Symzonia; Voyage of Discovery, by Adam Seaborn (pseud. John Cleves Symmes?), , at sacred-texts.com
The Author discovers the south extremity of Seaborn's Land, which he names Cape Worldsend.—The compass becomes useless.—He states the manner in which he obviated the difficulty occasioned thereby.—He enters the internal world: describes the phenomena which occur.—Discovers Token Island.—Occurrences at that Island.
I proceeded along the coast to the S. S. E. November 21st, 1817, the sun's altitude corrected for refraction placed us in a more northern latitude than we had left, which my officers considered as evidence of our having passed the pole and made some progress northward, and they accordingly congratulated me on the occasion. I knew better, and was perfectly aware that if the poles were open, of which I had no doubt, we must necessarily change our apparent latitude by observation very fast; and on turning the edge of the opening have a vertical sun, an equal division of day and night, and all the phenomena of the equator.
To be prepared for this untried region, I calculated all the changes of the apparent
altitude of the sun in all degrees of declination, as they must necessarily occur, assuming the form of the earth to be at the openings as stated by Capt. Symmes in his sublime theory; and formed tables that I might be able at any time to ascertain the ship's place without difficulty or delay.
We had thus far found the land to trend S. S. E. and S. Soon after noon this day we reached a cape, from which the land turned short round to the W. N. W. and continued in that direction as far as could be seen from the mast head. This being apparently the most extreme southern land of the external world, I named it Worlds-end Cape. I felt no disposition to follow the coast to the N. W. although it might be found to turn again to the south. The most prudent course appeared to be to keep sight of the land, that we might certainly find our way back again to Mr. Boneto's station. But a round about way to the internal world was not in accordance with my impatient feelings; and yet the indulgence of my desire required that I should manage with great circumspection.
The compass was now of no manner of use; the card turned round and round on the slightest agitation of the box, and the needle pointed sometimes one way and sometimes another, changing its position every five minutes. I had frequently heard Slim muttering his apprehensions, and even Albicore said to me, 'I hope we shall not have any bad weather, or lose sight of the land.' My best seamen appeared confounded at the loss of the compass, and a degree of alarm pervaded the whole ship's company. I had foreseen the difficulty that might take place when I proposed to leave the land, and to avoid it had placed Slim on the larboard watch with Albicore, by which arrangement the charge of my watch (the starboard) when I was off deck, devolved on Will Mackerel, assisted by Jack Whiffle. This was mortifying to Slim, but he was aware that he deserved it.
I kept near Cape Worldsend, taking its bearings in a variety of positions, for the ostensible purpose of ascertaining its exact position, until four o'clock, when the larboard watch went below. I saw that both Albicore and Slim turned in to get some sleep, and immediately ordered Mackerel
to keep the vessel on a course corresponding to south, and to press with both steam and canvass to the utmost. The wind was about N. W., fresh and very steady, which served as a guide, the helmsman being directed to keep the wind four points on the quarter. We ran at the rate of 16 knots. I gave strict orders that Albicore and Slim should not be disturbed at the usual hour of calling the dog watch; and when they came on deck at 10 P. M. there was no land in sight. The sun to their astonishment was just setting in the bosom of the ocean: they stared at one another, and looked at me, but said nothing. They were perfectly bewildered; they knew not which way was north, south, east or west. Had they now undertaken to direct the course of the vessel, they would have been more likely to run from the land than towards it. Mackerel was delighted to see the sun set once more; it seemed like old times; and the weather had been for some days so hot that a little night was very desirable.
I told them all to be perfectly at ease, for that I knew what I was about; that I could calculate every point of the compass,
as well as if that instrument performed its office; that we would heave to for the night, the occurrence of which was no more than I had calculated on; and finally, to give them confidence in my skill, told them, that if we did not find the sun directly over head at noon, within two days, provided no land impeded our progress, I would give up the command to Albicore, and show him the way back to Seaborn's Land.
Albicore and Slim both earnestly entreated that I would instruct them how to calculate the points of the compass, if I possessed that important knowledge, so that they might be enabled to find their way back again in case any accident should befal me. I begged to be excused, choosing to keep the staff in my own hands.
The truth was, having three excellent chronometers, one set to the time at Washington, one to that of Greenwich, and the other to that of Rio de Janeiro, and also an excellent watch daily regulated, which gave me the ship's diurnal time accurately, I could easily calculate my longitude, and the point on which the sun ought to hear every hour in the 24. With these
calculations before me, I had but to look at my watch and the sun to determine my course. Thus in the longitude of Greenwich, when the chronometer set to Greenwich time stood at 12 o'clock noon, wherever the sun was, was north; and when that chronometer stood at midnight, wherever the sun was, was south—on the external southern hemisphere, south of the degree of the sun's declination.
The re-appearance of the stars, and the refreshing coolness of the night air delighted my people. At daylight we made sail, and set the paddles in motion. At noon we had the sun nearly overhead, and the declination being 20° 5´ S. Slim was positive that we were in latitude 28° S. and wondered why the compass would not traverse. The next day we had a vertical sun, as I had predicted, and the weather as warm as I had ever known it at sea, with a fine breeze. No one knew which way we were steering but myself; and Slim's opinion confidently expressed that we were near the equator, and must soon make the continent of Asia, Africa, America, or the Asiatic islands, served to quiet the apprehensions of the men for their own
safety, and at the same time to awaken their solicitude for the situation of Mr. Boneto's party, whom they said I had barbarously left to perish by the frosts of a polar winter, on Seaborn's Land.
The next day we observed the sun to the south of us, and nearly over head, and the compass began to traverse imperfectly. We had a regular recurrence of day and night, though the latter was very short, which I knew was occasioned by the rays of the sun being obstructed by the rim of the earth, when the external side of the part we were on turned towards the sun. The nights were not dark, when no clouds intervened to obstruct the rays of the sun, reflected from the opposite rim, and from a large luminous body northward, in the internal heavens, which reflected the sun as our moon does, and which I judged to be the second concentric sphere, according to Capt. Symmes. This gave us very pleasant nights, but not quite clear enough to render sailing through untried seas entirely safe.
We continued running due north, interned, three days, when the compass became pretty regular; but instead of the N. and
[paragraph continues] S. points corresponding to the N. and S. points on the external world, as Capt. Symmes supposed it would do, the needle turned fairly end for end; the south end pointing directly into the globe towards the north pole, with some variation from the true north. But of this matter, I shall say very little, for sundry important reasons, and especially because intend to publish my theory of longitude in due season, and give the courses and bearings, corrected to true north and south, as understood by the externals.
On the 28th of November, 1817, we discovered land, just at sunset, and immediately hove to, to keep a good offing until day-light. I walked the deck all night, and was very impatient for the morning of that day which was to disclose to me the wonders of the internal world, and probably to decide the question whether it was or was not inhabited by rational beings.
Happily, day soon appeared, and we ran in with the land, keeping a good look-out, and the leads constantly going. On nearing the coast, we found the shore to be low and sandy. The body of the land, however, was high, with one towering peak far
inland, Near the sea it appeared to be extremely barren, but some miles hack, scattered clumps of trees, and some appearances of verdure, afforded a more cheering prospect. We explored the coast of this island, for such it proved to be, for two days, before we found anchorage, or a safe landing place. A very heavy surf rolled on shore, and broke high on the shoals, which were frequent, and in some places three miles off the coast, so as to make it dangerous to approach. At length we found a safe road, sheltered by a sand bank above water, about two miles long, and lying parallel with the shore, half a league from it. There was a fair passage in, with 15 fathoms water, and good holding ground. Here we moored to the great joy of all on board, who, seeing firm land with living things of some kind moving about upon it, felt satisfied that they were still in the sublunary world, and complained of nothing but the excessive heat. It was near night when we came to anchor; all further research was therefore deferred until the next day.
On the 1st December, I landed for the first time on terra firma of the internal
world, but was greatly disappointed, I must confess, to find no indications of any other inhabitants than turtles, terrapins of a monstrous size, some few seals, penguins, and numerous sea fowl. The great number of turtles was satisfactory evidence to my mind, that there were no human beings on the island; and, after a short walk on the burning sand, I returned on board, quite dejected.
The day was passed in fishing, and in collecting turtles and terrapins, for sea stock. In the evening, Mr. Slim, who was wide awake to his interest, suggested to me that we might obtain a good quantity of tortoise shell from this island, as the turtles brought on board were of the hawksbill kind, the shell of which sells for a high price. I gave him permission to land the following day, with ten men, and see what he could do in that way.
The next morning I was quite sick, in consequence of the heat, and of my disappointment in not finding an inhabited country, after encountering so many hazards, and exerting so much enterprise and perseverance. Being thus compelled to remain on board, I permitted Albicore to land
with four men, to ramble along shore, and see if he could make any discoveries. In the evening Slim reported that he had not been able to effect much, owing to the excessive heat, which compelled him, with his party, to take refuge under an awning, formed with the boats’ sails, for full half the day. Albicore stated that he had been eight or ten miles along the shore, but had seen nothing strange.
The following morning, when I had given orders to prepare for getting under weigh, having determined to remain no longer in a place where there was great danger of the yellow fever making its appearance amongst my people, without intercourse with vessels from the West Indies, Albicore mentioned incidentally as we sat at breakfast, and as a matter of no sort of moment, that he had seen, during his walk on the beach, about five miles from where we lay, something which looked like part of a wreck of some outlandish vessel. The worthy man, who considered nothing that did not pertain to the strict line of his duty as deserving a thought, was astonished to see me spring up from my seat at table, order the boats manned, and make ready for an immediate
expedition. It never occurred to his mind that if there were ships in those seas, there must also be men to build and sail them. To me the information he had given was both food and medicine: it revived my hopes, and fired my curiosity. I felt no desire to complete my repast. I was restored to health and good spirits, and was soon marching over the sand, with Albicore for my guide.
After two hours we reached the place which Mr. Albicore had spoken of, where I found part of the frame of a vessel of some sort, of about one hundred tons burthen, the form of which satisfied me that it was no drift from the external world. The stern raked inwards, instead of out, as we construct them, giving the forward part of the vessel the form of a double ploughshare; while the broad bulging sides were admirably adapted to make the vessel sit firm on the water, and prevent her oversetting. But the most singular part was a piece of planking, which remained attached to the frame, and which was actually sewed on with a white elastic wire, resembling in appearance platina, more than any metal known to us. I extracted
some small pieces of this singular metal, and with it fired the imagination of my people, by representing to them the enormous wealth we should acquire, could we obtain a cargo of it to carry to our country, where it would be more valuable than silver; and that the use to which it was applied was sufficient evidence of its being abundant where this vessel was built.
I named this island, which was in 81° 20´ internal south latitude, Token Island, considering its discovery as a token or premonition of some great things to come.