1st March 1833

East Falkland Island
We arrived early in the morning at Port Louis, the most Eastern point of the Falkland Islands: The first news we received was to our astonishment, that England had taken possession of the Falklands islands & that the Flag was now flying. These islands have been for some time uninhabited, until the Buenos Ayres Government, a few years since claimed them & sent some colonists. Our government remonstrated against this, & last month the Clio arrived here with orders to take possession of the place. A Buenos ayrean man of war was here, at the time, with some fresh colonists. Both they & the vessel returned to the Rio Plata. The present inhabitants consist of one Englishman, who has resided here for some years, & has now the charge of the British flag, 20 Spaniards & three women, two of whom are negresses. The island is abundantly stocked with animals: there are about 5,000 wild oxen, many horses, & pigs. Wild fowl, rabbits, & fish in the greatest plenty. European vegetables will grow. And as there is an abundance of water & good anchorage; it is most surprising that it has not been long ago colonized, in order to afford provisions for Ships going round the Horn. At present it is only frequented by Whalers, one of which is here now.

We received all this intelligence from a French boat, belonging to a Whaler, which is now lying a wreck on the beach. Between the 12th & 13th of January, the very time when we suffered from the gale off Cape Horn, this fine ship parted from three anchors & drove on shore. They describe the gale as a perfect hurricane. They were glad to see us, as they were at a loss what to do. All the stores are saved & of course plenty of food.

Capt: FitzRoy has offered to take them 22 in number in the Beagle & to purchase on account of the owners, any stores which we may want. The rest must be sacrificed.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
At daylight on the 1st of March (having passed the preceding night standing off and on under easy sail), we made Cape Pembroke, at the eastern extremity of the Falklands. The weather was very cold and raw, with frequent hail-squalls, although in the month corresponding to September of our hemisphere; and while working to windward into Berkeley Sound, the gusts of wind were sometimes strong enough to oblige us to shorten all sail. I did not then know of Port William — so close to us, and so easy of access.

The aspect of the Falklands rather surprised me: instead of a low, level, barren country, like Patagonia, or a high woody region, like Tierra del Fuego, we saw ridges of rocky hills, about a thousand feet in height, traversing extensive tracts of sombre-looking moorland, unenlivened by a tree. A black, low, and rocky coast, on which the surf raged violently, and the strong wind against which we were contending, did not tend to improve our first impressions of those unfortunate islands — scene of feud and assassination, and the cause of angry discussion among nations.

In a cove (called Johnson Harbour) at the north side of Berkeley Sound, was a wrecked ship, with her masts standing, and in other places were the remains of two more wrecks. We anchored near the beach on which Freycinet ran the Uranie, after she struck on a rock off Volunteer Point, at the entrance of Berkeley Sound; and from a French boat which came alongside learned that the Magellan, French whaler, had been driven from her anchors during the tremendous storm of January 12-13; that her crew were living on shore under tents, having saved every thing; that there were only a few colonists left at the almost ruined settlement of Port Louis; and that the British flag had been re-hoisted on the islands by H.M.S. Tyne and Clio.

The Beagle anchored at the south side of Berkeley Sound (near the beach where Freycinet was obliged to run l'Uranie ashore, in 1820, after striking on the detached rock off Volunteer Point), and remained there till I had ascertained the state of affairs on shore: for seeing a French flag flying near some tents behind Johnson Cove or harbour, and knowing that, in 1831, the flag of Buenos Ayres was hoisted at a settlement in the sound, it was evident a change of some kind had occurred. Directly our anchor had dropped, a whale-boat belonging to the wrecked whale-ship, 'Le Magellan,' came alongside; and from her chief mate (who was also whaling-master), we learned that his ship had parted from her anchors during a tremendous squall on the night of the 12th of January, and was totally wrecked. He then informed me that the British colours had been hoisted on these islands by H.M.S. Clio; and that H.M.S. Tyne had since visited the port and saluted the flag; that the white flag was hoisted at the French tents only as a signal to us; and that he was sent by M. le Dilly, his captain, to entreat us to render them assistance. Two of our boats were forthwith manned; one was sent to the settlement at Port Louis, and in the other I went to the Frenchmen at Johnson Cove. I found them very comfortably established in large tents made from the sails of their lost ship; but they manifested extreme impatience to get away from the islands, even at the risk of abandoning the vessel and cargo. After due inquiry, I promised to carry as many of them as I could to Monte Video, and to interest myself in procuring a passage for the rest.

Their ship was lying upon a sandy beach, one bilge stove in, and her hold full of sand and water; but as there was no surf, and at high spring-tide the sea rose only to her deck, all the stores and provisions, if not the ship herself, might have been saved by energetic application of proper means soon after she was stranded. When I saw her it was not too late, but I had too many urgent duties to fulfil to admit of my helping those who would not help themselves. Returning on board, I met Mr. Chaffers, who had been to Port Louis, and heard that there was no constituted authority whatever resident on the islands, but that the British flag had been left by Captain Onslow in charge of an Irishman, who had been Mr. Vernet's storekeeper. This man at first declined answering Mr. Chaffers's questions, because his uniform buttons were (as he thought) different from those of the Tyne's officers; however, being a simple character, he soon became more loquacious than was wished. He told Mr. Chaffers that he was ordered to 'hoist the flag up and down' when vessels arrived, and every Sunday: that there was 'plenty of beef,' and as for rabbits and geese, only the 'poor people eat them.'

Syms Covington’s Journal:
We came to anchor in Berkeley Sound, Port Egmont (Eastern Island). This group of islands is very numerous, but the principal are the Eastern and Western, the West being much the largest; the remainder are smaller, and some but mere rocks. At the head of the sound is a small settlement of English with a few Spaniards. No natives. The Governor is named Brisbane, formerly a Captain of a small trading craft. In this harbour are several wrecks, from which we have supplied the ship with fire wood. Plenty of good water.

1 comment:

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