IN the year 1764, the Dolphin and Tamar, English ships-of-war, were fitted out for the purpose of prosecuting discoveries in the South Seas. Byron was commander-in-chief, and Captain Mouat commander under him.
On the 3d of July, the commodore hoisted his broad-pendant, and they sailed in prosecution of the voyage. On the 13th of September they came to an anchor in the road of Rio de Janeiro, on the coast of Brazil, when the commodore paid a visit to the governor, who received him in state. They weighed anchor on the 16th of October, steering for Cape Blanco, and on the 21st of November, entered the harbor of Port Desire, and the commodore in his boat, attended by two other boats, went to sound it. He landed, and they had a sight of four beasts, near thirteen hands high, and in shape like a deer, which they took to be granicoes.
On the 5th of December the ships got under sail, and on the 20th, ran close in-shore to Cape Virgin Mary, and came to an anchor. The commodore observed a number of men on horseback, riding to and fro, opposite the ship, and waving something white, which he took to be an invitation to land; and as he was anxious to know what people these were, he went in one boat with a party of men well armed; the first lieutenant, with a separate party, following in another. When they came near the shore, the whole appeared to amount to five hundred persons, drawn up on a stony point of land that ran far into the sea. Byron now advanced alone, but as he approached, the Indians retreated he therefore made signs that one of them should come forward, which was complied with. The one who advanced appeared to be chief, and was over six feet in height; round one of his eyes was a circle of black paint, and a white circle round the other the rest of his face was painted in streaks of various colors. He had the skin of a beast, with the hair inwards, thrown over his shoulders.
The commodore and the Indian having complimented each other, in language equally unintelligible to either, they walked together towards the main body of the Indians, few of whom were shorter than the height abovementioned, and the women were large in proportion.
On the 21st of December they began sailing up the Strait of Magellan, with a view to take in a stock of wood and water. On the 26th, came to anchor at Port Famine. In this place, they found drift-wood enough to have supplied a thousand vessels. The quantity of fish that was daily taken was equal to the supply of both the crews: and the commodore shot as many geese and ducks as furnished several tables besides his own. On the 4th of January 1765, they sailed in search of Falkland's Islands.
On the 12th they saw land, and on the 14th a flat island, covered with tufts of grass as large as bushes. Soon after this they entered another harbor, to which Byron gave the name of Port Egmont. This harbor is represented to be the finest in the world, and capacious enough to contain the whole navy of England, in full security; there is plenty of fresh water in every part of it, and geese, ducks, snipes, and other edible birds, abound in such numbers, that the sailors were tired with eating them. The commodore was once unexpectedly attacked by a sea-lion, and extricated himself from the impending danger with great difficulty; they had many battles with this animal, the killing of one of which was frequently an hour's work for six men; one of them almost tore to pieces the commodore's mastiff-dog, by a single bite. The commodore took possession of the harbor, and the adjacent islands, by the name of Falkland's Islands.
On Sunday, January the 27th, they left Port Egmont. Next day the commodore gave the name of Berkley's Sound to a deep inlet between the islands. On the 6th of February stood in for Port Desire, at the mouth of which they came to anchor, and had the pleasure of seeing the Florida, a store-ship, which they had expected from England. On the 20th, at Port Famine, received orders to sail for England.
Having narrowly escaped the dreadful effects of a storm on the 3d of March, at length the Dolphin was moored in a little bay opposite Cape Quod; and the Tamar about six miles to the eastward of it. On the 28th the Tamar narrowly escaped being dashed to pieces against the rocks, by the parting of the cables to her best bower-anchor. The Dolphin, therefore, stood out again into the bay, and sent her proper assistance, after which they both anchored for the night; a night the most dreadful they had known. The winds were so violent as perfectly to tear up the sea, and carry it higher than the heads of the masts: a dreadful sea rolled over them, and broke against the rocks, with a noise as loud as thunder. Happily they did not part their cables, or they must have been dashed in pieces against these rocks.
The ships came to anchor on the 4th of April, in a bay which had been discovered, proposing to take in wood and water. While they were here, several of the natives made a fire opposite the ship, on which signals were made for them to come on board; but as they would not, the commodore went on shore, and distributed some trifles which gave great pleasure. Four were at length prevailed on to go on board; and the commodore, with a view to their diversion, directed one of the midshipmen to play on the violin, while some of the seamen danced. The poor Indians were extravagantly delighted; and one of them to testify his gratitude, took his canoe, and fetching some red paint, rubbed it over the face of the musician; nor could the commodore, but with the utmost difficulty, escape the like compliment.