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  From London to Land's End Daniel Defoe

Appendix To Land's End

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I have ended this account at the utmost extent of the island of Great Britain west, without visiting those excrescences of the island, as I think I may call them--viz., the rocks of Scilly; of which what is most famous is their infamy or reproach; namely, how many good ships are almost continually dashed in pieces there, and how many brave lives lost, in spite of the mariners' best skill, or the lighthouses' and other sea-marks' best notice.

These islands lie so in the middle between the two vast openings of the north and south narrow seas (or, as the sailors call them, the Bristol Channel, and The Channel--so called by way of eminence) that it cannot, or perhaps never will, be avoided but that several ships in the dark of the night and in stress of weather, may, by being out in their reckonings, or other unavoidable accidents, mistake; and if they do, they are sure, as the sailors call it, to run "bump ashore" upon Scilly, where they find no quarter among the breakers, but are beat to pieces without any possibility of escape.

One can hardly mention the Bishop and his Clerks, as they are called, or the rocks of Scilly, without letting fall a tear to the memory of Sir Cloudesley Shovel and all the gallant spirits that were with him, at one blow and without a moment's warning dashed into a state of immortality--the admiral, with three men-of-war, and all their men (running upon these rocks right afore the wind, and in a dark night) being lost there, and not a man saved. But all our annals and histories are full of this, so I need say no more.

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They tell us of eleven sail of merchant-ships homeward bound, and richly laden from the southward, who had the like fate in the same place a great many years ago; and that some of them coming from Spain, and having a great quantity of bullion or pieces of eight on board, the money frequently drives on shore still, and that in good quantities, especially after stormy weather.

This may be the reason why, as we observed during our short stay here, several mornings after it had blown something hard in the night, the sands were covered with country people running to and fro to see if the sea had cast up anything of value. This the seamen call "going a-shoring;" and it seems they do often find good purchase. Sometimes also dead bodies are cast up here, the consequence of shipwrecks among those fatal rocks and islands; as also broken pieces of ships, casks, chests, and almost everything that will float or roll on shore by the surges of the sea.

Nor is it seldom that the voracious country people scuffle and fight about the right to what they find, and that in a desperate manner; so that this part of Cornwall may truly be said to be inhabited by a fierce and ravenous people. For they are so greedy, and eager for the prey, that they are charged with strange, bloody, and cruel dealings, even sometimes with one another; but especially with poor distressed seamen when they come on shore by force of a tempest, and seek help for their lives, and where they find the rooks themselves not more merciless than the people who range about them for their prey.

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From London to Land's End
Daniel Defoe

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