Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

admiral's fleet with his ship and four small boats. De Fonte, continuing his voyage to the north, sailed about 260 leagues through crooked channels among islands, which he named the Archipelago of St. Lazarus; the boats keeping always ahead and sounding, to guard against the danger of rocks and shoals. Pedro de Bernardo, who was despatched by the admiral to explore a large river flowing from the north, ascended it into a great lake full of islands inhabited by a friendly people. He named it Lake Velasco. On this lake he sailed first 140 leagues W., and then 436 E.N.E., till he came to 77° of latitude. De Fonte having despatched captain Bernardo, as he informs us, on the discovery of the northeastern part of the Tatarian Sea, proceeded himself up a large navigable river, which he named Rio los Reyes, running nearly north-east. The admiral received a letter from Bernardo, dated the 17th of June, 1640, in which he informed him that he had left his ship in the Lake Velasco, between Bernardo Island and the peninsula Conihasset; that he had ascended the river from the lake eighty leagues, and down three falls or rapids, and entered the Tatarian Sea in lat. 61°. He found the land trending to the north-east: the country abounded with venison, and the sea and rivers were filled with excellent fish. De Fonte himself had, in the mean time, arrived at an Indian town called Conosset, on the south side of Lake Belle, which, although he entered it by a river, was yet, as it appears from his narrative, reached by the tide. The mullets of Lake Belle are the finest in the world. On the 1st of July, 1640, he sailed from Lake Belle, down a river, which he named Parmentier, in honour of his friend, the surveyor of the fleet. He passed eight rapids, making a fall of thirty-two feet, and arrived, on the 6th of July, at a large lake, which he named Lake de Fonte. It was 160 leagues long, from W. S.W. to E.N.E., and sixty broad, and abounded with cod and ling: a suspicious circumstance; as both these fish, and ling especially, may be considered as belonging to the deep and open sea. The woods here were frequented by the moose deer; and the vegetation, as described by De Fonte, is suitable to a northern latitude. Proceeding still towards the E.N.E., he passed through another lake, which he named Estrecho de Ronquillo, thirty-four leagues long, two or three broad, and with a great depth of water. The country now grew sensibly worse, and the climate more austere; as might be expected from a north-eastern progress over the North American continent. At length, on the 17th of July, admiral De Fonte arrived at an Indian town, and was informed that a great ship lay at no great distance, where one had been never seen before. This ship, as he afterwards learned. from its commander, was from Boston, in New England. When captain Shapley assured the Spanish admiral that his owner was a fine gentleman, and major-general of the great colony of Massachusetts, he was graciously received; and De Fonte told him, that though he was commissioned to make prize of any people seeking a west or north-west passage, yet he would look upon them as merchants, trading with the natives for furs and skins. This interview having terminated amicably, De Fonte ascended the river Parmentier on his return, eighty-six leagues to the first fall; and in five days more arrived on board his ship “before the fine town of Conosset.” A few days after, an Indian brought him a letter from Bernardo, who sent him word that he was returned from his northern expedition, having ascertained that there was no communication with the Western Ocean by Davis's Strait; for the natives had conducted one of his seamen to the head of Davis's Strait, which terminated in a fresh-water lake, of about eighty miles in circumference, in the eightieth degree of north latitude, and that there were prodigious mountains to the north of it, besides an immense barrier of ice along the shore. Here terminate the discoveries of De Fonte and his officers. But it is surprising that, after having descended the river Parmentier from Lake Belle till he found in the north-east a ship arrived from New England, he should

conclude his narrative by declaring “ that he had proved there was no communication with the South Sea through what they call the north-west passage.” This account of De Fonte's expedition, in which the writer has attempted to ingraft a vague knowledge of the interior of North America on a genuine but obscure voyage, has been generally supposed to have had no foundation in reality. Yet we shall not, perhaps, err far from the truth, if we admit that a Spanish admiral did actually discover, in 1640, a great archipelago in the latitude of 53°, and within it a large inlet or navigable river, which he explored to no purpose, and thence concluded that there was no north-west passage; and that the English editor of the voyage has inserted between the proceedings of the Spanish navigator and his conclusion, that monstrous series of discoveries, the navigations of Lake Velasco and Lake Belle; the descent of rapids by ships of war; the voyage of Bernardo from the lakes to lat. 77° N.; the journey of the seaman to the head of Davis's Strait; an expedition of twelve hundred leagues, completed in two months; and many other absurdities, which completely throw into the shade the small portion of useful truth which may possibly lurk in the narrative. Sir Francis Drake, who had a second time broken open the Straits of Magellan to the navigation of Europeans, also recalled the attention of the Spaniards to the northwestern coast of America, and induced them to renew researches which had now almost fallen into oblivion. In order to afford some protection to the Spanish galleons bound from Manilla to Acapulco from the English and Dutch cruisers, it was determined to explore the external coast of California for some secure haven which might be fortified. Sebastian Viscayno was charged with this mission, and set sail from Acapulco on the 6th of May, 1602, with two ships,-a frigate, and decked boat. He visited a great number of islands and harbours, and had to struggle continually against the north-west winds which prevail upon that coast. At length he succeeded in discovering, towards the lat. of 36°40', a harbour to which, in honour of the viceroy, he gave the name of Puerto de Monterey, and which has since become the seat of the principal settlement of the Spaniards on the north-west coast of America. Port San Diego, in 32° 40', did not escape Viscayno's attention; but Monterey was thought preferable, being more easy of access, and nearer to the parallel in which ships return from the Philippine Islands. Later navigators, however, give a less favourable description of this harbour. They represent it as a spacious and open bay, in which only a few vessels can find shelter and good anchorage. Viscayno afterwards advanced as far as the parallel of Cape Mendocino, in 41° 30', of which he got a sight. But sickness increasing on board his ships, he gave over the further prosecution of his researches, and hastened his return to Acapulco. He warmly urged the court of Spain to allow him to renew his discoveries in the north-west, and to fix a colony at Puerto de Monterey. But that dilatory and ungrateful government turned a deaf ear to his importunities; and Viscayno died before his requests were granted. It is said that one of Viscayno's captains in this expedition, named Martin de Aguilar, being separated from the squadron by the violence of the winds, succeeded in doubling Cape Mendocino, which, till then, had been only seen from a distance. Thirty leagues farther to the north he discovered a second cape, or point, to which he gave the name of Cape Blanco. Beyond this, the coast declined to the eastward ; and here he discovered a broad and navigable inlet, which he supposed to be the mouth of a great river leading to the celebrated city called Quivira. The rapidity of the current prevented him from ascending the river; and being forced to relinquish this attempt, and recollecting, besides, that the mission of Viscayno had no object but to discover a good harbour, which had been accomplished, he thought it more prudent to return, without delay, to Acapulco, Recent researches, as we have already had occasion to observe, have found no traces of the celebrated city of Quivira; and had Aguilar pretended to have himself seen it, the truth of his relation might be justly suspected. But the fictions which pervade his account can be easily explained from the opinions of his age. However, the secrecy which the Spanish nation affected to preserve with respect to their discoveries was injurious to the credit of the Spanish navigators. Mystery naturally gives rise to mistrust; and mankind are disposed to call in question claims of discovery which are not placed in the most satisfactory light. The voyages of Quiros, Torres, and others, were by many regarded as mere fictions; and that of Viscayno met with so little credit or attention, that even at the end of the seventeenth century it was still doubted whether California were an island or a peninsula.

The Dutch, however, who felt no inclination to conceal from the world the fruits of enterprises which reflected honour on their nation, shone with great lustre as discoverers during the early half of the seventeenth century. In the same year (1606) in which Torres sailed to the south of New Guinea, and descried land to the south, which was, no doubt, a part of Australia, a Dutch vessel made a similar discovery. A yacht, called the Duyfhen, discovered in that year, we are told, the south and west coasts of New Guinea, for nearly 1000 miles, from 5° to 133°. This extensive country was for the most part desert; but in some places they found it inhabited by wild, cruel, black savages, who murdered some of the crew, and prevented the Dutch from examining the country. Want of provisions compelled them to return ; and to the farthest point of the land that was seen by them they gave the name of Cape Keer Weer, or Turn-again. As Torres supposed the land which lay to the south of his course was a part of the great archipelago through which he sailed, he attached no importance to his discovery ; and the results of his voyage being but little known, there was no opportunity of correcting his error. The Dutch, on the other hand, believed the land which they coasted to be the southern portion of New Guinea, and

« ForrigeFortsett »