James Cook had sailed from Portsmouth in May 1763 in HMS Antelope bound for Newfoundland where he transferred to HMS Tweed.
Events directly concerning Cook
In early June, James Cook, assisted by Peter Flower and James Biddon, began his work as Surveyor of Newfoundland. His first task was to survey the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon before their handover to the French. He was under pressure as the date of handover had already passed. While Cook surveyed, Charles Douglas, captain of Tweed, had to placate François-Gabriel d'Angeac, the French governor-designate.1
No log or journal of Cook’s survives from 1763 so details of his operations remain unknown, but Douglas recorded some of Cook’s movements in his own log:
02 July. pm sent our Cutter under ye Command of a Midshipman to attend Mr Cook whilst he survey'd the Islands of Miquelon & Langley.
Cook finished the survey in six weeks according to Douglas:
25 July. Arriv'd here ye Shallop Tender & Cutter wth Mr Cook he having Finish'd ye Survey of that part of this Island Called Dunn.2
Douglas was able to hand over the islands to d’Angeac on 31 July. Cook produced a chart, “A Plan of the Islands of St Peter's, Langly, and Miquelong”3 and also wrote sailing directions for the islands. Cook and his assistants returned to Tweed, and Douglas carried them to Ferryland on the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula from whence Cook travelled to St. John’s to report in to Thomas Graves, the island’s governor.
Graves had just purchased a small vessel on 7 August for Cook to use. The vessel was a 68-ton schooner called Sally that had been renamed Grenville after the new Prime Minister.4 Graves had the schooner prepared for service with men co-opted from other vessels in port so that Cook was able to leave St. John’s as soon as possible.
Graves had concerns about the activities of French fishermen on both sides of the Strait of Belle Isle separating Labrador from Newfoundland. This part of Newfoundland at the tip of the Northern Peninsula was part of the “French Shore”, and the British only had sketchy knowledge of the region. Other concerns centred on the local native peoples, the Innu and Inuit, and their relationships with the French. Graves saw it as a priority to show the flag, and he also wanted to learn more about the area.
Graves dispatched Cook to survey York Harbour5 on the Labrador coast together with several of the more important French fishing harbours on the Northern Peninsula. As with St. Pierre, no log survives from Cook, so we have only vague details about his movements. He visited the Croque, Quirpon and Noddy harbours on the Peninsula and surveyed each of them.
Cook returned in Grenville to St. John’s in time to re-join HMS Tweed at the end of October for the passage back to Britain. His harbour charts were later incorporated into the chart of northern Newfoundland that Cook drew after the 1764 surveying season. At some time in 1763, probably for his own benefit to acquaint himself with the geography of the island, Cook drew a map of Newfoundland. It is entitled A Sketch of the Island of Newfoundland. Done from the latest observations by James Cook 1763, and, while recognisable as Newfoundland, it highlights how poor was Britain’s knowledge of the island. The south coast especially shows little detail while nothing is shown in the interior. It does delineate the parts known as the French and English Shores.
Cook would produce another map a year later that began to correct this one.
Events relevant to Cook’s later life
Meanwhile, back in Britain John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich, was replaced as First Lord of the Admiralty by John Perceval, second Earl of Egmont, on 16 September 1763.
- Cook’s Log, page 1008, vol. 17, no. 1 (1994).
- Captain’s Log, Tweed. The National Archives, Kew. Adm 51/1016.
- Cook’s Log, page 45, vol. 32, no. 3 (2009).
- George Grenville (1712-1770), Prime Minister from 16 April 1763 to 10 July 1765.
- Cook’s Log, page 1613, vol. 22, no. 2 (1999).
Cook’s Log, page 15, vol. 30, no. 2 (2007).
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 3, volume 36, number 3 (2013).