Accordingly, on the 30th May, we had sight of the continent of Chili, distant about twelve or thirteen leagues, the land appearing very low and uneven, and quite white; what we saw being doubtless a part of the Cordilleras, which are always covered with snow. Though by this view of the land we ascertained our position, yet it gave us great uneasiness to find that we had so needlessly altered our course, when we had been, in all probability, just upon the point of making the island: For the mortality among us was now increased to a most frightful degree, and those who remained were utterly dispirited by this new disappointment, and the prospect of their longer continuance at sea. Our water, too, began to grow scarce, and a general dejection prevailed among us, which added much to the virulence of the disease, and destroyed numbers of our best men. To all these calamities, there was added this vexatious circumstance, after getting sight of the main land, that we were so much delayed by calms and contrary winds, while tacking westwards in quest of the island, that it took us nine days to regain the westing, which we ran down in two when standing to the eastward.
In this desponding condition, and under these disheartening circumstances, we stood to the westward, with a crazy ship, a great scarcity of fresh water, and a crew so universally diseased, that there were not above ten foremast men in a watch capable of doing duty, and even some of these lame and unable to go aloft. At last, at day-break on the 9th of June, we discovered the long-wished-for island of Juan Fernandez. Owing to our suspecting ourselves to be to the westward of this island on the 28th of May, and in consequence of the delay occasioned by our standing in for the main and returning, we lost between seventy and eighty of our men, whom we had doubtless saved, if we had made the island on that day, which we could not have failed to do, if we had kept on our course only for a few hours longer.
Arrival of the Centurion at Juan Fernandez, with a Description of that Island.
As mentioned in the preceding section, we descried the island of Juan Fernandez at day-break on the 9th June, bearing N. by E. 1/2 E. distant eleven or twelve leagues. Though on this first view it appeared very mountainous, ragged, and irregular, yet it was land, and the land we sought for, and was therefore a most agreeable sight: because here only we could hope to put a period to those terrible calamities with which we had so long struggled, which had already swept away above half of our crew, and which, had we continued only a few days longer at sea, must inevitably have completed our destruction. For we were now reduced to so helpless a condition, that, out of two hundred and odd men who remained alive, taking all our watches together, we could not muster hands now to work the ship on any emergency, even including the officers, the servants, and the boys.