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DEPARTURE FROM BUENOS AYRES-TOUCH AT SAN SALVADOR
ISLAND OF MARGARITTA ARRIVAL IN THE UNITED STATES,
As the time of our departure drew near, our impatience to return to our native country increased. To. wards the latter end of April, we bid adieu to Buenos Ayres, a number of the most respectable citizens attending us to the beach. On the 29th the Congress weighed anchor from off Monte Video, and touched at Maldonado, to take in supplies. Here we experienced a dreadful pampero, from which we considered our escape peculiarly fortunate. On the 4th of May, we took our departure from this place with a favorable wind. We had a fine run to Cape Frio, which we made the seventh day after leaving the river.
The commodore observes, “it was on the 11th of May I fell in with Cape Frio, and past it within a few leagues. Kept upon a wind beading north-east. At ten o'clock, P. M. got bottom in twenty-five fathoms, coral rock. No sounding of this kind being laid down in my chart, I felt much alarmed, and more particularly so as the night proved very dark and rainy, with heavy squalls, sometimes heading off north by east. At meridian lost soundings, having past as I imagine over this ledge of rocks lying off St. Thome, distant at least thirty miles. Cape St.
Thome is laid down in twenty-one degrees fifty minutes south latitude. I came into these soundings in latitude twenty-one degrees twenty-five minutes, and carried them in a north-easterly direction to latitude twenty-one degrees thirty-seven minutes, having from twenty-nine to thirty-seven fathoms, and immediately after shoaling to thirty-three fathoms, there was no bottom with one hundred and twenty fathoms of line. The wind then drew round to an east-north-easterly direction, and blew in tremendous squalls, with much rain; and fearing as I did, that if I continued on, bordering along the coast until I came up with the Abrolhos shoals, which give broken soundings at least two hundred miles off the land, that the wind might come back to its natural point, the south-east, and embay me, I reluctantly tacked to south-east, and before I could make my easting, I was set to the south of Cape Frio, by a strong current setting about south-southwest or south-west. The wind continued to blow from north to north-north-east beading us up on each tack for twelve days, which entirely disappointed us in our prospect of a fine passage to St. Salvador.”
During this unpleasant period of contrary winds, we were driven nearly into the supposed latitude and longitude of the island of Portuguese Ascension, whose existence is a subject of doubt among navigators; a singular circumstance, considering how completely this sea has been explored for the last huncred years. A description and drawing is given of it by Frezier; but the Russian navigator, Kreuzenstern, a few years ago devoted some time in search of it without success. From the circumstance of seeing several land birds, at the distance of five or six hun
dred miles from any known shore, we were almost induced to believe, that we were near this fabled island, as it is now supposed to be.
After a passage of twenty-five days from Rio La Plata, we came in sight of San Salvador, or Bahia. “I found in running in for this place, a strong northeasterly current, setting at least one and a half knots the hour, produced no doubt by the south-south-west wind, which had blown almost a gale for two or three days. My ship was brought down to close reefed topsails and storm-staysails, in standing off upon a wind, after having made my run as nearly as prudence dictated, the night being dark and weather very squally. I tacked at eight o'clock, P. M. and stood off under easy sail, going with a high head sea, two and a half knots the hour, until four, A. M. when I tacked on west, and made more sail; and at six, A. M. saw the land, bearing north-west, supposed to be the cape. I stood in until it was ascertained to be so, and at eight o'clock, A. M. the weather looking very bad and blowing hard, I stood off again until ten o'clock, A. M. when the weather clearing and moderating in some degree, I wore and stood in again, and at meridian observed, in latitude thirteen degrees and nine minutes south, Cape St. Antonio, bearing west-north-west three-fourths west, distant four or five leagues, cronomoter longitude, agreeing exactly with the chart, contained in the East India Pilot, but our charts differing from it, thirty miles, in laying down this cape; I am at loss which to rely on.
“I continued standing in upon a wind heading from west to west-south-west, sagging fast to leeward with the current and sea, until the cape bore, or rather the
fortress, standing on the spit of the cape, nearly north, when I perceived the color of the water alter suddenly, indicating soundings. I hove the lead with thirtyfive fathoms, and got no bottom. In a few minutes, got eighteen fathoms; next cast fifteen, next twelve, and then nine, when the ship was hove in stays, and luckily came round, for there is no knowing how much water a few minutes more might have given us. It was now four o'clock. The fortress bore north half east, and were distant from it about two and a half leagues, while this shoal is laid down in all my charts, at the distance of four miles, with four fathoms. This apprehension, and finding no attention paid to my signals for a pilot, I stood off until four o'clock, A. M. when I tacked, and at an early hour again made the land. The land to the north-east of St. Salvador, cannot be mistaken. For ten leagues there are no very prominent parts, although the land is considerably elevated, and somewhat irregular and broken; but it may always be known from six to ten leagues from the cape, by its white, spotted, chalky appearance, somewbat resembling linen spread upon a green sward to bleach."
Not being able to procure a pilot, the commodore determined to run in by his charts, which he effected without any accident. On our approach to this great city, we descried a forest of masts, indicating its great importance as a commercial place. The entrance to the harbor is by no means as safe as that of Rio, and from its width, not so easily fortified. The harbor is one of the most spacious in the world, bordered by a most beautiful picturesque country, in a high state of cultivation in cotton, cocoa, coffee, and sugar. The
city is situated upon a hill, several hundred feet in height, but a considerable part of it occupies the sides of the hill, and the narrow strip of land at its base, The upper, or new town, is much better built, and has an air of cleanliness, unusual in Portuguese towns, The king touched here, on his arrival in the country, and a monument has been erected in one of the public gardens, commemorative of the event. Mr. Hill, the American consul, a gentlemen of fine talents and agreeable manners, came on board, and escorted us to his house, where we were shewn every mark of attention and hospitality. We called on the governor, the count dos Palmas, who succeeds the count dos Arcos, lately appointed prime minister.
On the fifth of June, having laid in erery necessary supply, the commodore resolved to make sail for the United States.* "About four o'clock, P. M. with the ebb tide just making, we weighed anchor, and commenced beating out of the harbor. At seven o'clock, it became very dark and squally, with the wind right in, and the pilot who had insisted on leaving us an hour before, saying we were as far as he could take us, on finding his canoe filling astern, he became so alarmed, as to be quite useless. I suffered him to depart, although not clear of the western shoal, which runs off several leagues, and as long as I could see the light-house on the castle of St. Antonio, I kept under way beating out; but at length it became so dark and squally, that I determined to come to an anchor, and did so in thirteen fathoms." The next
* I have omitted many interesting particulars, which I intended to have stated, suffering somewhat from indisposition, and being worn out by continual application for several months.