American Exploring Expedition.
(From the New York Daily Express.)
Copy of a letter from Lieut. Charles Wilkes, commanding the exploring expedition, to the Secretary of the Navy, dated
U. S. Ship Vincennes,
Orange Harbour, Terra del Fuego. Feb. 22, 1839.
Sir,— I have the honour to advise you of my arrival with the squadron at this harbour, all in good health, on the 19th instant; this being the rendezvous I designated previous to carrying into effect your orders relative to exploring south in the antarctic circle, and the employment of
the scientific corps in those regions.
Since my departure from Rio de Janeiro on the 6th of January, I have had no opportunity of communicating with you.
We had a long, though pleasant passage, owing to light winds to Rio Nigro, on the coast of Patagonia, where your instructions carried me. Other duties have prevented my completing my report of the observations there; it shall be forwarded, however, to you the earliest opportunity, and will, I hope, be satisfactory to you.
We experienced some detention at Rio Nigro, owing to the exposed situation of the open roadstead, and regret to inform you that we lost four anchors and cables, one by the Peacock and three by the two tenders, all the vessels having been compelled to get under way and run off during a gale; the Peacock, Porpoise, and tenders, were compelled to slip their cables.
On our return the next day the Porpoise recovered hers, but the others could not be obtained, alter a diligent search, owing to their buoys having broken adrift; and, having completed all that your instructions required of me, I left Rio Nigro, on the 2nd of February for this anchorage. On my track here I passed through the straits of La Maire, around and within four miles of Cape Horn, with the squadron in company.
I found the Relief here engaged in preparing for us, agreeably to my instructions to her commander.
We have been also since our arrival constantly engaged in preparing the vessel for a cruize to the antarctic regions Although I am fully aware the attempt is hazardous and may probably be unsuccessful, yet advantages may accrue from it to our future operations in any attempt we may hereafter make, and I cannot forego the opportunity which the season yet affords of making the trial.
I take leave to enclose herewith the instructions I have given for this cruize, which will give you full information in regard to our intended movements.
I shall leave the Vincennes only in this harbour, safely moored, and proceed with the Porpoise and tender Sea Gull, to endeavour to gain a further knowledge of the extent of Palmer’s land to the southward and eastward, as there may be less ice in that vicinity at this late season than at any other time, the new ice not having yet formed, which I trust will enable me to gain information for any future attempt.
Previous to leaving Rio de Janiero I was apprehensive, as I informed you, that I should be very late in the season for this duty. I shall endeavour to improve our limited time to the best advantage, as will appear in the copies of my instructions herewith transmitted.
The Vincennes will await my return here as long as practicable, and in the event of my detention by ice, she will proceed to Valparaiso, there to join the other vessels that may not be detained, with instructions to Captain Hudson to carry out as far as possible previous to an attempt to aid me on the breaking up of the ice another season.
The Peacock, Porpoise, and tenders, have been filled up with provisions from the Relief, and are well supplied with warm clothing, preserved meats, and antiscorbutics, for any emergency, to make us comfortable in case of detention.
I take with me the pendulum and other instruments, to employ my time if we should be detained, which it will be my endeavour to avoid, for I am fully convinced of the delays and disadvantages such a detention would cause to the more important duties and operations of the expedition; yet I trust, in the event of such an accident, our time will not be mispent or lost.
I have the honour to be, sir, most respectfully,
Charles Wilkes, Commanding Exp. Ex.
Hon. James K. Paulding,
Secretary of the Navy, Washington.