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ingly, two frigates, La Recherche and L’Espérance, were ordered to be equipped at Brest, and vice admiral Dentrecasteaux, from his distinguished talents, his courage, his prudence, and long experience, was appointed to the command of an expedition which, to use the words of the unfortunate Louis, “présentoit une occasion de perfectionner la description du globe, et d’accroitre les connoissances humaines.” Little ground of hope, it is true, could exist as to the safety of either of the ships after such a lapse of time; but the case was far different with regard to that of the people. The multitude of unfrequented islands, scattered over the wide surface of the Southern and Pacifick oceans, the steady breezes, the mild weather and smooth water that generally prevail in those seas, were circumstances which rendered the expectation not unreasonable, that the whole or a part of the officers and seamen might have survived the wreck of the ships, and escaed in their boats to some of those islands. Numerous instances are on record of more extraordinary Treservations from shipwreck; and in distressing cases of this nature, hope should never be abandoned till all the chances are demonstratively against it. Of this description we consider the loss of the Blenheim and Java to be a case in point. The tremendous hurricane, the deep-rolling sea, the situation of those ships when last seen, and above all, their ill condition, forbid us to cherish a shadow of a hope that any part of their crews escaped a watery grave. Yet, even in this case, it was highly meritorious in the commander in chief of the India station, to send the son of sir Thomas Troubridge, like another Telemachus, to explore the coasts and creeks of Madagascar and the neighbouring islands, in search of a lost father. It would afford us great pleasure to be able to include the court of
directors of the East India company in the praise that is due to the national assembly of France and to sir Edward Pellew. We regret, exceedingly, that they have not allowed us to put on record their laudable anxiety to relieve, by every exertion in their power, the most painful and distressing situation in which the friends of at least a thousand individuals are placed, by the apprehended loss of no fewer than eight ships in one season; a loss more melancholy and disastrous, than the annals of the company have yet recorded. From all the inquiries, however, which we have been able to make, we do not find that one single step has been taken to ascertain the fate of the unfortunate sufferers. Some of the directors, we are told, hope and believe that three or four of the latter missing ships may yet “turn up.” To hope and believe is a cheap and comfortable doctrine for the professors of it; but it affords little consolation to others of less Sanguine temperament, who are suffer. ing the excruciating torment of suspense. But the doctrine of resignation is also brought forward to stifle complaint. If publick calamity and private misfortune are to be ascribed solely to the fixt and uner
ring decrees of Providence, then, in
merous inlets in its neighbourhood. That the whole of the companies of those and of the other four ships, so well furnished as they were with boats, should have perished, is scarcely within the calculation of probabilities, especially when it is considered how many more unexpected and well authenticated preservations from shipwreck, by means of boats, are on record. The extraordinary, escape of captain Bligh, after sailing more than 3000 miles in an open boat, must be in the recollection of every one. Captain Inglefield left in the pinnace of the Centaur, when that ship sunk in the very middle of the Atlantick, at a time when the sea was running mountains high, reached in safety, the island of Fayal; and when the Lady Hobart packet foundered by striking against an island of ice, the cutter and jolly boat, after tossing on a dreadful sea for seven days, landed their crews in safety in Conception Bay. Numberless other instances might be adduced, sufficient, one would suppose, to encourage hope and instigate research. When the Grosvenor Indiaman was cast away on the coast of Africa, and the passengers and crew escaped on shore, there is no doubt that, had timely aid been sent, the whole of them might have been restored to their friends, instead of falling a sacrifice to the revenge, whether justly or unjustly provoked, of the native Kaffers. The expedition of the Dutch boors failed only in its object because it was too late; but it effected a curious discovery of a tribe of people, called Hamboonas, consisting of about 400 persons, all sprung from three white women, still liv
ing, who were evidently Europeans,
and who most probably had been preserved from shipwreck when in a state of infancy. Had these three old women died, previously to the discovery of this tribe, how would its singular appearance, so different from that of all the neighbouring
people, have puzzled future travellers . The mention of this fact brings to our recollection a recent, and extraordinary discovery, which affords an awful and instructive lesson, by showing how seldom criminals escape divine vengeance, however successful they may have been in flying from the punishment due to the offended laws of their country. It may also, in its consequences, be highly important to the natives of the numerous islands scattered over the Pacifick ocean. The following relation was transmitted officially to the admiralty from Rio de Janeiro by sir Sidney Smith.
“Captain Folger, of the American ship Topaz of Boston, relates that, upon landing on Pitcairn's island [Incarnation of Quiros] in lat. 25°2' S. long. 130° 0' W. he found there an Englishman of the name of Alexander Smith, the only person remaining of nine that escaped in his majesty’s late ship Bounty, captain W. Bligh. Smith relates, that after putting captain Bligh in the boat, Christian, the leader of the mutiny, took command of the ship and went to Otaheité, where great part of the crew left her, except Christian, Smith, and seven others, who each took wives, and six Otaheitean men servants, and shortly after arrived at the said island, where they ran the ship on shore, and broke her up. This event took place in the year 1790.
“About four years after their arrival (a great jealousy existing) the Otaheiteans secretly revolted and killed every Englishman except himself, whom they severely wounded in the neck with a pistol ball. The same night the widows of the deceased Englishmen arose and put to death the whole of the Otaheiteans, leaving Smith the only man alive upon the island, with eight or nine women and several small children. On his recovery he applied himself to tilling the ground, so that it now produces plenty of yams, cocoanuts, bananas and plantains; hogs and poultry in abundance. There are now some grown up men and women, children
of the mutineers, on the island, the whole
population amounting to about thirty five, who acknowledge Smith as father and commander of them all. They all speak English, and have been educated by him (captain Folger represents) in a religious and moral way.
“The second mate of the Topaz asserts that Christian, the ringleader, became insane shortly after their arrival on the island, and threw himself off the rocks into the sea. Another died of a fever before the massacre of the remaining six took place. The island is badly supplied with water, sufficient only for the present inhabitants, and no anchorage.
“Smith gave to captain Folger a cronometer made by Kendall, which was taken from him by the governour of Juan Fernandez.”
Extracted from the log book 29th Sept. 1808.
If this interesting relation rested solely on the faith that is due to Americans, with whom, we say it with regret, truth is not always considered as a moral obligation, we should hesitate in giving it this publicity. The narrative, however, states two facts on which the credibility of the story must stand or fall; the name of the mutineer and the maker of the timepiece. We have taken the trouble to ascertain the truth of both of these facts. Alexander Smith appears on the books of the Bounty as follows: “Entered 7th Sept. 1787 Ab. Born in London. Aged 20. Run 28th April 1789. One of the mutineers:” and it appears also that the Bounty was actually supplied with a timepiece made by Kendall.
We have been led into these prefatory observations with a view, not only of cherishing hope in cases not absolutely desperate, but of stimulating to exertion in the speedy application of the means to ascertain, at any rate, the real fate of those who are supposed to have suffered shipwreck. We shall now proceed on our long voyage of discovery with M. Dentrecasteaux, premising, however, a few words with respect to the history of the work under our examination. Its editor, M. Rossel, embarked on the expedition as lieutenant de Vaisseau; but on the death of vice admiral Dentrecasteaux and of the two captains Huon and D’Auribeau, the latter of which happened just as
the voyage had terminated, he took the command as senior officer. On the arrival of the frigates at Sourabaya, a Dutch settlement on the eastern coast of Java, they had the mortification of learning the unfortunate situation of their country, the sanguinary proceedings of the revolutionists, the massacre of the king, and the war with England, in which the Dutch were likewise involved. In consequence of this intelligence the voyage was here declared to be at an end; the frigates were dismantled, and the officers and crew separated themselves into two parties, one espousing the cause of the royalists and the other that of the republicans. As senior officer, though attached to the royal party, M. Rossel was permitted to take charge of all the journals, charts and ob. servations; and the collections of natural history were intrusted to the care of those gentlemen who had made them. The several officers and civilians availed themselves of the opportunity of getting to France by a fleet of Dutch Indiamen then on the eve of sailing for Europe; but before they had doubled the Cape of Good Hope, the Dutch had changed sides and were at war with England. Their East India ships were of course eagerly looked after by our cruising squadrons, and that which had on board the naturalists, with their whole collection, was captured by his majesty's ship the Sceptre, near St. Helena. M. Rossel, with his papers, charts, and journals, shared the same fate, being taken by an English frigate on the north coast of Scotland. The papers were deposited in the admiralty; and M. Rossel, thus circumstanced, acceptcd the offer made to him by lord Spencer of employment in the hydrographical department of that of fice, where he continued in arranging the papers, copying the journals, and finishing the charts, until the passing of the decree which allowed the return of emigrants to France, when he availed himself of the opportunity, and was allowed to carry with him complete copies of all the papers relating to the voyage. Having now transferred his loyalty to a new sovereign, he soon became a true and faithful subject of the great Napoleon, to whom, of course, he dedicates his ponderous work, assuring him, “that hec an only consider his labours of any use, in so far as they shall obtain the approbation of his majesty.” While employed in the British admiralty, M. Rossel is said to have conducted himself with great propriety, and was considered as a man of some talent. It may be so; but he has led us a most wearisome route over the surface of no less than fifteen hundred pages of broad quarto, two thirds of which, however, we shall spare our readers the trouble and fatigue of wading through. In fact, that part which describes the proceedings of the voyage consists only of 590 pages of the first volume, and to this part only we request the attention of our readers for the present. Vice admiral Dentrecasteaux sailed from Brest with the two frigates La Recherche and L’Espérance on the 29th September 1791, and on the 13th of the following month anchored in the bay of Santa Cruz in the island of Teneriffe. While at this place, they discovered a remarkable difference in the quantity of the declination of the magnetick needle from the true pole of the earth, or, as we call it, the variation of the compass, when observed on shore, and when taken on board the ships. At their observatory on the former it was found to be N. 21° 33' W. on the mole it was N. 23° 43' W. and on board La Recherche N. 18° 7' W. Nearly the same difference had been remarked here by La Pérouse, and ascribed by him to the ferruginous quality of the soil of Teneriffe, a remark which the present navigators verified, by com
#." when the two results were ound to be nearly the same. The soil equally affected the inclination, or dip, of the needle. In the track of calms, squalls, and frequent heavy rains, that generally prevail in the neighbourhood of the line, the vice admiral caused these precautions to be observed, which were so successfully put in practice by captain Cook, for preventing disease among the seamen. He attributes the phosphorescent appear. ance of the sea to the twofold operation of animalculae in the water, and of a highly electrified atmosphere, by which the luminousness of these and other objects become greatly increased: and the ground of this opinion he states to be, his constant observation that the light was most yivid when the air was most strongly charged with the electrick fluid, that is to say, in dense, stormy weather when the mercury in the barometer descends very low. “On those occasions,” he observes, “the larger kinds of fish, as they dart along, become luminous.”[p. o In the justness of this observation he was afterwards fully confirmed by the appear
ance of the sea in a storm, on the
“During the whole of this night the sea was continually phosphorescent. Voluminous masses of water appeared to be rolling like globes of fire, and during the reiterated and violent squalls of wind and hail, a blaze of fire raged on the ocean with the greatest fury. At such times the points of the conducting rods were distinctly perceived to throw out plumes of electrick fire. The mercury in the barometer had then descended to 27 inches 6 lines, for the first time it had been so low. It was also the first time in the course of the voyage, that the meteor, usually called feu Saint-Elme, had been observed playing at the mast head, and on that account I thought it worthy of remarking, that its appearance was simultaneous with the phenomenon of an illuminated sea.” p. 47.
On the 17th January, 1792, the expedition arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, where the vice admiral received a despatch that had been transmitted to him from the Isle of France, by M. de Saint Felix, the commander of the French squadron in the East Indies. In this despatch were contained the depositions of two masters of French merchant vessels, who had been at Batavia when captain Hunter and the officers of the English frigate Sirius, wrecked on Norfolk Island, arrived there. The depositions stated that those English officers asserted that, in their passage from Botany Bay to Batavia on board a Dutch vessel, they had seen, near the Admiralty Islands, some canoes which gave the most unequivocal marks, that the inhabitants of those islands had recently communicated with Europeans; some of them wearing pieces of the uniform, and others the swordbelts, of the French marine. It was also stated that captain Hunter, who had seen La Pérouse at Botany Bay, entertained no doubt that these articles were procured from the wreck of his two frigates. The depositions, however, were at variance with each other; one of them having stated the uniforms, and the other mentioned only the sword belts; one said that the people made signs as if they wished for razors to shave themselves; the other, that they held up white flags as the signal for the ships to come near them. Other matters of an improbable nature were also stated. Besides, captain Hunter was still in Table Bay, when M. Dentrecasteaux entered it, and went away without making any communication on the subject. It was found, moreover, that he had positively denied to the governour and commander of the forces at the Cape, that he had made any such statement, and that
the depositions, as far as regarded himself and his officers, were totally false and groundless. Still, however, as M. de Saint Felix had laid so much stress upon them, as to despatch a frigate to the Cape for the sole purpose of communicating their contents, the vice admiral, in spite of his better judgment, and contrary to his instructions, determined to steer a direct course for the Admiralty Islands. This determination appears the more extraordinary, as La Pérouse, in his last despatch, on leaving Botany Bay, states distinctly,
“I shall proceed from hence to the Friendly Islands, and carry strictly into execution my instructions relative to the southern part of New Caledonia, the isl. and of Santa Cruz of Mendana, the south coast of the Arsacides of Surville, and the Louisiade ef Bougainville, and endeavour to discover whether this last land be connected with New Guinea, or separated from it.” [Instructions, p. 24.]
Here is not the least allusion to any intention of visiting the Admiralty Islands. If, therefore, we were much surprised that the commander of the expedition should so easily have been diverted from his instructions, by accounts so vague, contradictory, and absurd, avowedly resting on the testimony of a British officer, who had denied all knowledge of the matters stated, we were not less so, on finding him, after leaving Table Bay, cruising along the eastern coast of Africa, within six or eight leagues of the shore. This was an unfortunate course, whether he intended to make for the Admiralty Islands, by passing to the northward of New Holland, or to the southward of Van Diemen's land. We had conceived it to be ascertained long ago, that the sure way to reach any part of New Holland, or even the island of Java, was, in the first instance, to stretch to the southward of the Cape, as far as the parallels of 38° or 40° S. in order to catch the strong, westerly winds.