« PreviousContinue »
The effects of the storm which had reduced our author to this course of life, having abated, he again applied himself to his industrious occupation; and after continuing hard at work for some months, and becoming intimately acquainted with the nature of the trade, he determined to return to England, for the purpose of obtaining every thing requisite to carry on the business, and support a traffic with the natives of the interior. Accordingly he quitted the Bay of Campeachy, touched at Jamaica, and landed on his native soil, in the month of August, 1678.
Though the authority of Dampier is superseded in modern geography by the more recent circumnavigations of Cook, Byron, and others; yet it is but justice to remark, that these have been greatly indebted to the correct information, which he gives, particularly of the numerous islands in the Pacific Ocean. The name of Cook will ever be registered in the annals of a grateful country; and there are some yet living, who treasure in their mind the remembrance of that excellent man. A pleasing memorial, which death alone can destroy. He, however, quitted his country in the professed characters of a sailor, a commander, and a discoverer. The eyes of the civilized world were upon him, and honor, integrity-all that is excellent or dear to man in his progress to honest fame, incessantly urged him on in his scientific course. Not so with Dampier, unknown, unsupported, and in a humble station, engaged in daring enterprise with men of desperate character, who had no other control than their own intemperate will, no other gratification than the indulgence of unbridled passions he wrote and described without a prospect of his labours meeting the public eye, but merely because his genius prompted him to treasure up the stores of knowledge he had gleaned in every clime.
His voyage round the world (as we have before observed,) was not undertaken for discovery, but he made it subservient to this purpose, and by his accurate soundings, through intricate channels, between islands but little known, and in seas that had scarcely ever been visited, has conferred a lasting obligation on the navigator.
In the commencement of the year 1679, our author took his departure from England, and arrived at Jamaica with a cargo, which he disposed of, intending to prosecute his voyage to Campeachy, with such commodities as would be most acceptable to the logwood-cutters ; but altering his plan, he continued at Jamaica during the remainder of the year, and purchased a small estate in Dorsetshire.
About Christmas, he prepared to return to England, but was induced to go a short trading voyage first, to the Main. Soon after setting out, they came to an anchor in Negril Bay, where finding several of the Buccaneer leaders, (Coxon, Sharp, Sa-vkins, and others,) the men all left the vessel to join them in an expedition they had planned, and after two or three days, Dampier was persuaded to go with them too. The first expedition was to Portobello, which being accomplished, it was resolved to march by land over the Isthmus of Darien, after some new adventures in the South Seas. Accordingly they landed on the 5th April, near Golden Island, one of the Sambaloes, to the number of between three and four hundred men, carrying with them provisions for their support, and toys to gratify the Indians. In about nine days they arrived at Santa Maria, which they took, and after a rest of three days, again pursued their march to the coast of the South Sea, where they embarked in canoes and periagos. On the 23rd of April, they were in sight of Panama, and made repeated attempts on Puebla Nova, in which their commander in chief, Sawkins, with many of their companions, were slain.
They now changed their course for Peru, touching at several islands, and taking the town of Ylo on the coast. About Christmas, they reached the Isle of Juan Fernandez, (to which place, we are in some measure indebted for the interesting and popular tale of Robinson Crusoe.) Here Captain Sharp, who had been chosen their leader on the death of Sawkins, was by general consent deposed, and Watling chosen in his stead; but shortly afterwards, on their attacking Arica, they were repulsed with great loss, and Watling was killed. This band of marauders now returned to the Isle Plata without a commander, and contentions arising respecting the re-election of Sharp, it was agreed to separate, the majority in favor of Sharp keeping the ship, the rest resolving to return overland across the Isthmus, and among these latter was Dampier. On April 17th, 1681, they parted company. The smaller party, consisting of forty-seven, embarked in the launch and two canoes, purposing to make for the river of Santa Maria, about 200 leagues distant. The following day they captured a small bark, in which they pursued their intended route, and escaping from the Spaniards, who had long been watching for their return, they landed on the 1st of May, and after a march of twenty-three days, during which they suffered the most severe hardships, and were nearly starved, they accomplished their journey, and went on board a French privateer: Dampier's vessel afterwards joined a fleet of eight sail, composed of English and French, all bent on plunder. But through the different opinions and obstinacy of the commanders nothing was carried into execution. Dampier, with his companions, was on board a French vessel, but disliking the company, he persuaded Captain Wright to let them have a
prize he had taken. Their fleet being scattered, they cruized about the islands without accomplishing any thing, till, to the eastward of Carthagena, Captains Wright and Yanky had a smart engagement with and captured a valuable prize. This, however, proved a source of contention, both captains claiming it, but at last it was determined in favor of Yanky, who took possession; and Dampier's vessel being sold, he engaged with Captain Wright, who exchanged his own bark for Captain Yanky's. After this they took several other prizes, and not being able to dispose of their cargoes, they shared them and separated. Dampier and his party arrived in one of these vessels at Virginia in July, 1682.' Here the wealth which they had acquired was very soon dissipated, and Cooke having obtained the command of a prize, and fitted her out as a privateer, proclaimed his intention of sailing for the South Seas, to cruize on the coasts of Chili and Peru, to which party Dampier and his associates readily joined themselves.
Their crew amounted to seventy men, who were bound by certain restrictions, on account of the length of the voyage; the most remarkable was that, enjoining temperance and sobriety:
August 23rd, 1883, they bid farewell to Virginia, and stood for the Cape de Verd isles, and after encountering a tremendous gale, made the isle of Sal, noted for its salt ponds. Among these islands they continued for some time, and attempted to cut out a ship from Port Praya, at St. Jago, but the superior force of their opponent deterred them from the enterprise. From hence they stretched over to the coast of Africa, and touched at a negro town to the southward of Sierra Leone, near the river Sherbro, where they purchased provisions, and took in water for the voyage.
In the middle of November, they again pursued their course for the Straits of Magellan. On the 28th of January, 1684, they made the Faulkland isles, but did not stop. Missing the Straits of Magellan, through unfavourable winds, they fell in with those of Le Maire, on the 6th of February, but on account of the dangerous, short, breaking sea, stood round Cape Horn. On the 14th, they encountered a violent storm, which continued with little abatemeni till the 3rd of March, when it came to the eastward, and enabled them to run into the South Seas. During this gale, they saved twentythree barrels of rain water, beside what they used in dressing their victuals, and possibly these heavy rains may in some measure account for that phenomenon observed by Cook, that the ice in high southern latitudes yielded fresh water. In latitude 35° S. they joined company with the Nicholas, twenty-six guns, commanded by Captain Eaton, and both ships made sail for Juan Fernandez, where they anchored, March 23rd, and found a Moskito Indian, who had been left behind when Dampier visited the place three years before, at the time Sharp was deposed, and Watling declared commander. The Spaniards, aware of some one being on the island, had made repeated attempts to discover him, but without effect. He had converted the barrel of his gun, with much ingenuity, into various implements for fishing, as well as lances for striking goats. On the first approach of the ships, he observed them very narrowly, and being convinced they were English, immediately prepared a comfortable meal for those who should land.
This island is described as particularly healthy, and possessing numerous advantages, the sea around it abounding in fish. The seals are so plentiful that it is remarked, “ there are always thousands, I might say, possibly, millions of them, either sitting on the bays, or going and coming in the sea round the island.”.
: Were we to follow Dampier through all his predatory excursions we should far exceed our limits. Even he himself has been very delicate in mentioning them, fully sensible that they would reflect any thing but credit on his character ; indeed, though he seems to have had no objection to engage in, and share the spoil of their enterprises, his mind nevertheless appears never to have lost its attachment to scientific pursuits. His descriptions of the Western Coast of America are given with precise exactness, and though some who have followed his track in later times have pretended to detect trivial errors, yet it is possible that this may have proceeded from incorrectness on their parts, as most of his observations are scrupulously correct. The peninsula of California was at this time supposed to be an island, and the coast to the northward of it scarcely at all known. On examining the map of the world, prefixed to the first volume, we find that he extends the land indefinitely across the North Pacific Ocean, between the latitudes of 42° and 48°, but without uniting it to either continent. Sir Francis Drake had been no farther than 43° N. The late attempts to discover the N. W. Passage have met with but little more success than they did upwards of a century ago. Dampier suggests, that were he engaged in prosecuting the discovery, it should be from this part of the ocean, and we must own ourselves inclined to adopt his opinion ; at least, we consider that should another expedition be fitted out, it would considerably promote our knowledge of these dangerous parts if ships were at the same time to attempt the passage both from the eastward and westward, while another party endeavoured to make their way to the Arctic Ocean by land. It is true that the excessive difficulties encountered by the indefatigable Captain Franklin, are enough to appal a stout heart, but it must be remembered, that if proper supplies had been stored at the different stations,
the distress would have been considerably diminished; and without meaning to utter one syllable against that gallant officer, for whom we entertain the highest respect, we do consider that there was a falling off somewhere which might be remedied. There are persons who condemn the attempt altogether, but these are neither lovers of their country, nor of science. The high character that England bears as a maritime power imperiously calls upon her children to maintain it, and whether her flag waves triumphantly over the ensign of the enemy, or floats in the shivering breezes of the Polar sea in the more peaceful occupation of discovery, each should be equally valuable to a British heart. It is much to be regretted that the Antarctic Ocean has been so little explored. Cook penetrated as far as 71° 10' S., and we believe this is the nearest approach that has been made to the south pole ; at least, it is the only one given on our modern globes. But to return to Dampier.
They quitted Juan Fernandez on the 8th of April, and stood over to the main, occasionally touching at various islands, and taking several prizes, in one of which they found an immense image of the Virgin Mary, curiously carved in wood, but unfortunately the vessel had previously landed what would have pleased them much better : viz. 800,000 pieces of eight. At the Gallapagos they scrubbed the bottom of their ships, and an Indian engaging to convey them to Rea Leja, they concluded on going thither for plunder. Captain Cook, who had been long ill, died, on their nearing Cape Blanco, and Captain Davis took command. It is a remark which seems to us worthy of consideration, that persons who have been labouring under disorders at sea, generally expire on approaching the land. The captain's remains were conveyed on shore, and while being interred, two Spanish Indians were captured, who had been sent to watch their motions. From these they obtained information of a herd of cattle, or farm, about three miles distant. Dampier with several others went towards it, but disputes arising whether they should kill that same night, or the following morning, he with a few others returned on board. The remainder were afterwards attacked by the Spaniards, who burned their boats, and compelled them to retreat to an insular rock, where they must have perished had they not been timely rescued by their companions. The ships now made for the town of Mangera, but on their approach the inhabitants forsook it, leaving only an old friar and two Indian lads, who became prisoners, but, however, they obtained no advantage from their capture, and soon after the two ships parted company.. On the 2nd of October, while lying at the isle of Plata, Captain Swan, in the Cygnet of London, arrived, who had been