The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 3

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 102

the bright spot for which we
had been on the look-out made its appearance in the southwest, and in
an hour afterward we perceived the little headsail we carried flapping
listlessly against the mast. In two minutes more, in spite of every
preparation, we were hurled on our beam-ends, as if by magic, and a
perfect wilderness of foam made a clear breach over us as we lay. The
blow from the southwest, however, luckily proved to be nothing more than
a squall, and we had the good fortune to right the vessel without the
loss of a spar. A heavy cross sea gave us great trouble for a few hours
after this, but toward morning we found ourselves in nearly as good
condition as before the gale. Captain Guy considered that he had made an
escape little less than miraculous.

On the thirteenth of October we came in sight of Prince Edward’s Island,
in latitude 46 degrees 53’ S., longitude 37 degrees 46’ E. Two days
afterward we found ourselves near Possession Island, and presently
passed the islands of Crozet, in latitude 42 degrees 59’ S., longitude
48 degrees E. On the eighteenth we made Kerguelen’s or Desolation
Island, in the Southern Indian Ocean, and came to anchor in Christmas
Harbour, having four fathoms of water.

This island, or rather group of islands, bears southeast from the Cape
of Good Hope, and is distant therefrom nearly eight hundred leagues. It
was first discovered in 1772, by the Baron de Kergulen, or Kerguelen,
a Frenchman, who, thinking the land to form a portion of an extensive
southern continent carried home information to that effect, which
produced much excitement at the time. The government, taking the matter
up, sent the baron back in the following year for the purpose of
giving his new discovery a critical examination, when the mistake was
discovered. In 1777, Captain Cook fell in with the same group, and gave
to the principal one the name of Desolation Island, a title which
it certainly well deserves. Upon approaching the land, however, the
navigator might be induced to suppose otherwise, as the sides of most
of the hills, from September to March, are clothed with very brilliant
verdure. This deceitful appearance is caused by a small plant resembling
saxifrage, which is abundant, growing in large patches on a species
of crumbling moss. Besides this plant there is scarcely a sign of
vegetation on the island, if we except some coarse rank grass near the
harbor, some lichen, and a shrub which bears resemblance to a cabbage
shooting into seed, and which has a bitter and

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