Grenville’s log for 1765 begins on 9 April, with the news that the brig has come out of the dry dock at Deptford, having been converted from a schooner, “At 2pm hauled out of the wet dock and transported alongside the Strombolo fire ship.” The company then set about re-rigging the brig, and loading ballast and stores for the new season.
Hugh Palliser, meanwhile, was issuing orders to his captains. While Palliser, as governor of Newfoundland, had overall responsibility for the whole island, his captains had authority in the sections of the island where they operated. They received surrogate commissions, which Palliser dispensed before he left Britain. The commissions for 1765 were delivered to
Cook, who had probably expected to resume his
survey on the Northern Peninsula, was given new instructions by Governor Palliser. The British were concerned at French activity in the south around the Burin Peninsula so Cook was directed to begin surveying in that area, thereby providing a British presence to deter French fishermen.
Most of April was spent preparing the brig but by late April 1765, Cook was ready to leave for Newfoundland. The pilot came on board to take the vessel out of the Thames to the Downs.
In 1765 and 1766 the pilot who joined Grenville at Deptford was John Blackburn. It is possible that this was James Cook’s step-father-in-law.1 Grenville left Deptford on 22 April, 1765.
Given the French presence on the south coast of Newfoundland, Grenville was fitted with more armament when she stopped at Woolwich on her passage down the Thames. In the previous year her armament had been supplied from the flagship, and had to be returned. She was now established with “6 swivel guns, 12 Musquets, and powder and shot” of her own. Grenville continued down the Channel, briefly calling in at Plymouth on 3 May, “2am Anchored with the best bower in Plymouth Sound in 6 fathoms water.”
The men were given two months’ wages in advance, though there would be little opportunity to spend money where they were heading. Sailing again on the 4th, Cook passed Land’s End on 6 May and headed into the Atlantic. The crossing was uneventful. Cook sighted Cape Race on the Avalon Peninsula on 31 May. He sailed on to anchor in Great St. Lawrence Harbour on the south side of the Burin Peninsula on 2 June. HMS Niger was already there, and they waited for Governor Palliser to arrive in Guernsey, “8am Half past standing in a bay discovered a ship at anchor. half past 9am anchored with the best bower in Great St. Lawrence Harbour. Found here His Majesty’s Ship Niger and one merchant ship.”
Niger was a 5th rate of 33 guns, built in 1759 at Sheerness Dockyard. The vessel was under the command of Captain Sir Thomas Adams. William Munkhouse, who later sailed with Cook in Endeavour, was the ship’s surgeon. The advantage of a self-contained ship and company was soon shown, as Cook was able to begin surveying immediately in the twin harbours of St Lawrence. He wrote “3 June. am Sent ashore all the empty beer casks. Employed brewing and watering. Began surveying the harbour of St. Lawrence. Dried sails.”
Cook recognised the value of using local people to guide him, to warn him of rocks and currents, and to provide existing local names of features. During 1765, he took on board as pilot several men: John Beck at Great St. Lawrence; John Dawson (for Connaigre and Hermitage Bays); John Peck (in the Bay d’Espoir); and Morgan Snook (in Fortune Bay). Peck and Beck may have been the same person.
On 12 June, “am. The cutter with the Master and pilot left the vessel to continue the survey along the coast.” Palliser arrived in HMS Guernsey on the 14th. Cook had nearly finished the first piece of coast, and Grenville moved on 16 June. As well as the survey Cook had prepared sailing directions for the St. Lawrence Harbours. He wrote, “Close to the eastward of Cape Chapeaurouge are the harbours of Great and Little St. Laurence. To sail into Great St. Laurence, which is the westernmost, there is no danger but what lies very near the shore; taking care with Westerly, and particularly S.W. winds, not to come too near the Hat Mountain, to avoid the flerrys and eddy winds under the high land. The course in is first N.W. till you open the upper part of the harbour, then N.N.W. half W. the best place for great ships to anchor, and the best ground is before a cove on the East-side of the harbour in 13 fathoms water. A little above Blue Beach Point, which is the first point on the West-side; here you lie only two points open: you may anchor any where between this point and the point of Low Beach, on the same side near the head of the harbour, observing that close to the West shore, the ground is not so good as on the other side. Fishing vessels lay at the head of the harbour above the beach, sheltered from all winds.”
Cook worked past Lawn Bay and the Lamaline Islands to round the end of the Burin Peninsula at the beginning of July. On 24 June, “at 3pm anchored with the small bower in 4½ fathoms water within the Lamaline Islands and veered to two thirds of a cable. AM Employed stowing and putting the hold in order.”. The following day the company was “Employed on the survey.”
The French islands of St.-Pierre et Miquelon, which Cook had surveyed in 1763, lay 20 km to the west.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 13, volume 38, number 2 (2015).
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