CAPTAIN COOK'S PREDECESSORS, I

"It seemed to me," says Byron, "that what had at first appeared to be an island, was really two steep mountains, but, upon looking windward, it was apparent that the land which belonged to these mountains stretched far to the south-east." Consequently, he steered south-west. "I sent some officers to the masthead to watch the wind, and to verify the discovery. They unanimously asserted that they saw a great extent of country. We then went E.S.E. The land appeared to present entirely the same appearance. The mountains looked blue, as is often the case in dark and rainy weather, when one is near them. Shortly afterwards, several of our number fancied they could distinguish waves breaking upon a sandy shore, but after steering with the utmost caution for an hour, that which we had taken for land disappeared suddenly, and we were convinced to our amazement that it had been only a land of fog! I have passed all my life at sea," continues Byron, "since I was twenty-seven, but I never could have conceived so complete and sustained an illusion.

"There is no doubt, that had the weather not cleared so suddenly as it did, we should one and all on board have declared that we had discovered land in this latitude. We were then in latitude 43° 46' S. and longitude 60° 5' W."

The next morning a terrible gale of wind arose, heralded by the piercing cries of many hundred birds flying before it. It lasted only twenty minutes—sufficiently long, however, to throw the vessel on its beam end before it was possible to let go the halliards. At the same moment a blow from the sheet of the mainsail overthrew the first lieutenant, and sent him rolling to a distance, while the mizen-mast, which was not entirely lowered, was torn to pieces.

The following days were not much more favourable. Moreover, the ship had sunk so little, that she drifted away as the wind freshened. After such a troublesome voyage, we may guess how gladly Byron reached Penguin Island and Port Desire on the 24th of November. But the delights of this station did not by any means equal the anticipations of the crew.

The English sailors landed and upon advancing into the interior, met only with a desert country, and sandy hills, without a single tree. They found no game, but they saw a few guanacos too far off for a shot; they were, however, able to catch some large hares, which were not difficult to secure. The seals and sea birds, however, furnished food for an entire fleet.

Badly situated and badly sheltered, Port Desire offered the further inconvenience that only brackish water could be procured there. Not a trace of inhabitants was to be found! A long stay in this place being useless and dangerous, Byron started in search of Pepys Island on the 25th.

The position of this island was most uncertain. Halley placed it 80° east of the continent. Cowley, the only person who asserted that he had seen it, declared it was about 47° latitude, S., but did not fix its longitude. Here then was an interesting problem to solve.

After having explored to the N., to the S., and to the E., Byron, satisfied that this island was imaginary, set sail for the Sebaldines, in haste to reach the first possible port where he could obtain food and water, of which he had pressing need. A storm overtook him, during which the waves were so terrific, that Byron declared he had never seen them equalled, even when he doubled Cape Horn with Admiral Anson. This danger surmounted, he recognized Cape Virgin, which forms the northern entrance to the Straits of Magellan.

As soon as the vessels neared the shore, the sailors distinguished a crowd of men on horseback, who set up a white tent, and signed to them to land. Curious to see these Patagonians, about whom preceding navigators had so disagreed, Byron landed with a strong detachment of armed soldiers.

He found nearly 500 men, most of them on horseback, of gigantic stature, and looking like monsters in human shape. Their bodies were painted in the most hideous manner, their faces traced with various coloured lines, their eyes encircled with blue, black, or red, so that they had the appearance of wearing enormous spectacles. Almost all were naked, with the exception of a skin thrown over their shoulders—the wool inside, and a few of them wore boots. Truly, a singular costume! primitive and not expensive!

Most of them on horseback
"Most of them on horseback."

With them were numbers of dogs and of very small horses, excessively ugly, but not the less extremely swift.

The women rode on horseback like the men without stirrups, and all galloped on the shore, although it was covered with immense stones and very slippery.

The interview was friendly. Byron distributed numbers of toys, ribbons, glass trinkets, and tobacco, to the crowd of giants.

As soon as he had brought the Dauphin to the wind, Byron entered the Straits of Magellan with the tide. It was not his intention to cross it, but merely to find a safe and commodious harbour, where he might secure wood and water before starting in his search for the Falkland Islands.