 20,000 Chinese who constantly reside there, either as servants, manufacturers, or brokers. All these different commodities are collected at Manila, thence to be transported annually in one or more ships to the port of Acapulco.
THE Manila SHIP.
This trade from Manila to Acapulco and back again is usually carried on in one or at most two annual ships, which set sail from Manila about July, arrive at Acapulco in the December, January, or February following, and, having there disposed of their effects, return for Manila some time in March, where they generally arrive in June, so that the whole voyage takes up very near an entire year. For this reason, though there is often no more than one ship employed at a time, yet there is always one ready for the sea when the other arrives, and therefore the commerce at Manila are provided with three or four stout ships that, in case of any accident, the trade may not be suspended. The largest of these ships, whose name I have not learned, is described as little less than one of our first-rate men-of-war, and indeed she must be of an enormous size, for it is known that when she was employed with other ships from the same port to cruise for our China trade, she had no less than 1,200 men on board. Their other ships, though far inferior in bulk to this, are yet stout, large vessels, of the burthen of 1,200 tons and upwards, and usually carry from 350 to 600 hands, passengers included, with fifty odd guns. As these are all King's ships, commissioned and paid by him, there is usually one of the captains who is styled the "General," and who carries the royal standard of Spain at the main-topgallant masthead.
The ship having received her cargo on board and being fitted for the sea, generally weighs from the mole of Cabite about the middle of July, taking advantage of the westerly monsoon which then sets in to carry them to sea. When they are clear of the islands they stand to the northward of the east, in order to get into the latitude of thirty odd degrees, when they expect to meet with westerly winds, before which they run away for the coast of California. It is most remarkable that, by the concurrent testimony of all the Spanish navigators, there is not one port, nor even a tolerable road, as yet found out betwixt the Philippine Islands and the coast of California and Mexico,* so that from the time the Manila ship first loses sight of land she never lets go her anchor till she arrives on the coast of California, and very often not till she gets to its southernmost extremity.
(*Note. The Sandwich Islands were discovered by Captain Cook in 1779. The Spanish ships had usually crossed the Pacific 9 or 10 degrees south of them.)
The most usual time of the arrival of the galleon at Acapulco is towards the middle of January, but this navigation is so uncertain that she sometimes gets in a month sooner, and at other times has been detained at sea above a month longer. The port of Acapulco is by much the securest and finest in all the northern parts of the Pacific Ocean, being as it were, a basin surrounded with very high mountains, but the town is a most wretched place and extremely unhealthy, for the air about it is so pent up by the hills that it has scarcely any circulation. The place is, besides, destitute of fresh water, except what is brought from a considerable distance, and is in all respects so inconvenient that except at the time of the mart, whilst the Manila galleon is in the port, it is almost deserted. When the galleon arrives in this port she is generally moored on its western side, and her cargo is delivered with all possible expedition; and now the town of Acapulco, from almost a solitude, is immediately thronged with merchants from all parts of the kingdom of Mexico. The cargo being landed and disposed of, the silver and the goods intended for Manila are taken on board, together with provisions and water, and the ship prepares to put to sea with the utmost expedition. There is indeed no time to be lost, for it is an express order to the captain to be out of the port of Acapulco on his return before the first day of April, New Style.
And having mentioned the goods intended for Manila, I must observe that the principal return is always made in silver, and consequently the rest of the cargo is but of little account; the other articles, besides the silver, being some cochineal and a few sweetmeats, the produce of the American settlements, together with European millinery ware for the women at Manila, and some Spanish wines. And this difference in the cargo of the ship to and from Manila occasions a very remarkable variety in the manner of equipping the ship for these two different voyages. For the galleon, when she sets sail from Manila, being deep laden with a variety of bulky goods, has not the conveniency of mounting her lower tier of guns, but carries them in her hold till she draws near Cape St. Lucas and is apprehensive of an enemy. Her hands, too, are as few as is consistent with the safety of the ship, that she may be less pestered with the stowage of provisions. But on her return from Acapulco, as her cargo lies in less room, her lower tier is, or ought to be, always mounted before she leaves the port, and her crew is augmented with a supply of sailors and with one or two companies of foot, which are intended to reinforce the garrison at Manila. And there being, besides, many merchants who take their passage to Manila on board the galleon, her whole number of hands on her return is usually little short of six hundred, all which are easily provided for by reason of the small stowage necessary for the silver.
The galleon being thus fitted for her return, the captain, on leaving the port of Acapulco, steers for the latitude of 13 or 14 degrees, and runs on that parallel till he gets sight of the island of Guam, one of the Ladrones. The captain is told in his instructions that, to prevent his passing the Ladrones in the dark, there are orders given that thorough all the month of June fires shall be lighted every night on the highest part of Guam and Rota, and kept in till the morning. At Guam there is a small Spanish garrison, purposely intended to secure that place for the refreshment of the galleon and to yield her all the assistance in their power. However, the danger of the road at Guam is so great, that though the galleon is ordered to call there, yet she rarely stays above a day or two, but getting her water and refreshments on board as soon as possible, she steers away directly for Cape Espiritu Santo, on the island of Samal.*
TELEGRAPHY BY BEACON.
Here the captain is again ordered to look out for signals, and he is told that sentinels will be posted, not only on that cape, but likewise in Catanduanas, Butusan, Birriborongo, and on the island of Batan. These sentinels are instructed to make a fire when they discover the ship, which the captain is carefully to observe; for if after this first fire is extinguished he perceives that four or more are lighted up again, he is then to conclude that there are enemies on the coast, and on this he is immediately to endeavour to speak with the sentinel on shore, and to procure from him more particular intelligence of their force and of the station they cruise in, pursuant to which he is to regulate his conduct, and to endeavour to gain some secure port amongst those islands without coming in sight of the enemy; and in case he should be discovered when in port, and should be apprehensive of an attack, he is then to land his treasure and to take some of his artillery on shore for its defence, not neglecting to send frequent and particular accounts to the city of Manila of all that passes. But if after the first fire on shore the captain observes that two others only are made by the sentinels, he is then to conclude that there is nothing to fear, and he is to pursue his course without interruption, and to make the best of his way to the port of Cabite, which is the port to the city of Manila, and the constant station for all the ships employed in this commerce to Acapulco.
(*Note. Samal or Samar is an island about the centre of the Philippines, north of Mindanao.)
CHAPTER 23. WAITING FOR THE GALLEON—DISAPPOINTMENT—CHEQUETAN.
On the 1st of March we made the highlands over Acapulco, and got with all possible expedition into the situation prescribed by the Commodore's orders.*
(*Note. The two men-of-war and the three prizes were arranged out of sight of the land in "a circular line," the two extremities of which were thirty-six miles apart. Within this line, and much nearer to the port, especially at night, were two cutters, whose duty it was to watch the mouth of the harbour and signal to the ships outside them.)
And now we expected with the utmost impatience the 3rd of March, the day fixed for her departure. And on that day we were all of us most eagerly engaged in looking out towards Acapulco; and we were so strangely prepossessed with the certainty of our intelligence, and with an assurance of her coming out of port, that some or other on board us were constantly imagining that they discovered one of our cutters returning with a signal. But to our extreme vexation, both this day and the succeeding night passed over without any news of the galleon. However, we did not yet despair, but were all heartily disposed to flatter ourselves that some unforeseen accident had intervened which might have put off her departure for a few days; and suggestions of this kind occurred in plenty, as we knew that the time fixed by the Viceroy for her sailing was often prolonged on the petition of the merchants of Mexico. Thus we kept up our hopes, and did not abate of our vigilance; and as the 7th of March was Sunday, the beginning of Passion Week, which is observed by the Papists with great strictness and a total cessation from all kinds of labour, so that no ship is permitted to stir out of port during the whole week, this quieted our apprehensions for some days, and disposed us not to expect the galleon till the week following. On the Friday in this week our cutters returned to us, and the officers on board them were very confident that the galleon was still in port, for that she could not possibly have come out but they must have seen her. On the Monday morning succeeding Passion Week—that is, on the 15th of March—the cutters were again despatched to their old station, and our hopes were once more indulged in as sanguine prepossessions as before; but in a week's time our eagerness was greatly abated, and a general dejection and despondency took place in its room. For we were persuaded that the enemy had by some accident discovered our being upon the coast, and had therefore laid an embargo on the galleon till the next year. And indeed this persuasion was but too well founded; for we afterwards learned that our barge, when sent on the discovery of the port of Acapulco, had been seen from the shore, and that this circumstance (no embarkations but canoes ever frequenting that coast) was to them a sufficient proof of the neighbourhood of our squadron, on which they stopped the galleon till the succeeding year.
SHORT OF WATER.
When we had taken up the cutters, all the ships being joined, the Commodore made a signal to speak with their commanders, and upon enquiry into the stock of fresh water remaining on board the squadron, it was found to be so very slender that we were under necessity of quitting our station to procure a fresh supply. And consulting what place was the properest for this purpose, it was agreed that the harbour of Seguataneo, or Chequetan, being the nearest to us, was on that account the most eligible, and it was therefore immediately resolved to make the best of our way thither. By the 1st of April we were so far advanced towards Seguataneo that we thought it expedient to send out two boats, that they might range along the coast and discover the watering-place. They were gone some days, and our water being now very short, it was a particular felicity to us that we met with daily supplies of turtle; for had we been entirely confined to salt provisions, we must have suffered extremely in so warm a climate. Indeed, our present circumstances were sufficiently alarming, and gave the most considerate amongst us as much concern as any of the numerous perils we had hitherto encountered; for our boats, as we conceived by their not returning, had not as yet discovered a place proper to water at, and by the leakage of our casks and other accidents we had not ten days' water on board the whole squadron; so that, from the known difficulty of procuring water on this coast, and the little reliance we had on the buccaneer writers (the only guides we had to trust to), we were apprehensive of being soon exposed to a calamity, the most terrible of any in the long, disheartening catalogue of the distresses of a seafaring life.
But these gloomy suggestions were soon happily ended, for our boats returned on the 5th of April, having discovered a place proper for our purpose about seven miles to the westward of the rocks of Seguataneo, which by the description they gave of it, appeared to be the port called by Dampier* the harbour of Chequetan. On the 7th we stood in, and that evening came to an anchor in eleven fathoms. Thus, after a four months' continuance at sea from the leaving of Quibo, and having but six days' water on board, we arrived in the harbour of Chequetan.
(*Note. Dampier (1652 to 1715), the son of a tenant farmer, near Yeovil, played many parts in his time. He was a buccaneer, a pirate, a circumnavigator, an author, a captain in the navy and an hydrographer. His 'Voyage Round the World', published in 1697, procured him a command in the navy; but though an excellent seaman, he proved an incapable commander, as his buccaneer comrades had doubtless foreseen, for he had never been entrusted with any command among them.)
CHAPTER 24. THE PRIZES SCUTTLED—NEWS OF THE SQUADRON REACHES ENGLAND—BOUND FOR CHINA.
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, and the remaining fifty were employed to cover the watering-place and to prevent any interruption from the natives. Here it was agreed after a mature consultation to destroy the Trial's prize, as well as the Carmelo and Carmen, whose fate had been before resolved on. Indeed, the ship was in good repair and fit for the sea; but as the whole number on board 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. These considerations determined the Commodore to destroy the Trial's prize and to reinforce the Gloucester with the greatest part of her crew. And in consequence of this resolve, all the stores on board the Trial's prize were removed into the other ships, and the prize herself, with the Carmelo and Carmen, were prepared for scuttling with all the expedition we were masters of. But the great difficulties we were under in laying in a store of water, together with the necessary repairs of our rigging and other unavoidable occupations, took us up so much time, and found us such unexpected employment, that it was near the end of April before we were in a condition to leave the place.
During our stay here there happened an incident which proved the means of convincing our friends in England of our safety, which for some time they had despaired of and were then in doubt about. From this harbour of Chequetan there was but one pathway, 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 barricade 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 spot; and 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 sentinels to let no person whatever pass beyond their post.
THE COMMODORE'S COOK.
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, 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 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 unawares 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.
On the 28th of April the Centurion and the Gloucester weighed anchor. Being now in the offing of Chequetan, bound across the vast Pacific Ocean in our way to China, we were impatient to run off the coast as soon as possible, as the stormy season was approaching apace, and we had no further views in the American seas.
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 south-west, proposing to get a good offing from the land, where we hoped in a few days to meet with the regular trade-wind. It has been esteemed no uncommon passage to run from hence to the easternmost parts of Asia in two months, and we flattered ourselves that we were as capable of making an expeditious passage as any ship that had ever run this course before us; so that we hoped soon to gain the coast of China. 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 spot, inhabited by a polished people, and abounding with the conveniences and indulgences of a civilised life—blessings which now for nearly twenty months had never been once in our power.
(*Note. Before leaving the American coast for China, Anson released fifty-seven of his prisoners, including all the Spaniards, and sent them to Acapulco. A certain number of natives were retained to assist in working the ships. There had been some previous attempt at correspondence between Anson and the Spanish governor of Acapulco. The latter, with Spanish courtesy, when answering Anson's letter, despatched with his answer "a present of two boats laden with the choicest refreshments and provisions which were to be found in Acapulco." Unfortunately the boats were unable to find Anson, and he never received either the letter or the present.)
CHAPTER 25. DELAYS AND ACCIDENTS—SCURVY AGAIN—A LEAK—THE GLOUCESTER ABANDONED.
When on the 6th of May, 1742, we left the coast of America, we stood to the south-west with a view of meeting with the north-east trade wind, which the accounts of former writers made us expect at seventy or eighty leagues distance from the land. We had, besides, another reason for standing to the southward, which was the getting into the latitude of 13 or 14 degrees 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 falling in with the tradewind; 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 north-east trade was to us a matter of the last consequence, we stood more to the southward, and made many experiments to meet with it, but all our efforts were for a long time unsuccessful, so that it was seven weeks from our leaving the coast before we got into the true trade wind.
CONTRARY AND VARIABLE WINDS.
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 foremast 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 learned that she had a dangerous spring in her mainmast, 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 Fernandez 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 anything 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.
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 mainmast, sailed so very heavily that we had seldom any more than our topsails 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 Spanish charts, 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 those four days the wind flattened to a calm, and the ships rolled very deep, by which means the Gloucester's forecap split and her topmast came by the board and broke her foreyard 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 seaman 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 topmast once more by the board, and whilst we were viewing her with great concern for this new distress we saw her main-topmast, which had hitherto served as a jury mainmast, 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 apprised 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, 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.
THUS PERISHED H.M.S. GLOUCESTER.
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. 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.
It was the 15th of August, in the evening, before the Gloucester was cleared of everything 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 burned, though very fiercel, 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.
CHAPTER 26. THE LADRONES SIGHTED—TINIAN.
The 23rd, at daybreak, 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 a 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. 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.
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 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 Anatacan, having all of us the strongest apprehensions either of dying of the scurvy or perishing with the ship, which, for want of hands to work her pumps, might in a short time be expected to founder.
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 learned, the islands of Saypan, Tinian and Aguigan. We immediately steered towards Tinian, which was the middle-most 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 daybreak 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 grapeshot, 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 foretop masthead, to give our ship the appearance of the Manila 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 berth 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 Manila 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, who 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 breadfruit); 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 sergeant 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 tons 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 anyways 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.
The Spanish sergeant, 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 despatched the pinnace to secure the bark, which the sergeant told us was the only embarkation on the place. And then, about eight in the evening, we let go our anchor in twenty-two fathoms.
CHAPTER 27. LANDING THE SICK. CENTURION DRIVEN TO SEA.
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 one 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 Fernandez) the Commodore himself and every one of his officers were engaged without distinction; and notwithstanding the great debility 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 preceding 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; and on the 12th of September all those who were so far relieved 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. As the crew on board were now reinforced by the recovered hands returned from the island, we began to send our casks 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 fathoms from the anchors and seven fathoms from the service, with a good rounding of a 4 1/2 inch hawser, and to all these precautions we added that of lowering the main and fore yards close down, that in case of blowing weather the wind might have less power upon the ship to make her ride a-strain.
A FURIOUS STORM.
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 22nd 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 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 despite 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 astern, was on a sudden canted so high that it broke the transom of the Commodore's gallery, and would doubtless have risen as high as the taffrail 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 fathoms; and after we had veered away one whole cable and two-thirds of another, we could not find ground with sixty fathoms of line. This was a plain indication that the anchor lay near the edge of the bank, and could not hold us long.
In this pressing danger Mr. Suamarez, 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 one 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.
CHAPTER 28. ANSON CHEERS HIS MEN—PLANS FOR ESCAPE—RETURN OF THE CENTURION.
The storm which drove the Centurion to sea blew with too much turbulence to permit of either the Commodore or any of the people on shore hearing 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 daybreak 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 in either case 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 tons, 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 other 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 here in a 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 forever to their country, their friends, their families, and all their domestic endearments.
A MELANCHOLY PROSPECT.
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 doubtless his share of disquietude, but he always 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 persons about him; and having satisfied himself 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 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 haul the Spanish bark on shore, to saw her asunder, and to lengthen her twelve feet, which would enlarge her to near forty tons burthen, and would enable her to carry them all to China. 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, the Commodore himself, was ready to submit to, and 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 despatch.
These remonstrances, though not without effect, did not immediately operate so powerfully as Mr. Anson could have wished. 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 daybreak at the rendezvous, whence they were distributed to their different employments, which they followed with unusual vigour till night came on.
And now the work proceeded very successfully. The necessary ironwork 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 fourteenth day from the departure of the ship, they hauled 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 beforehand, they the next day, being the 9th of October, went on with great despatch 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.
THE CENTURION RETURNS.
But their projects and labours were now 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 great ecstasy, "That 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 out stripped 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 seaside 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, where the Commodore immediately came on board her, and was received by us with the sincerest and heartiest acclamations.
CHAPTER 29. THE CENTURION AGAIN DRIVEN TO SEA—HER RETURN—DEPARTURE FROM TINIAN.
When the Commodore came on board the Centurion on her return to Tinian as already mentioned, he resolved to stay no longer at the island than was absolutely necessary to complete our stock of water, a work which we immediately set ourselves about. But on the 14th of October, being but the third day after our arrival, a sudden gust of wind brought home our anchor, forced us off the bank and drove the ship out to sea a second time. However, as the weather was favourable, and our crew was now stronger than when we were first driven out, we in about five days' time returned again to an anchor at Tinian and relieved those we had left behind us from their second fears of being deserted by their ship.
On our arrival we found that the Spanish bark, the old object of their hopes, had undergone a new metamorphosis, for those we had left on shore began to despair of our return, and conceiving that the lengthening the bark as formerly proposed was both a toilsome and unnecessary measure, considering the small number they consisted of, they had resolved to join her again and to restore her to her first state; and in this scheme they had made some progress for they had brought the two parts together, and would have soon completed her had not our coming back put a period to their labours and disquietude.
On our coming to an anchor again after our second driving off to sea, we laboured indefatigably in getting in our water; and having by the 20th of October completed it to fifty tuns, which we supposed would be sufficient for our passage to Macao, we on the next day sent one of each mess on shore to gather as large a quantity of oranges lemons, cocoa-nuts, and other fruits of the island as they possibly could, for the use of themselves and messmates when at sea. And these purveyors returning on board us on the evening of the same day, we then set fire to the bark and proa, hoisted in our boats, and got under sail, steering away for the south end of the island of Formosa and taking our leave for the third and last time of the island of Tinian.
CHAPTER 30. CHINESE FISHING FLEETS—ARRIVAL AT MACAO.
The eastern monsoon was now, we reckoned, fairly settled, and we had a constant gale blowing right upon our stern, so that we generally ran from forty to fifty leagues a day. But we had a large hollow sea pursuing us, which occasioned the ship to labour much, whence we received great damage in our rigging, which was grown very rotten, and our leak was augmented; but happily for us our people were now in full health, so that there were no complaints of fatigue, but all went through their attendance on the pumps, and every other duty of the ship, with ease and cheerfulness.
The 3rd of November, about four in the afternoon, we saw the island of Botel Tobago Xima, and by eleven the next morning got a sight of the southern part of the island of Formosa. In the evening we were surprised with a view of what we at first sight conceived to have been breakers, but on a stricter examination we found them to be only a great number of fires on the island of Formosa. These, we imagined, were intended by the inhabitants of that island as signals for us to touch there; but that suited not our views, we being impatient to reach the port of Macao as soon as possible. From Formosa we steered west-north-west, and sometimes still more northerly, and on the 5th of November we at last about midnight, got sight of the mainland of China, bearing north by west, four leagues distant.
We then brought the ship to, with her head to the sea, proposing to wait for the morning; and before sunrise we were surprised to find ourselves in the midst of an incredible number of fishing-boats, which seemed to cover the surface of the sea as far as the eye could reach. I may well style their number incredible, since I cannot believe, upon the lowest estimate, that there were so few as 6,000 most of them manned with five hands, and none with less than three. Nor was this swarm of fishing vessels peculiar to this spot, for, as we ran onto the westward, we found them as abundant on every part of the coast. We at first doubted not but we should procure a pilot from them to carry us to Macao; but though many of them came close to the ship and we endeavoured to tempt them by showing them a number of dollars—a most alluring bait for Chinese of all ranks and professions—yet we could not entice them on board us; though I presume the only difficulty was their not comprehending what we wanted them to do, for we could have no communication with them but by signs. Indeed we often pronounced the word Macao, but this we had reason to suppose they understood in a different sense, for in return they sometimes held up fish to us, and we afterwards learned that the Chinese name for fish is of a somewhat similar sound. But what surprised us most was the inattention and want of curiosity which we observed in this herd of fishermen. A ship like ours had doubtless never been in those seas before; perhaps there might not be one amongst all the Chinese employed in this fishery who had ever seen any European vessel; so that we might reasonably have expected to have been considered by them as a very uncommon and extraordinary object.
But though many of their vessels came close to the ship, yet they did not appear to be at all interested about us. Nor did they deviate in the least from their course to regard us; which insensibility, especially of maritime persons about a matter in their own profession, is scarcely to be credited, did not the general behaviour of the Chinese in other instances furnish us with continual proof of a similar turn of mind.
The next day, about two o'clock, as we were standing to the westward within two leagues of the coast, and still surrounded by fishing vessels in as great numbers as at first, we perceived that a boat ahead of us waved a red flag and blew a horn. This we considered as a signal made to us either to warn us of some shoal or to inform us that they would supply us with a pilot, and in this belief we immediately sent our cutter to the boat to know their intentions; but we were soon made sensible of our mistake, and found that this boat was the Commodore of the whole fishery, and that the signal she had made was to order them all to leave off fishing and to return in shore, which we saw them instantly obey. On this disappointment we kept on our course to the westward, and the next day being the 7th, we were abreast of a chain of islands which stretched from east to west. These, as we afterwards found, were called the islands of Lema. These islands we left on the starboard side, passing within four miles of them, where we had twenty-four fathoms water. We were still surrounded by fishing-boats, and we once more sent the cutter on board one of them to endeavour to procure a pilot, but could not prevail. However, one of the Chinese directed us by signs to sail round the westernmost of the islands or rocks of Lema, and then to haul up. We followed this direction, and in the evening came to anchor in eighteen fathoms.
After having continued at anchor all night, we on the 9th, at four in the morning, sent our cutter to sound the channel where we proposed to pass; but before the return of the cutter a Chinese pilot put on board us, and told us in broken Portuguese he would carry us to Macao for thirty dollars. These were immediately paid him, and we then weighed and made sail, and soon after several other pilots came on board us, who, to recommend themselves, produced certificates from the captains of several ships they had piloted in; but we continued the ship under the management of the Chinese who came first on board. By this time we learned that we were not far distant from Macao, and that there were in the river of Canton, at the mouth of which Macao lies, eleven European ships, of which four were English. Our pilot carried us between the islands of Bamboo and Cabouce, but the winds hanging in the northern board, and the tides often setting strongly against us, we were obliged to come frequently to an anchor, so that we did not get through between the two islands till the 12th of November at two in the morning. At ten o'clock we happily anchored in Macao road. Thus, after a fatiguing cruise of above two years' continuance, we once more arrived in an amicable port in a civilised country, where the conveniences of life were in great plenty; where the naval stores, which we now extremely wanted, could be in some degree procured; where we expected the inexpressible satisfaction of receiving letters from our relations and friends; and where our countrymen who were lately arrived from England would be capable of answering the numerous enquiries we were prepared to make both about public and private occurrences, and to relate to us many particulars which, whether of importance or not, would be listened to by us with the utmost attention, after the long suspension of our correspondence with our country to which the nature of our undertaking had hitherto subjected us.
CHAPTER 31. MACAO—INTERVIEW WITH THE GOVERNOR—A VISIT TO CANTON.
The city of Macao is a Portuguese settlement situated in an island at the mouth of the river of Canton. It was formerly a very rich and populous city, and capable of defending itself against the power of the adjacent Chinese governors, but at present it is much fallen from its ancient splendour; for though it is inhabited by the Portuguese and has a governor nominated by the King of Portugal, yet it subsists merely by the sufferance of the Chinese, who can starve the place and dispossess the Portuguese whenever they please. This obliges the Governor of Macao to behave with great circumspection, and carefully to avoid every circumstance that may give offence to the Chinese. The river of Canton, at the mouth of which this city lies, is the only Chinese port frequented by European ships, and this river is indeed a more commodious harbour on many accounts than Macao. But the peculiar customs of the Chinese, only adapted to the entertainment of trading ships, and the apprehensions of the Commodore lest he should embroil the East India Company with the Regency of Canton if he should insist on being treated upon a different footing than the merchant men, made him resolve to go first to Macao before he ventured into the port of Canton. Indeed, had not this reason prevailed with him, he himself had nothing to fear, for it is certain that he might have entered the port of Canton, and might have continued there as long as he pleased, and afterwards have left it again, although the whole power of the Chinese Empire had been brought together to oppose him.
The Commodore, not to depart from his usual prudence, no sooner came to an anchor in Macao road than he despatched an officer with his compliments to the Portuguese Governor of Macao, requesting His Excellency by the same officer to advise him in what manner it would be proper to act to avoid offending the Chinese, which, as there were four of our ships in their power at Canton, was a matter worthy of attention. The difficulty which the Commodore principally apprehended related to the duty usually paid by all ships in the river of Canton, according to their tonnage. For as men-of-war are exempted in every foreign harbour from all manner of port charges, the Commodore thought it would be derogatory to the honour of his country to submit to this duty in China; and therefore he desired the advice of the Governor of Macao, who, being a European, could not be ignorant of the privileges claimed by a British man-of-war, and consequently might be expected to give us the best lights for avoiding this perplexity. Our boat returned in the evening with two officers sent by the Governor, who informed the Commodore that it was the Governor's opinion that if the Centurion ventured into the river of Canton, the duty would certainly be demanded; and therefore, if the Commodore approved of it, he would send him a pilot who should conduct us into another safe harbour, called the Typa, which was every way commodious for careening the ship (an operation which we were resolved to begin upon as soon as possible), and where the above-mentioned duty would in all probability be never asked for.
This proposal the Commodore agreed to, and in the morning we weighed anchor, and, under the direction of the Portuguese pilot, steered for the intended harbour, where we moored in about five fathoms water. This harbour of the Typa is formed by a number of islands, and is about six miles distant from Macao. Here we saluted the Castle of Macao with eleven guns, which were returned by an equal number.
The next day the Commodore paid a visit in person to the Governor, and was saluted at his landing by eleven guns, which were returned by the Centurion. Mr. Anson's business in this visit was to solicit the Governor to grant us a supply of provisions, and to furnish us with such stores as were necessary to refit the ship. The Governor seemed really inclined to do us all the service he could, and assured the Commodore, in a friendly manner, that he would privately give us all the assistance in his power; but he, at the same time, frankly owned that he dared not openly furnish us with anything we demanded, unless we first procured an order for it from the Viceroy of Canton, for that he neither received provisions for his garrison, nor any other necessaries, but by permission from the Chinese Government; and as they took care only to furnish him from day to day, he was indeed no other than their vassal, whom they could at all times compel to submit to their own terms, only by laying an embargo on his provisions.