The Voyage of the Beagle HTML version

Tierra Del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego, first arrival -- Good Success Bay -- An Account of the Fuegians on
board -- Interview With the Savages -- Scenery of the Forests -- Cape Horn -- Wigwam
Cove -- Miserable Condition of the Savages -- Famines -- Cannibals -- Matricide --
Religious Feelings -- Great Gale -- Beagle Channel -- Ponsonby Sound -- Build
Wigwams and settle the Fuegians -- Bifurcation of the Beagle Channel -- Glaciers --
Return to the Ship -- Second Visit in the Ship to the Settlement -- Equality of Condition
amongst the Natives.
DECEMBER 17th, 1832. -- Having now finished with Patagonia and the Falkland
Islands, I will describe our first arrival in Tierra del Fuego. A little after noon we doubled
Cape St. Diego, and entered the famous strait of Le Maire. We kept close to the Fuegian
shore, but the outline of the rugged, inhospitable Statenland was visible amidst the
clouds. In the afternoon we anchored in the Bay of Good Success. While entering we
were saluted in a manner becoming the inhabitants of this savage land. A group of
Fuegians partly concealed by the entangled forest, were perched on a wild point
overhanging the sea; and as we passed by, they sprang up and waving their tattered
cloaks sent forth a loud and sonorous shout. The savages followed the ship, and just
before dark we saw their fire, and again heard their wild cry. The harbour consists of a
fine piece of water half surrounded by low rounded mountains of clay- slate, which are
covered to the water's edge by one dense gloomy forest. A single glance at the landscape
was sufficient to show me how widely different it was from anything I had ever beheld.
At night it blew a gale of wind, and heavy squalls from the mountains swept past us. It
would have been a bad time out at sea, and we, as well as others, may call this Good
Success Bay.
In the morning the Captain sent a party to communicate with the Fuegians. When we
came within hail, one of the four natives who were present advanced to receive us, and
began to shout most vehemently, wishing to direct us where to land. When we were on
shore the party looked rather alarmed, but continued talking and making gestures with
great rapidity. It was without exception the most curious and interesting spectacle I ever
beheld: I could not have believed how wide was the difference between savage and
civilized man: it is greater than between a wild and domesticated animal, inasmuch as in
man there is a greater power of improvement. The chief spokesman was old, and
appeared to be the head of the family; the three others were powerful young men, about
six feet high. The women and children had been sent away. These Fuegians are a very
different race from the stunted, miserable wretches farther westward; and they seem
closely allied to the famous Patagonians of the Strait of Magellan. Their only garment
consists of a mantle made of guanaco skin, with the wool outside: this they wear just
thrown over their shoulders, leaving their persons as often exposed as covered. Their skin
is of a dirty coppery-red colour.
The old man had a fillet of white feathers tied round his head, which partly confined his
black, coarse, and entangled hair. His face was crossed by two broad transverse bars; one,