Arrived off the mouth of the Rio Negro, after firing several signal guns, the little Schooner La Lievre came out. In a short time I went on board her & we then returned within the mouth of the river. The Beagle stood out to sea to survey some of outer banks which employment will occupy her a week.
We joined the other Schooner & I spent a very pleasant evening in hearing all their adventures. Every one in them may thank providence that he has returned in safety. To survey an unknown coast in a vessel of 11 tons, & with one inch plank to live out in open sea the same gale in which we lost our whale-boat, was no ordinary service. It seems wonderful that they could last one hour in a heavy gale, but it appears the very insignificance of small vessels is their protection, for the sea instead of striking them sends them before it. I never could understand the success of the small craft of the early navigators.
We then anchored near the Pilot's house & I went there to sleep.
On the 24th we sailed to Cape San Antonio, and thence along the coast, close by Cape Corrientes, and skirting the San Blas banks, till we anchored off the river Negro. There we found the Paz and Liebre just returned from their examination of those intricacies which surround the ports between Blanco Bay and San Blas. The Liebre came out to meet us with a satisfactory report of progress, as well as health; and, at her return, Mr. Darwin took the opportunity of going into the river, with the view of crossing overland to Buenos Ayres, by way of Argentina: after which, he proposed to make a long excursion from Buenos Ayres into the interior, while the Beagle would be employed in surveying operations along sea-coasts uninteresting to him. We then got under sail and began our next employment, which was sounding about the outer banks off San Blas and Union Bays, and examining those parts of Ports San Antonio and San José which the Paz and Liebre had been prevented doing by wind and sea; besides which, I wished to see them myself, for many reasons, more closely than hitherto. The accumulation of banks about San Blas, and near, though southward of the river Colorado, is an object of interest when viewed in connection with the present position of the mouth of that long, though not large, river, which traverses the continent from near Mendoza, and which may have contributed to their formation; at least, so think geologists.
Hove too off Río Negro August 3rd. Left ship the same day with Charles Darwin in the small schooners.
The bahía, or mouth of the river, is not easily seen except when close too. There is a bar that runs across the bay and obstructs the passage of the small shipping to the river except at high tides and calm weather. Shipping is possible as high up as the settlement which is twenty six miles upriver. Its source is not known. The tide is very strong and rapid. About a mile and a half from the bahía lives the pilot on the North side of the river.