FRENCH NAVIGATORS, I
It was abandoned! Only men too old to follow the flight of their companions remained, and were seated in the doors of their huts. An effort was made to take them. One of them, without any apparent effort, at once struck a soldier with a javelin he held in his hand. He was killed, but no injury was inflicted upon the others who were left in the village. All the houses were thoroughly searched. In Tacouri's kitchen a man's skull was found which had been cooked some days before. Some fleshy parts still remained which bore the impress of the cannibal's teeth. On a wooden spit, a piece of a human thigh, three parts eaten, was found. In another house, a shirt was recognized as having belonged to the unfortunate Marion. The collar was soaked in blood, and two or three holes were found in the side, also blood-stained. In various other houses, portions of the clothes, and the pistols belonging to young Vaudricourt, who had accompanied the Captain, were brought to light. The boat's arms, and quantities of scraps of the unfortunate sailors' clothing, were also discovered.
|"A man's skull was found."|
Doubt was unfortunately no longer possible. An account of the death of the victims was drawn up, and Chevalier Du Clesmeur searched Marion's papers to discover his projects, and the plans for the prosecution of the voyage. He found only the instructions given by the Governor of Mauritius.
A council was held with the ship's officers, and, bearing in mind the lamentable condition of the vessels, it was decided to abandon the search for new lands, and to make for Amsterdam or Rotterdam Island, then for the Mariana and Philippines, where there was a chance of disposing of the cargo, before returning to Mauritius. On the 14th of July, Du Clesmeur left Treason Port, as he named the bay of these islands, and the vessels steered towards Amsterdam and Rotterdam Islands, to the north of which they passed on the 6th of August. Navigation was aided by splendid weather, a fortunate circumstance, as scurvy had made such ravages among the sailors, that very few of them were in a condition to work. At length, on the 20th of September, Guaham Island, the largest of the Mariana group, was discovered. It was impossible to cast anchor until seven days later.
The account published by Crozet contains very precise and circumstantial details regarding this island, with its productions and inhabitants. We will only transcribe from it one phrase, as explicit as it is short.
"Guaham Island," he says, "appeared to us a terrestrial paradise. The air was excellent, the water good, the vegetables and fruits were perfect, the herds of cattle, goats, and pigs, innumerable; every species of fowl abounded." Amongst the vegetable productions, Crozet mentions "Rima," the fruit of which is good to eat, when it has attained its full growth and is still green.
"In this condition," he says, "the natives gather it for food. They remove the rough skin, and cut it in slices like bread. When they wish to preserve it, they cut it in round pieces, and dry it in the sun or in an oven, in the form of very small cakes. This natural biscuit preserves its bread-like qualities for several years, and far longer than our best ship's biscuits."
From Port Agana, Crozet reached the Philippine Islands, and anchored off Cavite, in Manilla Bay. This was the spot where the Castries and Mascarin parted, to go back to Mauritius separately.
Some years previously a gallant officer of the royal navy, Chevalier Jacques Raymond de Geron de Grenier, who was one of that group of distinguished men,—the Chazelles, the Bordas, the Fleuriens, the Du Martz de Gormpy, the Chaberts, the Verduns de la Crenne, who contributed so zealously to the progress of navigation and geography—had employed his leisure, during a stay in the Isle of France, in exploring the adjacent seas.
He had made a very profitable cruise in the corvette, the Heure du Berger, during which he rectified the position of Saint Brandon's rock, and of the Saya-de-Malha sandbank, examined separately Saint Michael, Rocque-pire, and Agalega in the Seychelles archipelago, and corrected the charts of Adu and Diego Garcia Islands. Convinced of the connexion of the currents with the monsoon, which he had thoroughly studied, he proposed a shortened route, always open, from the Isle of France to the Indies. It would be a saving of eight hundred leagues, and was well worth serious consideration.
The minister of Marine, who had seen Grenier's proposition well received by the Naval Academy, decided to entrust its examination to a ship's officer, who was accustomed to work of the kind.
He selected Yves-Joseph de Kerguelen. During two expeditions, undertaken in 1767 and 1768, for the encouragement and protection of the cod-fisheries on the coast of Iceland, this navigator had surveyed a great number of ports and roadsteads, collected astronomical observations, rectified the map of Iceland, and accumulated a mass of particulars concerning this little-known country. It was he, indeed, who gave the earliest authentic account of "geysers," those springs of warm water which occasionally reach to such great heights, and he also supplied curious details of the existence of fossil wood, which prove that at an early geological period, Iceland, now entirely devoid of trees, possessed enormous forests.