These are the logs of the voyage of Spanish Don Felipe González by orders of His Excellency Señor Don Emanuel de Amat, viceroy of Peru. The voyage left Lima, Peru, with H.M. (Her Majesty's) ship San Lorenzo, under command of Commodore Don Felipe González, and the frigate Santa Rosalia, under Captain Don Antonio Domonte. Rapa Nui, at that time called Island of David, was during this expedition annexed to Spain. This annexation was quickly forgotten by Spain because of Rapa Nuis distant location, as well as because Spain couldn't see any gain from owning this island.
Transcribed, translated, and edited by Bolton Glanvill Corney. Published in 1908.
Source file (.pdf): The voyage of Captain Don Felipe González to Easter Island 1770-1 p. 181 - 196
Thursday, 15th. At five o'clock in the morning we made sail, getting all the canvas on her, en vuelta de uno, the horizon being cloudy; but at half-past seven it cleared up, and we sighted land ahead. Being fully confident that there was more than lay in the N.W. we continued in search of it. Notwithstanding we were as much as 8 to 10 leagues distant we were able to make out that it was not mountainous, but of moderate height, and not timbered. The extent of horizon it occupied was 45°, that is, from N.N.W. to W.N.W., between which points there was visible an indentation of the coast with a distinctive landmark in the centre, consisting of two pap-like eminences [tetas] or peaks rising above the rest of the outline. At ten o'clock, being then from S to 6 leagues from land, the most northern part of the island bore N.N.W. 5° N.W. At noon I got an observation of the sun in 27° 13' of latitude, being by my calculation in long. 267° 2'. At that hour the southern point of the island stood out clearly, and was bearing W.N.W. 5° W., and the northern one N. 5° N.W. Our position was then about 3 leagues off the shore, whose soil we noticed to be covered for the most part with green scrub, one species of coarse bush standing prominently above the rest so as to give an appearance like pyramids on the beach, as if symmetrically set up. These were also dotted in a scattered fashion about the country inland, which appeared to us to be fertile, as we observed no broken ground, nor precipices, nor stony places throughout it, but various valleys, and plains forming the mountain plateaux as it were, and quite covered with greenery as far down as the sea-beach, showing the fertility of the country. As soon as we came close up with the southern point already mentioned the Commodore began to find the wind baffling, working along shore towards the N. at a distance of a league from the land, in which we made out the bay already mentioned, from which a great smoke was made to us at three distinct parts of it: from this we concluded it to be inhabited, but without having been able to distinguish any person, nor make out any village, house, shanty, or hut, either on the beach or anywhere close by. At half-past ten in the afternoon, having come up with the North point and being about two miles distant from the land, we observed a troop of people composed of eighteen persons who were walking briskly along the summit of a high ridge, where they all collected together and sat down, remaining in this wise while we passed in view about a gunshot off. We noticed some of them clothed in garments like a poncho or cloak, coloured: at the first sight we thought they were European soldiers, but having approached within a mile of them we became satisfied that they were natives, all of them unarmed, and some nude, wearing plumes on their heads.
Being at this position the eastern point of the island bore West, true bearing; and on working out the distance run since the observation at noon I found myself in lat. 27° 2', and that should be the true position of the east point of David's Island, as far as the latitude is concerned2; and in respect of longitude, inasmuch as I found myself at noon to-day to be in 267° 2' from Tenerife, and as we had been sailing with very slight deviation on the same meridian there remained but one mile difference, allowing for our being that much off the land. I therefore say that according to my calculations as worked out during the passage, the most eastern point of David's Island is placed in 27° 2' of latitude S. and in 267° 1' longitude from Tenerife, thus bearing with the Isle of San Lorenzo off the Callao W.S. W. 6° S. and E.N.E. 6° N.E., distant 625 leagues of 20 to the degree; and being 38° West from the meridian of Copiapo, and consequently 680 leagues distant from the Chilian continent. The profile of the island facing eastward extends about 14 to 16 miles, and the southern and northern points lie E.N.E. and W.S.W.2
1) The actual position is 4 ½ miles more southerly and 22 miles more easterly, taking Cape O'Higgins as the point referred to.
2) These bearings should probably be reversed, or the words 'Southern' and ' Northern ' interchanged. The real direction is S.W. by W. and N.E. by E. true bearing, presuming that the N.E. and not the N.W. point is meant; but the latter is in fact the northernmost headland.
Having sailed past the northernmost point we came into view of another bay which indented to the W.N.W., which seemed more convenient than the first: we laid the yards aback and the Commodore lowered his boat, sending her in armed to the said bay and signalling us to do the same. At half-past four in the afternoon our boat went away with Don Juan Bentuza1 Moreno, Captain of Batallones, and the midshipman Don Joseph Morales, escorted by twelve soldiers, one serjeant, and two corporals equipped with ammunition. The coastal pilot of the frigate and a pilots mate also embarked, with the instruments of their craft and headed for the bay, where the boat from the Commodore was already taking soundings. We remained under reduced canvas, making short boards off and on, awaiting the return of the exploring party, who, at sunset withdrew, we on board reaching in beyond the centre of the bay to meet them. We saw numbers of natives on the beach. The anchorage they found is wholly unprotected, and the bottom is of bad quality. We passed the night under easy sail, and at times hove to, keeping abreast of the bay.
1) 'Juan Bentuza ' is evidently a copyist's error for Buenaventura.
Friday, 16th. At sunrise I observed the variation of the needle, and noted 2° 30' to the N.E. At 5 the Commodore lowered his boat and despatched her ashore as soon as he arrived, in quest of anchorage, and we did the same under short canvas; and, lowering all our boats into the water, we passed within about a mile of the eastern point of the bay and saw a considerable number of natives posted on the heights, who collected nearer to the middle of the bay as we sailed towards it, so that by the time we let go there must have been more than 800 people, divided in batches, all wearing cloaks of a yellow colour or white. There was not the least appearance of hostility, nor of the implements of war about them; I only saw many demonstrations of rejoicing and much yelling.
At 8 o'clock in the morning we came to an anchor in this bay in 18 fathoms, gravel, coral, small shells, and fine sand. We moored East and West with one anchor to the E. and a kedge to the W. We saw some natives swim off and pass on board of the Commodore; the rest remained on the sea beach, in loose cloaks, shouting with delight and giving other signs, all intended to make us aware of their docility and of their desire to come on board or to see us on shore. At midday the two launches of both ships started (by the Commodore's orders), commissioned to examine and explore the whole circuit of the island, which up to this time we had understood to be a short one. To this end combatant officers, pilots, marines and the necessary seamen were embarked, with six days provisions, while the Commodore was making arrangements as to the mode of communicating with the natives, and for giving effect to the orders he bore. We have ascertained that what we took for shrubs of a pyramidal form are in reality statues or images of the idols which the natives worship; they are of stone, and of such a height and corpulence that they look like great thick columns, and as I afterwards ascertained in examining them and taking their dimensions the entire body is of a single block, and the crown or head-dress of another: there is a small concavity on the upper surface of the latter in which they place the bones of their dead, from which it may be inferred that they serve at once for idols and funeral pyres. But it is difficult to understand how they can have set up such superb statues, and maintained them properly balanced on so many small stones as are placed in the base or plinth which sustains their great weight. The material of the statue is very hard stone, and therefore weighty; having tried it myself with a hoe it struck fire: a proof of its density. The crown is of a different stone which is plentiful in the island; but I have not seen any like that of the figure: its workmanship is very crude. The only feature in the configuration of the face is a rough excavation for the eyes: the nostrils are fairly imitated, and the mouth extends from ear to ear, as shown by a slight groove or excavation in the stone. The neck bears some similitude; arms and legs are wanting, and it proceeds from the neck downwards in the form of a rudely fashioned trunk. The diameter of the crown is much greater than that of the head on which it rests, and its lower edge projects greatly beyond the forehead of the figure; a position which excites wonder that it does not fall. I was able to clear up this difficulty on making an examination of another smaller statue from whose head there projected a kind of tenon, constructed to fit into a sort of slot or mortice corresponding to it in the crown; so that by this device the latter is sustained notwithstanding its overlapping the forehead. That a people lacking machinery and materials for constructing any should be able to raise the crown or headpiece on to a statue of such height causes wonder, and I even think that the stone of which the statues are made is not a product of the island, in which iron, hemp, and stout timber are absolutely unknown. Much remains to be worked out on this subject.
On taking geometric measurements of the tallest statue occurring along the beach of this bay I found that it was 52 Castilian feet 6 inches in height, including the crown, which has 4 feet 8 inches of the same measure, but it must be mentioned that there are others of still greater height in the eastern part of the island. According to the observations of the exploring party there are others widely distributed about the country-side in the interior, which are about 2 or 3 estados1; and, besides these, innumerable others were met with consisting only of a pyramid or cairn of stones awkwardly piled together, on whose apex was set a round stone washed over with white earth, so as to produce a resemblance to a human skull, from which it may be seen that they have their tombs in these. The sculptured statues are called Moáy by the natives, who appear to hold them in great veneration, and are displeased when we approach to examine them closely.
1) 1 estadal = four varas, or 11 ft. 1 ½ inches. These statues were therefore, roughly speaking, half the size of the one measured near the beach.
They have another effigy or idol clothed and portable which is about four yards [varas1] in length: it is properly speaking the figure of a Judas, stuffed with straw or dried grass. It has arms and legs, and the head has coarsely figured eyes, nostrils, and mouth: it is adorned with a black fringe of hair made of rushes, which hangs half-way down the back. On certain days they carry this idol to the place where they gather together, and judging by the demonstrations some of them made, we understood it to be the one dedicated to enjoyment, and they name it Copeca.
1) 1 vara = nearly a yard.
This afternoon the natives who were on board the Commodore returned ashore, and our boats followed afterwards with some of the officers and others. Some natives also came on board the frigate, and we made them presents of trifles in the way of clothing and trinkets. We found them to be a very poor and lowly people, whose possessions help to make them so importunate in begging that they become really too annoying. No ornaments of gold, silver, jewellery, or any other metal, nor any kind of clothes or hardware, were seen among them; from which it may be inferred that they have1 at present no interchange of goods with any European, Asiatic, or American nation. Their physiognomy does not resemble that of the Indians of the Continent of Chile, Peru, or New Spain in anything, these islanders being in colour between white, swarthy, and reddish, not thick lipped nor flat nosed, the hair chestnut coloured and limp, some have it black, and others tending to red or a cinnamon tint They are tall, well built and proportioned in all their limbs; and there are no halt, maimed, bent, crooked, luxated, deformed, or bow-legged among them, their appearance being thoroughly pleasing, and tallying with Europeans more than with Indians. I believe, from their docility and intelligence, that it would be easy to domesticate them and to convert them to any religion which might be put before them.
1) There are some defects in the transcription of the original MS. here, but the sense is plain.
This day and the ensuing night the wind remained very light, from N.E. to N. The heat did not make itself felt much during the daytime, and at night there was little wind or dampness. There are some eddies1 of current, which enter from the eastward and discharge themselves to the West.
1) The MS. has here
revozas, perhaps a copyist's error for reflugos.
I began to take soundings of the bay this afternoon, and the bottom we met with is not of the best for ensuring the safety of the ships, consisting merely of gravel, sand, shells, coral, and much rock occurring here and there all the anchorage, especially from the 20 fathom lines.
Saturday, 17th. The wind held light from N.E. to N. Today great numbers of natives of both sexes came on board of the two vessels; we found them very straight forward and agreeable, most of them brought plantains, roots, chickens, &c, and readily offered the wretched scraps of clothing and other goods they had about them, until reduced to a miserable loin-cloth of fibre or cotton or some such stuff, with a diadem or crown or plume of cock's feathers or dried sea-weed. The women use the same garments, and, by way of distinguishing their sex, cover the head with a curious construction of palm-leaf [ojas] or fine rushes. They are, like the men, importunate at begging; but they all of them yield with the same frankness whatever they possess, and the women go to the length of offering with inviting demonstrations all the homage that an impassioned man can desire. Nor do they appear to transgress, in this, in the opinion of their men; for the latter even tender them by way of paying us attention. As we had no opportunity of enquiring into the methods they observe in regard to marital affairs [propagation] it can only be inferred that the women whom we saw are held in common among them, although we noticed that the older and more important men retain some preference in the matter, as these are always the ones who accompany and make offer of them, and to whom the women render obedience, and not to the younger men, with whom we have never seen them in company. So that one notices a more modest behaviour among the youths and young women than among the elders.
The girls are by temperament modest, since with all their nudity they always manage to cover the breasts &c. as much as possible. The women we saw were much fewer in number than the men; from which it may be supposed that they make use of them in common, or hold their alliances secret, and I think that the more likely because on the afternoon when we came ashore, when passing near to a small hut, we saw some eight women or so all youthful and not bad looking, accompanied by an old man who only allowed them to expose their heads to look at us. They are all, as a rule, of agreeable aspect and shade of colour, which they modify by means of a very fine pigment of vermilion or red lead, with which they daub their features, although they do not all make use of it. The principal men, or those in authority, paint the whole of their bodies with some herb, or liquor, having a bright red hue, drawing great numbers of lines, pyramids, cocks, and most hideous masks [rostros feisimos] but all disposed in such order and symmetry that it would require the most dexterous pencil to imitate them. In particular they figure on the back a maze of convolutions with so much skill that it excited our wonder, not a dot nor a line from right side to left side wanting in regularity. - On the vacant parts of the abdomen they depict two fearsome monstrosities [rostros horrorosos] which they call pare, and I believe they look on them with veneration, but they do not like one to touch them with the hand.
The young people do not paint themselves in this fashion, only a few of them have a collar of the same colour traced round the neck, and depending from it the figure of a small animal resembling a toad, or frog, which they call cogé.
The principal men, as well as the women, are extremely addicted to beg, and take with gladness whatever comes to their hands, without making any return; they show no resentment if deprived of their spoils: they are quite content with old rags, ribbons, coloured paper, playingcards, and other bagatelles. Everything of a bright red colour pleases them greatly, but they despise black; they are so fond of taking other people's property that what one man obtains another will take from him, and he yields it without feeling aggrieved: the most he will do is to resist a little, then he loosens his hold of it and they remain friends.
It appears as if among themselves their goods are held in common, and I believe they conceal as much as they can get possession of below the ground, for we never saw afterwards any of the things we gave them. We treated them with every consideration, and gave them whatever they asked for. Many of them pronounce with clearness Ave Maria: Viva Carlos Tercero, Rey de España. The men are generally of large stature, very many exceeding 8 ½ spans [palmos] of Castile1 [in height]; most of them attain 8 spans, and there were two whom out of curiosity we measured, one of 9 spans and 2 inches2, and the other 9 and 3 ½ inches3, all their limbs being of proportionate dimensions. The quality and timbre of their voice is adapted to pronounce any language with facility; theirs being very similar to Arabic; although for harshness and resonance it is on a par with that of the Lazarones of Naples.
1) The Castilian palmo or span is equal to 8 1/3 inches. 8 ½ palmos therefore express 6 feet, less an inch.
2) 6 ft. 5 ins.
3) 6 ft. 6 ½ ins.
We never saw their bravery put to the test, but I suspect they are faint-hearted; they possess no arms, and although in some we observed sundry wounds on the body, which we thought to have been inflicted by cutting instruments of iron or steel, we found that they proceeded from stones, which are their only [weapons of] defence and offence, and as most of these are sharp edged1 they produce the injury referred to.
I made a bow and arrow, duly strung, by way of experiment, and on handing it to one of those with the scars he instantly stuck it on his head as an ornament, and then hung it round his neck with much joy, being totally ignorant of its use and effect. They did the same with a knife and with a cutlass, which they took hold of indifferently by the point or by the hilt.
They seem to me to have ministers or priests for their idols; because I observed that on the day which we erected the crosses, when our chaplains went accompanying the holy images, clothed in their cassocks and pelliz, chanting the litanies, numbers of natives stepped forward on to the path and offered their cloaks, while the women presented hens and pullets, and all cried Maca Maca, treating them with much veneration until they had passed beyond the rocks by which the track they were following was encumbered.
Sunday, 18th. The natives continued to gather on board in greater number than on the preceding days, so that on this day there have been more than 400 in the frigate. What with men and women they collected in such crowds that it became necessary to send away some in order to make room for others, as we could not contain them on board. To-day at noon I observed the latitude of this bay with the greatest care, which I found to be 27 26'; and I began on this same day to make a sketch of it, with an outline and views and exact soundings, in order to construct as accurate a chart of it as possible, and one that might serve as a guide and record for the future; though it must be stated that, on account of certain impediments, it was not possible to fix a base-line on shore for trigonometric operations.
Monday, 19th. At 10 in the forenoon our launches came in sight from the eastern part of the island, and our long-boat was told off to give ours a tow, as she had the wind ahead. The Commodore did the same for his. Our launch arrived alongside at one o'clock in the afternoon, with all her people, after having sailed entirely round the island; and the following account was by this means obtained.
The island extends to about 50 miles in circumference; but no harbour capable of affording shelter to a single vessel of moderate burthen was met with. The whole of the shore-line is beset with reefs, cliffs, and rough ground, without containing any spot fit to beach a boat at. On penetrating inland in a few places they met with many natives, with whom they held intercourse, and they observed in them the same manners, customs, and ceremonies as in those of this bay; experiencing among them the same disposition to theft. They saw no kind of wild nor domestic animal, excepting hens and some rats. The fields are uncultivated save some small plots of ground, in which they sow beds of yuca, yams, sweet potatoes, and several plantations of plantains and sugar-cane: but all very tasteless, as if from want of cultivation. They did not find any metal, nor any ornaments of that kind in the natives' habitations. All this account tallies with the observations we have gathered in this bay, on whose slopes, and on those throughout the island, not a single tree is to be found capable of furnishing a plank so much as six inches in width; but there are plenty of shrubs or brushwood of a sort little more than an estada1 in height, which offer little obstruction to one in passing as they are not dense and have no prickles. Its trees are very similar to mimosas and tamarinds. Of fruit-bearing trees I have seen only some very small figs, but so different from ours that they are recognisable as such only by the scent of the leaf, and the white juice which exudes from them. It is certain that they bear fruit, because the natives were eating some dry figs on board, which we gave them from those of Mendoza, and they called them gecqy. The island is destitute of every kind of bird: not a single bird has been seen in it. Even the marine species do not settle on its shores nor fly within sight of it: the same is the case with regard to beetles, insects, &c.
1) An estadalox estada is equivalent to four varas of about 33 inches each, i.e. 1 1 feet.
Most of the natives of the island dwell in underground caves, or in the hollow of some rock, the entrances to which are so narrow and inconvenient that I have seen some of them introduce themselves in the opposite manner to what is natural, beginning by projecting their feet and the head last. The more polished or powerful persons, whether in virtue of their age or of authority, are held in esteem. These inhabit small huts covered with reeds [totora] and constructed in the form of a large tunnel, in whose bilge or bellying portion [vientre ó barigd] is the entrance, after the manner of a trap-door for cats' egress, so narrow that only one man can pass in or out at a time, and that with effort. Others (whom I believe to be their ministers) occupy dwellings close to the statues; these are built of earth below, but with an entrance way or porch of very roughly hewn and clumsily set up stones, after the fashion of a wall, with a certain number of steps for passing from one platform or surface of ground to another on different levels. It is known that they work the stone, on which may be seen several different figures, squares, oblongs, arcs [rumbos], triangles, and trapezia, by means of another stone of harder substance than the mass, and the same method is followed, I believe, in fashioning the statues.
On the afternoon of this day during a rain squall with little wind from the S.W. our cable parted, having chafed completely through against a coral rock, fragments of which came up embedded among the strands of the two broken ends. We spent the evening in making ready for the succeeding day, on which we were to formally disembark and take possession of the island, and to erect upon it three crosses which had been got ready for the purpose on board the Commodore.
Tuesday, 20th. The day dawned with the horizon overcast, the wind light from E.S.E. with occasional gusts; but the Commodore decided to carry into effect the projected expedition notwithstanding, and to this end 250 men, troops and seamen, were detached to go ashore, well armed and under the command of Don Alberto Olaondo, senior lieutenant and captain of marines, with other officers and subalterns, and instructions to pass inland towards the western side of the island in order to make a reconnaissance of the country-side thereabouts, and to draw the attention of the natives in that direction while the three aforementioned crosses were being set up on three hillocks which are at the eastern end.
This precaution was not taken through any fear that the natives might offer opposition to the execution [of our project] but only in order to avoid the tumult with which they proceed about all their operations, as they would have been so much in our way as to considerably retard us. While the launches and boats conveyed the first section of people to the shore, the second batch was being got ready, consisting of a similar number, and commanded by Don Buenaventura Moreno, senior lieutenant and captain of marines, with the necessary officers, amongst whom I was included by the Commodore's order, for the purpose of establishing proper marks and bases for the construction of the most exact plan and truest coast-line of this bay, and for fixing the positions of the most noticeable heights of the island.
When the boats of the first party returned we set out in the same order, escorted by troops from this frigate, accompanying the three crosses with colours flying and drums beating. In this manner, and in excellent order, we arrived at a small bay which lies to the eastward, and had i>een selected for the disembarkation as possessing the only convenient expanse of beach in all the roadstead. We landed here without meeting with any obstacle, and were received by a considerable gathering of natives, who manifested much merriment, with a great deal of yelling. On the party forming up, together with those bearing arms, we set out on the march, accompanied by the natives, who lent a willing hand in carrying the crosses, singing and dancing in their fashion as they went. We made the whole circuit of the bay with some pains, for the ground was rough and rugged, although level, a great retinue of natives collecting round us all the while as far as the foot of the rise, where the most part of them quitted us on account of the troublesome and protracted nature of the ascent. At half-past one we arrived at the place at which the crosses were to be set up, and this was concluded with full rejoicings, after the benediction and adoration of the holy images, by the whole concourse of people, on seeing which the natives went through the same ceremony. On the crosses being planted on their respective hilltops the Spanish ensign was hoisted, and the troops being brought to ' Attention ! ' under arms, D n Joseph Bustillo, junior Captain, took possession of the island of San Carlos with the accustomed ceremonies in the name of the King of Spain, our lord and master Don Carlos the Third, this day, the 20th of November, 1770. The procedure was duly witnessed with the proper formalities; and for the greater confirmation of so serious an act some of the natives present signed or attested the official document by marking upon it certain characters in their own form of script. Then we cheered the king seven times, next to which followed a triple volley of musketry from the whole party, and, lastly, our ships saluted with 21 guns. The function being concluded, and all hands mustered up in marching order, we returned to the same place where we disembarked, and where our launches and boats were in attendance. In these we were conveyed on board, and all the officers in succession thereupon offered their felicitations and congratulations to the Commodore, who then fixed the following day for their departure from the bay, in consequence of his mission there being now happily concluded.
Wednesday, 21st. At 11 o'clock in the forenoon (being all ready to get under way and expecting the Commodore to make the signal) our cable parted close to the ring of the anchor; and the wind being fresh we made sail in order to avoid being driven on to the rocks or risking another anchor. As soon as we had gained an offing we hove to to await the Commodore, who joined company with us at two o'clock in the afternoon, and we set our course W. J N.W., coasting along the north side of the island and proceeding in search of the other one shown on. the Dutch chart of Warn Keullena 1 in the same latitude. At four o'clock the western point of the island of San Carlos bore S., distant about 4 leagues, and I took my departure from that position, fixing the latitude as 27 16', and the longitude 266 50'. At sundown the said point bore S.W. J S. 2 We continued all night with a moderate breeze from E. and E.S.E.: backing at times.
Transcribed, translated, and edited by Bolton Glanvill Corney. Published in 1908.
Source file (.pdf): The voyage of Captain Don Felipe González to Easter Island 1770-1 p. 208 - 218
On the 15th at five in the morning we made all sail, and at seven o'clock we sighted an island to the N. W. of us, from 8 to 10 leagues distant. We headed for it, and upon finding ourselves within some three leagues of its Eastern coast we saw it to be all bold and rock-bound, on account of which at noon we decided to bear up for the Northern side and see whether we might find any harbour round there. At this time our position was ascertained by observation to be in lat. 27° 15' S. and long. 264° 20', so that the other point1 should be in 27° 06' of lat. South, and therefore 34 10' to the westward of the meridian of Callao, measured by the arc, or the equivalent of a chord of 30° 30'. On this island we bestowed the name of San Carlos, being that of the reigning king.
From the 6th of November 82, which was the day on which we sighted the petrels, until we reached the island of San Carlos, we steered W. a distance of 86 leagues, and the terns were seen for the same distance at the same time.
1) i.e. the N.E. point of the island.
2) This may be a copyist's error. The day on which the petrels were recorded was the 10th. Agiiera mentions them on the 12th as having been met with on the previous day, in his journal. Gonzalez himself does not mention them in his log.
From the 13th of the said month, when we saw so many birds, and amongst them the white ones and the first of these, we continued sailing W. for a distance of 32 leagues; and from the time we saw the sandpipers [chorlitos] as far as the island we sailed 10 leagues, so that when we saw them the island lay to the N.W. of us, 13 ½ leagues off, for which reason we sailed on that course after having sighted the sandpipers and the island: these remarks are interesting only for navigators.
On the 15th, after bearing up at noon in quest of a harbour on the north side of the island we noticed, as we closed in with the land, that there were people on shore who were making signals to us by means of smoke, in several parts of this new land; and when we had rounded the north-easternmost point, called after San Felipe, we saw a bay which appeared might prove a good harbour, being then about half a league distant; and we lowered a boat into the water. I embarked in her with Don Alberto Lesuda1, Captain of Marines, a serjeant, six men, the boat duly equipped, and all hands provided with their respective arms, proceeding with the precaution and care appropriate to the business in hand.
1) The officer here meant by ' Lesuda,' and in a place where cited farther on as 'Leonda,' is Don Alberto Olaondo, whose substantive rank was that of Teniente de Navio, or a senior Lieutenant in the Navy, although, by a not unusual complication of dignities in that service he was also a Capitan de Infanteria, or as we should say, an officer of Marines. He subsequently received promotion, and in 1779 when war was declared with England he commanded the Atlante^ a 70 gun ship of the line which formed one of the fleet under the Marque's de Casa Tilly assembled in the Bay of Cadiz to oppose Rodney. His old Easter Island comrades Don Antonio Domonte, and Don Buenaventura Moreno, were also present there, commanding the San Eugenio and the San Nicolas respectively, each of 70 guns. [Travieso, Bibliog. no. 50.]
We went in to take soundings of the bay without being acquainted with the character of the natives, or whether they possessed canoes or not. We left the ship at a quarter past three in the afternoon, and proceeded to take soundings shorewards. We got no bottom until quite close in, where I found thirty fathoms; and from thence to the beach a very foul bottom of rocks, gravel, and coral; from thirty to forty fathoms I found coarse sand, but with a few large round stones: this might serve [to bring up in] nevertheless for a short time, while searching for a better anchorage.
At the time we set about taking soundings the frigate's boat came along for the same purpose, in which was Don Buenaventura Moreno, Captain of Marines, similarly armed and equipped; and when we drew close in to the shore taking soundings, we saw several natives of the country on the beach shouting to us in their language, of which we understood nothing. These were naked, and painted, body and face. When I had made an examination of the bottom I returned on board my ship, and the other boat to hers: I explained the quality of the ground to the Commodore, and having arrived somewhere about 6 o'clock in the evening he decided not to move away from the place until the following day1.
1) This sentence, taken by itself, sufficiently proves that the author of this journal was an officer of the San Lorenzo, and not of the frigate.
On the 16th at half-past five in the morning I started away from the ship's side in the cutter, and proceeded to take up a position where the boat anchorage was, to serve as a mark for the ship, which came in and let go in 35 £ fathoms, coarse sand; and having laid out another anchor in 50 fathoms, she swung to with 28 under the keel, same bottom. The leading marks for this position are the small saddle-shaped hill bearing S. 3° W., with Cape San Lorenzo E. 1/4 S.E. 3° E. by the needle, which in this locality has 3° of variation N.E.
While acting as a beacon as above stated and awaiting the arrival of the ship, three of the natives swam off, [their bodies] painted in various colours, and keeping near the boat, shouting constantly, until one of them came at last so close as to present me with a morsel of yam: I gave him some biscuit and. tobacco, all of which he accepted. He carried his provisions in a satchel neatly plaited of fine straw. When the ship came to an anchor these three went off ashore again, but returned with another swimming and making straight for the ship, on board of which they climbed with much agility, shouting all the while and exhibiting much gayness of spirit. They ran about freely from stem to stern, and full of mirth, climbing about the rigging like' sailormen. [Our people] played the coxa and fife to them, and they began to dance, evincing great pleasure. They were given ribbons, shirts, trousers, seamen's jumpers, and small gilt metal crosses: they accepted them all with gladness, the biscuit they received without remark until they saw our people eat some. It pleased them well and then they asked for it, and applied themselves freely to the consumption of salt pork and rice, &c.
On the said 16th of November we embarked at one o'clock in the day, Don Cayetano Lángara, senior lieutenant, Don Pedro Obregon, midshipman, a serjeant, a corporal of marines, a gunner, some marines and myself, in the launch, fully armed and equipped for service, with orders to make a complete circuit of the island in company with the Rosalia's launch, with her officer Don Demetrio Ezeta, senior lieutenant, each one fitted with a swivel gun in the bows. We set to work to take soundings, giving names to the points, bays, &c, as shown on the plan of the island. At half-past six in the evening we brought to in a cove which we called after Lángara: we tried to effect a landing but this was not practicable as the sea was breaking with such force all along the shore, which was rocky at all points; and during the remainder of the day the only place we found fit to land at was the cove of San Juan, as it had a sandy beach. We did not disclose our presence there, in order not to lose time. We considered that it must have a plentiful supply of fresh water, because we saw there more gravel [chacaras] than in any other part of the island. We also found the best anchorage for ships.On the 17th of the said [month], day dawned with the horizon clear, and a moderate breeze from the Eastward. At five in the morning we got under way in both launches and made sail towards the Cape of San Antonio. Half a league before reaching the cape we came abreast of a point, off which were a quantity of rocks or boulders sticking up out of the water; and saw that two little canoes were ¦coming out from among them with two men in each, making for the Santa Rosalia's launch; so we waited for them in order that they might join our party. They gave the people of the said launch plantains, Chili peppers, sweet potatoes and fowls; and in return our men gave them hats, chamorretas, &c, and they went off contentedly with these to the shore. These canoes are constructed of five extremely narrow boards (on account of there being no thick timber in the country) about a cuarta1 in width; they are consequently so crank that they are provided with an outrigger to prevent them from capsizing; and I think that these are the only ones in the whole of the island. They are fitted tpgether with wooden pegs in place of nails. Then we passed on to examine the rocky islets to which we gave the name of ' Lángara': they lie S.W. 1/4 S. from the cape of San Cristoval, the seaward one being about a mile off that headland, and the inshore one in between. They are about half a cable apart the one from the other, and we found 26 fathoms there, rocky bottom. The middle one resembles a high church tower; we attempted to gain a footing on it, but found it little accessible. We passed on to the outer one, where we succeeded in landing, and on which we found two large masses of seaweed, many black flints, some sea urchins and small crabs, eggs of sea-gulls and their fledgelings. On these rocks alone did we see any sea-gulls, and excepting fowls we saw no other kind of birds on either of the other islets, nor on the island of San Carlos, either small or large, wild or domesticated. The islanders breed these fowls in little runs scraped out in the ground and thatched over.
1) A cuarta is a quarter of a vara or yard, and may be roughly translated a 'span'.
Having made an investigation of these islets we pursued our course along the coast, at times under sail, at other times under oars; and, the wind holding contrary, at three o'clock in the afternoon we stood in towards a smooth patch of foreshore about a league away to the N.E. of Cape San Francisco. Here we decided to bring up for the night in a small bay which appeared to us to be a suitable place for the purpose, and to which we gave the appellation of the Cave, because there was one adjoining the beach at this place with furrows in it of various tints, from which the natives gave us to understand by signs they obtained the pigments with which they paint themselves. This bay is only suitable for launches. We all went ashore to eat our dinner, which we carried with us for that purpose, and some hundred or so natives came to look on, offering us fruits and hens. The officer, Don Cayetano de Ldngara, issued orders to our people that no one, under pain of a severe flogging, should accept any article from the islanders without giving some equivalent in return, or something of greater value than that which they received, since it was known there was a disposition to exchange articles; and such in fact was put into practice.
When we sat down to eat we noticed that they all withdrew, and that only one remained, as if to watch; I ordered my servant to give this one a little cooked rice and salt pork, all of which he ate and found much to his taste. When we had finished dinner we betook ourselves for a stroll on the island: our people were again warned to do no injury to the natives nor to their plantations. When we had walked up the slope of the beach we found all those whom we had previously seen, and we passed over in a body without saying anything to them until they, putting aside their shyness, came close up to our people and conducted us to see a long dwelling-house which was about a quarter of a league off. This house was 27 paces in length, 2 ½ varas high at the centre, and 1 1/4 varas at the ends, more or less; and at the middle part was a doorway 1 vara in height. It was framed on some six poles of 4 varas long, and a span1 in thickness. After having shown us this sumptuous edifice, they began to sing and to dance by way of paying us a compliment and being very happy at seeing us. We walked about two leagues, and at that distance (throughout which many islanders accompanied us) we saw a plantain garden which stretched about a quarter of a league in extent, and was about half that distance in breadth. There were other small plantain gardens, and several plantations and fields of sugar-cane, sweet potatoes; taro, yams, white gourds, and plants like those whose leaves are employed at the Callao for making mats. We saw a root which they chew and daub their bodies and limbs all over with: it is. good for yielding a very fine yellow dye2 . At dusk we made back to our launches to stay the night, without our peaceful relations with the natives having been in any way disturbed, which may be attributed to the order which the officer gave our men not to give them any offence, backed by the threat of a flogging, without which our marines and seamen would have destroyed these poor wretches' plantations.
1) Un 'xeme' i.e. jeme, the distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the forefinger.
2) No doubt this refers to turmeric — a common plant in most Pacific islands.
The morning of the 18th broke fine, with the wind from North: we continued along the coast, which is all surfbound, sounding as we went. At 8 o'clock the frigate's launch, not being able to make any headway against the wind, put into a small bay to wait for it to calm down; and we ourselves reached the Bell Cove1 under oars at 5 in the afternoon, in order to stay there the night. We stepped ashore there and some islanders came to receive us, but a shower of rain made us turn back to our launch for the night. On that side of this cove towards the headland of San Felipe a rock shaped like a bell juts out from the shore, and from this the cove derives its name.
1) i.e. Bell Cove = Caleta de la Campana.
We made sail at daybreak on the 19th with the wind at N. and fine weather, for the headland of San Felipe, where we were joined by the other launch, who reported that they had no news. At this time we were battling with the current, against which we were not able to make any headway with the oars, and which was running to the eastward. The frigate's. launch, being smaller than ours, was able to get along better than we, and those on board seeing us contending against the persistence of the current, sent us the cutter with a fresh crew to relieve our men, who were done up. Yet the current made itself felt with such force that after pulling from 9 a.m. until 6 o'clock in the evening we had scarcely made one league of distance from Cape San Felipe. At this hour, however, God favoured us with a thunder squall accompanied by rain and a change of wind from N.W. to S.E., which brought us alongside at half-past seven o'clock, thus terminating our expedition without other adventures than already related.
We were satisfied that the roadstead in which we lay at anchor is the best the whole island affords, excepting that of San Juan, to which we did not remove, as we should so soon be leaving this country again, inasmuch as there only remained for us to take possession of it in the name of the King.
On the 20th, at daybreak, all the seamen bearing arms embarked in the launches and cutters of both vessels, under Don Alberto Olaondo1 , Captain of Marines, with his party of marines and those from the frigate, who together made up 250 men. All these proceeded towards the interior of the island to survey the country. Our Commander [segundo capitan] Don José Bustillos2 , went with another body of marines and seamen, and the two chaplains, who conveyed with them three crosses to be erected on three hill-tops which, as may be seen on the Plan, exist at the N.E. point of the island.
1) ' Leonda' in the MS.; evidently Capt. Olaondo is again meant.
2) 'Jose Gustillo' in the MS.; evidently Josef Bustillos is intended.
A great number of the native inhabitants received them on landing, and offered to assist our officers in the disembarkation, which, in fact, they did; and took charge of the three crosses, which they carried up to the said hills: the chaplains chanting Litanies, and the islanders joining with our people in the responses, ora pro nobis. At the moment of digging the hole on the centre hill, a fine spring of fresh water broke out, very good and abundant The crosses being planted the party fired three volleys of musketry, and the ships replied with twenty-one guns each to the joyful shout of Viva el Rey. The islanders responded with our own people; they pronounce with such ease that they repeat whatever is said to them just like ourselves. This undertaking being achieved we all returned on board.
It need not be said that the islanders were terrified at the noise of the gunfire and musketry: that must happen to people who have not used or seen such inventions.
The women made use of wraps or cloaks: one which covers them from the waist downwards, and another about the breasts. There are others also who wear only a rag or strip of some root, which they place in front like the men. They have several very low and small huts, and some like the one first mentioned.
Throughout the island, but especially near the seabeach, there are certain huge blocks of stone in the form of the human figure. They are some twelve yards in height, and I think they are their idols. They could not bear to see us smoke cigars: they begged our sailors to extinguish them and they did so. I asked one of them the reason, and he made signs that the smoke went upwards; but I do not know what this meant or what he wished to say.
I fancy that the cloaks or wraps of the said islanders are made from the fibres of stems of the banana plant, which, when dry, they put together as may suit their purpose1: it is not woven, but is joined together by strands of the same material which they thread on bone needles of the size of a cloak-maker's needle. They make fishinglines of this same fibre, as well as nets after the fashion of our small nets; but of little strength.
1) The material was really the white inner bark of the paper mulberry tree (Broussonettia papyrifera) and the thread used for attaching the segments together was probably made from the Hibiscus tiliaceus bark. A Spanish naval officer may well be excused for falling into this error, as the employment of the fibre of Musa textilis, known to him as abacá and to ourselves as 'Manila hemp' would doubtless have come under his observation in the Philippine Islands; and perhaps his running rigging may have been made of it even in those days.
They have very little wood; but if they were to plant trees there would be no lack of it; and I believe that even the cotton plant would yield, as the country is very temperate: and wheat, garden plants, pot-herbs, &c. They dye their cloaks yellow.
The number of the inhabitants, including both sexes, will be from about nine hundred to a thousand souls: and of these very few indeed are women, — I do not believe they amount to seventy — and but few boys. They are in hue like a quadroon, with smooth hair and short beards, and they in no way resemble the Indians of the South American continent; and if they wore clothing like ourselves they might very well pass for Europeans. They eat very little, and have few needs: they do altogether without liquor of any kind.
On the 21st at noon we put to sea from this Island of David: we sailed some 70 leagues to the Westward to see whether any more land lay in that direction.
On the 23rd we hauled to the Southward until we reached the lat. 38° 30' and long. 263° 31', where we arrived on the 29th. On this track, on the 24th, in lat. 29° 30', long. 261° 30' at 6 in the afternoon, we saw ten or twelve white birds, and terns, and again some godwits, an indication of some island. The Commodore decided not to search for it at this juncture, deeming that the time was already short for going to Chiloe, and intending to look for it on the return voyage as the latitude was one in which the quest might be pursued at any season of the year.
From the longitude of 263° 31' we stood away East as far as 281° along the parallel of 38 ½°, without meeting with any sign; and from that position we proceeded to Chiloe.