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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 502 pages of information about Two Years Before the Mast.

CHAPTER VII

We continued sailing along with a fair wind and fine weather until—­

Tuesday, November 25th, when at daylight we saw the island of Juan Fernandez directly ahead, rising like a deep blue cloud out of the sea.  We were then probably nearly seventy miles from it; and so high and so blue did it appear that I mistook it for a cloud resting over the island, and looked for the island under it, until it gradually turned to a deader and greener color, and I could mark the inequalities upon its surface.  At length we could distinguish trees and rocks; and by the afternoon this beautiful island lay fairly before us, and we directed our course to the only harbor.  Arriving at the entrance soon after sundown, we found a Chilian man-of-war brig, the only vessel, coming out.  She hailed us; and an officer on board, whom we supposed to be an American, advised us to run in before night, and said that they were bound to Valparaiso.  We ran immediately for the anchorage, but, owing to the winds which drew about the mountains and came to us in flaws from different points of the compass, we did not come to an anchor until nearly midnight.  We had a boat ahead all the time that we were working in, and those aboard ship were continually bracing the yards about for every puff that struck us, until about twelve o’clock, when we came to in forty fathoms water, and our anchor struck bottom for the first time since we left Boston,—­ one hundred and three days.  We were then divided into three watches, and thus stood out the remainder of the night.

I was called on deck to stand my watch at about three in the morning, and I shall never forget the peculiar sensation which I experienced on finding myself once more surrounded by land, feeling the night-breeze coming from off shore, and hearing the frogs and crickets.  The mountains seemed almost to hang over us, and apparently from the very heart of them there came out, at regular intervals, a loud echoing sound, which affected me as hardly human.  We saw no lights, and could hardly account for the sound, until the mate, who had been there before, told us that it was the ``Alerta’’ of the Chilian soldiers, who were stationed over some convicts confined in caves nearly half-way up the mountain.  At the expiration of my watch, I went below, feeling not a little anxious for the day, that I might see more nearly, and perhaps tread upon, this romantic, I may almost say classic, island.

When all hands were called it was nearly sunrise, and between that time and breakfast, although quite busy on board in getting up water-casks, &c., I had a good view of the objects about me.  The harbor was nearly land-locked, and at the head of it was a landing, protected by a small breakwater of stones, upon which two large boats were hauled up, with a sentry standing over them.  Near this was a variety of huts or cottages, nearly a hundred in number, the

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