28th, 29th & 30th September 1832

Bahia Blanca
We have been for these three days cruising about the mouth of the harbour. The two latter were boisterous, & there was a considerable swell on the sea. I, as usual very sick & miserable; my only comfort is, that two or three of the officers are but very little better & that like to myself they always feel the motion when first going out of harbour.

27th September 1832

Bahia Blanca
That no time may be lost during the altering of the Schooner, we have changed our anchorage & stood further out, so as to survey some of the outer banks.

26th September 1832

Bahia Blanca
The weather is most beautiful. Passing from the splendour of Brazil to the tame sterility of Patagonia has shown to me how very much the pleasure of exercise depends on the surrounding scenery.

25th September 1832

Bahia Blanca
The Schooner has been taken to the Creek. Mr Wickham & a party of men have erected tents on shore & are living there during the refit of the vessel. I accompanied the little settlement & whilst they were rigging the tents I walked to Punta alta & again obtained several fossils. I came quite close to an Ostrich on her nest; but did not see her till she rose up & with her long legs stretched across the country.

24th September 1832

Bahia Blanca
Employed in carefully packing up the prizes of yesterday. In the morning one of the Schooners arrived & the other is shortly expected. They have had a very bad passage of 6 days. Mr Rowlett brings back an excellent account of Rio Negro. Nothing could exceed the civility of the Governor & the inhabitants. It was rendered the more striking from the contrast of our reception at the fort of Baia Bianca.

23rd September 1832

Bahia Blanca
A large party was sent to fish in a creek about 8 miles distant; great numbers of fish were caught. I walked on to Punta alta to look after fossils; & to my great joy I found the head of some large animal, imbedded in a soft rock. It took me nearly 3 hours to get it out: As far as I am able to judge, it is allied to the Rhinoceros. I did not get it on board till some hours after it was dark.

Syms Covington:
At Bahía Blanca, near Johnson’s Point, we also found the remains or bones of Megatherium, which were sent to England.

Captain Robert Fitzroy:
My friend's attention was soon attracted to some low cliffs near Point Alta, where he found some of those huge fossil bones, described in his work; and notwithstanding our smiles at the cargoes of apparent rubbish which he frequently brought on board, he and his servant used their pick-axes in earnest, and brought away what have since proved to be most interesting and valuable remains of extinct animals.

22nd September 1832

Bahia Blanca
Had a very pleasant cruise about the Bay with the Captain & Sullivan. We staid sometime on Punta Alta about 10 miles from the ship; here I found some rocks. These are the first I have seen, & are very interesting from containing numerous shells & the bones of large animals. The day was perfectly calm; the smooth water & the sky were indistinctly separated by the ribbon of mud-banks: the whole formed a most unpicturesque picture. It is a pity such bright clear weather should be wasted on a country, where half its charms do not appear. We got on board just in time to escape a heavy squall & rain.

20th & 21st September 1832

Stayed on board. In the (next) morning there was a good deal of wind; so that I did not leave the ship.

19th September 1832

Bahia Blanca
Walked to the plains beyond the sand hillock & shot some small birds for specimens. It is a complete puzzle to all of us, how the Ostriches, Deer, Cavies, &c which are so very numerous, contrive to get water. Not one of us has seen the smallest puddle (excepting the well which is 8 feet deep) & it is scarcely credible that they can exist without drinking. I should think this sandy country in the summer time must be a complete desert; even now in spring & all the flowers in bud the sun is very powerful, there being no shelter & the heat being reflected from the sand hillocks.

17th & 18th September 1832

Bahia Blanca
Have been employed during these two days with various marine animals which I procured from the beach & by dredging. What we had for dinner to day would sound very odd in England. Ostrich dumpling & Armadillos; the former would never be recognised as a bird but rather as beef. The armadillos when unlike to the Gauchos' fashion, cooked without their cases, taste & look like a duck. Both of them are very good.

16th September 1832

Bahia Blanca
The party who went out to shoot fresh provisions brought home 2 deer, 3 Cavies & an ostrich. With the net also, a most wonderful number of fish were caught; in one drag more than a ton weight were hauled up; including ten distinct species.

15th September 1832

Bahia Blanca
The Spaniards, whom we some time since thought were Indians, have been employed hunting for us & have generally bivouacked near the coast. They offered to lend me a horse to accompany them in one of their excursions; of this I gladly accepted. The party consisted of 9 men & one woman; the greater number of the former were pure Indians, the others most ambiguous; but all alike were most wild in their appearance & attire. As for the woman, she was a perfect nondescript; she dressed & rode like a man, & till dinner I did not guess she was otherwise. The hunters catch everything with the two or three balls fastened to the thongs of leather; the manner of proceeding is to form themselves into a sort of crescent, each man less than a quarter of a mile apart; one goes some way ahead & endeavours to drive the animals towards the others & thus in a manner encircling them. I saw one most beautiful chase --fine Ostrich tried to escape; the Gauchos pursued it at a reckless pace, each man whirling the balls round his head; the foremost at last threw them, in an instant the Ostrich rolled over & over, its legs being fairly lashed together by the thong. Its dying struggles were most violent. The men then formed a ring & drove to the centre several cavies; they only killed one; but their riding was most excellent, especially in the quickness & precision with which they turn. The horses are soon fatigued from such violent exercise & it is necessary often to change them & pick out fresh ones from the herd which always accompanies a party. At this time of year, the eggs of the ostrich are their chief prize. In this one day they found 64, out of which 44 were in two nests; the rest scattered about by ones or twos. They also catch great numbers of Armadillos. In the middle of the day they lighted a fire & soon roasted some eggs & some Armadillos in their hard cases: They had neither water, salt or bread; of the two latter for weeks together they never taste; so that it makes little difference to them where they live.

Like to snails, all their property is on their backs & their food around them. — It was very interesting to watch, whilst seated round the fire, the swarthy but expressive countenances of my half-savage hosts. The creature of a woman flirted & actually was affected; she pretended to be frightened of my gun & screamed out "no est cargado"? We returned to the beach in the evening, where the same scene of eggs & Armadillos occurred again and I went on board. My feet were a good deal tired, the stirrups being so small that even without shoes I had difficulty in getting in the two first toes. The Gauchos always have these uncovered & separate from the other three.

Syms Covington:
Here you find immense numbers of deer, cavy, ostriches, and guanacos but OF the latter, here, I never saw many, lions, tigers, foxes, armadillos and birds of various species, snakes and insects. The armadillo burrows in the ground, IS very plentiful, and IS most excellent eating, even equal to a young suckling pig. WE FOUND AN ostrich nest with twenty seven eggs.

14th September 1832

[Pampas Deer]
Bahia Blanca
I am spending September in Patagonia, much in the same manner as I should in England, viz in shooting; in this case however there is the extra satisfaction of knowing that one gives fresh provisions to the ships company.

To day I shot another deer & an Agouti or Cavy. The latter weighs more than 20 pounds; & affords the very best meat I ever tasted. Whilst shooting I walked several miles within the interior; the general features of the country remain the same, an undulating sandy plain covered with coarse herbage, which as it extends, gradually becomes more level. The bottoms of some of the valleys are green with clover: it is by cautiously crawling so as to peep into these that the game is shot.

If a deer has not seen you stand upright; generally it is possessed with an insatiable curiosity to find out what you are; & to such an extent that I have fired several times without frightening it away.

13th September 1832

Bahia Blanca
The ships anchorage was removed a few miles up the harbour; in order to be nearer a newly discovered watering place. Here we shall remain some weeks; if the present clear dry weather lasts, the time will pass very pleasantly.

12th September 1832

Bahia Blanca
Went out shooting with Mr Wickham with our rifles. To my great delight I succeeded in shooting a fine buck & doe. The Captains servant shot three more. We were obliged to send a boats crew to carry them to the shore. One of mine however was previously disposed of. I left it on the ground a substantial beast, but in the evening the Vultures & hawks had picked even the bones clean. In our walk I found also an Ostriches nest; it contained only one egg.

Captain Robert Fitzroy
Three months before our visit to Argentina, a number of Indians had been surprised and taken prisoners by Rodriguez; and among them was the famous old cacique, Toriano, whose mere name was a terror to the frontier settlers. The commandant attacked their 'tolderia' (encampment) just before sunrise—when the young men were absent on an expedition—and made prisoners of the old men, women, and children. Toriano was shot in cold blood; with another cacique, and several Indians of inferior note: and his head was afterwards cut off, and preserved for some time at the fort, in order to convince his adherents of his death. Toriano was a noble Araucanian, upwards of seventy years old when surprised asleep and taken prisoner by his merciless enemies. So high was his acknowledged character as a warrior, that his followers supposed him invincible; and until convinced by the melancholy spectacle seen by their spies, they would not believe him gone.

Perhaps it is not generally known, that many of the most desperate incursions upon the Buenos Ayrean colonists have been made by flying troops, or hordes of Indians, whose headquarters are in the Cordillera of the Andes, or even on the west coast, between Concepcion and Valdivia. Mounted upon excellent horses, and acquainted with every mile of the country, they think lightly of a predatory or hostile excursion against a place many hundred miles distant.

We returned to the Beagle without another delay among the mud-banks, and found the rising grounds (heights they could not be called), nearest the ship, occupied by the troop of gaucho soldiers. As they did not interfere with us, our surveying operations were begun, and carried on as usual. Mr. Darwin, and those who could be spared from duties afloat, roamed about the country; and a brisk trade was opened with the soldiers for ostriches and their eggs, for deer, cavies, and armadilloes.

11th September 1832

Bahia Blanca
Having proved to our Spanish friends that we were not Pirates, the Captain with two boats started for the Settlement. — Nearly all the men were employed on shore; so that the ship was left in as unusual as delightful a state of quietness.

10th September 1832

Bahia Blanca
All hands have been busily employed to day; some surveying: some digging a well for water & others cutting up an old wreck for fire wood. I took a long walk with a rifle, but did not succeed in shooting anything. I saw some deer & Ostriches, the latter made an odd deep noise; I also found a warren of the Agouti, or hare of the Pampas; it is about the size of two English ones, but in its habits resembles a rabbit.

In the evening the merchant Schooner arrived from the Settlement; bringing with it Mr Harris, bound for Rio Negro; & our Spanish host who was invited to pay us a visit. Mr Harris tells us that the Majors fears are not yet quieted, & that no one in the place, excepting our host, would venture to pay us a visit.

When the schooner sailed, Mr Rowlett accompanied her, in order at Rio Negro to try to procure fresh provisions for the ship. —

Syms Covington:
There are no trees, but ONLY dry grass and bushes, except in places where you find occasional green patches of grass on poor soils, but no water. For the latter we were obliged to dig wells in the sand for the supply of our ship, where we got water which was very hard and brackish.

9th September 1832

Bahia Blanca
In the morning divine service was read on the lower deck. After dinner a large party of officers went on shore to see the country. For the first two miles from the beach, it is a succession of sand hillocks thickly covered with coarse herbage; then comes the Pampas, which extend for many miles & in the distance is the Sierra de Ventana, a chain of mountains which we imagine to be lofty. The ground was in every direction tracked by the Ostriches & deer. One large one of the latter bounded up close to me. Excepting these, death appeared to reign over all other animals. I never saw any place before so entirely destitute of living creatures.

8th September 1832

Bahia Blanca
We rode to the boat early in the morning; & with a fresh breeze arrived at the ship by the middle of the day. — It was then reported to the Captain that two men on horseback had been reconnoitring the ship. The Captain well knowing that so small a party of Spaniards would not venture so far, concluded they were Indians. — As we intended to wood & water near to that spot it was absolutely necessary for us to ascertain whether there was any camp there. — Accordingly three boats were manned & armed; before reaching the shore, we saw five men gallop along the hill & then halt. The Captain upon seeing this sent back the other two boats, wishing not to frighten them but to find out who they were. — When we came close, the men dismounted & approached the beach, we immediately then saw it was a party of cavalry from Baia Blanca. — After landing & conversing with them, they told us they had been sent down to look after the Indians; this to a certain degree was true, for we found marks of a fire; but their present purpose evidently was to watch us; this is the more probable as the officer of the party steadily kept out of sight, the Captain having taxed them with being so suspicious; which they denied. — The Gauchos were very civil & took us to the only spot where there was any chance of water. — It was interesting seeing these hardy people fully equipped for an expedition. — They sleep on the bare ground at all times & as they travel get their food; already they had killed a Puma or Lion; the tongue of which was the only part they kept; also an Ostrich, these they catch by two heavy balls, fastened to the ends of a long thong. — They showed us the manner of throwing it; holding one ball in their hands, by degrees they whirl the other round & round, & then with great force send them both revolving in the air towards any object. — Of course the instant it strikes an animals legs it fairly ties them together. — They gave us an Ostrich egg & before we left them, they found another nest or rather depositary in which were 24 of the great eggs. — It is an undoubted fact that many female Ostriches lay in the same spot, thus forming one of these collections.

Having given our friends some dollars, they left us in high good humour & assured us they would some day bring a live Lion. — We then returned on board. — During the last two days the Captain has formed a plan which will materially affect the rest of our voyage. — Mr Harris is connected with two small Schooners employed in sealing & now at Rio Negro. He & the other Captain is well acquainted with the adjoining coast. The Captain thought this so fine an opportunity that he has hired them both by the Month & intends sending officers in each who will survey this intricate coast whilst the Beagle (after returning to M Video) will proceed to the South. — By this means the time spent on the Eastern coast will be much shorter & this is hailed with joy by everybody. — Mr Harris will immediately go to Rio Negro to bring the vessels & soon after that we shall return to the Rio Plata.

Captain Robert Fitzroy
We were watched, though otherwise most hospitably treated; and when I proposed to return, next morning, to the boat, trifling excuses were made about the want of horses and fear of Indians arriving, by which I saw that the commandant wished to detain us, but was unwilling to do so forcibly; telling him, therefore, I should walk back, and setting out to do so, I elicited an order for horses, maugre the fears and advice of his major, who gave him all sorts of warnings about us. However, he sent an escort with us, and a troop of gaucho soldiers were that very morning posted upon the rising grounds nearest to the Beagle, to keep a watch on our movements.

We afterwards heard, that the old major's suspicions had been very much increased by Harris's explanation of Mr. Darwin's occupation. 'Un naturalista' was a term unheard of by any person in the settlement, and being unluckily explained by Harris as meaning 'a man that knows every thing,' any further attempt to quiet anxiety was useless.

As this small settlement has seldom been visited by strangers, I will describe its primitive state. In the midst of a level country, watered by several brooks, and much of it thickly covered with a kind of trefoil, stands a mud-walled erection, dignified with the sounding appellation of 'La fortaleza protectora Argentina.' It is a polygon, 282 yards in diameter, having about twenty-four sides, and surrounded by a narrow ditch. In some places the walls are almost twenty feet high, but in others I was reminded of the brothers' quarrel at the building of ancient Rome, for there is a mere ditch, over which a man could jump. It is, however, said by the gauchos, that a ditch six feet wide will stop a mounted Indian, and that their houses require no further defence from attacks of the aborigines. How, or why it is that such excellent horsemen do not teach their horses to leap, I cannot understand.

Within, and outside the fort, were huts (ranchos) and a few small houses:—more were not required for the inhabitants, who, including the garrison, only amounted to four hundred souls. Some half-dozen brass guns were in a serviceable condition; and two or three other pieces occupied old carriages, but did not seem to be trustworthy.

The fort was commenced in April 1828, by a French engineer, named Parchappe. The first commandant was Estomba: his successor, Morel, was killed, with ninety followers, by a party of Indians under Chenil, in 1829. Valle and Rojas succeeded, and the latter was followed by Rodriguez. Placed in the first instance as an advanced post, at which to watch and check the Indians, rather than as a colony likely to increase rapidly, Argentina has scarcely made any progress since its establishment, though it is the beginning of what may hereafter be a considerable place. Situated favourably for communicating with Concepcion—by way of the pass through the Cordillera, near Tucapel—it is also the only port, between 25° S. and Cape Horn, capable of receiving in security any number of the largest ships.

There is pasture for cattle near the streams which descend from the 'Sierra Ventana:' large salinas (spaces covered with salt) lie within an easy distance of the settlement: of brushwood for fuel there is plenty, though there are no large trees: and report says that there are valuable minerals, including coal and iron,(*) in the Ventana mountain.

The most serious objection to the locality, as an agricultural, or even as a mere grazing district, is the want of rain. Two or three years sometimes pass without more than a slight shower; and during summer the heat is great. In winter, there are sharp frosts, sometimes snow; but neither ice nor snow ever lasts through the day.

Good fresh water may be generally obtained, independent of the few running streams, by digging wells between four and ten feet deep: and in this way we found no difficulty in obtaining an ample supply.

(*) I believe there is no good foundation for this report. Mr. Darwin's opinion is against the supposition.

7th September 1832

Bahia Blanca
In the morning, the Captain, Rowlett the pilot & myself started with a pleasant breeze for the Settlement: it is distant about twenty miles. Instead of keeping the middle channel, we steered near to the Northern shore: from this cause, & from the number of similar islands, the pilot soon lost his reckoning. We took by chance the first creek we could find: but following this for some miles, it gradually became so narrow that the oars touched on each side & we were obliged to stop. These Islands rather deserve the name of banks; they consist of mud which is so soft that it is impossible to walk even the shortest distance; in many the tops are covered by rushes; & at high water the summits of these are only visible. From our boat, nothing within the horizon was to be seen but these flat beds of mud; from custom an horizontal expanse of water has nothing strange in it; but this had a most unnatural appearance, partaking in the character of land & water without the advantages of either. The day was not very clear & there was much refraction, or as the sailors expressed it, "things loomed high", the only thing within our view which was not level was the horizon; rushes looked like bushes supported in the air by nothing, & water like mud-banks & mud-banks like water. With difficulty the boat was turned in the little creek; & having waited for the tide to rise, we sailed straight over the mud banks in the middle of the rushes. By heeling the boat over, so that the edge was on a level with the water, it did not draw more than a foot of water. Even with this we had much trouble in getting her along, as we stuck several times on the bottom.

In the evening we arrived at the creek which is about four miles distant from the Settlement. Here was a small Schooner lying & a mud-hut on the bank. There were several of the wild Gaucho cavalry waiting to see us land; they formed by far the most savage picturesque group I ever beheld. I should have fancied myself in the middle of Turkey by their dresses. Round their waists they had bright coloured shawls forming a petticoat, beneath which were fringed drawers. Their boots were very singular, they are made from the hide of the hock joint of horses hind legs, so that it is a tube with a bend in it; this they put on fresh, & thus drying on their legs is never again removed. — The spurs are enormous, the rowels being from one to two inches long. They all wore the Poncho, which is large shawl with a hole in the middle for the head. Thus equipped with sabres & short muskets they were mounted on powerful horses. The men themselves were far more remarkable than their dresses; the greater number were half Spaniard & Indian — some of each pure blood & some black. The Indians, whilst gnawing bones of beef, looked, as they are, half recalled wild beasts. No painter ever imagined so wild a set of expressions.

As the evening was closing in, it was determined not to return to the vessel by the night, so we all mounted behind the Gauchos & started at a hand gallop for the Fort. Our reception here was not very cordial. The Commandante was inclined to be civil; but the Major, although second in rank, appears to be the most efficient. He is an old Spaniard, with the old feelings of jealousy. He could not contain his surprise & anxiety at a Man of War having arrived for the first time in the harbour. He asked endless questions about our force &c, & when the Captain, praising the bay, assured him he could bring up even a line of battleship, the old gentleman was appalled & in his minds-eye saw the British Marines taking his fort. These ridiculous suspicions made it very disagreeable to us, so that the Captain determined to start early in the morning back to the Beagle.

The Settlement is seated on a dead level turf plain, it contains about 400 inhabitants; of which the greater number are soldiers. The place is fortified, & good occasion they have for it: The place has been attacked several times by large bodies of Indians. The War is carried on in the most barbarous manner. The Indians torture all their prisoners & the Spaniards shoot theirs. Exactly a week ago the Spaniards, hearing that the main body of their armies were gone to Northward, made an excursion & seized a great herd of horses & some prisoners. Amongst these was the head chief, the old Toriano who has governed a great district for many years. When a prisoner, two lesser chiefs or Caciques came one after the other in hopes of arranging a treaty of liberation: It was all the same to the Spaniards, these three & 8 more were lead out & shot. On the other hand, the Commandante's son was taken some time since; & being bound, the children (a refinement in cruelty I never heard of) prepared to kill him with nails & small knives. A Cacique then said that the next day more people would be present, & there would be more sport, so the execution was deferred, & in the night he escaped.

A Spanish friend of Mr Harris received us hospitably. His house consisted in one large room, but it was cleaner & more comfortable than those in Brazil. At night I was much exhausted, as it was 12 hours since I had eaten anything.
Captain Robert Fitzroy:
Messrs. Darwin, Rowlett, and Harris set out with me to visit the Buenos Ayrean settlement, called Argentina. Mr. Harris undertook to be our guide, but after two hours' sailing and pulling we found ourselves near the head of a creek, between two soft mud banks, where we could neither row nor turn the boat. We could not land because the mud was too soft to bear our weight, so there we staid till the tide flowed. About two hours after this stoppage there was water enough for us to cross a large bank, and gain the right channel, from which we had deviated, and then, with a flowing tide, we made rapid progress, until the 'Guardia' was announced to us. This was a small but near the water side, but to reach it we had to wind along a tortuous canal, between banks of soft mud: and when we arrived at the landing-place seven hours had been passed among rushy mud banks, surrounded by which we were often prevented from seeing any solid land. The water was every where salt, the tide running strongly, and the boat often aground.

Waiting to meet us was an assemblage of grotesque figures, which I shall not easily forget—a painter would have been charmed with them. A dark visaged Quixotic character, partly in uniform, mounted on a large lean horse, and attended by several wild looking, but gaily dressed gauchos,(*) was nearest to us. Behind him, a little on one side, were a few irregular soldiers, variously armed, and no two dressed alike, but well mounted, and desperate-looking fellows; while on the other side, a group of almost naked Indian prisoners sat devouring the remains of a half roasted horse; and as they scowled at us savagely, still holding the large bones they had been gnawing, with their rough hair and scanty substitutes for clothing blown about by the wind, I thought I had never beheld a more singular group.

The tall man in uniform was the Commandant of the settlement, or fortress, called Argentina: he and his soldiers had arrived to welcome us, supposing that we were bringing supplies from Buenos Ayres for the needy colony. The Indian prisoners had been brought to work, and assist in carrying the supplies which were expected. Finding that we were neither Buenos Ayreans, nor traders from any other place, it was supposed that we must be spies sent to reconnoitre the place previous to a hostile attack. Neither the explanations nor assertions of Mr. Harris had any weight, for as he was our countryman, they naturally concluded he was in league with us; yet, as the commandant had some idea that we might, by possibility, be what we maintained we were, he disregarded the whispers and suggestions of his people, and offered to carry us to the settlement for a night's lodging.

Leaving the boat's crew to bivouac, as usual, I accepted a horse offered to me, and took the purser up behind; Mr. Darwin and Harris being also mounted behind two gaucho soldiers, away we went across a flat plain to the settlement. Mr. Darwin was carried off before the rest of the party, to be cross-questioned by an old major, who seemed to be considered the wisest man of the detachment, and he, poor old soul, thought we were very suspicious characters, especially Mr. Darwin, whose objects seemed most mysterious.

(*) Countrymen, employed in keeping and killing cattle, breeding and training horses, hunting, war, &c.

6th September 1832

Bahia Blanca
In the morning we stood into the bay; but soon got entangled in the midst of shoals & banks; we came again to an anchor. At this time a small Schooner passed near to us. An officer was sent on board to procure information about the bay &c. The schooner was a Sealer bound from the settlement at Bahia Blanca to the Rio Negro; south of which she intended fishing for the Seals. Mr Harris, a half partner & Captain, volunteered piloting us into the bay on condition of being carried up in a boat to the Settlement; where there was another Schooner bound for the same port, & in which he intended taking a passage. By Mr Harris's assistance we arrived in the evening at a fine bay; where sheltered from all bad weather, we moored ship. Mr Harris gave us a great deal of useful information about the country. Bahia Blanca has only been settled within the last six years: previous to which even the existence of the bay was not known. It is designed as a frontier fort against the Indians & thus to connect Buenos Ayres to Rio Negro. In the time of the old Spaniards, before the independence, the latter was purchased from the native chief of the place: The settlers at Bahia Blanca did not follow this just example, & in consequence ever since a barbarous & cruel warfare has been carried on: But I shall mention more about this presently.

Syms Covington:
Bahía Blanca or the White Bay (water shallow). The land about here is low and sandy, except the Blue Mountains which are about twenty or thirty miles in the interior, and head quarters of the Patagonians. The town of Bahía Blanca is about twenty miles from here, AND inhabited by the Spaniards.

Captain Robert Fitzroy:
Our boats were soon stopped by shoal water, and I found, to my vexation, that the Beagle was anchored at the head of an inlet, between the shore and a large bank extending far towards the south-east, and that before going farther west she must retreat eastward, and look for another passage. This was an unexpected dilemma; but our prospect was improved by the appearance of a small schooner running towards us, from Port Belgrano, with a Buenos Ayrean (or Argentine) flag flying.

Very soon she came near enough for our boat to reach her, and an Englishman came on board, who offered to pilot the Beagle to a safe anchorage within the port. This was Mr. Harris, owner of the little schooner in which he sailed, (a resident at Del Carmen, on the river Negro, and trading thence along the coast), with whom we had much satisfactory intercourse during the next twelvemonth.

By his advice we weighed anchor, stood across the great north bank, in very little more water than we drew, until we got into a channel where there was water enough for any ship, and a soft muddy bottom: there we hauled up ‘west-north-west’,(**) by his direction, and with a fresh wind sailed rapidly into the extensive and excellent, though then little known harbour, called Port Belgrano; and at dusk anchored near the wells under Anchorstock Hill (or Point Johnson).
To give an idea of the general appearance, or almost disappearance, of the very low land around this spacious port, I will mention, that when the Beagle had crossed the north bank, and hauled up in the fair way, Mount Hermoso was nearly beneath the horizon; some bushes on the flat land southward.

In consequence of this extent of water being intersected by banks, and having so few marks, it is very difficult of access; and no place can offer less that is agreeable to the eye, especially when the tide is out, and much of the banks shows above water. A more disagreeable place to survey, or one that would occupy more time, we were not likely to find, I thought, as I looked around from the mast-head; but upon questioning Mr. Harris, I learned that a succession of similar inlets indented a half-drowned coast, extending hence almost to the Negro; and that, although the dangers were numerous, tides strong, banks muddy, and the shores every where low, the intervening ports were so safe, and so likely to be useful, that it was absolutely necessary to examine them.

(**) So constantly did Mr. Harris give this course, on subsequent occasions, that it became quite a joke; but it is nevertheless a strong corroboration of what I stated respecting the general direction of the inlets, and ridges, or ranges of hills.

5th September 1832

Bahia Blanca
We ran along 40 miles of coast & then anchored near to the mouth of the Bay: During the day I took several curious marine animals.

Captain Robert Fitzroy:
Along this extent of sea-coast, half way between the currents in the vicinity of the Plata, and those occasioned by strong tides near Blanco Bay and the river Negro, we found no current. Whether there was a rise of tide it was not easy to ascertain by the lead-line, when at anchor, from the bottom being so uneven; and to land was impossible, on account of a furious surf. Several kinds of fish were caught at our temporary anchorages, and noticed carefully by Mr. Darwin. Anchorage is not a word I should use in this case (where the anchor was only let go for a short time while the ship's position could be fixed with accuracy, and our triangulation carried on in a satisfactory manner), as it might deceive a stranger to the coast: stopping-place would be better.

While examining the positions nearest to Blanco Bay, we had occasional alarms—such as the wind shifting and blowing strong directly towards the land; our soundings shoaling suddenly to three, or less than three fathoms; or thick weather coming on while a boat was away sounding;—but these are every-day events in a surveying vessel actively employed.

Near Blanco Bay we found the water greatly discoloured, and the soundings were not such as to tempt us onwards; however, it was necessary to proceed. We steered towards a little hill, which I fancied must be Mount Hermoso,(*) and soon after sun-set, on the 5th, anchored in what we afterwards found to be the roadstead near that hillock, at the head of Blanco Bay, close to the entrance of Port Belgrano, but divided from it by a bank.

As the bad apologies for charts of this place, which we possessed at our first visit, left us as much at a loss as if we had none, I set out with the boats next morning to seek for a passage into Port Belgrano.(**)

* Mount Hermoso is but 140 feet above the sea; yet, on this low coast, it is somewhat remarkable, as being the only peaked hill close to the water; and having under it a low cliffy point, the only one thereabouts.

(**) Often erroneously called Bahia Blanco; a name originally given to the outer bay, in compliment to General Blanco.

4th September 1832

Montevideo to Bahia Blanca
We have remained all day at our anchorage: the weather has been cloudy for some days past & it is almost necessary to obtain observations of the sun to ascertain our situation. I am thoroughly tired of this work, or rather no work; this rolling & pitching about with no end gained. Oh for Bahia Blanca; it will be a white day for me, when we gain it.

3rd September 1832

Montevideo to Bahia Blanca
The weather has been tolerably fair for us; but in the evening the breeze was fresh & a good deal of sea. At this time, the situation of the vessel was for a few minutes very dangerous. We came suddenly on a bank where the water was very shoal. It was a startling cry, when the man in the chains sang out, "and a half, two" our bottom was then only two feet from the ground. If we had struck, it is possible we should have gone to the bottom; the long swell of the open ocean would soon dash the strongest timber into pieces.
[Note in margin: We have since had reason to believe it was a mistake of the Leadsman]
It is beautiful to see the quiet calm alertness of the sailors on such occasions. We soon deepened our water, when we altered our course. At present we are riding in a wild anchorage, waiting for the morning.

2nd September 1832

[The dangerous coast the Beagle is surveying]
Montevideo to Bahia Blanca
This day will always be to me a memorable anniversary; in as much as, it was the first in which the prospect of my joining the voyage wore a prosperous appearance.

Again in heaving up the anchor (one of the best & largest) it broke off like the former ones: it is supposed that the bottom consists of a clay so stiff as nearly to resemble rock, & that during the night the flue of anchor works into it, so that no power is able to wrench it out. So early in the voyage it is a great loss. The wind blew a gale; but under close reefed topsails we ran along about 70 miles of coast. Out of all this range scarcely two parts could be distinguished from each other: nothing interrupts the line of sand hillocks. Tomorrow we shall be near to Baia Blanca; where I hope we shall remain some time.

This last week, although lost for surveying, has produced several animals; the examination of which has much interested me.

Captain Robert Fitzroy:
In exploring this exposed coast, southerly winds sometimes obliged us to struggle for an offing; and we lost several anchors in consequence of letting them go upon ground which we thought was hard sand lying over clay, but which turned out to be tosca, slightly covered with sand, and full of holes. The lead indicated a sandy, though hard bottom; but we found it every where so perforated and so tough, that, drop an anchor where we might, it was sure to hook a rock-like lump of tosca, which sometimes was torn away, but at others broke the anchor.

Finding this to be the case, I had a stout hawser 'bent' to the 'crown' of the anchor, and after shortening in cable, tripped the anchor by the hawser, and then weighed it, uninjured, without much difficulty.

1st September 1932

Montevideo to Bahia Blanca
The breeze freshened during the night & in the morning there was a good deal of sea. In heaving up the anchor, a sudden pitch in the vessel broke it off just above the flues. It has been a cloudless day; but with a strong breeze right in our teeth. Tonight we have anchored & to our universal joy the wind has chopped round to the North.

Captain Robert Fitzroy:
Hence to Bahia Blanco is a long and dreary line of coast, without an opening fit to receive the smallest sailing vessel, without a remarkable feature, and without a river whose mouth is not fordable. Even the plan of it, on paper, has such a regular figure, that an eye accustomed to charts may doubt its accuracy; so rarely does the outline of an exposed sea-coast extend so far without a break. A heavy swell always sets upon it; there is no safe anchorage near the shore; and, as if to complete its uninviting qualities, in the interior, but verging on this shore, is a desert tract, avoided even by the Indians.