Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

gator has run so leagues, he will find himself iv 64°: from hence the strait takes a northerly direction, 190 leagues, to 72°, and then changes to the N.W. for 90 leagues, or to the 75th degree of latitude; the whole length of the Strait of Labrador being 240 leagues, (it should be 290). From the northern extremity of the Strait of Labrador, the course changes to S.W.IW. through an open sea, 350 leagues, which will reduce the latitude to 71°, and here some high land will appear on the coast of America. The course then changes to W.S.W. for 440 leagues, when the navigator will find bimself on the 60th parallel of latitude, and at the entrance of the Strait of Anian. Maldonado then recapitulates the distances which he himself sailed, and which he states to be, from Spain to Friesland, 460 leagues; from thence to Labrador, 180; from thence through the Straits, 280, making 920; to which adding 790 across the sea, the total distance from Spain to the Strait of Anian is 1710 leagues.

Passing over the numerical blunders, we shall content ourselves with two observations on this part of the 'Relation: the first is, that he sails along the northern coast of Labrador, or through Hudson's Straits, 290 leagues, an intricate and perilous navigation, through narrow passes so choked up with ice, as frequently to make it nearly impracticable even in the summer months ;-yet Maldonado clears the whole of them, up to the 75th degree of latitude, before the month of March; that is to say, when the sun at noon was about 13° high, and the day not five hours long.--The second observation is, that taking the courses and distances steered from the northern mouth of the Strait of Labrador, namely S.W., W. 350 leagues, and W.S.W. 440 leagues; the latitude at the end of the first would not be 71°, nor at the end of the second 60°; and that, with these courses and distances, the navigator, instead of arriving at the Strait of Anian, (now Behring's Strait,) would be astonished to find himself on the other side of the peninsula of Kamschatka, in the midst of the sea of Oskotsk, if the old Spanish league of 17 to the degree be reckoned; and 20 leagues to the degree would have carried him to the middle of the sea of Kamschatka.

The seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth paragraphs relate chiefly to the short days and cold weather in going, the long days and warm weather in returning, the ease with which the Northern Ocean is navigated, and the error of those who suppose it to be entirely frozen over : he had before adverted to the possibility of persons being surprized to hear him talk of navigating in so high a latitude; but, says he, the Hanseatics live in 72, and we see every year, in their port of St. Michael, from 500 to 1000 ships, which must necessarily proceed to the parallel of 75° before they can pass thither from the Sea of Flanders,

The

K

The north cape, round which ships' must necessarily proceed'in order to pass into the White Sea, is in latitude 71° JO' and is usually passed in 72o and from that to 73° instead of 75°, and the port of St. Michael is in 64}. These little mistakes could scarcely have been made by Maldonado, who was 'well skilled in the art of navigation, and who had written a treatise on geography. The port, besides, in 1558, was named St. Nicholas, and the town Kholmogar; it then consisted of nine houses; and the trade, almost wholly English, was carried on in nine ships. In 1637 the town was burned down, and on being re-built it took the name of Archangel, from an adjoining monastery dedicated to the Archangel Michael :-circumstances which lead us to suspect that the Relation' was written about the middle of the seventeenth, instead of the end of the sixteenth century.

The twentieth to the thirty-second paragraph inclusive contains a topographical description of the celebrated strait of Anian, and the adjoining coasts of Asia and America, which, Maldonado is pleased to inform the king of Spain, are separated by it. To ascertain its relative position, the author takes a cruise of fifteen days; sailing S. W. one hundred leagues along the coast of America, he was then in the latitude of 55°; but on the whole of this coast he saw no traces of population. Now it so happens, that, from his port in Anian, which he repeatedly tells us is situated in 60°, a S. W. course for one hundred leagues could not, as every common seaman could tell this skilful navigator,' bring him into latitude 55°, nor permit him to see any part of the coast of Ametica; its direction, instead of S. W. being rather to the Eastward of South. From the parallel of 55° however, he steers directly east 120 leagues, which would have brought him, in fact, to the very middle of the sea of Kamschatka; instead of which he found kimself so near to the coast of a mountainous continent, that in many places he could see the natives; and on this he sagaciously observes, that, 'according to correct cosmography, he judged that the land belonged to Tartary or Catai, and that the great city of Cambalu (Pekin) was only a few leagues distant.'

Such gross blunders in plain sailing and geography could not possibly be committed by one skilled in navigation:'-—but we proceed to his topography of the Strait, and his description of the port at its southern extremity. He says, that, on the coast of America, at the mouth of the strait which opens into the South Sea, there is a port capable of containing 500 vessels; that no human foot had trodden its shores, as would appear from a pond, on whose margin lay an infinite quantity of egg-shells of sea-fowls, which formed a kind of wall or dyke above a para (33 feet) high, and eight paces broad. A river fell into the harbour, into which a vessel of 500 tons might enter. The surrounding country was delightful to behold, consisting of plains of great extent, capable of tillage; the air soft and agreeable; and the mildness of the winter apparent from the excellent fruits found dried on the trees, and remaining on them from the preceding year. Birds, beasts and fishes abounded in this fine climate under the 60th parallel, in which nature would seem to have forgotten nothing but man; for none appeared during their stay.

bour,

We did not expect to find Cook called upon to support this description of Maldonado; yet so it is. Amoretti is so much prepossessed in favour of the veracity and the authenticity of the * Relation, that he traces the most perfect accordance between the two navigators. No two descriptions however can be more at variance. Instead of any port, bay, or inlet, under the parallel of 60°, Cook found a straight coast; and a low point, to which he gave the name of Shoal-ness, occupies the place of Maldonado's harbour: the country perfectly naked, producing neither tree nor shrub; but no less than twenty-seven canoes came off from the very spot, each having a man in it. According to Cook, Behring's Strait is about sixty leagues long, and fourteen wide, in the narrowest part; the strait of Anian, in Maldonado, is fifteen leagues long, at the northern extremity not quite half an English mile wide, and at the southern about a quarter of a league, in the middle of which is a great rock or islet; so that, he observes, the whole strait is capable of being defended with a chain, provided one could be made strong enough; but at all events two sentinels on the northern part, and three on the southern, one on each continent, and one on the islet, could give immediate notice by signals of the approach of ships either from the Northern or the Pacific Ocean.

This description „somewhat staggers Amoretti, though he is disposed to think that a point might be stretched on this occasion, by reading breadth for length, and thus bringing the fifteen leagues of Maldonado pretty nearly to the fourteen of Cook; but the difficulty of getting rid of the width would still remain. The Duc d'Almadover, however, helps him out of his dilemma, by suggesting that some extraordinary convulsion of the two coasts may have enlarged the strait since Maldonado's time, to the size which Cook found it to be; in short, any thing to give credit to the Voyage of Maldonado, and accommodate its geographical difficulties to the easy credulity of Amoretti.

And though we now know that the Strait of Anian extends from the 66th to the 70th parallels of northern latitude, Maldonado, he says, called it 60, because all the preceding geographers of that century had laid down the Strait of Anian in 60° N latitude,

к 3

as

as appears from the charts of Hortelius and Mercator, published in 1570. These charts might mislead the writer of a voyage made by the fireside, but it required not a skilful’navigator to detect their errors on the spot.

But the thirty-third paragraph, which exceeds in absurdity all the rest, establishes in the mind of Amoretti the authenticity of the

Relation, and places its veracity beyond all doubt. It states that being about to leave the harbour towards the middle of June, a large vessel of 800 tons burden was observed to approach from the South Sea, steering directly for the Strait. Finding the strangers to be pacifically inclined, mutual civilities were exchanged, and Maldonado received from them some presents of silks, porcelaine, &c. such as are brought from China. The people appeared to be Muscovites, or Hanseatics, from the bay of St. Nicholas or St. Michael : to understand each other they were under the necessity of conversing in Latin; the strangers seemed to be Christians, and if not Catholics, were at least Lutherans. They said they came from a great city more than 100 leagues off, which Maldonado thinks (but he is not sure) they called Robr, or something like it, which they told him bad a very extensive harbour, upon a navigable river, and belonged to the King of Tartary: they added, that they had left there another ship belonging to their countrymen. As they treated our discoverer with

very fidence, this was all that could be got out of them : they sailed together, it would seem, through the Strait, when coming into the North Sea, the stranger bore away to the westward, and Maldonado pursued his route for Spain the same way he had come.

Our English sailors would most certainly have at once set down this mysterious vessel for the 'Flying Dutchman,' so frequently seen off the Cape of Good Hope, but luckily for Maldonado his ' more enlightened crew were addicted to no such idle superstitions. It would seem,' says Amoretti, with great naïveté, that this vessel, turning to the left after passing the Strait, coasted Siberia, and consequently that Deschnew was not the first who made this voyage. After all that Cook and King have discovered and published; after all the fruitless attempts of the Russians to circumnavigate the northern coast of Siberia, one can scarcely imagine that any man of common understanding, much less of some research, which M. Amoretti certainly is, could for a moment lend himself to such an idle tale, which, as the editor of the Voyage of Sutil and Mexicana observes, is full of false calculations, of incredible circumstances, and gross fictions of every kind.' - But he who can really believe that the north-west passage has actually been made by several navigators ; that some straits have been shut up, others opened, and that islands have disappeared by

little con

con

convulsions of nature' within the last two centuries, is capable of believing any thing, however absurd. Wecan safely assure M. Amoretti that the account of one Cluny' having made this passage in 1745; of bis having solicited the reward offered by our government, without obtaining it; of the Hudson's Bay Company finding means to prevent his journal being published, is destitute of all foundation. The compiler of the Histoire Générale des Voyages' is not the only Frenchman in whose hands an English work is not safe from misrepresentation or misapprehension. Cluny wrote a book called the American Traveller,' in which he reprobates in strong language the conduct of the Hudson's Bay Company, and lays down a variety of plans and projects for the improvement of the American colonies; but he is so far from pretending to have made the north-west passage, that he even doubts its existence; but in his chart prefixed, there are two parallel dotted lines from Repulse Bay to the Icy Sea, over which is written— Here is supposed to be the North-west Passage;'—which Vaugondy, the king's geographer, in a chart approved by the Académie Royale des Sciences,' has thus translated— Côte parcourue par le Capitaine Cluny, auteur de l’American Traveller.'

We suspect this pretended voyage of Maldonado to be the clumsy and audacious forgery of some ignorant German, from the circumstance of 15 leagues to the degree being used in some of the computations. It is, indeed, a fit companion for Damberger's Travels; and we cannot but regret that® Amoretti should have thought he was fulfilling the intention of the pious founder of the Ambrosian library in selecting so palpable a fiction for publication, and still more that he should have undertaken to defend it. We do not, however, hesitate to express our firm belief that Maldonado did perform a voyage ; and that Nicolao Antonio did see the journal of that voyage in the hands of the Bishop of Segovia : it was not, however, a voyage for the discovery of the north-west passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific, (no such discovery being once mentioned by the Spanish bibliographer,) but simply for the discovery of the Strait of Anian.' That Spain should be extremely anxious for the security of her possessions in the Pacific and Indian oceans, when she saw the English with extraordinary perseverance sending out expeditions year after year, for the avowed purpose of discovering a nearerroute to those seas; and when their armed cruizers, unauthorized it is true, but countenanced by the government, were destroying the Spanish commerce on the western coasts of America, was exceedingly natural. She must have seen these bold undertakings with alarm, and that would dictate to her the policy of ascertaining whether any and what kind of an outlet into the Pacific was likely to favour the enterprize of so active an enemy, and what K4

the

« AnteriorContinuar »