Discovers Albicore’s Islands

We continued on the coast of Seaborn’s Land until February 18th,
when, having taken on board one hundred thousand seal skins, which
were as many as we could stow without taking down our machinery, and
that I did not think it prudent to do on that side of the icy hoop,
we took our departure from Boneto’s station, leaving all the animals
that remained alive on one of the largest islands, to stock it for
the benefit of future adventurers. We steered due north, and soon
lost sight of the coast.

On the second day we fell in with extensive fields of ice, which
compelled us to haul up, first N. W., then W. N. W., and at one time
due west. This was somewhat alarming; but ultimately we realized the
correctness of my supposition, that the range of land must keep an
open passage to leeward of it; and on the 1st of March, 1819, I had
the satisfaction to observe in latitude 69° 15′ south, with a clear
open sea.

I now hauled up due east, to run down my longitude with the greater
despatch in this high latitude, where the degrees of longitude
are small. This was fortunate: for by running on this parallel we
discovered on the third day a group of small islands, forming a fine
harbour, and well stocked with seal. Here we anchored. The islands
were high broken rocks of granite and whinstone, apparently dislocated
from their primitive bed, and thrown up by some volcanic eruption, or
by the efforts of elastic gases generated in the ‘mid-plane cavity,’
to escape through this outer crust of the earth.

Some scanty tussoc, and a few mountain plants and mosses in the most
favoured spots, formed the only evidence of vegetation observable in
these dreary islands. I named them Albicore’s Islands, they having
been first discovered by that vigilant officer; and determined to
avail myself of the discovery to extend the profits of my voyage, by
adding as many seal skins to my cargo as could be stowed in the space
occupied by the steam engine and boiler, which I took to pieces, and
placed in the bottom of the ship for ballast and dunnage. By caulking
in the paddle ports I also gained the place between the double sides,
and rendered the ship to outward observation like an ordinary vessel,
ketch rigged.

We remained at Albicore’s Islands six weeks, in which time we obtained
seventeen thousand skins. Having taken these on board, and performed
the important ceremony of taking possession of the islands for the
United States, by hoisting the stripes and stars upon them in the
usual manner, I was ready to depart for Canton.

Being now about to visit a place where I should meet many of my
countrymen and persons full of curiosity from every part of the world,
who would be very inquisitive as to the discoveries I had made, I was
led to reflect maturely on the consequences which might result from
a disclosure of them; and the advantages which might be derived to
myself, my friends, and my officers and people, by withholding all
knowledge of them from the world.




At length, having made up my own mind on the subject, I called my
officers and people together, and stated to them that if we should on
our return to the United States, or at Canton, declare the discoveries
we had made, we should in the first place expose ourselves to the
charge of being impostors and outrageous falsifiers; in the second
place, our countrymen, and even the Europeans, who would give us
no credit for our bravery and enterprise, would avail themselves of
all the information we might communicate, to fit out expeditions to
Seaborn’s Land, and possibly to Belzubia, and thus reap the harvest
of our planting; but, worse than all, after thus appropriating to
themselves the benefits of our skill and perseverance, they would
assert that they had made all those discoveries, call all those places
by new names, and affirm that we had never been there at all.

On the other hand, by concealing the knowledge of these discoveries
in our own breasts, we could derive extensive benefits therefrom
during the remainder of our lives. To effect this, they had only to
bind themselves to me by oath, to keep this matter a profound secret,
and when they had been a sufficient time on shore, or had spent most
of their money, I would fit out the Explorer, or another and better
vessel, under the command of Mr. Boneto or Mr. Albicore, in which all
should share according to their present standing on my books, and for
which I should have money enough out of my profits from the present
voyage. This would give us all a certain resource for the good things
of this life; whereas if we made our adventures public, the business
would be overdone in a year or two, and we should then have to look
to the moon or some of the planets for room for further discoveries.

All assented to my proposal except Mr. Slim, who objected that
an extra-judicial oath would not be binding, that it would be
a dereliction of duty on my part to withhold from mankind the
knowledge of the most valuable part of the world, and finally,
that he was principled against taking oaths. Slim was not open to
persuasion. There was no moving him. He had gloated his imagination
with the figure he should cut when, in consequence of having been
an officer with me on this voyage, he should get command of a ship
for a voyage to the sea of wealth, have the merchants crowding round
him to obtain the benefit of the valuable information he possessed,
and hear the delightful sound of ‘Captain Slim.’

All my other officers and men took the prescribed obligation, whereby
they bound themselves not to disclose by word, deed, writing,
or sign, any of the discoveries or occurrences of this voyage,
after our departure from off South Georgia, without my consent and
approbation first obtained in writing. Slim’s conduct was thought
by all to be very unreasonable, and many of the men would willingly
have thrown him overboard: but, with some difficulty, I pacified them,
and persuaded them that Slim would think better of the matter before
we reached Canton, if not, I would, while there, confine him to his
state-room, and prevent his doing mischief, in the hope that he would
become more rational on the homeward passage. This important matter
settled, we bore up for Canton.