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The afternoon of the 20th the anchor was weighed, and the Congress proceeded up the river, but came to anchor about ten o'clock at night, being apprehensive of approaching too near the island of Flores on the one hand, and the English bank on the other. We made sail at day light, but the wind slackening and a strong current setting downwards, we again anchored within a few miles of Flores. On the main land from Maldonado to this place, we were continually in sight of a range of high hills, in places rising to considerable peaks, but not deserving the name of mountains. With our spy glasses we could discover a vast number of seals moving about on the island, or lying upon the naked rocks, by which it is surrounded. As it was now a perfect calm, and the weather delightful, a num ber of us resolved to make an attack upon the island, and possess ourselves of a few of the skins of its inhabitants, not as warlike trophies, but for the purpose of making caps, saddle housings, or stuffing them for museums. Our approach to shore was attended with some difficulty on account of the surf which never ceases to dash upon the rocks. The roaring of the sea, was emulated by the noise of the seals, of which we now discovered astonishing numbers. The hoarse roaring of the males, and the bleating of the females and younger seals, bore resemblance to the mingled concert of domestic cattle, cows, calves, and the accompaniment of bleating sheep. Besides thousands upon the shore, there were still greater numbers in the water, some as far out as thirty 'or forty yards. They appeared to be in continual motion, their heads appearing and disappearing, and continually keeping up a dreadful noise. As soon as we landed, the seals
exerted themselves as fast as they could to get into the water; and considering that they have nothing but a pair of fins a little below the breast, and a long unwieldy body and tail to drag after them, they made very
considerable-speed. Some of our sailors got between - them and the water with clubs, which they had pro
vided, and knocked down a number, a slight blow on the end of the nose being sufficient for this purpose. In those places where water was standing in the hollows of the rock, there were great numbers of young seals hud." dled together, resembling young whelps though much larger. · The sailors who had been laying about "them with indiscriminate fury, assailed these poor creatures, who seemed imploring in a most piteous manner for mercy. Seeing the barmless and inof, fensive nature of this race, we were seized with compassion, we hastened to put a stop to the carnage, and resolved to select only a few of those that we thought suited to our purposes. The smell was so offensive that we were compelled in a short time, to return to our boats.
These are of the species called the ursine seal. The males are called lions, from the resemblance of the head and mane to that animal, as well as from their hoarse noise. They are often seen with several of their favorite females around them, basking on the rock, but as soon as discovered, they roll themselves into the water. Some of their habits are singular. - ' Each lion, like a grand sultan, has forty or fifty fe. males. They live in distinct families of several hundred. Each family occupies a particular part of the island, upon which none of the others are suffered to encroach; bloody battles sometimes ensue between dif
ferent families, which frequently involve the whole tribe. A combat sometimes takes place between two males; the one who is vanquished, is abandoned by all his wives, who join the conquerer. The female is delicately formed, with a long tapering neck, and beauti. ful silvery skin, which glisten on coming out of the water. The old ones, although very uneasy for the safety of their young, will not venture out of the wa. ter to their assistance. I observed in the fissures of the rock, thousands of a kind of fish about a foot in length, swimming among the smaller seals, probably attracted by them, and fed upon. T'he skins of this kind is not of much value; but those of the fur kind on the island of Lobos, fifty miles below, are much esteemed.* The island is about a mile and a half long; the sea, when much agitated, dashes over it. We supposed there might be about twenty families on the island, of two hundred each. A lion killed by the commodore, measured ten feet six inches from the nose
* In the Semanario of 1802, there is a notice of the number of skins obtained on the isle of Lobos, by the company authorised by the king. The season is from the middle of May until the 3d of November. A complaint is made that the English and Americans, who pursue the sealing business along the coast of Patagonia, pay no attention to the season, in consequence of which, the seals are exterminated. The produce of the island, which is not more than a league in length, was seventeen thousand skins, and six hundred barrels of oil.
Our countrymen still pursue the business along the coast. A New England vessel engaged in it, was dashed to pieces by a gale, and the crew arrived at Buenos Ayres about the time of our entering the river; they were in a small vessel constructed from the
wreck. One of them, with whom I conversed, described the coun' try as very pleasant, and without any inhabitants.
to the end of the tail, was six feet four inches in girth, and probably weighed, at least one thousand pounds.
The calm continued until the afternoon of the next day, when a breeze springing up, the anchor was weighed, and we proceeded up the river. It was not long before we discovered the hill above the town, which gives its name to the place. We next discovered the town at a distance, and the cathedral, the most conspicuous object in it. The frigate came to anchor in four fathoms water, soft mud, the fort on the top of the mount, bearing, by compass, north-west; the cathedral north-east by north, Point Brava, east by north, distant from land a league or upwards. .
We could discern a number of vessels lying in the harbor, but chiefly of a small size, excepting a Portuguese frigate, an Indiaman, (which had lately been released by the government of Buenos Ayres) and some light vessels of war. We observed the patriot flag on one or two small sloops. The trade of this place being almost annihilated, induced us to believe, that the greater part of the vessels we saw belonged to the Portuguese invading force. The business of war, hav. ing in this town, completely taken the place of the peaceful pursuits of commerce,
Looking at the town from a distance, it seems to stand upon a projecting point, or promontory; and a point running out from the base of the bill before mentioned, forms with the first, a spacious basin, but too shoal to be considered a good harbor; and moreover, not affording complete protection, from all the winds that sweep across this vast country of plains. The town is compactly built, exhibits no mean appearance, and might contain fifteen or twenty thousand in
habitants. I was not a little disappointed, in finding such a place in the midst of a vast region almost unin. habited, or at least not more populous than the im. mense tract which lies west of St. Louis, on the Mississippi. The adjacent country looks naked and desolate; a few horses and horned cattle, feeding on the extensive grassy plains, which stretch out in every direction, is all that is to be seen. The surface of the country appeared, however, to be pleasingly varied, but with the exception of the mount before mentioned, no where rising into hills. We could discern, with our glasses, the vestiges of a number of fine scats and gardens beyond the town, as well as along the bank below it. The hedges of prickly pear, or cactus, are plainly visible. In fact, the whole country around, appears to have been laid waste by the ravages of war. The shore, or rather bank (for one is apt to forget that this is a river) is not high or steep, but rock bound, and the landing bad almost every where.
The next morning, the commodore ordered a boat to be manned, and a lieutenant to proceed to the city, and in compliance with the usual etiquette, to wait on the chief person in command, to state the object of our visit, and to request permission to obtain such supplies as the ship might require. Seeing Mr. Bland about .. to take advantage of this opportunity, I determined to accompany him. We had to pass roupd a long rocky point, which makes out from the tongue of land on which the town is built. The harbor is capacious, but very shoal around it; as the bottom is extremely soft, vessels are often eight or ten inches in the mud. On arriving at the stairs, or quay, constructed with the dingy granite, of which all the rocks we have seen on