The Islands of
Juan Fernandez
  Extract from
A Voyage Round the World
in the years 1740 to 1744
George Anson
Compiled by Richard Walter
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A description of the Island of Masa-Feuro Views of The Juan Fernandez Islands
  ..... on the 9th of June, at day-break, we at last discovered the long-wished for Island of Juan Fernandes. And with this discovery I shall close this chapter and the first book, after observing (which will furnish a very strong image of our unparalleled distresses) that by our suspecting ourselves to be to the westward of the Island on the 28th of May, and, in consequence of this, standing in for the Main, we lost between seventy and eighty of our men, whom we should doubtless have saved had we made the Island that day, which, had we kept on our course for a few hours longer, we could not have failed to have done.

The Island of Juan Fernandes lies in the latitude of 33:40' South, and is a hundred and ten leagues distant from the Continent of Chile It is said to have received its name from a Spaniard, who formerly procured a grant of it, and resided there some time with a view of settling it, but afterwards abandoned it. On approaching it on its east side, it appears, as represented in the annexed plate, where (a) is a small Island, called Goat Island, to the SW. of it; (b) a rock, called Monkey key, almost contiguous to it; (c) is the East bay, (d) Cumberland Bay, where we moored, and which, as will be observed, is the best road for shipping, and (e,) the East bay. The Island itself is of an irregular figure, as may be seen by the very exact plan of it here inserted ; its greatest extent being between four and five leagues, and its greatest breadth somewhat short of two leagues. The only safe anchoring at this Island is on the North side, where are the three bays mentioned above, but the middlemost known by the name of Cumberland Bay, is the widest and deepest, and in all respects much the best; the other two bays, denominated the East and West bays, are scarcely more than good landing places, where boats may conveniently put their cask on shore.

A plan of the N.E. side of the Island, containing these three bays, drawn by a large scale, is here inserted, where it appears, that Cumberland Bay is pretty well secured to the southward, lying only exposed from the N. by W. to the E. by S ; and as the northerly winds seldom blow in that climate, and never with any violence, the danger from that quarter is not worth attending to. To distinguish this bay the better at sea, I have added a very exact view of it, which will enable all future Navigators readily to find it


As the bay last described, or Cumberland Bay, is by far the most commodious road in the Island, so it is adviseable for all ships to anchor on the western side of this bay, within little more than two cables length of the beach. Here they may ride in forty fathom of water, and be, in a great measure, sheltered from a large heavy sea, which comes rolling in whenever an eastern or a western wind blows. It is however expedient, in this case, to cackle l or arm the cables with an iron chain, or good rounding, for five or six fathom from the anchor, to secure them from being rubbed by the foulness of the ground.
top I have before observed, that a northerly wind, to which alone this bay is exposed, very rarely blew during our stay here ; and as it was then winter, it may be supposed, in other seasons, to be less frequent. Indeed, in those few instances when it was in that quarter, it did not blow with any great force : But this perhaps might be owing to the highlands on the southward of the bay, which checked its current, and thereby abated its violence ; for we had reason to suppose, that a few leagues off, it blew with consider-able force, since it sometimes drove before it a prodigious sea, in which we rode fore-castle in. But though the northern winds are never to be apprehended, yet the southern winds, which generally prevail here, frequently blow off the land in violent gusts and squalls, which however rarely last longer than two or three minutes. This seems to be owing to the obstruction of the southern gale, by the hills in the neighbourhood of the bay ; for the wind being collected by this means, at last forces its passage through the narrow vallies, which, like so many funnels, both facilitate its escape, and increase its violence. These frequent and sudden gusts make it difficult for ships to work in with the wind off shore, or to keep a clear hawse 3 when anchored.
The northern part of this Island is composed of high craggy hills, many of them inaccessible, though generally covered with trees. The soil of this part is loose and shallow, so that very large trees on the hills soon perish for want of root, and are easily overturned ; which occasioned the unfortunate death of one of our sailors, who being upon the hills in search of goats, caught hold of a tree upon a declivity to assist him in his ascent, and this giving way he immediately rolled down the hill, and though in his fall he fastened on another tree of considerable bulk, yet that too gave way, and he fell amongst the rocks, and was dashed to pieces. Mr. Brett too met with an accident only by resting his back against a tree, near as large about as himself, which stood on a sIope, for the tree giving way he fell to a considerable distance, though without receiving any harm. Percy Brett
Percy Brett was responsible for the illustrations

The southern, or rather the S.W. part of the Island as distinguished in the plan, is widely different from the rest, being dry stony, and destitute of trees, but very flat and low, compared with the hills on the northern part. This part of the Island is never frequented by ships, being surrounded by a steep shore, and having little or no fresh water * , and besides, it is exposed to the southerly wind, which generally blows here the whole year round, and in the winter solstice very hard. The trees of which the woods on the northern side of the Island are composed, are most of them aroma-ticks, and of many different sorts : There are none of them of a size to yield any considerable timber, except the myrtle-trees, which are the largest on the Island, and supplied us with all the timber we made use of; but even these would not work to a greater length than forty feet. The top of the myrtle-tree is circular, and appears as uniform and regular, as if it had been clipped by art * it bears on its bark an excrescence like moss, which in taste and smell resembles garlick, and was used by our people instead of it. We found here too the piemento-tree and likewise the cabbage-tree, though in no great plenty.

  Our prisoners observed, that the appearance of the hills in some part of the Island resembled that of the mountains in Chili, where the gold is found : So that it is not impossible but mines might be discovered here. We observed, in some places, several hills of a peculiar sort of red earth, exceeding vermilion in colour, which perhaps, on examination, might prove useful for many purposes.
top Besides a great number of plants of various kinds which are to be met with upon the Island, but which we were not botanists enough either to describe, or attend to, we found there almost all the vegetables, which are usually esteemed to be particularly adapted to the cure of those scorbutick disorders, which are contracted by salt diet and long voyages. For here we had great quantities of watercresses and purslain, with excellent wild sorrel, and a vast profusion of turnips and Sicilian radishes : These two last, having some resemblance to each other, were confounded by our people under the general name of turnips. We usually preferred the tops of the turnips to the roots, which were often stringy ; though some of them were free from that exception, and remarkably good. These vegetables, with the fish and flesh we found here, and which I shall more particularly describe hereafter, were not only extremely grateful to our palates, after the long course of salt diet which we had been confined to, but were likewise of the most salutary consequence to our sick in recovering and invigorating them, and of no mean service to us who were well, in destroying the lurking seeds of the scurvy, from which perhaps none of us were totally exempt, and in refreshing and restoring us to our wonted strength and activity.
  Besides the vegetables I have mentioned, of which we made perpetual use, we found many acres of ground covered with oats and clover. There were also some few cabbage-trees upon the Island, as observed before ; but as they generally grew on the precipices, and in dangerous situations, and as it was necessary to cut down a large tree for every single cabbage, this was a dainty that we were able but rarely to indulge in.
top The excellence of the climate and the looseness of the soil render this place extremely proper for all kinds of vegetation; for if the ground be any where accidentally turned up, it is immediately overgrown with turnips and Sicilian radishes; and therefore Mr. Anson having with him garden seeds of all kinds, and stones of different sorts of fruits, he, for the better accommodation of his countrymen who should hereafter touch here, sowed both lettices, carrots, and other garden plants, and sett in the woods a great variety of plumb, apricock, and peach stones : And these last he has been informed have since thriven to a very remarkable degree ; for some Gentlemen, who in their passage from Lima to Old Spain were taken and brought to England, having procured leave to wait upon Mr. Anson, to thank him for his generosity and humanity to his prisoners, some of whom were their relations, they, in casual discourse with him about his transactions in the South-Seas, particularly asked him, if he had not planted a great number of fruit-stones on the Island of Juan Fernandes, for they told him, their late Navigators had discovered there numbers of peach-trees and apricock-trees, which being fruits unobserved in that place, they concluded them to be produced from kernels sett by him.

And this may in general suffice as to the soil and vegetable productions of this place : But the face of the country, at least of the North part of the Island, is so extremely singular, that I cannot avoid giving it a particular consideration. I have already taken notice of the wild, inhospitable air with which it first appeared to us, and the gradual improvement of this uncouth landskip as we drew nearer, till we were at last captivated by the numerous beauties we discovered on the shore. And I must now add, that we found, during the time of our residence there, that the inland parts of the Island did no ways fall short of the sanguine prepossessions which we first entertained in their favour.


For the woods which covered most of the steepest hills, were free from all bushes and underwood, and afforded an easy passage through every part of them ; and the irregularities of the hills and precipices, in the northern part of the Island, necessarily traced out by their various combinations a great number of romantic vallies ; most of which had a stream of the clearest water running through them, that tumbled in cascades from rock to rock, as the bottom of the valley, by the course of the neighbouring hills, was at any time broken into a sudden sharp descent : Some particular spots occurred in these vallies, where the shade and fragrance of the contiguous woods, the loftiness of the overhanging rocks, and the transparency and frequent falls of the neighbouring streams, presented scenes of such elegance and dignity, as would perhaps with difficulty be rivalled in any other part of the globe. It is in this place, perhaps, that the simple productions of unassisted nature may be said to excel all the fictitious descriptions of the most animated imagination. I shall finish this article with a short account of that spot where the Commodore pitched his tent, and which he made choice of for his own residence, though I despair of conveying an adequate idea of its beauty.
This piece of ground which he chose was a small lawn, that lay on a little ascent, at the distance of about half a mile from the sea. In the front of his tent there was a large avenue cut through the woods to the sea-side, which sloping to the water with a gentle descent, opened a prospect of the bay and the ships at anchor.
This lawn was screened behind by a tall wood of myrtle sweeping round it, in the form of a theatre, the ground on which the wood stood, rising with a much sharper ascent than the lawn itself, though not so much, but that the hills and precipices within land towered up considerably above the tops of the trees, and added to the grandeur of the view. There were, besides, two streams of chrystal water, which ran on the right and left of the tent, within an hundred yards distance, and were shaded by the trees which skirted the lawn on either side, and compleated the symmetry of the whole. Some faint conceptions of the elegance of this situation may perhaps be better deduced from the draught of it, inserted in the adjoining plate.


top It remains now only that we speak of the animals and provisions which we met with at this place. Former writers have related, that this Island abounded with vast numbers of goats, and their accounts are not to be questioned, this place being the usual haunt of the buccaneers and privateers, who formerly frequented those seas. And there are two instances ; one of a Musquito Indian, and the other of Alexander Selkirk a Scotchman, who were left by their respective ships, and lived alone upon this Island for some years, and consequently were no strangers to its produce. Selkirk, who was the last, after a stay of between four and five years, was taken off the place by the Duke and Duchess Privateers of Bristol, as may be seen at large in the journal of their voyage : His manner of life, during his solitude, was in most particulars very remarkable ; but there is one circumstance he relates, which was so strangely verified by our own observation, that I cannot help reciting it. He tells US, amongst other things, as he often caught more goats than he wanted, he sometimes marked their ears and let them go. This was about thirty-two years before our arrival at the Island. Now it happened, that the first goat that was killed by our people at their landing had his ears slit, whence we concluded, that he had doubtless been formerly under the power of Selkirk. This was indeed an animal of a most venerable aspect, dignified with an exceeding majestic beard, and with many other symptoms of antiquity. During our stay on the Island, we met with others marked in the same manner, all the males being distinguished by an exuberance of beard, and every other characteristick of extreme age.

But the great numbers of goats, which former writers described to have been found upon this Island, are at present very much diminished : For the Spaniards being informed of the advantages which the buccaneers and privateers drew from the provisions which goats-flesh here furnished them with, they have endeavoured to extirpate the breed, thereby to deprive their enemies of this relief. For this purpose, they have put on shore great numbers of large dogs, who have encreased apace, and have destroyed all the goats in the accessible part of the country ; so that there now remain only a few amongst the craggs and precipices, where the dogs cannot follow them. These are divided into separate herds of twenty or thirty each, which inhabit distinct fastnesses, and never mingle with each other : By this means we found it extremely difficult to kill them ; and yet we were so desirous of their flesh, which we all agreed much resembled venison, that we got knowledge, I believe, of all their herds, and it was conceived, by comparing their numbers together, that they scarcely exceeded two hundred upon the whole Island. I remember we had once an opportunity of observing a remarkable dispute betwixt a herd of these animals and a number of dogs ; for going in our boat into the eastern bay, we saw some dogs running very eagerly upon the foot, and being willing to discover what game they were after, we lay upon our oars some time to view them, and at last we saw them take to a hill, and looking a little further, we observed upon the ridge of it an herd of goats, which seemed drawn up for their reception; there was a very narrow path skirted on each side by precipices, on which the Master of the herd posted himself fronting the enemy, the rest of the goats being all behind him, where the ground was more open : As this spot was inaccessible by any other path, excepting where this champion had placed himself, the dogs, though they ran up-hill with great alacrity, yet when they came within about twenty yards of him, durst not encounter him, (for he would infallibly have driven them down the precipice) but gave over the chace, and quietly laid themselves down, panting at a great rate.

top The dogs, who, as I have mentioned, are masters of all the accessible parts of the Island, are of various kinds, but some of them very large, and are multiplied to a prodigious degree. They sometimes came down to our habitations at night, and stole our provision ; and once or twice they set upon single persons, butut assistance being at hand, they were driven off without doing any mischief. As at present it is rare for goats to fall in their way, we conceived that they lived principally upon young seals; and indeed some of our people had the curiosity to kill dogs sometimes and dress them, and they seemed to agree that they had a fishy taste.

Goats-flesh, as I have mentioned, being scarce, we rarely being able to kill above one a day ; and our people growing tired of fish, (which, as I shall hereafter observe, abounds at this place) they at last condescended to eat seals, which by degrees they came t.o relish, and called it lamb. The seal, numbers of which haunt this Island, hath been so often described by former writers, that it is unnecessary to say any thing particular about them in this place. But there is another amphibious creature to be met with here, called a sea-lyon, that bears some resemblance to a seal, though it is much larger. This too we eat under the denomination of beef; and as it is so extraordinary an animal, I conceive, it well merits a particular annotation. They are in size, when arrived at their full growth, from twelve to twenty feet in length, and from eight to fifteen in circumference : They are extremely fat, so that after having cut thro' the skin, which is about an inch in thickness, there is at least a foot of fat before you can come at either lean or bones ; and we experienced more than once, that the fat of some of the lar-gest afforded us a butt of oil. They are likewise very full of blood, for if they are deeply wounded in a dozen places, there will instantly gush out as many fountains of blood, spouting to a considerable distance ; and to try what quantity of blood they contained, we shot one first, and then cut its throat, and measuring the blood that came from him, we found, that besides what remained in the vessels, which to be sure was considerable, we got at least two hogsheads.

Their skins are covered with short hair of a light dun colour, but their tails, and their fins, which serve them for feet on shore, are almost black ; their fins or feet are divided at the ends like fingers, the web which joins them not reaching to the extremities, and each of these extremities is furnished with a nail. They have a distant resemblance to an overgrown seal, though in some particulars there is a manifest difference, especially in the males, who have a large snout or trunk hanging down five or six inches below the end of the upper jaw ; this particular the females have not, and this renders the countenance of the male and female easy to be distinguished from each other, and besides, the males are of a much larger size. The form and appearance both of the male and female are very exactly represented in the annexed plate, only the disproportion of their size is not usually so great as is there exhibited, for the male was drawn from the life, after the largest of these animals, which was found upon the Island : He was the master of the flock, and from his driving off the other males, and keeping a great number of females to himself, he was by the seamen ludicrously stiled the Bashaw. These animals divide their time equally between the land and sea, continuing at sea all the summer, and coming on shore at the setting in of the winter, where they reside during that whole season. In this interval they engender and bring forth their young, and have generally two at a birth ; these they suckle with their milk, they being at first about the size of a full-grown seal. During the time of these animals continuance on shore, they feed on the grass and verdure which grows near the bank of the fresh-water streams ; and, when not employed in feeding, sleep in herds in the most miry places they can find out. As they seem to be of a very lethargic disposition, and not easily awakened, each herd was observed to place some of their males at a distance in the nature of sentinels, who never failed to alarm them, whenever our men attempted to molest, or even to approach them; and they were very capable of alarming, even at a considerable distance, for the noise they make is very loud and of different kinds, sometimes grunting like hogs, and other times snorting like horses in full vigour. They often, especially the males, have furious battles with each other, principally about their females; and we were one day extremely surprized by the sight of two animals, which at first appeared different from all we had ever observed, but, on a nearer approach, they proved to be two sea-lions, who had been goring each other with their teeth, and were covered over with blood : And the Bashaw before-mentioned, who generally lay surrounded with a seraglio of females, which no other male dared to approach, had not acquired that envied pre-eminence without many bloody contests, of which the marks still remained in the numerous scars which were visible in every part of his body. We killed many of them for food, particularly for their hearts and tongues, which we esteemed exceeding good eating, and preferable even to those of bullocks : And in general there was no difficulty in killing them, for they were incapable either of escaping or resisting, their motion being the most unweildy that can be conceived, their blubber, all the time they are moving, being agitated in Iarge waves under their skins. However, a sailor one day being carelessly employed in skinning a young sea-lion, the female, from whence he had taken it, came upon him unperceived, and getting his head in her mouth, she with her teeth scored his skull in notches in many places, and thereby wounded him so desperately, that though all possible care was taken of him, he died in a few days.

top These are the principal animals which we found upon the Island : For we saw but few birds, and those chiefly hawks, black-birds, owls, and humming birds. We saw not the Pardela, which burrows in the ground, and which former writers have mentioned to be found here ; but as we often met with their holes, we supposed that the dogs had destroyed them, as they have almost done the cats, which were very numerous in Selkirk's time, but we saw not above one or two during our whole stay. However, the rats still keep their ground, and continue here in great numbers, and were very troublesome to us, by infesting our tents nightly. But that which furnished us with the most delicious repasts at this Island, remains still to be described. This was the fish, with which the whole bay was most plentifully stored, and with the greatest variety : For we found here cod of a prodigious size ; and by the report of some of our crew, who had been formerly employed in the Newfoundland fishery, not in less plenty than is to be met with on the banks of that Island. We caught also cavallies gropers, large breams, maids, silver fish, congers of a peculiar kind, and above all, a black fish which we most esteemed, called by some a Chimney sweeper, in shape resembling a carp. Indeed the beach is every where so full of rocks and loose stones, that there is no possibility of haling the Seyne; but with hooks and lines we caught what numbers we pleased, so that a boat with two or three lines would return loaded with fish in about two or three hours time. The only interruption we ever met with, arose from great quantities of dog-fish and large sharks, which sometimes attended our boats and prevented our sport. Besides the fish we have already mentioned, we found here one delicacy in greater perfection, both as to size, flavour and quantity, than is perhaps to be met with in any other part of the world : This was sea era-fish ; they generally weighed eight or nine pounds apiece, were of a most excellent taste, and lay in such abundance near the water's edge, that the boat-hooks often struck into them, in putting the boat to and from the shore.
top These are the most material articles relating to the accommodations, soil, vegetables, animals, and other productions of the Island of Juan Fernandes : By which it must appear, how properly that place was adapted for recovering us from the deplorable situation. to which our tedious and unfortunate navigation round Cape Horn had reduced us. And having thus given the reader some idea of the site and circumstances of this place, which was to be our residence for three months, I shall now proceed, in the next chapter, to relate all that occurred to us in that interval, resuming my narration from the 18th day of June, being the day in which the Tryal Sloop, having by a squall been driven out to sea three days before, came again to her moorings, the day in which we finished the sending our sick on shore, and about eight days after our first anchoring at this Island.
top The Spaniards have generally mentioned two Islands, under the name of Juan Fernandes, stiling them the greater and the Iess : The greater being that Island where we anchored, and the less being the Island we are now describing, which, because it is more distant from the Continent, they have distinguished by the name of Masa-Fuero. The Tryal Sloop found that it bore from the greater Juan Fernandes W. by S, and was about twenty-two leagues distant. It is much larger than has been generally reported ; for former writers have represented it as a barren rock, destitute of wood and water, and altogether inaccessible ; whereas our people found it was covered with trees, and that there were several fine falls of water pouring down its sides into the sea : They found too, that there was a place where a ship might come to an anchor on the North side of it, though indeed the anchorage is. inconvenient ; for the bank extends but a little way, is steep to, and has very deep water upon it, so that you must come to an anchor very near the shore, and there lie exposed to all the winds but a southerly one.
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And besides the inconvenience of the anchorage, there is also a reef of rocks running off the eastern point of the Island, about two miles in length ; but there is little danger to be feared from them, I because they are always to be seen by the seas breaking over them. This place has at present one advantage beyond the Island of Juan Fernandes ; for it abounds with goats, who, not being accustomed to be disturbed, were no ways shy or apprehensive of danger, till , they had been frequently fired at. These animals reside here in great tranquillity, the Spaniards having not thought the Island considerable enough to be frequented by their enemies, and there-fore they have not been solicitous in destroying the provisions upon it ; so that no dogs have been hitherto set on shore there. And besides the goats, our people found there vast numbers of seals and sea-lions : And upon the whole, they seemed to imagine, that though it was not the most eligible place for a ship to refresh at, yet in case of necessity it might afford some sort of shelter, and prove of considerable use, especially to a single ship, who might apprehend meeting with a superior force at Fernandes. The appearance of its N.E. side, and also of its West side, may be seen in the two annexed plates. This may suffice in relation to the Island of Masa-Fuero.