Anson's Voyage Round the World - The Text Reduced
by Richard Walter
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It was in the reign of Elizabeth that England first became the enemy of Spain. Rivals as yet Spain had none, whether in Europe or beyond the seas. There was only one great mmilitary monarchy in Europe, only one great colonising power in the New World, and that was Spain. While England was still slowly recovering from the prostration consequent upon the Wars of the Roses, and nearly a century had to run before she established her earliest colony in Newfoundland, the enterprise and disciplined courage of the Spaniards had added an enormous empire across the Atlantic to the already great dominions of the Spanish crown. In 1520 Magellan, whose ship was the first to circumnavigate the globe, pushed his way into the Pacific and reached the Philippines. In 1521 Cortez completed the conquest of Mexico. Pizarro in 1532 added Peru, and shortly afterwards Chile to the Spanish Empire.

From the gold mines of Chile and the silver mines of Peru a wealth of bullion hitherto undreamed of poured into the treasuries of Spain. But no treasuries, however full, could meet the demands of Phillip II. His fanatical ambition had thought to dominate Europe and root out the newly reformed religion which had already established itself in the greater part of the north and west, and nowhere more firmly than among his subjects in the Netherlands and among the English. England for years he had seemed to hold in the hollow of his hand. The Dutch, at the beginning of their great struggle for freedom, appeared even to themselves to be embarking upon a hopeless task. Yet from their desperate struggle England and Holland rose up two mighty nations full of genius for commerce and for war, while Spain had already advanced far along that path of decline which led rapidly to the extinction of her preeminence in Europe and the loss of her colonies beyond the seas.

By the daring genius of Drake and the great English seamen of the age of Elizabeth the field of operations was transferred from the Channel to the American coast. The sack of Spanish towns and the spoil of treasure ships enriched the adventurers, whose methods were closely akin to piracy, and who rarely paused to ask whether the two countries were formally at war. "No peace beyond the line" was a rule of action that scarcely served to cloak successful piracy. In Spanish eyes it was, not without reason, wholly unjustifiable.

The colonial policy of Spain was calculated to raise up everywhere a host of enemies. In her mistaken anxiety to keep all the wealth of her colonies to herself she prohibited the rest of the world from engaging in trade with them. Only with her might they buy and sell. The result was that a great smuggling trade sprang up. No watchfulness could defeat the daring and ingenuity of the English, Dutch, and French sailors who frequented the Caribbean Sea. No threats could prevent the colonists from attempting to buy and sell in the market that paid them best. The ferocious vengeance of the Spaniards, which in some cases almost exterminated the population of their own colonies, converted the traders into the Buccaneers, an association of sailors of all nations who established themselves in one of the islands of the Caribbean Sea, and who for three-quarters of a century were the scourge of the Spanish trade and dominions. Their cruelty was as remarkable as their skill and daring. They spared neither man, nor woman, nor child. Even half a century after their association had been broken up the memory of their inhuman barbarity was so vivid that no Spanish prisoner ever mounted Anson's deck without a lively dread, which was only equalled by the general surprise at his kindly and courteous treatment. The sight of an English sailor woke terror in every heart.

At last, in 1713, by the Treaty of Utrecht, that closed the famous War of the Spanish Succession, in which Marlborough gained his wonderful victories, Spain consented to resign her claim to a monopoly of trade with her colonies so far as to permit one English ship a year to visit the American coasts. But the concession was unavailing. It granted too little to satisfy the traders. The one ship was sent, but as soon as her cargo had been cleared she was reloaded from others which lay in the offing, and the Spanish colonists, only too glad to enrich themselves, actively connived at the irregularity. The Spanish cruisers endeavoured to enforce respect for the treaty. They claimed, not without justice, to search English vessels seen in American waters and to confiscate forbidden cargoes. English pride rebelled, and English sailors resisted. Violent affrays took place. The story of Jenkins' ear kindled a wild, unreasoning blaze of popular resentment, and by 1739 the two countries were on the verge of war. In the temper of the English people Walpole dared not admit the Spanish right of search, and he was compelled by popular feeling to begin a war for which he was not prepared, in a cause in which he did not believe.

It was at this point that Anson's expedition was fitted out.

George Anson was born in 1697. He came of a lawyer stock in Staffordshire. In 1712 he entered the navy as a volunteer on board the Ruby. His promotion was rapid, owing partly to his own merit, partly to the influence of his relations. By 1724 he was captain of the Scarborough frigate, and was sent out to South Carolina to protect the coast and the trading ships against pirates, and also against the Spanish cruisers, which were already exercising that right of searching English vessels that finally provoked the war of 1739. There he remained till 1730. He was again on the same station from 1732 to 1735. In 1737 he was appointed to the Centurion, a small ship of the line carrying sixty guns, and was sent first to the West Coast of Africa and then to the West Indies. In 1739 he was recalled to conduct the expedition which has made his name so famous.

In the account of that voyage, which his Chaplain, Mr. Walter, wrote under his supervision, everything is told so straightforwardly, and seems so reasonable and simple, that one is apt to underestimate the difficulties which he had to face, and the courage and skill which alone enabled him to overcome them. Seldom has an undertaking been more remorselessly dogged by an adverse fate than that of Anson. Seldom have plain common sense, professional knowledge, and unflinching resolution achieved a more memorable triumph.

On his return from the great voyage he was promoted rear-admiral, and in 1746 he was given command of the Channel fleet. In 1747 he engaged and utterly overwhelmed an inferior French fleet, captured several vessels, and took treasure amounting to 300,000 pounds. For this achievement he was made a peer. In 1751 he became First Lord of the Admiralty, and to his untiring efforts in the preparation of squadrons and the training of seamen is due some part, at any rate, of the glory won by English sailors during the famous days of Pitt's great ministry. He died in 1762.

No finer testimony to his skill in choosing and in training his subordinates can be found than in the list of men who served under him in the Centurion and afterwards rose to fame. "In the whole history of our Navy," it has been said, "there is not another instance of so many juniors from one ship rising to distinction, men like Saunders, Suamarez, Peircy Brett, Keppel, Hyde Parker, John Campbell."

He was a man who had a thorough knowledge of his profession. No details were beneath him. His preparations were always thorough and admirably adapted to the purpose in view. Always cool, wary, resourceful, and brave, he was ready to do the right thing, whether he had to capture a town, delude his enemies, cheer his disheartened crew, or frustrate the wiliness of a Chinese viceroy.

Though without anything of the heroic genius of a Nelson, he is still one of the finest of those great sailors who have done so much for England; one of whom she will ever be proud, and one whose life and deeds will always afford an example for posterity to follow.





When, in the latter end of the summer of the year 1739, it was foreseen that a war with Spain was inevitable, it was the opinion of several considerable persons, then trusted with the administration of affairs, that the most prudent step the nation could take, on the breaking out of the war, was attacking that Crown in her distant settlements. It was from the first determined that George Anson, Esquire, then captain of the "Centurion", should be employed as commander-in-chief of an expedition of this kind. The squadron, under Mr. Anson, was intended to pass round Cape Horn into the South Seas, and there to range along the coast, cruising upon the enemy in those parts, and attempting their settlements. On the 28th of June, 1740, the Duke of Newcastle, Principal Secretary of State, delivered to him His Majesty's instructions. On the receipt of these, Mr. Anson immediately repaired to Spithead, with a resolution to sail with the first fair wind, flattering himself that all his delays were now at an end. For though he knew by the musters that his squadron wanted 300 seamen of their complement, yet as Sir Charles Wager* informed him that an order from the Board of Admiralty was despatched to Sir John Norris to spare him the numbers which he wanted, he doubted not of his complying therewith. But on his arrival at Portsmouth he found himself greatly mistaken and disappointed in this persuasion, for Admiral Balchen, who succeeded to the command at Spithead after Sir John Norris had sailed to the westward, instead of 300 able sailors, which Mr. Anson wanted of his complement, ordered on board the squadron 170 men only, of which 32 were from the hospital and sick quarters, 37 from the Salisbury, with officers of Colonel Lowther's regiment, and 98 marines; and these were all that were ever granted to make up the forementioned deficiency.

(*Note. Sir Charles Wager was at that time First Lord of the Admiralty in Walpole's Ministry.)

But the Commodore's mortification did not end here. It was at first intended that Colonel Bland's regiment, and three independent companies of 100 men each, should embark as land forces on board the squadron. But this disposition was now changed, and all the land forces that were to be allowed were 500 invalids, to be collected from the out-pensioners of Chelsea College.* As these out-pensioners consist of soldiers, who, from their age, wounds, or other infirmities, are incapable of service in marching regiments, Mr. Anson was greatly chagrined at having such a decrepit detachment allotted to him; for he was fully persuaded that the greatest part of them would perish long before they arrived at the scene of action, since the delays he had already encountered necessarily confined his passage round Cape Horn to the most vigorous season of the year.** They were ordered on board the squadron on the 5th of August; but instead of 500 there came on board no more than 259; for all those who had limbs and strength to walk out of Portsmouth deserted, leaving behind them only such as were literally invalids, most of them being sixty years of age, and some of them upwards of seventy.

(*Note. A local name for Chelsea Hospital, a home for old and disabled soldiers. It was founded by Charles II and the buildings were designed by Wren.)

(**Note. The squadron did not reach the neighbourhood of Cape Horn until March when the autumn of the Southern Hemisphere had begun and with it the stormy season.)

To supply the place of the 240 invalids which had deserted there were ordered on board 210 marines detached from different regiments. These were raw and undisciplined men, for they were just raised, and had scarcely anything more of the soldier than their regimentals, none of them having been so far trained as to be permitted to fire. The last detachment of these marines came on board the 8th of August, and on the 10th the squadron sailed from Spithead to St. Helens, there to wait for a wind to proceed on the expedition.

But the diminishing the strength of the squadron was not the greatest inconvenience which attended these alterations, for the contests, representations, and difficulties which they continually produced occasioned a delay and waste of time which in its consequences was the source of all the disasters to which this enterprise was afterwards exposed. For by this means we were obliged to make our passage round Cape Horn in the most tempestuous season of the year, whence proceeded the separation of our squadron, the loss of numbers of our men, and the imminent hazard of our total destruction. And by this delay, too, the enemy had been so well informed of our designs that a person who had been employed in the South Sea Company's* service, and arrived from Panama three or four days before we left Portsmouth, was able to relate to Mr. Anson most of the particulars of the destination and strength of our squadron from what he had learned among the Spaniards before he left them. And this was afterwards confirmed by a more extraordinary circumstance; for we shall find that when the Spaniards (fully satisfied that our expedition was intended for the South Seas) had fitted out a squadron to oppose us, which had so far got the start of us as to arrive before us off the island of Madeira, the Commander of this squadron was so well instructed in the form and make of Mr. Anson's broad pennant, and had imitated it so exactly that he thereby decoyed the "Pearl", one of our squadron, within gunshot of him before the captain of the Pearl was able to discover his mistake.

(*Note. The South Sea Company was formed in 1711 on the model of the East India Company to trade in the Pacific; and on the conclusion of the Treaty of Utrecht it was given the monopoly of the English trade with the Spanish coasts of America. The grant of certain privileges by Government led to wild speculation in its shares which gave rise to the famous South Sea Bubble of 1720.)

On the 18th of September, 1740, the squadron weighed from St. Helens with a contrary wind. It consisted of five men-of-war, a sloop-of-war, and two victualling ships. They were the Centurion, of 60 guns, 400 men, George Anson, Esquire, commander; the "Gloucester", of 50 guns, 300 men, Richard Norris, commander; the "Severn", of 50 guns, 300 men, the Honourable Edward Legg, commander; the Pearl, of 40 guns, 250 men, Matthew Mitchel, commander; the "Wager", of 28 guns, 160 men, Dandy Kidd, commander; and the "Trial", sloop, of 8 guns, 100 men, the Honourable John Murray, commander. The two victuallers were pinks, the largest about 400 and the other about 200 tons burthen; these were to attend us till the provisions we had taken on board were so far consumed as to make room for the additional quantity they carried with them, which when we had taken into our ships they were to be discharged. Besides the complement of men borne by the above-mentioned ships as their crews, there were embarked on board the squadron about 470 invalids and marines, under the denomination of land forces, which were commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Cracherode.

The winds were so contrary that we had the mortification to be forty days in our passage from St. Helens to the island of Madeira, though it is known to be often done in ten or twelve. However, at last, on Monday, October the 25th, at five in the morning, we, to our great joy, made the land, and in the afternoon came to an anchor in Madeira Road.

We continued about a week at this island, watering our ships and providing the squadron with wine and other refreshments.

When Mr. Anson visited the Governor of Madeira* he received information from him that for three or four days in the latter end of October there had appeared, to the westward of that island, seven or eight ships of the line. The Governor assured the Commodore, upon his honour, that none upon the island had either given them intelligence or had in any sort communicated with them, but that he believed them to be either French or Spanish, but was rather inclined to think them Spanish. On this intelligence Mr. Anson sent an officer in a clean sloop eight leagues to the westward to reconnoitre them, and, if possible, to discover what they were. But the officer returned without being able to get a sight of them, so that we still remained in uncertainty. However, we could not but conjecture that this fleet was intended to put a stop to our expedition. Afterwards, in the course of our expedition, we were many of us persuaded that this was the Spanish squadron commanded by Don Joseph Pizarro, which was sent out purposely to traverse the views and enterprises of our squadron, to which in strength they were greatly superior.

(*Note. Madeira then as now belonged to Portugal—a neutral power at that time usually jealous of Spain.)



When the squadron fitted out by the Court of Spain to attend our motions had cruised for some days to the leeward of Madeira they left that station in the beginning of November and steered for the River of Plate, where they arrived the 5th of January, Old Style,* and coming to an anchor in the bay of Maldonado at the mouth of that river their admiral, Pizarro, sent immediately to Buenos Ayres for a supply of provisions for they had departed from Spain with only four months' provisions on board. While they lay here expecting this supply they received intelligence by the treachery of the Portuguese Governor of St. Catherine's, of Mr. Anson's having arrived at that island on the 21st of December preceding, and of his preparing to put to sea again with the utmost expedition. Pizarro, notwithstanding his superior force, had his reasons (and as some say, his orders likewise) for avoiding our squadron anywhere short of the South Seas. He was besides extremely desirous of getting round Cape Horn before us, as he imagined that step alone would effectually baffle all our designs, and therefore, on hearing that we were in his neighbourhood** and that we should soon be ready to proceed for Cape Horn he weighed anchor*** after a stay of seventeen days only and got under sail without his provisions, which arrived at Maldonado within a day or two after his departure. But notwithstanding the precipitation with which he departed we put to sea from St. Catherine's four days before him and in some part of our passage to Cape Horn the two squadrons were so near together that the Pearl, one of our ships, being separated from the rest, fell in with the Spanish fleet, and mistaking the Asia for the Centurion had got within gunshot of Pizarro before she discovered her error, and narrowly escaped being taken.

(*Note. The calendar as regulated by Julius Caesar in 46 BC assumed the length of the solar year to be exactly 365 1/2 days, whereas it is eleven minutes and a few with seconds less. By 1582 the error had become considerable for the calendar was ten days behind the sun. Pope Gregory XIII therefore ordained that ten days in that year should be dropped and October 5th reckoned as October 15th. In order to avoid error in the future it was settled that three of the leap years that occur in 400 years should be considered common years. So 1600 was and 2000 will be a leap year but 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not. The New Style (NS.) was adopted by Catholic countries. Protestant countries as a rule rejected it and adhered to the old Style (OS.). The result was a considerable confusion in dates as will be plain in the course of the book. The New Style was adopted by England in 1751, when eleven days had to be omitted, and September 3rd was reckoned as September 14th. Ignorant people thought that they were defrauded of eleven days wages. "Give us back our eleven days" became a popular cry against the Minister of the time. Russia and other countries under the Greek Church still adhere to the old Style and are now thirteen days behind.)

(**Note. Anson's squadron was then at St. Catherine's in Brazil. See below, Chapter 3.)

(***Note. The Spanish squadron when it sailed from Maldonado consisted of the following ships: "Asia", 66 guns, flag ship; "Guipuscoa", 74; "Hermiona", 54; "Esperanza", 50; "St. Estevan", 40. The Asia was the only ship that ever returned to Spain.)

Pizarro with his squadron having, towards the latter end of February, run the length of Cape Horn, he then stood to the westward in order to double it; but in the night of the last day of February, OS. while, with this view, they were turned to windward the Guipuscoa, the Hermiona, and the Esperanza were separated from the Admiral. On the 6th of March following the Guipuscoa was separated from the other two, and on the 7th (being the day after we had passed straits le Maire) there came on a most furious storm at north-west, which, in despite of all their efforts, drove the whole squadron to the eastward, and obliged them, after several fruitless attempts, to bear away for the River of Plate, where Pizarro in the Asia arrived about the middle of May and a few days after him the Esperanza and the St. Estevan. The Hermiona was supposed to founder at sea for she was never heard of more and the Guipuscoa was run ashore and sunk on the coast of Brazil. The calamities of all kinds which this squadron underwentin this unsuccessful navigation can only be paralleled by what we ourselves experienced in the same climate when buffeted by the same storms. There was indeed some diversity in our distresses which rendered it difficult to decide whose situation was most worthy of commiseration; for to all the misfortunes we had in common with each other as shattered rigging, leaky ships, and the fatigues and despondency which necessarily attend these disasters, there was superadded on board our squadron the ravage of a most destructive and incurable disease* and on board the Spanish squadron the devastation of famine.

(*Note. Scurvy.)


For this squadron departed from Spain as has been already observed with no more than four months' provision and even that, as it is said, at short allowance only, so that, when by the storms they met with off Cape Horn their continuance at sea was prolonged a month or more beyond their expectation they were thereby reduced to such infinite distress that rats, when they could be caught, were sold for four dollars a piece and a sailor who died on board had his death concealed for some days by his brother who during that time lay in the same hammock with the corpse only to receive the dead man's allowance of provisions.

By the complicated distress of fatigue, sickness, and hunger, the three ships which escaped lost the greatest part of their men. The Asia, their Admiral's ship, arrived at Monte Video in the River of Plate with half her crew only; the St. Estevan had lost in like manner half her hands when she anchored in the Bay of Barragan. The Esperanza, a 50-gun ship, was still more unfortunate, for of 450 hands which she brought from Spain only 55 remained alive.

By removing the masts of the Esperanza into the Asia, and making use of what spare masts and yards they had on board, they made a shift to refit the Asia and the St. Estevan, and in the October following Pizarro was preparing to put to sea with these two ships in order to attempt the passage round Cape Horn a second time, but the St. Estevan, in coming down the River of Plate, ran on a shoal and beat off her rudder, on which, and other damages she received, she was condemned and broke up, and Pizarro in the Asia proceeded to sea without her. Having now the summer before him and the winds favourable, no doubt was made of his having a fortunate and speedy passage; but being off Cape Horn and going right before the wind in very moderate weather, though in a swelling sea by some misconduct of the officer of the watch the ship rolled away her masts and was a second time obliged to put back to the River of Plate in great distress.

The Asia having considerably suffered in this second unfortunate expedition the Esperanza which had been left behind at Monte Video, was ordered to be refitted, the command of her being given to Mindinuetta, who was captain of the Guipuscoa when she was lost. He, in the November of the succeeding year that is, in November, 1742, sailed from the River of Plate for the South Seas and arrived safe on the coast of Chile where his Commodore, Pizarro, passing overland from Buenos Ayres met him. There were great animosities and contests between these two gentlemen at their meeting occasioned principally by the claim of Pizarro to command the Esperanza, which Mindinuetta had brought round, for Mindinuetta refused to deliver her up to him, insisting that as he came into the South Seas alone, and under no superior, it was not now in the power of Pizarro to resume that authority which he had once parted with. However the President of Chile interposing, and declaring for Pizarro, Mindinuetta after a long and obstinate struggle, was obliged to submit.

But Pizarro had not yet completed the series of his adventures, for when he and Mindinuetta came back by land from Chile to Buenos Ayres in the year 1745 they found at Monte Video the Asia, which near three years before they had left there. This ship they resolved, if possible, to carry to Europe, and with this view they refitted her in the best manner they could; but their great difficulty was to procure a sufficient number of hands to navigate her, for all the remaining sailors of the squadron to be met with in the neighbourhood of Buenos Ayres did not amount to a hundred men. They endeavoured to supply this defect by pressing many of the inhabitants of Buenos Ayres, and putting on board besides all the English prisoners then in their custody, together with a number of Portuguese smugglers whom they had taken at different times, and some of the Indians of the country. Among these last there was a chief and ten of his followers who had been surprised by a party of Spanish soldiers about three months before. The name of this chief was Orellana; he belonged to a very powerful tribe which had committed great ravages in the neighbourhood of Buenos Ayres. With this motley crew (all of them except the European Spaniards extremely averse to the voyage) Pizarro set sail from Monte Video, in the River of Plate about the beginning of November, 1745, and the native Spaniards, being no strangers to the dissatisfaction of their forced men treated both the English prisoners and the Indians with great insolence and barbarity, but more particularly the Indians; for it was common for the meanest officers in the ship to beat them most cruelly on the slightest pretences, and often times only to exert their superiority. Orellana and his followers, though in appearance sufficiently patient and submissive, meditated a severe revenge for all these inhumanities. Having agreed on the measures necessary to be taken, they first furnished themselves with Dutch knives sharp at the point, which, being the common knives used in the ship, they found no difficulty in procuring. Besides this they employed their leisure in secretly cutting out thongs from raw hides, of which there were great numbers on board, and in fixing to each end of these thongs the double-headed shot of the small quarter-deck guns; this, when swung round their heads according to the practice of their country was a most mischievous weapon* in the use of which the Indians about Buenos Ayres are trained from their infancy, and consequently are extremely expert.


These particulars being in good forwardness, the execution of their scheme was perhaps precipitated by a particular outrage committed on Orellana himself; for one of the officers, who was a very brutal fellow, ordered Orellana aloft, which being what he was incapable of performing, the officer, under pretence of his disobedience, beat him with such violence that he left him bleeding on the deck and stupefied for some time with his bruises and wounds. This usage undoubtedly heightened his thirst for revenge, and made him eager and impatient till the means of executing it were in his power, so that within a day or two after this incident he and his followers opened their desperate resolves in the ensuing manner.

(*Note. It is called a bola.)


It was about nine in the evening, when many of the principal officers were on the quarter-deck indulging in the freshness of the night air; the waist of the ship was filled with live cattle, and the forecastle was manned with its customary watch. Orellana and his companions under cover of the night, having prepared their weapons and thrown off their trousers and the more cumbrous part of their dress, came altogether on the quarter-deck and drew towards the door of the great cabin. The boatswain immediately reprimanded them and ordered them to be gone. On this Orellana spoke to his followers in his native language when four of them drew off, two towards each gangway, and the chief and the six remaining Indians seemed to be slowly quitting the quarter-deck. When the detached Indians had taken possession of the gangways, Orellana placed his hands hollow to his mouth and bellowed out the war-cry used by those savages, which is said to be the harshest and most terrifying sound known in nature. This hideous yell was the signal for beginning the massacre, for on this the Indians all drew their knives and brandished their prepared double-headed shot, and the six, with their chief, who remained on the quarter-deck, immediately fell on the Spaniards who were intermingled with them, and laid near forty of them at their feet, of whom above twenty were killed on the spot, and the rest disabled. Many of the officers, in the beginning of the tumult, pushed into the great cabin, where they put out the lights and barricaded the door. And of the others, who had avoided the first fury of the Indians, some endeavoured to escape along the gangways into the forecastle, but the Indians placed there on purpose stabbed the greatest part of them as they attempted to pass by, or forced them off the gangways into the waist. Others threw themselves voluntarily over the barricades into the waist, and thought themselves happy to lie concealed amongst the cattle; but the greatest part escaped up the main-shrouds and sheltered themselves either in the tops or rigging; and though the Indians attacked only the quarter-deck, yet the watch in the forecastle, finding their communication cut off, and being terrified by the wounds of the few who, not being killed on the spot, had strength sufficient to force their passage along the gangways, and not knowing either who their enemies were or what were their numbers, they likewise gave all over for lost, and in great confusion ran up into the rigging of the foremast and bowsprit.

Thus these eleven Indians, with a resolution perhaps without example, possessed themselves almost in an instant of the quarter-deck of a ship mounting sixty-six guns, with a crew of nearly five hundred men, and continued in peaceable possession of this post a considerable time; for the officers in the great cabin (amongst whom were Pizarro and Mindinuetta), the crew between decks, and those who had escaped into the tops and rigging, were only anxious for their own safety, and were for a long time incapable of forming any project for suppressing the insurrection and recovering the possession of the ship. It is true, the yells of the Indians, the groans of the wounded and the confused clamours of the crew, all heightened by the obscurity of the night, had at first greatly magnified their danger, and had filled them with the imaginary terrors which darkness, disorder, and an ignorance of the real strength of an enemy never fail to produce. For as the Spaniards were sensible of the disaffection of their pressed hands, and were also conscious of their barbarity to their prisoners, they imagined the conspiracy was general, and considered their own destruction as infallible; so that, it is said, some of them had once taken the resolution of leaping into the sea, but were prevented by their companions.

However, when the Indians had entirely cleared the quarter-deck, the tumult in a great measure subsided; for those who had escaped were kept silent by their fears, and the Indians were incapable of pursuing them to renew the disorder. Orellana, when he saw himself master of the quarter-deck, broke open the arm chest, which, on a slight suspicion of mutiny, had been ordered there a few days before, as to a place of the greatest security. Here, he took it for granted, he should find cutlasses sufficient for himself and his companions, in the use of which weapon they were all extremely skilful, and with these, it was imagined, they proposed to have forced the great cabin; but on opening the chest there appeared nothing but firearms, which to them were of no use. There were indeed cutlasses in the chest, but they were hid by the firearms being laid over them. This was a sensible disappointment to them, and by this time Pizarro and his companions in the great cabin were capable of conversing aloud, through the cabin windows and port-holes, with those in the gun-room and between decks; and from hence they learned that the English (whom they principally suspected) were all safe below, and had not intermeddled in this mutiny; and by other particulars they at last discovered that none were concerned in it but Orellana and his people. On this Pizarro and the officers resolved to attack them on the quarter-deck, before any of the discontented on board should so far recover their first surprise as to reflect on the facility and certainty of seizing the ship by a junction with the Indians in the present emergency. With this view Pizarro got together what arms were in the cabin, and distributed them to those who were with him; but there were no other firearms to be met with but pistols, and for these they had neither powder nor ball. However, having now settled a correspondence with the gun room, they lowered down a bucket out of the cabin window, into which the gunner, out of one of the gun-room ports, put a quantity of pistol cartridges. When they had thus procured ammunition, and had loaded their pistols, they set the cabin door partly open, and fired some shot amongst the Indians on the quarter-deck, at first without effect. But at last Mindinuetta had the good fortune to shoot Orellana dead on the spot; on which his faithful companions, abandoning all thoughts of further resistance, instantly leaped into the sea, where they every man perished. Thus was this insurrection quelled, and the possession of the quarter-deck regained, after it had been full two hours in the power of this great and daring chief and his gallant and unhappy countrymen.

Pizarro, having escaped this imminent peril, steered for Europe, and arrived safe on the coast of Galicia* in the beginning of the year 1746, after having been absent between four and five years.

(*Note. Galicia is the north-western province of Spain.)


On the 3rd of November we weighed from Madeira.

On the 20th the captains of the squadron represented to the Commodore that their ships' companies were very sickly, and that it was their own opinion as well as their surgeons' that it would tend to the preservation of the men to let in more air between decks; but that their ships were so deep they could not possibly open their lower ports. On this representation the Commodore ordered six air-scuttles to be cut in each ship, in such places where they would least weaken it.

We crossed the Equinoctial, with a fine fresh gale at south-east on Friday, the 28th of November, at four in the morning, being then in the longitude of 27 degrees 59 minutes west from London.

On the 12th of December we spoke with a Portuguese brigantine from Rio de Janeiro, who informed us that we were sixty-four leagues from Cape St. Thomas, and forty leagues from Cape Frio.


We now began to grow impatient for a sight of land, both for the recovery of our sick and for the refreshment and security of those who as yet continued healthier. When we departed from St. Helens, we were in so good a condition that we lost but two men on board the Centurion in our long passage to Madeira. But in this present run between Madeira and St. Catherine's we had been very sickly, so that many died, and great numbers were confined to their hammocks, both in our own ship and in the rest of the squadron; and several of these past all hopes of recovery. By our continuance at sea all our complaints were every day increasin, so that it was with great joy that we discovered the coast of Brazil on the 18th of December, at seven in the morning.

We moored at the island of St. Catherine's on Sunday, the 21st of December, the whole squadron being sickly and in great want of refreshments: both which inconveniences we hoped to have soon removed at this settlement, celebrated by former navigators for its healthiness and its provisions, and for the freedom, indulgence, and friendly assistance there given to the ships of all European nations in amity with the Crown of Portugal.

Our first care, after having moored our ships, was to send our sick men on shore. We sent about eighty sick from the Centurion, and the other ships I believe, sent nearly as many in proportion to the number of their hands. As soon as we had performed this necessary duty, we scraped our decks, and gave our ship a thorough cleansing; then smoked it between decks, and after all washed every part well with vinegar. Our next employment was wooding and watering our squadron, caulking our ships' sides and decks, overhauling our rigging, and securing our masts against the tempestuous weather we were, in all probability, to meet with in our passage round Cape Horn in so advanced and inconvenient a season.

In order to render the ships stiffer, and to enable them to carry more sail abroad, and to prevent their labouring in hard gales of wind, each captain had orders given him to strike down some of their great guns into the hold. These precautions being complied with, and each ship having taken in as much wood and water as there was room for, the whole squadron was ready for the sea; on which the tents on shore were struck, and all the sick were received on board. And here we had a melancholy proof how much the healthiness of this place had been overrated by former writers, for we found that though the Centurion alone had buried no less than twenty-eight men since our arrival, yet the number of our sick was in the same interval increased from eighty to ninety-six.

And now our crews being embarked, and everything prepared for our departure, the Commodore made a signal for all captains, and delivered them their orders, containing the successive places of rendezvous from hence to the coast of China. And then on the next day, being the 18th of January, 1741, the signal was made for weighing, and the squadron put to sea.



In leaving St. Catherine's, we left the last amicable port we proposed to touch at, and were now proceeding to a hostile, or at best a desert and inhospitable coast. And as we were to expect a more boisterous climate to the southward than any we had yet experienced, not only our danger of separation would by this means be much greater than it had been hitherto, but other accidents of a more pernicious nature were likewise to be apprehended, and as much as possible to be provided against. And therefore Mr. Anson, in appointing the various stations at which the ships of the squadron were to rendezvous, had considered that it was possible his own ship might be disabled from getting round Cape Horn, or might be lost; and had given proper directions that even in that case the expedition should not be abandoned. For the orders delivered to the captains the day before we sailed for St. Catherine's were that in case of separation—which they were with the utmost care to endeavour to avoid—the first place of rendezvous should be the Bay of Port St. Julian. If after a stay there of ten days, they were not joined by the Commodore, they were then to proceed through Straits le Maire round Cape Horn into the South Seas, where the next place of rendezvous was to be the island of Nuestra Senora del Socoro.* They were to bring this island to bear east-north-east, and to cruise from five to twelve leagues' distance from it, as long as their store of wood and water would permit, both which they were to expend with the utmost frugality. And when they were under an absolute necessity of a fresh supply, they were to stand in, and endeavour to find out an anchoring-place; and in case they could not, and the weather made it dangerous to supply their ships by standing off and on, they were then to make the best of their way to the island of Juan Fernandez. And as soon as they had recruited their wood and water, they were to continue cruising off the anchoring-place of that island for fifty-six days, in which time, if they were not joined by the Commodore, they might conclude that some accident had befallen him; and they were forthwith to put themselves under the command of the senior officer, who was to use his utmost endeavours to annoy the enemy both by sea and land. With these views their new Commodore was to continue in those seas as long as his provisions lasted, or as long as they were recruited by what he should take from the enemy, reserving only a sufficient quantity to carry him and the ships under his command to Macao at the entrance of the River Tigris, near Canton, on the coast of China, where, having supplied himself with a new stock of provisions he was thence without delay to make the best of his way to England.

(*Note. Nuestra Senora del Socoro is one of the smaller outer islands of the Chonos Archipelago on the western coast of Patagonia.)

The next day we had very squally weather, attended with rain, lightning, and thunder; but it soon became fair again, with light breezes, and continued thus till Wednesday evening, when it blew fresh again; and increasing all night, by eight the next morning it became a most violent storm, and we had with it so thick a fog that it was impossible to see at the distance of two ships' lengths, so that the whole squadron disappeared.* On this a signal was made by firing guns, to bring to with the larboard tacks, the wind being then due east. We ourselves lay to under a reefed mizzen till noon, when the fog dispersed; and we soon discovered all the ships of the squadron, except the Pearl, which did not join us till near a month afterwards. The Trial sloop was a great way to leeward, having lost her mainmast in this squall, and having been obliged, for fear of bilging, to cut away the wreck. We bore down with the squadron to her relief, and the Gloucester was ordered to take her in tow, for the weather did not entirely abate until the day after, and even then a great swell continued from the eastward in consequence of the preceding storm.

(*Note. i.e. from the sight of those on board the Centurion.)


On the 17th of February at five in the afternoon, we came to an anchor in the latitude of 48 degrees 58 minutes. Weighing again at five the next morning, we an hour afterwards discovered a sail upon which the Severn and Gloucester were both directed to give chase; but we soon perceived it to be the Pearl, which separated from us a few days after we left St. Catherine's; and on this we made a signal for the Severn to rejoin the squadron, leaving the Gloucester alone in the pursuit. And now we were surprised to see that, on the Gloucester's approach, the people on board the Pearl increased their sail and stood from her. However, the Gloucester came up with them, but found them with their hammocks in their nettings and everything ready for an engagement. At two in the afternoon the Pearl joined us, and running up under our stern, Lieutenant Salt hailed the Commodore, and acquainted him that Captain Kidd* died on the 31st of January. He likewise informed him that he had seen five large ships on the 10th instant, which he for some time imagined to be our squadron; that he suffered the commanding ship, which wore a red broad pennant exactly resembling that of the Commodore, at the main top-mast head, to come within gun-shot of him before he discovered his mistake; but then, finding it not to be the Centurion, he hauled close upon the wind, and crowded from them with all his sail, and standing across a rippling, where they hesitated to follow him, he happily escaped. He made them out to be five Spanish men-of-war, one of them exceedingly like the Gloucester, which was the occasion of his apprehensions when the Gloucester chased him. By their appearance he thought they consisted of two ships of 70 guns, two of 50, and one of 40 guns. The whole squadron continued in chase of him all that day, but at night, finding they could not get near him, they gave over the chase, and directed their course to the southward.

(*Note. Captain Mitchel commanded the Pearl when the squadron started; but Captain Norris of the Gloucester had gone home sick from Madeira and several changes had taken place in the commands. The death of Captain Kidd caused fresh promotions. Captain Mitchel now commanded the Gloucester and Captain Murray the Pearl; while Lieutenants Cheap and Saunders had been promoted captains of the Wager and Trial.)

And now, had it not been for the necessity we were under of refitting the Trial, this piece of intelligence would have prevented our making any stay at St. Julian; but as it was impossible for that sloop to proceed round the Cape in the present condition, some stay there was inevitable; and, therefore, we sent the two cutters belonging to the Centurion and Severn in shore to discover the harbour of St. Julian, while the ships kept standing along the coast at about the distance of a league from the land. At six o'clock we anchored in the Bay of St. Julian. Soon after the cutters returned on board, having discovered the harbour, which did not appear to us in our situation, the northernmost point shutting in upon the southernmost, and in appearance closing the entrance.

Being come to an anchor in this Bay of St. Julian, principally with a view of refitting the Trial, the carpenters were immediately employed in that business, and continued so during our whole stay at the place. Here the Commodore, too, in order to ease the expedition of all unnecessary expense, held a consultation with his captains about unloading and discharging the Anna pink;* but they represented to him that they were so far from being in a condition of taking any part of her loading on board that they had still great quantities of provisions in the way of their guns between decks, and that their ships were withal so very deep that they were not fit for action without being cleared. This put the Commodore under the necessity of retaining the pink in the service; and as it was apprehended we should certainly meet with the Spanish squadron in passing the Cape, Mr. Anson thought it advisable to give orders to the captains to put all their provisions which were in the way of their guns on board the Anna pink, and to remount such of their guns as had formerly for the ease of their ships been ordered into the hold.

(*Note. The Industry pink had been unloaded and discharged on November 19th.)



The Trial being nearly refitted, which was our principal occupation at this Bay of ST. Julian, and the sole occasion of our stay, the Commodore thought it necessary, as we were now directly bound for the South Seas and the enemy's coasts, to regulate the plan of his future operations. And therefore, on the 24th of February, a signal was made for all captains, and a council of war was held on board the Centurion. At this council Mr. Anson proposed that their first attempt, after their arrival in the South Seas, should be the attack of the town and harbour of Baldivia, the principal frontier place of the district of Chile. To this proposition made by the Commodore the council unanimously and readily agreed; and in consequence of this resolution instructions were given to the captains of the squadron, by which they were directed in case of separation to make the best of their way to the island of Nuestra Senora del Socoro, and to cruise off that island ten days; from whence, if not joined by the Commodore, they were to proceed and cruise off the harbour of Baldivia, making the land between the latitudes of 40 degrees and 40 degrees 30 minutes, and taking care to keep to the southward of the port; and if in fourteen days they were not joined by the rest of the squadron, they were then to quit this station, and to direct their course to the island of Juan Fernandez, after which they were to regulate their further proceedings by their former orders. And as separation of the squadron might prove of the utmost prejudice to His Majesty's service, each captain was ordered to give it in charge to the respective officers of the watch not to keep their ship at a greater distance from the Centurion than two miles, as they would answer it at their peril; and if any captain should find his ship beyond the distance specified, he was to acquaint the Commodore with the name of the officer who had thus neglected his duty.

These necessary regulations being established, and the Trial sloop completed, the squadron weighed on Friday, the 27th of February, at seven in the morning, and stood to sea.

From our departure from St. Julian to the 4th of March we had little wind, with thick, hazy weather and some rain. On the 4th of March we were in sight of Cape Virgin Mary,* and not more than six or seven leagues distant from it. The afternoon of this day was very bright and clear, with small breezes of wind, inclinable to a calm; and most of the captains took the opportunity of this favourable weather to pay a visit to the Commodore.

(*Note. Cape de las Virgenes, the south-eastern extremity of Patagonia at the entrance to the straits of Magellan.)

We here found, what was constantly verified by all our observations in these high latitudes,* that fair weather was always of an exceeding short duration, and that when it was remarkably fine it was a certain presage of a succeeding storm; for the calm and sunshine of our afternoon ended in a most turbulent night, the wind freshening from the south-west as the night came on, and increasing its violence continually till nine in the morning the next day, when it blew so hard that we were obliged to bring to with the squadron, and to continue under a reefed mizzen till eleven at night. Towards midnight, the wind abating, we made sail again; and steering south, we discovered in the morning for the first time the land called Tierra del Fuego. This indeed afforded us but a very uncomfortable prospect, it appearing of a stupendous height, covered everywhere with snow. As we intended to pass through Straits le Maire next day, we lay to at night that we might not over shoot them, and took this opportunity to prepare ourselves for the tempestuous climate we were soon to be engaged in; with which view we employed ourselves good part of the night in bending an entire new suit of sails to the yards. At four the next morning, being the 7th of March, we made sail, and at eight saw the land, and soon after we began to open the Straits.


About ten o'clock, the Pearl and the Trial being ordered to keep ahead of the squadron, we entered them with fair weather and a brisk gale, and were hurried through by the rapidity of the tide in about two hours, though they are between seven and eight leagues in length. As these Straits are often considered as the boundary between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and as we presumed we had nothing now before us but an open sea till we arrived on those opulent coasts where all our hopes and wishes centred, we could not help flattering ourselves that the greatest difficulty of our passage was now at an end, and that our most sanguine dreams were upon the point of being realised, and hence we indulged our imaginations in those romantic schemes which the fancied possession of the Chilean gold and Peruvian silver might be conceived to inspire. These joyous ideas were heightened by the brightness of the sky and the serenity of the weather, which was indeed most remarkably pleasing; for though the winter was now advancing apace, yet the morning of this day, in its brilliancy and mildness, gave place to none we had seen since our departure from England. Thus animated by these delusions, we traversed these memorable Straits, ignorant of the dreadful calamities that were then impending, and just ready to break upon us; ignorant that the time drew near when the squadron would be separated never to unite again, and that this day of our passage was the last cheerful day that the greatest part of us would ever live to enjoy.

(*Note. The Equator is the zero (0 degrees) of latitude. The latitude becomes higher as one proceeds to the poles (90 degrees).)


We had scarcely reached the southern extremity of the straits of le Maire, when our flattering hopes were instantly lost in the apprehensions of immediate destruction. For before the sternmost ships of the squadron were clear of the Straits, the serenity of the sky was suddenly changed, and gave us all the presages of an impending storm; and immediately the wind shifted to the southward, and blew in such violent squalls that we were obliged to hand our topsails and reef our mainsail. The tide, too, which had hitherto favoured us, now turned against us and drove us to the eastward with prodigious rapidity, so that we were in great anxiety for the Wager and the Anna pink, the two sternmost vessels, fearing they would be dashed to pieces against the shore of Staten Land. Nor were our apprehensions without foundation, for it was with the utmost difficulty they escaped. And now the whole squadron, instead of pursuing their intended course to the south-west, were driven to the eastward by the united force of the storm and of the currents; so that next day in the morning we found ourselves near seven leagues to the eastward of Staten Land. The violence of the current, which had set us with so much precipitation to the eastward, together with the force and constancy of the westerly winds, soon taught us to consider the doubling of Cape Horn as an enterprise that might prove too mighty for our efforts, though some amongst us had lately treated the difficulties which former voyagers were said to have met with in this undertaking as little better than chimerical, and had supposed them to arise rather from timidity and unskilfulness than from the real embarrassments of the winds and seas. But we were severely convinced that these censures were rash and ill-grounded, for the distresses with which we struggled during the three succeeding months will not easily be paralleled in the relation of any former naval expedition.

From the storm which came on before we had well got clear of Straits le Maire, we had a continual succession of such tempestuous weather as surprised the oldest and most experienced mariners on board, and obliged them to confess that what they had hitherto called storms were inconsiderable gales compared with the violence of these winds, which raised such short and at the same time such mountainous waves as greatly surpassed in danger all seas known in any other part of the globe. And it was not without great reason that this unusual appearance filled us with continual terror, for had any one of these waves broke fairly over us, it must in all probability have sent us to the bottom.


It was on the 7th of March, as has been already observed, that we passed Straits le Maire, and were immediately afterwards driven to the eastward by a violent storm and the force of the current which set that way. For the four or five succeeding days we had hard gales of wind from the same quarter, with a most prodigious swell; so that though we stood, during all that time, towards the south-west, yet we had no reason to imagine we had made any way to the westward. In this interval we had frequent squalls of rain and snow, and shipped great quantities of water; after which for three or four days, though the seas ran mountains high, yet the weather was rather more moderate. But on the 18th we had again strong gales of wind with extreme cold. From hence to the 23rd the weather was more favourable, though often intermixed with rain and sleet, and some hard gales; but as the waves did not subside, the ship, by labouring in this lofty sea, was now grown so loose in her upper works that she let in the water at every seam; so that every part within board was constantly exposed to the sea-water, and scarcely any of the officers ever lay in dry beds. Indeed, it was very rare that two nights ever passed without many of them being driven from their beds by the deluge of water that came upon them.

On the 23rd we had a most violent storm of wind, hail, and rain, with a very great sea; and though we handed the main-topsail before the height of the squall, yet we found the yard sprung; and soon after, the foot-rope of the mainsail breaking, the mainsail itself split instantly to rags, and in spite of our endeavours to save it, much the greater part of it was blown overboard. On this the Commodore made the signal for the squadron to bring to; and, the storm at length flattening to a calm, we had an opportunity of getting down our main-topsail yard to put the carpenters at work upon it, and of repairing our rigging; after which, having bent a new mainsail, we got under sail again with a moderate breeze. But in less than twenty-four hours we were attacked by another storm still more furious than the former; for it proved a perfect hurricane, and reduced us to the necessity of lying to under our bare poles.

As our ship kept the wind better any of the rest, we were obliged in the afternoon to wear ship, in order to join the squadron to the leeward, which otherwise we should have been in danger of losing in the night; and as we dared not venture any sail abroad, we were obliged to make use of an expedient which answered our purpose; this was putting the helm a-weather and manning the fore-shrouds. But though this method proved successful for the end intended, yet in the execution of it one of our ablest seaman was canted overboard; and notwithstanding the prodigious agitation of the waves, we perceived that he swam very strong, and it was with the utmost concern that we found ourselves incapable of assisting him; and we were the more grieved at his unhappy fate, since we lost sight of him struggling with the waves, and conceived from the manner in which he swam that he might continue sensible for a considerable time longer of the horror attending his irretrievable situation.

It was this incident that inspired Cowper's 'Castaway,' and called forth the touching verse given below—a verse so eloquent in its testimony to that gentler side of Anson's nature, which won for him the affection and regard not only of his own sailors, but even of his Spanish prisoners.

Of this poor sailor, and of the page in the ship's books that bore his name, Cowper wrote:

No poet wept him; but the page Of narrative sincere, That tells his name, his worth, his age, Is wet with Anson's tear. And tears by bards or heroes shed Alike immortalise the dead.

From hence we had an interval of three or four days less tempestuous than usual, but accompanied with a thick fog, in which we were obliged to fire guns almost every half-hour to keep our squadron together.

On the first of April the weather returned again to its customary bias, the sky looked dark and gloomy, and the wind began to freshen and to blow in squalls; however, it was not yet so boisterous as to prevent our carrying our topsails close reefed; but its appearance was such as plainly prognosticated that a still severer tempest was at hand. And accordingly, on the 3rd of April, there came on a storm which both in its violence and continuation (for it lasted three days) exceeded all that we had hitherto encountered. In its first onset we received a furious shock from the sea which broke upon our larboard quarter, where it stove in the quarter gallery, and rushed into the ship like a deluge; our rigging, too, suffered extremely, so that to ease the stress upon the masts and shrouds we lowered both our main and fore yards, and furled all our sails, and in this posture we lay to for three days, when, the storm somewhat abating, we ventured to make sail under our courses only. But even this we could not do long, for the next day, which was the 7th, we had another hard gale of wind, with lightning and rain, which obliged us to lie to again all night.

And now, after all our solicitude, and the numerous ills of every kind to which we had been incessantly exposed for near forty days, we had great consolation in the flattering hopes we entertained, that our fatigues were drawing to a period, and that we should soon arrive in a more hospitable climate, where we should be amply repaid for all our past sufferings. For, towards the latter end of March, we were advanced by our reckoning near 10 degrees to the westward of the westernmost point of Tierra del Fuego, and this allowance being double what former navigators have thought necessary to be taken in order to compensate the drift of the eastern current, we esteemed ourselves to be well advanced within the limits of the southern ocean, and had therefore been ever since standing to the northward with as much expedition as the turbulence of the weather and our frequent disasters permitted. And, on the 13th of April, we were but a degree in latitude to the southward of the west entrance of the straits of Magellan, so that we fully expected, in a very few days, to have experienced the celebrated tranquillity of the Pacific Ocean.


But these were delusions which only served to render our disappointment more terrible; for the next morning, between one and two, as we were standing to the northward, and the weather, which had till then been hazy, accidentally cleared up, the pink made a signal for seeing land right ahead and it being but two miles distant, we were all under the most dreadful apprehensions of running on shore; which, had either the wind blown from its usual quarter with its wonted vigour, or had not the moon suddenly shone out, not a ship amongst us could possibly have avoided. But the wind, which some few hours before blew in squalls from the south-west, having fortunately shifted to west-north-west, we were enabled to stand to the southward, and to clear ourselves of this unexpected danger; so that by noon we had gained an offing of near twenty leagues.

By the latitude of this land we fell in with, it was agreed to be a part of Tierra del Fuego, near the southern outlet of the Straits of Magellan. It was indeed most wonderful that the currents should have driven us to the eastward with such strength; for the whole squadron esteemed themselves upwards of ten degrees more westerly than this land. And now, instead of having our labours and anxieties relieved by approaching a warmer climate and more tranquil seas, we were to steer again to the southward, and again to combat those western blasts which had so often terrified us; and this, too, when we were weakened by our men falling sick and dying apace, and when our spirits, dejected by a long continuance at sea, and by our late disappointment, were much less capable of supporting us in the various difficulties which we could not but expect in this new undertaking. Add to all this, too, the discouragement we received by the diminution of the strength of the squadron; for three days before this we lost sight of the Severn and the Pearl in the morning; and though we spread our ships, and beat about for some time, yet we never saw them more; whence we had apprehensions that they too might have fallen in with this land in the night, and, being less favoured by the wind and the moon than we were, might have run on shore and have perished.

After the mortifying disappointment of falling in with the coast of Tierra del Fuego, when we esteemed ourselves 10 degrees to the westward of it, we stood away to the south-west till the 22nd of April, when we were in upwards of 60 degrees south, and by our account near 6 degrees to the westward of Cape Noir.* And in this run we had a series of as favourable weather as could well be expected in that part of the world, even in a better season; so that this interval, setting the inquietude of our thoughts aside, was by far the most eligible of any we enjoyed from Straits le Maire to the west coast of America. This moderate weather continued with little variation till the 24th; but on the 24th in the evening the wind began to blow fresh, and soon increased to a prodigious storm; and the weather being extremely thick, about midnight we lost sight of the other ships of the squadron, which, notwithstanding the violence of the preceding storms, had hitherto kept in company with us.

(*Note. Part of Tierra del Fuego near the southern outlet of the Straits of Magellan.)

On the 25th, about noon, the weather became more moderate, but still we had no sight of the rest of the squadron, nor indeed were we joined by any of them again till after our arrival at Juan Fernandez, nor did any two of them, as we have since learned, continue in company together.

The remaining part of this month of April we had generally hard gales, although we had been every day since the 22nd edging to the northward. However, on the last day of the month we flattered ourselves with the hopes of soon terminating all our sufferings, for we that day found ourselves in the latitude of 52 degrees 13 minutes, which, being to the northward of the Straits of Magellan we were assured that we had completed our passage, and had arrived in the confines of the Southern Ocean; and this ocean being nominated Pacific,* from the equability of the seasons which are said to prevail there, and the facility and security with which navigation is there carried on, we doubted not but we should be speedily cheered with the moderate gales, the smooth water, and the temperate air, for which that tract of the globe has been so renowned. And under the influence of these pleasing circumstances we hoped to experience some kind of compensation for the complicated miseries which had so constantly attended us for the last eight weeks. But here we were again disappointed; for in the succeeding month of May our sufferings rose to a much higher pitch than they had ever yet done, whether we consider the violence of the storms, the shattering of our sails and rigging, or the diminishing and weakening of our crew by deaths and sickness, and the probable prospect of our total destruction.

(*Note. Peace-making. So named by Magellan from the fine weather he experienced there in 1520 and 1521. He was the first European to enter that ocean. The name was scarcely deserved.)


(*Note. 'Scurvy.' The nature of the disease and the proper method of treatment were not fully understood in Anson's day. It is caused by improper diet and particularly by the want of fresh vegetables. Lemon and lime juice are the best protectives against it and they were made an essential element in nautical diet in 1795. The disease which used to cause dreadful mortality on long voyages has since that time gradually disappeared and is now very rarely met with.)


Soon after our passing Straits le Maire the scurvy began to make its appearance amongst us; and our long continuance at sea, the fatigue we underwent, and the various disappointments we met with, had occasion its spreading to such a degree, that at the latter end of April there were but few on board who were not in some degree afflicted with it; and in that month no less than forty-three died of it on board the Centurion. But though we thought that the distemper had then risen to an extraordinary height, and were willing to hope that as we advanced to the northward its malignant would abate, yet we found, on the contrary, that in the month of May we lost nearly double that number. And as we did not get to land till the middle of June, the mortality went on increasing, and the disease extended itself so prodigiously that after the loss of above two hundred men we could not at last muster more than six foremast men in a watch capable of duty.

This disease, so frequently attending all long voyages, and so particularly destructive to us, is usually attended with a strange dejection of the spirits, and with shiverings, tremblings, and a disposition to be seized with the most dreadful terrors on the slightest accident. Indeed, it was most remarkable, in all our reiterated experience of this malady, that whatever discouraged our people, or at any time damped their hopes, never failed to add new vigour to the distemper, for it usually killed those who were in the last stage of it, and confined those to their hammocks who were before capable of some kind of duty; so that it seemed as if alacrity of mind and sanguine thoughts were no contemptible preservatives from its fatal malignity.

A most extraordinary circumstance, and what would be scarcely credible upon any single evidence, is, that the scars of wounds which had been for many years healed were forced open again by this virulent distemper. Of this there was a remarkable instance in one of the invalids on board the Centurion, who had been wounded above fifty years before at the battle of the Boyne;* for though he was cured soon after, and had continued well for a great number of years past, yet, on his being attacked by the scurvy, his wounds, in the progress of his disease, broke out afresh, and appeared as if they had never been healed. Nay, what is still more astonishing, the callous of a broken bone, which had been completely formed for a long time, was found to be hereby dissolved, and the fracture seemed as if it had never been consolidated. Indeed, the effects of this disease were in almost every instance wonderful; for many of our people, though confined to their hammocks, appeared to have no inconsiderable share of health, for they ate and drank heartily, were cheerful, and talked with much seeming vigour, and with a loud, strong tone of voice; and yet on their being the least moved, though it was only from one part of the ship to the other, and that in their hammocks, they have immediately expired; and others who have confided in their seeming strength, and have resolved to get out of their hammocks, have died before they could well reach the deck. And it was no uncommon thing for those who were able to walk the deck, and to do some kind of duty, to drop down dead in an instant, on any endeavours to act with their utmost vigour, many of our people having perished in this manner during the course of this voyage.

(*Note. William III defeated James II and his army of Irish and French troops July 12th, 1690.)


With this terrible disease we struggled the greatest part of the time of our beating round Cape Horn. We entertained hopes that when we should have once secured our passage round the Cape, we should put a period to this and all the other evils which had so constantly pursued us. But it was our misfortune to find that the Pacific Ocean was to us less hospitable than the turbulent neighbourhood of Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn; for being arrived, on the 8th of May, off the island of Socoro, which was the first rendezvous appointed for the squadron, and where we hoped to have met with some of our companions, we cruised for them in that station several days. And here we were not only disappointed in our hopes of being joined by our friends, and thereby induced to favour the gloomy suggestions of their having all perished, but we were likewise perpetually alarmed with the fears of being driven on shore upon this coast, which appeared too craggy and irregular to give us the least hopes that in such a case any of us could possibly escape immediate destruction. For the land had indeed a most tremendous aspect; the most distant part of it, and which appeared far within the country, being the mountains usually called the Andes or Cordilleras, was extremely high, and covered with snow; and the coast itself seemed quite rocky and barren, and the water's edge skirted with precipices. As we were utterly ignorant of the coast, had we been driven ashore by the western winds, which blew almost constantly there, we did not expect to have avoided the loss of our ship and of our lives.

And this continued peril, which lasted for about a fortnight, was greatly aggravated by the difficulties we found in working the ship; as the scurvy had by this time destroyed so great a part of our hands, and had in some degree affected almost the whole crew. Nor did we, as we hoped, find the winds less violent as we advanced to the northward; for we had often prodigious squalls, which split our sails, greatly damaged our rigging, and endangered our masts.



It were endless to recite minutely the various disasters, fatigues, and terrors which we encountered on this coast; all these went on increasing till the 22nd of May, at which time the fury of all the storms which we had hitherto encountered seemed to be combined, and to have conspired our destruction. In this hurricane almost all our sails were split, and great part of our standing rigging broken; and, about eight in the evening, a mountainous overgrown sea took us upon our starboard quarter, and gave us so prodigious a shock that several of our shrouds broke with the jerk, by which our masts were greatly endangered. Our ballast and stores, too, were so strangely shifted that the ship heeled afterwards two streaks to port. Indeed, it was a most tremendous blow, and we were thrown into the utmost consternation from the apprehension of instantly foundering. This was the last effort of that stormy climate, for in a day or two we found the weather more moderate than we had yet experienced since our passing Straits le Maire. And now having cruised in vain for more than a fortnight in quest of the other ships of the squadron, it was resolved to take advantage of the present favourable season and the offing we had made from this terrible coast, and to make the best of our way for the island of Juan Fernandez.* For though our next rendezvous was appointed off the harbour of Baldivia, yet as we had hitherto seen none of our companions at this first rendezvous, it was not to be supposed that any of them would be found at the second; indeed, we had the greatest reason to suspect that all but ourselves had perished. Besides, we were by this time reduced to so low a condition that, instead of attempting to attack the places of the enemy, our utmost hopes could only suggest to us the possibility of saving the ship, and some part of the remaining enfeebled crew, by our speedy arrival at Juan Fernandez; for this was the only road in that part of the world where there was any probability of our recovering our sick or refitting our vessel, and consequently our getting thither was the only chance we had left to avoid perishing at sea.

(*Note. 'Juan Fernandez.' This island which is 13 miles long by 4 miles broad, now belongs to Chili. It was discovered in 1563 by Juan Fernandez. As it was unoccupied it was a favourite resort of the buccaneers throughout the seventeenth century, as well as of English squadrons despatched like those of Dampier and Anson, to prey on Spanish commerce, and needing to refit and water after the long voyage round Cape Horn. The Spaniards at last occupied it in 1750, in self-defence. It was here that Alexander Selkirk was put ashore in 1704.)

Our deplorable situation, then, allowing no room for deliberation, we stood for the island of Juan Fernandez. On the 28th of May, being nearly in the parallel upon which it is laid down, we had great expectations of seeing it; but not finding it in the position in which the charts had taught us to expect it, we began to fear that we had got too far to the westward; and therefore, though the Commodore himself was strongly persuaded that he saw it on the morning of the 28th, yet his officers believing it to be only a cloud, to which opinion the haziness of the weather gave some kind of countenance, it was on a consultation resolved to stand to the eastward in the parallel of the island; as it was certain that by this course we should either fall in with the island, if we were already to the westward of it, or should at least make the mainland of Chili, whence we might take a new departure, and assure ourselves, by running to the westward afterwards, of not missing the island a second time.

On the 30th of May we had a view of the continent of Chili, distant about twelve or thirteen leagues. It gave us great uneasiness to find that we had so needlessly altered our course when we were, in all probability, just upon the point of making the island; for the mortality amongst us was now increased to a most dreadful degree, and those who remained alive were utterly dispirited by this new disappointment and the prospect of their longer continuance at sea. Our water, too, began to grow scarce, so that a general dejection prevailed amongst us, which added much to the virulence of the disease, and destroyed numbers of our best men; and to all these calamities there was added this vexatious circumstance that when, after having got sight of the main, we tacked and stood to the westward in quest of the island, we were so much delayed by calms and contrary winds that it cost us nine days to regain the westing which, when we stood to the eastward, we ran down in two. In this desponding condition, with a crazy ship, a great scarcity of water, and a crew so universally diseased that there were not above ten foremast men in a watch capable of doing duty, and even some of these lame and unable to go aloft; under these disheartening circumstances, I say, we stood to the westward; and on the 9th of June, at daybreak, we at last discovered the long-wished-for island of Juan Fernandez.

It appeared to be a mountainous place, extremely ragged and irregular; yet as it was land and, the land we sought for, it was to us a most agreeable sight. For at this place only we could hope to put a period to those terrible calamities we had so long struggled with, which had already swept away above half our crew, and which, had we continued a few days longer at sea, would inevitably have completed our destruction. For we were by this time reduced to so helpless a condition, that out of two hundred and odd men who remained alive, we could not, taking all our watches together, muster hands enough to work the ship on an emergency, though we included the officers, their servants, and the boys.

The wind being northerly when we first made the island, we kept plying all that day and the next night, in order to get in with the land; and wearing the ship in the middle watch, we had a melancholy instance of the most incredible debility of our people; for the lieutenant could muster no more than two quarter-masters and six foremast men capable of working; so that without the assistance of the officers, servants, and boys, it might have proved impossible for us to have reached the island after we had got sight of it; and even with this assistance they were two hours in trimming the sails. To so wretched a condition was a 60-gun ship reduced, which had passed Straits le Maire but three months before, with between four hundred and five hundred men, almost all of them in health and vigour.


However, on the 10th, in the afternoon, we got under the lee of the island, and kept ranging along it at about two miles' distance, in order to look out for the proper anchorage, which was described to be in a bay on the north side. But at last the night closed upon us before we had satisfied ourselves which was the proper bay to anchor in, and therefore we resolved to send our boat next morning to discover the road. At four in the morning the cutter was despatched with our third lieutenant to find out the bay we were in search of, who returned again at noon with the boat laden with seals and grass; for though the island abounded with better vegetables, yet the boat's crew, in their short stay, had not met with them; and they well knew that even grass would prove a dainty, and, indeed, it was all soon and eagerly devoured. The seals, too, were considered as fresh provision, but as yet were not much admired, though they grew afterwards into more repute; for what rendered them less valuable at this juncture was the prodigious quantity of excellent fish which the people on board had taken during the absence of the boat.

The cutter, in this expedition, had discovered the bay where we intended to anchor, which we found was to the westward of our present station; and the next morning we steered along shore till we came abreast of the point that forms the eastern part of the bay. On opening the bay, the wind, that had befriended us thus far, shifted, and blew from thence in squalls; but by means of the headway we had got, we luffed close in, till the anchor brought us up in fifty-six fathoms. Soon after we had thus got to our new berth, we discovered a sail, which we made no doubt was one of our squadron; and on its nearer approach, we found it to be the Trial sloop. We immediately sent some of our hands on board her, by whose assistance she was brought to an anchor between us and the land. We soon found that the sloop had not been exempted from those calamities which we had so severely felt; for her commander, Captain Saunders, waiting on the Commodore, informed him that out of his small complement he had buried thirty-four of his men; and those that remained were so universally afflicted with the scurvy that only himself, his lieutenant, and three of his men were able to stand by the sails.


(*Note. Alexander Selkirk (1676 to 1721) was an adventurous sailor who joined Dampier's privateering expedition to the South Seas in 1703. He quarrelled with his captain, Stradling, and requested to be landed on the uninhabited island of Juan Fernandez. He immediately repented of his request, and begged to be taken off; but his prayers were disregarded, and he remained on the island from September, 1704, until he was picked up in 1709 by Dampier's new expedition. An account of his adventures was published, which apparently gave Defoe his idea of Robinson Crusoe.)

We were now extremely occupied in sending on shore materials to raise tents for the reception of the sick, who died apace on board. But we had not hands enough to prepare the tents for their reception before the 16th. On that and the two following days we sent them all on shore, amounting to a hundred and sixty-seven persons, besides at least a dozen who died in the boats on their being exposed to the fresh air. The greatest part of our sick were so infirm that we were obliged to carry them out of the ship in their hammocks, and to convey them afterwards in the same manner from the waterside to their tents, over a stony beach. This was a work of considerable fatigue to the few who were healthy; and therefore the Commodore, with his accustomed humanity, not only assisted herein with his own labour, but obliged his officers, without distinction, to give their helping hand.

The excellence of the climate and the looseness of the soil render this place extremely proper for all kinds of vegetation; for if the ground be anywhere accidentally turned up, it is immediately overgrown with turnips and Sicilian radishes; and therefore, Mr. Anson having with him garden seeds of all kinds, and stones of different sorts of fruits, he, for the better accommodation of his countrymen who should hereafter touch here, sowed both lettuces, carrots, and other garden plants, and set in the woods a great variety of plum, apricot, and peach stones. And these last, he has been informed, have since thriven to a very remarkable degree; for some gentlemen, who in their passage from Lima to old Spain were taken and brought to England, having procured leave to wait upon Mr. Anson to thank him for his generosity and humanity to his prisoners, some of whom were their relations, they in casual discourse with him about his transactions in the South Seas, particularly asked him if he had not planted a great number of fruit-stones on the island of Juan Fernandez; for they told him their late navigators had discovered there numbers of peach trees and apricot trees, which being fruits before unobserved in that place, they concluded them to be produced from kernels set by him.


Former writers have related that this island abounded with vast numbers of goats; and their accounts are not to be questioned, this place being the usual haunt of the buccaneers* and privateers who formerly frequented those seas. And there are two instances—one of a Mosquito Indian, and the other of Alexander Selkirk, a Scotchman, who were left by their respective ships, and lived alone upon this island for some years, and consequently were no strangers to its produce. Selkirk, who was the last, after a stay of between four and five years, was taken off the place by the Duke and Duchess privateers, of Bristol, as may be seen at large in the journal of their voyage. His manner of life during his solitude was in most particulars very remarkable; but there is one circumstance he relates which was so strangely verified by our own observation that I cannot help reciting it. He tells us, among other things, as he often caught more goats than he wanted, he sometimes marked their ears and let them go. This was about thirty-two years before our arrival at the island. Now it happened that the first goat that was killed by our people at their landing had his ears slit; whence we concluded that he had doubtless been formerly under the power of Selkirk. This was indeed an animal of a most venerable aspect, dignified with an exceeding majestic beard, and with many other symptoms of antiquity. During our stay on the island we met with others marked in the same manner, all the males being distinguished by an exuberance of beard and every other characteristic of extreme age. But the great numbers of goats, which former writers described to have been found upon this island, are at present very much diminished. For the Spaniards being informed of the advantages which the buccaneers and privateers drew from the provisions which goats' flesh here furnished them with, they have endeavoured to extirpate the breed, thereby to deprive their enemies of this relief. For this purpose they have put on shore great numbers of large dogs, who have increased apace, and have destroyed all the goats in the accessible part of the country; so that there now remain only a few among the crags and precipices where the dogs cannot follow them.

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