I AM KIDNAPPED
We were now of two minds, whether to continue the exploration of New Holland, or to shape a course for the islands of the South Seas; but Hartog finally decided for the islands, where there is always adventure and profit to be had. Besides, we were anxious to prove the truth, or otherwise, of the existence of the Islands of Engano, mentioned by Marco Polo in the account of his voyage round the world in the year 1272, as the Male and Female Islands.
The first group of islands we touched at after leaving the abandoned Spanish settlement at New Holland, appeared to be well wooded and fertile, and approaching one of the largest we cast anchor near the shore. On the following day we endeavoured to work to windward of this dangerous coast, but in spite of skilful seamanship it soon, became certain we were being drawn, probably by some strong current, closer to the land. The ship was so near to the rocks that escape appeared impossible. At three in the afternoon, however, the ship doubled the reefs, it may be said, almost by a miracle.
This adventure set us thinking upon a record among the manuscripts we had brought with us of a remarkable phenomenon existing somewhere in these regions. In describing one of the larger islands the record says: “By the coast of this country, toward the north, is the sea called the Dead Sea, the water whereof runneth into the earth, and if anyone falleth into that water he is never found more. And if shipmen go but a little way into it they are carried rapidly downward, and never return again. And none knoweth whither they are carried, and many have thus passed away, and it hath never been known what became of them.”
We had hitherto given little credence to this report, but our recent experience proved the currents running between these islands to be strong and treacherous, and warned us to be on guard against them. The great distance we were from home, and the absence of any assistance to be looked for from men of our own race made it doubly necessary to consider every aspect of our voyage in order to escape the many perils which everywhere beset us.
We now approached a coast running east and west to the horizon, so that we could not say whether we had come to an island or to another southern continent. The anxieties through which we had passed, particularly our narrow escape from shipwreck upon the reefs, made it desirable we should seek some haven in which to recruit our strength and re-victual our ship before setting out upon our homeward voyage, for Hartog was anxious to deposit the gold we had obtained from the place of the painted hands in safe keeping at Amsterdam. The carrying about of so much treasure on board the vessel was a risk he thought it imprudent to run, as the presence of gold on the ship would prove a constant temptation to the men to mutiny. Besides which, there was always the chance of capture by pirates or freebooters who, at this time, roamed the seas. General satisfaction was, therefore, expressed when Hartog announced his intention of returning to Amsterdam.