An Account of a Voyage
from the Arctic to the Antarctic Pole
Center of the Earth.
[continued from Part I]
Of some monstrous Fish that we saw in these Seas; of the tragic & lamentable Accident that happened to two Sailors of the crew; of the 7 inaccessible Isles, & what the Author saw there with a great Spyglass.
We saw nothing worthy of remark on the route that we took to get back on board our vessel. We found among the Rocks a large quantity of birds, which nearly let us take them in our hands, & of which we carried as many as we could. As the Coast where we were anchored was very exposed to great tempests & very impetuous Winds, we feared that by remaining there too long, we would be at some hour broken against the Rocks. We resolved, animated by the desire to make some discovery, to leave instead.
We made a great provision of the roots of which I have already spoken, there being in that place a prodigious quantity, & having raised the anchor, with a little South-east Wind, we sailed toward the West, because when the air was clear & calm, we had always thought we saw some land on that side.
After having sailed happily enough for almost twenty-four hours, we found ourselves between several very dangerous Reefs. There were several Rocks just below the surface, but as the Wind had nearly fallen, & as we sailed very slowly, we avoided them without much difficulty. There was a Rock which rose above the water to a height of around four feet, on the point of which we saw a large bird with black plumage much like a Stork. It was perched on one leg, with its tail spread out like a Peacock. It appeared immobile as a statue on its pedestal. We took several shots without touching it, which did not move it in the least. This bird must have been brought there by the ice, & awaited the passage of some more in order to return.
Some time later, the Wind having fallen completely, we found ourselves in a fog so thick that it was quite dark, which obliged us to drop anchor. This fog was nearly hot. In the past I had always believed that these Climes were uninhabitable because of the great rigor of the cold, but although it made itself felt acutely, there were some frequent intervals where the air turned milder, & was very bearable everywhere.
We remained in the darkness more than twelve hours, after which the weather cleared, the same Wind began to blow again, & we sailed towards the West as before. We found that we were then at sixty & seven degrees six minutes of southern Latitude. There was at that latitude a great number of large, four-winged Flying Fish, with two wings which were towards the head were very large & like the wings of bats, & two which were towards the tail appeared twice as small. Three of these Fish came around our Vessel fluttering & plunging constantly. They exceeded by far the size & length of the most powerful Steers, & notwithstanding that they rose very high & often remained in the air a pregnant minute before plunging, they were very greedy & voracious, flying always with their great maws open, where we saw two rows of short, but very keen teeth. Two of our Sailors were seated close to one another on the Deck toward the Stern, when one of these three Monsters, shooting up suddenly very high, seized them both from behind, & knocked them into the Sea. The one who fell first was torn to pieces & devoured, & the second, who swam around the Ship & to whom we were about to throw a rope, in order to pull him up to us, was attacked by the other two. One took him by the head, & the other by the feet, & each pulling from its side with an extreme fury, they soon split his miserable body, the entrails & blood of which made a long streak in the Sea. That tragic Adventure caused us all a very keen grief, & all the more because these men were two of our best Sailors. After these cruel Animals had followed us a good half hour, we lost them all at once from view.
A short time after we encountered a very great tempest which kept us alert more than six hours. However being carried always towards the West we came to discover four Isles, & shortly after three others. They were all seven on the same line, & not very distant from one another. We first formed the intention of landing there, but it was impossible for us to execute our project, for we found as we approached that around these Isles the Sea abounded with Sandbanks, & Rocks very close to one another, & it was replete with currents that crossed from all sides, making that Sea the most dangerous, in the judgment of our Pilot, that he had ever seen.
We dropped anchor at the point of a great Sandbank which was in front of us, in order to have the time to consider together what route we should take. However, we wanted to consider these Isles carefully. They were full of little mounds which appeared in the distance a vermillion red, & some which shone like rubies. We attributed the cause to some very fiery vapor which was then all around us. We saw on the fifth Isle, which was the largest on the East side, a Rock of round shape which rose very high in a straight line, & which being equally large in height & at base resembled a great, lovely Column. A little bit closer were some grottos & high Rocks very tight & close to one another, which depicted perfectly the ruins of a great & magnificent Castle, at one of the extremities of which we saw like a great, round Tower, from which rose a thick & black vapor which rose so high & with such rapidity into the air, which seemed to join with the clouds, & forming only one body with them. I took my great spyglass, & I discovered in that thick smoke, some large gleams like stars, which were in a perpetual movement. A few moments later, I saw issue from that Rock some large torrents of flame, which like a raging Wind spreading far & wide, caused us a general alarm. I do not believe that Mt. Etna in Sicily, nor Mt. Vesuvius in Italy, ever vomited anything so terrible. These dreadful flames having lasted around three minutes, faded & left after them only some sparks & a light smoke.
We had not yet remained there twenty-four hours, when we noticed that the Sea that surrounded these Isles was all frozen, although where we were we did not feel the least cold. We resolved to make our way back to sea, & to give a wide berth to the dangerous obstacles that we had before us, until we could surely continue our route towards the West. Fortunately we came to the end of it with a favorable Wind, & we entered finally into a broad Sea, where we began to see some great pieces of ice floating.
Of the great Promontory or Cape which is always covered with clouds; of the miraculous Jet of water that was seen there; of the large & deep Cavern over which passed a deep & wide Torrent, extraordinary Combat between two white Bears & three Seals.
In less than two hours the Sea was all covered with ice bergs, & we maneuvered constantly to avoid them as much as possible. There was one which was around five or six musket-shots from us, & so enormous that it looked like a small Island. Breaking into pieces, it made more noise in shattering than a battery of several canons which had been fired all at once. But these floes of ice decreased gradually in number. To our great fortune, we found ourselves suddenly free, but a short time after we were surprised by a calm which would last fifteen hours. The whole surface of the Sea was smoother than a glass mirror.
A good league from the place where we were forced to rest awaiting the Wind, there was a large Rock with three peaks, which we went to reconnoiter with the longboat. It was surrounded by a small pitch, ten or twelve feet wide, all bordered along the water with tall, broad grass, & covered up to the foot of the mountain with shells, among which we found a large quantity of little oysters, the shells of which were very black. We opened them, & some of which had an excellent taste, which caused us to take aboard as many as possible. We were curious to climb to the top of that Rock. Its summit was a sort of platform between three points, on which we saw many feathers from birds scattered here & there. We discovered, in some holes, nests which were only an interweaving of moss, grass & feathers. There were in all only two eggs, as white, but considerably larger than a hen’s eggs. The white was of a pale green, & the yolk of a dark red. Apart from a certain acrid taste that they left in the throat, they would have been good enough to eat.
We had not been returned long to the Vessel, when a light Wind began to rise. At first we prevailed, but in a few hours it had strengthened so much that we were afraid of having a rough storm. It was the same Wind that we had had before, yet we left it out of fear. We sailed for the time being with such speed that we covered a great distance in one hour. Looking out at the horizon, we saw on the West side a tall & thick cloud which seemed to touch the Sea, but which was always approaching us. We discovered a Cape, of very high land, above which there were some thick clouds lost to view, as we intended, before returning to the old world, to make some more new discoveries, we went to drop Anchor in the most convenient place, in order to go ashore. There was a gentle slope by which we ascended easily. Coming to the top, we found a large quantity of gravel & small stones. The ground was all sandy & rocky, & we could not extend our view very far, because at that end of the Cape the Country rose gradually. When we arrived at the greatest height, we discovered some great Plains as far as the eye could see, dotted with many little Lakes, & bordered in the distance by some & high mountains, covered with snow & very crystalline.
Rather close & right across from us there were two small hills, behind which we saw a great Jet of water, shooting rapidly into the air like a tall & fine column, which, crowned by a thick foam, fell again around itself in a multitude of little streams, which, soon dispersing into a great cloud of water, fell back to earth. From the place where we were, we could not see from whence they came. So, hastening our steps, we traveled beyond the hills, & three Jets of water presented themselves to our view. They rose from three little Rocks, arranged in a triangle in the midst of a large pile of loose gravel & stones. The largest of these was the one which we had first seen, rising in the air to a height of around two hundred & fifty feet, but the two smaller ones barely surpassed seven or eight feet. Their waters, falling back to earth, formed a little River, which after winding nine hundred or a thousand paces, cast themselves into one of the Lakes of which I have just spoken. Its water was very clear & very good to drink. The air was very mild, & the extreme cold must make itself felt even later in these Countries.
We must note that these Lakes were all connected by some Streams which flowed from one into another. Consequently we could only advance in this Country by making long detours, which is why we left them on the left & went a little to the right. Everything there was so waterless & arid that not the least bit of grass nor the smallest shrug grew there. A heavy offshore Wind began at that time to blow with such vehemence & whipped up so much sand & dust, that we were forced to stop from time to time, & shut our eyes for fear of being blinded. But, fortunately, this soon passed, & we entered a bottomland, where the earth was very black & covered all over with a long & slender plant, with nodes like a cane. It grew by creeping long distances over the earth, & sprouting at intervals a little bouquet of seeds of a very lovely yellow. That Plant was very pretty.
After having walked five or six hundred paces we heard a noise like that of a great waterfall, & in fact we saw soon afterwards, a deep torrent which issued from between two very high Rocks, rushing down from a height of more than three hundred feet, & then formed a little River, whose waters ran with an extreme swiftness, carrying with it a very great quantity of stones & gravel. As we considered how we could pass it, we saw to one side of a small rise a way down, at the bottom of which there was a sort of Thicket. It was of small, dense shrubs which were armed with thorns & small leaves of a deep red. They partially hid from us the entrance to a Cavern. We considered for some time, not daring at first to risk ourselves in a place which could be fatal to us, but the two boldest of us entering, we all followed, & after walking for some time in the darkness, we discovered suddenly a very large & very spacious underground, divided in various great Vaults of different heights, all carved by Nature from the Rock. There were some higher & more extensive than those of the largest Churches, with large Rocks arranged at unequal distances supporting these enormous & heavy trunks of stone, with the light entering from on high through a large number of openings, of which some were long like slits or large crevasses, & the others nearly round or square, from which hung long-stemmed grasses, the leaves of which were are large as those of a fig tree. It appeared that the warm air that we breathed in that cavern contributed considerably to making them grow. The largest & highest of all these Vaults was, from top to bottom, all inlaid with black & white. The black marks were much larger than the white; but the white shone like crystal, & as there was above, towards the middle, a very large round opening, this created a charming effect. The ground was smooth nearly everywhere, except towards one of the extremities, where it rose imperceptibly. We saw countless birds, white like swans, & larger than sparrows. They thought so little of escaping or flying away that they almost let us walk on their bodies. We took as many of them as we wanted. They were just a ball of fat, very delicate to eat.
When we came to the end, we found an outlet which led us into the countryside, & below, in a very dark spot, we saw a big, round whole, a bit like a well. We cast in several very large rocks, which made no sound as they fell, which surprised us. But some moments later, there suddenly flew from the hole a very big bird, completely black, which, extending its wings, frightened us with their size. Exiting the cavern, it let out three awful cries with which all the vaults resounded. It carried in its beak something big & long, but it didn’t give us time to make out what it could be. The well must have been of a prodigious depth, & that there was some hole or recess within where that bird perhaps had its nest, or else it had found something there for its sustenance.
We left soon after it, but we had much trouble ascending, because the slope was very rough & full of very coarse gravel & sharp stones. When we were at the top we knew we were above the torrent, because it passed over the Cavern & just at the middle.
We were only a quarter of a league from the Cavern, when we saw two white bears come out from between two beautiful hills green as a meadow from below, the summit of which was all covered with that species of thorn of which I have spoken, which had small, bright red leaves. They entered into a sunken path full of sand, along a hillside which led straight to the Sea. They constantly searched the ground with their snouts, apparently seeking some roots. We followed them at a distance, always having our weapons ready in case they were needed, although we had noticed several times that the bears did not attack men. We were soon within view of the Sea.
The Coast at this point formed a small Gulf, & the shore seemed covered with shells. We saw beside the water three seals, asleep on the sand, one of which slept half in the water & half on land. However the Bears, which had taken a little detour came steadily into that place, & rummaging always with their muzzles among the shells, didn’t seem to look in front of them. But the largest, finding itself suddenly next to one of these seals, attacked it high up on the neck, & the first bite made its blood flow to the ground. That animal, waking with a start, shook itself so violently that it pulled free, & it pierced the belly of the Bear with the great fangs that it had in its lower jaw. The bear furiously bit it & cruelly tore it everywhere it could reach. The other two seals coming to the aid of the first, the combat became general between these five animals, but the first of the seals lost so much blood that it fled into the Sea, & the others following it, they left to the two Bears the field of battle & all the honor of the victory.
There were a great number of these seals in this area. I saw some that were eight feet long & proportionally large. They were amphibians, & marked like Tigers in black & white, with bits of yellow, gray & red. Their skin was covered with short fur. They had a very large head & four feet with five undivided claws, like the feet of geese & joined by a black skin. Their tail was very short, & they were well pleased to lay in the sand along the Sea.
We left our two Bears still rummaging among the sea shells, & we followed the beach, coming round to the side where we had left our vessel. As soon as we set foot on the height which formed the point of the Cape, we were astonished to see that the land before us was all wet, while the one that we left was quite dry. The thick cloud which covered it, & which always covered it while we were there, at times secreted a thick dew like a light, very fine rain, while all around the air was very clear & very calm, I have never been able to understand what could have been the cause of it, there must be some occult & attractive virtue in these lands which always maintains above them, even despite the strongest winds, those thick vapors.
Of the Strait of the Bears; of the marvelous rock archway or natural bridge; of the appalling precipice we saw between some high mountains near the Strait of the Bears; of the thunderous subterranean noises accompanied by flashes that we heard in a large Rock far out to Sea.
After having visited a part of the Cape, we wanted to penetrate into the continent, but we did not judge it proper to risk ourselves so long among the mountains, in an unknown country, which had for inhabitants only savage beasts & some birds. Therefore, we resolved to go there by sea. For that purpose, we re-embarked, & with a light east wind we followed the Cape along the west side, & at the end of five or six hours we were surrounded by so many pieces of ice that we feared being forced to drop anchor, but the wind, redoubling its force, drove us towards the west, & we continued our course. We were, however, obliged to bear more to the right, because of a great number of shoals & sandbanks that were along the cape.
We sailed comfortably enough for forty-eight hours, after which we began to see a great gulf which the sea penetrated inland, through a strait which was only a good quarter of a league wide. I named it the Strait of the Bears, because we saw a very great quantity of them there.
There occurred at that moment a thing which struck us with its singularity. You should know that in this strait there was a current that went from one shore to another. Twenty to twenty-five of these bears stood at the edge of the water & seemed to await the passage of a great sheet of ice which we saw approaching from far off. Chance dictating that it should float close to them, they all jumped onto it with an incredible swiftness, & the current having borne them to the other side, they jumped back to land with the same agility. This manner of crossing the water demonstrated clearly in these animals much intelligence & reasoning, despite the opinion of certain philosophers.
We went a long way into the gulf, & dropped anchor, despite the presence of the bears, in a place where there were four great piles of ice, which the waves had driven against the coast & heaped on top of one another. Everything we saw around us was covered in snow. Close to a league from there was a chain of very dense mountains, which enclosed in a ring a small lake. On its eastern side, some pieces of rock being detached at the bottom by the succession of time, had left a great opening all across in the form of an arch, by which the waters of the lake flowed into the surrounding country. so that from a distance we thought we saw a bridge with a single arch, & that much more because the rock which remained above was so flat & even. I was curious to climb it, & to make a true bridge of it nothing was lacking but the guard rails.
There was at that time an extreme, cold accompanied from time to time by a snow fine as dust, & consequently the air was very dark & obscure. But then it became very clear & very calm, a beautiful luminous exhalation rose on the side we thought of as south, like a bright dawn, & the cold decreased in such a manner that the snow melting evaporated from the base of mountains. We saw in this place in a very pretty river, lined on both sides with little reeds like rushes, which after having wound through several twists & turns in the country, went on to flow into the gulf a bit above us.
Having climbed towards its source we saw that it fell from the heights of a large mountain, very thin & flat from above. As the slope was easy, I soon climbed it, & I saw on its summit a little lake from which the river flowed. That lake could have been one hundred feet in diameter. Its eastern part was covered by thin ice, & for its small size it seemed extremely deep. Its water was very sweet & clear. All of that would have been an ample matter for consideration & reasoning by people versed in the science of natural things.
That mountain formed a very narrow & tight glen between two ranks of hillocks, which was covered to the bottom with fine, delicate grass. It led to a sort of long & wide esplanade of solid rock, at the edge of which a terrifying precipice presented itself. All around there were only high & awful rocks, at the base of which impetuously rolled, through holes & crevasses, some great, foaming torrents, which, after crossing one another, went on to rush down all together to the bottom. The great depth of that plunge froze us in terror. I can say that the sole recollection of it which remains to me still makes me tremble, & I do not believe that there is such a precipice in the whole rest of the Universe.
As the country on that side was all rocks, as far as we could judge, we turned to the right, that is to say, toward the Gulf. It was only stones & sand interspersed everywhere with a multitude of little brooks which were very difficult to cross. But, finally, after much trouble, we came to the top of a wide, flat & very smooth slope, which led straight to the sea. Reaching the bottom, we sat down to rest on some small rocks along the shore. We saw there, half a cannon shot out to sea, a very large mountain of rock, around which was a thick fog. We had hardly been seated there a quarter of an hour, when a great noise, like something from a subterranean wind, struck our ears, & it seemed to us to come from that mountain. It lasted around two minutes & then suddenly ceased. But a half an hour later the mountain began to emit from all sides, about three feet above the water, an almost endless number of little lights, which whirled furiously in the air, and then vanished like lightning. Then, a few moment later, a furious noise was heard repeatedly, like great claps of thunder. We saw & heard the same thing, four times in succession, in the space of an hour. We noticed that the mountain did not give off any smoke, at the summit or at any other place, & that the fog that surrounded it being entirely dissipated, the air all around it returned to its original serenity.
Of a beautiful & spacious Plain enclosed by three great hills; of a very beautiful & strange Plant; of some ruins; of the curious remains of an ancient Wall in the vicinity of the Sea; of a marvelous Echo; of the crowned Bird which made its nest underground.
I had seen, by means of my spyglass, that on the other side of the gulf the country was much less mountainous & more beautiful. I enlisted some of my traveling companions to explore there with me, & we did so soon after. First we found a plain which was very flat & smooth, but stony, & it seemed to me to that one could extract from it some stone very suitable for building. I even saw in some places large holes, nearly filled in, which could have been taken for quarries.
At that point we were opposite a great hill which limited our view. I climbed to a height to see if I could discover what was beyond it, & I saw three large hills which formed an irregular angle, which enclosed a lovely & spacious plain. We had little trouble descending to it. It was so perfectly flat over its whole extent that we could not see the least rise, or the least depression. The grass which covered it was all moist, as if an abundant dew had fallen recently.
I saw along the slopes a multitude of long white stripes, bright as quicksilver, which crossed a hundred ways, from top to bottom & from the bottom to top. I approached & saw on all sides a species of snail, four times larger than those of our climates, which carried on their back a shell of a very lovely green. These snails had a black body, a long tail, & a small head without horns. Gliding along the earth they left a track of thick, white slime, which made the long lines of which I just spoke. They gnawed quite happily on a plant which grew on the plain, & which was so beautiful & so strange that it deserves to be described here.
It grew to the height of about a cubit, & shot forth twenty five or thirty leaves, very close at the base, but which expanded considerably at the top. These leaves were the width of a span, with points all around as hard & sharp as thorns. They were a very beautiful pale green, & full of large veins in the most beautiful aurora that one could hope to see. We uprooted some, but with much difficulty, because of the spines with which they were armed, & we were surprised to see that their root had the veritable shape of a melon, with a skin of a gray-brown divided by ribs, & as rough to the touch as shagreen. Inside the flesh was soft, whitish, spongy & and had a disagreeable odor, which did not prevent us from tasting it. But if it was not very good to eat, it was certainly something to look at. I have seen more than a hundred of the snails gnaw at a bunch of these plants.
At a corner of that plain, at the angle on the side toward the sea, there was a sort of stone vault, but one so low that it was necessary to bend nearly double in order to pass through the archway. We arrived in a long space, all paved with fine stone, brown like potter’s clay, & around three paces wide. A few hundred yards away, in a place full of sand & gravel, we saw the remains of a tower, beside which appeared, sunk in the earth, a large round rock, concave in shape, like a large globe, which had tree starts on its surface, embossed & all in a line. I could not imagine what that could be.
That stone was at the end of the ruins of a long wall, which extended all the way to the sea. The wall was at least three and a half feet thick, but it was only raised above the ground a good half foot. There was, however, a section of it close tot eh sea which came up to or waists, & in which was set a large piece of red marble in the shape of a hexagon, where we saw engraved an angle with a sort of serpent in the middle, & all around, bizarre ornaments & outlines. I noted that the stones of the tower & the wall were joined so tightly that it did not appear that there had ever been lime or cement between them. Although during the time that we had been in those climes we had encountered no inhabitants, it is beyond doubt that there must have been some at some time. All these things were incontestable proofs of it, & I was that much more persuaded of it since I had seen several places that seemed to me very fit for cultivation, & where the cold was not unbearable.
We discovered by chance a marvelous echo close to these ruins, for on striking one of the stones with a rock, the sound was repeated six, seven, & eight times along the shore. Moreover, a fine seaport could have been made here. Advancing steadily along this coast, we came to a great beach which was at least three leagues long. There were little sandbanks scattered along it, & there was in the middle of the bay a lovely little island, long & narrow, all covered with deep green reeds. Its shores were all covered with seashells, although there was not a single one on the side where we were.
After that beach, the sea made a great bend in the land, in the crook of which were three high mountains. The one in the middle, which was the highest, extended so far onto the shore that it left hardly three feet of land to pass around it. Beside the sea there was a large hole or recess, like a deep grotto, where I saw the skeletons of two four-legged animals. After examining them closely, I decided that they must be the skeletons of bears, but that they must have been monstrous in size. One occupied the entry & nearly prevented passage, the other was all the way in the back, & I found between the walls a large bird’s nest, with some eggs.
From that place we left the sea & those mountains on our left, & went to the right, farther into that country & it was a sandy region nearly all covered with a sort of white moss, & from place to place we saw the early elevated by little mounds, like in the country where there are moles, but I could never discover what sort of animal made them. Then we saw before us a large brook, doubtless formed by the melting snow which flowed abundantly from the nearby mountains, & as it was impossible for us to cross it, we were obliged to take a rather long detour, & even to walk a long distance along a hillside in soft & half melted snow. But what gave us the courage to advance was a large & beautiful prairie which was nearly across from us, all sown with little yellow flowers, & bordered by a long hill where we saw something like a little hedgerow of deep green shrubs; the yellow flowers gave off a very pleasant odor.
As I amused myself considering them, a large bird suddenly came out from between the shrubs. Fearless, it came to stand thirty paces from us. It was roughly the size of a goose, & strutted proudly as a cock, head high, lifting its feet high with every step, its talons appeared long & pointed. Its plumage was gray, & it had almost no tail. It bore on its head a big bunch of black & white feathers, which very tall &, widening in a circle at the top, resembled a sort of great crown. Its beak was red, thick & short. After it had scavenged for a while on the prairie, it took a bunch of grass in its mouth, & flew off toward the rise. I followed it with my eye & saw it enter a hole at the base. I advanced quickly & noticed that this hole was deep, & twisted far down into the earth. I gathered from this that its nest was there, & noted that there were other holes nearby that were as deep & of the same sort along the base of the hill. But we did not see the bird again, or any others of its species.
Of a great & beautiful Harbor formed by a rocky enclosure on the same Gulf of which we just spoke; of a great & high Mountain which appeared suspended in the air; of an Archipelago or several islands clustered together; of a large & tall Column of Fire on the Sea & of a Phenomenon which had the shape of the Sun.
Having resolved to advance a little farther into the continent, we set out to traverse a great expanse all full of a species of heather, at the end of which there were some large hills of red rock. The soil was nearly the same color, so that after having walked for some time, our shoes and stockings were all covered with a thick, red dust. As soon as we had passed these hills, we discovered first some broad lands that were dry & waterless & very sandy, which in the distance offered to view only some dreadful rocks, some of which were so high, that their summits were hidden in the clouds. All of this so strongly decreased our enthusiasm for penetrating farther that, changing our plans on the spot, we turned in the direction of the sea, with the plan of following it until we came to the Strait of Bears, close to where our vessel was at anchor.
With that aim, we threaded our way through a large valley where the trail was very lovely & smooth. We found there a great number of birds, with a plumage of gray, mixed with a bit of black. They were roughly the size of our pigeons, & and had a hooked beak like parrots. They let us take them in our hands, so we took as many of them back aboard the ship as possible. Soon after, we talked about returning to the old world, but by a plurality of voices, we resolved to first see the western part of the gulf, for we had noted that it extended far from the coast to the west.
So we left the strait with a good north-east wind, & and sailed very happily for more than twenty-four hours, bearing towards the west. But, the wind dropping suddenly, we endured a calm which lasted six hours. We had almost always stayed close to land, & we were then very close to the shore, but we could distinguish nothing of it because of a heavy fog which reigned along the coast. The sea & the fog appeared to be of the same color. However, at the end of a couple of hours, the fog had entirely dissipated, & we saw across from us a great & vast enclosure of rocks, which, advancing inland, formed a circle almost entirely flooded by the sea, which rested between two tall & terrible mountains, whose summits touched the clouds. It was doubtless the most beautiful & and the largest basin of water in the world, where one could very earily moor more than three hundred and fifty vessels, sheltered from the winds as in a safe & magnificent port.
The entry was hardly fifteen hundred feet wide. The mountains of the enclosure were of medium height, & of nearly white rock, & there were all around, at intervals, large holes in the shape of church-windows, which tunneled clear through, & by which we could see the country on the other side. All that we could see from the place that we were made the finest prospect imaginable. The two large mountains of the entry appeared all covered, up to their summits, with green moss.
I entered, sixth, this fine harbor in the longboat. We saw all around, in holes in the rock, several birds’ nests. The water was very clear & appeared to us to be extremely deep everywhere.
The wind, rising again, turned due East, & after continuing our route for two or three hours, we found ourselves between two very long sand banks, where there was so little water that we had all the trouble in the world exiting again. Finally, we pulled ourselves from there, & we discovered on our left, in the middle of the sea, a collection of rocks which together formed a large mass. There was one of them which, tilting dramatically, thrust a very long point towards the north. There was at the base, a bit above the water, a very large indentation or recess, beneath which the sea entered very far, & as there reigned there a thick vapor, like a cloud around the foot of the rocks, it was impossible to see from afar the part that attached to them, so that they seemed to us to be suspended in the air, until we could consider it all from a closer vantage. That rock appeared to me very worth of attention. It seems impossible that it simply fell into the sea, carried by its own weight. I noticed that all around these rocks the water was thick & green, & seemed like some sort of swamp.
We were hardly half a league from there when the wind rose again dramatically, & we sailed so rapidly that we were soon within sight of a very large number of little islands, placed close together. With the aid of my spyglass, I counted up to twenty-five. They all appeared green as the prairies. We landed on the one which was closest to us, because we saw on its shores a prodigious quantity of seashells. We found there many of that species of small oysters of which I spoke in the sixth chapter.
We did not judge it proper to venture any farther among these islands, for as they were very close together, there was a multitude of breakers, & swirling water, which we believed to indicate many dangerous chasms. So we left them on our left, & at the end of fifteen hours we were in the westernmost end of the gulf. The coastline was very high, & we anchored in its shadow in order to be sheltered from them winds, for there seemed to be a storm brewing, & in fact, soon after some large & black clouds darkened the sky in such a manner that it was nearly like night.
As I considered one cloud, which had a strange shape, it suddenly opened up, & offered to my eyes a really brilliant fire, in the shape of a circle, like the sun, but almost twice as big. In the space of a few minutes this phenomenon made three or four rapid movements from the north to the south. At the same time, I perceived on the edge of the horizon a long series of clouds, some of which came gradually to fall into a perpendicular line just above the sea, without, however, breaking off from the others. It made a bank of very clear & transparent vapor, which the sea pushed steadily towards us. When it was near upon is, it seemed the color of pale fire. It looked like a monstrous column of fire, which at one end touched the sea & at the other touched the clouds, moved over the surface of the waters. After a quarter-hour it disappeared & nothing remained but a light smoke, which soon dissipated completely. However, the circular fire made itself seen from time to time through the gaps in the clouds, & formed shortly after a beautiful arc in the air composed of two colors, a light yellow & a green which included a bit of blue. That arc, reflecting in the sea, made a perfect circle of extraordinary beauty.
The wind increasing dramatically, the sea became very rough, & the waves broke on the coast with a furious rage, so that it seemed like all the winds were raging. Also, a frightening tempest was upon us which made that beautiful arc & the phenomenon that it made disappear in a very short. We were fortunate to be stationed, as we were, under cover from the force of the winds. After that storm had passed & the sky cleared, I went on shore to see the surroundings, but there was nothing to see but rocks on rocks & mountains on mountains, the summits & ridges of which were all covered with snow. In short it was a country of amazing dryness & sterility, where the cold was to be felt most keenly.
Having advanced about a thousand paces, I saw some sort of fox come out of a hole which was at the foot of a hill, but it was a fox much larger than the ordinary varieties. Its whole pelt was nearly russet. The end of its nose was white & so were its four legs, up to just above the joint. It came fearlessly to graze on a sort of white moss, which was eight paces from me. It was a female, for a moment later five or six of its young, all marked like it, came out of the same hole & also came to feed around her. But one of my companions coming toward the same place, all these animals took fright & bolted rapidly into their den.
The Author & his companions set sail for the old world; some time after they find in their path a dreadful reef; they arrive at the Cape of Good Hope; extraordinary adventure that happened to the Author some days after landing.
Although in the various journeys we had made in the Antarctic Lands, we had not penetrated far into the country, we had, however seen enough to easily judge the rest; & as for several reasons it was not possible for us to stay there any longer, we prepared ourselves to depart, or rather, to return to the old world. We resolved to take ourselves to the Cape of Good Hope. We thus set sail with a good West Wind, which in no time brought us out of the Gulf & the Strait. We raised all our sails, & because the Wind was strong, we went a long distance in a few hours. We took our bearings & found ourselves at sixty-two degrees six minutes of Southern latitude, & when we again met the Sun for the first time, it was about noon.
At about three o’clock, we found ourselves between two very rapid currents, which made us fear that there was some dangerous reef in the vicinity. I took my spyglass, & I saw an endless number of points of Rocks above the water, in the midst of which there were in various places several strong currents, which in their fury raised a thick & boiling foam. We took all imaginable precautions. Our Vessel still half-entered into one of these currents, but a sudden turn of the rudder, given at the right moment, drew us back, & we finally had the good fortune to escape so dangerous a pitch without any other accident, & we arrived fortunately at the Cape of Good Hope at the end of a few day, at ten in the morning, the fifth of July, in the year seventeen hundred & fourteen.
Upon entering the house where I was going to stay, I learned that someone had just been buried, a young man who four or five months since had come from Batavia. When I was told his name, I recalled that he had been known to me, & one of my good friends. Thus I acquainted myself very precisely with all the peculiarities of his death.
Having one night regaled five or six of his friends, & drunk with them a bit more than was right. He was attacked towards midnight by a very violent headache accompanied by very sharp pains in all of his limbs. He went up to his room & went to bed, & around an hour later someone went to see if he needed anything. He was found stone dead.
They had watched over him for only two days, & then they had buried him.
At that moment I recalled, fortunately, what I had been told in the past, that when he was ten or twelve years old, he had fallen into a lethargy in the house of his Father & Mother, & that he had remained three days & three nights without giving the least sign of life. I went then without losing a moment of time to ask permission to disinter him, which I obtained easily.
I took myself to the Cemetery, & I worked at the grave & casket with all diligence. Then we carried him to the house, where we put him in a good, warm bed. I noticed that he did not have that great pallor that dead bodies ordinarily have, & that he even had a sort of little redness in the middle of the left cheek, he remained more than six hours without making the least movement. I desired, however, to remain constantly at his bedside. Finally, he made a little sigh, & right away I wanted to give him a spoonful of an excellent liqueur that I had brought for that purpose, but his teeth were clenched so tight that I could not make a single drop enter. Shortly after, he raised his left arm a little, & I put the spoon back between his teeth, which I opened enough to let him swallow, & in fact he did swallow something, & a moment later opened his eyes, but without having any knowledge of his circumstances.
Finally, he returned to himself all at once, & after introducing myself, & briefly recounting all that had taken place. He expressed all possible gratitude for the great service that I had just rendered him, & was astonished that his host had buried him so promptly. He then told me that he had a Valet, who through his alleged death had doubtless remained the master of some jewelry worth a rather considerable amount of money & of some merchandise that he had. I went in search of him, but did not find him. Doubtless, from the moment when he learned that his Master could well not be dead, he had found the means of escape, or had hidden himself so well that it was not possible to find him, no matter how thorough our search and research. In this way the poor young man saw himself stripped of everything, even his clothes were not found.
Fortunately there was in the Cape a man of my acquaintance, with whom I had previously done some business, who at my recommendation was happy to advance what he needed, as we awaited the imminent arrival of some Vessels of the East India Company, which should stop at the Cape, in order to return to Holland, we resolved to go there together. They arrived at the end of three weeks, & we embarked a few days later, & by the grace of God we came fortunately to Amsterdam.
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[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur; original title: Relation d'un voyage du
pole arctique au pole antarctique par le centre du monde]
pole arctique au pole antarctique par le centre du monde]