28th January 1833

Beagle Channel
We found everything quiet; the canoes were employed in spearing fish & most of the people had returned. We were very glad of this & now hoped everything would go on smoothly. The Captain sent the Yawl & one Whale boat back to the ship; & we in the other two re-entered the Beagle channel in order to examine the islands around its Western entrance. To every ones surprise the day was overpoweringly hot, so much so that our skin was burnt; this is quite a novelty in Tierra del F. The Beagle channel is here very striking, the view both ways is not intercepted, & to the West extends to the Pacific. So narrow & straight a channel & in length nearly 120 miles, must be a rare phenomenon. We were reminded, that it was an arm of the sea, by the number of whales, which were spouting in different directions: the water is so deep that one morning two monstrous whales were swimming within stone throw of the shore.

In the evening having pitched our tents, unfortunately a party of Fuegians appeared. If these barbarians were a little less barbarous, it would have been easy, as we were superior in numbers, to have pushed them away & obliged them to keep beyond a certain line. But their courage is like that of a wild beast, they would not think of their inferiority in number, but each individual would endeavour to dash your brains out with a stone, as a tiger would be certain under similar circumstances to tear you. We sailed on till it was dark & then found a quiet nook; the great object is to find a beach with pebbles, for they are both dry & yield to the body, & really in our blanket bags we passed very comfortable nights. It was my watch till one o’clock; there is something very solemn in such scenes; the consciousness rushes on the mind in how remote a corner of the globe you are then in; all tends to this end, the quiet of the night is only interrupted by the heavy breathing of the men & the cry of the night birds. The occasional distant bark of a dog reminds one that the Fuegians may be prowling, close to the tents, ready for a fatal rush.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
During the four days in which we had so many natives about us, of course some thefts were committed, but nothing of consequence was stolen. I saw one man talking to Jemmy Button, while another picked his pocket of a knife, and even the wary York lost something, but from Fuegia they did not take a single article; on the contrary, their kindness to her was remarkable, and among the women she was quite a pet.

Our people lost a few trifles, in consequence of their own carelessness. Had they themselves been left among gold and diamonds, would they all have refrained from indulging their acquisitive inclinations?

Notwithstanding the decision into which I had reasoned myself respecting the natives, I could not help being exceedingly anxious about Matthews, and early next morning our boats were again steered towards Woollӯa. My own anxiety was increased by hearing the remarks made from time to time by the rest of the party, some of whom thought we should not again see him alive; and it was with no slight joy that I caught sight of him, as my boat rounded a point of land, carrying a kettle to the fire near his wigwam. We landed and ascertained that nothing had occurred to damp his spirits, or in any way check his inclination to make a fair trial. Some natives had returned to the place, among them one of Jemmy's brothers; but so far were they from showing the slightest ill-will, that nothing could be more friendly than their behaviour.
Jemmy told us that these people, who arrived at daylight that morning were his friends, that his own family would come in the course of the day, and that the 'bad men,' the strangers, were all gone away to their own country.

A further trial was now determined upon. The yawl, with one whale-boat, was sent back to the Beagle, and I set out on a westward excursion, accompanied by Messrs. Darwin and Hamond, in the other two boats: my intention being to complete the exploration of Whale-boat Sound, and the north-west arm of the Beagle Channel; then revisit Woollӯa, either leave or remove Matthews, as might appear advisable, and repair to our ship in Goree Road.

With a fair and fresh wind my boat and Mr. Hamond's passed the Murray Narrow, and sailed far along the channel towards the west, favoured, unusually, by an easterly breeze. Just as we had landed, and set up our tent for the night, some canoes were seen approaching; so rather than be obliged to watch their movements all night, we at once embarked our tent and half-cooked supper, and pulled along the shore some miles further, knowing that they would not willingly follow us in the dark. About midnight we landed and slept undisturbed. Next day we made little progress, the wind having changed, and landed, earlier than usual, on the north side of the channel, at Shingle Point. Some natives soon appeared, and though few in number, were inclined to give trouble. It was evident they did not know the effect of fire-arms; for if a musket were pointed at them, and threatening gestures used, they only made faces at us, and mocked whatever we did. Finding them more and more insolent and troublesome, I preferred leaving them to risking a struggle, in which it might become necessary to fire, at the hazard of destroying life. Twelve armed men, therefore, gave way to six unarmed, naked savages, and went on to another cove, where these annoying, because ignorant natives could not see us.

No comments: