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fragments. But the most horrid fate - (a fate too dreadful to conceive or
to relate) - was theirs, who, buried alive beneath the fallen edifices,
awaited, with an anxious and doubtful hope, the chances of
relief - accusing, at first, the slowness, and then the avarice, of
their dearest relations and friends; and when they sank under hunger and
grief - with their senses and memory beginning to fail them - their last
sentiment was that of indignation against their kindred, and hatred of
humanity. Many were disinterred alive by their friends, and some by the
earthquake itself; which, overthrowing the very ruins it had made,
restored them to light. It was ultimately found, that about a fourth of
those whose bodies were recovered, might have been saved, had timely
assistance been at hand. The men were chiefly found in attitudes
indicating an effort at escape, the women with their hands covering
their face, or desperately plunged in their hair. Mothers were
discovered dead who had striven to protect their infants with their own
bodies, or lay with their arms stretched towards these objects of
affection, when separated from them by intervening masses of ruin.




~Escape from a Ship on Fire.~


From the "Missionary Annual" for 1833.

Many of the party, having retired to their hammocks soon after the
commencement of the storm, were only partially clothed, when they made
their escape; but the seamen on the watch, in consequence of the heavy
rain, having cased themselves in double or treble dresses, supplied
their supernumerary articles of clothing to those who had none. We
happily succeeded in bringing away two compasses from the binnacle, and
a few candles from the cuddy-table, one of them lighted; one bottle of
wine, and another of porter, were handed to us, with the tablecloth and
a knife, which proved very useful; but the fire raged so fiercely in the
body of the vessel, that neither bread nor water could be obtained. The
rain still poured in torrents; the lightning, followed by loud bursting
of thunder, continued to stream from one side of the heavens to the
other, - one moment dazzling us by its glare, and the next moment
leaving us in darkness, relieved only by the red flames of the
conflagration from which we were endeavouring to escape. Our first
object was to proceed to a distance from the vessel, lest she should
explode and overwhelm us; but, to our inexpressible distress, we
discovered that the yawl had no rudder, and that for the two boats we
had only three oars. All exertions to obtain more from the ship proved
unsuccessful. The gig had a rudder; from this they threw out a rope to
take us in tow; and, by means of a few paddles, made by tearing up the
lining of the boat, we assisted in moving ourselves slowly through the
water, providentially the sea was comparatively smooth, or our
overloaded boats would have swamped, and we should only have escaped the
flames to have perished in the deep. The wind was light, but variable,
and, acting on the sails, which, being drenched with the rain, did not
soon take fire, drove the burning mass, in terrific grandeur, over the
surface of the ocean, the darkness of which was only illuminated by the
quick glancing of the lightning or the glare of the conflagration. Our
situation was for some time extremely perilous. The vessel neared us
more than once, and apparently threatened to involve us in one common
destruction. The cargo, consisting of dry provisions, spirits, cotton
goods, and other articles equally combustible, burned with great
violence, while the fury of the destroying element, the amazing height
of the flames, the continued storm, amidst the thick darkness of the
night, rendered the scene appalling and terrible. About ten o'clock, the
masts, after swaying from side to side, fell with a dreadful crash into
the sea, and the hull of the vessel continued to burn amidst the
shattered fragments of the wreck, till the sides were consumed to the
water's edge. The spectacle was truly magnificent, could it even have
been contemplated by us without a recollection of our own circumstances.
The torments endured by the dogs, sheep, and other animals on board, at
any other time would have excited our deepest commiseration; but at
present, the object before us, our stately ship, that had for the last
four months been our social home, the scene of our enjoyments, our
labours, and our rest, now a prey to the destroying element; the
suddenness with which we had been hurried from circumstances of comfort
and comparative security, to those of destitution and peril, and with
which the most exhilarating hopes had been exchanged for disappointment
as unexpected as it was afflictive; the sudden death of the two seamen,
our own narrow escape, and lonely situation on the face of the deep, and
the great probability even yet, although we had succeeded in removing to
a greater distance from the vessel, that we ourselves should never again
see the light of day, or set foot on solid ground, absorbed every
feeling. For some time the silence was scarcely broken, and the thoughts
of many, I doubt not, were engaged on subjects most suitable to immortal
beings on the brink of eternity. The number of persons in the two boats
was forty-eight; and all, with the exception of the two ladies, who bore
this severe visitation with uncommon fortitude, worked by turns at the
oars and paddles. After some time, to our great relief, the rain ceased;
the labour of baling water from the boats was then considerably
diminished. We were frequently hailed during the night by our companions
in the small boat, and returned the call, while the brave and
generous-hearted seamen occasionally enlivened the solitude of the deep
by a simultaneous "Hurra!" to cheer each others' labours, and to animate
their spirits. The Tanjore rose in the water as its contents were
gradually consumed. We saw it burning the whole night, and at day-break
could distinguish a column of smoke, which, however, soon ceased, and
every sign of our favourite vessel disappeared. When the sun rose, our
anxiety and uncertainty as to our situation were greatly relieved by
discovering land ahead; the sight of it filled us with grateful joy,
and nerved us with fresh vigour for the exertion required in managing
the boats. With the advance of the day we discerned more clearly the
nature of the country. It was wild and covered with jungle, without any
appearance of population: could we have got ashore, therefore, many of
us might have perished before assistance could have been procured; but
the breakers, dashing upon the rocks, convinced us that landing was
impracticable. In the course of the morning we discovered a native
vessel, or dhoney, lying at anchor, at some distance: the wind at that
time beginning to favour us, every means was devised to render it
available. In the yawl we extended the tablecloth as a sail, and in the
other boat a blanket served the same purpose. This additional help was
the more seasonable, as the rays of the sun had become almost
intolerable to our partially covered bodies. Some of the seamen
attempted to quench their thirst by salt water: but the passengers
encouraged each other to abstain. About noon we reached the dhoney. The
natives on board were astonished and alarmed at our appearance, and
expressed some unwillingness to receive us; but our circumstances would
admit of no denial; and we scarcely waited till our Singalese
fellow-passenger could interpret to them our situation and our wants,
before we ascended the sides of their vessel, assuring them that every
expense and loss sustained on our account should be amply repaid.




~Anecdotes of the Albatross, &c.~


The author of the following extracts is Mr. Augustus Earle, whose life
has been one of wandering and peril, traversing every quarter of the
globe. The account of his residence for nine months among the New
Zealanders is very interesting; but a description of their cannibal
habits will not suit the taste of many of our young readers. We shall
therefore accompany him to the Island of Tristan d'Acunha, upon which,
by accident, he was left, where he amused himself hunting goats, sea
elephants, albatrosses, and penguins; while, like another Crusoe, he
occasionally watched for the ship that should release him from his
island prison. His work is intitled "Nine Months' Residence in New
Zealand," &c.




THE ALBATROSS.


Being a fine morning, I determined to ascend the mountain. As several
parties had before gone up, they had formed a kind of path: at least we
endeavoured to trace the same way; but it requires a great deal of nerve
to attempt it. The sides of the mountain are nearly perpendicular; but,
after ascending about two hundred feet, it is there entirely covered
with wood, which renders the footing much more safe; but in order to
get to the wood, the road is so dangerous, that it made me almost
tremble to think of it, - slippery grey rocks, and many of them
unfortunately loose, so that when we took hold, they separated from the
mass, and fell with a horrid rumbling noise. Here and there were a few
patches of grass, the only thing we could depend upon to assist us in
climbing, which must be done with extreme caution, for the least slip or
false step would dash one to atoms on the rocks below. By keeping our
eyes constantly looking upwards, and continuing to haul ourselves up, by
catching firm hold on this grass, after an hour's painful toil we gained
the summit, where we found ourselves on an extended plain, of several
miles expanse, which terminates in the peak, composed of dark grey lava,
bare and frightful to behold. We proceeded towards it, the plain
gradually rising, but the walking was most fatiguing, over strong rank
grass and fern several feet high, with holes concealed under the roots
in such a way, that no possible caution could prevent our occasionally
falling down into one or other of them, and entirely disappearing, which
caused a boisterous laugh amongst the rest; but it frequently happened,
while one was making merry at the expense of another, down sunk the
laugher himself. A death-like stillness prevailed in these high regions,
and, to my ear, our voices had a strange, unnatural echo, and I fancied
our forms appeared gigantic, whilst the air was piercing cold. The
prospect was altogether very sublime, and filled the mind with awe! On
the one side, the boundless horizon, heaped up with clouds of silvery
brightness, contrasted with some of darker hue, enveloping us in their
vapour, and, passing rapidly away, gave us only casual glances of the
landscape; and, on the other hand, the sterile and cindery peak, with
its venerable head, partly capped with clouds, partly revealing great
patches of red cinders, or lava, intermingled with the black rock,
produced a most extraordinary and dismal effect. It seemed as though it
were still actually burning, to heighten the sublimity of the scene. The
huge albatross appeared here to dread no interloper or enemy; for their
young were on the ground completely uncovered, and the old ones were
stalking around them. This bird is the largest of the aquatic tribe; and
its plumage is of a most delicate white, excepting the back and the tops
of its wings, which are grey: they lay but one egg, on the ground, where
they form a kind of nest, by scraping the earth round it. After the
young one is hatched, it has to remain a year before it can fly; it is
entirely white, and covered with a woolly down, which is very beautiful.
As we approached them, they clapped their beaks, with a very quick
motion, which made a great noise. This, and throwing up the contents of
the stomach, are the only means of offence and defence they seem to
possess. The old ones, which are valuable on account of their feathers,
my companions made dreadful havoc amongst, knocking on the head all they
could come up with. These birds are very helpless on the land, the
great length of their wings precluding them from rising up into the air,
unless they can get to a steep declivity. On the level ground they were
completely at our mercy, but very little was shewn them; and in a very
short space of time the plain was strewn with their bodies, one blow on
the head generally killing them instantly. Five months after, many of
the young birds were still sitting on their nests, and had never moved
away from them; they remain there for a year before they can fly, and
during that long period are fed by the mother. They had greatly
increased in size and beauty since my first visit to them. The semblance
of the young bird, as it sits on the nest, is stately and beautiful. The
white down, which is its first covering, giving place gradually to its
natural grey plumage, leaves half the creature covered with down; the
other half is a fine compact coat of feathers, composed of white and
grey; while the head is of a dazzling, silvery white. Their size is
prodigious, one of them proving a tolerable load. Upon skinning them,
on our return, we found they were covered with a fine white fat, which I
was told was excellent for frying, and other culinary purposes; and the
flesh was quite as delicate, and could scarcely be distinguished in
flavour from lamb. Besides our albatross, the dogs caught some small
birds, about the size of our partridge, but their gait was something
like that of the penguin. The male is of a glossy black, with a bright
red hard crest on the top of the head. The hen is brown. They stand
erect, and have long yellow legs, with which they run very fast; their
wings are small and useless for flying, but they are armed with sharp
spurs for defence, and also, I imagine, for assisting them in climbing,
as they are found generally among the rocks. The name they give this
bird here is simply "cock," its only note being a noise very much
resembling the repetition of that word. Its flesh is plump, fat, and
excellent eating.




VISIT TO A PENGUIN ROOKERY.


The spot of ground occupied by our settlers is bounded on each side by
high _bluffs_, which extend far into the sea, leaving a space in front,
where all their hogs run nearly wild, as they are prevented going beyond
those limits by those natural barriers; and the creatures who, at stated
periods, come up from the sea, remain in undisturbed possession of the
beaches beyond our immediate vicinity. The weather being favourable, we
launched our boat early in the morning, for the purpose of procuring a
supply of eggs for the consumption of the family. We heard the
chattering of the penguins from the rookery long before we landed, which
was noisy in the extreme, and groups of them were scattered all over the
beach; but the high thick grass on the declivity of the hill seemed
their grand establishment, and they were hidden by it from our view. As
we could not find any place where we could possibly land our boat in
safety, I and two more swam on shore with bags tied round our necks to
hold the eggs in, and the boat with one of the men lay off, out of the
surf. I should think the ground occupied by these _birds_ (if I may be
allowed so to call them) was at least a mile in circumference, covered
in every part with grasses and reeds, which grew considerably higher
than my head; and on every gentle ascent, beginning from the beach, on
all the large grey rocks, which occasionally appeared above this grass,
sat perched groups of these strange and uncouth-looking creatures; but
the noise which rose up from beneath baffles all description! As our
business lay with the noisy part of this community, we quietly crept
under the grass, and commenced our plundering search, though there
needed none, so profuse was the quantity. The scene altogether well
merits a better description than I can give - thousands, and hundreds of
thousands, of these little two-legged erect monsters hopping around us,
with voices very much resembling in tone that of the human; all opened
their throats together: so thickly clustered in groups that it was
almost impossible to place the foot without dispatching one of them. The
shape of the animal, their curious motions, and their most extraordinary
voices, made me fancy myself in a kingdom of pigmies. The regularity of
their manners, their all sitting in exact rows, resembling more the
order of a camp than a rookery of noisy birds, delighted me. These
creatures did not move away on our approach, but only increased their
noise, so we were obliged to displace them forcibly from their nests;
and this ejectment was not produced without a considerable struggle on
their parts; and, being armed with a formidable beak, it soon became a
scene of desperate warfare. We had to take particular care to protect
our hands and legs from their attacks: and for this purpose each one had
provided himself with a short stout club. The noise they continued to
make during our ramble through their territories the sailors said was,
"Cover 'em up, cover 'em up." And, however incredible it may appear, it
is nevertheless true, that I heard those words so distinctly repeated,
and by such various tones of voices, that several times I started, and
expected to see one of the men at my elbow. Even these little creatures,
as well as the monstrous sea elephant, appear to keep up a continued
warfare with each other. As the penguins sit in rows, forming regular
lanes leading down to the beach, whenever one of them feels an
inclination to refresh herself by a plunge into the sea, she has to run
the gauntlet through the whole _street_, every one pecking at her as she
passes without mercy; and though all are occupied in the same
employment, not the smallest degree of friendship seems to exist; and
whenever we turned one off her nest, she was sure to be thrown amongst
foes; and, besides the loss of her eggs, was invariably doomed to
receive a severe beating and pecking from her companions. Each one lays
three eggs, and after a time, when the young are strong enough to
undertake the journey, they go to sea, and are not again seen till the
ensuing spring. Their city is deserted of its numerous inhabitants, and
quietness reigns till nature prompts their return the following year,
when the same noisy scene is repeated, as the same flock of birds
returns to the spot where they were hatched. After raising a tremendous
tumult in this numerous colony, and sustaining continued combat, we came
off victorious, making capture of about a thousand eggs, resembling in
size, colour, and transparency of shell, those of a duck; and the taking
possession of this immense quantity did not occupy more than one hour,
which may serve to prove the incalculable number of birds collected
together. We did not allow them sufficient time, after landing, to lay
all their eggs; for, had the season been further advanced, and we had
found three eggs in each nest, the whole of them might probably have
proved addled, the young partly formed, and the eggs of no use to us;
but the whole of those we took turned out good, and had a particularly
fine and delicate flavour. It was a work of considerable difficulty to
get our booty safe into the boat - so frail a cargo - with so tremendous a
surf running against us. However, we finally succeeded, though not
without smashing a considerable number of the eggs.




THE SEA ELEPHANT.


I saw, for the first time, what the settlers call a _pod_ of sea
elephants. At this particular season these animals lay strewed about the
beach, and, unless you disturb them, the sight of a man will not
frighten them away. I was determined to get a good portrait of some of
them, and accordingly took my sketch-book and pencil, and seated myself
very near to one of them, and began my operations, feeling sure I had
now got a most patient sitter, for they will lie for weeks together
without stirring; but I had to keep throwing small pebbles at him, in
order to make him open his eyes, and prevent his going to sleep. The
flies appear to torment these unwieldy monsters most cruelly, their
eyes and nostrils being stuffed full of them. I got a good sketch of the
group. They appeared to stare at me occasionally with some little
astonishment, stretching up their immense heads and looking around; but
finding all still (I suppose they considered me a mere rock), they
composed themselves to sleep again. They are the most shapeless
creatures about the body. I could not help comparing them to an
over-grown maggot, and their motion is similar to that insect. The face
bears some rude resemblance to the human countenance; the eye is large,
black, and expressive; excepting two very small flippers or paws at the
shoulder, the whole body tapers down to a fish's tail; they are of a
delicate mouse colour, the fur is very fine, but too oily for any other
purpose than to make mocassins for the islanders. The bull is of an
enormous size, and would weigh as heavily as his namesake of the land;
and in that one thing consists their only resemblance, for no two
animals can possibly be more unlike each other. It is a very curious
phenomenon, how they can possibly exist on shore; for, from the first
of their landing, they never go out to sea, and they lie on a stormy
beach for months together without tasting any food, except consuming
their own fat, for they gradually waste away; and as this fat or blubber
is the great object of value, for which they are attacked and
slaughtered, the settlers contrive to commence operations against them
upon their first arrival, for it is well ascertained that they take no
sustenance whatever on shore. I examined the contents of the stomach of
one they had just killed, but could not make out the nature of what it
contained. The matter was of a remarkably bright green colour. They have
many enemies, even in the water; one called the killer, a species of
grampus, which makes terrible havoc amongst them, and will attack and
take away the carcass of one from alongside a boat. But man is their
greatest enemy, and causes the most destruction to their race: he
pursues them to all quarters of the globe.




VISIT FROM THE NATIVES AT TERRA DEL FUEGO.


During our stay, we had, at various times, visits from the natives. They
were all at first very shy, but after they found our friendly
disposition towards them, they became more sociable and confiding.

On the 11th of March three bark canoes arrived, containing four men,
four women, and a girl about sixteen years old, four little boys and
four infants, one of the latter about a week old, and quite naked. They
had rude weapons, viz. slings to throw stones, three rude spears,
pointed at the end with bone, and notched on one side with barbed teeth.
With this they catch their fish, which are in great quantities among the
kelp. Two of the natives were induced to come on board, after they had
been alongside for upwards of an hour, and received many presents, for
which they gave their spears, a dog, and some of their rude native
trinkets. They did not shew or express surprise at anything on board,
except when seeing one of the carpenters engaged in boring a hole with a
screw-auger through a plank, which would have been a long task for them.
They were very talkative, smiling when spoken to, and often bursting
into loud laughter, but instantly settling into their natural serious
and sober cast.

They were found to be great mimics, both in gesture and sound, and would
repeat any word of our language, with great correctness of
pronunciation. Their imitations of sounds were truly astonishing.

Their mimicry became at length annoying, and precluded our getting at
any of their words or ideas. It not only extended to words or sounds,
but actions also, and was at times truly ridiculous. The usual manner of
interrogating for names was quite unsuccessful. On pointing to the nose,
for instance, they did the same. Anything they saw done they would
mimic, and with an extraordinary degree of accuracy. On these canoes
approaching the ship, the principal one of the family, or chief,
standing up in his canoe, made a harangue. Although they have been
heard to shout quite loud, yet they cannot endure a noise; and when the
drum beat, or a gun was fired, they invariably stopped their ears. They
always speak to each other in a whisper.

The women were never suffered to come on board. They appeared modest in
the presence of strangers. They never move from a sitting posture, or
rather a squat, with their knees close together, reaching to their chin,
their feet in contact, and touching the lower part of the body. They are
extremely ugly. Their hands and feet were small and well shaped; and,


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Online LibraryAnonymousThe Book of Enterprise and Adventure Being an Excitement to Reading. for Young People. a New and Condensed Edition → online text (page 4 of 6)