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12 August, 1770


On 12 August, 1770, James Cook wrote “at 3 in the Morning sent the Pinnace with one of the Mates I had with me to sound between the Island and the reefs and to examine one of the breaks or Channells, and in the mean time I went again upon the hill where I arrived by sun rise but found it much hazier than in the evening. About noon the Pinnace return'd haveing been out as far as the reef and found from 15 to 28 fathoms water. It blowed so hard that they durst not venture into one of the Channells which the Mate said seem'd to him to be very narrow but this did not discourage me for I thought from the place he was at he must have seen it at a disadvantage... The only land-animals we saw here were Guanoes or Lizards and these seem'd to be pretty plenty which occasioned my nameing the Island Lizard Island... At 2 oClock in the PM we left Lizard Isld in order to return to the Ship and in our way landed upon the low sandy Isle mentioned in coming out. We found on this Island a great number of birds the Most of them Sea fowl, except Eagles... After leaving Eagle Island we stood SW directly for the Ship, sounding all the way, and had not less than 8 fm nor more than 14 fm. I found the same depth of water between Lizard and Eagle Island. After we got on board the Master informed me that he had been down to the Islands I had directed him to go to [The Turtle Group] which he judged to lay about 3 Leagues from the Main, he found 10, 12 & 14 fathom water without them and 7 between them & Main, this last channell was narrow because from the[m] run off a flat above 2 Leagues... After well considering both what I had seen my self and the report of the Master, who was of opinion that the Passage to Leeward would prove danger[ou]s; this I was pretty well convince'd of my self that by keeping in with the main land we should be in continual danger besides the risk we should run in being locke'd in within the Main reef at last and have to return back to seek a passage out, an accident of this kind or any other that might happen to the Ship would infallibly loose our passage to the East Indias this season and might prove the ruin of the Voyage as we have now little more than 3 Months provisions on board and that at short allowance in many Arti[c]les. These reasons had the [same] weight with all the officers. I therefore resolved to weigh in the morning and endeavour to quet the coast altogether untill we could approach it with less danger”.


Joseph Banks wrote “Great Part of yesterday and all this morn till the boat returnd I employd in searching the Island. On it I found some few plants which I had not before seen; the Island itself was small and Barren; on it was however one small tract of woodland which abounded very much with large Lizzards some of which I took. Distant as this Isle was from the main, the Indians had been here in their poor embarkations, sure sign that some part of the year must have very setled fine weather; we saw 7 or 8 frames of their huts and vast piles of shells the fish of which had I suppose been their food. All the houses were built upon the tops of Eminences exposd intirely to the SE, contrary to those of the main which are commonly placd under the shelter of some bushes or hill side to break off the wind. The officer who went in the Boat returnd with an account that the sea broke vastly high upon the reef and the swell was so great in the opening that he could not go into it to sound. This was sufficient to assure us of a safe passage out, so we got into the boat to return to the ship in high spirits, thinking our danger now at an end as we had a passage open for us to the main Sea. In our return we went ashore upon a low Island where we shot many birds; on it was an Eagles nest the young ones of which we killd, and another built on the ground by I know not what bird, of a most enormous magnitude [probably the osprey Pandion haliaetus] - it was in circumference 26 feet and in hight 2 feet 8 built of sticks; the only Bird I have seen in this countrey capable of building such a nest seems to be the Pelecan. The Indians have been here likewise and livd upon turtle, as we could plainly see by the heaps of Callipashes [upper shell of turtles] which were pild up in several parts of the Island. Our Master [Robert Molyneux] who had been sent to leward to examine that Passage went ashore upon a low Island where he slept. Here he saw vast plenty of turtle shells, and so great plenty had the Indians had when there that they had hung up the finns with the meat left on them in trees, where the sun had dryd them so well that our seamen eat them heartily. He saw also two spots clear of grass which had lately been dug up; they were about 7 feet long and shaped like a grave, for which indeed he took them”.

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