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From Cape Horn to Panama
A Narrative of Missionary Enterprise among the Neglected Races
of South America, by the South American Missionary Society

By Robert Young

[London] South American Missionary Society, 1905.

Chapter III. A Chapter of Disasters

"In perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the sea, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness."--2 COR. xi. 26, 27.

THE last chapter left the mission party at Picton Island, prepared to lay the foundation of a station, and full of hope, as to the result of the movement. Alas! trials and disasters followed quick on the heels of each other from the very commencement.

The day following their arrival several of their number were despatched in quest of wildfowl, one blackbird being all they were able to secure. They found themselves in consequence in a sorry plight. Intending to be away from the ship on this occasion not more than one night, they had brought with them only a small supply of two 2-lb. canisters of preserved meat, which, when opened for breakfast, proved to be so bad that even hunger itself could not induce any of them to partake of it. So having struck the tent they proceeded in the boat to examine the opposite cove, which Gardiner found to be also suitable for the object in view, and which he named Banner Cove (Psalm Ix. 4). After taking soundings, they bore up on their return to the Clymene, the wind with hail and sleet blowing in strong gusts right down upon them. In the attempt to reach the ship they were exposed all day to heavy squalls, the boat leaking considerably and the water often going right over her gunwales. It was after one o'clock on Sunday morning ere they were able to land on a sandy beach in a tolerably sheltered spot at the north end of Lennox Island. Cold and wet, as well they might be after fifteen hours' exposure in tempestuous weather, they with difficulty kindled a fire and lay down on the beach between some folds of canvas. Their lot was certainly not an enviable one. Yet had they much inward peace, resulting from a firm conviction that the path they were now treading was according to the will of God.

On awaking in the morning, they found that the boat had been washed broadside on, and was lying in the surf. Fearing to await a possible change of wind or tide, and finding it impossible to make their way along the beach, they struck inland by compass, traversing hill and dale, forest and bog, at one time forcing their path through tangled underwood, and at another sinking knee-deep in boggy holes. At length, to their great relief and joy, the Clymene came in sight, and after eight hours of most toilsome travelling a projecting point nearly abreast of the ship was reached in the afternoon. Again a lire was kindled, but all efforts to attract the attention of those on board proved unavailing until night had set in, and they were preparing for another night's bivouac under the canopy of heaven. The fire being more readily seen in the darkness, a boat was dispatched from the Clymene to ascertain whether it had been kindled by Gardiner and his party, or by natives. By nine o'clock they were all again safely on board, and had their wants supplied. Their own boat was recovered on the following day.

On March 29, 1848, the Clymene moved from Lennox Roads and anchored off Banner Cove. The following morning a landing in whale boats was effected, and a spot for a station selected near to a small rivulet and well sheltered by trees. The rest of the day was occupied in landing materials for a storehouse and in the erection of a tent. While so engaged some natives made their appearance, and behaved in such an unceremonious, rude way, that it was absolutely necessary to keep a sharp look-out. Their thieving propensities were so apparent that a watch in regular turn had to be appointed during the night. This was more than the natives had calculated upon. They did their best by gestures to make those on guard understand that it would be more conducive to their comfort if they would retire to rest!

The position and prospects of the missionary party were so precarious that Gardiner was reluctantly forced to contemplate the abandonment of a spot that seemed from its situation and surroundings admirably suited for a station. He reasoned thus: The few natives now with us, even should no more arrive, will oblige us to be constantly on the watch to prevent them from pilfering, but their families cannot be far off, and as they have canoes, it will be easy for them to induce others to join them; and thus reinforced, the plunder of the station would be inevitable--and more to the same effect. And then he went on to say:--

Had we but possessed another decked boat large enough to contain the provisions and stores, with a few more men to take charge of her, the case would have been materially altered. There would then have been no necessity for landing anything--our mission-house and store would both have been afloat; we could have had free access to the natives during the day, and in the course of time, as soon as a little of their language had been acquired, and they were become accustomed to our presence, there is little doubt that we should be able to recommence the erection of buildings on shore, and occupy them in security. The attempt to locate among these barbarous people must be conducted gradually and cautiously, and there seems to be no other method, humanly speaking, by which a Mission can be established in Tierra del Fuego, than by the means now recommended, and which experience has proved to be absolutely necessary--viz., two large decked boats, one to be fitted up as a mission-house, the other to contain the stores, with a small one merely for landing. . . . Thus frustrated in the hope of forming our station on the shore, and being unable to carry into effect the above-mentioned plan, the following forenoon was occupied in dismantling the store, and re-embarking all that had been previously landed.

It must of course be borne in mind that the want of another decked boat was not occasioned by any deficiency in the original arrangements, but was entirely due to the failure to obtain a landing, as they had expected, on Staten Island.

On April 1, the Clymene. got under way, the vessel being bound for Payta, on the coast of Peru. As she proceeded on her way, Gardiner, through his glass, cast many a backward look towards Banner Cove, expressing the hope that he had not taken farewell of those interesting shores, and being fully convinced that the door there was completely open for missionary labour, and that there was no insuperable impediment in the way of commencing a mission, provided it was for a time maintained afloat. Arrived at Payta, the four seamen, who had been virtually discharged on leaving Picton Island, were paid their wages and expenses until an opportunity occurred of shipping them in a homeward-bound vessel. Gardiner himself returned via Panama and the West Indies, landing at Southampton on August 4.

The breakdown in the expedition was another disappointment to the Society; and unfortunately it did not come alone. A change of Government in Bolivia in 1847 resulted in the priestly party being placed in power, and in a large increase of the difficulties attending the prosecution of missionary work. To these were added the state of the Society's finances, which precluded the carrying on of both missions. In consequence, Messrs. Gonzalez and Robles were reluctantly withdrawn from Bolivia.

In this state of matters Captain Gardiner made an earnest effort to induce the Moravian Church to undertake the charge of the Patagonian Mission, and even made a journey into Saxony to confer with the Mission board at Berthelsdorf in reference to the project. After lengthened and earnest consideration, the result was unfavourable, the final and decisive reply being dated February 5, 1850. He was equally unsuccessful in his endeavours to get any of the Presbyterian Churches in Scotland to take up the cause, all of them feeling precluded on account of pecuniary difficulties from even entertaining the question.

About this time Captain Gardiner addressed a meeting at Bristol, some pains having been taken beforehand to secure a good attendance. Only about twenty were present. So hopeless did the enterprise then seem that a lady with whom he took tea afterwards said to him, "I am afraid, Captain Gardiner, you will have to give it up." His answer was: "Only with my life."

So bent was Gardiner on accomplishing the object on which his heart was set that he again proceeded on a tour through the country, with the view of re-awakening interest, securing the necessary funds, and making inquiries after suitable men for the Tierra del Fuego Mission. In these efforts he met with the desired success. In particular, through the representations of Professor Maurice, of Oxford, a Miss Cook, of Cheltenham, subscribed £1,000; while from among those who had offered their services, Messrs. Richard Williams, a surgeon, and John Maidment, a Sunday-school teacher, were selected as catechists; Messrs. John Bryant, John Pearce, John Badcock, fishermen of Mousehole, in Cornwall, were chosen as boatmen; and Mr. Joseph Erwin, of Bristol, was re-engaged as boat carpenter. The last-named used to say that "being with Gardiner was like a heaven upon earth; he was such a man of prayer." With the committee's full consent. Gardiner proceeded to Liverpool and gave directions for the building of two launches, 26 feet long by Si feet beam, and two boats 8 feet long as tenders. All other articles necessary for their equipment, and provisions to last the party for six months, were ordered.

Two meetings were held at Bristol, on September 2, 1850, to give the friends of the Mission an opportunity of bidding the party farewell, and of commending them to the protection and blessing of God. At one of them a most appropriate address full of wise counsels was delivered by the Rev. Dr. Williams, rector of Woodchester. At noon on the 7th, the Mission party sailed from Liverpool in the Ocean Queen. The voyage was a somewhat tedious one, extending over three months. Gardiner wrote:--

On that morning (December 5) we landed on Round Island at the entrance of this cove--took possession of it by reading the 72nd Psalm and prayer.

And again on the 18th, from the Mission Wigwam, Banner Cove:

Last night we came in here with the boats, and have taken up quarters. We sleep on board, and use this wigwam during the day. The Ocean Queen is about to leave, and probably will sail to-morrow morning. . . . As both Mr. Williams and Mr. Maidment have written, I will only add my satisfaction in being associated with two such devoted servants of the Lord. . . . Nothing can exceed the cheerful endurance and unanimity of the whole party. I feel that the Lord is with us, and cannot doubt that he will own and bless the work which He has permitted us to begin. . . . When we look upon these poor degraded Indians, and consider that they are, like ourselves, destined to live for ever, we yearn over them, and feel willing to spend and to be spent in the endeavour to bring to their cars, in their own tongue, the great truths of the Gospel of Salvation. My last word to you, dear friend, is, pray for us. ...

Along with the foregoing, Gardiner sent seven double stanzas of verse, the first of which ran thus '.--

At length on bleak Fuégia's strand,
A feeble, but confiding band,
In all our impotence we stand.
Wild scenes and wilder men are here,
A moral desert dark and drear,
But faith descries the harvest near,
Nor heeds the toil--nor dreads the foe,
Content, where duty calls, to go.

Previous to the Ocean Queen taking her departure, which she did on December 18, Captain Gardiner and the other missionaries received a letter signed by the master, passengers, officers, and crew of the barque, conveying their warmest thanks for the uniform kindness and attention shown them, accompanied by substantial gifts to Dr. Williams and Mr. Maidment, and expressing also their heartiest good wishes for the success of the arduous undertaking.

By request of the committee, the secretary, early in January, 1851, commenced his inquiries in London, and at various other ports in this country, and in North and South America, for a vessel to convey the second six months' stores. The general answer was, "No vessel will risk her insurance by attempting to land so small a freight as your stores." These inquiries were followed by a letter to an influential Lord of the Admiralty, in the hope of getting the stores conveyed by one of Her Majesty's ships. The reply, couched in kindly terms, was to the effect that there was no Government ship going in that direction; but that, if thought needful, a steamer might be sent from the Pacific to search for Gardiner.

As the fate of the Mission hinged on the dispatch of the second supply of stores, it may be well to furnish with some fulness of detail Mr. Despard's account of what actually took place. He wrote:--

As between the letter referred to and its answer, a vessel, the Pearl, had been advertised to sail for the Falkland Islands, April 21, or a day or two after, and the agent had conveyed to the committee information from what appeared competent sources that a boat was dispatched by Government from the Falklands every month or six weeks to Tierra del Fuégo, for wood, the committee thought it advisable to take this course at once (here it must be remembered that Captain Gardiner had told the secretary before he left England that the best way to reach him and his party was viâ Monte Video and the Falklands): and to reserve the offered interference of the Admiralty to a known case of distress.

It had not yet been ascertained that Captain Gardiner had ever reached Picton Island, and if he had, it was not unlikely that, in two such serviceable vessels as he had, he should have left it again.

The thought that the Mission could be in distress for food, even if the supply were delayed a month or two beyond the six months provided for, did not suggest itself; because the committee relied upon Captain Gardiner's frequent assurances that plenty of fish and fowl could be taken at Picton Island, and his persuasion that Mr. Lafone would be willing to send him beef from East Falkland, in exchange for timber. Still they considered it proper to expedite the supplies, and they were got together according to an estimate left by Captain Gardiner (but in excess) in March, and when Gardiner's letters had arrived, and brought requests for many other articles, these were added, and the whole forwarded to London in due time for the sailing day named. Unhappily that day was postponed again and again, till it fell out at last on June 6.

After referring to other measures adopted in order to ensure, if possible, the immediate transfer of the stores to the reported Government boat from the Pearl, the narrative proceeds:--

Every month tidings from them were hoped for, but none came; so in Oetober it seemed necessary to make a fresh effort to reach the Mission station, and ascertain their condition. The secretary therefore applied once more to the friendly member of Government at the Admiralty, and simultaneously to Sir W. E. Parry, at Haslar. From the latter a note came by return of post, saying that H.M.S. Dido had just sailed for the Pacific, from Chatham, but that she would halt for a short time at Devonport; if expedition were used in writing to the Admiralty, an order might be obtained favourable to our wishes. The due expedition was employed, and the secretary's letter was forwarded to Captain Morshead, commanding the Dido, with orders in form, to touch, if possible, at Picton Island, and inquire after the missionaries. The ship sailed on the last day of October, and on the first January, 1852, she arrived off the Falklands. . . .

A letter was addressed to Captain B. J. Sulivan, R.N., at that time residing in East Falkland, asking his co-operation, but this unhappily did not reach the islands till he quitted them. In this connection the following letter from Admiral Sulivan, which gives an account of the lost letter referred to, will interest the reader:--

March 13, 1865.--You will be surprised when I tell you that a letter from Mrs. Gardiner, written in 1851 to me at the Falklands, and asking me to send provisions to Captain Gardiner, reached me last week. It was in a parcel with other letters that reached the Falklands, just after I left to return home in June, 1851. They were sent back to me in England, and have lain in an office for thirteen years. I have often expressed astonishment that no one wrote to me about it. The letters were delayed more than a month by the ship not sailing as intended, or they would have reached me before 1 left; and they would have been rescued, and consequently the Mission would have ended. Is it not another proof that their deaths were the appointed means for carrying on the Mission?

The first sad tidings were received in the last-named month by letter from Samuel Lafone, Esq., Monte Video, detailing the efforts he had made to obtain the desired information, and enclosing extracts from the journal of Captain W. H. Smyley, of the schooner John Davison. A few particulars therefrom will acquaint the reader of the course of events from his leaving Monte Video, on September 26:--

October 17.--Blowing a heavy gale from W. by S, run for New Year's harbour, Staten Island. See a flag-staff on the island, abreast of the harbour. Supposed it to be either the missionaries, or some castaway crew; but the gale was too heavy to stop.

October 19.--Got ready to go out to the island to see who was there. Before we got out, we saw a boat coming from the island, which proved to belong to the crew of the Danish barque Aladin, who were cast away thirty-one days ago, having saved nothing and being in a state of starvation. We relieved them, and gave them our whale boat until we could return, etc.

October 21.--Came to in Banner Cove, Picton Island. Saw painted on the rocks at the entrance of the Cove--"Gone to Spaniard Harbour."--Went on shore, and found a letter written by Captain Gardiner, saying, "The Indians being so hostile here, we have gone to Spaniard Harbour."

October 22--Run to Spaniard Harbour. Blowing a severe gale. Went on shore and found the boat on the beach, with one person dead inside. Supposed to be Pearce, as we cut the name off his frock; another we found on the beach completely washed to pieces; another buried, which is John Badcock. These we have every reason to believe are Pearce, Williams and Badcock. The sight was awful in the extreme. . . .

By their journal I find they were out of provisions on June 22. and almost consumed by the scurvy, that is Williams and Badcock: and on June 28 poor Badcock died a miserable death from starvation and scurvy: but a thorough Christian, July 2 I find Mr. Williams delirious. He never wrote after June 22. , , . The gale came on so hard, it gave us barely time to bury the corpse (Pearce) on the beach and get on board. The hail and snowstorms were tremendous, Joseph F.rwin died August 23.

Sunday, 29th.--I found no journal of Captain Gardiner or of Maidment. What to think of them I scarcely know. It is a mystery vet to be unravelled. The two Captains who went with me in the boat cried like children at the sight. . . .

I have never found in my life such Christian fortitude, such patience and bearing, as in these poor unfortunate men. They have never murmured even. They seemed resigned. And Mr. Williams says, even in his worst distress, he would not change his situation for, or with, any man in life. He is happy beyond expression.

They speak in their journals of going to the Falklands, but they found their boats not lit, and in fact they waited until all their provisions were gone, and they were taken with the scurvy so bad, that it was impossible for them to go. They had no rest. They wore driven from place to place by the Indians, always in dread and fear. Add to these, the stormy, dreary, long nights, with almost perpetual ice and snow. . . .

So much for Captain Smyley. Four parties had been engaged in the search, namely, Captain Smyley in the American schooner, the Ocean Queen on her return from California, the vessel from the Falklands, and the Dido. The painful suspense in which the friends at home were kept as to the fate of the others was not relieved until April 25, 1852, when letters from the Rev. Wm. Armstrong, Valparaiso, and Captain Morshead, of the Dido, confirmed their worst fears. Mr. Armstrong in his letter pays a well-deserved compliment to Captain Morshead for his indefatigable efforts, in the face of the greatest difficulties. He wrote:--

There is ample proof that each of the seven individuals who had put their hands so courageously to the work has finished his earthly course, and, we may believe, attained the crown of martyrdom, though their end was not a violent one, nor brought about by the hand of man. . . .

Captain Gardiner's remains were found by the side of his boat, from which it is most likely he had got out, and was unable to get in again. He had put on three suits of clothes, and his arms were thrust into woollen stockings, over the other clothing. Underneath them, at the opening below the waistcoat, the birds had evidently been at work, and lessened the effects of corruption. Mr. Maidment's body was found in the cave. . . . Zeal, sound judgment, and good practical experience combined, may ere long accomplish something for these benighted Fuégians, who will yet I hope learn to look on Captain Gardiner as their best and greatest earthly friend. . . . Our dear friend's Bible has been saved, containing numberless passages throughout interlined, and many of them, it would seem, marked during the time of his sufferings as particularly suited to his circumstances. . . .

Rear-Admiral Fairfax Moresby, Commander-in-Chief, transmitted to the Admiralty Captain Morshead's report, along with an expression of deep regret for the fate of the devoted missionaries. The report contains many interesting particulars, some of which have already been furnished, and states:--

From the papers found, Mr. Maidment was dead on September 4, and Captain Gardiner could not possibly have survived September 6, 1851. On one of the papers was written legibly, but without a date, "If you will walk along the beach for a mile and a half, you will find us in the other boat hauled up in the mouth of a river at the head of the harbour, on the south side. Delay not; we are starving. . . ."

Near the boat where Captain Gardiner was lying was a large cavern, called by him "Pioneer Cavern," where they kept their stores, and occasionally slept, and in that cavern Mr. Maidment's body was found.

Among Captain Gardiner's papers, I extract the following:--"Mr. Maidment was so exhausted yesterday that he did not rise from his bed till noon, and I have not seen him since." Again on September 4, alluding to Mr. Maidment, he writes--"ft was a. merciful providence he left the boat, as I could not have removed the body." . . . We were directed to the cavern by a hand painted on the rocks, with Psalm lxii. 5-8 under it.

Their remains were collected together and buried close to this spot, and the funeral service was read by Lieutenant Underwood; a small inscription was placed on the rock, near his own tent; the colours of the boats and ships struck half mast, and three volleys of musketry were the only tribute of respect I could pay to this lofty-minded man and his devoted companions, who have perished in the cause of the Gospel for the want of timely supplies.

Among the papers found by Captain Morsliead was the following-letter written in pencil to Mr. Williams, a few hours probably before the writer's lamented death, and forgetful apparently that Williams was gone. [This distinguished naval officer died at Plymouth in February, 1885.] It was very indistinct and in some parts obliterated.

My dear Mr. Williams,--The Lord has seen fit to call home another of our little company. Our dear departed brother left the boat on Tuesday afternoon, and has not since returned. Doubtless lie is in the presence of his Redeemer, whom he served faithfully. Yet a little while, and though. . . . the Almighty to sing the praises . . . throne. I neither hunger nor thirst, though five days without food . . . Maidment's kindness to me . . . heaven

Your affectionate brother in ...

September 6, 1851.

Such is a plain, unvarnished narrative of one of the most tragic episodes in the entire history of Christian Missions. Gardiner's intense interest and burning zeal in behalf of a race so sunken and savage as the Fuégians will ever stand out as a conspicuous example of single-minded devotion, from which students of all Churches contemplating the foreign field may draw inspiration. Let the reader remember that he might have continued to live in every comfort in his own country. Instead of doing so, he chose to settle, for a time at least, in one of the bleakest and most tempestuous regions of the world--often sleeping in the open air or in caverns, wet, and cold, and hungry--and compelled, after the provisions were entirely exhausted, to live for months on wild celery, mussel broth, limpets, boiled weed from the rocks, mice, etc.!

Thus ended, at the age of fifty-seven, a life of which upwards of thirty years were spent in heroic service for Christ. The close of it was in one aspect sad enough; in another, with its unmurmuring cheerfulness and humble trust in God, it forcibly recalls Balaam's words, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!" In Paul Church, near Penzance, is a Tablet to the memory of the three Cornish fishermen, from the neighbouring village of Mousehole, who perished with Capt. Allen Gardiner.

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