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Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: Magellan Strait to Juan Fernandez Islands

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Follow Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World at: http://www.hazelhurst.net/Slocum.

Slocum breaks free of the Magellan Strait on 13Apr1896 after two months battling against storms and savages. He heads north-west and then more northerly in the direction of the Juan Fernandez Islands, the largest of which was home to castaway Alexander Selkirk for four years (1704-1708). It was Selkirk who inspired Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe and the island is also known as Robinson Crusoe Island.

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As the days pass, the winds and seas moderate, different birds fly around the Spray, and different fish are in the sea. The latter includes sharks which Slocum, after the reticence exhibited in the lonely Strait of Magellan, feels no compunction about killing. He writes:

On the tenth day from Cape Pillar a shark came along, the first of its kind on this part of the voyage to get into trouble. I harpooned him and took out his ugly jaws. I had not till then felt inclined to take the life of any animal, but when John Shark hove in sight my sympathy flew to the winds. It is a fact that in Magellan I let pass many ducks that would have made a good stew, for I had no mind in the lonesome strait to take the life of any living thing.

Slocum’s navigation is accurate and, combined with the Spray‘s legendary ability to hold a compass course and sail in a straight line, it is not surprising that Robinson Crusoe Island is sighted “right ahead” on 26Apr1896. Nevertheless, Slocum feels quite emotional about this achievement and bows his head to the deck as: “I could find no other way of expressing myself.” Perhaps he is looking forward to human contact again or maybe it’s simply the thrill of reaching another milestone in the voyage.

The Spray arrives off the island as night is approaching. Slocum spends the night in calm winds listening to the waves breaking on the shore and to the cries of the animals in the hills. At daylight a rowing boat comes out to meet him and the crew, after feasting on coffee and tallow-fried doughnuts, tow him into the harbour by the settlement.


This section of Joshua Slocum’s journey concludes Chapter X of Sailing Alone Around the World, and this post is a trailer for the adventure that I am retelling in Google Earth at:  http://www.hazelhurst.net/Slocum

My text of Slocum’s voyage is an unabridged reproduction of the original edition. It contains an error either of printing or of arithmetic. He writes of the approach to Juan Fernandez: “From Cape Pillar I steered for Juan Fernandez, and on the 26th of April, fifteen days out, made that historic island right ahead.”

Oops! 26 minus 13 is 13 days out from Port Angosto and Cape Pillar, not 15. Wikipedant? moi?!

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

You might also enjoy Cook’s first voyage round the world at: http://www.hazelhurst.net/Cook

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Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: Port Angosto to the Pacific Ocean

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Follow Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World at: http://www.hazelhurst.net/Slocum.

Laden with tallow and other salvaged cargo, and with her sails white in the snow, Slocum manages, just, to get the Spray into a snug nook in Port Angosto, still 60 miles short of Cape Pillar and the Pacific.

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Slocum now takes the time to refit the Spray. He reorganises the cargo and the cabin; he fixes the sails and rigging; and he adds a jigger mast to convert his sloop into a yawl – all work that is preparing her for the Pacific voyage ahead.

There is another, final, encounter with Fuegians. They sneak up on the Spray while Slocum is at work on the decks and shoot two arrows at him. The first whizzes past into the sea but the second embeds itself in the mast. Slocum raises his trusty Martini-Henry rifle and fires into the bushes. At the first shot, three Fuegians leap up and start running. He keeps firing to make sure they get the message and that’s the last he sees of ‘savages’, though he continues to lay carpet tacks on the deck at night.

After six failed attempts to get out of his anchorage, he sails from Port Angosto on 13Apr1896, but doesn’t escape without first drifting three times round an island, which he names Alan Erric Island after an acquaintance. In the strait, the wind is fair, a strong southeaster, and on the same day he breaks free of the Straits of Magellan, Cape Horn, and Tierra del Fuego, destination – Juan Fernandez, or Robinson Crusoe’s Island.


This section of Joshua Slocum’s journey is the opening section of Chapter X of Sailing Alone Around the World, and this post is a trailer for the adventure that I am retelling in Google Earth at:  http://www.hazelhurst.net/Slocum

Slocum added a jigger mast to the Spray while in Port Angosto, converting her to a yawl (“though I called the boat a sloop just the same”). In 3D modelling terms, this was my first opportunity to use the full, yawl-rigged model and the one that will be used for the rest of the voyage. You might have noticed that for a few days I had the rig changing at Rio de Janeiro but, realising that Slocum only added the semi-circular stanchion there, I created another model that included the stanchion and used that from Rio to Port Angosto.

Note that I couldn’t find Alan Erric Island on a chart so I chose a likely looking one in the harbour and one that it was feasible for me to animate the model around. If you know the exact location of Alan Erric Island I’d be happy to change the Spray‘s track to circumnavigate it, otherwise artistic licence prevails.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

You might also enjoy Cook’s first voyage round the world at: http://www.hazelhurst.net/Cook

Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: Port Tamar to Cape Turn

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Follow Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World at: http://www.hazelhurst.net/Slocum.

Slocum sails from Port Tamar on 03Mar1896. The wide Pacific is before him and the Spray takes her first “bath” in it after passing Cape Pillar. Although the wind is fair at first a storm is brewing. It’s too dark to turn back for the land so Slocum must run out to sea. By the morning of the following day the wind rises to a “terrific force” and all that Slocum can do is to run before it under bare poles and trailing two long ropes astern to steady the course.

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For four days Slocum rides out the storm, eventually managing to raise a reefed forestaysail and grab some hot food. He realises that there is little chance of working back north and west along the coast of Tierra del Fuego and is already planning a run to Port Stanley in the Falklands. Effectively, he is thinking of switching his plan back to the original one, which was to sail round the world in an easterly direction.

Then he sees a high mountain off the port beam through a gap in the clouds and turns up for it. He doesn’t say which island he thinks it is, only that he is mistaken in its identity. Night falls before he reaches the land and what follows is a frantic and exhausting night of dodging rocks and shallows using the sight and sound of the breakers to tell him where the danger lies.

By the morning, he can see that he is in the Milky Way of the sea and that it was Fury Island that he had seen the previous day. Darwin had written of this patch of sea:

Any landsman seeing the Milky Way would have nightmare for a week.

Slocum comments:

He might have added “or seaman” as well.

By sailing with great care, the Spray reaches calmer waters inside the galaxy of rocks, and Slocum realises that he is in Cockburn Channel which connects with the Strait of Magellan opposite Cape Froward – his position on 20Feb. However, despite this setback and the trouble he had with Fuegians in the strait, he is more than content:

I was exultant over the prospect of once more entering the Strait of Magellan and beating through again into the Pacific, for it was more than rough on the outside coast of Tierra del Fuego.

By nightfall on 08Mar1896, the Spray is at anchor in a snug cove at Cape Turn – where Cockburn Channel turns north towards Cape Froward. Slocum is exhausted and must sleep, but not before spreading Pedro Samblich’s carpet tacks about the deck, making sure that some of them are “business end” up. Sure enough, at about midnight, he is woken by the howl of barefoot savages as they find his early warning system.


This section of Joshua Slocum’s journey is the first part of Chapter VIII of Sailing Alone Around the World, an adventure that I am retelling in Google Earth at:  http://www.hazelhurst.net/Slocum

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

If you like this presentation, then you may also enjoy Cook’s first voyage round the world at: http://www.hazelhurst.net/Cook

Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: Three Island Cove to Port Tamar

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Follow Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World at: http://www.hazelhurst.net/Slocum.

From the safety of Three Island Cove, Slocum puts the Spray  once more into the strait. He reaches Borgia Bay in Paso Tortuoso, between Jerome Channel to the east and Cape Quod to the west. The only signs of people ever having visited this place are the boards nailed to trees bearing the names and dates of vessels that anchored in the bay. It all looks very bleak and uninviting to Slocum. Then a Chilean gunboat, the Huemel, appears and advises against anchoring, and they offer to tow the Spray as far as Notch Cove, about 8 miles further along the strait and beyond the worst threat of the Fuegians.

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Purists today would say that to receive a tow is no part of a single-handed voyage. I don’t agree; I say: “let them frown”.

In Notch Cove there is high merriment aboard the Huemel with much singing while all along they are buffeted by williwaws. The powerful gunboat tries to leave and even she is forced back to safe anchorage in the face of fierce winds and seas. Eventually, she does manage to get away and Slocum is left alone again. He spends the day wooding and watering in the best sailing ship fashion.

The next day the Spray is again battling against wind and current, coming to anchor on many occasions and plying back and forth in the strait. Eventually he reaches Port Tamar within sight of Cape Pillar at the western entrance to the Strait of Magellan.

The following quotes from Sailing Alone Around the World give some indication of Slocum’s state of mind:

Here I felt the throb of the great ocean that lay before me. I knew now that I had put a world behind me, and that I was opening out a new world ahead.

He feels a sense of excitement and achievement despite his huge experience of the sea. He has sailed in the Pacific many times, even as a master of a large trading ship, but this is different; to sail alone in a small boat is to feel alive in a completely different way.

In a bleak land is not the place to enjoy solitude.

I think that Slocum is still feeling the shadow of the intense loneliness he felt at the start of the voyage on leaving Sable Island and the American continent behind. Perhaps the company he enjoyed on the Huemel has provided a sharp contrast to his solitary journey and he feels it all the more strongly. Perhaps this also explains his reluctance to take life in any form:

There was a sort of swan that might have been brought down with the gun, but in the loneliness of life about the dreary country I found myself in no mood to make one life less, except in self defense.

The journey from Three Island Cove to Port Tamar completes the first passage of the Spray through the Strait of Magellan and also concludes Chapter VII of Sailing Alone Around the World.


Technologically, Chapter VII was a challenge. Between Buenos Aires and the Strait of Magellan the Spray was submerged by a huge wave. I simulated this by taking the model below sea-level, as described in an earlier post; but I also rolled the yacht from side to side using the <AnimatedRoll>  directive in TourMaker.  This is an instruction with the form:

        <Data name="AnimatedRoll">
            <value>iterations,angle,duration</value>
        </Data>

where:

   iterations is the number of the times to roll the model.
   angle is the angle through which the model should be rolled.
   duration is the number of seconds for each roll.

The next challenge was to synchronise the effect with the soundtrack. Where the text reads: “She shook in every timber” seemed the best time to include a rapid oscillation of the model. I used

        <Data name="AnimatedRoll">
            <value>5,5,0.2</value>
        </Data>

timing it to coincide with the audio.

The other effect I wanted to introduce was the yacht being knocked down by williwaws in St. Nicholas Bay. To do this I used the <HalfRoll> directive. A half roll takes the model through the given angle in the given number of seconds and returns it to the upright position using a different duration. I wanted to knock the yacht over rapidly and let it recover more slowly. I used:

        <Data name="HalfRoll">
            <value>25,0.5,1.4</value>
        </Data>

This directive takes 0.5 seconds to roll the model through +25 degrees and takes 1.4 seconds to return the model to the upright position. The form of the <HalfRoll> directive is:

        <Data name="HalfRoll">
            <value>angle,duration,recoveryduration</value>
        </Data>

In the simulation, I combined <AnimatedRoll> and <HalfRoll> in such a way that the Spray was rolling gently from side to side and was then hit by a squall, again synchronising the model animation with the soundtrack.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

If you like this presentation, then you may also enjoy Cook’s first voyage round the world at: http://www.hazelhurst.net/Cook

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