Two Years Before the Mast eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 591 pages of information about Two Years Before the Mast.

This gave us a new start, and we were soon through our work and on deck; and there lay the land, fair upon the larboard beam, and slowly edging away upon the quarter.  All hands were busy looking at it,—­ the captain and mates from the quarter-deck, the cook from his galley, and the sailors from the forecastle; and even Mr. Nuttall, the passenger, who had kept in his shell for nearly a month, and hardly been seen by anybody, and whom we had almost forgotten was on board, came out like a butterfly, and was hopping round as bright as a bird.

The land was the island of Staten Land, just to the eastward of Cape Horn; and a more desolate-looking spot I never wish to set eyes upon,—­ bare, broken, and girt with rocks and ice, with here and there, between the rocks and broken hillocks, a little stunted vegetation of shrubs.  It was a place well suited to stand at the junction of the two oceans, beyond the reach of human cultivation, and encounter the blasts and snows of a perpetual winter.  Yet, dismal as it was, it was a pleasant sight to us; not only as being the first land we had seen, but because it told us that we had passed the Cape,—­ were in the Atlantic,—­ and that, with twenty-four hours of this breeze, we might bid defiance to the Southern Ocean.  It told us, too, our latitude and longitude better than any observation; and the captain now knew where we were, as well as if we were off the end of Long Wharf.

In the general joy, Mr. Nuttall said he should like to go ashore upon the island and examine a spot which probably no human being had ever set foot upon; but the captain intimated that he would see the island, specimens and all, in—­ another place, before he would get out a boat or delay the ship one moment for him.

We left the land gradually astern; and at sundown had the Atlantic Ocean clear before us.


It is usual, in voyages round the Cape from the Pacific, to keep to the eastward of the Falkland Islands; but as there had now set in a strong, steady, and clear southwester, with every prospect of its lasting, and we had had enough of high latitudes, the captain determined to stand immediately to the northward, running inside the Falkland Islands.  Accordingly, when the wheel was relieved at eight o’clock, the order was given to keep her due north, and all hands were turned up to square away the yards and make sail.  In a moment the news ran through the ship that the captain was keeping her off, with her nose straight for Boston, and Cape Horn over her taffrail.  It was a moment of enthusiasm.  Every one was on the alert, and even the two sick men turned out to lend a hand at the halyards.  The wind was now due southwest, and blowing a gale to which a vessel close hauled could have shown no more than a single close-reefed sail; but as we were going before it, we could carry on.  Accordingly, hands were sent aloft, and a

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Two Years Before the Mast from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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