De Bougainville

A settlement having been commenced by the French on Falkland's Islands, in the month of February, 1764, the Spaniards demanded them as an appendage to the continent of South America and France having allowed the propriety of the demand, Mons. de Bougainville was ordered to yield possession of the islands to the Spaniards.

On the 5th of December he sailed from the harbor of Brest, in the frigate La Boudeuse, having on board the Prince of Nassau Seighen, three gentlemen who went as volunteers, eleven officers in commission, and warrant-officers, seamen, soldiers, servants and boys to the number of two hundred. On the evening of the 29th of January, they had sight of Rio-de-la-Plata, and on the morning of the 31st came to anchor in the Bay of Montevideo, where the two Spanish ships, which were to take possession of Falkland Islands, had been at anchor for some weeks. They sailed with these ships on the 28th of February, 1767; and on the 1st of April Bougainville, in the name of the French king, surrendered the islands to Don Puente, the Spanish governor, who received them for his most Catholic majesty, with the ceremony of hoisting the Spanish colors, and the firing of guns from the ships and on shore.

Falkland Islands lie in about 52 degrees south latitude, and 60 degrees west longitude. From the entrance of the Straits of Magellan, and from the coast of Patagonia, their distance is about 250 miles. The harbors are large, and well defended by small islands most happily disposed and even the smallest vessels may ride in safety in the creeks, while fresh water is easily to be obtained. After waiting at these islands till the 2d of June, 1767, in expectation of the Etoile store-ship from Europe, Bougainville steered for Rio Janeiro, at which place he had appointed the Etoile to join him. They had fine weather from the 2d to the 20th of June, on which day they had sight of the mountains on the main land of Brazil, and entered Rio Janeiro the day following. At the same time a canoe was despatched from the captain of the Etoile, with information of the safe arrival of that vessel, which now lay in the port and on the 14th of July, both vessels sailed, and on the 31st came to anchor in the Bay of Montevideo. As it was necessary that Bougainville should remain in his present station till the equinox was passed, his first care was to build a hospital for the sick, and to take lodgings at Montevideo.

On the 14th of November, 1767, they sailed from Montevideo, with a fine gale of wind at north. On the 16th, and the five following days, the sea ran high, and the wind was contrary. The 2d of December they had sight of Cape Virgins, with a fair wind. They now saw a number of albatrosses and petrels, the last of which are said to be a sign of bad weather whenever they are seen. They made their best efforts to reach the entrance of the Straits of Magellan and Bougainville was seven weeks and three days in passing through it, the whole length of which, from Cape Virgin Mary to Cape Pillar, he computes at about 340 miles.

On the 22d of March, land was discovered, and when they had coasted one of the islands for about two miles, they had sight of three men, who advanced hastily towards the shore. They at first imagined that these were part of the crew of some European ship which had been wrecked on the coast, but discovered their conjecture ill-founded, for the people retired to the woods, from which, in a short time, issued a number of them, supposed to be near twenty, with long staves in their hands, which they held up with an air of defiance. This done, they retreated to the woods. These islanders were of a copper complexion and very tall.

During the night between the 22d and 23d they had much rain, accompanied with violent thunder, while the wind blew almost a tempest. At day-break land was discovered, which was called Harp Island, and in the evening a cluster of islands, eleven of which were seen, received the name of the Dangerous Archipelago. A steep mountain, which appeared to be encompassed by the sea, was discovered on the 2d of April, and received the name of Boudoir, or Boudeuse Peak, from Bougainville's ship. Bearing to the northward of this peak they had sight of land, which extended farther than the eye could reach.

As Bougainville coasted the island, he was charmed with the appearance of a noble cascade, which, falling immediately from the summit of a mountain into the sea, produced a most elegant effect. On the shores very near to the fall of this cascade, was a little town, and the coast appeared to be free from breakers. It was the wish of our adventurers to have cast their anchor within view of such an enchanting prospect; but, after repeated soundings, they found that the bottom consisted only of rocks, and they were, therefore, under a necessity of seeking another anchoring place, where the ships were safely moored.

They remained at Otaheite until the 16th of April, when they departed, and in the beginning of May three islands were discovered. On the following day another island was seen to the westward of the ship's course. To the islands the commodore gave the general name of the Archipelago of the Navigators. On the morning of the 11th, another island was discovered, which received the name of the Forlorn Hope.

The ships now steered a westerly course, and early on the morning of the 22d two islands were discovered, one of which received the name Aurora, from the early hour on which it was first seen, and the other that of Whitsuntide Isle, from the day which gave birth to it being so named. In the afternoon, mountainous lands, at thirty miles distance, were seen, appearing, as it were, over and beyond the Island of Aurora. On the 23d it was discovered that this was a separate island, the appearance being lofty, its descent steep, and the whole clothed with trees. From this time to the 27th, they passed many islands, on one of which they observed a fine plantation of trees, between which there were regular walks, resembling those of an European garden. They now quitted this great cluster of islands, which received the general name of Archipelago of the great Cyclades, which, it is conjectured, occupies no less than three degrees of latitude, and five of longitude.

From the 14th to the 18th of June they discovered a number of islands. On July the 2d a cape was discovered, which was called Cape l'Averdi, on which were mountains of an astonishing height. Two more islands were seen on the 6th, and, as the wood and water were expended, and disease reigning aboard, the commodore resolved to land here, and on the following afternoon the ships came to anchor.

In the afternoon of the 24th a favorable breeze enabled the ships to get out to sea. On the 31st a number of Indian boats attacked the Etoile with a volley of stones and arrows; but a single discharge of the musketry got rid of these troublesome companions. On the 4th of August two islands were seen. On the 5th a third island was seen, and then the northern point of New Britain which lies only forty-one minutes south of the land. On the 7th a fiat island was seen, covered with trees, abounding with cocoa-nuts. Fishing-boats in multitudes surrounding the island; but the fisherman took no notice of the ships. This received the name of the Island of Anchorets. From this time till the end of the month innumerable small islands were observed every day.

Early in the morning of the 31st our voyagers had sight of the island of Ceram, which runs in a parallel east and west, abounds in lofty mountains, and is partly cleared, and partly in its original state. At midnight a number of fires attracted their attention to the island of Boero, where there is a Dutch factory, at the entrance of the Gulf of Cagei, which the French had sight of at day-break. Their joy on this occasion is not to be expressed, for at this time not half of the seamen were able to perform any duty, and the scurvy had raged so violently, that no man on board was perfectly clear of it.

They sailed on the 7th September and on the 13th the ships were surrounded with Indian boats, bringing parroquets, cockatoos, fowls, eggs, and bananas, which the natives sold for Dutch money, or exchanged for knives. By day-light on the 19th they were within about a league of the Coast, of Celibes, which in this part is described as one of the finest countries in the world. On the morning of the 26th the coast of Java appeared with the rising sun. Having come to an anchor for the night, the ships sailed early in the morning of the 27th and on the next day came to anchor in the port of Batavia.

The ships sailed thence on the 16th of October, 1768, and cleared the straits of Sunda on the 19th in the afternoon. By this time the crew were all perfectly recovered of the scurvy, but a few remained ill of the bloody flux. On the 20th the ships were in sight of the Isle of France, and, on the 8th of November, the Boudeuse anchored in the port of that island; the Etoile, which had been unavoidably left behind, anchoring in the same port on the following day.

They sailed from this the 12th of December, 1768, leaving the Etoile behind them to undergo some necessary repairs. Without encountering any singular accident they had sight of the Cape of Good Hope on the 18th of January, and came to anchor in Table Bay on the following morning. Bougainville quitted this on the 17th, anchored off St. Helena on the 4th of February, and on the 25th, joined the Swallow, commanded by Captain Cartert. Nothing material happened from this time till they had sight of the Isle of Ushant, where a violent squall of wind had nearly blasted the hopes of the voyage. On the 15th the commander bore away for St. Ma loes, which he entered on the following day, after an absence of two years and four months from his native country; during all which time he had buried only seven of his crew, a circumstance that will be deemed truly astonishing, when we reflect on the variety of dangers they had encountered and the amazing changes of climate they had experienced.