The Passage from Rio de Janeiro to the entrance of the Streight of Le Maire, with a Description of some of the Inhabitants of Terra del Fuego.
On the 9th of December, we observed the sea to be covered with broad streaks of a yellowish colour, several of them a mile long, and three or four hundred yards wide: Some of the water thus coloured was taken up, and found to be full of innumerable atoms pointed at the end, of a yellowish colour, and none more than a quarter of a line, or the fortieth part of an inch long: In the microscope they appeared to be fasciculi of small fibres interwoven with each other, not unlike the nidus of some of the phyganeas, called caddices; but whether they were animal or vegetable substances, whence they came, or for what they were designed, neither Mr Banks nor Dr Solander could guess. The same appearance had been observed before, when we first discovered the continent of South America.
[Footnote 79: The Portuguese have a name for what is here spoken of. They call it the grassy sea. There is reason to think that it is a vegetable, and not an animal production. But, on the whole, the subject has been little investigated.—E.]
On the 11th we hooked a shark, and while we were playing it under the cabin window, it threw out, and drew in again several times what appeared to be its stomach: It proved to be a female, and upon being opened six young ones were taken out of it; five of them were alive, and swam briskly in a tub of water, but the sixth appeared to have been dead some time.
Nothing remarkable happened till the 30th, except that we prepared for the bad weather, which we were shortly to expect, by bending a new suit of sails; but on this day we ran a course of one hundred and sixty miles by the log, through innumerable land insects of various kinds, some upon the wing, and more upon the water, many of which were alive; they appeared to be exactly the same with the carabi, the grylli, the phalanae, aranea, and other flies that are seen in England, though at this time we could not be less than thirty leagues from land; and some of these insects, particularly the grylli aranea, never voluntarily leave it at a greater distance than twenty yards. We judged ourselves to be now nearly opposite to Baye sans fond, where Mr Dalrymple supposes there is a passage quite through the continent of America; and we thought from the insects that there might be at least a very large river, and that it had overflowed its banks.
[Footnote 80: The place alluded to is denominated Sin-fondo bay in Jeffrey’s map, which, however imperfect as to actual geography, is perhaps the best companion to the account of the voyages published about the same period. Mr Dalrymple is an example of those warm-fancied men that make discoveries with the celerity of mushroom beds, and from as unimportant materials too. Some Spanish charts, often the very worst authority in the world, had drawn a connection betwixt the branches of two rivers, on opposite sides of the continent, and hence was deduced, in his lively imagination, a passage from sea to sea. See Jeffrey’s American Atlas, where the imaginary communication is represented by dotted lines.—E.]