Expedition of Wood Rogers—Adventures of Alexander Selkirk—Galapagos Island—Puerto Seguro—Return to England—Expedition of George Anson—Staten Island—Juan Fernandez—Tinian—Macao—Taking of the vessel—Canton river—Results of the Cruise.

The war of the Spanish succession was at its height, when some privateers of Bristol determined to fit out ships to attack the Spanish vessels, in the Pacific Ocean, and to devastate the coasts of South America. The two vessels chosen, the Duke and Duchess, under Captains Rogers and Courtenay, were carefully equipped, and stocked with everything necessary for so long a voyage, the famous Dampier, who had acquired a great reputation by his daring adventures and piracies, did not disdain to accept the title of chief pilot, and although this trip was richer in material results than in geographical discoveries, the account of it contains a few curious particulars worthy of preservation.

The Duke and Duchess set sail from the Royal Port of Bristol on the 2nd April, 1708. To begin with, we may note one interesting fact. Throughout the voyage a register was at the service of the crew, in which all the incidents of the voyage were to be noted, so that the slightest errors, and the most insignificant oversights could be rectified before the facts of the case faded from memory.

Nothing of note occurred on this voyage till the 22nd December, when the Falkland Islands, previously noticed by few navigators, were discovered. Rogers did not land on them, but contented himself with observing that the coast, although less precipitous, resembled that of Portland.

"All the hills," he added, "with their well-wooded and gradually sloping sides, appeared fertile, and the shore is not wanting in good harbours."

Now these islands do not possess a single tree, and the good harbours, as we shall presently see, are anything but numerous, so we can judge of the exactitude of the observations made by Rogers. Navigators have done well not to trust to them.

After passing this archipelago the two vessels steered due south, and penetrated as far as south lat. 60° 58'. Here, there was no night, the cold was intense, and the sea so rough that the Duchess sustained a few injuries. The chief officers of the two vessels assembled in council, agreed that it would be better not to attempt to go further south, and the course was changed for the west. On the 15th January, 1709, Cape Horn is said to have been doubled, and the southern ocean entered.

Up to this date the position of the island of Juan Fernandez, was differently given on nearly all maps, and Wood Rogers, who intended to harbour there, take in water, and get a little fresh meat, came upon it almost unawares.

On the 1st February, he embarked in a little boat to try and find an anchorage. Whilst his people were awaiting his return, a large fire was noticed on shore. Had some Spanish or French vessels cast anchor here? Would it be necessary to fight for the water and food required? Every preparation was made during the night, but in the morning no ship was in sight. Conjectures were already being hazarded as to whether the enemy had retired, when the end was put to all surmises by the return of the boat, bringing in it a man clad in goatskins, whose personal appearance was yet more savage than his garments.

It was a Scotch mariner, Alexander Selkirk by name, who in consequence of a quarrel with the captain of his ship, had been left on this desert island four years and a half before. The fire which had attracted notice had been lighted by him.

During his stay on the island of Juan Fernandez, Selkirk had seen many vessels pass, but only two, both Spanish, had cast anchor. Discovered by the sailors, Selkirk had been fired upon, and only escaped death by the agility with which he managed to climb into a tree and hide.

He told how he had been put ashore with his clothes, his bed, a pound of powder, some bullets, a little tobacco, a hatchet, a knife, a kettle, a Bible, with a few other devotional books, his nautical instruments and books.

Poor Selkirk provided for his wants as best he could, but during the first few months he had great difficulty in conquering the sadness and mastering the horror consequent upon his terrible loneliness. He built two huts of willow, which he covered with a sort of rush, and lined with the skins of the goats he killed to satisfy his hunger, so long as his ammunition lasted. When it was likely to fail, he managed to strike a light by rubbing two pieces of pimento wood together. When he had quite exhausted his ammunition, he caught the goats as they ran, his agility had become so great by dint of constant exercise, that he scoured the woods, rocks, and hills, with a perfectly incredible speed. We had sufficient proof of his skill, when he went hunting with us. He outran and exhausted our best hunters, and an excellent dog which we had on board; he easily caught the goats, and brought them to us on his back. He himself related to us, that one day he chased his prey so eagerly to the edge of a precipice, which was concealed by bushes, that they rolled over and over together, until they reached the bottom. He lost consciousness through that fall, and upon discovering that the goat lay under him quite dead, after remaining where he was for twenty-four hours, he with the utmost difficulty succeeded in crawling to his cabin, which was about a mile distant; and he was unable to walk again for six days.

Selkirk falling over the precipice with his prey
Selkirk falling over the precipice with his prey.

This deserted wretch managed to season his food with the turnips sown by the crew of a ship, with cabbages, capsicums, and all-spice. When his clothes and shoes were worn out, a process which occupied but a short time, he ingeniously constructed new ones of goatskin, sewing them together with a nail, which served him as a needle. When his knife was useless, he constructed a new one from the cask-hoops he found on the shore. He had so far lost the use of speech, that he could only make himself understood by an effort. Rogers took him on board, and appointed him boatswain's mate.

Selkirk was not the first sailor abandoned upon the island of Juan Fernandez. It may be remembered that Dampier had already rescued an unfortunate Mosquito man, who was abandoned from 1681 to 1684. Sharp and other buccaneers have related that the sole survivor of a crew of a vessel wrecked on this coast, lived there for five years, until he was rescued by another ship. Saintine, in his recent novel, "Alone," has detailed Selkirk's adventures.

Upon the 14th of February, the Duke and Duchess left Juan Fernandez, and commenced their operations against the Spaniards. Rogers seized Guayaquil, for which he obtained a large ransom, and captured several vessels, which, however, provided him with more prisoners than money.

This part of his voyage concerns us but little, and a few particulars only are interesting, as, for instance, his mention of a monkey in the Gorgus Island, who was so lazy, that he was nicknamed the Sluggard, and of the inhabitants of Tecamez, who repulsed the new-comers with poisoned arrows, and guns. He also speaks of the Galapagos Island, situated two degrees of northern latitude. According to Rogers, this cluster of islands was numerous, but out of them all one only provided fresh water. Turtle-doves existed there in great quantities, and tortoises, and sea-turtles, of an extraordinary size abounded, thence the name given by the Spaniards to this group.

Sea-dogs also were common, one of them had the temerity to attack Rogers. "I was walking along the shore," he says, "when it left the water, his jaws gaping, as quickly and ferociously as a dog escaping from his chain. Three times he attacked me, I plunged my pike into his breast, and each time I inflicted such a wound that he fled howling horribly. Finally, turning towards me, he stopped to growl and show his fangs. Scarcely twenty-four hours earlier, one of my crew had narrowly escaped being devoured by a monster of the same family."

I plunged my pike into his breast
"I plunged my pike into his breast."

In December, Rogers repaired to Puerto Seguro, upon the Californian coast, with a Manilla galleon, which he had seized. Many of his men penetrated to the interior; he found large forest trees, but not the slightest appearance of culture, although smoke indicated the existence of inhabitants.

The inhabitants, according to Albey Presort's "History of Voyages," were straight built and powerful, blacker than any Indian tribe hitherto met with in the Pacific Ocean Seas. They had long black hair plaited, which reached below the waist. All the men went about naked, but the women wore a garment, either composed of leaves or of stuff made from them, and sometimes the skins of beasts and birds. Occasionally they wore necklaces and bracelets made of bits of wood or shells. Others adorned their necks with small red berries and pearls. Evidently they did not know how to pierce holes in them, for they notched them and joined them by a thread. They valued these ornaments so highly, that they refused to change them for English necklaces of glass. Their chief anxiety was to obtain knives and useful implements.

The Duke and Duchess left Porto Segura on the 12th January, 1710, and reached the island of Guaham, of the Mariannes, in the course of two months. Here they revictualled, and passing by the Straits of Boutan and Saleyer, reached Batavia. After a necessary delay at the latter place, and at the Cape of Good Hope, Rogers cast anchor in the Downs upon the 1st of October.

In spite of Rogers' reticence with regard to the immense riches he brought with him, a good idea of their extent may be gathered from the account of ingots, vessels of silver and gold, and pearls, with which he delighted the shipowners.

We now come to our account of Admiral Anson's voyage, which almost belongs to the category of naval warfare, but with it we may close the list of piratical expeditions, which dishonoured the victors without ruining the vanquished. And if he brought no new acquisition to geography, his account teams with judicious observations, and interesting remarks about a country then little known.

The merit of them, however, if we are to believe Nichols' Literary anecdotes, rests rather with Benjamin Robins, than, as the title would appear to indicate, with the chaplain of the expedition, Richard Walter.

George Anson was born in Staffordshire in 1697. A sailor from his childhood, he early brought himself into notice.

He was already well known as a clever and fortunate captain, when in 1739 he was offered the command of a squadron. It consisted of the Centurion, 60 guns, theGloucester and Severe, each 50 guns, the Pearl, 40 guns, the Wager, 28 guns. To it were attached also the sloop Trial, and two transports carrying food and ammunition. In addition to the crew of 1460, a reinforcement of 470 marines was added to the fleet.

Leaving England on the 18th September, 1740, the expedition proceeded by way of Madeira, past the island of St. Catharine, along the Brazilian coast, by St. Julian Harbour, and finally crossed the Strait of Lemaire.

"Terrible," said the narrative, "as the aspect of Tierra del Fuego may be, that of Staten Island is more horrible still. It consists of a series of inaccessible rocks, crowned with sharp points. Prodigiously high, they are covered with eternal snow, and edged with precipices. In short, it is impossible to conceive anything more deserted, or more wild than this region."

Scarcely had the last vessels of the squadron filed through the strait, than a series of heavy gales, squalls, and storms, caused the oldest sailors to vow that all they had hitherto known of tempests were nothing in comparison.

This fearful experience lasted seven weeks without intermission. It is needless to state that the vessels sustained great damage, that many men were swept away by the waves, numbers destroyed by illnesses occasioned by the exposure to constant damp, and want of sufficient nourishment.

Two of the vessels, the Severe and the Pearl, were engulfed, and four others were lost sight of. Anson was unable to reach Valdivia, the rendezvous he had selected in case of separation; carried far to the north, he could only arrest his course at Juan Fernandez, which he reached upon the 9th of June.

The Centurion had the greatest need of rest. She had lost eighty of her crew, her supply of water had failed, and the sailors were so weakened by scurvy, that ten only of the remaining number were available for the watch. The other vessels, in an equally bad plight, were not long in regaining her.

The first care was to restore the exhausted crews, and to repair the worst injuries sustained by the vessels. Anson sent the sick on shore and installed them in a sheltered hospital in the open air, then putting himself at the head of the most enterprising sailors, he scoured the entire island, and thoroughly examined its roads and shores. The best anchorage, according to his report, was in Cumberland Bay. The south-eastern portion of Juan Fernandez, a little island scarcely five leagues by two in extent, is dry, rocky, treeless; the ground lies low, and is level in comparison with the northern portion. It produces water-cresses, purslain, sorrels, turnips, and Sicilian radishes in abundance, as well as oats and clover. Anson sowed carrots and lettuces, and planted plums, apricots, and peaches. He soon discovered that the number of goats, left by the buccaneers, and which had multiplied marvellously, had since decreased.

The Spaniards, eager to deprive their enemies of this valuable resource, had let loose a quantity of famished dogs upon the island, who chased the goats, and devoured so many of them, that, at the time of Anson's visit, scarcely two hundred remained. The Commodore, for so Anson is always called in the narrative of this voyage, reconnoitered the Island of Mas a Fuero, which is only twenty-five leagues west of Juan Fernandez. Smaller than the latter, it is more wooded, better watered, and possessed more goats.

At the beginning of December, the crews were sufficiently recovered for Anson to put into execution his projected attack upon the Spaniards. He commenced by seizing several ships laden with precious merchandise and ingots, and then set fire to the city of Paita. Upon this occasion the Spaniards estimated their loss at one and a half million piastres.

Anson then proceeded to Quibo Bay, near Panama, to lie in wait for the galleon which, every year, transported the treasures of the Philippine Islands to Acapulco. There, although the English met with no inhabitants in the miserable huts, they found heaps of shells and beautiful mother of pearl left there during the summer months by the fishermen of Panama. In mentioning the resources of this place, we must not omit the immense turtles, which usually weighed two hundred pounds, and which were caught in a singular manner. When a shoal of them were seen floating asleep upon the surface of the ocean, a good swimmer would plunge in a few fathoms deep, and rising, seize the turtle towards the tail, and endeavour to force it down. Upon awakening, the creature's struggles to free itself suffice to support both the man and his prey, until the arrival of a boat to receive them both.

After a fruitless cruise, Anson determined to burn three of the Spanish vessels which he had seized and equipped. Distributing the crews and cargo upon the Centurionand the Gloucester, the only two vessels remaining to him, he decided upon the 6th of May, 1742, to make for China, where he hoped to find reinforcements and supplies.

But this voyage, which he expected to accomplish in sixty days, took him fully four months. After a violent gale, the Gloucester, having all but foundered, and her crew being too reduced to work her, was burnt. Her cargo of silver, and her supplies were trans-shipped to the Centurion, which alone remained of all that magnificent fleet which two years earlier had set sail from England!

Thrown out of his course, far to the north, Anson discovered on the 26th of August, the Isles of Atanacan and Serigan, and the following day those of Saypan, Tinian, and Agnigan, which form a part of the Marianne Archipelago.

A Spaniard, a sergeant, whom he captured in a small bark in these seas, told him that the island of Tinian was inhabited, and abounded with cattle, fowls, and excellent fruits, such as oranges, lemons, limes, bread fruit, &c. Nowhere could the Centurion have found a more welcome port for her exhausted crew, now numbering only seventy-one men, worn out by privation and illness, the only survivors of the 2000 sailors who had manned the fleet at its departure.

"The soil of this island," says the narrative, "is dry and somewhat sandy, which makes the verdure of the meadows and woods more delicate and more uniform than is usually the case in tropical climates.

"The ground rises gently from the English encampment to the centre of the isle, but before its greatest height is reached, one meets with sloping glade, covered with fine clover, and many brilliant flowers, and bordered by beautiful fruit-trees.

"The animals, who, for the greater part of the year, are the only lords of this beautiful retreat, add to its romantic charm, and contribute not a little to its marvellous appearance. Thousands of cattle may be seen grazing together in a vast meadow, and the sight is the more singular as the animals are all of a milk white colour, with the exception of their ears, which are generally black. Although it is a desert-island, the sight and sound of such a number of domestic animals, rushing in crowds through the woods, suggest the idea of farmhouses and villages."

Truly an enchanting description! But has not the author rather drawn upon his imagination for the charming details of his description?

After so long a voyage, after so many storms, it is little to be wondered at, if the verdant woods, the exuberant vegetation, and the abundance of animal life, profoundly impressed the minds of Anson's companions. Well! we shall soon learn whether his successors at Tinian found it as wonderful as he did.

Meanwhile Anson was not altogether free from anxiety. It was true that his ships were repaired, but many of his men remained on land to recover their strength, and but a small number of able-bodied seamen remained on board with him. The roadstead being lined with coral, great precautions were necessary to save the cables from being cut, but in spite of them, at new moon, a sudden tempest arose and broke the ship loose. The anchors held well, but the hawsers gave way, and the Centurionwas carried out to sea. The thunder growled ceaselessly, and the rain fell with such violence, that the signals of distress which were given by the crew were not even heard. Anson, most of his officers, and a large part of the crew, numbering one hundred and thirteen persons, remained on land and found themselves deprived of the only means they possessed of leaving Tinian. Their despair was great, their consternation inexpressible. But Anson, with his energy and endless resources, soon roused his companions from their despair! One vessel, that which they had captured from the Spaniards, still remained to them, and it occurred to them to lengthen it, until it could contain them all with the necessary provisions for a voyage to China. However, after nineteen days, the Centurion returned, and the English, embarking in her upon the 21st of October, were not long in reaching Macao, putting into a friendly and civilized port for the first time since their departure from England, two years before.

"Macao," says Anson, "formerly rich, well populated, and capable of self-defence against the Chinese Government, is greatly shorn of its ancient splendour! Although still inhabited by the Portuguese and ruled by a Governor, nominated by the King of Portugal, it is at the mercy of the Chinese, who can starve the inhabitants, or take possession of it, for which reasons the Portuguese Governor is very careful not to offend them."

Anson was forced to write an imperious letter to the Chinese Governor, before he could obtain permission to buy, even at high prices, the provisions and stores he required. He then publicly announced his intention of leaving for Batavia and set sail on the 19th of April, 1743. But, instead of steering for the Dutch possession, he directed his course towards the Philippine Islands, where, for several days, he awaited the arrival of the galleon returning from Acapulco, laden with the proceeds of the sale of her rich cargo. These vessels usually carried forty-four guns, and were manned by a crew of over 500 men. Anson had only 200 sailors, of whom thirty were but lads, but this disproportion did not deter him, for he had the expectation of rich booty, and the cupidity of his men was sufficient guarantee of their courage.

"Why," asked Anson one day of his steward, "why do you no longer give us mutton for dinner? Have we eaten all the sheep we bought in China?"

"Pray excuse me, Commodore," replied the steward, "but I am reserving the only two which remain for the Captain of the galleon."

No one, not even the steward, doubted of success! Anson well understood how to secure it, and the efficiency of his men compensated for their reduced numbers. The struggle was hot, the straw mats which filled the rigging of the galleon took fire and the flames rose as high as the mizen mast. The Spaniards found the double enemies too much! After a sharp contest of two hours, during which sixty-seven of their men were killed and eighty-four wounded, they surrendered.

Fight between the Centurion and a Spanish galleon
Fight between the Centurion and a Spanish galleon.
(Fac-simile of early engraving.)

It was a rich prize, 1,313,842 "pieces of eight," and 35,682 ounces of ingot silver, with other merchandise of little value in comparison with the money. This booty, added to others, amounted to nearly 400,000l, without taking into account the vessels, goods, &c., of the Spaniards which the English squadron had burnt or destroyed, and which could not be reckoned at less than 600,000.

Anson convoyed his prize to the Canton River, where he sold it much below its value, for 6000 piastres. He left on the 10th of December, and reached Spithead on the 15th of June, 1744, after an absence of three years and nine months. He made a triumphal entry into London. The half-million of money, which was the result of his numerous prizes, was conveyed through the city in thirty-two chariots, to the sound of trumpets and beating of drums and amidst the shouts of the people.

The money was divided between himself, his officers, and men; the king himself could not claim a share.

Anson was created rear-admiral shortly after his return, and received important commands.

In 1747, he captured the Marquis of La Jonquière Taffanel, after an heroic struggle. For this exploit, he was made First Lord of the Admiralty and Admiral.

In 1758, he covered the attempted descent of the English near St. Malo, and died in London a short time after his return.