Christmas Day 1832

Tierra del Fuego
This being Christmas day, all duty is suspended, the seamen look forward to it as a great gala day; & from this reason we remained at anchor. — Wigwam Cove is in Hermit Island; its situation is pointed out by Katers Peak, which a steep conical mountain 1700 feet high which arises by the side of, & overlooks the bay: — Sulivan Hamond & myself started after breakfast to ascend it: — the sides were very steep so [as] to make the climbing very fatiguing, & parts were thick with the Antarctic Beech. From the summit a good geographical idea might be obtained of the surrounding isles & distant main land. — These islands would appear to be the termination of the chain of the Andes; the mountain tops only being raised above the ocean. — Whilst looking round on this inhospitable region we could scarcely credit that man existed in it. — On our return on board, we were told we had been seen from the ship: this we knew to be impossible, as the Beagle is anchored at the mouth of the harbor & close under a lofty peak, behind which is Katers. As it was certain men had been seen crawling over the rock on this hill, they must have been Fuegians. — From their position, all our parties were in view. — & what must have been their feelings of astonishment. — the whole of wigwam cove resounded, with guns fired in the Caverns at the Wild fowl; we three also screaming to find out echos, Sulivan amusing himself by rolling down the precipes huge stones, & I impetuously hammering with my geological tools the rocks. They must have thought us the powers of darkness; or whatever else, fear has kept them concealed. — Wigwam Cove has frequently been visited: it was named by Mr Weddell: The Chanticleer, with Capt. Forster remained here some months; the remains of the tent where he swung the Pendulum exist yet. — The sky looked ominous at sunset & in the middle of the night the hands were turned up to let go another anchor, for it blew a tremendous gale.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
Notwithstanding violent squalls, and cold damp weather, we kept our Christmas merrily; certainly, not the less so, in consequence of feeling that we were in a secure position, instead of being exposed to the effects of a high sea and heavy gale.

If the modern chart be compared with that issued by the Admiralty a few years ago, published by Faden in 1818, it will be seen that the particular plan of St. Francis Bay, given in Faden's chart, agrees much better with the west side of Nassau Bay than with any other place; and that the "remarkable island, like a castle," noticed in the plan, is evidently "Packsaddle Island," of the modern chart. The rough sketch of land towards the north and east, as far as Cape Horn, on that plan, I take to be the random outline of land seen at a distance by the person who drew the plan, and the name "Cape Horn," affixed to the southernmost land then in sight; which must have been Cape Spencer. But it is now too late to remedy the mistake, which is indeed of no consequence.

At sun-set, there was a reddish appearance all over the sky—clouds shot over the summits of the mountains in ragged detached masses—and there was a lurid haze around, which showed a coming storm as surely as a fall of the barometer. The gale increased, and at midnight such furious squalls came down from the heights, that the water was swept up, and clouds of foam were driven along the sea. Although we were close to a weather shore, with our top-gallant masts down and yards braced sharp up, we hardly thought ourselves in security with three anchors down and plenty of chain cable out.

Syms Covington’s Journal:
… we passed our Christmas and I may say a merry one considering where we were and in a ship. The Captain indulged the ships company in every thing he possibly could, our ship being housed over, we could dance, sing, joke or in a word DO anything to make one another happy, and on deck, although it blew and rained occasionally.

We found wild fowl on the Cape and ON other small islands in its vicinity, and likewise found a sort of grouse. Here are plenty of celery, black currants and berries, the latter in immense numbers, and good eating.

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