Arrive at Buenos Ayres - Fresh Water
Tuesday 1st Feb.ry - arrived at Buenos Ayres at 10 A.M. For a week or two I was still confined to my Cabin, regretting accordingly that I could not go ashore. At the end of that time however, I managed to get on deck and survey the prospect around me. We were laying about 6 or 7 miles off the shore in front of the well known town of Buenos Ayres, which from our distance and the extensive lowness of its situation presented an appearance no ways remarkable. In the Outer Roads along with us were a few scattered vessels, merchantmen & men of war, while the greater number were anchored pretty close to the shore. From the little depth of the water the river was white and turbid, and apparently unfit for the purposes of life – a mistake which would soon be rectified by seeing a bucket of water brought over the sides, whenever any was required for drinking or for culinary purposes. The truth is that the water of the Rio de la Plata is esteemed very wholesome, and particularly so when you get it near Buenos Ayres, where it is said that in consequence of its being strongly impregnated with Sarsaparilla, great quantities of which grows at no great distance up the river, it is not only very wholesome for the healthy, but a certain restoration for those who are sick. “Credat quicumeque vult haid omnino incredulus audio.” I found some difficulty at first in swallowing the muddy waters but finding it perfectly well tasted I had less scruples. If you wish it pure you must allow the sediment to settle and afterwards strain - but the process is tedious and thirst is impatient. Except near the mouth, where the water is brackish, you can obtain alongside fresh water for hundreds of miles in the River Plate - and no process consequently is easier than taking in the largest supply of water. As far at least as Buenos Ayres you can easily come to anchor in any part of the River, and indeed some of the pilots depend wholly upon their soundings to avoid the dangers which beset it in the shape of banks - sands &.c while taking a vessel up or down. Anchorage in front of Buenos Ayres, or any other part of the river, is not at all times very safe, as of times a land wind called Pampero (for wind coming from the Pampas) from the SW sweeps with the fury of a hurricane over its surface, and commits incalculable mischief to the shipping. Fortunately its violence is of very short duration, whilst again you may experience several puffs in one day. During our stay of 5 weeks, we were always on the look out - but with one or two exceptions, we had tolerably moderate breezes. Sometimes however, I used to imagine it was blowing a gale above from the violent rocking motion of our Packet, but I found that this was owing to a very heavy ground swell.
Anecdote respecting River Plate
Before leaving the subject of the river Rio de la Plata, I may mention a story which I heard respecting it. Many, many years ago a vessel had suffered shipwreck, and all hands were lost except a few who escaped in the Jolly Boat. After having expended all their stock of fresh water, they experienced excruciating tortures from the calls of thirst - they had plenty of provisions, but the heavens denied them the fulfilment of the promised rain, with which the heavy clouds above seemed surcharged. Chance, or I should rather say Providence, directed their course to the River Plate - for four days they had been sailing in it ignorant that the object of all their hopes and most earnest prayers was within their reach, until one of them, while setting a sail, overcome by weakness fell overboard, and after rising above the surface communicated the joyful intelligence that they were in the midst of fresh water.
Difficulty in going ashore at Buenos Ayres
During our stay at Buenos Ayres our intercourse with the shore was often interrupted. If you left the ship in the morning - you could never depend upon the time of your return - perhaps on the same day, perhaps next day or probably not for several days after. The breeze - the swell - the tide, combined with the great distance were all causes which occasionally obstructed out visit to or departure from the shore. Suppose, however, that you had a beautiful day to go to the Town, you would set off, and after two or three hours rowing get ashore, while if the wind was fair an hour and an half would be sufficient. On approaching the City, you saw before you a naked beach and a heavy surf, so that no boat could land without the risk of being stoved in pieces. To remedy this defect numerous carts are in attendance, which are driven into the water as far as your boat - you cast anchor - embark on board these carts - and are carried ashore high and dry for a trifle.
Never having been ashore at Buenos Ayres, in consequence of an indisposition, I can say nothing from personal inspection of the appearance of the Town, but for the sake of completeness I shall extract a few paragraphs from a nautical publication.
“Buenos Ayres derives its name from its healthy climate. The City at a distance has a stately aspect.” This does not agree with my own opinion, which is that from its low situation it looks rather insignificant - and were it not for the spires, domes &.c of the Cathedral & the Churches it would seem (remember at a distance) like a large village.
“The houses in general are very low, having no more than a ground floor, with large court yards & mostly with a garden. The flat on which the City stands is only from 15 to 20 feet above the level of the water. The City is regularly built, has several handsome squares, with streets straight & broad, having raised footpaths on each side, but unpaved in the middle, and so soft that in rainy weather they are frequently impassable from ponds of mud. The population is estimated at 70,000.”
And such is a very brief account of the Town of Buenos Ayres - and should I ever afterwards visit it, I shall then give you my own opinion and impressions of it.