Journal of A Cruise
Made to the Pacific Ocean …

David Porter

Bibliography Texts
I [Chapter Excerpt] Crew list at the time of departure (opens in small pop-up window)
V Run Down the Coast of Chili and Peru; Arrive at the Gallipagos Islands.
VI The Gallipagos Islands; Prizes.
VIIGallipagos Islands; Fishery.
VIIIArrival at Tumbez; Return to the Gallipagos.
IX James's Island; Port Rendezvous.
X Gallipagos Islands; Departure for Washington Islands.

Galápagos Chapters, with text from all editions as indicated here.

Google Earth 3D view of place cited by Porter. (more to follow)

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As I before observed, we /We/ passed, on the 8th of June, to the northward of Abington Island, and from thence made the best of our way for the river Tumbez, intending, however, to touch at the island of La Plata on my way there, to leave a letter for lieutenant Downes/./, for I judged, from the difficulties which I had experienced in getting to windward, that he would not be enable to reach Charles' Island, and consequently would not receive my instructions to go to the island of Cocos, a route now by no means necessary, as our want of water had been amply supplied by our last prizes. I still, however, felt desirous of joining him as soon as possible, and, feeling much confidence in his punctuality, I felt it incumbent on me to repair to the appointed rendezvous with all dispatch.

Nothing of consequence transpired from the time of leaving the Gallapagos to our making the land of Peru, in the latitude of 0°47'28'' south, on the 14th. …

On my return to the ship (after visiting Tumbez), a most disagreeable circumstance took place, which, for the credit of the ship, and of the officers of the American navy generally, I wish it was not necessary to relate; but as it took place in the presence of our prisoners, who no doubt will make their representations of it, with suitable embellishments, alterations, and exaggerations, and as it led to some changes of considerable importance, I conceive it proper to give a correct statement of the affair.

Lieutenant W., the (then) second lieutenant,§ had in two or three instances become intoxicated, and so much so as to compel me once to arrest him, as at such time his conduct had been extremely violent and offensive to all on board; but as this officer possessed many good qualities, and was much esteemed for his goodness of heart, his brother officers interceded for him, pledging themselves for his future good conduct; and on a solemn promise from him, that he would abstain from ardent liquors while he continued under my command, I relieved him from his arrest, and put him to duty, with an assurance that for another similar offence his authority should for ever cease on board the Essex.

§ Porter's show of omitting the lieutenant's full name is disingenuous at best. There were two lieutenants “W.” on the Essex. Their names were James P. Wilmer and James Wilson, as shown in the Crew List printed in Chapter I. In Chapter XVII, a list of crewmen killed in action shows the name of James P. Wilmer (this list not reproduced here). Thus, Lieutenant James Wilson is the man Porter arrested. If Porter had truly wanted to conceal his identity, he would have referred to him as “an officer” or in some other ambiguous manner or not at all—as in fact he does in the next chapter. In his description of the death of acting 4th lieutenant Cowan in a duel, he does not identify the surviving dueler.

During my short absence at Tumbez, lieutenant W. felt himself relieved from the restraint which my presence had imposed, and could not resist the opportunity of again indulging in his horrid propensity, which an abstinence of many months had rendered doubly dear to him, and to which he was strongly invited by captain Shuttleworth, the prisoner whom I formerly mentioned as having conducted himself so improperly. On my return he was officer of the deck, and, fearing that I should discover his situation, he left the deck as soon as I entered the ship, and, while I was engaged in conversation with the first lieutenant, retired to his state-room. Not knowing his condition, I sent repeatedly for lieutenant W., who was reported to me as lying in his cot, and could not be made to answer. He had once before attempted to commit suicide, and I felt apprehensive that he had now made attempts on his life. I went to his state-room, where I found him in his cot, with his face down; and, after considerable difficulty, and repeated efforts to move him, succeeded in turning him over. He now requested me to let him alone; I told him, as he was evidently in his senses, and apparently knew what he was about, I was determined to investigate the cause of his conduct. He then sprang up, and with great violence of gesture and language demanded to know what I intended to do, observing, at the same time, that he had been drunk, and had not had time to get sober. I informed him that he was under arrest. He asked me how long. I told him, as long as the cruise lasted. He then seized a pistol, which he attempted to load, observing, that neither myself nor any other should have the satisfaction of arresting him. As there was a threatening manner with him, and not knowing whether he intended to use the pistol against me or himself, I grasped him and took it from him. He then attempted to load another, which was also taken from him. He then assured me he had no intentions of using the pistol against me; that, if I would permit him, he would blow his own brains out, observing, that he would put an end to his existence before morning. I now sent for a guard, and had his room searched for arms, which were all taken away from him, and afterwards confined him there, with two centinels at the door, with orders not to permit him to leave it. When the arms were taken out, he refused to go into the room until some violence was used to compel him; he, however, became at length pacified, and by morning dejected and penitent. He frequently declared, that, as he had violated his promise to me as well as to his brother officers who had interceded for him, he could not survive the shame, and had formed the determination of putting an end to his existence the first opportunity which presented itself.

The ship now being left with only one sea lieutenant, it became necessary to supply the deficiency, and the more so as I had suffered lately much from the want of officers; I therefore ordered lieutenant M'Knight to join the Essex, placing Mr. Adams, the chaplain, in charge of the Atlantic; gave the sailing-master the appointment of acting third lieutenant; and appointed midshipman J. S. Cowan acting fourth lieutenant, giving the appointment of sailing-master to midshipman Odenheimer; and, to supply their places on board the prizes, I put the younger midshipmen, boys from 12 to 15 years of age, making them nominally prize-masters, with careful seamen, in whom I could confide, to take care of them.

Our wooding and watering went on briskly, and every thing promised a speedy supply to all our wants, except vegetables. On our first arrival, boats had come off to the ship; but the governor, finding by the purser's remaining in town he could monopolize the whole trade, forbade every person selling any article whatever, and placed guards at the river's mouth to prevent boats from coming off to us. Hearing nothing of the purser for two or three days, and not knowing the cause of the boats keeping aloof from us, I had some serious apprehensions for his safety; and this fear was somewhat increased by the disappearance of one of my prisoners, the mate of a ship, whose absence could not be accounted for in any way but on the supposition of his being murdered by the natives, for a few dollars he had taken with him on shore, for the purpose of procuring a few articles for the others. He had been permitted to go on parole, and had left on board a considerable sum of money, as well as all his clothing and other property, and his not returning at the appointed time caused considerable suspicion to us all. Another circumstance which led me to suspect some treachery was a letter I had received from Guyaquil, which shewed the inimical disposition of the governor of that place towards us; and, as the governor of Tumbez was subordinate to him, I felt confident that he would be conformable to the views of his superior, unless I should secure his friendship by fresh presents, which was what I was by no means induced to, while we could supply our most urgent wants without his consent.

The letter I speak of was as follows:

Guyaquil, 22d June, 1813.

Captain Porter, sir,

I have seen the description of the four ships that are in Tumbez, knowing that several merchants have seen the same, and all would be willing to enter a negotiation; but it is impossible, as there is no licence from the government, and it is losing time to think of the same. The sooner you go off the better. The bearer is at present en declarations en government.

Please to excuse the few words and signing of

Your humble servant      
And well-wisher.

The bearer of this carries a few little articles for your refreshment, and if they should wish for any little trade they are confident.

I now directed all my watering and wooding parties to go armed, to be prepared for the worst that might happen, and determined (if I should not hear from the purser next day) to go to Tumbez with a few armed boats, to know the cause of his detention.

On the morning of the 24th, we discovered three square-rigged vessels standing into the bay/./, and as they approached with apparent caution, many on board conjectured them to be enemies. I believed it to be lieutenant Downes in the Georgiana, with two prizes, but directed the Atlantic and Greenwich to be prepared to get under way in pursuit of them, if it should prove otherwise. They continued to approach to the distance of five or six miles of us, when the headmost vessel hove to/./, and shortly afterwards we discovered a boat, which had left them for the purpose of reconnoitering us. I directed two of the fastest rowing boats to be prepared to pursue her; but on her/On/ nearer approach she showed the private signal of the Georgiana, and shortly afterwards lieutenant Downes came on board the Essex/./, where his arrival was greeted by our crew with three hearty cheers.

He informed me that he had captured, near James' Island, three British ships, to wit:

The Hector of11 guns,25 men,270 tons
Catharine  829270
Rose  821220

The Catharine and Rose approached the Georgiana without the least suspicion of her being an enemy, and the captains of them did not find out their mistake until they got on board her. The Hector was discovered in the afternoon; but lieutenant Downes did not succeed in getting alongside of her until late at night; and, as she was very warlike in her appearance he had made every preparation for action, supposing her at first to be a Spanish sloop of war. His crew at this time only amounted to twenty men and boys, the rest being on board his two prizes, the Catharine and Rose, while his prisoners amounted to upwards of 50, the most of whom he had confined in irons, to prevent their carrying into execution a plan that had been laid for taking his vessel from him. They all, however, volunteered their services to attack the supposed Spaniard; but lieutenant Downes very prudently considered, that, as he now had them in security, he had better keep them so, as they might not be disposed to return to their irons after being placed at liberty, with arms in their possession; he consequently declined accepting their offers, and trusted to the bravery and exertions of his own men for the success of the attack.

When he had got within hail of the Hector, and ascertained that she was a British ship, he summoned her to surrender; to which he received no reply, but heard her captain give directions for the guns to be cleared away. He now fired a shot, which entered her stern, and did considerable damage, when the captain of the Hector gave orders for making sail, and, on being asked if he intended to surrender, answered, No, no. Lieutenant Downes now opened fire on the enemy, and after firing five broadsides, which killed two men and wounded six others dangerously, shot away her main topmast, and most of her standing and running rigging, and rendered the ship a wreck, she struck to the Georgiana. After lieutenant Downes had put a prize crew on board the Hector, his own crew amounted to only ten in number, while his prisoners amounted to seventy-five; it became therefore necessary to get clear of them as soon as possible; and as the Rose proved to be a very dull sailing vessel, and had occasioned him considerable delay, he caused all her guns, and most of her cargo, which consisted of spermaceti oil, to be thrown overboard, and gave the ship up to her captain, on condition that he would proceed to St. Helena with all the prisoners, who entered into an obligation not to serve against the United States unless regularly exchanged. He gave to the captain of the Rose a passport for St. Helena, with an assurance, if he attempted to go elsewhere, and should be met by an American cruiser, his vessel would be taken from him. After lieutenant Downes had got clear of those two great encumbrances, the Rose and his prisoners, he proceeded for Tumbez, where he arrived the day before us; but not finding us there, proceeded to cruise off Cape Blanco for a few days, with an intention of looking into Tumbez occasionally.

The Georgiana and her prizes anchored near us and our fleet now amounted to nine sail of ships; and as the Atlantic was far superior to the Georgiana, in size, appearance, sailing, and every other qualification necessary for a cruiser, I immediately gave orders for 20 guns to be mounted on her, and removed lieutenant Downes and crew to that ship, placing Mr. Adams in charge of the Georgiana. To the Atlantic I gave the name of the Essex Junior; and as I had received some additions to my crew by volunteers from prizes, I was enabled to increase her crew to sixty men, and appointed midshipman Dashiel sailing-master of her. I also removed from the Greenwich to the other prizes all cumbrous articles, and converted that vessel into a store-ship, putting on board her, from the rest, all provisions, cordage, and other articles of value to us, and mounted on her twenty guns/./, and by this means secured to us a supply of almost every article we should want for seven months. These changes, and the alterations necessary to be made to fit the Essex Junior for a cruiser, as well as the wooding and watering of the Georgiana and prizes, proved likely to occasion some further delays; every exertion was made to leave the place as soon as possible, and the absence of Mr. Shaw seemed the only important obstacle; at length, however, a boat arrived, and informed me he was on the point of leaving there, and explained the cause of his long detention, which was owing entirely to the avarice and indolence of the governor, who was desirous of monopolizing all the trade, and too indolent to make any exertions to supply our wants. Mr. Shaw, at length, arrived, but was compelled to leave all the articles he had purchased in possession of the governor, as he could not procure a boat to bring them down, and as they were not of sufficient importance to induce me to run any farther risk, I determined to leave them there.

It now became necessary to think of disposing of all my prisoners, as, independent of the inconvenience they were likely to put us to by their great consumption of provisions, they were a great incumbrance to us; and as repeated application had been made to me by them to put them on shore at this place, I at length consented, furnishing them with provisions, and giving to them three boats, for the purpose of transporting them and their baggage from the river's mouth to Tumbez, which, with a large canoe and a launch which they hired for the purpose, were found fully sufficient. Previous to putting them on shore, I carefully restored to each prisoner (even to that renegado Wier and captain Shuttleworth) every article which had been taken from them, and all entered into an obligation not to serve against the United States until regularly exchanged.

And now having no occasion to remain longer in Tumbez, I on the morning of the 30th made the signal for getting under way, and on the 1st got clear of the Gulf of Guyaquil, and stretched away to the westward, to fall in with the easterly trade-winds, which are seldom met with until you get from one hundred to one hundred and fifty leagues from the land.

As the Essex Junior was very imperfectly equipped for a cruise, I continued in company with her, keeping my carpenters and others constantly at work on board her, building up breastworks, and making the necessary alteration on board her; and on the 4th of July a salute of seventeen guns was fired from the Essex, Essex Junior, and Greenwich, in commemoration of the aanniversaryof the independence of the United States; and as we were enabled to procure from the prizes a sufficient quantity of spirits to issue to our crew, the day was spent in the utmost conviviality, their grog being doubly relished from their having for some time past been entirely destitute [of it].

On the 9th, having completed the equipments of the Essex Junior, and there being no necessity for my remaining longer with her, I directed lieutenant Downes to proceed to Valparaiso with the prize-ships Hector, Catharine, Policy, and Montezuma, and the American ship Barclay, with directions to leave the Barclay there, and to sell the others to the best advantage, leaving it discretionary with him whether to send the Policy to the United States, she having a full cargo of spermaceti oil, which cannot be sold on this coast without great loss. I furnished him with blank powers of attorney for appointing an agent for the sale of our prizes; and as I gave him directions to procure for the Essex a quantity of spirits and some other articles, I furnished him with four thousand dollars to make the purchases, in the event of his being disappointed in the sale of the vessels. On leaving me, I gave him sealed instructions, with orders not to open them until he had left Valparaiso, which were as follows.


United States' Frigate Essex,
At sea, 1st July, 1812.[sic, 1813]


On leaving Valparaiso, you will scour the coast of Chili and Peru, keeping the usual distance for whalers. It will be advisable to look into the harbour of Lima; from thence proceed to the Gallipagos, searching Hood's and Charles' Islands for letters; should you find none at either of those places, look into James' Island. Get clear of all prisoners before leaving the islands if possible, and proceed to join me at the Island of Chitahoo, or Sta. Christiana, one of the Marquesas, where you will find me at anchor, or hear from me in Resolution Bay, in the latter part of September, and first of October. I intend there to refit my ship.

(Signed)           D. PORTER

Lieutenant John Downes.

And now finding myself in the latitude of 7°15' south, and nearly in the longitude of the Gallipagos, I parted company with the Essex Junior and her convoy, and stood to the eastward, until they were out of sight; I then shaped my course for the Gallipagos Islands, which I was strongly induced to visit again, as I had received intelligence of three English armed ships having sailed from Tumbez a fortnight before my arrival there, and I had every expectation of their having gone to their favourite fishing ground, and particularly as it was stated that they had information of my being on the coast, and had kept together for mutual protection, and had expressed a determination to seek for and attack me.

I kept with me the store-ship Greenwich and the Georgiana, intending to send the latter to the United States on my arrival at the islands, as she had her cargo of oil nearly complete, and the season was now approaching which would be most proper to dispatch her. I was desirous that she should approach our coast in the dead of winter, as British ships of war could not, at that season of the year, keep the sea to blockade our northern ports.

On the 12th, I made Charles' Island, and hove to for the night; in the morning I ran close in with Essex Bay, and sent the boat on shore to the post-office, and on her return was informed, that all the papers had been taken from the box; that some small kegs, which had been left through neglect by our people, when last there, had been taken away, as well as some wood we had left on the beach; and that some fresh tortoise shells had been found there, which convinced us that some vessel had been there quite lately.

The letters for lieutenant Downes, buried in the bottle, remained, however, untouched. Those were brought on board, and a short note, informing him of the time of my having stopped there, was left in their place; I then bore up for Banks' Bay, and arrived at midnight off the south head of Albemarle, where I hove to, for the purpose of giving the ground a good examination, and at day-light made all sail to the northward. At 11 A.M. discovered three sail off Banks' Bay, standing on a wind, some distance from each other. I felt apprehensive for the safety of my prizes, which were not a great distance astern of us; and the in-shore ship tacked to windward of us, and stood for them, with a view of cutting them off; but my anxiety was considerably relieved, on seeing the Greenwich heave to for the Georgiana to come up, as I was confident it was for the purpose of getting her crew out, as she soon after stood boldly down for the stranger. We were not long in capturing the vessel we were in chase of, which proved to be the English ship Charlton, of 10 guns, the captain of which informed me, that the ship now to windward was the Seringapatam, of 14 guns and 40 men, commanded by William Stavers, and that the other was the New Zealander, of eight guns.

Notwithstanding the great interest I felt for the critical situation of my prizes, as well as that which every other officer must feel when in pursuit of an enemy, I could not help remarking the operations of nature on the south side of Narborough and on the southern part of Albemarle. Narborough appeared to have undergone great changes since our last visit, by the violent irruptions of its volcanoes, and at this time there were no less than four craters in operation on that island, and one on the south part of Albemarle. And I should have before mentioned, that a few hours after leaving Charles' Island, a volcano burst out with great fury from its centre, which would naturally lead to the belief of a submarine communication between them.§

§ Porter's account is confusing: There is only one crater on Narborough (Fernandina) at its center, six on Albemarle (Isabela) and no known records of an eruption on Charles (Santa María, or Floreana). He may have meant “after leaving Narborough Island,” where there was an eruption on July 14, 1813 (modern island names in parentheses).

Perceiving that the New Zealander had hove to about to stand toward us, I was impressed with a belief that they had got over their alarm; but, from the manoeuvres of the other ship, I was persuaded that he supposed us an enemy, therefore determined to use every effort to take her first. The Greenwich continued to run down for him, while the Georgiana ran for the Essex. I soon threw a crew on board the Charlton, and gave chase. Several broadsides were exchanged between the Greenwich and the Seringapatam, when the latter hauled down her colours, but endeavored to make her escape in a crippled state, having her sails and rigging much cut. The Greenwich kept up the pursuit close on her quarter; the Essex was coming up with her fast; when, in the dusk of the evening, seeing no possibility of escape, the enemy bore up for the Essex, and surrendered his ship. I immediately took the captain and officers from her, left the Greenwich to take care of her, and pursued the other ship, which I captured in about an hour afterwards.

It proved to be the Seringapatam which had taken the letters, wood, keys, &c. from Charles' Island. The capture of this ship gave me more pleasure than that of any other which fell into my hands; for, besides being the finest British ship in those seas, her commander had the character of being a man of great enterprise, and had already captured the American whale-ship Edward of Nantucket, and might have done great injury to the American commerce in those seas; for although he had come into the Pacific on a whaling voyage, he had given but little attention to that object while there was a hope of meeting American whalers; but on requiring of this man that he should deliver to me his commission, he, with the utmost terror in his countenance, informed me that he had none with him, but was confident that his owners had, before this period, taken out one for him, and that he had no doubt would send it to Lima, where he expected to receive it. It was evident that he was a pirate, and I did not feel that it would be proper to treat him as I had done other prisoners of war; I therefore ordered him and all his crew in irons; but after enquiring of the American prisoners, whom I found on board the prize, as to the manner they had been treated by the crew of the Seringapatam, and being satisfied they, as well as the mates, were not to blame for the conduct of their commander, I liberated them from confinement, keeping Stavers only in irons.

I now bore up for James' Island, at which place I was anxious to arrive, in order that I might, at anchor, be enabled to get from my prizes such articles as we might want, such as anchors and cables, with which they were well supplied; but, on account of the violence of the current, which was setting to the northwest, our attempt was ineffectual; for, notwithstanding every exertion to prevent it, we were swept to the northwest as far as the latitude of 2°8' north, and seeing no hopes of succeeding in a short time, I determined to give the Charlton up to the captain, (as she was an old ship, and a dull sailer,) on condition that he should land all my prisoners at Rio de Janeiro, to which contract he, as well as the captain of the New Zealander, bound themselves by oath; and after taking from her a cable, and such other articles as were necessary for us, and sending all her guns and military equipments on board the Seringapatam, I dispatched her on the 19th, with forty-eight prisoners. The mates and sailors, however, expressed their determination not to go to Rio de Janeiro with the ship, for fear of being pressed on board a British man of war; they were very solicitous that I would allow them whale-boats, and let them take their chance in them, declaring that any fate, however dreadful, would be preferable to a servitude in his majesty's navy. To this I would not consent, lest it might be supposed I had turned them adrift in the middle of the Pacific; they then requested to remain by the Essex; I did not wish to be encumbered by them, and would not agree to this proposal. They, however, at length grew turbulent, and I was apprehensive I should have to use some coercive measures, in order to restore to the captains the necessary authority to keep them in order; but, after reasoning with them on the impropriety of their conduct, they became more orderly, and made sail to the southward, giving us at their departure three hearty cheers, and many (I believe sincere) good wishes for our success, and safe return to America.

As the Seringapatam proved to be a fast-sailing ship, and was in every respect calculated for a man of war (and indeed was built for one, in India, for Tippoo Saib §), I determined to render her as formidable as possible, that, in case of any accident happening to the Essex [(an event much to be dreaded in a navigation so little known to us)], our cruise might not be entirely broken up. With this view I sent the gunners and carpenters to work on her, and in a few days she was completely equipped with twenty-two guns mounted in her. I gave her in charge to Mr. Terry, master's mate, with directions not to separate from us, and placed the New Zealander under the charge of Mr. Shaw, the purser, with similar instructions.

§ A ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore, killed in 1799 at the battle of Seringapatam. The ship was built in the same year and subsequently acquired by British merchants.

We continued our ineffectual exertions to get to the southeast, and on the 22d, discovered Wenam's island, bearing S.S.E., and Culpepper's island bearing W.N.W. I saw now that all attempts to get to James' Island were useless, unless we should be favoured by a change of current; and at two o'clock, being but a short distance from Wenam's island, I went with three boats from the Essex, and one from each of the other ships, and returned before sunset with them all deeply loaded with fish, which afforded several fresh meals for our crew, and if we had been provided with salt, we should have been enabled to have cured large quantities of them, but not having any, many were thrown overboard.

Wenam's island, like the Gallipagos, is evidently of volcanic origin. It is thinly scattered on its summit with withered shrubbery; its sides are every where inaccessible; it affords no anchorage; is seven or eight miles in circuit, and has two small islets, one off the southeast, the other off the northwest parts, but neither more than one hundred yards from the island; but there is no danger, except from the rapidity of the currents, in approaching it on any side, and there is every where water enough for the largest ship to lie within a few yards of the shore. We saw here but few turtle, and only one seal. The only birds we saw, were the man-of-war hawk, gannets, gulls, and the black petrel, all of which were very abundant. On the northwest side I discovered the mouth of a cave, very small at the entrance, into which I went with my boat, and proceeded, as near as I can judge, about one hundred yards; and, judging from the beating of the sea against the sides, and the echo from the top, I supposed it to be there forty yards wide, and twenty yards high. We were, however, in perfect obscurity, and the apprehension of not finding my way out again prevented my proceeding farther. The water was every where of sufficient depth to float a ship of the line, and in this cavern, and at its mouth, we caught the most of our fish. Bait was scarcely necessary, as they were so ravenous as to bite at the bare hook, the line, and at the boat-hook, with which many were caught. They were of that kind called the rock cod, and were greatly relished by our crew.

I now stood away on a wind to the southward and westward, with a hope of getting beyond the influence of the current, and thus be enabled to reach the islands again.

On the 24th, I determined, for several reasons, to send the Georgiana to the United States. In the first place, I considered that, on her arrival on our coast, the season would favour her getting in, as I calculated it would require five months for her to reach it, which would be the dead of winter, and consequently at a time when ships of war cannot cruise on the northern parts, on account of the prevalence of tempestuous weather. Secondly, the ship had a full cargo of spermaceti oil, which would be worth in the United States about one hundred thousand dollars, and could not be sold on this coast without making great sacrifices. Thirdly, I was desirous of getting rid of Stavers: he was a man of great cunning, and considerable observation, and, however desirous I might be of concealing my intentions, I was apprehensive that some circumstances might lead him to conjecture rightly as to my future views; and, to put it entirely out of his power to obtain and give such information as was calculated to benefit the enemy, or frustrate my plans, I thought it advisable (as I always intended sending him to America for trial) to dispatch him in the Georgiana. Fourthly, repeated applications had been made to me, by the officers, to overlook the offence of lieutenant W.; and his activity and bravery on board the Greenwich, during her action with the Seringapatam, gave me a secret inclination to do so, without violating my word, or incurring the imputation of inconsistency. To reinstate him on board the Essex was entirely out of the question; but I saw no obstacle to giving him command of the Georgiana to take to America; an arrangement which gave general satisfaction to every person, as I at the same time liberated him from arrest, and withdrew the charges I had intended to present against him. Fifthly, the period was fast approaching when the times of many of my crew were to expire. I was desirous of sounding them as to their views on the occasion, and, with this object, I permitted the crew of the Georgiana to be made up of those whose period of enlistment would expire next month; and I had the great satisfaction to observe but little desire on the part of any to return before the Essex. A crew, however, was made up for her, but composed by no means of my best men. Every arrangement being made, the Georgiana left us on the 25th July, giving us a salute and three cheers at her departure. We had an opportunity, by this vessel, of writing to our friends, and enjoyed in pleasing anticipation the effect that the news of our great success would produce in the United States.

We had now got drifted as far to the westward as longitude 91° 15' west, our latitude, at noon of the 25th, was 1° 8' 25" north, the wind from the south, with a strong current ripple, which induced me to believe the current had shifted, gave me strong hopes of fetching the islands, and with this view I made all sail, but was soon compelled to heave to for the prizes, and particularly the New Zealander, which in a short time was run out of sight. The short sail I was compelled to keep under occasioned considerable delay, which, added to the current, which we still found setting to the west, prevented my making the land until the 27th, when we saw the north part of Narborough, bearing S.E. half E. Being considerably ahead of the prizes, I ran into Banks' bay, and on satisfying myself there were no vessels there, ran out to meet the prizes, and bore away in company with them for the northeast part of Albemarle, intending to proceed to James' island to make myself acquainted with its resources, and tosearchh for English whalers, as it is said to be much frequented by them, for the purpose of taking in land tortoises and refitting their ships, the harbour having the reputation of being the best among the Gallipagos islands. At midnight the north head bore S. by W., and Rodondo W.N.W. At seven o'clock on the morning of the 28th, discovered a strange sail to the eastward, and, on viewing her with my spy-glass from the top-gallant yard, she appeared to be close on a wind under her top-sails, with fresh breezes, while our ships were lying nearly becalmed, with a strong current setting us with great rapidity for Rodondo, which bore [of us] W. by S. A light air, however, springing up from the westward, we made all sail in chase; but the rapidity of the current was so great, that we soon lost sight of the stranger, and at meridian we were driven so close to Rodondo, that we entertained the most lively apprehensions for the safety of the ship; and even with the assistance of our drags, which were plied with their utmost power, and a smart breeze which fortunately sprung up at the most critical moment, it was with some considerable difficulty we escaped getting on shore on it; and as the sea was beating with great violence against its perpendicular and inaccessible sides, this apprehension was calculated to produce reflections of no very agreeable nature.

As soon as the ship was out of danger, we began again to think of our chase; and as we were not in the habit of readily giving up a pursuit, while it was probable the chase was an enemy, our uncommon success having taught us to believe, that to see and to capture were one and the same thing. Although we had lost sight of her, we still felt confident it would only be for a short time, and that she owed it solely to having a fresh breeze, while we were becalmed; an advantage we hoped to enjoy equally with her, so soon as we should be enabled to pass the N.E. point of Albemarle. I firmly believed that the stranger was a British whale-ship, and bound to James' Island, and every advantage was taken of the light airs which prevailed all that day and the next night, to endeavour again to get sight of her; and next morning, at half past seven o'clock, she was discovered to the N.E. from the masthead, standing on a wind towards us, and across our bows. At half past nine she was directly to windward of us, distant about seven miles; and as she had discovered that we were a frigate, and no doubt had intelligence of our being in this quarter, she hoisted American colours, and made all sail from us. Every exertion was made to come up with her; she was evidently a whale-ship; and from every appearance I had no doubt of her being English. The winds became light, inclinable to calm; we made use of our drags, and found considerable advantage from the use of them; but, from the constant labour requisite to work them, our people became very much harassed, and finally worn out with fatigue. We had, however, by the greatest exertions, approached within four miles of the chase, and were enabled, by the assistance of our glasses, to see all his movements. He now got his boats ahead to tow his ship, with a view, as I supposed, of running her on shore on the island of Abington, which was not far distant; and to prevent his effecting this object, I dispatched the gig and whale-boat, the first under command of lieutenant M'Knight, and the other under Mr. Bostwick, clerk, with a few good marksmen to drive them from their boats, but with the most positive orders to make no attempt on the ship. They soon succeeded in driving the boats alongside the ship, but found great difficulty in keeping out of range of his shot, as he had mounted two guns on his forecastle, with which he kept up a constant fire on our boats, having hauled down his American colours and hoisted English. At four o'clock on the afternoon of the 30th, both ships were perfectly becalmed, at the distance of three and a half miles from each other, our two boats lying ahead of the enemy, and preventing his boats from towing; my crew so worn out with fatigue, as to be incapable of working the drags to any advantage; the enemy with English, and we with American colours flying. I considered him as already our own, and that the ceremony of taking possession was all that was now requisite. I could plainly perceive that his force did not exceed ten guns and thirty men; and, as any alternative was preferable to working the drags any longer, I, to the great joy of every one on board, gave orders for attempting her with the boats, which were soon hoisted out, manned, and armed, and dispatched after her. The enemy, seeing so formidable a force coming against him, fired a few guns, apparently with a view of intimidating them, but finding that they continued to advance, he ceased firing and hauled down his colours. The boats had now got within three-quarters of a mile of her, when a fresh breeze sprung up from the eastward, with which she made all sail to the northward, hoisted her colours, fired at our gig and whale-boat as she passed, which in return gave her volleys of musketry, and before sunset she was hull down ahead of us, while we were lying the whole time perfectly becalmed. Our boats continued the chase, with the hope that it would again fall calm, and made flashes occasionally to guide me in the pursuit, which I was enabled to renew when the breeze struck me, which was not until after sundown. I came up with the boats at nine o'clock; we had all lost sight of the enemy, and the apprehension of losing all my boats and officers, and the greater part of my crew, induced me to heave to and take them on board, which was soon done, when I renewed the pursuit on the same course I had before observed her standing, as I did not think it proper to run away before the wind, on the expectation of her having changed her course; as this would have caused a separation from the prizes, and the strong current setting to leeward should have prevented our rejoining them again for some time; I therefore concluded it best to continue my course on a wind all night, but at day-light, seeing nothing of the enemy, I hove about to rejoin my prizes.

At twelve o'clock next day, we were joined by the Greenwich and Seringapatam, but we saw nothing of the New Zealander until the day following. Nothing, perhaps, could equal our disappointment in not taking this vessel. We had already calculated with such confidence on her, as to arrange her prize crew, and were exulting that we had completely destroyed (with the exception of one vessel more) the British whale-fishery on the coast of Peru. We believed the vessel we were in pursuit of to be the British whale-ship Indispensable, and we knew of no other besides her on the coast, except the Comet, of twenty guns, fitted out both for whaling and cruising against the Americans. Great, however, as our mortification was that he should make his escape after so long a chase, we consoled ourselves in some measure with the reflection, that this was the first enemy who had ever escaped us where we had known him to be such, and that his escape was owing only to a fortuitous circumstance, which might not happen again in a thousand chases, and not to any good management on his part, or bad management on ours; but yet, such is our nature, that we could not help blaming fortune for thus jilting us, and for this freak of hers forgot for a moment all the favours she had hitherto lavished on us.

I now made every exertion to reach James' Island; but light and baffling winds, and a constant lee current, prevented our making any progress until the 3d of August, when the current changed, and ran with great rapidity to the eastward, as it had hitherto done in a contrary direction.

On the 2d, being close under Abington, I had an opportunity of examining the west side of that island, and under a high and inaccessible precipice, opposite to a sandy beach, at the distance of three-quarters of a mile from the shore, found a good anchorage in twenty-two fathoms water, over a smooth sandy bottom, well sheltered from the prevailing winds by a point to the northwest of that, called by Colnet Cape Chalmers.§ This place, however, affords anchorage and shelter only; it is impossible to penetrate from thence into the island; but I have no doubt landing may be effected elsewhere; and, from the verdant appearance of the interior of the island, I should suppose that, like all the others, it affords tortoises. On the small beach opposite the anchorage, we found one turtle, and in the bay an abundance of fish were caught by the boat's crew. I attempted to ascend a small hill on the south point of the bay, and the only one that had the appearance of being accessible, for the purpose of taking a better view of the bay, in order to discover if there were any sunken rocks or other dangers, but I soon was compelled to desist, as the loose lava, ashes, and other volcanic substances, which were constantly giving way under me, rendered my ascent very difficult, and my descent dangerous. From thence I proceeded to the north part of the island, which wholly consists of hard black lava, totally destitute of vegetation, and apparently owes its existence to an eruption of no distant period. The whole of the west as well as the north part, we found to be inaccessible, and of the same dreary appearance. We shot here a number of seals, and, after loading our boats with fish, returned to the ship.

§ Appears as “C. Chalmers” on the 1798 Arrowsmith chart, but the name does not appear in Colnett's text.


On the morning of the 4th, at six o'clock, we were between James' Island and Albermarle [sic], beating up the passage, which is about eighteen miles wide, to reach the harbour, which was now in sight, when the New Zealander, which was far to leeward, made a signal for a strange sail to the eastward; but on chasing it proved to be a rock off the east part of James' Island. This prevented our getting into the bay until half past two, when we came to an anchor in six fathoms water, within a quarter of a mile of the middle of the beach, over a soft sandy bottom, and moored with our bower-anchor to the southward, and the stream to the northward, the southwest part of Albany Island bearing northwest by north; Cape Marshall, on Albemarle, northwest; and the west point of the bay southwest by south. I caused the prizes to moor ahead and astern of the Essex, in a line along the shore, so close as to prevent an enemy from passing inside of us in case of attack, and directed their commanders to keep them constantly prepared for defence. I caused the pinnace and cutters to be hoisted out, rigged, and anchored in shore, to be in constant readiness for service, in the event of an enemy appearing off, and, after every arrangement was made that could suggest itself to me for the safety of the ships, as well for offensive as defensive operations, I commenced making those little repairs, which every ship requires, in a greater or less degree, on going into port, after being some time at sea. I also filled up my water from the New Zealander, took on board such provisions and stores as were requisite for us, and removed from the Seringapatam to that vessel all empty casks and other cumbrous articles, taking from her such provisions and stores as were not necessary for her, and might hereafter be wanted for us, and put them on board the Seringapatam. I also caused the Seringapatam to be painted exactly like the Essex, so that it would have been very difficult to have known them apart at a short distance. I then changed entirely the appearance of the Essex, and gave to the Greenwich the appearance of a sloop of war, hoping at some future period to derive some advantage over the enemy by the deceptions I should be enable to practise by means of those changes.

It became necessary to take all our powder on shore, for the purpose of sunning and sifting it; and I discovered, to my great regret, that nearly one-third of that contained in casks was damaged and unfit for use, in consequence of the water having entered the magazine, either during our passage around Cape Horn, or (which is more likely) while our rudder coat was in a damaged state, off the coast of Patagonia. We were, however, enabled to get a considerable quantity from the Seringaptam, which (although it left that ship nearly destitute) in a great measure supplied our deficiency.

We here, after painting our ships, repairing our sails and boats, setting up our rigging, and doing various other jobs which could not be done conveniently at sea, began to lay in our stock of tortoises, the grand object for which every vessel anchors at the Gallipagos Islands. Four boats were dispatched every morning with this object, and returned at night, bringing with them from 20 to 30 each, averaging about 60 pounds; and in four days we had as many as would weigh about 14 tons on board, which was as much as we could conveniently stow. They were piled up on the quarter-deck for a few days, with an awning spread over (to shield them from the sun, which makes them very restless), in order that they might have time to discharge the contents of their stomachs, which is considerable; after which they were stored away below, as you would stow any other provisions, and used as occasion required. No description of stock is so convenient for ships to take to sea with them as the tortoises of those islands; they require no provisions or water for a year, nor is any further attention to them necessary, than that their shells should be preserved unbroken.

The shells of those of James' Island are sometimes remarkably thin and easily broken, but more particularly so as they become advanced in age; for then, whether owing to the injuries they receive from their repeated falls in ascending and descending the mountains, or from injuries received otherwise, or from the course of nature, their shells become very rough, and peal off in large scales, which renders them very thin and easily broken. Those of James' Island appear to be a species entirely distinct from those of Hood's and Charles' Islands. The form of the shell of the latter is elongated, turning up forward, in the manner of a Spanish saddle, of a brown colour, and of considerable thickness; they are very disagreeable to the sight, but far superior to those of James' Island in point of fatness, and their livers are considered the greatest delicacy. Those of James' Island are round, plump, and black as ebony, some of them handsome to the eye; but their liver is black, hard when cooked, and the flesh altogether not so highly esteemed as the others.§

§ Darwin's description of Porter's account mistakenly mixes up the characteristics described here by Porter.

The most of those we took on board were found near a bay on the northeast part of the island, about eighteen miles from the ship, and among the whole only three were male, which may be easily known by their great size, and from the length of their tails, which are much longer than those of the females. As the females were found in low sandy bottoms, and all without exception were full of eggs, of which generally from 10 to 14 were hard, it is presumable that they come down from the mountains for the express purpose of laying; and this opinion seems strengthened from the circumstance of there being no male tortoises among them, the few we found having been taken a considerable distance up the mountain. One remarkable peculiarity in this animal is, that the blood is cold. I shall leave it to those better acquainted with natural history to investigate the cause of a circumstance so extraordinary; my business is to state facts, not to reason on them.

Tortoise engraving
Gallapagos Turtle     Edm: Blunt Sc.

The temperature of the air of the Gallipagos Islands varies from 72° to 75°; that of the blood of the tortoise is always 62°. After the most diligent search, no appearance of fresh water could be found in the neighbourhood of the place where the tortoises were taken, although some of the seamen searched to a considerable distance from the sea-shore; and yet each of these animals had in its stomach or reservoir from one to two gallons, of a taste by no means disagreeable, and such as thirst would readily induce any person to use; and from this circumstance, as well as from the verdant appearance of the interior, I should be induced to believe, that this island furnishes springs of water in its mountains, but that they are soaked up by the loose and thirsty lava and cinders, of which it is chiefly composed, long before they can reach the sea. The eggs of the tortoise are perfectly round, white, and of two and a half inches diameter; they are far from being a delicacy when cooked, as they are dry, tasteless, and the yolk is little better than saw-dust in the mouth.

The sea and land guanas abound at this island; flamingoes and teal, of an excellent quality, may be killed in a salt lagoon, a few rods back of the beach opposite to where the ships lay; and the species of doves formerly mentioned may be killed with the greatest ease, and in any numbers, in every part of the island; they are fat and delicious; and the land guana is superior in excellence to the squirrel or rabbit. Fish were caught in considerable abundance, with our seine as well as with hooks and lines, along side the ship, and with our boats near the rocks; but we did not resort to the first-mentioned expedient through scarcity, but for the sake of procuring a greater variety, as we were thereby enabled to take mullet of a superior quality, and other fish that do not bite at a hook. The rock-fish did not here yield in abundance or excellence to any place we had yet been in; and among other delicacies we were enabled with ease to supply ourselves abundantly with cray-fish, at low water, among the rocks, where they were caught by hand.

We found captain Colnet's [sic, Colnett] chart of the island, as far as he surveyed it, sufficiently accurate for our purpose, but we neither found his delightful groves, his rivulets of water, nor his seats formed by the buccaniers of earth and stone, where we might repose ourselves after our fruitless search for them. Led by his description of the beauties of the island, I proceeded to the southwest part of it, as far as Watson's Creek, and on rounding the second point from the ship, I landed in a small cove, on a white beach, formed of small pieces of coral; this we found had been the principal landing-place of ships which have visited here for the purpose of procuring tortoises. The land here is level, and upon an extensive valley, which lies between two remarkable mountains or craters of extinguished volcanoes, strongly resembling each other, you may proceed for about three miles without experiencing much inconvenience, except from the intense heat of the sun (from which there is nothing to screen you but a few withered dwarf-trees, destitute of leaves), and from occasionally falling into the holes made by the guanas in the loose cinders, heated by the sun's rays, as well as from occasionally encountering in your route beds of sharp lava, about as agreeable to walk on as a hackle; and to those provided with thick soles, this transition from hot to sharp and from sharp to hot is equally desirable, for either of the evils is so great that they cannot be long borne at a time, and of the two is is difficult to say which is the least. On my return to the beach, however, from my excursion, I discovered beauties that had before escaped my notice. A verdant mangrove, which had shot its branches into the sand, formed an arbour which afforded an agreeable shade; and after supplying ourselves with seats from the stones in the neighbourhood, Mr. Adams and myself made a hearty meal from the tortoises, cray-fish, crabs, &c., which had been procured in the vicinity, for which our promenade in the delightful grove of captain Colnet had not a little contributed to prepare us to relish*.

* 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 island appears to have been a favourite resort of the buccaniers, 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 wine 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 [sic] Isle. The watering-place of the buccaniers was entirely dried up, and there was only found a small rivulet between two hills, running into the sea; the northernmost hill forms the south point of Fresh-Water Bay.

Colnet's Journal, page 156.

We met with great numbers of English mocking-birds, hawks resembling the falcon, a considerable variety of smaller birds, some resembling the small common sparrow, some not unlike the brown Canary-bird, the small black bird found in Charles' Island, and a black bird with a red breast. We saw but few seals, and the only aquatic birds we met with, were pelicans, boobies, and petrells. A few small snakes were seen, much resembling the common American striped snake, and a great number of lizards. In the bottom of the crater of the northern mountain, near the foot of which we landed, some of my sailors (who had been there in search of tortoises) informed me that they had found one barrel of fresh water contained in the hollow of a rock. This is the only fresh water we found on any part of the island, and it cannot be come at without the greatest difficulty and danger, which none would attempt to overcome but such as, like our sailors, had long been confined on shipboard; for, feeling all restraint removed while on shore, they delighted in making an extensive range, and in overcoming difficulties which to others seemed insurmountable. From this place we procured about seventy-five tortoises; but as the men had to bring them from a distance not less than three miles, and as the fatigue was excessive, this was the only time we visited it, as the parties which went to the nnortheastpart of the island were more successful, and gave a more favourable account of the facility of getting them down to the beach. They reported also, that there was every appearance of good anchorage on the northeast, in a bay not inferior in its appearance to the one we were then occupying. Mr. Adams, with his usual zeal, proceed to sound and survey it, and reported anchorage about half a mile from the shore, in 13 fathoms, sandy bottom. This bay was distant from where we lay about 18 miles; I gave it the name of Adams' Bay.

I proceeded to examine Fresh-water Bay, and Fresh-water Valley, as they are called by Colnet;§ in the former there are appearances of anchorage. We found great quantities of broken jars, such as the Spaniards transport their liquids in; a deep ravine, evidently formed by violent torrents; but it was perfectly dry, and had the appearance of having been long so. Three separate times I examined Fresh-water Valley, when we first arrived, and twice after showers of rain; but all my researches were ineffectual, although I traced the ravine of this place to the top of the mountain. While I was about embarking, I perceived three of four small birds, of the size of a sparrow, fluttering about a moist place, on the side of a cliff, over my head; and on further observation I perceived that the small birds of this description constantly resorted here for the purpose of sucking the moisture from the rock; and, by a closer examination, I discovered that beneath this place a small and rude basin had been formed in the rock, for the purpose of catching the drops of water, which perhaps at certain seasons of the year trickle down the side of the cliff. At the time I visited the place, the basin was perfectly dry; and I should not have known the purpose for which it was intended had not I noticed the marks of a pickaxe, or some other iron instrument, in the rock. Of these places captain Colnet, in his view of James' Island, gives the following description:

§ Colnett mentions Fresh-Water Bay several times, but not Fresh-Water Valley. Nor does the latter appear on the Arrowsmith chart. And Porter contradicts himself in the sentence below, where he notes that Colnett attributes the former name to the buccaneers.

“Round the northeast point is a small bay, which I take for the one the buccaniers call Fresh-water Bay, in which were many of their traces such as old jars, &c.; also ground cleared away, either as a platform for guns or to land stores, &c.; but the water since then has taken a different course, and falls between two hills, and runs over a little clift of rocks into the sea.”

“As soon as the ship was secured, I set out with Mr. Sharp to search for water in Fresh-water Bay, where the buccaniers 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 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 the dawn of the 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; 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 fresh water in the isle; but as neither of my boats were in a condition to encounter the least bad weather, I deferred taking a survey of the isle till they were repaired.” Colnet's Journal, page 153

“These isles deserve the attention of the British navigators beyond any unsettled situation: but the preference must be given to James' isle, as it is the only one we found sufficient fresh water at to supply a small ship.” Colnet's Journal, page 158.

§ The actual source of the first paragraph above has not yet been found, while the others are indeed on Colnett's page 153 and Page 158.

It seems from captain Colnet's account, that his principal motive for going to James' Island was to accompany an English ship called the Butterworth, commanded by Mr. Sharp, whom he accidentally met off Banks' bay in distress for want of water; and that he persuaded Mr. Sharp to proceed to this place, where he was confident he would procure a supply; but as he did not find it immediately on his arrival, he sent the Butterworth daily supplies of that article, which produced a consequence captain Colnet little apprehended, for from that moment Mr. Sharp neglected to look for water. Captain Colnet, it seems, from civility to the owners of that ship, had determined to keep company with her during the voyage, and to give her only a monthly supply; and this information, it appears, stimulated Mr. Sharp to search for water, which he found within two miles of his ship. Now it seems extraordinary that the place where so important a discovery was made, should not have been pointed out by captain Colnet. I have, however, reason to doubt the correctness of his statement, as I have carefully examined James' Island for fresh water, and so have many others of my officers and crew, for at least 12 miles to the southward of our anchorage, and as much as 6 miles to the northward; indeed several have searched to the northeast 18 or 20 miles, and none of us yet have been able to discover any of that precious article, except the small damp place on the cliff at Fresh-water Valley, and the small quantity in the bottom of the crater of the aforementioned mountain. It is true, he might have arrived there after a long spell of rainy weather; but it seems it was in the latter part of April he arrived there, after cruising some time among the islands for whales; and if he had experienced so extraordinary a thing as heavy rains among the Gallipagos, I think he would have noticed it in some part of his journal. There can be no doubt, that, at some former period, small quantities of water have been procured from the place called Fresh-water Valley; and indeed the old captains of some of the captured ships have informed me, that they have been procured; and it rarely happens that this much can be gotten; then, when so inconsiderable a quantity can be obtained, how could captain Colnet so far impose on the world, as to hold out encouragement for vessels to stop there for water*?

* See the quotations from Colnet, page 219.§

§ This reference is to the page in Porter's own book where these quotations appear, as seen in the paragraphs above. The asterisk in the next paragraph also refers to this footnote.

That the island affords water in the interior, there cannot be a doubt; but this can only be of service to the tortoises, whose patience and perseverance enable, and whose instinct teaches them to find it. But it certainly cannot be supposed, after what captain Colnet has said of Fresh-water Bay and Fresh-water Valley, that it was from either of those places that the Butterworth procured her supply, for it seems that an unsuccessful search was made there by captains Colnet and Sharp on the first arrival of the ships: they could not land on account of the surf; they rowed close to the beach, but saw not the least sign of any spring or rivulet. Boats were sent in different directions, and the mate and whaling-master of captain Colnet's ship were ordered on the search, but without success. Captain Colnet proceeded also himself on the search, and was equally unsuccessful with the rest; yet the captain of the Butterworth found it within two miles of his ship, and we are not informed in what direction! Where is the advantage of James' Island furnishing fresh water “sufficient to supply a small ship,” if we are ignorant where it is to be found? Surely captain Colnet could not have been ignorant of the importance of this information, and, as he not given it, I must take the liberty of doubting the correctness of his statement, page 153 of his journal.* However, he has committed so many errors in his description of this island, as well as in the chart he has drawn of the whole group, that in their multiplicity this single one might be passed over in silence, were it not for the deplorable consequences that might result to a whole ship's company, who, when short of water, should (relying on Colnet's statement) put into James' Island for a supply. To prevent the ill effects of information so calculated to mislead, I felt it my duty to point out the inaccuracy of the statement; and if it is true that the captain of the Butterworth obtained the supply of water mentioned, it was more the duty of captain Colnet to have particularized the spot, considering the object for which (as he informs us) he was sent into this sea.

I have now the painful task of mentioning an occurrence which gave me the utmost pain, as it was attended by the premature death of a promising young officer, whereby the service at this time has received an irreparable injury, and by a practice which disgraces human nature. I shall, however, throw a veil over the whole previous proceedings, and merely state, that without my knowledge they § met on shore, at daylight, and at the third fire Mr. Cowan fell dead. His remains were buried the same day in the spot where he fell, and the following inscription was placed over his tomb:

Sacred to the memory
Of the U.S. Frigate Essex,
Who died here anno 1813,
Aged 21 Years.
His loss is ever to be regretted
by his country;
And mourned by his friends
And brother officers.

§ Cowan's assailant was Lieutenant John M. Gamble, commander of the Marines in Porter's crew. His identity is given in an obituary notice in an 1815 Supplement to Volume VII of the Niles Weekly Register.

Compare Porter's account with those of Scouler and Melville.

Having entirely changed the appearance of the ship, so that she could not be known from description, or taken for a frigate at a short distance; having made all the repairs which our sails, rigging, boats, &c. required, made a new main top-sail, a considerable quantity of cordage from old rope, and supplied ourselves with such articles as we required from the prizes, as well as broken up our held, cleansed and re-stowed it, scrubbed our bottom, on which considerable quantities of grass and barnacles had collected, and supplied ourselves abundantly with such refreshments as the island afforded, we, on the morning of the 20th August, got under way; {got under weigh.} but, prior to my leaving the place, I buried a letter for lieutenant Downes, in a bottle at the head of Mr. Cowan's grave, and a duplicate of the same at the foot of a finger-post, erected by me, for the purpose of pointing out to such as may hereafter visit the island the grave of Mr. Cowan; and, with a design of misleading the enemy, I left in a bottle suspended at the finger-post, the following note:

The United States frigate Essex arrived here on the 21st July, 1813, her crew much afflicted with the scurvy and ship-fever, which attacked them suddenly, out of which she lost the first lieutenant, surgeon, sailing-master, two midshipmen, gunner, carpenter, and thirty-six seamen and marines.

She captured in this sea the following British ships, to wit: Montezuma, Policy, Atlantic, Catharine, Rose, Hector, Charlton, Georgiana, Greenwich, Seringapatam, and New Zealander; but, for want of officers and men to man them, the four last were burnt; the Rose and Charlton were give up to the prisoners.

The Essex leaves this in a leaky state, her foremast very rotten in the partners, and her mainmast sprung. Her crew have, however, received great benefit from the tortoises and other refreshments which the island affords. Should any American vessel, or indeed a vessel of any nation, put in here, and meet with this note, they would be doing an act of great humanity to transmit a copy of it to America, in order that our friends may know of our distressed and hopeless situation, and be prepared for worse tidings, if they should ever again hear from us.

The British prisoners have been landed at Tumbez, sent to St. Helena and Rio de Janeiro.

The following is a list of the names of those who died as above mentioned, to wit.

(Then followed a list of 43 names.) †

† Porter does not include the list itself in any edition.

While we were at the bay in James' Island (which I called Cowan's Bay), we put our goats on shore to graze, keeping a person to attend them through the day and give them water; and as they were all very tame, and kept about the landing-place, we every night left them on shore. There was one young male, and three females, one of which was of the Welch breed, and was with young by a Peruvian ram with five horns, which we had taken in one of our prizes; the rest were of the Spanish breed. The sheep was also left on shore with them; but one morning, after they had been there several days and nights, the person who attended them went on shore, as usual, to give them their water; but no goats were to be found; they had all, as with one accord, disappeared. Several persons were sent in different directions, for two or three days, to search for them, but without success: they undoubtedly took to the mountains in the interior, where unerring instinct led them to the springs or reservoirs from whence the tortoises obtain their supply, and owing to this circumstance, future navigators may perhaps obtain here an abundant supply of goat's meat, for, unmolested as they will be in the interior of this island, to which they will no doubt confine themselves on account of the water, it is probable their increase will be very rapid; and perhaps nature, whose ways are mysterious, had embraced this first opportunity of inhabiting this island with a race of animals, who are, from their nature, almost as well enabled to withstand the want of water as the tortoises with which it now abounds, and perhaps she has so ordained it, that the breed which shall be produced between the Welch goat and the Peruvian ram shall be better adapted to the climate than any other.

I shall leave others to account for the manner in which all those islands obtained their supplies of tortoises and guanas, and other animals of the reptile kind; it is not my business even to conjecture as to the cause. I shall merely state, that those islands have every appearance of being newly created, and that those perhaps are the only part of the animal creation that could subsist on them, Charles' and James' being the only ones where I have yet been enabled to find, or been led to believe could be found, sufficient moisture even for goats. Time, no doubt, will order it otherwise; and many centuries hence may see the Gallipagos as thickly inhabited by the human species as any other part of the world. At present, they are only fit for tortoises, guanas, lizards, snakes, &c. Nature has created them elsewhere, and why could she not do it as well at those islands?

There was one fact, which was noticed by myself and many others, the day preceding the departure of the goats, and must lead us to believe that something more than chance directed their movements. It was observed that they all drank an unusual quantity of water; the old Welch goat particularly did not seem satisfied until she had drunk upwards of half a gallon (which for a goat, it must be admitted, is an extraordinary quantity), and the others a quantity not far short of it, which seems as though they had determined to provide themselves with a supply to enable them to reach the mountains; and this fact, which (if we take into consideration the extraordinary sagacity of the goat) bears something the appearance of the marvellous, I do aver to be as strictly true as any other I have stated, and in no one instance have I exaggerated or gone beyond the bounds of strict veracity.

I now made the best of my way for Banks' Bay in company with my prizes, and fixed on the small cove inside of Narborough as a rendezvous for them in case of separation, as it now was my design to leave them there until I made a short cruise among the islands, in order to make myself acquainted with all their resources, and with the hope of falling in with some of the enemy's vessels. I had also the design of leaving instructions for lieutenant Downes at Charles' and Hood's Islands, similar to those left at James', that, in case he should fail in finding my letters in one place, there might be a chance of his finding them in another, and thus our meeting be rendered more certain.

On the 22d I reached Banks' Bay, and directed the prizes to proceed into the cove{.}[, with the following orders, which will sufficiently explain the arrangements made, as well as my future designs; after which I stood out of the bay.]

U. S. Frigate Essex,    
Banks' Bay, 21st August, 1813.


You will proceed to the cove with the Greenwich, and moor her agreeably to the instructions already given you. The crew of the Greenwich will be kept complete, for the protection of the other vessels, and, in the event of being attacked, you will call on the other prize-masters and their men to assist on board your ship; but it is expected you will only act on the defensive. Should I not appear in six weeks from the time of my leaving this, you will proceed for Valparaiso, in company with the Seringapatam, after the articles of value are taken from the New Zealander, and that ship is burnt. If, however, lieutenant Downes should appear before the expiration of six weeks from the time of my leaving this, you will please to deliver to him the enclosed letter, which contains instructions for the guidance of his conduct respecting the disposal of the prizes.

I must recommend your keeping constantly on your guard, with a look-out from a suitable point. Let the ships be ready for sea on the shortest notice, and suffer no guns to be fired, no fires at night, or any other practices by which you may be discovered.

Should I appear off with an English red ensign, hoisted union down, at the fore, you will send a boat on board the Essex. If the same signal is made at the main, it will be for the Seringapatam and New Zealander to send their boats for their crews, and you will please furnish them assistance for the purpose, if necessary. Should you leave the cove before I arrive, you will bury a bottle, containing a letter, in some suitable spot, near the landing-place at the head of the cove, and cut in the rocks immediately above it the letters S. X., in order that I may be enabled to find it.

I need not inform you how important it is that the prizes should not fall into the hands of an enemy. Your situation will render their destruction (in the last extremity) very easy. I would recommend to you to have as many boats, as may be necessary for the escape of their crews, in constant readiness for service, and a sufficiency of provisions and water, &c. &c. provided for them at the shortest notice; and, in the event of the necessity of taking to them, I would advise your proceeding to Charles' Island, as the most likely place of meeting with the Essex Junior, or Essex; and, in case you should not fall in with either, it appears the most likely place for you to take by surprise some British vessel. Trusting much to your discretion,

I have the honour to be,      
Very respectfully,            
Your obedient servant,
(Signed)               D. PORTER.

Lieutenant John M. Gamble, Prize-master of the ship Greenwich.

P. S. It is likely I shall be in the bay again in twenty or twenty-five days.


U. S. Frigate Essex,    
Banks' Bay, 21st August, 1813.


You will proceed to the cove with the prize under your command, and moor agreeably to the instructions I have given you. When you have properly secured your ship, you will send on board the Essex all your crew, except the following, to wit: one quarter-master, one seaman, and two ordinary seamen, and you will give every aid in your power to lieutenant Gamble to protect the ships against any force that may attack them. Should you not hear from me in six weeks from the time of my leaving this, you will burn the New Zealander, after taking every article of value from on board her, and putting them on the Seringapatam, and assist with your crew in navigating her, in company with the Greenwich, to Valparaiso, unless the Essex Junior should arrive within that period, in which case lieutenant Downes will have instructions from me as to the disposal of the vessels.

Very respectfully,            
Your obedient servant,
(Signed)               D. PORTER.

Mr. John R. Shaw, Prize-master of the ship New Zealander.

Corresponding instructions were delivered to Mr. James Terry, prize-master of the ship Seringapatam.


U. S. Frigate Essex,    
Banks' Bay, 21st August, 1813.


I have directed the prize-ships Greenwich, New Zealander, and Seringapatam to proceed to the cove, and there await my arrival six weeks from this date. I left letters for you at James' Island. I shall now proceed to Charles' Island, and from thence to Hood's Island, at both of which places I shall leave instructions for you. I intend to cruise a short time about Hood's and Chatham Islands. Should I not arrive at the cove by the 2d October, you may calculate that some accident has happened to me; and at the expiration of that period, you will take the prizes under your convoy, and proceed with them to Valparaiso, where you will pursue that course most likely to conduce to the good of the service.

I have the honour to be,      
Very respectfully,            
Your obedient servant,
(Signed)               D. PORTER.

Lieutenant John Downes, Commanding the
U. S. armed Prize-ship Essex Junior.



On the 24th, I stretched in toward the cove, to meet the boats, which I expected off with the crews of the Seringapatam and New Zealander, and at one o'clock discovered them on a sand beach on Narborough, where they had landed to await our coming in; and about an hour afterwards they came on board, with 21 men from the two ships. We had now got to the entrance of the passage between Narborough and Albemarle. A steady breeze from the northwest and a current setting from the same quarter, as well as a desire of looking into the cove, to see in what order the prizes had been secured, altogether tempted me to endeavour to go through the passage, in which I could perceive no danger whatever, nor had I ever heard of the existence of any, except what arose from the violence of the current, and a reef off the southeast part of Narborough. Accordingly all sail was made; but, contrary to my expectations, the wind died away at sunset, and shifted ahead, leaving us nearly becalmed until after dark, when a brisk breeze sprang up from the southwest, with which, after great anxiety and uneasiness on my part, we succeeded in beating through; but this anxiety was unnecessary, as the passage is as safe as any other that is liable to sudden shifts of wind and rapid currents. Soundings were obtained in mid channel with 80 fathoms of line, coarse gravelly bottom. There appears no dangers lying any distance from the shores of either side, with the exception of the aforesaid reef, which we got sight of before night, and does not extend more than a mile and a half from the shore. On the beaches of the Albemarle side, we saw vast numbers of turtle, and seals kept playing around us during the whole passage, or it may more properly be called a sound.

I had here an opportunity of seeing in what manner the seals are enabled to devour their prey when in the water, which had hitherto been a mystery to me, not having feet to assist them in tearing to pieces the large fish they frequently take. One ran near the ship with a large red fish, of the snapper kind, in his mouth; this fish was still alive, and made considerable struggle; the seal reared himself out of the water as far as his breast; then throwing his head around on one shoulder, appeared to rally all his strength, and jerking it with great violence to the other, throwing the fish at a great distance from him, tearing off with the jerk a mouthful, which he greedily swallowed, and, by repeating this action, in a few minutes devoured the whole fish, which, from its size, I should suppose weighed at least ten pounds: and it was in vain that the man-of-war hawks, boobies, pelicans, and other birds which hovered over him, endeavoured to seize on his prey; his activity baffled all their attempts, and prevented them even from picking up the scraps which frequently flew off from the fish as he threw it from him.

After getting clear of the sound, I stood out of the bay, and at twelve o'clock at night was off the south head of Albemarle; there I continued beating to get to windward until the 29th, without gaining much ground, on account of the prevalence of a rapid current setting to the westward. At length, however, the wind hauled to the southward, and enabled us to make Charles' Island on the 31st, where I sent my boat on shore, with a letter for lieutenant Downes, similar to that left at James' Island. On her return, I was informed that every thing remained as I had left it, there being no appearance of strangers having been there since my departure. We had had several showers of rain while in the neighbourhood of the isle, and, from the heavy clouds hanging over it, I had hoped to obtain there a supply, and gave directions that our former watering-places should be examined, but was informed that they were entirely dried up, not a drop of water remaining in the places where we had formerly obtained it. I now made sail for Chatham Island, running along to windward of Barrington Island, which appears bold and free from danger. Towards sunset, the man on the look-out cried out, a sail to the northwest! All sail was made in chase, but in a short time we discovered from the mast-head, by our glasses, that it was one of two rocks that lie off the north end of Porter's Island, which we have called Bainbridge's Rocks.§ At night the weather became thick and hazy; and at ten o'clock, supposing myself nearly up with Chatham Island, I hove to, with the ship's head to the southwest; and in the morning the Kicker Rock, which lies off the mouth of Stephen's bay, bearing E.N.E., distant about 10 miles, I made sail for it, and at 9 A.M. anchored in Stephen's bay, in 12 fathoms water, sandy bottom, the Kicker Rock bearing W.½N., Dalrymple Rock S.W. by S., the west point of the bay S.W.½S., and the north point N.N.E. In running in, we passed to the north of the Kicker Rock, at the distance of two cables' length, and obtained no bottom with thirty fathoms of line.

§ According to the map in Porter's second edition, the two rocks which he named Bainbridge's Rocks were in fact east of Porter's Island (the modern Isla Santa Cruz). These rocks are now named Gordon Rocks. Porter's original designation—now Rocas Bainbridge— has been applied to similar rocks off the east coast of Isla San Salvador.

This rock is very remarkable in its appearance, and is the surest mark for finding the bay. It is very high, flat on the top, and from some points bears strongly the appearance of a castle. On the western side the rock is split from the summit to the base, and the part detached stands like an obelisk on a very narrow base, and from its slender appearance seems as if ready to tumble down at every breeze. The bay is capacious, and well sheltered from the prevailing winds; there is good landing on several small white sandy beaches; and to the northwest of our anchorage is a small cove, which would afford good shelter for vessels not drawing more than 10 feet water. We found here sea turtle in the greatest abundance, and of a most excellent quality, of which we took on board as many as we could stow away, some of them weighing upwards of 300 weight. They were found always at low water, lying on the small sandy beaches below the rocks. We killed also a number of seals, the skins of which were very serviceable to us as mockasons, made after the manner of those of the North American Indians, and were a very good substitute for shoes, of which we began to stand in need. Our seamen converted them into caps, hats, and various other articles of use to them. We obtained there a large quantity of prickly pears, of a size far exceeding any I had hitherto met with; they were found on low trees, growing among the hard beds of lava which skirt the bay, and were gathered in quantities more than sufficient for the supply of the whole ship's company, some of them of the size of an orange, and nearly equal to that fruit in excellence. Their juice, when stewed with sugar, made a delicious sirrup, while their skins afford a most excellent preserve, with which we made pies, tarts, &c. We saw, in some small lagoons at the back of the beaches, teal and plover; but as I had forbid the use of fire-arms, in consequence of the scarcity of powder, we did not obtain any of them. Cray and other fish were found here in abundance, but we were not enabled to procure any tortoises, though there can scarcely be a doubt that an abundance of them are to be found on other parts of the island.

The vegetation on that part forming the bay, was entirely burnt up, and, with the exception of the prickly-pear trees, there was no verdure whatever for the support of animal life; and they were so situated among the sharp beds of lava, it would be impossible for the tortoises to approach them. We saw a few of their shells and bones; but they appeared to have been long dead. We were not enabled to make any progress into the interior of the island, on account of the great difficulty of walking, nor would I permit the boats in their search to go beyond the points of the bay, as I wished to be always prepared for getting under way at a moment's warning, and wished them to be within signal-distance; and indeed the great stock of tortoises we brought from James' Island, and the supply of turtle we had here obtained, left no room for adding to our stock, if we had found them. We saw here none of the land-guanas; and the only animals of the reptile kind we met with were a few lizards. Land-birds were very scarce; boobies, pelicans, and man-of-war hawks were in abundance.

This island {Chatham Island}, like all the rest, is of volcanic origin, but the ravages appear less recent here than at most of the others. Its vegetable productions are the same, with the exception of the cotton-tree, of which I saw no vestige; but, owing to the extreme drought, it may have perished in this part, and perhaps exists in the interior, where there is some appearance of verdure. At James' as well as at Charles' Island, the cotton-tree grows very luxuriantly, most of the trees being from eight to ten feet high, and appears to be the same kind as that produced on the Mississippi; but, for want of culture, the pods do not produce in such large quantities, nor is the cotton equal in quality; attention to its cultivation would, no doubt, greatly improve it. The soil of these islands, although dry and parched up, seems rich and productive; and, were it not for the want of streams of fresh water, they might be rendered of great importance to any commercial nation that would establish a colony on them. They afford good harbours, are situated in the finest climate under heaven, are in the neighbourhood of the best fishing-ground for the spermaceti whales, and afford a rich supply of fresh provisions, in the land-tortoises and other animals with which they abound. Nothing is wanting but water; and I am still of opinion that may be found. A fine spring was discovered in Charles' Island, not far from the seacoast, in a place by no means promising in its appearance; and I think, by a strict search, an abundance may be found. We have seen, from what Pat has effected, that potatoes, pumpkins, &c., may be raised, and of a superior quality, and with proper industry the state of these island might be much improved.

Chatham Island differs little in its appearance from all the rest: the land in the interior is high, thrown up in irregular hills by the operations of volcanoes, and the sea-coast bounded by loose flakes of lava. On the north side of the bay is a high bluff, where Colnet states that he found a rill of fresh water. I gave it the most careful examination, and could not find the smallest quantity. The rise and fall of the tide here is about eight feet.

After scrubbing our ship, we on the 3d of September left Chatham Island, and stood over for Hood's Island, where we anchored on the 7th, in a bay on the north side, formed by a small island and some islets on the east. Previous to going in with the ship, I sent lieutenant Wilmer in, with directions to place a buoy in the most suitable anchorage; and, as the wind was directly out of the bay, I beat up for the buoy, making short tacks. We got twenty-five fathoms about two miles from the shore, clean sandy bottom, and anchored in nineteen fathoms, one mile and a half from a white sandy beach in the bottom of the bay, near the middle of which is a remarkable black rock, lying about forty yards from the shore, between which and the shore is a passage for vessels of a light draft of water.

This bay I called Rodgers' Bay, and the island forming it Rodgers' Island, in honour of commodore Rodgers. The best anchorage is about the middle of the bay, in twelve fathoms water, where you lie well in the bank, where there is little or no danger of drifting off. We lay too far out, and on the edge of the bank, where it was very steep; our anchor, as I before observed, lay in nineteen fathoms, while our stern lay in twenty-seven; we were moored with our ridge to the westward, the northwest point of the bay bearing west by south; the northwest point of Rodgers' Island E.N.E.; the south point east by south ¾ south; the west point of the south part of Chatham Island, north; the east point north by east ¾ east; Barrington Island N.W. by W.; and Charles' Island W.S.W. The wind, during the day, generally blew from the southeast, but at night it was calm; the tides set E.N.E and N.N.W, along the land, and the rise and fall was about ten feet.

We here procured an abundance of fish alongside with the hook and line, but were not enabled to procure more than fifty tortoises, and they small, but of a quality far superior to those found on James' Island; they were similar in appearance to those of Charles' Island, very fat and delicious. The vegetable productions were nearly the same as those of the other islands, and the island is evidently of volcanic origin, but it appears to have been a long time since it has suffered from their ravages. Few birds were found on this island, and they of the same description as those found on the others. We found a few lizards, but no snakes or guanas. We killed a few seals, and saw a number of turtle, but caught none; and on the most diligent search could find no fresh water. Wood is scarce, and what is to be found is very small and withered; and the whole island, and everything on it, appears parched up and famished for the want of rain.

We lay here until the 8th September, in hopes of the arrival of lieutenant Downes, or the appearance of some stranger, as this is the island which all whale-ships endeavour to make, running down for Albemarle between it and Chatham Island. On the 8th I prepared to weigh, but, previous to quitting the bay, send on shore a letter for lieutenant Downes, similar to those left at Charles' and James', and buried it in a bottle at the back of the sand beach, at the foot of a post, on which was nailed a board, with the following inscription, S.X. Anno Dom. 1813.

And now having accomplished the main object for which I had come to this island, I determined to cruise for a few days to windward of it, with the hopes of falling in with him there; and I was the more strongly induced to do this, as I had for some time past been extremely harassed by being so much among those islands, our knowledge of which was as yet by no means perfect, and the rapid and irregular currents kept me in a constant state of anxiety, from which I was glad to be relieved for a short time. A fresh breeze springing up from the southward, which caused us to drift off the bank, I weighed the anchor, and stood on a wind to the eastward, keeping the island in sight from the deck, bearing west. Here I remained until the 13th September, when I ran down for Charles' Island, looking into Hood's Island, and searching for M'Gowen's Reef in my route, and can now with safety declare, that M'Gowen's Reef does not exist but in the chart of captain Colnet.§

§ Porter is of course mistaken: McGowen's Reef (the modern Arrecife Macgowen) lies at approximately 90° W., 1°10' S. Despite his claim that the reef does not exist, it appears on Hooker's map in 1822 edition of his book.

Off the northwest part of Hood's Island, about two and a half miles from the shore, is a reef of some extent. It should be avoided. This is the only danger I could discover, and that lies so close in, and breaks with so much violence, that it may at all times be discovered in time to shun it. This, however, is not M'Gowen's Reef, which by Colnet's chart lies nearly half way between Hood's and Barrington Islands, and in the direct passage of vessels running down between Hood's and Chatham for Charles' Island; whereas the one I speak of lies close under Hood's Island, and is joined to it by other rocks.

I looked into Charles' Island, and stood down for Cape Essex, intending to cruise for a few days off the south part of Albemarle, and at midnight on the 14th, hove to, the southern part of Albemarle bearing north, distant nine or ten leagues. At day-light in the morning, the men at the mast-head descried a strange sail to the southward. On going aloft with my glass, I could perceive that she was a ship, and under very easy sail, apparently lying to; and as she was directly to windward of us, I did not wish to alarm them by making much sail, as I believed her to be an English whaler. I consequently directed the fore and main royal-yards to be sent down, and the masts to be housed, the ports to be shut in, and the ship to be disguised in every respect as a merchantman, and kept plying to windward for the stranger under easy sail, as he continued to lie to, and drifted down on us very fast. At meridian, we were sufficiently near to ascertain that she was a whale-ship, and then employed in cutting in whales; and from here general appearance, some were of opinion that it was the same ship that had given us so long a chase, and put us to so much trouble, near Abington Island; she was, however, painted very differently ,ad from here showing no appearance of alarm, I had my doubts on the subject. I had got possession of some whalemen's signals, and made to her one which had been agreed on between a captain Wm. Porter and the captain of the New Zealander, in case they should meet. I did not know but this might be captain Porter's ship, and that the signal might be means of shortening the chase, by inducing him to come down to us.

At one o'clock we were at a distance of four miles from the chase, when she cast off from the whales she had alongside, and made all sail from us. Every thing was now set to the best advantage on board the Essex, and at four o'clock we were within gun shot, when, after firing six or eight shot at her, she bore down under our lee, and struck her colours. She proved to be the British letter of marque ship, Sir Andrew Hammond, pierced for twenty guns, commissioned for sixteen, but had only twelve mounted, with a complement of thirty-six men, and commanded by the identical captain Porter whose signal I had hoisted; but the most agreeable circumstance of the whole was, that this was the same ship we had formerly chased; and the captain assured me, that our ship had been so strangely altered, that he supposed her to be a whale-ship until we were within three or four miles of him, and it was too late to escape; nor did he suppose her to be a frigate until we were within gun shot, and indeed never should have supposed her to be the same ship that had chased him before, as she did not appear now above one half the size she did formerly.

The decks of this ship were full of the blubber of the whales they had cut in, but had not had time to try out. The captain informed me there was as much as would make from eighty to ninety barrels, and that it would require three days to try it out; but as I understood that it would be worth between two and three thousand dollars, I determined that it should not be lost. I therefore put on board a crew who had been accustomed to the whaling business, and placed the ship in the charge of Mr. Adams, the chaplain, with directions to try out and stow away the oil with all possible expedition; but that he might do it more conveniently, I directed him to bear up for the harbour where the other prizes lay, (which I have called Port Rendezvous,) and there I intended to run with the Essex; but the wind growing light, and having a strong current against me, I was not enabled to get abreast the harbour until ten o'clock at night; and not conceiving it prudent to run in, I stood through the sound into Banks' Bay; and this I was the more strongly induced to do, as lieutenant Gamble had come off in his boat to the Essex, and informed me that the look-out had reported that he had heard several guns to the northward the day before; and that, since my departure, a ship had appeared in Banks' Bay at three different times; but on comparing the dates of her appearance with the log-book of the Sir Andrew Hammond, it proved to be her. The guns I could not so well account for, nor could I for the appearance of a fresh whale carcase that had lately come into the bay; I therefore took a look in the offing, but, perceiving no vessels, I beat up for Port Rendezvous against a fresh land breeze, and anchored there in fifteen fathoms water, a little outside of all the prizes, being one and a half cable's length distant from each side of the harbour, and two and a half or three cables' length from the bottom of the port. I here moored head and stern, and lay perfectly secure from all winds. The officers and crews of the prizes, as may naturally be supposed, were greatly rejoiced to see me, as they were heartily tired of being confined to this most desolate and dreary place, where the only sounds to be heard were the screeching of the sea-fowls, and the melancholy howlings of the seals. Their rest was much disturbed the first few nights of their arrival there, but after that the seals abandoned their haunts; and even their absence was regretted, as their noise, disagreeable as it was, served to break in upon irksome monotony, which, for the want of occupation and amusement, became to them insupportable.

The time was now arriving for me to expect lieutenant Downes; I therefore determined to fill up my water and provisions from my prizes, and wait until the 2d day of next month, which was the period fixed for our departure. I had determined, should he not arrive in that time, to leave letters for him, and proceed to either the Marquesas or Washington Islands, where I intended to clean my ship's bottom, overhaul her rigging, and smoke here to kill the rats, as they had increased so fast as to become a most dreadful annoyance to us, by destroying our provisions, eating through our water-casks, thereby occasioning a great waste of our water, getting into the magazine and destroying our cartridges, eating their way through every part of the ship, and occasioning considerable destruction of our provisions, clothing, flags, sails, &c. &c. It had become dangerous to have them any longer on board; and as it would become necessary to remove every thing from the ship before smoking her, and probably be necessary to heave her out to repair her copper, which in many places was coming off, I believed that a convenient harbour could be found among one of the groups of islands that would answer our purpose, as well as might be necessary during our stay there, and thus be enabled to save our salt provisions.

The Sir Andrew Hammond having an abundant supply, I hauled her alongside, and took from her as much beef, port, bread, water, wood, and other stores, as we required; and what was more acceptable to our men than all the rest, I took from her two puncheons of choice Jamaica spirits, which was greatly relished by them, as they had been without any ever since our departure from Tumbez; and whether it was the great strength of the rum, or the length of time they had been without, I cannot say; but our seamen were so much affected by the first allowance served out to them, that many were taken to their hammocks perfectly drunk; and indeed there was scarcely a seaman in the ship but what was in some degree intoxicated. To prevent a recurrence of a similar scene, I caused it to be considerably diluted, before it was again served out; this, however, did not prevent some from getting intoxicated, as the rum was such a rarity to them, and so far superior to what they had ever been accustomed to drink, that an allowance of it would command almost any price; and as several could not be effectually stopped, as I did not conceive it expedient to resort to rigid measures; for, considering the long time they had been deprived of it without murmuring, and the great propensity of seamen for spiritous liquors, and as no evil was likely to result from a little inebriety, provided they conducted themselves in other respects with propriety, I felt disposed to give them a little latitude, which in no instance was productive of unpleasant consequences, except one. James Rynard, a quarter-master, had belonged to the Essex four years, and had at times endeavoured to render himself of importance among his ship-mates, by placing himself at the head of all parties formed for the purpose of obtaining redress of grievances. At all complaints of short allowance of rum or provisions, or if any provisions were supposed to have been of a bad quality, Rynard was always engaged stirring up others to complain, but took care to conduct himself in such a manner as to let it be supposed, by the officers, that he was perfectly contented; nor did he dare, except at one time, to come forward boldly, and that was at the reduction of the allowance of rum on the coast of Brazils. He then supposed all hands to be of his disposition, and placed himself as a spokesman at their head. I had always marked him as a villain; that was his character with all that knew him; and at this moment, and with such a crew as I had reason to believe that Rynard might, from his habitual villany and restlessness, be induced to stir up discontent among them. It much be remembered, that their times had mostly expired; they saw no appearance of any intention on my part of returning to America immediately; and at such a moment the secret villany of Rynard was not to be despised. He had ever endeavoured to distinguish himself as their champion; and although I believed that he was considered by every man in the ship a notorious villain, still I did not know how far his influence might extend. I had, therefore, long determined to get clear of him on the first favourable opportunity. One was not long in offering itself. I had directed him to proceed to superintend some duty on board one of the prizes; he appeared a short time after I gave him the order, somewhat intoxicated, and insolently told me he had not been sent from the ship in a proper manner. Finding him not in a proper state, I directed him to stay aft on the quarter-deck until he was sober. He attempted, however, shortly afterwards, to rush by me. His dinner was taken on deck to him by his messmates; this he threw overboard in the presence of the officer of the deck, and at the same time demanded permission to go below; and while the officer of the watch was reporting to me his conduct, he left the deck. I then caused him to be confined there in irons, and as he had dropped some expressions respecting his time being out, and treated with derision (more by his actions than by his words) his confinement, I determined at once to discharge him. I therefore directed the purser to make out his accounts, and discharge and send him on board the Seringapatam, until we should arrive at some place where he could be put on shore. The discharge of Rynard produced an effect I little expected; it rendered every man in the ship sober, attentive, and active in the discharge of his duty, and assiduous to please; and those who, in the rum affair, had shown themselves more forward than the rest, now appeared desirous, by their good behaviour, to do away any unfavourable impression that their conduct might at the time have produced.

The officer having charge of the New Zealander informed me, that his ship required caulking in every part; I consequently set my carpenters at work on her, and in the mean time the Sir Andrew Hammond was painted and otherwise put in order. The crew of the prizes were again sent to them, and on the 28th, we had completed all our work; each ship had provided a stock of turtle, and we had nothing now to detain us but the expected arrival of the Essex Junior. We had, ever since our arrival, kept men constantly on the look-out from the top of the hill forming the north side of the port, which commanded a view of both bays; there we had a flag-staff erected, and suitable signals established, to which point the attention of every one was now turned; and on{On} the meridian of the 30th, a signal was made for a ship in the south bay, and shortly after another was hoisted for a boat standing in for the harbour. A fresh breeze springing up, she soon rounded the southeast point of Narborough, and from her general appearance all believed it to be the Essex Junior, which opinion was soon confirmed by the arrival of lieutenant Downes, who had left the ship early in the morning, while she was becalmed. His arrival was welcomed by our seamen with three cheers; and at 3 P.M. the Essex Junior anchored near us. By this ship I received several letters from our consul-general at Valparaiso, as well as other friends there; also letters from our consul at Buenos Ayres, and newspapers, which, though of old dates, contained news of the greatest interest to us.

We obtained intelligence by them of the re-election of Mr. Madison to the presidency, and various changes in the different executive departments of the government, also the most satisfactory accounts of the successes of our navy, in every instance where our ships had encountered an enemy of equal force; and my letters from our consul at Buenos Ayres informed me, that on the 5th July the British frigate Phoebe, of 36 guns, and the Raccoon and Cherub sloops of war, of 24 guns each, accompanied by a storeship of 20 guns, had sailed from Rio de Janeiro for the Pacific ocean, in pursuit of the Essex. I also obtained intelligence that several British merchant ships were soon expected at Valparaiso from England, with valuable cargoes; and Mr. Downes informed me, that he had left one there richly laden, and on the point of sailing for India.

Lieutenant Downes had moored the Montezuma, Hector, and Catharine at Valparaiso, but had dispatched the Policy for America, as there was no prospect of selling the ship or her cargo to any advantage at Valparaiso, as an open declaration of war had taken place between Chili and Peru, and an entire stop put to the commerce between the two governments, which had hitherto continued uninterrupted, notwithstanding their hostilities to each other.

The Chilians showed to lieutenant Downes the same friendly disposition which I had formerly experienced, and every facility was offered to him in procuring his supplies, as well as those wanting for the Essex. He met with some delays in consequence of the stagnation of commerce, but every assistance that the government could give him was afforded.

The only British whale-ship we could hear of on the coast was the Comet, a letter of marque of 20 guns; her guns had been taken from her by the government of Chili, in consequence of her having taken an active part in favour of the Peruvians; she was therefore laid up at Conception. She and the aforesaid ship at Valparaiso bound to India, and the English brig which I found there on my arrival, were the only British vessels that I could hear of on the coast of Chili and Peru; and as I believed it highly probable, that the ship bound to India would touch at the Marquesas on her way thence, I thought it likely, that, by a speedy arrival there, I should be enabled to catch her. There was none of the news I had received which could induce me to alter my original plan of going to the Marquesas; the repairs and smoking of my ship were paramount to every other consideration, and I knew of no place where I could be more likely to do it undisturbed.

The morning after the arrival of the Essex Junior, I hauled her alongside of the Essex, and took from on board her a quantity of rum and other articles; and now having nothing to detain us but a head wind, we made every preparation for getting under way, which we were not enable to do until the afternoon of the 2d of October, when a light land breeze sprang up, which we took advantage of to get out of the harbour; and as it soon after shifted to the southward, we were the greater part of the succeeding night in beating though the sound (which I call Decatur's Sound) into the south or Elizabeth Bay.

Prior to leaving the cove, Rynard wrote a penitent letter to me, begging me to overlook his conduct, and reinstate him on board the Essex; this however I would not consent to; but on his request, as well as that of lieutenant Downes, I agreed that he should join the Essex Junior in the capacity of seaman, on his promise that in future there should be no cause of complain against him.

And now I shall notice the important services rendered by our coming into the Pacific. In the first place, by out captures, we have completely broken up that important branch of British navigation, the whale-fishery of the coast of Chili and Peru, as we have captured all their vessels engaged in that pursuit except the aforesaid ship Comet. By these captures we have deprived the enemy of property to the amount of two and a half millions of dollars, and of the services of 360 seamen that I liberated on parole, not to serve against the United States until regularly exchanged. We have effectually prevented them from doing any injury to our own whale-ships, only two of which have been captured, and their captures took place before our arrival. Shortly after my appearance in those seas, our whale-ships, which had taken refuge at Conception and Valparaiso, boldly ventured to sea in pursuit of whales, and on the arrival of the Essex Junior at Valparaiso, four of them had returned there with full cargoes, and were waiting for a convoy to protect them some distance from the coast, that they might be enabled to take the advantage of the winter season for getting into a port of the United States. This protection lieutenant Downes was enabled to afford them on his departure from thence, and the four ships lying there, as well as my prize the Policy, sailed in company with him until he had seen them a sufficient distance beyond the usual cruising ground of the British armed ships.

Note: The remainder of this chapter is omitted from the 1822 & 1823 editions.

The expence also of employing the frigate Phoebe, the sloops of war Raccoon and Cherub, and their store-ship, should also be taken into the estimate of the injury we have done them; for it is evident that they would not have been sent into the Pacific had it not been for the appearance of the Essex there, as for many years past they have employed no ships of war in this part of the world, nor were those sent until they had heard of our arrival at Valparaiso. Whether the said ships will succeed in doubling Cape Horn, or meet the fate of lord Anson's squadron, time alone will shew; at present, I shall merely take into my estimate the expenses of equipping and employing them for one year, which cannot fall far short of 250,000 dollars, which is more than probable will prove a dead loss to them, as the United States have now no commerce in this part of the world for them to annoy; and as they are reported to be dull sailers, it does not seem likely that they will succeed in their pursuit of the Essex, even if they should all keep together and fall in with here; and if they should cruise separately, they will have more to fear from out enterprize than we have to apprehend from theirs.

Value of prizes taken by the Essex in the Pacific $2,500,000
Value of American whale-ships on the coast of Chili and Peru, which would in all probability have been captured had we not arrived 2,500,000
Cost of equipping and employing for one year, one frigate, two sloops of war, and a store-ship250,000
Expences of the Essex for one year80,000
Balance  $5,170,000

It appears by this estimate, that the balance against the British, occasioned by our coming into this sea, is 5,170,000 dollars; for there cannot be a doubt that all our whale-ships would have been captured, had we not effectually prevented it by the capture of all of theirs. It is true that we have, as individuals, been as yet but little benefitted by our captures; this consideration, however, has had but little weight with us; the object of the government is to injure the enemy; it derives no advantage from captures, however valuable they may prove; by our captures we have effected the object of government, and whether we sell or destroy them is of importance only to ourselves.

And now I am about quitting the Gallapagos Islands,§ perhaps for ever, and have shaped my course to the westward, let us compare our situation with that of lord Anson when he left the coast of Peru for China. I have already taken the liberty to touch on that subject at the time I passed the streights of Le Maire; the comparison was then greatly to our disadvantage. It has been seen what were our successes; our distresses are not worth mentioning; and the only evil now to be removed is the rats, which, although disagreeable companions (which it is necessary to remove), and occasion considerable havoc, are very far from rendering our situation a distressed one. Our supplies of every thing are equal to our wants for seven months; my prizes in company, which consist of four sail of fine ships, besides the Essex Junior, are equally well furnished; and our sick list is as follows:

1. Henry KennedyBoatswain's mateUlcer of the leg.
2. Peter RippleSeamanUlcer of the leg.
3. William WhitePrisonerIntermittent fever.

Total on the sick list 3.

§ Porter does not give a date for his departure, but in the next chapter (XI, not included here) he mentions October 6, and in context this is a few days after his departure. So it was at some time shortly after October 2 that the Essex left Galápagos.

Of the six ships of war with which lord Anson left England, having on board 1980 men, not including the two victualling ships that accompanied him, only two now remained, to wit: the Centurion of 60 guns, and the Gloucester of 50, the crews of both so sickly, and the latter ship in so disabled a state, as to make it necessary to destroy her soon after leaving the coast; and the united efforts of both crews were scarcely sufficient to manage the Centurion until she arrived at Tinian, where she remained near two months to recruit the exhausted health of her officers and men.

The estimate of the damage done to the enemy by the whole of lord Anson's squadron, agreeably to the estimate of the historians of that expedition, is supposed to be (including the treasure taken on board the galleon) about one million of pounds sterling; but as the galleon was not taken until the Centurion had put into China, and there received a complete outfit, the amount of the treasure found on board that vessel (which was supposed to be near half the whole amount) should be deducted, and the balance of 2½ millions of dollars will be the supposed injury done by his squadron on the coast of Chili, Peru, and Mexico, and the adjacent seas. This, however, is the estimate of Mr. Walter, chaplain of the Centurion, whose exaggerations in many instances have been proved by the accounts given of the places he visited by other navigators, and as he was evidently disposed to give the expedition as much éclat as possible, it may naturally be supposed that he has taken good care not to fall short in his calculations.

Lord Anson was compelled to destroy every vessel he took, because they were miserably wretched barks, unable to navigate even this mild and pacific ocean, as well as because he had not men to navigate them. On leaving the coast he had no trophies of his success to exhibit.

The case with us is different, as the list of prize-ships now in company will show.

They are as follows, viz:
    Essex Junior351 tons20 guns
    Greenwich338 do.20 do.
    Seringapatam357 do.22 do.
    New Zealander259 do.10 do.
    Sir Andrew Hammond301 do.10 do.
Two ships have been dispatched to America, to wit:
And three ships have been safely moored under the batteries of Valparaiso, to wit:

All these vessels are copper sheathed and fastened, and in a state to proceed to the most distant part of the world, some of them remarkably fast sailers, and all superior ships.