ePub 版

West, holding a pope's stirrup-iron; she saw France and England quail beneath papal interdicts; in short, she saw, long after the dust of Hildebrand had mingled with the earth, each one of Hildebrand's ideas made practice; she saw the Church independent, united, free from simony and priestmarriages, and the ruler of rulers. The visions of the Cluny arbours were realized; Europe again was one.

ART. III. Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition during the Years 1838-1842. By CHARLES WILKES, U. S. N., Commander of the Expedition, &c. In Five Volumes, and an Atlas. Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard. 1845. 8vo.

[ocr errors]

THE first feeling excited by the appearance of these volumes is that of national pride, that our country, prosperous in her resources, and liberal and enlightened in the use of them, has made a contribution to general knowledge and the security of navigation worthy of her extended commerce, and her undoubted position among the cultivated nations of the world. In the number of the vessels, the number and character of the scientific corps, and the cost of the outfits, the United States Surveying and Exploring Expedition was quite equal to any similar enterprise either of France, England, or Russia. We say this in no boastful spirit. We fully recognize the imperative obligations of our government to devote a portion of its revenue to increase the safety of the mariner's path on the ocean, and to enrich the stores of learning by discoveries in distant regions. These obligations are by no means fulfilled by the equipment of a single expedition. So far from this, we trust that one of the benefits conferred by the successful cruise of the exploring squadron will be to strengthen our love of that noble renown which nations acquire by serving the cause of science and humanity.

The narrative of this expedition having finally been given to the world, it is a part of our duty to present a sketch of the course it pursued, to be accompanied necessarily by such remarks as will enable the reader to form a just estimate both of the results obtained, and of the manner in which these re

sults have been communicated to the public. The office of the reviewer here is not altogether superfluous. Few persons, probably, will be encouraged to peruse the whole of the "Narrative," where much that is irrelevant is combined with much that is deeply interesting, and where the latter, both in matter and form, exhibits more eagerness for accumulation, than skill in arrangement.


Following the excellent example of Captain Wilkes, we shall make no allusion to the early history of the outfit of the squadron, farther than to say, that the failure of its first organization had exposed the whole affair to ridicule, and had seriously impaired the confidence and ardor of its officers and friends. The energetic zeal of Captain Wilkes overcame every obstacle, and infused a new life into the service. very short time required by him to equip the squadron for sea, to complete the trial of the instruments, and make preliminary observations, proved that he appreciated the responsibilities of his position, and was prepared to assume them. Justice demands that we should say this much. But in awarding to Captain Wilkes the praise he may fairly claim, we have no intention of expressing an opinion either as to the manner of his appointment, or as to the conduct of other officers temporarily connected with the expedition.

The instructions of Mr. Paulding, then Secretary of the Navy, marked out the course to be pursued by the explorers, the objects to be obtained, and the probable period each would occupy. They included such directions respecting the intercourse with the natives of the South Sea islands, as humanity and the experience of former navigators inculcate ; and being written with his usual felicity of style, they were suited to inspire a love for honorable and useful enterprise.

In obedience to them, the squadron sailed from Norfolk on the 18th of August, 1838. The following day was Sunday, and divine service was performed on board the Vincennes, the shores of the United States being still in sight. Leaving the store-ship Relief, a very dull sailer, to pursue her path alone, the remainder of the squadron, on the 16th of September, arrived at Madeira, where they stayed one week. This was a week profitable, no doubt, to the naturalists, who crossed the island, and penetrated into the almost inaccessible recesses among its lofty mountains, where are hidden treasures to reward the venturesome traveller for many years

to come. Aided by Mr. Drayton's beautiful views, the" Narrative" does justice to the romantic scenery of the island, though it adds but little to our knowledge of its resources or its inhabitants. Captain Wilkes informs us, that "wine is the staple commodity of Madeira," and that "the language is Portuguese." He might as well have added, that the religion is Catholic, and the climate genial. Madeira is a familiar name, not only to the traveller, but to those also who "through his peering eyes

Discover countries."

After leaving this island, the squadron pursued its course to Rio de Janeiro, stopping one day at Porto Praya. Between the northern tropic and the equator, and the longitudes of 20 and 35 degrees west, several rocks or shoals have disfigured the charts of the Atlantic ever since the earliest days of Spanish and Portuguese navigation, though their existence has long been considered doubtful. Passing through this zone, Captain Wilkes extended his vessels so as to cover the largest possible space without separating, and sailed over many of these reported dangers, keeping the lead constantly in the water. These spots will now be erased from the charts, and the seaman will sleep in security, where hitherto he has watched in dread of merchant-marring rocks. The luminous appearance of the sea in this region, the frequent cause of unnecessary alarms, is noticed in the "Narrative." On one occasion, the brilliancy was so great, that the sea" might truly be said to have the appearance of being on fire."

At Rio, it was found necessary to make some repairs, particularly on Captain Hudson's ship, the Peacock; and whilst these were going on, a series of pendulum, magnetic, and astronomical observations were made, and the scientific gentlemen were busily occupied in adding to their collections and journals. Mr. Hale, the philologist, obtained some curious information concerning the slaves of Brazil, showing the marks by which the African tribes are distinguished. This is accompanied in the "Narrative" by wood-cuts illustrative of the descriptions in the text, and well deserves attention. The value of the slave in the market is, ina measure, determined by these brands; for long familiarity with this accursed traffic has enabled the slave-dealer to ascertain with precision the characteristic traits of each tribe, and accord

[ocr errors]

ingly to determine the employments for which they are best fitted. Some of the officers accomplished the daring feat of ascending the Sugar-Loaf, a conical rock at the entrance of the port, about 1,300 feet high, in order to determine its altitude. Captain Beechey excuses the disagreement between his two determinations of the height of this rock, by saying that it is almost impossible to ascend it.

Captain Wilkes has devoted, very unnecessarily, as we conceive, two chapters of his work to a description of Rio de Janeiro, and an account of the political condition of the Brazilians. Seeing that he has made so liberal use of the facts. of Mr. Armitage's history, he ought to have borrowed also some of that writer's liberality and candor. He says, the Brazilians are "patient under oppression," "suspicious," "selfish," "cunning," "presumptuous," and "timid." The presentation of the "Narrative," by our own government to that of Brazil, as it contains such language as this, has rather the appearance of an insult than a compliment, and its grateful acceptance would certainly be an indication of the "mental degradation" which Captain Wilkes has discovered in the inhabitants. This last seems to be a singular phrase to apply to a people who are in the full enjoyment of liberty of the press, trial by jury, a certain degree of religious toleration, a representative chamber that originates the money bills, and schools for elementary instruction established by public authority. It would have been more politic and amiable, not to say infinitely more just, in a work of this peculiar character, to have avoided language which is certainly very insulting.

At Rio, Captain Wilkes applied to Commodore Nicolson, the commander of the Brazil station, for an addition to his crew. The commodore met the request by calling for volunteers; his own crew having entered for a particular service, he had no power to order them to another squadron. Captain Wilkes was under no obligation to take these men, whom he describes as "a most worthless set, and almost the only persons it was necessary to punish during the cruise." The motive for casting this slur upon his superior officer was a difficulty which he had with the commodore, in which the officers of the Independence, the flag-ship of the Brazil squadron, thought that Captain Wilkes behaved like a man whose judgment and sense of propriety were very much disturbed by his sudden and undue elevation.

During the stay of the squadron in this harbour, a seaman fell overboard from a lighter, and, being accidentally struck by an oar, was drowned. Passed Midshipman William May jumped into the water to his relief, but did not succeed in saving him. On the 6th of January, 1839, the squadron, without the Relief, which had been despatched in advance, left Rio de Janeiro, and steered to the southward. A week was spent in making an examination of the bar of the Rio Negro, and inquiring into the facilities of the place for trade. This service was attended with great fatigue, owing to the rapidity of the tides, and a storm, which compelled the vessels, on the 30th, to put to sea.

At Orange Harbour (Terra del Fuego), the next stoppingplace of the squadron, preparations were made for the first cruise towards the Antarctic. The ample and exceedingly interesting accounts of the Fuegians by Captains King and Fitzroy have left but little novelty to be gleaned by future voyagers. One of the natives was detained on board the Vincennes a week, and was well clothed and fed; but he was constantly sick, and was glad to return to his savage


According to his instructions, Captain Wilkes removed to the brig Porpoise, and, taking with him the tender SeaGull, sailed on the 25th of February towards Palmer's Land, which he approached on the 3d of March. The weather was thick and tempestuous, the cold very severe, covering the decks and rigging with ice, and the vessel was so crowded with men that the state of the crew was in the highest degree uncomfortable. These circumstances, added to the lateness of the season, induced Captain Wilkes to return to the northward, which he did on the second day after reaching Palmer's Land. Having narrowly escaped being wrecked on Elephant island, he anchored in Good-Success bay on the 18th. Lieutenant Johnson, in the Sea-Gull, stopped at Deception island for a week.

On the same day that Captain Wilkes left Orange Harbour, the Peacock and Flying-Fish sailed together, steering towards the Ne plus ultra of Cook. The two vessels were soon separated by bad weather. Captain Hudson had the satisfaction of seeing the first display of the Aurora Australis on the 15th of March. The first iceberg was seen on the 11th; after this date, their continually increasing num

« 上一頁繼續 »