Bibliography Texts

A Voyage to the South Atlantic …

James Colnett

This page contains the Galápagos sections from the appropriate chapters of James Colnetts's Voyage published in London in 1798. The pagination in centered brackets is taken from the 1798 edition of Colnett's Voyage …, and the notes which appear in its outer page margins are displayed here in the right margin.


Route of the Rattler from the Isles Saint Felix
and Saint Ambrose, to the Coast of Peru.


1793.The Isle Lobas le Terra, appears, towards the Eastern point, to be much broken into small hillocks, while the land, or main near it, is low and visible, only on a near approach.

During the short time I remained off these isles, the weather was so hazy, as to prevent my making any accurate observations concerning them.

June 16.On the sixteenth of June, I reached Cape Blanco, the South Cape of the Gulf of Guiaquil, which is level land, of a moderate height, and, by several observations taken off it, I make it in Latitude 4° 8' South, and Longitude 82° 20' West. Off this cape, there is a strong, westerly current, making out of the Gulf of Guiaquil; and afterwards, in crossing the gulf, I was in twenty-four hours, set forty miles to the Westward.

19. On the nineteenth, I saw Point Saint Helena and Isle Plata, where Admiral Sir Francis Drake divided his plunder. By several observations taken off the isle, I place it in Latitude 1° 16' South, and Longitude 82° 42' West; and Point Saint Helena in Latitude 2° 0' South, and Longitude 82° 20' West.


1793. The winds had now began to Western on me, and knowing it to be an object of the board of Admiralty that I should visit the Gallipagoes Isles, it became me to exert my best endeavours to do so, before I got further to the Northward; when, if the wind should Western more upon us, which it frequently does in this Latitude, I should not have been able to fetch them.

On the same day I took my departure from Cape Saint Helena for Gallipagoes Isles, for the reasons already mentioned, the wind westing on us; but, at thirty leagues distance from the coast, it returned to the South East quarter, and continued there, till we made the isles. On the second day, after we had left the coast, we fell in with a large flinched whale, which could not have been killed more than three days.June 24. On the twenty-fourth, at four A. M., we made one of the Gallipagoe Isles, bearing West by North, six or seven leagues.

In the course of our passage, we fell in frequently with streams of current, at least a mile in breadth, and of which there was no apparent termination. They frequently changed the ship's course, against her helm, half the compass, although running at the rate of three miles and an half an hour. I


1793. never experienced a similar current, but on the coast of Norway. The froth, and boil, of these streams appear, at a very small distance, like heavy breakers; we sounded in several of them, and found no bottom with two hundred fathoms of line. I also tried the rate and course of the stream, which was South West by West, two miles and an half an hour. These streams are very partial, and we avoided them, whenever it was in our power. Birds, fish, turtles, seals, sun-fish and other marine animals kept constantly on the edge of them, and they were often seen to contain large beds of cream-coloured blubber, of the same kind as those of a red hue, which are observable on the coast of Peru. The only seals we saw were in herds fishing, or in their passage, between the Gallipagoes and the main. I do not affirm it as a fact, but as we saw no seals in my route back, and as the few we killed there were with young, I am disposed to conjecture that the herds of them, just mentioned, were on their passage to whelp.

The 1798 (first) edition of the Aaron Arrowsmith Galápagos Islands chart is inserted here.
Mapping Notes at the bottom of this page provide details about the chart and subsequent revisions.


The Gallipagoes Isles.

June 24.
At day-break, 24th June, the land bore from West 10° South, to West 10° North by compass, having the appearance of two isles. It was my first design, to get round the Southernmost land, which was visible, and I accordingly hauled on a wind, but was induced to alter my intentions from a mistaken opinion that I was further South than it afterwards appeared. I was led into this error, from having a North East current during the two preceding days, setting at the rate of from twenty to thirty miles in the twenty-four hours. On rounding the North East point, which we passed at noon, the Latitude from observation was 40' South, the East point bearing South East; and the South West point South, 35° West. The soundings were ninety fathoms, and the distance from the nearest land, eight or nine miles. The land,


1793. towards the East was covered with small trees or bushes without leaves, and very few spots of verdure were visible to us; a few seals were seen on the shore. The land rises at short intervening distances in small hills or hillocks, of very singular forms, which when observed through a glass and at no great distance from the shore, have the appearance of habitations, which the prickly pear-trees and the torch thistles, look like their owners standing around them. In other parts, the hills rise so sudden on the low land, that having a small offing, they appear to be so many separate islands. About four miles off the North East end, there is a small islet which is connected by a reef with the main isle: it is covered with seals, and the breakers reach some distance from the shore. The highest land, at this part of the isle, is of a very moderate height, descending gradually to the shore, which consists alternately of rocks and sand: some of the rocky parts, being much insulated, they form winding inlets of two or three miles in depth, and from one to two cables in breadth.

At the distance of two or three miles to the Westward of the islet, I hove to, and sent the chief mate on shore to sound and land. At eight P.M. he returned with green turtle and tortoises, turtle doves and guanas; but they saw no esculent


1793. vegetable, nor found any water that was sufficiently palatable to drink. He run four miles along the coast, at three quarters of a mile from the shore, without getting any soundings; at that length, found bottom at ten fathoms. This was near the distance we had fallen to leeward, from the time the boat had left us. I had sounded several times with the deep sea lead at four or five miles from shore, and got no bottom with one hundred and fifty fathoms of line. We stood off and on during the night, the wind being between the South and South East. At break of day, we discovered that the current had taken a different direction, and had set us considerably to the Northward and Westward, and we could not fetch our situation of the preceding night. At noon, we were by observation in latitude 37' South.

I now thought it prudent to come to an anchor, in order to refresh the people, and to determine the situation of the isle. As we drew in with the shore, I kept the deep sea lead going, and at the distance of about five or six miles, we obtained soundings from thirty-eight to thirty-six fathoms, which continued to diminish till we were within a mile of the shore, when we got into nineteen fathoms water, fine sand bottom, and near the center of the isle; in which depth we came to anchor.


1793. The land forms a kind of bay, the extremes of which bore from South 43° West, an high bluff; to East 34° North, a low point; there is a distant high rock, off the South West point, West 33° South, which lays off the East part of a deep commodious bay. South by East of us was a small bay, formed by two rocky points; in the East part of which was one of those small creeks already mentioned. I sounded round the ship with two boats, as well between us and the shore: here we found a good bottom, the soundings increasing or decreasing as we distanced or neared the land.

Two boats now landed abreast of the ship, and the crews dividing, took the separate courses of East and West, in search of water and vegetables: a third boat I sent off to the large bay, which is distinguished by a high rock, on a similar pursuit, but they all returned in the evening without having attained the objects of their search. The boat from the West had found an uncommon kind of sand; we supposed it, from its weight, to contain some kind of ore, and which we afterward found to be small topazes.

This isle is of a moderate height, the highest parts being to the Westward. All the North side descends gradually to the sea, forming low points. Many parts are well wooded, but as it was winter, there was no appearance of verdure,


1793. but from the evergreen trees and plants, such as the box and the prickly pear, with the torch thistle and the mangrove. The middle of the isle is low land, and at a very small distance has the appearance of being divided into two parts, particularly on the South side. On the Western part of the bay in which we anchored, the land is barren and rocky; in some parts it has the appearance of being covered with cinders; and in others with a kind of iron clinker, in flakes of several feet in circumference, and from one to three inches thick: in passing over them, they sound like plates of iron: the earth is also frequently rent in cracks that run irregularly from East to West, and are many fathoms deep: there were also large caves, and on the tops of every hill which we ascended was the mouth of a pit, whose depth must be immense, from the length of time during which a stone, that was thrown into it, was heard. Many of the cavities on the sides of the hills, as well as on the level ground, contained water, but of such a brackish taste as to render it unfit to be drank. In most of them there were considerable flocks of teals, which were by no means shy and were easily caught: they are of the same kind as those known in England.

This island contains no great number or variety of land birds, and those I saw were not remarkable for their


1793.novelty or beauty: they were the fly-catcher and creeper, like those of New Zealand; a bird resembling the small mocking bird of the same island; a black hawk, somewhat larger than our sparrow hawks, and a bird of the size and shape of our black-bird. Ringdoves, of a dusky plumage, were seen in the greatest number: they seldom approached the sea till sun-set, when they took their flight to the Westward, and at sun-rise returned to the Eastward; so that if there is any water on the isle, I should suppose it would be found in that part. Besides, it is the highest land and a small quantity of water, lodged in the hollow of a rock, would supply these birds for a considerable time. My second visit to these isles confirmed my supposition, as small oozings were then found at the foot of two or three hills, which may be occasioned by pools of rain water collected on the tops of them, as is frequently seen on the North West coast of America. An officer and party whom I sent to travel inland saw many spots which had very lately contained fresh water, and about which the land tortoises appeared to be pining in great numbers. Several of them were seen within land as well as on the sea coast, which if they had been in flesh, would have weighed three hundred weight, but were now scarcely one third of their full size.


1793.I was very much perplexed to form a satisfactory conjecture how the small birds, which appeared to remain in one spot, supported themselves without water: but the party on their return informed me that, having exhausted all their water and reposing beneath a prickly pear-tree, almost choaked with thirst, they observed an old bird in the act of supplying three young ones with drink, by squeezing the berry into their mouths. It was about the size of a pea, and contained a watery juice of an acid but not unpleasant taste. The bark of the tree produces a considerable quantity of moisture, and on being eaten allays the thirst. In dry seasons the land tortoise is seen to gnaw and suck it. The leaf of this tree is like that of the bay tree, the fruit grows like cherries, whilst the juice of the bark dies the flesh a deep purple and emits a grateful odor: a quality in common with the greater part of the trees and plants in this island; though it is soon lost when the branches are separated from the trunks or stems. The leaves of these trees also absorb the copious dews which fall during the night, but in larger quantities at the full and change of the moon; the birds then pierce them with their bills for the moisture they retain and which, I believe, they also procure from the various plants and ever-greens. But when the dews fail in the summer season, thousands of these creatures perish; for on our return hither, we found great numbers dead in


1793. their nests, and some of them almost fledged. It may however be remarked that this curious instinctive mode of finding a substitute for water is not peculiar to the birds of this island; as nature has provided them with a similar resource in the fountain tree that flourishes on the Isle Ferro, one of the Canaries; and several other trees and canes which Churchill tells us in his voyages are to be found on the mountains of the Phillipine Islands.

There is no tree in this island which measures more than twelve inches in circumference except the prickly pear, some of which were three feet in the girth, and fifty feet in height. The torch thistle, which was the next in height, contains a liquid in its heart which the birds drank when it was cut down. They sometimes even extracted it from the young trees by piercing the trunks with their bills.

We searched with great diligence for the mineral mountain mentioned by Dampier, but were not so fortunate as to discover it; unless it be that from which the heavy sand or small topazes were collected, and of which I ordered a barrel to be filled and brought it away.

The great rock, bearing from our anchoring place South 43° West, makes the East point of a large bay, in which I


1793. anchored at our return. The winds that prevailed while I lay here were from South-South East, to South-South West, always moderate weather, but the tide runs very strong, particularly the flood which comes from the Eastward, so that we were never wind rode. The ebb returns the same way but not so strong; it is high water here at the full and change of the moon, at half past three, and its rise tweleve or thirteen feet. I place this isle between Latitude 45' South and 1° 5' South, and Longitude 89° 24', and it bears from Cape St. Helena West 5° North by compass, one hundred and thirty-five leagues. It lays in a North East and South West direction, and its greatest extent is thirteen leagues in length and ten miles in breadth.

The various kinds of sea-birds which I had seen on the Coast of Peru we found here, but not in equal abundance. There were also flamingos, sea-pies, plovers, and sand-larks. The latter were of the same kind as those of New Zealand. No quadruped was seen on this island, and the greatest part of its inhabitants appeared to be of the reptile kind, as land tortoises, lizards, and spiders. We also saw dead snakes, which probably perished in the dry season. There were besides, several species of insects, as ants, moths, and common flies in great numbers; as well as grass-hoppers and crickets.


1793. On the shore were sea guanas and turtles. The latter were of that kind which bears a variegated shell. The guanas are small and of a sooty black, which if possible, heightens their native ugliness*. Indeed, so disgusting is their appearance that no one on board could be prevailed on to take them as food. I found the turtles however, far superior to any I had before tasted. Their food, as well as that of the land tortoise, consists principally of the bark and leaves of trees, particularly of the mangrove, which makes them very fat; though in rainy seasons, when vegetation is more general, their food may be of a more promiscuous nature. The green turtles are extremely fat and would produce a large quantity of oil. Their shell is also very beautiful, and if that should be an article of any value, a small vessell might make a very profitable voyage to this place, The land tortoise was poor at this season, but made excellent broth. Their eggs are as large and their shell as hard as those of a goose, and form a perfect globe. Their nests are thrown up in a circular form and never contain more than three eggs, which are heated by the Sun,

* The sea guana is a non descript: it is less than the land guana and much uglier, they go to sea in herds a-fishing, and sun themselves on the rocks like seals, and may be called alligators in miniature.


1793. a hole being so contrived as to admit its rays through its daily course. The shell is perfectly smooth, and when highly polished receives a beautiful and brilliant black.

We saw but few seals on the beach, either the hairy or furry species. This circumstance however might be occasioned by its not being the season for whelping; as those which were killed by us had some time to go with young; but a few hundreds of them might at any time be collected without difficulty, and form no considerable addition to the profits of a voyage.

Dampier mentions that there is plenty of salt to be obtained here at this season, but I could not find any; though that article does not appear to be absolutely necessary as the skins will be more profitable by drying and cleaning them and then taking them to a China market; as I managed with the otter-skins which I collected in a former voyage.

The rocks are covered with crabs, and there are also a few small wilks and winkles. A large quantity of dead shells of various kinds were washed upon the beach; all of which were familiar to me. Among the rest were the shells of large cray-fish, but we never caught any of them alive.


1793. On several parts of the shore there was drift-wood of a larger size than any of the trees that grow on the island: also bamboos and wild sugar canes, with a few small cocoa nuts at full growth, though not larger than a pigeon's egg. We observed also some burnt wood, but that might have drifted from the continent, been thrown over-board from a ship, or fired by lightening on the spot.

The deep-water fish were of every kind that is usually found in the tropical Latitudes except spermaceti whale, and of them we saw none, but sharks were in great abundance.

The dip of the needle I found here to be at 84°, and the variation of the compass 8° 10'. The thermometer was never higher than 73½, and in the morning, evening and night it was below summer heat in England. I consider it as one of the most delightful climates under heaven, although situated within a few miles of the Equator. The barometer generally stood at 29-8-4. The evening, night, and morning were always clouded, and during the nights there generally fell, as heavy dews, as off the main.


1793. Every one was charmed with the places, but as all apprehensions of the scurvy or any other disease was at an end, and we had got a large provision of turtle on board, the anxiety of my people to commence the fishery, in which they all had a proportionate interest, began to shew itself; nor was I disposed to check their spirits or delay their wishes, being well assured that they would be overjoyed to return hither at no very distant period, when I should have an opportunity to visit the rest of these islands.

June 28. On the twenty-eighth of June we weighed anchor and sailed round the East point, with a view of beating a small distance to the Southward in order to determine the particular isle we had visited, according to the description of the Buccaneers and the Spanish map, but my endeavours were not successful. While we were at anchor, it was supposed that we saw land in the North West at the distance of fourteen or fifteen leagues, but this was by no means ascertained; though, according to Dampier, most of the isles ought to have been in sight of us by allowing the differences of a few miles of Latitude between us and them.

July 1. On the first of July we saw a small isle which I beat up to, and taking observations within a few miles of it, place


1793. it in Latitude 1° 24' South and Longitude 89° 47' West. It bears from the East point of the isle before which we had anchored, South distance five leagues, and lays in the direction of North-North West, and South-South East, and may be fourteen miles in extent. The side we saw resembles the East point of the large isle, but is enlivened with a higher degree of verdure. We also saw a greater number of seals off this than off any other island. I do not hesitate to consider it as the Southernmost and Easternmost of the Galapagoe Isles. In the accounts of Wood, Rogers [sic, Woodes Rogers] and others, the Spaniards are said to be acquainted with an island in the Latitude of 1° 16' South, which has plenty of water on it. This may be true during a rainy season or for some time after it; but I am not in the habit of giving an implicit faith to Spanish accounts.

As I could not trace these isles by any accounts or maps in my possession, I named one Chatham Island and the other Hood's Island, after the Lords Chatham and [Samuel] Hood.§

§ Colnett's Chatham was so-named in honor of William Pitt the elder, First Earl of Chatham. The same island was named earlier by William Ambrosia Cowley after King Charles II, but Colnett mistakenly thought that name had been applied to the modern Isla Floreana.


Passage from the Galapagoe Is[l]es, to Isle Cocas.

1793. From the Southernmost Galapagoe Isle, we stood over again for the main, keeping between the Latitude of 2° South and the Equator, and had a strong Easterly current constantly against us: but it was no so perceptible as on our passage from the main, although we fell in with several beds of cream-coloured blubber. We did not however see so many small fish, birds, or seals; of the latter, we only saw two, and they were not at any considerable distance from either isle or main. Porpoises and black fish were continually around us, with a few albecores and bonettas.

The winds were much the same as on my passage to the Galapagoes, blowing steadily from between the South and Eastward after twenty-four hours sail from the isles;


1793. and, when within the same distance from the main land, they inclinded to the Westward: the weather was generally cloudy, and sometimes accompanied with an heavy, South West swell, and at the change and full of the moon, with a drizzling rain.

July 10. On the tenth of July, P.M., we saw the Isle of Plata …


The Rattler Quits the Isle of Socoro for the Coast of Mexico: Some Account of our Transactions there, and while we lay at Anchor before the Island of Quibo, in the Gulf of Panama, to our Arrival at the Isles of Galipagoes, on and near the Equator.



The most commanding look out is the top of Quicara, we saw it over Quibo (which is low and flat) while we


1794.lay at anchor; and is, I presume, the remarkable mountain which Lord Anson mistook for part of Quibo as mentioned in his voyage. Indeed, a good look out on the top of this island may be necessary for many obvious reasons, as it commands the whole coast and bay. We intended going to sea the seventeenthFebruary 17 at day-light, but the difficulty we had in purchasing the anchor from the good quality of the bottom, delayed us until the sea breeze set in, so that we could not sail till the eighteenth.18. We saw while here one sail, and she was steering to the South, between Quibo and the main. On leaving Quibo, we cruized between the Isle Quicara and Cape Mariatto till the last day of February;28. during which time we killed seven whales; six of which we got alongside, and lost one by breaking adrift in the night. We afterwards saw another, but it was so blasted as to be of no use. As the Sun now drew near the equator, and long calms were to be expected, it became necessary for us to reach the Galipagoe Isles before they commenced; where we proposed (as the whaling business had failed), to procure salt, for the purpose of salting seal skins at the Islands of Saint Felix and Saint Ambrose, in Latitude 26° 15' South.


1794. The different navigators of these seas have given such various accounts of the passage from hence to the Galipagoes, that it became a matter of some perplexity, to determine which route to be preferred. While we were cruising between the South end of Quibo and Cape Mariatto, the winds were light and mostly Southerly. They sometimes blew a strong gale through the night, but generally a stiff breeze from North by East, to North by West: but in the day we had pleasant weather. As I could depend on the sailing of the Rattler, I determined on my route the first of March,March 1. and steered away to the Southward in a direct line for the isles.

On the fourth day4. of the same month, being in Latitude 4° North, the winds varied between the South East and South West points, and at intervals blew from the Westward; but when they returned to the Northward, they were very light and of short duration. At this period an innumerable flight of birds accompanied us, and we had turtles in great plenty, but they soon grew scarce; though we continued to take bonnettas, dolphins, porpoises and black-fish in great abundance. The weather then changed to rain with thunder and lightning; and we every day remarked our


1794.passing through strong ripplings and veins of currents, all of which run to the West till we made the isles.

March 12. On the Twelfth, at break of day, we saw Chatham Isle, and, by sun-set came to an anchor in Stephen's bay, near the South West point of the isle in twenty-eight fathom water; the two points of the bay bearing North East and South West, and the Kicker rock, bearing West, North West, at the distance of two miles. We attempted to get into this bay to the Westward of the rock, but as there was little wind, with a current running right out, and no soundings to be got, with fifty fathom of line, till within three quarters of a mile of the shore, and then a rocky bottom, we hauled out to the North, and went in to the Eastward of the Kicker rock, there being regular soundings between it and the bluff, wich formed the Eastern point of the bay: the greatest depth between them thirty fathoms, but the deepest water is near the rock.

We lay in this bay till the seventeenth17. of March, employed in searching for salt, procuring a stock of turtles, and recovering several of the crew, who were afflicted with boils, they were soon restored by the fruit


1794.of the molie tree, wild mint tea, and a diet of turtle and teal soup, &c. Our boats traversed all the lee-side of the isle for salt, but without any success; though they discovered several rills of fresh water. One of them proceeded from a bluff which forms the East point of the bay, and others were seen at the bluff at the Eastern part of the isle. The latter were not examined, as the party did not land there; and the former was no more than sufficient to fill a ten gallon cag [sic, keg] in a quarter of an hour. As these high bluffs are at the extremity of the low land, the rills must proceed from some bason or lake on the interior high grounds. One of these I afterwards found on a hill which I ascended, from whence the water was entirely drained. On the coast of America, in the dry season, I have seen a long succession of lagoons of this kind, without the smallest drain on the beach below. The head of Stephen's bay possesses the convenience of a small interior cove, with three fathom water, that will hold four or five sail, and where they would be sheltered from all winds. Also a fine sandy beach beneath the rocks, on which a vessel may be hauled on shore, or heave down if occasion should require it; and great abundance of turtles, mullet, and other fish might be caught in a seine. The turtles pass over the rocks, at high water, into salt lagoons to feed. The land is so low in this part of the island, as,

[141] a small distance, to give it the appearance of being divided by a channel of the sea. Near the West part of the isle in a small bay § was a part of the wreck of a ship, that appeared to have been but lately cast away, as a whole wale plank was found undecayed. On some of the small isles in this bay, were the largest prickly pear-trees I had ever seen.

§ The modern Wreck Bay.

After weighing from Stephen's bay, it was with great difficulty we cleared it by night, from the light, variable winds and torrents of rain. When we had got well out, we hove to for day-light, and then made sail for an isle which bore from our anchoring birth, West by South, to West by North. By noon of the next day, we saw many more isles and islets to the North and Westward of us: and at sun-set, we saw breakers a long way to the Northward and Westward of Lord Hood's isle. Our Latitude at Noon was 0° 31' 51" South. We now shortened sail and stood on and off for the night. The next day we found ourselves set considerably to the Southward and Westward; and in sight of Charles Isle, so named by the Buccaneers.§ At noonMarch 20. [sic, March 19 (See next page.)] our Latitude was 1° 28' 13" South; the extremes of Charles Isle bearing from West 6°, to West 29° North. In the early part of the evening we got close in with the South end of the island; we then shortened sail, and stood off and on

§ Actually, buccaneer [note singular] William Ambrosia Cowley named the modern Isla San Cristóbal after King Charles II, and Colnett made the mistake of assigning the name to the modern Isla Santa María, better known today as Isla Floreana.


1794.during the night, with the design of going on shore in the morning. This isle is of a moderate height, presents a pleasant aspect, and is surrounded with small islets, the two largest of which I named after the admirals Sir Alan Gardner and [Benjamin] Caldwell. There are several sandy beaches on it, and a great number of seals were seen off it. At day-light the current had set us so considerably to the Southward and Westward, as to have lost sight of the island, though we plyed to Windward all the forenoon we gained but little. We got sight, however, of Albemarle Isle, and two smaller ones which lie between it and Charles Isle. I take them to be the Crossman and Brattles of the Buccaneers. At noon on the twentieth,March 20. our Latitude was 1° 23' South: the extremes of Charles Isle bearing from East 14° North, to East 24° North; and Albemarle Isle from North 45° West, to North 10° West; with a small flat isle between them. We saw several spermaceti whales, and gave chase with boats and ship but could not come up with them. We beat off here for forty hours, and lost ground considerably from the current running so strong to the Westward. At noon on the twenty-first,21. our Latitude was 1° 19' South, Albemarle Isle bearing from North 20° East, to North 31° in the afternoon, we got within two miles of the South


1794.and East end of Albemarle Isle, when we tried for sounding with one hundred fathom of line but found no bottom. The following day, as soon as it was light, we bore up to round the South and West end of Albemarle Isle, called, by the Bucccaneers, Christopher's Point. Within a few miles of it, the Latitude was, by observation, 0° 55' 14" South. The extremities of Albemarle Isle, bearing from East 22° South, to North 10° East; and of Narborough Isle from North, to North 20° West.

March 23.A large bay opened to our view, which was formed by the South and West points of Albemarle Isle, and the East part of Narborough Isle, having received originally from the Buccaneers the name of Elizabeth Bay. As it is very capacious, we conjectured that we should find good anchorage; I therefore accompanied the chief mate to examine it, but we could find no bottom for two leagues at the distance of a mile or a mile and an half from the shore, with one hundred and fifty fathoms of line. The inhospitable appearance of this place was such as I had never before seen, nor had I ever beheld such wild clusters of hillocks, in such strange irregular shapes and forms, as the shore presented, except on the fields of ice near the South Pole. The base appeared to be one entire clinker to a considerable distance


1794.from the water-side, and the little verdure that was visible was on the tops of the hills, which were crowned with low, shaggy bushes, that gradually diminished in quantity as they hung down the declivities; and were sometimes divided by veins of an hard, black, shining earth, which, at a small distance, had the appearance of streamlets of water. The storm peterels accompanied us in great numbers: but the wind coming right out with a current or tide, that was so rapid, as to be attended with some degree of danger, we gave up our design of reaching the head of the bay, particularly as night was approaching, and darkness would have overtaken us. When I returned on board, I found the ship laying between two winds, and becalmed within half a mile of the shore, where no bottom could be obtained with one hundred and fifty fathom of line. In this situation we were near an hour, with flaws of wind all round the compass, and heavy showers. At last, we caught a Southerly wind and made sail to the Westward, and when clear of the shore, hove to for the night. The weather was dark and gloomy, with heavy dews and a strong southerly current; so that at day-light we were set nearly as far to the South as we were on the preceding noon. At noon our Latitude was 0° 35' 6" South: the extremities of land bearing from North 12° East, to East 37° South.


1794.In the evening we got well up with the South end of Narborough Isle, and stood along to the North Westward, by the West shore. The current or tide had now changed its course, and set, from the West and South, to the Northward, directly on that isle, and the night proving calm, with some difficulty we cleared it; for we could not find any bottom at the distance of half a mile from the shore, with one hundred and fifty fathom of line. At the return of day the weather was dark and cloudy, with lightning in th South East. At noon I observed on the Equator, the extreme points of Narborough Isle, bearing from South 21° East, to South 52° East. The North West Cape of Albemarle Isle, (which I have named Cape Berkelely, from the honourable Captain Berkeley), bearing East 4° North, North end East 27° North, and the Rodondo Rock North 5° East, at the distance of five or six leagues.

I sent away a boat in the afternoon to sound a large bay, formed by the North end of Narborough Isle and Berkeley point, (which I have named Bank's Bay in honour of Sir Joseph Banks), or under Berkeley point, in order to discover a place of anchorage: the boat, however, did not


1794.get into the bay; but rowed under the North point of Albemarle Isle, where the party landed, and returned in the evening. They found this part of the Isle equally inhospitable as the Southern part of it: but had procured a few rock-cod, with some hump-back turtles, and saw a considerable number of seals.

Narborough Isle is the highest land among the Galipagoe Islands, lying near the center of Albemarle Isle, which almost surrounds it, in the form of two crescents, and making two bays. The apparent point of division of these islands, is so low on both, that I am in doubt whether they are separated. On the next morning we saw spermaceti whales, we killed seven and got them along side; Rock Rodondo bearing East 18° South, and the South West land bearing South 28° East. The weather was hazy, and the Latitude by observation 00° 27' 13" North. Here we cruised under the eighthApril 8. of April, and saw spermaceti whales in great numbers, but only killed five, of which we secured four. The current ran so strong to the Westward, and the winds were so light, that after laying to, to secure the whales and cut them up, we were seven days in returning to the ground from whence


1794.we drifted. In the winter season, when the winds are more fresh, these difficulties might not occur, otherwise, it would be impossible for any vessel, which was not a very prime sailer, to whale here with suffess; though at a certain season any quantity of sperm oil might be procured. The oldest whale-fishers, with whom I have conversed, as well as those on board my ship, uniformly declared that they had never seen spermaceti whales in a state of copulation, or squid their principal food in shoals before; but both these objects were very common off these isles, and we frequently killed the latter, of four or five feet in length, with the granes. Young spermaceti whales where also seen in great numbers, which were not larger than a small porpoise. I am disposed to believe that we were now at the general rendevous of the spermaceti whales from the coasts of Mexico, Peru, and the Gulf of Panama, who come here to calve: as among those we killed, there was but one bull-whale. The situation I recommend to all cruizers, is between the South end of Narborough Isle and the Rock Rodondo: though great care must be taken, not to go to the North of the latter; for there the current sets at the rate of four and five miles an hour due North. Narborough Isle falls gradually down to a point at the North, South, and East ends, and may be equal in produce to any of the neighboring isles; but of this I can only


1794.conjecture, as I did not myself examine it; nor does it appear that the Buccaneers ever landed upon it.

The Rodondo is an high barren rock, about a quarter of a mile in circumference, and is visible as far as eight or nine leagues, had soundings round it at the distance of a quarter of a mile thirty fathom. Here our boats caught rock-cod in great abundance. I frequently observed the whales leave these isles and go to the Westward, and in a few days, return with augmented numbers. I have also seen the whales coming, as it were, from the main, and passing along from the dawn of day to night, in one extended line, as if they were in haste to reach the Galipagoes. It is very much to be regretted that these isles have to this period been so little known but only to the Spaniards.

Though we met with so strong a current, it did not dishearten us, as we found by keeping between the North point of Narborough Isle, and North point of Albemarle Isle, and not going to the Northward of the latter, that we were able to maintain our ground; and the hope which now possessed us of making a very successful voyage, dispersed every complaint of bad bread and short allowance, which were no longer considered either with regret or impatience.


April 8.
We recovered the fishing ground after having been driven off during four days, and found as great plenty of whales as when we left it. We now saw a ship in shore, who sailed well, and was heavy mettled as we conjectured from the report of a gun. I discovered with the telescope that she was French built, and from the intelligence communicated by the Spaniard we fell in with off the Gulf of Guatamala, on the Coast of Mexico, we had every reason to believe that she was one of the French ships which he mentioned as being in these seas. We kept standing in with the shore to reconnoitre her, having great confidence in the sailing of our own vessel. During the evening, night and morning, we had alternately heavy fogs, light winds and calms. At nine A. M. the weather became clear. I now stood towards the sail, but the nearer I approached the more I suspected her to be an enemy. I then stretched away to the Southward, when she carried every thing after us, and getting a strong Northerly breeze, which she brought up with her, over-reached us very fast.9. We made all the sail we could from her, (our Latitude at noon 0° 19' 52" North,) but I entertained little or no hope of escaping: we therefore cut down the stern, in order to get out two three-pounders, which were all the great guns we had, and put


1794.ourselves in the best posture of defence in our power. Finding at four o'clock in the afternoon that she still gained ground on us, but would not be able to get up with us till it was dark, we all agreed to a man, to heave to, and if she proved an enemy, to board her; as such a desperate proceeding would be altogether unexpected, we thought it would afford some of us a better chance of escaping, than by a more regular engagement. As to myself, death, in almost any shape would have been far preferable than falling again into the hands of the Spaniards. By sun-set, however the ship joined us, and proved, after all our alarm and preparations, to be the Butterworth of London, Mr. Sharp, from a trading voyage on the North West Coast of America, and lately from California. We were right in our conjectures concerning her appearance, as she was taken from the French in the last war. She had been searching for water in these isles but had found none; and was bound to the Marquises for it, with only seven butts on board; a route of near eight hundred leagues, when there were so many places within two days sail, where she might have found it. Mr. Sharp had sixty tons of salt in bulk, for the purpose of salting skins; and on the coast of California, he had procured an hundred tons of oil from the sea lion and sea elephant; and he added, that he also might have procured


1794.ten thousand tons of oil from the same animals, if he had possessed a sufficient number of casks to have contained it.

I recommended him to proceed to James's Isle, and offered him a copy of a chart, which I had received from Mr. Stephens, which would direct him to the watering place, described by the Buccaneers, whose information I had no reason to doubt; but if he had no faith in it, he might go to Isle Cocas or Quibo, where I had procured plenty; but no persuasion of mine, however, had any weight, as his principal object appeared to be that I should accompany him. In addition to my other inclinations to render him every service in my power, the several acts of civility I had received from Mr. Perry of Blackwall, one of his owners, had the greatest weight with me; and understanding his intention was also to continue in company to our arrival in England, I undertook to shew him the way into port.

In consequence of light winds, thick weather and strong Northerly currents, we were driven as far North as 1° 5', and saw Culpepper's Isle, which rises to a considerable height, though it is of small extent; but the weather was

[152] hazy, and we were at such a distance, that I am not qualified to give a further account of it.

Though our ships were excellent sailers, we were fifteen days in getting into James's Bay; they alternately had the advantage of each other; but the Rattler was entirely out of trim, the fore-hold being filled with oil. The Butterworth had so far got the advantage to windward, as, at one time, to be within a few miles of acheiving ground; and we could only see her top-gallant fails; she bore up to join us again, with only three butts of water on board. At this time we were close under Abington Isle, which is very small, and was well known to the Buccaneers; and, according to my observation, is in Latitude 0° 33' North, and Longitude 90° 45'. It is high towards the South end, which has a very pleasant appearance, and where is the only bay or anchoring place in the island. The North end is low, barren, and one entire clinker, with breakers stretching out to a considerable distance. I sent a party in the boat to round it, where they caught plenty of small fish with their hook and line. They also landed on the island and found both tortoises and turtles. This day we also saw Bindloes Isle, which is a small, rugged spot, laying to the Southward and Eastward of Abington Isle, and about the mid-way between it and James's Isle


April 24.
On the twenty-fourth, in the very early part of the afternoon, we came to an anchor at the North end of James's Isle, a little to the South of Fresh-water bay, where the Butterworth followed us; Albany Isle bearing North 34° West; bottom of the bay East 17° South; South point of James's Isle, on with Cowley's enchanted Isle, and South part of Albemarle Isle South 24° West: North point of Albemarle Isle West 25° North.

As soon as the ship was secured, I set out with Mr. Sharp to search for water in Fresh-water bay, where the Buccaneers had formerly supplied themselves, but the surf prevented us from landing. We rowed close to the beach, but saw not the least signs of any spring or rivulet. Boats were dispatched from both the vessels to different parts of the shore; and my chief mate was sent away to the South for a night and a day. On the following morning at dawn of day, the whaling-master was ordered to land if the surf was fallen, and search Fresh-water bay. He accomplished getting on shore, but found no water; and in the evening, the chief mate returned with the same account of his unsuccessful errand. For my own part, I never gave up my opinion that there was plenty of water in the isle; but as neither of my boats were in a condition to encounter the least


1794.bad weather, I deferred taking a survey of the isle till they were repaired.

Though we sent the Butterworth daily supplies of water, I did not foresee the consequence of our generosity; for from that moment, the commander never gave himself the least concern to look for any; but employed his crew in cutting a very large quantity of wood, and stocking himself with land tortoise privately, from a spot which we agreed should remain sacred, till we were ready for sailing, and then share our stock together. Indeed I not only supplied Mr. Sharp with water, but may be said also to have added to his food; for he did not know that the tortoise was an wholesome eatable till I informed him of it.

As I had at this time many reasons to doubt his continuing long in company with me, and in case of separation the Rattler had no boat belonging to her calculated to bring water any distance, it awakened my precaution to provide for any unforeseen accident should it befall us respecting that necessary article. I determined therefore, to supply him monthly throughout our voyage, and the information of this arrangement produced a better effect that I expected, as it stimulated him to search for water, which he found within two miles of his ship.


1794.After anchoring and his present wants being accommodated, he varied so in his future plans, to his former ones proposed, that I could not comprehend he had any fixed one at all; and his conduct in general not corresponding to my ideas or expectations, I had only to lament, that after putting myself to so great an inconvenience, there was so little probability that it would be attended with any advantage to his employers. Finding my advice of no farther use I sailed without him.

As soon as a boat was repaired, I set out to survey the South East part of this and Albemarle Isle. On reaching the South point of James's Isle, I got sight of three other isles which I had not seen before, nor can I trace them in the Buccaneers accounts, no more than the isle which we saw to Westward, when at anchor at Stephen's bay, Chatham Isle. These three isles now seen, I named after the admirals [Samuel] Barrington, [Adam] Duncan, and [John] Jarvis [sic, Jervis]. The two Northernmost, which are nearest to James's Isle, are the highest, and presented the most agreeable appearance, being covered with trees. The Southernmost, which I named Barrington Isle, is the largest and was the greatest distance from me, it is of a moderate height, and rises in hummocks; the South end is low, running on


1794.a parallel with the water's edge. We did not land on either of them. In this expedition we saw great numbers of penguins, and three or four hundred seals. There were also small birds, with a red breast, such as I have often seen at the New Hebrides; and others resembling the Java sparrow, in shape and size, but of a black plumage; the male was the darkest, and had a very delightful note. At every place where we landed on the Western side, we might have walked for miles through long grass and beneath groves of trees. It only wanted a stream to compose a very charming landscape. This isle appears to have been a favourite resort of the Buccaneers, as we not only found seats, which had been made by them of earth and stone, but a considerable number of broken jars scattered about, and some entirely whole, in which the Peruvian wines and liquors of that country are preserved. We also found some old daggers, nails and other implements. This place is, in every respect, calculated for refreshment or relief for crews after a long and tedious voyage, as it abounds with wood, and good anchorage for any number of ships, and sheltered from all winds by Albermarle Isle. The watering-place of the Buccaneers was entirely dried up, and there was only found a small rivulet between two hills running into the sea; the Northernmost of the hill forms the South point of Fresh-


1794.water bay. Though there is a great plenty of wood, that which is near the shore, is not large enough for any purpose, but to use as fire-wood. In the mountains the trees may be of a larger size, as they grow to the summit of them. I do not think that the watering-place which we saw, is the only one on the island; and I have no doubt, if wells were dug any where beneath the hills, that it would be found in great plenty: they must be made, however, at some distance from the sandy beach, as within a few yards behind them, in a large lagoon of salt water, from three to eight feet in depth, which rises and falls with the tide; and in a few hours a channel might be cut into it. The woods abound with tortoises, doves, and guanas, and the lagoons with teal. The earth produces wild mint, sorrel, and a plant resembling the cloth-tree of Otaheite and the Sandwich Isles, whose leaves are an excellent substitute for the China tea, and was indeed preferred to it by my people as well as myself. There are many other kinds of trees, particularly the moli-tree, mentioned by Mr. Falkner, and the algarrooa, but that which abounds, in a superior degree, is the cotton tree. There is great plenty of every kind of fish that inhabit the tropical Latitudes; mullet, devil-fish, and green turtle were in great abundance. But all the luxuries of the sea, yielded to that which the island afforded us in the land tortoise,


1794.which in whatever way it was dressed, was considered by all of us as the most delicious food we had ever tasted. The fat of these animals when melted down, was equal to fresh butter; those which weighed from thirty to forty pounds, were the best, and yielded two quarts of fat: some of the largest, when standing on their feet, measured near a yard from the lower part of the neck. As they advance in age their shell becomes proportionably thin, and I have seen them in such a state, that a pebble would shatter them. I salted several of the middle size, with some of the eggs, which are quite round, and as big as those of a goose, and brought them to England. The most extraordinary animal in this island is the sea guana, which, indeed abounds in all these isles. We did not see the land guana in any of the isles but James's, and it differs from that which I have seen on the coast of Guinea, in having a kind of comb on the back of its neck.

These isles deserve the attention of the British navigators beyond any unsettled situation: but the preference must be given to James's Isle, as it is the only one we found sufficient fresh water at to supply a small ship. But Chatham Isle being one of the Southernmost, I recommend to be the first made, in order to ascertain the ships true


1794.situation, in which you may be otherwise mistaken, from the uncertain and strong currents, as well as the thick weather which is so prevalent there. As it stands by itself there is no danger, and in Stephen's bay, thirty of forty sail may ride in safety, besides those which might go into the cove. Vessels bound round Cape Horn to any part North of the Equator, or whalers on their voyage to the North or South Pacific Ocean, or the Gulf of Panama, will find these islands very convenient places for refitting and refreshement. They would also in future serve as a place of rendezvous for British fishing ships, as they are contiguous to the best fishing grounds.


The Rattler leaves the Galipagoe Isles and Coast of Peru, for the Isles Saint Felix and Saint Ambrose, on the Coast of Chili: from thence She rounds Cape Horn, on her Passage to Isle Saint Helena, in the Atlantic Ocean.

May 13.
On the thirteenth of May, having over-hauled the rigging, caulked, wooded &c. we set sail with the intention to cruize for seven days off Rock Rodondo, and then to proceed to the Isles Saint Felix and Saint Ambrose, on the coast of Chili. We accordingly hove to for the night, off the North end of Albemarle Isle, and at break of day, saw several spermaceti whales, of which we killed two. The windws had set in from the Southward and Eastward, with a strong Northerly current; so that all our endeavours were in vain to get to the Westward and round to the


1794.South, without wasting as much time as we had before done, to get to the Eastward, when we wanted to reach James's Isle. From the South the current set from three to four miles an hour, due North, and we had in general, thick, foggy weather. We frequently saw whales; and on the 16th of May,May 16. got sight of Wenam's Isle, bearing West North West, seven or eight Leagues. It is small, but of considerable height, like Culpepper's Isle, and I make it in Latitu[d]e 1° 21' North, and Longitude 91° 46' West. The time of our proposed cruize off these isles was expired, and the winds obliged me to stand away to the Eastward and Northward, with the strong current setting against me, to the Westward and Northward; so that I was fifteen days making Cape Blanco, the South Cape of the Gulf of Guiaquil, a distance we had run in four days. Half way over we fell in with a body of spermaceti whales, we got up with them, though not without some difficulty, and killed three, but were so unfortunate as to have two boats stove in the struggle.

(end of Galápagos section)

Mapping Notes

John Woram  

As seen above (p. 142), Colnett noted that Charles Island was “surrounded with small islets” and he named two of them (Caldwell & Gardner). Three others (Champion, Enderby, Watson) are named on the Arrowsmith chart—although Colnett mentions Champion and Enderby in his “Introduction” (p. xiv, not seen here), he said nothing about naming islands after either man. As for Watson, he was not mentioned at all, and none of these names were mentioned in the Rattler's Captain's log. Given that Colnett's Caldwell and Gardner were both admirals, it is assumed here that Watson was likewise an admiral—specifically, Vice-Admiral Charles Watson.

Reading from north to south, the sequence of islet names varies, as follows:

§ Although Colnett's Champion is now Campeón—the Spanish translation of the word “Champion” rather than the man's name—Colnett's spelling is preserved here.

In a comparison of the Arrowsmith chart and the Google Earth view, note that the actual Caldwell Islet runs southwest to northeast, while Arrowsmith's is rotated some 90° counter-clockwise, for a northwest-to-southeast orientation.

The Rattler log for March 19 includes the following notations, written as Colnett sailed southward off the east coast of Charles Island:

Given Colnett's lack of details, it would seem that although he noticed the isles as he sailed past them in 1794, he may not have paid sufficient attention to their actual positions, and therefore some errors were introduced when Arrowsmith prepared the chart some four years later. The errors remained in subsequent editions of the chart through 1820. But even so, some questions remain:

  1. Why do modern maps, and the Google Earth 3D view above, reverse Arrowsmith's Champion, Enderby sequence?
  2. Why is Watson Islet now the southernmost, when Arrowsmith shows it east of Caldwell and north of Gardner?

Perhaps the answers are to be found in the work of Robert FitzRoy, HMS Beagle, whose survey of Galápagos produced numerous charts, one of which included the east coast of Charles Island and the small offshore islets first noted by Colnett and published by Aaron Arrowsmith from 1798 to 1820. An Arrowsmith/FitzRoy comparison shows that both charts include Colnett's five small islets, but as noted above, FitzRoy reversed the sequence of the two northermost islets. Furthermore, although these islets lack features in the Arrowsmith chart, FitzRoy's clearly shows Enderby is the north side of a collapsed crater, as shown in this Google Earth/FitzRoy comparison. Finally, to answer the questions:

  1. In the absence of any explanation from Captain FitzRoy, it may be speculated that the reversal of names was nothing more than accidental. However, all known post-FitzRoy charts follow his example without comment.
  2. The Arrowsmith chart does make it clear that Watson is quite a bit smaller than Gardner, and we know there is nothing that fits this description north of Gardner. Therefore, FitzRoy moved Watson to its actual location to the south; again without comment.

Referring to the above Google Earth/FitzRoy comparison, it's worth noting that FitzRoy's positioning of all five islets is quite accurate; something that cannot be said for James Colnett and the Arrowsmith chart.