De Bougainville

A settlement having been commenced by the French on Falkland's Islands, in the month of February, 1764, the Spaniards demanded them as an appendage to the continent of South America and France having allowed the propriety of the demand, Mons. de Bougainville was ordered to yield possession of the islands to the Spaniards.

On the 5th of December he sailed from the harbor of Brest, in the frigate La Boudeuse, having on board the Prince of Nassau Seighen, three gentlemen who went as volunteers, eleven officers in commission, and warrant-officers, seamen, soldiers, servants and boys to the number of two hundred. On the evening of the 29th of January, they had sight of Rio-de-la-Plata, and on the morning of the 31st came to anchor in the Bay of Montevideo, where the two Spanish ships, which were to take possession of Falkland Islands, had been at anchor for some weeks. They sailed with these ships on the 28th of February, 1767; and on the 1st of April Bougainville, in the name of the French king, surrendered the islands to Don Puente, the Spanish governor, who received them for his most Catholic majesty, with the ceremony of hoisting the Spanish colors, and the firing of guns from the ships and on shore.

Falkland Islands lie in about 52 degrees south latitude, and 60 degrees west longitude. From the entrance of the Straits of Magellan, and from the coast of Patagonia, their distance is about 250 miles. The harbors are large, and well defended by small islands most happily disposed and even the smallest vessels may ride in safety in the creeks, while fresh water is easily to be obtained. After waiting at these islands till the 2d of June, 1767, in expectation of the Etoile store-ship from Europe, Bougainville steered for Rio Janeiro, at which place he had appointed the Etoile to join him. They had fine weather from the 2d to the 20th of June, on which day they had sight of the mountains on the main land of Brazil, and entered Rio Janeiro the day following. At the same time a canoe was despatched from the captain of the Etoile, with information of the safe arrival of that vessel, which now lay in the port and on the 14th of July, both vessels sailed, and on the 31st came to anchor in the Bay of Montevideo. As it was necessary that Bougainville should remain in his present station till the equinox was passed, his first care was to build a hospital for the sick, and to take lodgings at Montevideo.

On the 14th of November, 1767, they sailed from Montevideo, with a fine gale of wind at north. On the 16th, and the five following days, the sea ran high, and the wind was contrary. The 2d of December they had sight of Cape Virgins, with a fair wind. They now saw a number of albatrosses and petrels, the last of which are said to be a sign of bad weather whenever they are seen. They made their best efforts to reach the entrance of the Straits of Magellan and Bougainville was seven weeks and three days in passing through it, the whole length of which, from Cape Virgin Mary to Cape Pillar, he computes at about 340 miles.

On the 22d of March, land was discovered, and when they had coasted one of the islands for about two miles, they had sight of three men, who advanced hastily towards the shore. They at first imagined that these were part of the crew of some European ship which had been wrecked on the coast, but discovered their conjecture ill-founded, for the people retired to the woods, from which, in a short time, issued a number of them, supposed to be near twenty, with long staves in their hands, which they held up with an air of defiance. This done, they retreated to the woods. These islanders were of a copper complexion and very tall.

During the night between the 22d and 23d they had much rain, accompanied with violent thunder, while the wind blew almost a tempest. At day-break land was discovered, which was called Harp Island, and in the evening a cluster of islands, eleven of which were seen, received the name of the Dangerous Archipelago. A steep mountain, which appeared to be encompassed by the sea, was discovered on the 2d of April, and received the name of Boudoir, or Boudeuse Peak, from Bougainville's ship. Bearing to the northward of this peak they had sight of land, which extended farther than the eye could reach.

As Bougainville coasted the island, he was charmed with the appearance of a noble cascade, which, falling immediately from the summit of a mountain into the sea, produced a most elegant effect. On the shores very near to the fall of this cascade, was a little town, and the coast appeared to be free from breakers. It was the wish of our adventurers to have cast their anchor within view of such an enchanting prospect; but, after repeated soundings, they found that the bottom consisted only of rocks, and they were, therefore, under a necessity of seeking another anchoring place, where the ships were safely moored.

They remained at Otaheite until the 16th of April, when they departed, and in the beginning of May three islands were discovered. On the following day another island was seen to the westward of the ship's course. To the islands the commodore gave the general name of the Archipelago of the Navigators. On the morning of the 11th, another island was discovered, which received the name of the Forlorn Hope.