found it would involve a protracted and difficult search at the Admiralty
to ascertain if any record of our Antarctic voyage existed. At your
request, therefore, although I dislike writing of myself and my exploits,
I will endeavour to jot down, from memory, such incidents as I think will
be of interest to members of our society.
the early part of the year 1833, a Russian vessel, Captain Bellinghausen,
arrived in Europe from the Antarctic, the Captain of which reported he had
seen land covered with snow, in about 70 degrees south latitude and I
think 10 or 20 degrees west longitude. In consequence of this, Messrs.
Enderby Bros., an enterprising firm of merchants and shipowners, induced
the Lords of the Admiralty to cooperate with them in fitting our two
vessels for the purpose of ascertaining, if possible, whether such land
did exist, and if so, if it could be approached.
vessels were therefore purchased – the “Hopewell” a splendid
schooner of 240 tons (of which I was navigating officer) and the
“Rose”, a fine cutter of 105 tons, as tender – both were thoroughly
refitted and strengthened for work among ice. We were supplied with all
kinds of meteorological instruments, and I had seven chronometers sent on
board by different makers, to test their qualities in high southern
expedition was placed under the command of Lieutenant Binstead, R.N., the
officers and crew numbering about 50, all told, and such was the feeling
in favour of any daring enterprise, that I had more than 200 able seamen
volunteers from which to select the crews. And I will say that a more
stalwart, gallant, resolute set of fellows I never sailed with.
left the East India docks in September 1833, and after a somewhat
protracted passage, surveying a little along the coast of South America,
we arrived at the Falkland Islands early in December. These islands were
then in the possession of a Government of Montevideo, by whom they had
been leased to a company, whose object was to lasso and kill the cattle
(of which there was a large number roaming wild) for their hides and
tallow. For this purpose, the company had sent a manager, Mr. McDougall,
four other Europeans and twelve Gauchos, with twenty-four broken-in
our arrival, we found that in consequence of some dispute with the
Gauchos, they had, a short time before, murdered all the Europeans, ad
left them on the ground where they fell. Of course, our first duty was to
bury them. The Gauchos fled to the hills immediately on our approach,
taking with them all the horses.
orders from the Admiralty, H.M.S. “Challenger” called at the Falklands
on her voyage to Valparaiso, to take possession of the islands on behalf
of the British Government, and to render us any assistance we might
require before proceeding south.
due course, Lieutenant Smyth, R.M., who had been appointed Governor, with
boat’s crew and 20 marines, were landed, and the British flag hoisted
with all due ceremony, under a royal salute from the “Challenger”.
Captain Seymour, who landed a 32 pounder carronade and mounted it
in the porch of an old Spanish church, said to have been built about 1760,
which provided excellent quarters for the Governor’s boats’ crew and
“Beagle”, Captain Fitzroy, with Charles Darwin on board, was there at
the same time, but at anchor in another bay. Perhaps the salute so
frightened one of the Gauchos, that he came down from the hills and
surrendered, bringing with him two of the horses, which proved to be a
most fortunate circumstance, for he was able to lasso and kill as many
bullocks as were required by the “Challenger” and ourselves. One day,
out shooting with Captain Seymour and some other officers, by the aid of a
clump of Tussock grass, I got within a few hundred yards of a fairly fat
cow. I fired, she fell. Thinking her dead, I turned and walked away, but
ain a few minutes she rose, ran at and charged me behind, knocked me down
on my face, ran over me and fell dead a few yards ahead, blood from her
mouth running down my back.
day before the “Challenger” was to sail, a very painful incident
occurred. Our cress had entrapped a great many rabbits alive, and we
presented some of them to the gunroom officers of the “Challenger”. In
order to gather some green food for them, Lieutenant Clive (son of Lord
Clive and second Lieutenant of the “Challenger”) left the ship in a
small dingy, with the gunroom steward and a boy, but were never seen
afterwards. Captain Seymour remained a day to search for the, without
success. After her departure, we continued the search, and found the boat
capsized among the kelp, but no trace of the poor fellows’ bodies.
the departure of the “Challenger”, Lieutenant Smyth organised a party
to go to the hills to harass the enemy (Gauchos). The Governor and the
Gaucho were mounted, the sailors, marines and rest of the party were on
foot. We burned two of their
camps, but of course could not get near them. They were closely watching
out movements, each Gaucho riding one horse and leading another. During
our absence in the Antarctic, these men had to surrender, and were sent to
Montevideo for punishment.
exercising our crews well on shore at cricket etc., filling all our empty
casks with penguin eggs, and our rigging with cured wild geese and
rabbits, we sailed, towards the end of December for the latitude and
longitude above-mentioned. About 60 degrees south, we fell in with many
icebergs; by 65 degrees were beset with them in great numbers, some of
them so large we called them ice islands. One I remember quite well, which
must have been nearly 200 feet high; we measured by our patent logship,
and 12 miles long.
were soon closely surrounded without any opening into clear water, with a
space not much larger than East India docks to work both vessels in. From
this first enclosure, we escaped without injury, but in forcing our way
southward we became similarly enclosed for a few days, and again escaped
we approached 70 degrees south, we saw high land covered with snow, and in
our endeavour to approach it, we became again blocked in, with very little
space of clear water to work the vessels in for several days. At length,
two small openings appeared, on one each side of a large iceberg. We made
the signal, “endeavour to escape”. We in the schooner passed out on
the north side of the berg; unfortunately, the tender took the south side,
and when she hove in sight again had a signal of distress flying. I went
on board immediately and found her in a sinking state. Both carpenters
condemned her utterly. She had been crushed by two enormous icebergs
closing upon her as she passed through All available hands were set to
work bailing and pumping and saving provision, all in casks were thrown
overboard; our endeavours being greatly frustrated by a dense fog of some
hours duration. It took 15 hours to accomplish, during which time myself
and the boat’s crew subsisted on grog and biscuit. The tender (The Rose)
was then abandoned; and she very soon went down head foremost with the
coals on board, which we did not attempt to save.
with the schooner “Hopewell” only, with the crews of both vessels on
board, a consultation was held and it was decided that we should make sail
to the northward and return to the Falkland Islands to await orders. We
arrived there, all well, the latter end of February, 1834. During the
passage a small incident occurred. Early one morning I saw a sea lion
lying asleep on an ice floe not much larger than our vessel and about the
height above water of our deck. I manned a boat and went very quietly to
the other side of the floe, stole up alongside of him and struck him a
hard blow on the head. He rolled into the water and the boat’s crew soon
despatched him, towed him alongside and obtained a few gallons of fine oil
from his blubber.
crews again spent their time refitting the ship. Games of all kinds,
fishing, filling casks with penguin eggs, entrapping rabbits etc., until
we received orders to return home, in reply to despatches sent by
Lieutenant Binstead, via America, by an American vessel.
after leaving the Falklands an incident occurred which is worth recording.
One evening, as we had not seen ice all day, I was asked if the same
ice-watch or lookout should be kept that night. I said “Yes
certainly”. At about 2a.m. I was officer of that watch. We were running
nine or ten knots an hours, with the wind abeam; moonlight, but very hazy.
The ice lookout cried out, “Iceberg right ahead”. Upon looking round,
I saw at once that if the helm were put down we should go broadside on to
it. I therefore instantly ordered the helm “hard up”, and in about a
minute we ran past it, close enough to throw a biscuit on to it. The watch
on deck stood mute, contemplating the narrow escape they had had from
While we were down among the ice, it was intensely cold. Whenever we
desired to shorten sail in tempestuous weather, we had to send hands aloft
with heavy hammers, to smash the ice about the topsail sheets before they
could be moved. The cook or cook’s mate however was always on duty with
plenty of hot coffee ready for the watch on deck. We used, every four
hours, day and night, to register the temperature of the air, and the sea
at different depths, but what they were of course I quite forget.
our survey of a small bay on the coast of Patagonia, a point of land of
which we had previously taken the bearings suddenly disappeared in
consequence of an earthquake, the shock of which we felt a little,
although afloat. When midshipman, in 1825, I landed on that same point of
land in search of water. It was then in a high state of cultivation, and
covered with gardens in which pineapples grew in great abundance.