CAPTAIN COOK'S PREDECESSORS, I
Roggewein—The little that is known of him—The uncertainty of his discoveries—Easter Island—The Pernicious Islands—The Baumans—New Britain—Arrival in Batavia—Byron—Stay at Rio Janeiro and Port Desire—Entrance into Straits of Magellan—Falkland Islands and Port Egmont—The Fuegians—Mas a Fuero—Disappointment Islands—Danger Islands—Tinian—Return to Europe.
As early as 1669, Roggewein the elder had petitioned the Dutch West India Company for three armed vessels, in order to prosecute his discoveries in the Pacific Ocean. His project was favourably received, but a coolness in the relations between Spain and Holland forced the Batavian government to relinquish the expedition for a time. Upon his death-bed Roggewein forced from his son Jacob a promise to carry the plan he had conceived into execution.
Circumstances, over which he had no control, for a long time hindered the fulfilment of his promise. It was only after several voyages in the Indian seas, after having even been judge in the Batavian Justice Court, that at length Jacob Roggewein was in a position to take the necessary steps with the West India Company. We have no means of finding out Roggewein's age in 1721, or of ascertaining what were his claims to the command of an expedition of discovery. Most biographical dictionaries honour him with but a slight mention, perhaps of a couple of lines, and Fleurieu, in his learned and exhaustive account of the Dutch navigator, was unable to find out anything certain about him.
Moreover, the narrative of the voyage was written not by Roggewein, but by a German named Behrens. We may, therefore, with some justice, attribute the obscurities and contradictions of the particulars given, and their general want of accuracy, rather to the narrator than to the navigator. It even appears sometimes (and this is far from improbable), that Roggewein was ignorant of the voyages and discoveries of his predecessors and contemporaries.
Upon the 21st of August, 1721, three vessels set sail from Texel, under his command. They were, the Eagle of 36 guns, and with a crew of 111 men, the Tienhoven of 28 guns and 100 men, Captain James Bauman, and the galley African of 14 guns and a crew of 60 men, Captain Henry Rosenthal. Their voyage across the Atlantic afforded no particulars of interest. Touching at Rio, Roggewein went in search of an island which he named Auke's Magdeland, and which would appear to be the same as the Land of the Virgin, Hawkins' Virginia, and the Archipelago of the Falkland, or Malouine Islands, unless indeed it was Southern Georgia. Although these islands were then well known, it would appear that the Dutch knew little of their whereabouts, as after vainly seeking the Falkland Isles, they set to work to look for the island St. Louis, belonging to the French, apparently quite unaware that they belonged to the same group.
There are few lands indeed which have borne so many different names as Pepys Isles, Conti Isles, and many which we need not mention. It would be easy to count up a dozen.
After discovering, or rather noticing an island below the parallel of the Straits of Magellan, about twenty-four leagues from the American continent, of two hundred leagues in circumference, which he named South Belgium, Roggewein passed through the Straits of Lemaire, or possibly was carried by the current to 62½° of southern latitude. Finally, he regained the coast of Chili; and cast anchor opposite the island of Mocha, which he found deserted. He afterwards reached Juan Fernandez, where he met with the Tienhoven, from which he had been separated since the 21st of December.
The vessels left this harbour before the end of March, and steered to the west-north-west, in search of the land discovered by Davis, between 27° and 28° south.
After a search of several days, Roggewein sighted an island upon the 6th of April, 1722, which he named Easter Island.
We will not stop to enumerate the exaggerated dimensions claimed for this island by the Dutch navigator, nor to notice his observations of the manners and customs of the inhabitants. We shall have occasion to refer to them in dealing with the more detailed and reliable accounts of Cook and La Perouse. "But," said Fleurieu, "we shall vainly look in this narrative for any sign of learning on the part of Roggewein's sergeant-major." After describing the Banana, of which the leaves are six or eight feet high, and two or three wide, he adds that this was the leaf with which our first parents covered their nakedness after the Fall; and to make it clearer, further remarks that those who accept this view, do so on account of this leaf being the largest of all the plants growing either in eastern or western countries, thereby plainly indicating his notion of the proportions of Adam and Eve.
A native came on board the Eagle. He delighted every one by his good humour, gaiety, and friendly demonstrations.