31st August 1832

First Cruise
By the middle of the day we got within surveying distance of the coast. We let go the anchor: but the sky clearing we soon had a regular dry SW wind. The anchor would not hold in the sand and we were forced again to stand out. To night it has lulled, & we have anchored. Tomorrow I trust we shall be enabled to continue the survey, which has been interrupted for a week. At last I find myself decidedly much less afraid of sea-sickness, although during two of the days I was on my "beam ends".
From 1st September, I intend to add additional notes from the Journals of both Captain Robert Fitzroy and (the eventual Darwin Assistant) Syms Covington. These will be clearly marked and in red. (Comments welcomed of course)

30th August 1832

First Cruise
Very wet day: about noon it fell calm, & we could hear the surf roaring although about 6 miles distant from the beach. The weather looked exceedingly threatening; but after all it did not blow more than a stiff breeze during the night.

29th August 1832

First Cruise
The morning was thick with rain: but in the afternoon in spite of the remaining swell, some miles of the coast were traced. At night the weather looked dirty & we have stood out to sea.

This day last year, I arrived home from North Wales & first heard of this Voyage. During the week it has often struck me how different was my situation & views then to what they are at present: it is amusing to imagine my surprise, if anybody on the mountains of Wales had whispered to me, this day next year you will be beating off the coast of Patagonia: and yet how common & natural an occurrence it now appears to me. Nothing has made so vivid an impression on my mind as those days of painful uncertainty: the clearness with which I recollect the most minute particulars, gives to the period of an year the appearance of far shorter duration. But if I pause & in my mind pass from month to month, the time fully grows proportional to the many things which have happened in it.
[Image: JMW Turner's "Waves Breaking on a Lee Shore"]

28th August 1832

First Cruise
During the night the weather moderated &this morning we stood in again for the shore. By the time we got within a few miles of the land it was almost calm, but the swell from the ocean was extraordinarily great. This is what might be expected from the gradual shoaling of the water. The surf on the beach was proportionally violent: for 1/4 of a mile the sea was white with foam & a cloud of spray traced for many miles the line of coast. As it was impossible to take observations, we are this evening again standing out to sea, patiently to wait till the elements are quiet.

26th & 27th August 1832

First Cruise
Torrents of rain & the atmosphere was so thick, that it was impossible to continue the survey, we remained therefore at anchor. The bottom was rocky & in consequence plenty of fish: almost every man in the ship had a line overboard & in a short time a surprising number of fine fish were caught. I also got some Corallines which were pre-eminently curious in their structure. We had to day a beautiful illustration how useful the Barometer is at sea. During the last three or four fine days it has been slowly falling. the Captain felt so sure, that shortly after it began to rise we should have the wind from the opposite quarter, the South, that when he went to bed he left orders to be called when the Barometer turned.

Accordingly at one o’clock it began to rise, & the Captain immediately ordered all hands to be piped up to weigh anchor. In the course of an hour from being a calm it blew a gale right on shore, so that we were glad enough to beat off. By the morning we were well out at sea; so with snug sail cared little for the breeze or the heavy swell. If we had not a Barometer, we probably should have remained two hours longer at anchor, & then if the gale had been a little harder we should have been in a most dangerous situation. As it was, the sea was very heavy & irregular, it fairly pitched our Howitzer out of the slide into the sea. This was not our only misfortune, as in weighing ship, we tore our anchor into pieces & quite disabled it for use.

25th August 1832

First Cruise
We have made an excellent run of 70 miles to day. Indeed the breeze to my taste was much too good, as it prevented us from attempting to land at Cape Corrientes, which we doubled at Noon. We sailed very close to the shore, & it was very interesting viewing the different countries as we rapidly passed on. North of Corrientes, a dead level line of cliff takes the place of the sand hillocks. The cliff is perpendicular & about 30 feet high, & with a few exceptions is continued all the way South of the Cape. From the mast-head a great extent of flat Pampas was seen without any break or elevation. To every one’s astonishment there was near the promontory of Corrientes an Estancia. Cattle were very abundant near the house, & the place looked prosperous. We have heard they have 50,000 head. Two or three men on horseback were watching us with great interest: so we hoisted our pennant & colours, & doubtless for the first time they had ever been seen in this sea. This farm must be about 200 miles from any town, & the greater part of the interval consists in desert salt plains. There cannot easily be imagined a more desolate habitation for civilized man.

Located on the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Corrientes, Mar del Plata is Argentina's premiere beach resort, offering 17 kilometers of beaches, sports fishing, colonial architecture, a university, sports, zoo, casino and lively nightlife plus a number of parks and gardens to tempt the visitor.

24th August 1832

First Cruise
We have made a good run; at last. North of Cape of Corrientes the coast in a small degree has altered its appearance: instead of the undulating chain of sand-hillocks, the horizon is bounded by low table land. This being divided by broads, gaps or valleys, presents so many square masses.

We have seen during the day the smoke from several large fires within the country: it is not easy to guess how they arise. It is too far North for the Indians & the country is uninhabited by the Spaniards. The sun set in a cloudless sky; & there is every prospect of the Northerly wind lasting; if so tomorrow we shall double Corrientes & if we can land in the boats on the promontory.

22nd & 23rd August 1832

First Cruise
All day we have been sailing within two or three miles off the coast. For 40 miles it has been one single line of sandy hillocks, without any break or change. The country within is uninhabited, & ships never frequent this track, so that it is the most desolate place I have ever visited. At sunset, before anchoring, we came rather suddenly on a bank, & were obliged instantly to put the ship up to the wind. This fine weather is of the greatest importance to the surveying & as long as it lasts, sailing slowly along the coast is sufficient for all purposes.

The weather continues most beautiful: a bank of clouds in the SW frightened us in the morning but now at night we are at an anchor in a calm. No people have such cause anxiously to watch the state of weather as Surveyors. Their very duty leads them into the places which all other ships avoid & their safety depends on being prepared for the worst. Every night we reef our top-sails so as to lose no time if a breeze should force us to move. Yesterday morning getting up the anchor & securing it & setting all sail only took us five minutes. We have not made much progress during the day; for we have tacked all the time parallel to the coast.

21st August 1832

First Cruise
In middle of day anchored near Point Piedras, & sent our boats to sound. Shortly after getting under way, the water suddenly shoaled & we grazed the bottom rather too sensibly. In calm weather this is of little consequence, but when there is any sea, it does not take long to knock a hole in the bottom. The coast was very low, & covered with thickets. The extreme similarity of different parts of the banks is the chief cause of the difficulty of navigating this river. The weather has been beautifully clear during these last two days. I do not believe there has been one single cloud in the heavens. Several land-birds took refuge in the rigging, such as larks, fly-catchers, doves & butcher-birds & all appeared quite exhausted. To night we have anchored North of Cape St Antonio, as soon as we double this we shall be in the open ocean. Already the water has lost its ugly muddy colour.

20th August 1832

First Cruise
In the afternoon we anchored 8 miles off Point Piedras on the Southern shore of the river. At this distance there was only 18 feet water. The Captain intends at present verifying the leading points in the coast. The Spaniards on shore having already filled up the details. Any minute knowledge of an almost uninhabited coast where shipping cannot approach, will never be of any great value.

19th August 1932

First Cruise
In the morning there was a fresh breeze from the NW. A wind in this direction soon empties the river. At night we had 18 feet under our stern, in the morning only 13. From this cause, independently of intending to sail in the course of the day, it was advisable to move our anchorage.

The instant we had tripped our anchor the wind drifted us within a few yards of the buoy which marks the old wreck. Then is the time to watch sailors working: one foul rope & we should have been on shore. The sailors in the city were saying, ‘A dios Barca Inglese, A Dios’. A merchant ship certainly would have had no chance of escaping: but with our body of men it is the work of a second to set sail & get way on the ship. This has been for me the first specimen of working off a lee-shore with a stiff breeze blowing.

During the morning we tacked about, waiting for the weather to moderate & at last again anchored. In the afternoon we sent on board the Packet some parcels &c & my box of specimens, & the boats returning from shore, we made sail. A fine breeze carried us 40 miles from the Mount, where we anchored for the night. In such shoal water as in the Plata the sea is very short; I have never seen so much spray break over the Beagle & I have not often felt a more disagreeable sensation in my stomach.
[Image - Clawing off a Lee Shore]

18th August 1832

Several officers are on shore & cannot yet come off. The Captain however ventured to sail to Rat Island to obtain sights. It was beautiful to see how the whale-boat hops over the sea. In returning he carried away the yard of his sail.

17th August 1932

All day & night it has blown a stiff breeze from the South. There have been several hail-storms, which forms our first introduction to frozen water. A sea soon gets up in the river & from its little depth the waves become so muddy that they look like mountains of mud. This riding with our head to wind shakes the very foundation of my stomach.

16th August 1832

Spent the day in examining the rich produce of yesterdays labour. The Beagle goes to sea the day after tomorrow for her first cruise.

15th August 1832

As the boat was landing me at the Mount, we surprised a large Cabra or Capincha on the rocks. After a long & animated chase in a little bay, I succeeded in shooting it through the head with a ball. These animals abound in the Orinoco & are not uncommon here, but from their shyness & powers of swimming & diving are difficult to be obtained. It is like in its structure a large guinea-pig: in its habits a water rat. It weighed 98 pounds. Having sent my game on board in triumph, I collected great numbers of different animals: some beautiful snakes & lizards & beetles. Under stones were several scorpions about 2 inches long; when pressed by a stick to the ground, they struck it with their stings with such force as very distinctly to be heard.

The Druid has returned from Buenos Ayres & brought from its government a long apology for the insult offered to us. The Captain of the Guard-ship was immediately arrested & it was left to the British consul’s choice whether he should any longer retain his commission.

14th August 1832

Signor Frutez entered the Town in full parade & was saluted by the forts. He was accompanied by 1,800 wild Gaucho cavalry; many of them were Indians. I believe it was a magnificent spectacle; the beauty of the horses, & the wildness of their dresses & arms were very curious.

13th August 1832

At last the unsettled politicks & weather have permitted us to walk in the country: Wickham, Sulivan, Hammond & myself went out shooting & if our sport was not very good the exercise was most delightful.

Hammond & myself walked in a direct line for several miles to some plains covered with thistles, where we hoped to find a flock of Ostriches. We saw one in the distance; if I had been by myself, I should have said it was a very large deer running like a race-horse, as the distance increased it looked more like a large hawk skimming over the ground. The rapidity of its movements were astonishing. As the breeze was rather too stiff for boats, it had been determined to walk from the Mount round the bay to the town. When far distant from it, Wickham & Sullivan found themselves so tired, that they declared they could move no further. By good luck a horseman came up, whom we hired to carry them by turns till another horse was found; & thus we arrived just before the city gates were closed for the night.

12th August 1832

The utter consternation of the civic guard during the other nights skirmish has given general amusement. Large bodies immediately threw away their white cross belts that they might not be recognised in the dark: & the impetuosity with which they rushed down the streets, if it could have been directed to a charge, would have been most imposing. — In evening dined with Mr Parry.

10th & 11th August 1832

During the whole of the night there have been several vollies of musketry fired in the city, & we all thought there must have been some heavy fighting: but this morning we hear not even one has been wounded. In fact both parties are afraid of coming within reach of musket range of each other. Yesterday Lavalleja, the military governor, entered the town & was well received, by everybody excepting his former black troops. These he threatened to expel from the citadel & planted some guns to command the gate. To revenge this the Blacks last night made a sally, & hence arose the firing. This morning the news comes that Lavelleja who was unanimously but yesterday received, has been obliged to fly the city, & that it is now certain that Signor Frutez & the constitutional government will gain the day.
One is shocked at the bloody revolutions in Europe, but after seeing to what an extent such imbecile changes can proceed, it is hard to determine which of the two is most to be dreaded. The weather for these last days has been wet & uncomfortable in the extreme.

9th August 1832

A merchant ship has drifted some way from her anchorage. The Captain in middle of day went to her & found that at first she had only veered out 30 fathoms of cable (whilst we were riding with 70). A length of cable is a great security, as it takes away any sudden stress & by its friction does not strain so much on the anchor. — It is quite curious, how negligent all merchant vessels are. Yesterday very few struck Top-gallant masts. Some years ago 14 vessels at Buenos Ayres went on shore & were lost, out of which only three had taken any & none sufficient precautions.

The Captain managed to go to the town to day, & brought back news that the disturbances increase in violence. There has been some skirmishing with the black-troops, & a fresh party seems to have risen for the head of government. In the paltry state of Monte Video, there are actually about 5 contending parties for supremacy. It makes one ask oneself whether Despotism is not better than such uncontrolled anarchy. The weather yet continues wet & boisterous: it is a consolation, although a poor one, that the two distinct causes, which prevent us from going ashore, should come together.

8th August 1832

There has been a good deal of wind & rain. In the evening the barometer fell, so the Captain determined immediately to strike Top-masts & let go another anchor. At sunset it blew a full gale of wind, but with our three anchors & no hamper aloft, we snugly rode whilst the breeze heavily whistled through the rigging.

7th August 1832

To my great grief it is not deemed prudent to walk in the country, so that I was obliged to go ashore to the dirty town of M. Video. After dinner went out collecting to Rat Island.

6th August 1832

The boats have returned. Affairs in the City now more decidedly show a party spirit, & as the black troops are enclosed in the citadel by double the number of armed citizens, Capt FitzRoy deemed it advisable to withdraw his force. It is probable in a very short time the two adverse sides will come to an encounter: under such circumstances, Capt FitzRoy being in possession of the central fort, would have found it very difficult to have preserved his character of neutrality.
There certainly is a great deal of pleasure in the excitement of this sort of work. Quite sufficient to explain the reckless gayety with which sailors undertake even the most hazardous attacks. Yet as time flies, it is an evil to waste so much in empty parade.

5th August 1832

This has been an eventful day in the history of the Beagle. At 10 oclock in the morning the Minister for the present military government came on board & begged for assistance against a serious insurrection of some black troops. Cap FitzRoy immediately went to ashore to ascertain whether it was a party affair, or that the inhabitants were really in danger of having their houses ransacked. The head of the Police (Damas) has continued in power through both governments, & is considered as entirely neutral; being applied to, he gave it as his opinion that it would be doing a service to the state to land, our force.

Whilst this was going on ashore, the Americans landed their boats & occupied the Custom house. Immediately the Captain arrived at the mole, he made us the signal to hoist out & man our boats. In a very few minutes, the Yawl, Cutter, Whaleboat & Gig were ready with 52 men heavily armed with Muskets Cutlasses, & Pistols. After waiting some time on the pier Signor Dumas arrived & we marched to a central fort, the seat of Government. During this time the insurgents had planted artillery to command some of the streets, but otherwise remained quiet. They had previously broken open the Prison & armed the prisoners.

The chief cause of apprehension was owing to their being in possession of the citadel which contains all the ammunition. It is suspected that all this disturbance is owing to the manoeuvring of the former constitutional government. But the politicks of the place are quite unintelligible: it has always been said that the interests of the soldiers & the present government are identical, & now it would seem to be the reverse. Capt. FitzRoy would have nothing to do with all this: he would only remain to see that private property was not attacked.

If the National band were not rank cowards, they might at once seize the citadel & finish the business; instead of this, they prefer protecting themselves in a the fortress of St. Lucia. Whilst the different parties were trying to negotiate matters, we remained at our station & amused ourselves by cooking beef-steaks in the Court-yard.

At sunset the boats were sent on board & one returned with warm clothing for the men to bivouac during the night. As I had a bad headache, I also came & remained on board. The few left in the Ship, under the command of Mr Chaffers, have been the most busily engaged of the whole crew. They have triced up the Boarding netting, loaded & pointed the guns, & cleared for action. We are now at night in a high state of preparation so as to make the best defence possible, if the Beagle should be attacked. To obtain ammunition could be the only possible motive.

4th August 1832

We altered. our anchorage, & stood much closer in, we found an excellent berth amongst the merchant-ships. After dinner went with Wickham to Rat island & collected some animals. In the evenings the greater length of twilight is very pleasant: it is quite a new phenomenon to watch the purple clouds of the Western sky gradually to fade into the leaden hue of night. This is a beauty of which the equinoctial regions can seldom boast. And to a European’s eyes it is a great loss.

3rd August 1832

Navigating La Plata
In the morning watch, before it was daylight, the Beagle stood too close in-shore & stuck her stern fast about a foot in the mud. With a little patience & manoeuvring they got her off, & two whale boats being lowered to sound the bank ahead, we soon gained the channel. The navigation of the Plata is difficult, owing to there being no landmarks, the water generally shoal & running in currents & the number of banks in the whole course. We saw several old wrecks which now serve as buoys to guide other ships: "It is an ill wind which blows nobody any good". We arrived at M Video after sunset, & the Captain immediately went on board the Druid. He has returned & brings the news, that the Druid will tomorrow morning sail for Buenos Ayres, & demand an apology for their conduct to us. Oh I hope the Guard-ship will fire a gun at the Frigate; if she does, it will be her last day above water.
[Image: A frigate of 1830]

2nd August 1832

Buenos Aires
We certainly are a most unquiet ship; peace flies before our steps. On entering the outer roadstead, we passed a Buenos Ayres guard-ship. When abreast of her she fired an empty gun; we not understanding this sailed on, & in a few minutes another discharge was accompanied by the whistling of a shot over our rigging. Before she could get another gun ready we had passed her range. When we arrived at our anchorage, which is more than three miles distant from the landing place; two boats were lowered, & a large party started in order to stay some days in the city. Wickham went with us, & intended immediately going to Mr Fox, the English minister, to inform him of the insult offered to the British flag. When close to the shore, we were met by a Quarantine boat which said we must all return on board, to have our bill of health inspected, from fears of the Cholera. Nothing which we could say, about being a man of war, having left England 7 months & lying in an open roadstead, had any effect. They said we ought to have waited for a boat from the guard-ship & that we must pull the whole distance back to the vessel, with the wind dead on end against us & a strong tide running in.

During our absence, a boat had come with an officer whom the Captain soon despatched with a message to his Commander to say "He was sorry he was not aware he was entering an uncivilized port, or he would have had his broadside ready for answering his shot". When our boats & the health one came alongside, the Captain immediately gave orders to get under weigh & return to M Video. At same time sending to the Governor, through the Spanish officer, the same messages which he had sent to the Guard-ship, adding that the case should be throughily investigated in other quarters. We then loaded & pointed all the guns on one broadside, & ran down close along the guard-ship. Hailed her, & said that when we again entered the port, we would be prepared as at present & if she dared to fire a shot we would send our whole broadside into her rotten hulk.

We are now sailing quietly down the river. From M Video the Captain intends writing to Mr Fox & to the Admiral; so that they may take effective steps to prevent our Flag being again insulted in so unprovoked a manner. From what I could see of the city of Buenos Aires it appears to be a very large place & with many public buildings. Its site is very low & the adjoining coast is elevated but a few feet above the level of the water.

1st August 1832

Buenos Aires
We have had a famous breeze & are now at anchor about 12 miles from Buenos Ayres. At one time to day it was just possible to see both the Northern & Southern shores of the river at the same time. A river of such great size & dimensions possesses no interest or grandeur.