Cook on Tierra del Fuego in 1768/9

As we are now about taking our departure from the Land, which we are not likely to fall in with again, I shall give a more full Description of such parts of the Coasts of Terra del Fuego as hath fallen under my inspection.

We fell in with this Coast 21 Leagues to the Westward of Straits Le Mair, and ranged the coast from thence to the Strait within 2 or 3 Leagues of the Land, and had soundings all the way from 40 to 20 fathoms, a Gravelly and Sandy Bottom. The land near the Shore is in general low but hilly, the face of the Country appears Green and Woody, but in land are Craggy Mountains; they appeared to be of no great height, nor were they Covered with Snow. The most remarkable land on Terra Del Fuego is a high Mountain in form of a Sugar Loaf, situated not far from the sea on the South-West side of the Land, and 3 hills called the 3 Brothers. They lay near the Shore and nine Miles to the Westward of Cape St. Diego, which is a low point that forms the North-West Entrance of Strait Le Mair, and are Contiguous to Each other. The Sugar Loaf lies from these Hills South-South-West, and when it was in this situation the Appearances of the Land is represented in the first View in the Chart, but it must be observed that from this point of View the Three Brothers appear far more Conspicuous than from any other; these land Marks are by some Voyagers thought very necessary to know Strait Le Mair by, but whoever coasts Terra Del Fuego within sight of land cannot possibly miss the Strait, it being of itself so very Conspicuous; and Staten Land, which forms the East side, is still more so from its very rugged appearance. One League and a half to the Westward of Cape St. Diego lies Cape St. Vincent, between these two Capes lies Vincent's Bay,* (* Now called Thetis Bay, it is a very poor anchorage.) a Small Cove wherein is Wood and Water, and before which a Ship might Anchor with a Southerly or South-West wind, but the ground is none of the best, unless you go into the very Mouth of the Cove, which is on the East side of the first Bluff point from Cape St. Vincent, where there is Anchorage in 4 fathoms, a Sandy Bottom. In going in keep clear of the Sea Weed, and send a Boat Ahead to sound, and at best this is but a bad place for Shipping, and only recommended to such as are in want of Wood and Water, and have no Opportunity to put into the Strait, which in Prudence ought not to be attempted but with a fair wind or Moderate weather, and upon the very first of the Tide of Flood, which hapens here at the full and Change of the Moon about 1 or 2 o'clock, and then to keep as near to Terra Del Fuego Shore as the winds will permit. By using these Precautions you will be sure of either getting quite through the Straits in one Tide or to the Southward of Success Bay; and it may be more Prudent to put in there should the wind be Southerly, than to attempt to weather Staten Land with a Lee Wind and Current, for I believe this to be the Chief reason why Ships have run a Risk of being drove on that Island.

Strait Le Maire is formed on the West by part of Terra Del Fuego, and on the East by the West end of Staten Land or Island; its Length and Breadth is about 5 Leagues each; about the Middle of the Strait is Success Bay, on Terra Del Fuego side, and about a 1/4 of a League more to the Northwards is Port Maurice, a little Cove, before which we Anchored in 12 fathoms.

Description of Strait of Le Maire.

The Bay of Success is discovered immediately upon entring the Strait from the Northward; there is likewise a good Land Mark near the South head to know it by, which is a Mark on the land like a lane or broad road leading up from the Sea into the Country; this Bay is 1/2 a League Wide at the Entrance, and lies in West 2 1/2 Miles, and hath good Anchorage in every part of it, in 10, 8, and 7 fathoms clear ground, and affords plenty of exceeding good Wood and Water. The Wood is of the Birch kind, but of a diffrent Quality to that in England or North America; here are likewise of the Winter Bark tree and some few others, Wild Selary, some Berrys like Cranberrys, but growing on Bushes, very few Wild Fowls of any Sort, and no Fish Except Shell Fish, such as Muscels, Limpets, etc.; and what we saw of the interior parts of the Country is still more barren of the necessaries of Life than the Sea. The few days we stay'd here we had constant bad weather, the Winds from the South-West and West-South-West with rain, Hail and Snow. Snow generally fell on the Hills everywhere with these winds when we had rain in the Bay or upon the Sea Coast. I observed the same in respect to Staten Land, but as it never froze it did not lay long; yet it must render the Country Cold and barren, and unfit for Cultivation. The Tides in Success Bay flows at the full and Change of the Moon, about 4 or 5 o'Clock, and riseth between 5 and 6 feet Perpendicular, but in the Strait the flood runs 2 or 3 Hours longer, and there the Ebb or Southerly Current runs near Double the strength of the Flood or Northerly Current.

Staten Island lies nearest East and West, and from what I could see and judge of it may be about 12 Leagues in length and 5 in breadth. On the North side are the appearances of Bays or Harbours, and the land is not destitute of Wood and Verdure, nor covered with Snow any more than Terra del Fuego.

On the South-West side of the Cape of good Success (which forms the South-West entrance of Strait Le Mair, and is known by some rocks off it) lies Valentine's Bay, the entrance of which we only saw. From this Bay the land Trends to the West-South-West; for 20 or 30 Leagues it appears High and Mountainous, and forms several Bays and inlets South-West ½ South 14 Leagues from the Cape of good Success, and 2 or 3 Leagues from the Shore lies New Island; it is 2 leagues in length, North-East and South-West, the North-East end is terminated by a remarkable Hillock. South-West 7 Leagues from New Island lies the Isle Evouts, and South, a little Westerly from this island, lies Barnevelts, two small flat Islands close to each other; they are partly Environ'd with rocks of Different height above water, and lay South-West 24 leagues from Strait le Mair. From Barnevelts Island to the South-East point of Hermites island is South-West by South, distance 3 Leagues. These Islands lay South-East and North-West, and are pretty high, and will, from most points of view, be taken for one Island or a part of the Main; from the South-East point of Hermites Isles to Cape Horn, the Course is South-West by South, distance 3 Leagues. The Appearance of this Cape and Hermites Islands is represented in the last View in the chart which I have drawn of this Coast from our first making the land unto Cape Horn, in which is included Strait Le Mair and part of Staten Land. In this chart I have laid down no land nor figured out any Shore, but what I saw myself and thus far the Chart may be depended upon. The Bays and inlets are left voide, the openings of which we only see from the Ship. It cannot be doubted but what there is Anchorage, Wood and Water in those Bays, and it must have been in some of them that the Dutch Squadron commanded by Hermites put into in the year 1624. It was the Vice Admiral Chapenham, of this Squadron, who first discovered that the land of Cape Horn was consisted of a Number of Islands, but the account they have given of those parts is very short and imperfect, and that of Schouton and Le Maire still worse, that it is no wonder that the Charts hitherto published should be found incorrect, not only in laying down the Land, but in the Latitude and Longitude of the places they contain, but I can now venture to Assert that the Longitude of few parts of the World are better Ascertained than that of Strait Le Maire and Cape Horn, being determined by several Observations of the Sun and moon made both by myself and Mr. Green, the Astronomer.

We found the Variation of the Compass on this Coast to be from 23 to 25 degrees east, except near Barnevelts Islands and Cape Horn, where we found it less and unsettled; it is likely that it is here disturbed by the land, as the Dutch Squadron before mentioned found in this very place all their Compasses to differ from each other. The declination of the South point of the Dipping Needle when set up ashore in Success Bay was 68 degrees 15 minutes below the horizon. Between Strait Le Maire and Cape Horn we found a Current setting generally pretty strong to the North-East when we were in with the Shore, but when 15 or 20 Leagues off we were not sencible of any.