Historical Records of New Zealand Vol. II.
Sequel to the Journal of Pottier de l'Horne. — Account of the Death of M. de Surville
Sequel to the Journal of Pottier de l'Horne.
Account of the Death of M. de Surville.
(Almost identical account to the one made by M. Labé in the vessel's journal.)
At noon a longboat came to us from Callao with a relieving troop of Spanish sailors, under the orders of the captain of one of the vessels in the bay, which captain reported to us the death of M. de Surville and of the two white sailors who were with him in the boat in which he had been to Chilca, but that the Indian steersman had saved himself, and had carried to land the bottle in which was the parcel which M. de Surville had prepared to have taken to the Viceroy in Lima; and here are the circumstances of the death of M. de Surville, which we heard from the steersman when he came back on board the vessel.
When M. de Surville was at a certain distance from the shore he acknowledged that it was impossible for the boat to go any further, and asked the Indian steersman if he thought himself capable of reaching land. The man was agreeable to try, and threw himself, perfectly naked, in the water, but the bottle got so much in his way that he tried to break the string by which it was hanging round his neck, and fortunately succeeded. While swimming to the shore the man had the ideapage 347
to look back to the boat; he saw she had capsized, and saw de Surville and the two white sailors swimming, and with great efforts trying to reach land; but the three of them were drowned, as they could not get rid of their clothes. At last the Indian had the good luck to land, exhausted with fatigue. When he had recovered, chance made him find the bottle and the hat of M. de Surville, which objects he carried to the local priest, who gave him some clothing, and had him taken to Lima, where he gave both objects to the Viceroy. This gentleman, after reading the document, appeared very much affected at the fatal accident of M. de Surville.
M. de Surville, before leaving the vessel, had given order to M. Labé to set sail if he was not back before the morrow, which orders were executed, as said previously, on the 9th.
One can hardly express the sadness that such a death, so unforeseen, brought on the whole of the crew. A thunderbolt would not have produced more effect. This accident was all the more sad because M. de Surville was on the point of carrying to a good end an enterprise for which he had gone through so many hardships. This fatal loss, which could not have been foreseen, took him away from us, and left us no means of carrying to a good end our operations, the success of which entirely depended on him.
M. Labé, 1st Lieutenant on board, replaced M. de Surville in command of the vessel. This duty was as difficult to fulfil as it was unforeseen, as M. de Surville had not communicated to any member of the staff either his intentions or his instructions. It will be necessary to use much discretion in all the proceedings we shall make in this country, for, in spite of the needy state which compelled us to come here, I think I can perceive that we appear rather suspicious to Messrs, the Spaniards.
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At last, towards 8.30 p.m., we let go our big and only anchor in 8 fathoms, muddy bottom, of an olive colour. We moored at once with a smaller anchor and a cable which was sent to us from the shore.
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Immediately at sunrise we saluted the Citadel of Callao with fifteen guns (they only returned us seven), after which we fixed all the yards backwards, put our flag half-mast, and fired mourning guns every five minutes for the funeral of M. de Surville. At 8 o'clock our chaplain sang a requiem mass, after which we saluted with fifteen guns.page 346page 347