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15 April, 1771


On 15 April, 1771, James Cook wrote “In the Morning saw a Ship Standing into Table Bay under English Colours which we took to be an Indiaman. At Noon Latitude Observed 33°49', Cape Town S 20° East, distant 7 Miles. As we could not sail in the Morning for want of wind I sent a boat to the Island [Robben Island] for a few trifling articles we had forgot to take in at the Cape, but the people ashore would not permit her to land so that she return'd as she went and I gave my self no farther trouble about it,  Mr Banks who was in the Boat was of opinion that it was owing to a mistake made respecting the rank of the officer commanding the boat, be this as it may it seems probable that the Dutch do not admit of strangers landing upon this Island least they should carry off some of those people which for certain crimes they banish here for life as we were told was done by a Dainish Ship a few years ago; but they might have a better reason for refuseing our boat to land, for it is not improbable but what there might be some English Seamen upon this Island whome they had sent from the Cape while we lay there well knowing that if they came in my way I should take them on board, and this I am told is frequently done when any of His Majestys Ships are in the Bay, for it is well known that the Dutch East India Ships are mostly man'd by foreigners... At 2 oClock in the PM saw a Large Ship behind the Island under French Colours standing into Table Bay. At 3 Wieghd with a light breeze at SE and put to Sea. At 4 Departed this Life Mr Robt Molineux Master, a young man of good parts but had unfortunately given himself up to extravecancy and intemperance which brought on disorders that put a pirod to his life. At 6 we had the Table mountain and the Penguin Island in one bearing SSE, distant from the latter about 4 or 5 miles”.


Joseph Banks wrote “In the Morn it was quite calm so a boat was hoisted out in order to Land on the Island [Robben Island] in hopes of purchasing some refreshments, especialy of Garden stuff and salletting [for salads] with which two articles it is said to abound; but as soon as the boat came near the shore the Duch haild her and told the people in her at their peril to attempt Landing, bringing down at the same time 6 men with Musquets who paraded on the Beach as long as she stayd, which was but a short time not thinking it worth while to risk landing in opposition to them when a few Cabbages was the only reward to be expected. This Island which is named after the Seals that formerly usd to frequent it, Calld in Dutch Robben, is low and sandy, situate in the mouth of Table bay. Here are confind such criminals as are judgd not worthy of Death for terms of Years proportiond to the heinou[s]ness of 15. their Crimes; they are employd as Slaves in the Companies Service, cheifly in digging for Lime Stone which tho very scarce upon the Continent is plentifull here. Their reason for not letting foreigners land here is said to be this: formerly a Danish ship which by sickness had lost the greatest part of her crew came into the Cape and askd for assistance, which being refusd she came down to this Island, and sending her boats ashore securd the Guard and took on board as many of the Criminals as she thought proper to navigate the ship home. In the evening we had a fair breeze of wind with which we put to sea. This night died Mr Molineux Master of the ship”.

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