Myths and Realities
This book makes a significant contribution to the study of the historical circumstances around the exploration and colonisation of Patagonia, as well as the subsequent cultural, political and economic outcomes.
Peter Hulme - Abject in Patagonia: Stories from the Wager 27
Peter Hulme Abject in Patagonia: Stories from the Wager1 In 1739, after the War of Jenkin’s Ear was declared with Spain, the British First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Charles Wager, conceived an ambitious plan to sail a fleet of ships into the Pacific “to annoy and distress the Spaniards”, as the instructions put it, and to raid Spanish ports on the western coast of South America. The resulting expedition, led by Commodore Anson, succeeded in capturing the Acapulco treasure galleon, which made him a very rich man indeed, but by all other possible criteria the voyage was a complete disaster.2 In September 1740, 1,900 men sailed from Spithead; only 500 survived, and most of those were in two men-of-war that turned back before even reaching Cape Horn. The greatest hardships were endured by the men of the ship named after the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Wager, which was wrecked off the western Patagonian coast in May 1741, on what one of the survivors called a “tempestuous and inhospitable shore” (iii). At least since the wreck of the Sea-Venture in the Bermudas at the beginning of the seventeenth century, English sailors had been encountering 1 Different versions of this paper were given in the summer of 2005 at two confer- ences: “Middle Passages: The Oceanic Voyage as Social Process” (Fremantle) and “Patagonia: Myth and Realities” (Manchester). Thanks are due to the respective organisers, Cassandra Pybus and Fernanda Peñaloza, for their invitations and sup- port. The paper...
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