Now the “Arms of Amsterdam” was a more powerful vessel than the “Endraght”, mounting four guns, so we had little doubt but that we would be able to render valuable assistance to the young king in the defence of his country, and having pledged ourselves to support him we returned to our ship, well pleased with our adventure.
Next day the beating of war drums and much commotion ashore announced the approach of the enemy fleet, and having loaded our cannon we stood out to meet them. Twenty war canoes belonging to the king, each containing 100 men armed with spears and clubs, put off to take part in the battle. They were far outnumbered, however, by the hostile fleet, which now approached. At the sight of our ship the oncoming war canoes appeared to hesitate, and for some minutes ceased rowing, but presently they advanced again in the form of a crescent, evidently intending by their superior line of battle to surround us. We were now midway between the opposing fleets, and when the enemy canoes were well within range Hartog delivered a broadside, which had the most remarkable effect ever witnessed in a naval engagement. Not wishing to kill the natives if it could be avoided, since the quarrel was not ours, Hartog directed that the first broadside should be fired over the heads of the advancing savages, but the result was the same as if we had sunk or crippled the hostile fleet. At the flash and sound of the cannon, with black smoke rolling across the water towards them, the savages turned and fled, driving their canoes back to the place whence they had come at a pace which sent the foam flying from the paddles. But the most unexpected part of our interference was that the savages on board the king’s canoes appeared to be as terrified as were the enemy, for they also turned and fled towards the shore. So we had the satisfaction of seeing the opposing fleets flying from each other without blood being shed.
Having thus brought matters to a satisfactory conclusion, and fulfilled our agreement with the young king to drive off the enemy fleet, we continued our voyage, well satisfied with our first transaction.
THE SEA SERPENT
For some days after leaving Cortes’ island the weather continued fine and the sea calm, but a strong breeze then springing up from the north-west made it necessary to shorten sail. While so engaged we sighted a number of whales, which swam to meet us. Never before had I seen so strange a spectacle. Their vast numbers, their great bulk, and their quick evolutions impressed me with wonder.
The whales in these parts are fearless of man. They have not yet learned to regard him as an enemy. This fearlessness, however, although remarkable, was not to our liking, for some of the whales came so close to us that our decks were often deluged by the water which they spouted upon them.