A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 11 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 783 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 11.
to such ships as may touch on the coast.  The horses are said to be very good eating, and are even preferred by some of the Indians before the cattle.  But however plentiful Patagonia may hereafter become in regard to flesh, this eastern coast of that extensive country seems very defective in regard to fresh water; for as the land is generally of a nitrous and saline nature, the ponds and streams are frequently brackish.  However, as good water has been found, though in small quantities, it is not improbable but this inconvenience may be removed, on a farther search.

There are also in all parts of this country a good number of Vicunnas, or Peruvian sheep, but these, by reason of their swiftness, are very difficultly killed.  On the eastern coast, also, there are immense quantities of seals, and a vast variety of sea-fowl, among which the most remarkable are the penguins.  These are, in size and shape, like a goose, but have short stumps like fins instead of wings, which are of no use to them except when in the water.  Their bills are narrow, like that of the albatross, and they stand and walk quite erect, from which circumstance, and their white bellies, Sir John Narborough has whimsically likened them to little children standing up in white aprons.

The inhabitants of this eastern coast, to which hitherto I confine my observations, appear to be but few, and rarely have more than two or three of them been seen at a time by any ships that have touched here.  During our stay at Port St Julian we did not see any.  Towards Buenos Ayres, however, they are sufficiently numerous, and are very troublesome to the Spaniards:  But there the greater breadth and variety of the country, and a milder climate, yield them greater conveniences.  In that part the continent is between three and four hundred leagues in breadth, while at Port St Julian it is little more than one hundred.  I conceive, therefore, that the same Indians who frequent the western coast of Patagonia, and the northern shore of the Straits of Magellan, often ramble to this eastern side.  As the Indians near Buenos Ayres are more numerous than those farther south, they also greatly excel them in spirit and activity, and seem nearly allied in their manners to the gallant Chilese Indians, [Araucanians] who have long set the whole Spanish power at defiance, have often ravaged their country, and remain to this hour independent.  The Indians about Buenos Ayres have learned to be excellent horsemen, and are extremely expert in the management of all cutting weapons, though ignorant of fire-arms, which the Spaniards are exceedingly solicitous to keep from them.  Of the vigour and resolution of these Indians, the behaviour of Orellana and his followers, formerly mentioned, is a memorable instance.

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