Monsieur de la Perouse
After having visited a village, M. de Langle gave orders that six soldiers, with a sergeant, should accompany him: the others were left upon the beach, under the command of M. de Pierrevert, the lieutenant; to them was committed the protection of the ship's boats, from which not a single sailor had landed. The party reembarked at eleven o'clock in very good order, and arrived on board about noon, where M. de Clonard had received a visit from a chief, of whom he had purchased a cloak, and a helmet adorned with red feathers; he had also purchased a hundred hogs, a quantity of potatoes and bananas, plenty of stuffs, mats, and various other articles. On their arrival on board, the two frigates dragged their anchors; it blew fresh from the south-east, and they were driving down upon the island of Morokinne, which was, however, at a sufficient distance to give them time to hoist in their boats. La Perouse made the signal for weighing, but before they could purchase the anchor, he was obliged to make sail, and drag it till he had passed Morokinne, to hinder him from driving past the channel.
A fair wind accompanied the navigators on their departure from the Sandwich Islands. Whales and wild geese convinced them that they were approaching land. Early in the morning of the 23d they descried it; a sudden dispersion of the fog opened to them the view of a long chain of mountains covered with snow. They distinguished Behring's Mount St. Elias, on the north-west coast of America. Having taken in as much wood and water as was required, the navigators esteemed themselves the most fortunate of men, in having arrived at such a distance from Europe without having a sick person among them, or any one afflicted with the scurvy; but a lamentable misfortune now awaited them. At the entrance of this harbor perished twenty brave seamen, in two boats, by the surf. On the 30th of July, at four in the afternoon, La Perouse got under way. This bay or harbor, to which he gave the name of Port des Français, is situated in 58 deg. 37 min. north latitude, and 139 deg. 50 min. west longitude. In different excursions, he says, he found the high-water mark to be fifteen feet above the surface of the sea. The climate of this coast is infinitely milder than that of Hudson's Bay, in the same degree of latitude. Pines were seen of six feet in diameter, and one hundred and forty feet in height. Vegetation is vigorous during three or four months of the year. The men wear different small ornaments, pendant from the ears and nose, scarify their arms and breasts, and file their teeth close to their gums, using, for the last operation, a sand-stone, formed into a particular shape. They paint the face and body with soot, ochre, and plumbago, mixed with train-oil, making themselves most horrid figures. When completely dressed,
their flowing hair is powdered, and plaited with the down of sea-birds; but, perhaps, only the chiefs of certain distinguished families are thus decorated. Their shoulders are covered with a skin, and on the head, is generally worn a little straw hat, plaited with great taste and ingenuity. Sometimes, indeed, the head is decorated with two horned bonnets of eagles' feathers. Their head-dresses are extremely various, the grand object in view being only to render themselves terrible, that they may keep then enemies in awe. Some Indians have skirts of otters' skins. A great chief wore a skirt composed of a tanned skin of the elk, bordered by a fringe of beaks of birds, which, when dancing, imitated the noise of a bell a common dress among the savages of Canada, and other nations in the eastern parts of America. The passion of these Indians for gaming is astonishing, and they pursue it with great avidity. The sort of play to which they are most devoted, is a certain game of chance; out of thirty pieces of wood, each distinctly marked like the French dice, they hide seven: each plays in succession, and he who guesses nearest to the whole number marked upon the seven is the winner of the stake, which is usually a hatchet or a piece of iron.
At length, after a very long run, on the 11th of September, at three in the afternoon, the navigators got sight of Fort Monterey, and two three masted vessels which lay in the road. The commander of these two ships having been informed, by the viceroy of Mexico, of the probable arrival of the two French frigates, sent them pilots in the course of the night. Loretto, the only presidency of Old California, is situated on the east coast of this peninsula and has a garrison of fifty-four troopers, who furnish detachments to fifteen missions; the duties of which are performed by Dominican friars. About four thousand Indians, converted and residing in these fifteen parishes, are the sole produce of the long labors of the different religious orders which have succeeded each other. A small navy was established by the Spanish government in this port, under the orders of the viceroy of Mexico, consisting of four corvettes of twelve guns, and one goletta. They are destined to supply with necessaries the presidencies of North California; and they are sometimes despatched as packet-boats to Manilla, when the orders of the court require the utmost expedition.