Chapter 5


by William Dampier Icon

On April 8, 1684 we sailed from the isle of Juan Fernandez with the wind at south-east.

We were now 2 ships: Captain Cook’s, whose ship I was in, and who here took the sickness of which he died a while after, and Captain Eaton’s.

Our passage lay now along the Pacific Sea, properly so called. For though it be usual with our map-makers to give that name to this whole ocean, calling it Mare Australe, Mal del Zur, or Mare Pacificum; yet in my opinion the name of the Pacific Sea ought not to be extended from south to north farther than from 30 to about 4 degrees south latitude, and from the American shore westward indefinitely, with respect to my observation; who have been in these parts 250 leagues or more from land, and still had the sea very quiet from winds. For in all this tract of water of which I have spoken there are no dark rainy clouds, though often a thick horizon so as to hinder an observation of the sun with the quadrant; and in the morning hazy weather frequently, and thick mists, but scarce able to wet one. Nor are there in this sea any winds but the trade-wind, no tempests, no tornadoes or hurricanes (though north of the Equator they are met with as well in this ocean as in the Atlantic) yet the sea itself at the new and full of the moon runs with high, large, long surges, but such as never break out at sea and so are safe enough; unless that where they fall in and break upon the shore they make it bad landing.


In this sea we made the best of our way toward the Line till in the latitude of 24 south where we fell in with the mainland of the South America.

All this course of the land, both of Chile and Peru, is vastly high; therefore we kept 12 or 14 leagues off from shore, being unwilling to be seen by the Spaniards dwelling there. The land (especially beyond this, from 24 degrees south latitude 17, and from 14 to 10) is of a most prodigious height.

It lies generally in ridges parallel to the shore, and 3 or 4 ridges one with another, each surpassing other in height; and those that are farthest within land are much higher than others. They always appear blue when seen at sea: sometimes they are obscured with clouds, but not so often as the high lands in other parts of the world, for here are seldom or never any rains on these hills, any more than in the sea near it; neither are they subject to fogs. These are the highest mountains that ever I saw, far surpassing the Pike of Tenerife or Santa Marta and, I believe, any mountains in the world.

I have seen very high land in the latitude of 30 south, but not so high as in the latitudes before described. In Sir John Narborough’s voyage also to Valdivia (a city on this coast) mention is made of very high land seen near Valdivia: and the Spaniards with whom I have discoursed have told me that there is a very high land all the way between Coquimbo (which lies in about 30 degrees south latitude) and Valdivia, which is in 40 south; so that by all likelihood these ridges of mountains do run in a continued chain from one end of Peru and Chile to the other, all along this South Sea coast, called usually the Andes, or Sierra Nevada des Andes. The excessive height of these mountains may possibly be the reason that there are no rivers of note that fall into these seas. Some small rivers indeed there are, but very few of them, for in some places there is not one that comes out into the sea in 150 or 200 leagues, and where they are thickest they are 30, 40, or 50 leagues asunder, and too little and shallow to be navigable.

Besides, some of these do not constantly run, but are dry at certain seasons of the year; as the river of Ylo runs flush with a quick current at the latter end of January, and so continues till June, and then it decreases by degrees, growing less, and running slow till the latter end of September, when it fails wholly, and runs no more till January again: this I have seen at both seasons in two former voyages I made hither, and have been informed by the Spaniards that other rivers on this coast are of the like nature, being rather torrents or land-floods caused by their rains at certain seasons far within land than perennial streams.


On May 3, in the latitude of 9 degrees 40 minutes south, we saw a sail northward of us, plying to windward. We chased it.

Captain Eaton being ahead soon took it. It came from Guayaquil about a month before, laden with timber, and was bound to Lima.

Three days before we took her she came from Santa, whither she had gone for water, and where they had news of our being in these seas by an express from Valdivia, for, as we afterwards heard, Captain Swan had been at Valdivia to seek a trade there; and he having met Captain Eaton in the Straits of Magellan, the Spaniards of Valdivia were doubtless informed of us by him, suspecting him also to be one of us, though he was not. Upon this news the viceroy of Lima sent expresses to all the sea ports, that they might provide themselves against our assaults.


We immediately steered away for the island Lobos which lies in latitude 6 degrees 24 minutes south latitude (I took the elevation of it ashore with an astrolabe) and it is 5 leagues from the Main. It is called Lobos de la Mar, to distinguish it from another that is not far from it, and extremely like it, called Lobos de la Terra, for it lies nearer the main. Lobos, or Lovos, is the Spanish name for a seal, of which there are great plenty about these and several other islands in these seas that go by this name.

On May 9, we arrived at this isle of Lobos de la Mar and came to an anchor with our prize. This Lobos consists indeed of two little islands, each about a mile round, of an indifferent height, a small channel between, fit for boats only; and several rocks lying on the north side of the islands, a little way from shore.

There is a small cove or sandy bay sheltered from the winds at the west end of the eastermost island, where ships may careen: the rest of the shore, as well round the two islands as between them, is a rocky coast consisting of small cliffs. Within land they are both of them partly rocky, and partly sandy, barren, without any fresh water, tree, shrub, grass, or herbs; or any land animals (for the seals and sea-lions come ashore here) but fowls, of which there are great multitudes; as boobies, but mostly penguins, which I have seen plentifully all over the South Seas, on the coast of Newfoundland, and of the Cape of Good Hope.

They are a sea-fowl, about as big as a duck, and such feet; but a sharp bill, feeding on fish. They do not fly, but flutter, having rather stumps like a young gosling’s than wings: and these are instead of fins to them in the water. Their feathers are downy.

Their flesh is but ordinary food but their eggs are good meat. There is another sort of small black fowl that makes holes in the sand for their night habitations whose flesh is good sweet meat. I never saw any of them but here and at Juan Fernandez.

There is good riding between the eastermost island and the rocks in ten, twelve, or fourteen fathom, for the wind is commonly at south or south-south-east, and the eastermost island lying east and west, shelters that road.

Here we scrubbed our ships and, being in a readiness to sail, the prisoners were examined to know if any of them could conduct us to some town where we might make some attempt; for they had before informed us that we were descried by the Spaniards, and by that we knew that they would send no riches by sea so long as we were here. Many towns were considered on, as Guayaquil, Zana, Truxillo, and others: at last Truxillo was pitched on as the most important, therefore the likeliest to make us a voyage if we could conquer it: which we did not much question though we knew it to be a very populous city. But the greatest difficulty was in landing; for Guanchaquo, which is the nearest sea port to it, but six miles off, is an ill place to land, since sometimes the very fishermen that live there are not able to go in three or four days.


However the 17th of May in the afternoon our men were mustered of both ships’ companies, and their arms proved.

We were in all 108 men fit for service besides the sick. The next day we intended to sail and take the wood prize with us.

But the next day, one of our men, being ashore on the island, saw 3 sails going northward. Two of them without the island to the westward, the other between it and the continent.

We soon got our anchors up and chased.

Captain Eaton, who drew the least draught of water, put through between the westermost island and the rocks, and went after those two that were without the islands.

We in Captain Cook’s ship went after the other, which stood in for the mainland, but we soon fetched her up and, having taken her, stood in again with her to the island; for we saw that Captain Eaton wanted no help, having taken both those that he went after. He came in with one of his prizes; but the other was so far to leeward and so deep that he could not then get her in, but he hoped to get her in the next day: but being deep laden, as designed to go down before the wind to Panama, she would not bear sail.

The 19th day she turned all day, but got nothing nearer the island. Our Moskito strikers, according to their custom, went and struck six turtles; for here are indifferent plenty of them.

These ships that we took the day before we came from Guanchaquo, all three laden with flour, bound for Panama.

Two of them were laden as deep as they could swim, the other was not above half laden, but was ordered by the viceroy of Lima to sail with the other two, or else she should not sail till we were gone out of the seas; for he hoped they might escape us by setting out early.

In the biggest ship was a letter to the president of Panama from the viceroy of Lima; assuring him that there were enemies come into that sea; for which reason he had dispatched these three ships with flour, that they might not want (for Panama is supplied from Peru) and desired him to be frugal of it, for he knew not when he should send more.

In this ship were likewise 7 or 8 tuns of marmalade of quinces, and a stately mule sent to the president, and a very large image of the Virgin Mary in wood, carved and painted to adorn a new church at Panama, and sent from Lima by the viceroy; for this great ship came from thence not long before. She brought also from Lima 800,000 pieces-of-eight to carry with her to Panama: but while she lay at Guanchaco, taking in her lading of flour, the merchants, hearing of Captain Swan’s being in Valdivia, ordered the money ashore again. These prisoners likewise informed us that the gentlemen (inhabitants of Truxillo) were building a fort at Guanchaquo (which is the sea port for Truxillo) close by the sea, purposely to hinder the designs of any that should attempt to land there. Upon this news we altered our former resolutions, and resolved to go with our three prizes to the Galapagos; which are a great many large islands lying some under the Equator, others on each side of it.

I shall here omit the description of Truxillo, because in my Appendix, at the latter end of the book, I intend to give a general relation of most of the towns of note on this coast from Valdivia to Panama, and from thence towards California.

The 19th day in the evening we sailed from the island Lobos with Captain Eaton in our company. We carried the three flour prizes with us, but our first prize laden with timber we left here at an anchor; the wind was at south by east which is the common trade-wind here, and we steered away north-west by north intending to run into the latitude of the isles Galapagos, and steer off west, because we did not know the certain distance, and therefore could not shape a direct course to them. When we came within 40 minutes of the Equator we steered west, having the wind at south, a very moderate gentle gale.


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