© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London | Licence: CC BY-NC-ND
© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London | Licence: CC BY-NC-ND

'Mount Sarmiento (from Warp Bay)'

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From the Collection


One of a group of 15 watercolours by Conrad Martens to illustrate Robert Fitzroy's 'Narrative of the Voyage of the Beagle'. The view is looks east acorss the Magdalena Channel of the Magellan Strait from a cove at Cape Turn, towards the Pacific side of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. The ship shown - and certainly that in the distance- appears to be the schooner 'Adventure' in two positions based on a drawing Martens made in his fourth 'Beagle' sketchbook on 10 June 1834. 'Adventure' (see below) was the vessel Fitzroy bought in the Falkland Islands to help his work, hoping the Admiralty would re-imburse him. When they refused he sold it at Valparaiso in August 1834. Darwin called the glaciated peak of Mount Sarmiento 'the most sublime spectacle in Tierra del Fuego'. Martens, on his initial drawing, noted its height as 7,000 feet and that he had observed it through a telescope. This is plate no.17, titled as above, in the sequence of the second volume of Fitzroy's 'Narrative', facing p. 359. See 'Conrad Martens's "Beagle" Pictures', no.213, in R.D.Keynes (ed.) 'The Beagle Record..' (CUP, 1979), pp. 389-402. The watercolour itself - which has unfortunately been over-exposed to light and would originally have been of stronger blue tones is reproduced on p. 220. Martens's other views of Mount Sarmiento included a small oil version on board (not in Keynes).Fitzroy's 'Narrative' (pp. 275-76) states that 'Adventure' (170 tons burthen) was built of oak at Rochester, Kent, as the yacht 'Unicorn' for a Mr Perkins. It was later armed and used by Lord Cochrane in the Mediterannean before being fitted by a mwrchant to run the blockade of Buenos Aires, in which it was captured by a Brazilian warship and sent into Montevideo. The British consul there, Thomas Hood, bought it and made a return voyage in it with his family to England. It had been in use as a sealer when Fitzroy bought it for 6000 (Spanish) dollars, or about £1300, from a Mr Low and partners (of Montevideo) during his first visit to the Falklands. He renamed it 'Adventure' after the ship accompanying the first 'Beagle' voyage, re-equipped it, later recoppered it at Montevideo and reluctantly had to sell it for 7500 dollars (c. £1400) at Valparaiso - in effect at loss against his expenditure. He noted that it was still trading on the west coast of South America, in good condition, in 1838.

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© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

From the Watercolour World


Monte Sarmiento, Timaukel, Tierra del Fuego Province, Chile