A sealing schooner, the Unicorn, arrived, Mr. William Low being sealing master and part owner; and, although considered to be the most enterprizing and intelligent sealer on those shores, perhaps anywhere, the weather had been so much against him that he returned from his six months' cruise a ruined man, with an empty ship. All his means had been employed to forward the purchase and outfit of the fine vessel in which he sailed; but having had, as he assured me, a continued succession of gales during sixty-seven days, and, taking it altogether, the worst season he had known during twenty years' experience, he had been prevented from taking seal, and was ruined. Passengers with him were the master and crew of a North American sealing schooner, the Transport, which had been wrecked on the south-west coast of Tierra del Fuego, in Hope Harbour; and he told me of two other wrecks, all occasioned by the gale of January 12-13th.
At this time I had become more fully convinced than ever that the Beagle could not execute her allotted task before she, and those in her, would be so much in need of repair and rest, that the most interesting part of her voyage—the carrying a chain of meridian distances around the globe—must eventually be sacrificed to the tedious, although not less useful, details of coast surveying.
Our working ground lay so far from ports at which supplies could be obtained, that we were obliged to occupy whole months in making passages merely to get provisions, and then overload our little vessel to a most inconvenient degree, as may be supposed, when I say that eight months' provisions was our usual stock at starting, and that we sailed twice with ten months' supply on board.*
I had often anxiously longed for a consort, adapted for carrying cargoes, rigged so as to be easily worked with few hands, and able to keep company with the Beagle; but when I saw the Unicorn, and heard how well she had behaved as a sea-boat, my wish to purchase her was unconquerable. A fitter vessel I could hardly have met with, one hundred and seventy tons burthen, oak built, and copper fastened throughout, very roomy, a good sailer, extremely handy, and a first-rate sea-boat; her only deficiencies were such as I could supply, namely, a few sheets of copper, and an outfit of canvas and rope. A few days elapsed, in which she was surveyed very carefully by Mr. May, and my mind fully made up, before I decided to buy her, and I then agreed to give six thousand dollars (nearly £1,300) for immediate possession. Being part owner, and authorized by the other owners to do as he thought best with the vessel in case of failure, Mr. Low sold her to me, payment to be made into his partners' hands at Monte Video. Some of his crew being 'upon the lay,' that is, having agreed to be paid for their work by a small proportion of the cargo obtained, preferred remaining at the Falklands to seek for employment in other vessels, others procured a passage in the Rapid, and a few were engaged by me to serve in their own vessel which, to keep up old associations, I named 'Adventure.' Mr. Chaffers and others immediately volunteered to go in her temporarily (for I intended to place Mr. Wickham in her if he should be willing to undertake the responsibility), and no time was lost in cleaning her out thoroughly, loading her with stores purchased by me from M. le Dilly and from Mr. Bray (lately master of the Transport), and despatching her to Maldonado, to be prepared for her future employment.
* Excepting water, of which we only carried six weeks.
While the Beagle lay in Johnson Cove, we witnessed a memorable instance of the strength with which squalls sometimes sweep across the Falklands. Our ship was moored with a cable each way in a land-locked cove, not a mile across, and to the south-westward of her, three cables' length distant, was a point of land which, under ordinary circumstances, would have protected her from sea, if not from wind. Our largest boat, the yawl, was moored near our eastern anchor, with a long scope of small chain... (to be continued tomorrow)...
Here our Captain BOUGHT a schooner of Mr. Low, a sealer, called the Unicorn, which was changed for that of the New Adventure.
This schooner greatly forwarded our surveying, and helped the Beagle in taking the crew of the Megellan to Monte Video, which men and officers together amounted to about thirty.