From the storm which came on before we had well got clear of Straits le Maire, we had a continual succession of such tempestuous weather as surprised the oldest and most experienced mariners on board, and obliged them to confess that what they had hitherto called storms were inconsiderable gales compared with the violence of these winds, which raised such short and at the same time such mountainous waves as greatly surpassed in danger all seas known in any other part of the globe. And it was not without great reason that this unusual appearance filled us with continual terror, for had any one of these waves broke fairly over us, it must in all probability have sent us to the bottom.
SEAS MOUNTAINS HIGH.
It was on the 7th of March, as has been already observed, that we passed Straits le Maire, and were immediately afterwards driven to the eastward by a violent storm and the force of the current which set that way. For the four or five succeeding days we had hard gales of wind from the same quarter, with a most prodigious swell; so that though we stood, during all that time, towards the south-west, yet we had no reason to imagine we had made any way to the westward. In this interval we had frequent squalls of rain and snow, and shipped great quantities of water; after which for three or four days, though the seas ran mountains high, yet the weather was rather more moderate. But on the 18th we had again strong gales of wind with extreme cold. From hence to the 23rd the weather was more favourable, though often intermixed with rain and sleet, and some hard gales; but as the waves did not subside, the ship, by labouring in this lofty sea, was now grown so loose in her upper works that she let in the water at every seam; so that every part within board was constantly exposed to the sea-water, and scarcely any of the officers ever lay in dry beds. Indeed, it was very rare that two nights ever passed without many of them being driven from their beds by the deluge of water that came upon them.
On the 23rd we had a most violent storm of wind, hail, and rain, with a very great sea; and though we handed the main-topsail before the height of the squall, yet we found the yard sprung; and soon after, the foot-rope of the mainsail breaking, the mainsail itself split instantly to rags, and in spite of our endeavours to save it, much the greater part of it was blown overboard. On this the Commodore made the signal for the squadron to bring to; and, the storm at length flattening to a calm, we had an opportunity of getting down our main-topsail yard to put the carpenters at work upon it, and of repairing our rigging; after which, having bent a new mainsail, we got under sail again with a moderate breeze. But in less than twenty-four hours we were attacked by another storm still more furious than the former; for it proved a perfect hurricane, and reduced us to the necessity of lying to under our bare poles.