Although Colnett refers to James Island (the modern San Salvador), Melville has “moved” this description to Barrington Isle (the present Santa Fe), which of course is not “well sheltered from all winds by the high land of Albemarle.”—JW.
Barrington Isle is, in many respects, singularly adapted to careening, refitting, refreshing, and other seamen's purposes. Not only has it good water, and good anchorage, well sheltered from all winds by the high land of Albemarle, but it is the least unproductive isle of the group …
At every place were 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.
“I once landed on its western side,” says a sentimental voyager long ago,” where it faces the black buttress of Albemarle. I walked beneath groves of trees—not very lofty, and not palm trees, or orange trees, or peach trees, to be sure—but, for all that, after long seafaring, very beautiful to walk under, even though they supplied no fruit.
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, …
And here, in calm spaces at the heads of glades, and on the shaded tops of slopes commanding the most quiet scenery—what do you think I saw? Seats which might have served Brahmins and presidents of peace societies. Fine old ruins of what had once been symmetric lounges of stone and turf, they bore every mark both of artificialness and age, and were, undoubtedly, made by the Buccaneers. One had been a long sofa with back and arms, just such a sofa as the poet Gray might have loved to throw himself upon, his Crebillon in hand.
“Though they sometimes tarried here for months at a time, and used the spot for a storing place for spare spars, sails, and casks, yet it is highly improbable that the Buccaneers ever erected dwelling houses upon the isle. They never were here except their ships remained, and they would most likely have slept on board. I mention this because I cannot avoid the thought that it is hard to impute the construction of these romantic seats to any other motive than one of pure peacefulness and kindly fellowship with nature. That the Buccaneers perpetrated the greatest outrages is very true, that some of them were mere cutthroats is not to be denied; but we know that here and there among their host was a Dampier, a Wafer, and a Cowley, and likewise other men, whose worst reproach was their desperate fortunes—whom persecution, or adversity, or secret and unavengeable wrongs, had driven from Christian society to seek the melancholy solitude or the guilty adventures of the sea. At any rate, long as those ruins of seats on Barrington remain, the most singular monuments are furnished to the fact that all of the Buccaneers were not unmitigated monsters.
“But during my ramble on the isle I was not long in discovering other tokens of things quite in accordance with those wild traits, popularly, and no doubt truly enough, imputed to the freebooters at large. Had I picked up old sails and rusty hoops I would only have thought of the ship's carpenter and cooper. But I found old cutlasses and daggers reduced to mere threads of rust, which, doubtless, had stuck between Spanish ribs ere now. These were signs of the murderer and robber; the reveler likewise had left his trace.
… 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.
Mixed with shells, fragments of broken jars were lying here and there, high up upon the beach. They were precisely like the jars now used upon the Spanish coast for the wine and pisco spirits of that country.”