Remarkable account of a shipwreck on an uninhabited island
NEAR THE COAST OF
TERRA AUSTRALIS INCOGNITA,
IN THE YEAR 1569;
WHERE ALL THE CREW PARISHED
EXCEPT ONE MAN AND FOUR WOMEN;
BY WHICH ACCIDENT THIS ISLAND IN THE
COURSE OF NINTY EIGHT YEARS. WAS
PEOPLED TO THE AMOUNT OF
TWELVE THOUSAND SOULS.
CORNELIUS VAN SLOETTEN,
A Dutch Captain, in the year. 1667
Printed, and Sold, by J. Smith,
Certain English Merchants, encouraged by the great advantages arising from the Eastern commodities, in the year 1569, having obtained Queen Elizabeth's royal license, furnished out for the East Indies four ships of which Edward English was chosen factor ; who embarked on the 3d of April, O. S. with his wife and family, consisting of a son of twelve years old, a daughter fourteen, two maid servants, a female negro slave, and George Pine his book-keeper, on board one of the said ships, called the East India Merchant, of four hundred and fifty tons, being provided with all manner of necessaries and conveniences, in order to settle a factory there.
By the 14th of May, they were in sight of the Canaries ; and soon after arrived at the Cape de Verd Islands, where they took in some provisions for their voyage, and steering their course south and a point east, about the 1st of August came to the island, St. Helena ; and having taken in some fresh water, set forward for the Cape of Good Hope, where by God’s blessing they arrived safe, having hitherto met with no tempestuous or disagreeable sailing weather.
But it pleased God, when they were almost in sight of St. Laurance (said to be one of the largest islands in the world) they were overtaken by a great storm of wind, which separated them from the rest of the ships, and continued with such violence for many days, that, being driven out of their knowledge, they lost all hopes of safety.
The 1st of October, about break of day, the sea continued very stormy and tempestuous, they discovered land, which appeared high and rocky, and the nearer they approached to it, their fears increased, expecting the ship would suddenly be dashed to pieces. The captain, therefore, Mr. English, and some others, got into the long-boat in hopes, by that means, to save themselves; and presently after all the sailors cast themselves over-board, endeavouring to save themselves by swimming; but probably they all parished in the sea.
Mr. Pine, Mr. English's daughter, the two maid servants, and negro girl, were the only persons remaining on board the ship; and these five persons were miraculously preserved: for, after the ship had beat three or four times against the rocks, being now broken and quite foundered in the water, they had with great difficulty gotten themselves on the bowsprit, which being broken off, was driven by the waves into a small creek, wherein fell a little river, which being encompassed by the rocks, was shaltered from the winds, so that they had an opportunity, though almost quite spent, to land themselves.
Mr. Pine getting together some rotton wood, by the assistance of a tinder-box he had in his pocket, made a fire, by which they dried themselves; and then leaving the females, he went to see if he could find any of the ship's company that possibly might have escaped, but could find none. At length, it drawing towards evening, he, with what he could get from the wreck, returned to his fellow sufferers, who were very much troubled for want of him, he being now all their support in this lost condition.
They were afraid that the wild people of the country (if there were any) might find them out, but could distinguish neither foot-steps nor paths And the woods round about them being all full of briers and brambles, they apprehended too there might be wild beasts to annoy them, though they saw no marks of any. But above all, for want of food, they were afraid of being starved to death; but God had otherwise provided for them.
The wreck of the ship furnished them with many necessaries; for, getting together some broken pieces of boards and planks, sails and rigging, with the help of poles they made themselves tents; and having got wood for firing, and three or four sea gowns to cover them, making the negro their centry, they slept soundly all night, having been without sleep for several nights before.
The next day, after being well refreshed with sleep, the wind ceasing, and the weather being warm, they went down from the rocks on the sands at low-water, where they found a great part of the ship’s lading, either on shore or floating near it. Mr. Pine, with the help of his companions, dragged most of it on shore: and what was too heavy for them, they broke: and, unbinding the casks and chests, and taking out the goods, they secured all; so that they wanted neither cloaths, nor other necessaries for housekeeping. But the salt water had spoiled all the victuals except one cask of biscuit, which being lighter, and perhaps better secured than the rest was undamaged; this served them for bread a while; and a fowl, about the bigness of a swan, very heavy and fat, which by reason of its weight could not fly, served them for present subsistance. The poultry of the ship, by some means getting ashore, bred exceedingly, and were a great help to them. They found also in the flags, by a little river plenty of eggs of fowl, much like our ducks, which were very nourishing food, so that they wanted for nothing to keep them alive.
Mr. Pine being now less apprehensive of any thing to disturb him, looked out for a convenient place to build a hut to shelter him and his family from the weather: and, in about a week’s time, made a room large enough to hold them all, and their goods; and put up hamocks for his family to sleep in.
Having lived in this manner full four months, without seeing or hearing any thing to disturb them, they found the land they were in possession of, to be an island disjoined, and out of sight of any other land, uninhabited by any but themselves, and that there was no hurtful beast to annoy them. But, on the contrary, the country was very pleasant, being always clothed in green, and full of agreeable fruits, and variety of birds, ever warm, and never colder then in England in September; so that this place (had it the culture that skilful people might bestow on it) would prove a paradice.
The woods afforded them a sort of nuts as big as large apples; whose kernel being pleasant and dry, they made use of instead of bread, together with the fowl before mentioned, and a sort of water-fowl like ducks, and their eggs; and a beast about the size of a goat, and almost like such a creature, which brought forth two young ones at a time, and that twice a year, of which the lowlands and woods are very full; and being harmless and tame, they could easily take and kill them;fish also, especially shell-fish, were in great plenty; so that, in effect they wanted nothing of food for subsistance.
After being in possession of this country full six months, nature put them in mind of the great command of the Almighty to our first parents, as if they had been conducted thither by the hand of Providence, to people a new world; and in this respect they proved not unfruitful, for, in less than a twelvemonth from their first arrival in this island, the females proved all to be with child, and coming at different seasons, they were a great help to one another. The women had all their teemings annually, and the children proved strong and healthy. Their family increasing, they were now well satisfied with their condition, for there was nothing to hurt them. The warmth of the climate made it agreeable for them to go abroad sometimes, and they reposed themselves on mossy banks shaded by trees. Mr. Pine made several pleasant arbours for him and his women to sleep in during the heat of the day, and in these they passed their time together, the females not liking to be out of his company.
Mr Pine’s family was increased, after he had lived in this island sixteen years, to forty-seven children; for his first wife brought him thirteen; his second, seven, his master’s daughter who seemed to be his greatest favourite, fifteen; and the negro, twelve, which was all the produce of the first race of mortals in this island.
Thinking it expedient to provide for another generation, he gave his eldest son a mate; and took care to match the rest as fast as they grew up and were capable. And, least they should incommode one another, he, appointed his sons habitation at some distance from him; for growing in years, he did not like the annoyance of young company.
After having lived to the sixtieth year of his age, and the fortieth of his being in possession of this island, he summoned his whole people together, children, grand-children, and great-grand-children; amounting to five hundred and sixty-five of all sorts. He took the males of one family, and married them to the females of another, not permitting any to marry their sisters, as they did at first out of necessity.
Having taught some of his children to read, he laid them under an injunction to read the Bible once a month at their general meetings.
Three of his wives being dead, viz. the negro woman, and the other who had been maid servants to his master, she who was his master's daughter, survived them twelve years.
They were buried in a place he had set aside on purpose, fixing for his own interment the middle part, so that two of his wives might lie on each side, next to him.
Arriving to the eightieth year of his age, and sixtieth of coming to this island, he called his people together a second time, the number of which amounted then to one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine: and having informed them of the manners in Europe, and charged them to remember the Christian religion, after the manner of those who spoke the same language, and to admit of no other, if they should come and find them out; and praying to God, to continue the multiplication of them, and send them the true light of his Gospel, he dismissed them.
He called this island the Isle of Pines, and gave the people descended from him, the name of the English Pines, distinguishing the tribes of the particular desendants by his wives names, the Englishes, the Sparkses, the Trevors, and the Phillis, Phillippa being the name of the negro.
Being now very old and his sight decaying, he gave his habitation and furniture that was left, to his eldest son after his decease; made him king and governor of the rest; and delivered him the history of these transactions writen with his own hand, commanding him to keep it; and if any strangers should come hither by any accident, to let them see it, and take a copy of it also if they pleased, that the name of his people might not be lost from off the earth.
It happened in the year 1667, Corneilus Van Sloetten, captain of a Dutch ship, called the Amsterdam, was driven by foul weather to this island, where he found the prosterity of Mr. Pine, speaking good English, and amounting, as it was supposed, to ten or twelve thousand persons.
The narrative, from which this account is taken was given by Mr. Pine’s grandson to the Dutch captain. Printed in London, being licensed
June, 27th 1668.