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17 September, 1770


On 17 September, 1770, James Cook wrote “6 o'clock in the Morning... we unexpectedly saw an Island bearing WSW, for by the most of the Maps we had on board we were to the southward of all the Islands that lay between Timor and Java... which made me at first think it a new discovery but in this I was Mistaken. [It was Savu.] We now steer'd directly for it and by 10 oClock were close in with the North side of it where we saw Houses, Cocoa-nutt Trees and Flocks of Cattle grazing. These were temtations hardly to be withstood by people in our Situation, especially such as were but in a very indifferent state of health and I may say mind too, for in some this last was worse than the other sence I refuse'd to touch at the Island of Timor. Wherefore I thought I could not do less than to try to procure some refres[h]ments here as there appear'd to be plenty; with this View we hoisted out the Pinnace in which I sent Lieutt Gore in shore to see if there were any convenient place to land, sending some trifles along with him to give to the Natives in case he saw any. Mr Gore Landed in a small sandy Cove near to some houses and was met on the beach by 8 or 10 of the Natives who both from their behavour and what they had about them shew'd that they had commerce with Europeans; upon Mr Gore's returning with this report and like wise that there was no anchorage for the Ship I sent him away again with both Mony and goods to try to purchas some refreshments while we kept standing on and off with the Ship. At Noon we were about a Mile from the Shore of the Island... As soon as Mr Gore Landed he was met on the beach by several people both Horse and Foot who gave him to understand that there was a Bay to Leeward where we could Anchor and likewise get refreshments, upon Mr Gores return with this intelligence we bore away for the Bay in which we anchord at 7 oClock in 38 fathom water a Clean Sandy bottom, about a Mile from shore... Two hours before we Anchor'd we saw Dutch Colours hoisted in a Village which stands about a Mile inland”.


Joseph Banks wrote “In the morn an Island in sight [Savu] very imperfectly if at all laid down in the Charts. By 10 we were very near the East end of it; it was not high, but composd of gently sloping hills and vales almost intirely cleard and coverd with innumerable Palm trees; near the Beach were many Houses, but no people were seen stirring. Soon after we passd the NE point, and saw on the beach a large flock of sheep, but still no people: the North side of the Isle appeard scarce at all cultivated, but like that of Rotte coverd with thick brush wood almost or quite destitute of Leaves: among these as we pass’d along we saw numerous flocks of sheep, but no houses or plantations. At last however one was discoverd in a grove of Cocoa nut trees, and it was resolvd to send a boat in order to attempt a commerce with people who seemd so well able to supply our many Necessities. The ship ply’d off and on and a Lieutenant went [Gore]: before he returnd we saw on the Hills 2 men on horseback, who seemd to ride as for their amusement, looking often at the ship - a circumstance which made us at once conclude that their were Europeans among the Islanders by whoom we should be receivd at least more politely than we were us’d to be by uncivilizd Indians.

After a very short stay he returnd bringing word that he had seen Indians in all respects as colour, dress &c. much resembling the Malays; that they very civily invited him ashore and conversd with him by signs but neither party could understand the other; they were totaly unarmd except the knives which they wore in their girdles and had with them a Jackass, a sure sign that Europeans had been among them.

In Plying off and on we had had no ground tho very near a Coral shoal which ran off from the Island, so had no hopes of anchorage here; it was therefore resolvd that we should go to the lee side of the Isle in hopes there to find a Bank; in the mean time however the boat with some truck should go ashore at the Cocoa nut grove in hopes to purchase some trifling refreshments for the sick in case we should be disapointed. It accordingly put off and Dr Solander went in it; before it reachd the shore we saw two new Horsemen, one of whoom had on a compleat European dress, Blue Coat, white waiscoat and lac’d hat: these as the Boat lay ashore seemd to take little notice of her but only Saunterd about looking much at the ship. Many more horse-men however and still more footmen gatherd round our people who were ashore, and we had the satisfaction of seeing several cocoa nuts brought into the boat, a sure sign that peace and plenty reignd ashore.

After a stay of about an hour and a half the boat made a signal of having had intelligence of a harbour to Leeward and we in consequence bore away for it. The boat following soon came on board and told us that the people had behavd in an uncommaly civil manner; that they had seen some of their principal people who were dressd in fine linnen and had chains of gold round their necks; that they had not been able to trade, the owner of the Cocoa nut trees not being there, but had got about 2 dozn of Cocoa nuts given as a present by these principal people, who accepted of Linnen in return and made them plainly understand by drawing a map upon the sand that on the Lee side of the Island was a bay in which we might anchor near a town and buy Sheep, hogs, fruits, fowls &c; they talked much of the Portugese and of Larntuca on the Island of Ende, from which circumstance it was probable that the Portugese were somewhere on the Island tho none of the natives could speak more than a word or two of the Language, and the more so as one of the Indians in speaking of the Town made a sign of something we should see there which would shew us that we were right, by crossing his fingers, which a Portugese who was in the boat [Manoel Pereira] immediately interpreted into a cross, a supposition that appeard very probable; that just before they put off the man in a European dress Came towards them, but the officer in the boat not having his commission about him thoug[h]t proper to put off immediately without staying to speak to him or know what countrey man he was.

We saild along shore and after having passd a point of Land found a bay shelterd from the trade wind in which we soon discoverd a large Indian town or village, on which we stood in hoisting a Jack on the foretopmast head. Soon after to our no small surprize Duch Colours were hoisted in the town and 3 guns fird. We however proceeded and just at dark got soundings and anchord about 1½ miles from the shore”.

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