National Geographic : 1897 May
WINTER VOYAGE THROUGH STRAITS OF MAGELLAN 139 ling rivulets fall into it at different points. A peculiar feature of the place (which is a favorite post-office) is the great number of boards, nailed to the trees, which serve as a rough log of the numerous vessels that in the last fifty years have touched here. A very conspicuous one drew our attention. It read: " U. S. sloop of war Decatur,Dec'r 11th, 1854. All well." This ship had then been 80 days in the strait, and was finally towed through by the United States steamer Massachusetts,Captain R. W. Meade, father of the writer. Before leaving, the Narragansett's board, " 5 days in the straits ; all well," was nailed above the Decatur's. The trees at Borja bay differ from those at some other points, being of great girth and gnarled and stunted in their growth. As soon as the moon was up, the ship steamed westward past the bold cliff of El Morion (the Helmet), and was at last fairly pointed for the great long reach to the Pacific. The lights and shadows reflected by the moon upon the dark waters of the strait-here almost unfathomable-the dark"spots under the overhanging cliffs of the lofty mountains, and the flood of silver moonlight beyond rendered the scene one of sur passing beauty. The night was calm and quiet, the stars over head shone with the peculiar brilliancy of the high latitude, and everything promised fair for a quick run to the Pacific. At 10 next morning we had passed Glacier bay and the chill, dreary coast between it and the Spanish gulf with the unpronounceable name (Xaultegua), when a change in the weather became ap parent. At 2 o'clock in the afternoon the Pacific ocean was only 35 miles off, but the long swell we now encountered and the stormy appearance of the weather compelled us to choose be tween a port of refuge or a stormy night in the open strait. Port Churruca, on Desolation island, seemed the best harbor, and the ship bore up for the narrow entrance. There being no bridge on the Narragansett,the captain took his place on the forecastle as pilot, the navigating lieutenant* held the chart, and an old sailor held a tarpaulin over it to keep it from getting wet. Careful hands were in the chains and at the engine-room bell, and all hands were called to " bring ship to anchor." The steamer was heading for two small rocky islets, about 50 yards apart, dimly visible through the sleet and mist of a driving squall. The surf broke furiously all along the rocky shore. "Slow down!" says the captain from his lookout on the fore castle, and slow it is. No soundings! In truth none could be found here with 200 fathoms of line. In a few minutes a narrow * Now Commander Z. L. Tanner, U. S. N.