|Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
||British and French Fleets - Mediterranean
one, should Spain, as was not thought unlikely, suddenly ally herself to France, to prevent the junction of a Spanish fleet from the westward; the other, to be sufficiently to windward to be able, if the usual north-easterly gale should shift to north-north-west, or north-north-east, to take shelter under the Hyères island, or under Cape San-Sebastian.
Early in the month of August the 80-gun ship Canopus, Rear-admiral George Campbell, Captain John Conn, joined the British squadron; and on the 15th of the month the fine 80-gun ship Neptune was launched at Toulon. This, in a little while, augmented the French force in the road to eight sail of the line; while Lord Nelson, having detached the Canopus and Monmouth, was still left with only six, the Victory, Belleisle, Kent, Renown, Superb, and Triumph ; the latter recently arrived, and commanded by Captain Sir Robert Barlow. A French writer alluding to the British naval force in the Mediterranean at this time, says: " L'amiral Nelson croisait avec dix-huit vaisseaux et un nombre correspondant de frégates." * This must have explained to the satisfaction of the French people, why their admiral, with only eight sail of the line, made no effort to capture or drive away the blockading force.
His ships being short of water, Lord Nelson, on the 24th of October, steered for a newly discovered anchorage among the Magdalena islands, on the north coast of Sardinia; leaving, to watch the French force in Toulon, the frigates Seahorse and Narcissus. On the 31st, at 6 P.M., after a seven days' anxious struggle with adverse gales and currents, dark nights and a rocky and most intricate passage, the whole squadron, anchored, without an accident, in Agincourt sound, under the Sardinian shore; a noble harbour formed by an indented bay in the latter, and defended to the northward by the small islands of St.-Estevan, Spargiotou, Magdalena, and Cibrera.
This being an anchorage, which according to the declaration of Lord Nelson, was one of the finest harbours he had ever seen, we feel bound to state how Captain Ryves happened to make the important discovery. Some time in the year 1802 the 64-gun ship Agincourt, then commanded by Captain Ryves, was detached by Sir Richard Bickerton, to proceed to the Magdalena islands, and, if possible, prevent the French taking possession of them, as, according to intelligence recently received, they were about to do, notwithstanding the treaty of Amiens. At this period there did not exist a chart of those islands ; nor was it known that any ship of war had ever anchored among them: the Agincourt herself, indeed, was nearly lost in doing so. No Frenchmen appearing, Captain Ryves spent the week he was directed to remain there in making a survey of the islands; which he performed alone, there not being a single
* Précis des Evènemens, tome x., p. 55.
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