« ForrigeFortsett »
departed, however, Selkirk changed his mind, and wished to return on board, but the captain would not receive him. Stradling afterwards cruised on the coast of Peru till his vessel, already in a sinking state, ran ashore on the island Gorgona, where the captain and seven men, all that remained of the crew, were obliged to surrender to the Spaniards. The St. George was not more fortunate. Dampier quarrelled with his chief mate, Mr. Clipperton, who, having induced one and twenty of the men to join him, seized the small prize bark of about ten tons, which contained all their ammunition and the greatest part of their provisions. Clipperton cruised successfully on the coasts of New Spain, and afterwards crossed the Pacific in his little vessel to Macao,-one of the most extraordinary voyages ever performed. After the desertion of Clipperton, Dampier attacked the Manilla galleon, but without success; and its failure added to the discontents of his crew, who now felt alarmed at the bad condition of the crazy vessel. Dampier wished to continue in the South Sea, but the majority of the crew were otherwise inclined. A prize bark of about seventy tons burden was fitted up for those who wished to go to India. In this little vessel embarked thirty-seven men, and among them William Funnel, who afterwards wrote the history of the voyage. On their arrival at Amboyna, they were taken prisoners by the Dutch, who at first treated them with some severity, but afterwards sent them home in their fleet to England. Dampier in the mean time remained in the St. George, with only nine and twenty men. He plundered the town of Puna, and cruised along the coast of Peru till his ship was no longer able to keep the sea. They then embarked in a brigantine which had been taken from the Spaniards; and stripping the St. George of every thing that might prove useful on their voyage, they left her riding at anchor near a small island on the coast. When Dampier arrived in the East Indies he was unable to produce his commission, which had probably been stolen from him by some of his discontented followers; his ship and goods were therefore seized by the Dutch, and he was for some time detained in custody. The miserable failure of this expedition was sufficient to discourage any speculations of a privateering nature; and it came to be admitted as a principle, that although cruising might be a gainful trade for buccaneers, yet that there could be no hopes of realising large profits by expeditions fitted out by merchants, and in the ultimate success of which every individual on board did not feel an immediate interest. But the indefatigable Dampier, unused to any industry but that of pillaging the Spaniards in the South Seas, addressed himself to the merchants of Bristol so earnestly and repeatedly, flattering their hopes with the rich plunder to be obtained in the Spanish settlements, that he at length prevailed upon them to fit out an expedition. They accordingly equipped two stout ships for the purpose, the one of thirty, and the other of twenty-six guns, and with crews amounting jointly to 321 men. Great care was taken in the choice of the officers. Captain Woodes Rogers was appointed to the command in chief; and Dampier, whose character as a skilful seaman was still high, and whose circumstances were reduced, engaged himself as his pilot. Their voyage to the Pacific was prosperous; and they steered directly to that grand resort of privateers, the island of Juan Fernandez. But on approaching the island, they had cause to suspect that the Spaniards had established a garrison upon it, as a fire was distinctly seen during the night; and accordingly a small boat was sent to reconnoitre. As the boat drew near, a man was seen on the shore waving a white flag; and on her nearer approach he called to the people in the boat in the English language, and directed them to a landing place. As the boat did not return so soon as was expected, the pinnace was sent in search of her. The circumstance which caused the delay is thus narrated by captain Woodes Rogers:– “The pinnace came back immediately from the shore, and brought abundance of crayfish; and with a man clothed in goat-skins, who looked more wild than the first owners of them. He had been on the island four years and four months. His name was Alexander Selkirk, a Scotchman, who had been master of the Cinque Ports galley, a ship which came here with captain Dampier, who told me he was the best man in her; so I immediately agreed with him to be a mate on board our ship. It was he who made the fire last night, judging our ships to be English.” During the first eight months of his residence on the island, Selkirk found it difficult to bear up against melancholy and the tediousness of his solitary life. He built himself two huts with pimento-trees, covered them with long grass, and lined them with the skins of goats, which he killed with his gun so long as his pound of powder lasted. Just as that was expended he found the method of kindling fire by rubbing together two pieces of pimento wood. He employed himself by praying and singing psalms. At first his appetite quite failed him; he could not relish his food, from dejection and want of salt; nor used he to go to bed till he was no longer able to watch. Pimento wood served him for both fire and candle, burning very clearly, and with a fragrant refreshing smell. When his powder was all expended, he was obliged to catch the goats by running them down; and he grew so active as to be able to outstrip a good dog. On one occasion his agility had nearly cost him his life. He pursued a goat at full speed to the edge of a precipice which the bushes had concealed from his view: he fell, in consequence, a great height, and was so bruised and stunned by the fall that he narrowly escaped with his life. When he came to his senses, he found the goat lying dead under him. He lay in this situation about four and twenty hours, and then crawled with difficulty to his hut, which was a mile distant; nor did he recover from the effects of this accident for several days. Goats and cats, which had been brought to the island,—the former by the Spaniards, the latter by the buccaneers and cruisers, -had multiplied exceedingly: of the former, he had killed above 500 while dwelling here; and had caught as many more, which he dismissed, after marking them in the ear. He had tamed a number of kids; and, in order to amuse himself, he used sometimes to sing and dance with them and with his cats. His clothes and shoes were soon worn out by running through the woods; but his feet grew so hard by exercise, that he could run over the roughest ground without inconvenience, and found it difficult afterwards to reconcile himself to the use of shoes. When his clothes were worn to rags, he made himself a coat and cap of goatskin, which he sewed together with thongs of the same material. His only needle was a nail; and when his knife was completely worn out, he made a new one of some iron hoops that were left on shore. As he had some linen cloth among his stores, he made himself some shirts of it, sewing them together with the yarn of his worsted stockings.
In the proper season he had plenty of good turnips, which had been sown there by Dampier's men, and increased so as to overspread some acres of ground. The cabbage-trees also furnished him with good nourishment. He made excellent goat-soup, and seasoned it with the fruit of the pimento, which is the same as Jamaica pepper. His last shirt was nearly worn out when captain Rogers arrived here; and he had forgotten his language, or lost the power of articulation so much by disuse as to be hardly intelligible.
Alexander Selkirk always remembered with pleasure his abode on Juan Fernandez. He was only thirty years of age when first left there; and when the pains of loneliness had worn off, and his health was improved by exercise, temperance, and a fine climate, he became sensibly attached to his wild but tranquil life. His countenance retained ever after the traits that mark the hunter in his solitary occupation. In the streets of London he went along with an air of complete abstraction, and often ran at full speed, totally regardless and unaware of the crowds that stood wondering at him.* The adventures of Alexander Selkirk formed the groundwork of Defoe's novel of “Robinson Crusoe.” The voyage of Woodes Rogers was crowned with complete success. He captured the Acapulco galleon, and returned safely to England by the East Indies, having sailed round the globe in three years and three months. This expedition was not productive of any immediate advantage to geography, but it tended much to strip distant and tedious navigations of those terrors which had become attached to them through mismanagement or the incapability of their commanders. The merchants were so much encouraged by its result, that in 1718 they again fitted out two ships for the South Sea. Captains Shelvocke and Clipperton were appointed to command them ; but they soon separated; and the success of the undertaking vanished, as might be expected, with the unity of those engaged to conduct it. . Clipperton was deposed from his command by his crew in the East Indies; and died, soon after his return to England, of a broken heart. Shelvocke took many prizes, and brought back his ship; but his conduct to— wards his owners and his ship's company was the subject of severe animadversion; and this expedition was, on the whole, ill-conducted and unfortunate. Yet these commanders all published accounts of their voyages, in which, if they could not boast of any new discoveries, they at least added many amusing particulars respecting countries still but imperfectly known. It is surprising to consider what spirit and vigour were infused into maritime enterprise by the example of the buccaneers. Within the comparatively short space of thirty-six years (from 1686 to 1722), no less than six expeditions had circumnavigated the globe under the command of Englishmen; and the voyage across the great Pacific Ocean, which, an age before, was looked upon as a stupendous enterprise, was voluntarily undertaken and successfully accomplished by Clipperton, in a slender bark of only ten tons burden. The French had acquired in the same school a taste for roving over the ocean. The first French ship that
* King's Anecdotes. WOL. II, Y