CAPTAIN COOK'S PREDECESSORS, I

On leaving the second outlet, he met with St. Elizabeth, St. Bartholomew, and St. George Islands, and Sandy Point. Near the last he found a delicious country, springs, woods, fields covered with flowers, which shed an exquisite perfume in the air. The country was swarming with hundreds of birds, of which one species received the name of the "Painted Goose," from the exceeding brilliancy of its plumage. But nowhere could a spot be found where the ship's boat could approach without extreme danger. The water was shallow everywhere, and the breakers were heavy. Fish of many kinds—more especially mullets,—geese, snipe, teal, and other birds of excellent flavour, were caught and killed by the crew.

Byron was obliged to continue his voyage to Port Famine, which he reached on the 27th of December.

"We were sheltered from all winds," he says, "with the exception of the south-east, which rarely blows, and no damage could accrue to vessels which might be driven on shore in the bay, because of the profound calm that prevails. Wood enough floated near the shore to stock a thousand vessels, so we had no need to go and cut it in the forest.

"The River Sedger ran at the bottom of the bay, the water of which is excellent. Its banks are planted with large and beautiful trees, excellent for masts; parrots, and birds of brilliant plumage thronged the branches." Abundance reigned in Famine Port during Byron's stay.

As soon as his crew were completely recovered from their fatigue and the ships well provisioned, the Commodore, on the 5th of January, 1765, resumed his search for the Falkland Islands. Seven days later, he discovered a land in which he fancied he recognized the Islands of Sebald de Wert, but upon nearing them he found that what he had taken for three islands, was, in reality, but one, which extended far south. He had no remaining doubt that he had found the group marked upon the charts of the time as New Ireland, 51° south latitude, and 63°, 32' west longitude.

First of all, Byron steered clear of them, fearing to be thrown upon a coast with which he was unacquainted, and after this summary bearing, a detachment was selected to skirt the coast as closely as possible, and look for a safe and commodious harbour—which was soon met with. It received the name of Port Egmont, in honour of Earl Egmont, First Lord of the Admiralty.

"I did not expect," says Byron, "that it would be possible to find so good a harbour. The depth was excellent, the supply of water easy; all the ships of England might be anchored there in shelter from winds.

"Geese, ducks, and teal abounded to such an extent, that the sailors were tired of eating them. Want of wood was general, with the exception of some trunks of trees which floated by the shore, and which were apparently brought here from the Strait of Magellan.

"The wild sorel and celery, both excellent anti-scorbutics, were to be found in abundance. Sea-calves and seals, as well as penguins, were so numerous that it was impossible to walk upon the strand without seeing them rush away in herds. Animals resembling wolves, but more like foxes in shape, with the exception of their height and tails, several times attacked the sailors, who had great difficulty in defending themselves. It would be no easy task to guess how they came here, distant as the country is from any other continent,—by at least a hundred leagues; or to imagine where they found shelter, in a country barren of vegetation, producing only rushes, sword-grass, and not a single tree."

The account of this portion of Byron's voyage, in Didot's biography, is a tissue of errors.

"The flotilla," says M. Alfred de Lacaze, "became entangled in the Straits of Magellan, and was forced to put into a bay near Port Famine, which was named Port Egmont." A singular mistake, which proves how lightly the articles of this important collection were sometimes written.

Byron took possession of Port Egmont and the adjacent isles, called Falkland, in the name of the King of England. Cowley had named them Pepys Islands, but in all probability the first discoverer was Captain Davis in 1592. Two years later Sir Richard Hawkins found land which was thought to be the same, and named it Virginia, in honour of his queen Elizabeth. Lastly, vessels from St. Malo visited this group, and no doubt it was owing to this fact that Frezier called them the Malouines Islands.

Map of the Eastern Hemisphere
Engraved by E. Morieu 23, r. de Brea Paris.
Straits of Magellan, after Bougainville
Gravé par E. Morieu.

After having named a number of rocks, islets, and capes, Byron left Port Egmont on the 27th of January, and set sail for Port Desire, which he reached nine days later. There he found the Florida—a transport vessel, which had brought from England the provisions and necessary appliances for his long voyage.