Page images
PDF
EPUB

intervene in the longitude of 120° W. of Greenwich, and from about 50° to 55° of north latitude. Slave Lake lies to the eastward of these mountains; and its height may be easily supposed, as it fends off rivers which are lost in the lakes on the south, and which fall into Hudson's Bay on the east, and into the North Sea in lat. 69° 14'. Thus every idea of a passage in any direction, except fo far to the north as to be impracticable, was destroyed, before we knew the result of the voyage of captain Vancouver. Intelligence has been obtained from him, which has clearly establithed many important facts; and those who perhaps might have fufpected that the source of the information from the Hudson's Bay company, so long and so ftudiously concealed, was in some degree polluted, will now learn to value it highly.

The expedition, which was commanded by the late captain George Vancouver, was projected before the events, which led to the armament against Spain in 1790, were known in this country; but, when those circumstances were known, the ships, at first destined for discovery only, were ordered also to take possession of the territory which was to be restored by the Spaniards, in consequence of the convention.

In the Introduction to these volumes, there is a concise account of the motives of the voyage, and of the equipment of the veffels. The instructions follow; and an advertisement is fubjoined by the editor, the brother of the late captain. Though greatly debilitated by his active services in the naval department, he still laboured, with great assiduity, to retrace his former steps, in the composition of these volumes ; and every part which relates to discovery is his own work. The small additions froin his journals, relate to his return from Valparaiso (on the coast of Chili) to England. His miscellaneous observations are either loft, or are in a state too imperfect for publication.

According to the plan usually pursued in our review of voyages and travels, we shall pass hastily over those regions which frequent examinations have sufficiently elucidated. In crossing the Atlantic, not many new or interesting observations can be expected to occur : the following remarks, however, deserve attention.

· Crossing the equator so far to the westward (25o. 15'. W. longitude) has been frequently objected to, as being liable to entangle thips with the coast of Brazil. I am, however, of a different opinion, and conceive many advantages are derived by thus crosting the line ; such as, pursuing a track destitute of those calms and heavy rains, which are ever attendant on a more eastwardly route. By every information I have been enabled to collect, it does not appear that much is to be gained in point of die

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

stance by crosting the equator in a more eastwardly longitude; since it seems that vessels which have pursued their foutherly course to cross the line under the 10th, 15th, or 20th meridian of west longitude, have, by the trade wind blowing there in a more foutherly direction, been driven equally as far west, to the 25th, 26th, and 27th degrees of west longitude before they have been enabled to gain the variable winds, without the benefit of a constant breeze and fair weather, which with the very little interruption between the 21st and 24th, was experienced during this pailäge.' Vol i.

P. II.

Our paffage through the atlantic ocean being thus accomplished, it becomes requisite, in compliance with the method proposed in the introduction for correcting the errors of navigation, to have some retrospect to this paffage, especially since passing the Cape de Verd islands.

From the island of St. Antonio, until we had crossed the latitude of cape St. Augustine, we were materially affected by corrents; and between the latitude of 6° north and the equator, strong riplings were conspicuous on the surface of the sea. Thefe currents, contrary to the general opinion, seem to poffefs no regularity, as we found ourselves, day after day, driven in directions very contrary to our expectations from the impulse we had experienced on the former day, and by no means attended with that periodical uniformity, pointed out by Mr. Nicholson in his lately revised and corrected Indian Directory, published in the year 1787. On the contrary, instead of the currents at this season of the year, agreeably to his hypothefis, setting to the northward, the most prevailing stream we experienced set to the south, and more in a south eastern than a south western direction. This very able mariner, still wedded to formerly adopted opinions, strongly recoinmends the variation of the compass, as a means for ascertaining the longitude at sea : yet, had we been no better provided, we might have searched for the cape of Good Hope agreeably with his propofitions, to little effect : for when we were in latitude 35° 7' fouth, with 20° 16' weft variation, we had only reached the longitude of 6° 30' eaft; and again, when in latitude 35° 22' south, with 22° g' west variation, we had only advanced to the longitude of 11° 25'eaft, instead of being, according to Mr. Nicholson's hypothea fis, in the first instance nearly under the meridian of the

cape

of Good Hope, and in the second, under that of cape Aguilas; and it was not until we had near 26° of west variation, that we approached the meridian of the cape of Good Hope. The observations for the variation were made with the greatest care and attention; and though generally considered as very correct, they differed from one to thre and sometimes four. degrees, not only when made by different compaffes placed in different situations on board, and the ship on different tacks, but by the same compass in the same

B a

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

situation, made at moderate intervals of time; the difference in the results of such observations, at the same time, not preserving the least degree of uniformity. Hence the assertion amounts nearly to an absurdity, which states, “ that with 20° to 20° 10', or 20° 30'

westwardly variation, you will be certain” of such and such lon. gitude ; and it is greatly to be apprehended, that navigators who rely on such means for ascertaining their Ștuation in the ocean, will render themselves liable to errors that may be attended with the most fatal consequences.' Vol. i. P. 14.

From the Cape of Good Hope, the voyage was distinguished only by weather the most irregular, and storms the most violent. Arriving on the south-weftern coast of New Holland, captain Vancouver ascertained the existence of a fafe and commodious harbour, in lat. 35° 5', and longitude 118° 17'. This coaft seems to afford a resting-place to the most miserable race which the researches of navigators have yet discovered. The wears of these favages for taking fith, are inartificial, and can procure only a temporary and precarious supply at high water: the oysters and limpets lie within their fight and reach, apparently without being touched; their habitations resemble the kraal of a llottentot, divided vertically, and open in front; and ti:cir greatest distinctions do not seem to rise higher, in the scale of magnificence, than two fuch wicker huts joined together at an acute angle. While they neglect the thell-fith at their hands, it cannot be expected that they would exert themselves in the labour of cultivation ; and their gencral life must be a scene of hunger and misery. They certainly migrate; for no inhabitants, or traces of a recent occupancy of the wretched huts, were found. They had employed fire to clear or manure the ground; and, by the fame means, they hollowed trees for thc reception of either the lowest or higheit of their ranks. • Our survey of the coast of New Holland] comprehended

extent of 110 leagues, in which space we saw no other haven or place of security for shipping than the sound before mentioned ; notwithstanding the opinion of Dampier, who has considered the whole of the western part of New Holland as confifting of a cluster of islands. He was undoubtedly a judicious obferver, of very superior talents; and, it is most likely, formed his opinion froin the many isands which he found composing the exterior coast of the N. W. part of this extensive country. However just may be his conclufions as to that part of New Holland, they certainly do not apply to its fouth western side, as no very material separation, either by rivers, or arms of the sea, was discovered in the neighbourhood of our survey. Had such breaks in the coaft exifted, and had they escaped our observation, it is highly probable we should have met in the fea, or seen driven

[ocr errors]

an

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

on its shores, drift wood and other productions of the interior country. The very, deep colour also of the several streams of water may possibly be occafioned by the quality of the soil through which they flow; whence it may be inferred that, if any considerable inland waters had their source far in the country, or if any great body descended from its shores, the sea along the coast would in some measure have been discoloured; but neither of these evidences exifted, for, on our approach to the land, there was no previous appearance to indicate its vicinity. This opinion was further cora roborated on inspecting the habitations and places of the natives'. resort; where not the least remains of canoes, or other circum-; stance presented itself, which could convey the most distant idea: of these people having ever trusted themselves on the water ; a circumstance which -it is reasonable to fuppose would sometimes have happened, had their country been infulated, or their travelling interrupted by large rivers or arms of the sea; especially as all appearances favored the conjecture of their being, by no means, a stationary people. There was great reason, however, to conclude, that the country was well supplied with fresh water ; as wherever we chanced to land, we easily procured' that valuable article, not only where the soil was of considerable depth, but from streamlets iffuing out of the solid rocks. This seemed to be the case even on the most elevated land, which caused a very singular appearance when the fun fhone in certain directions on those mountains whose surfaces were destitute of soil; for on these made humid by the continually oozing of the water, a bright glare was produced that gave them the resemblance of hills covered with snow.' Vol. i. P. 45.

Perhaps the earlier navigators may not have been altogether in the wrong. Nearly in this spot we perceive islands laid down in maps of some authority; and, when we recollect that the southern coast of New Holland was discovered in 1627, we may suppose considerable revolutions to have taken place in the coast. The writer afterwards observes, that

The appearance of this country along the coasts, resembles, in most respects, that of Africa about the cape of Good Hope, The surface feemed to be chiefly composed of sand mixed with decayed vegetables, varying exceedingly in point of richness; and although bearing a great similarity, yet indicating a soil superior in quality to that in the immediate neighbourhood of Cape Town. The principal component part of this country appeared to be coral; and it would seem that its elevation above the ocean is of modern date, not only from the shores, and the bank which extends along the coast being, generally speaking, compofed of coral, as was evident by our lead never descending to the bottom without bringing up coral on its return; but by coral being found on the

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

highest hills we ascended; particularly on the summit of BaldHead, which is sufficiently above the level of the fea to be seen at 12 or 14 leagues distance. Here the coral was entirely in its original state; particularly in one level spot, comprehending about eight acres, which produced not the least herbage on the white sand that occupied this space; through which the branches of coral protruded, and were found standing exactly like those seen in the beds of coral beneath the surface of the sea, with ramifications of different sizes, fome not half an inch, others four or five inches in circumference. In these fields of coral, (if the term field be allowable,) of which there were several, sea shells were in great abundance, fome nearly in a perfect state still adhering to the cos ral, others in different stages of decay. The coral was friable in various degrees; the extremities of the branches, some of which were nearly four feet above the sand, were easily reduced to powder, whilst those close to, or under the surface, required some small force to break them from the rocky foundation from whence they appeared to spring. I have seen coral in many places at a considerable distance from the sea ; but in no other instance have I seen it so elevated, and in such a state of perfection.

• In the lower lands we frequently met with extensive tracts occupied by a kind of okerith swainpy peat, or moorish soil of a very dark brown colour, forming as it were a crust, which shook and trembled when walked upon; with water oozing through, or running over the furface, in all directions. Through this foil most of the streams take their course, and it is to their impregnation in the pasige, that the general high colour of the water is to be attributed. These swamps were not always confined to low and level spots, but were found on the acclivity of the higher lands; and where these did not occupy the sides of the hills, the soil was deep, and appeared infinitely inore productive than the surface of the plains; especially that through which the rivulet in Oyster Harbour has been mentioned to flow. In that plain we found, at irregular intervals, juft beneath the surface, a subáratum of an apparently imperfect chalk, or a rich white marle, seemingly formecl of the fame decayed tells, with which the course of the river abounded. These strata, about eight or ten yards broad, run perpendicularly to the rivuiet ; their depth we had not leisure to examine, although there seemed little doubt of finding this substance in fufficient abundance for the purposes of manure, should the cultivation of this country ever be in contemplation. The general ftructure of it seems very favorable to such an attempt, as the mountain; are neither firep nor numerous; nor do the rising grounds form such hills as bid defiance to the plough, while they produce that sort of diversity which is grateful to the eye, and not unpleasant to the traveller.

• This chalky earth was also found in the neighbourhood of a moorifla foil; and, on a more minute examination, seemed much

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »