At half past five o’clock, the weather clearing up, gave us a good sight of Ildefonzo Isles. They are a group of islands and rocks above water, situated about six leagues from the main, and in the latitude of 55 deg. 53’ S., longitude 69 deg. 41’ W.
We now resumed our course to the east, and, at sun-set, the most advanced land bore S.E. by E. 3/4 E.; and a point, which I judged to be the west point of Nassau Bay, discovered by the Dutch fleet under the command of Admiral Hermite in 1624, bore N. 80 deg. E., six leagues distant. In some charts this point is called False Cape Horn, as being the southern point of Terra del Fuego. It is situated in latitude 55 deg. 39’ S. From the inlet above-mentioned to this false cape, the direction of the coast is nearly east, half a point south, distant fourteen or fifteen leagues.
At ten o’clock, having shortened sail, we spent the night in making short boards under the top-sails, and at three next morning made sail, and steered S.E. by S., with a fresh breeze at W.S.W., the weather somewhat hazy. At this time the west entrance to Nassau Bay extended from N. by E. to N.E. 1/2 E., and the south side of Hermite’s Isles, E. by S. At four, Cape Horn, for which we now steered, bore E. by S. It is known, at a distance, by a high round hill over it. A point to the W.N.W. shews a surface not unlike this; but their situations alone will always distinguish the one from the other.
At half past seven, we passed this famous cape, and entered the southern Atlantic ocean. It is the very same point of land I took for the cape, when I passed it in 1769, which at that time I was doubtful of. It is the most southern extremity on a group of islands of unequal extent, lying before Nassau Bay, known by the name of Hermite Islands, and is situated in the latitude of 55 deg. 58’, and in the longitude of 68 deg. 13’ W.; according to the observations made of it in 1769. But the observations which we had in Christmas Sound, and reduced to the cape by the watch, and others which we had afterwards, and reduced back to it by the same means, place it in 67 deg. 19’. It is most probable that a mean between the two, viz. 67 deg. 46’, will be nearest the truth. On the N.W. side of the cape are two peaked rocks, like sugar-loaves: They lie N.W. by N., and S.E. by S., by compass, of each other. Some other straggling low rocks lie west of the cape, and one south of it; but they are all near the shore. From Christmas Sound to Cape Horn the course is E.S.E 1/4 E., distant thirty-one leagues. In the direction of E.N.E., three leagues from Cape Horn, is a rocky point, which I called Mistaken Cape, and is the southern point of the easternmost of Hermite Isles. Between these two capes there seemed to be a passage directly into Nassau Bay; some small isles were seen in the passage; and the coast, on the west side, had the appearance of forming good bays or harbours. In some charts, Cape Horn is laid down as belonging to a small island. This was neither confirmed, nor can it be contradicted by us; for several breakers appeared on the coast, both to the east and west of it; and the hazy weather rendered every object indistinct. The summits of some of the hills were rocky, but the sides and vallies seemed covered with a green turf, and wooded in tufts.