Home > 225 Years Ago: April - June 1774

225 Years Ago: April - June 1774

 

On 1st April, 1774 Captain James Cook, in the Resolution, was seeking the Marquesas Islands.

The next day Johann Forster, the principal naturalist on board, wrote "being now very near the Isles, which were called by Mendaña, las Marquesas, we begin all to long for refresh-ments, which we all stand in need of... Had all the former Navigators taken the prudent Step to inquire the Natives, for the Names of the Islands they saw, we might be able to ascertain with certainty, what are new discoveries & what not. We take allways the trouble to ascertain the True Name, & then all the future Navigators can enquire for the Name of what they see, & then they will easily make out, whether it is new or not."

On 3rd "We saw in the Evening two Gannets, some Eggbirds & spotted Noddies & several flying Fish. Two Whales or Grampusses of about 30 feet length blew & passed the Ship. The wind is much abated, but we go however more than we expect. A small Sucking Fish was found sticking to a flying Fish which had been towed as a bait with a line & hook. The next morning several Sharks were seen about the Ship, one got hold of a Line, but the Rope being ill put around the Shark he slipt out, when he was hauling up & very near the Taffil of the Ship. Some Dolphins were likewise seen & Pilotefish with the Sharks."

Three days later "The expectation of seeing soon the land, & consequently of getting fresh food is wound up in all people to the highest degree. Some Gentlemen messing in the Gunroom live chiefly upon a little bread, their Stomach loathing all the other kinds of food they can afford & they are weak, thin & emaciated."

The Marquesas

On 7th Cook wrote "Land was seen bearing WBS distant about 9 Leagues, two hours after saw a nother land bearing SWBS and appeared more extensive than the first". The next morning they saw "a third West, I directed my Course for the Channell between these two last lands, under all the Sail we could set, having unsittled Squally Showery weather. Soon after we discovered a fourth land still more to the westward and were now well assured that these were the Marquesas discovered by Mendana in 1595. The first isle is a new discovery, which I named Hoods Island after the young gentleman who first saw it, the second was that of St Pedro, the third La dominica, and the fourth St Christina." Alexander Hood, 16 years of age, was a first cousin of Admiral Lord Hood, The native names of the islands are Fatu Huku, Motane, Hiva Oa and Tahuata, respectively.

William Wales, the astronomer, "went with Capt Cook to see whether or no the shores were accessible what the country was likely to furnish and if there was any convenient place for Erecting My Observatory. Just as we had got into the Boat one of the Natives who was on the Opposite Gang-way catched up on of the Iron stantions to which the Man-ropes are fixed & leaped with it into the Canoe on which a Musquet was fired over him by one of the Officers, but it had no effect, another was called for, and Capt Cook called out not to kill him but the Natives about the ship made too much noise for him to be heard. He then ordered the Pinnace to pull round as fast as possible but before it could be done two more Musquets were fired the later of which hit him and he droped down dead".

The next day "I took my Sextant & Quicksilver; as also the Diping Needle, and found by a means of 12 tryals, in which the face of the Instrument was turned East and west Alternately, that the Needle's South End dipped 18°20' below the Horizon."

On 10th Forster "& my Son [George] & Mr Sparrman had on board described some plants & 7 new fish; & I collected several Plants & shot a Snipe". The next day "we went ashore... & bought several hogs... One of our bought pigs ran away & the Capt beat the sailor for letting it go".

 

Resolution             Bay in the Marquesas
"Resolution Bay in the Marquesas" by William Hodges
William Hodges, the artist on board, painted an ink wash of the bay, Vaitahu Bay, in which the Resolution was anchored.
According to Island Landscapes By William Hodges: Reconstructing Painting Practices Through Photographic Fieldwork, by Barry V. Rolett, Pacific Studies, 1993, Sep., vol. 16, no. 3, pages 55-85, "the artist projects a falsified viewpoint. [It] gives the impression of a distant offshore view but is actually a panorama taken from inside the bay". Photographs taken by the Rolett during a yearlong study depict the actual scene. "The right-hand portion of the landscape illustrates mountain peaks and ranges that allow precise identification of the vantage point from which the view was drawn."

 

On 11th Cook wrote "When I saw that this place was not likely to supply us with sufficient refreshments, not very convenient for geting off wood and Water nor for giving the Ship necessary repairs, I resolv'd forth with to leave it and seack for some place that would supply our wants better".Two days later he "directed my course SSW½W for Otaheite and likewise with a view of falling in with Some of those isles discovered by former Navigators whose Situations are not well determined."

On 17th "At 10 AM saw land bearing W½N". The next day "I sent two Boats well Arm'd a Shore under the Command of Lieutts Cooper and Pickersgill with a view of having some intercourse with [the natives], to get some refreshments and to give Mr Forster an oppertunity to Collect some Plants." Robert Cooper was first lieutenant and Richard Pickersgill was third lieutenant. They were "unwelcome Visitors" and did not stay long. The island "was discovered and Visited by Commodore Byron [in 1765] and... named by him Coral Island". The native name is Takaroa.

"At day-light in the Morning we bore down to the Island to leeward... the same isle to which Commodore Byron gave the name of Georges Island; the Longitude of these isles were determined by Lunar observation made near the Shores, and still farther corrected by the difference of Longitude carried on by the watch to Otaheite, whose Situation cannot be disputed; thus by knowing the Longitude of these two Isles I shall be able to correct all Mr Byron's discover[ie]s". The native name is Takapoto. On 19th and 20th they sighted four more isles Apataki, Toau, Kaukura and Arutua, which Cook "called Palliser's Isles in honour of my worthy friend Mr Pallisser Comptroller of the Navy".

Tahiti

The next day "At 10 AM Saw the high land of Otaheite" and the following day "At 8 Anchored in Matavai Bay in 7 fathom Water, which was no sooner done than we were viseted by several of our old friends, who express'd not a little joy at seeing us. As my reasons for puting in here was to give Mr Wales an oppertunity to know the error of the Watch from the known Longitude of this place and to determine a fresh her rate of going; the first thing we did was to land his Instruments &ca and to set up tents for the reception of a guard and such others as it was necessary to have on Shore. As to Sick we had none." According to Wales he "got on Shore the Clock Astronomical Quadt and Reflecting Tellescope".

The next day Forster "went ashore, & looked about, & found the Country in every respect improved. There were a good many hogs, many new houses were erected & vast numbers of new Canoes were building & already built, chiefly owing to the facility they got to build them by the Assistance of our tools of Iron. The Season we came in was rainy, the rivers full of water, the country even on the most distant hills covered with an agreeable verdure, & all plants grew in great luxuriancy; but we found no new ones; though we went pretty high up on a hill. My Son was now sick of the dry gripes as the Capt, Mr Whitehouse, & my Servt & our Cook has been." John Whitehouse was master's mate. Ernest Scholient was Forster's servant.

 

The Island             of Otaheite bearing S.E. distant one league
"The Island of Otaheite bearing S.E. distant one league" by William Hodges
On 25th Cook wrote "When we were at Amsterdam [Tongatapu], among other Curiosities we Collected some red Parrot Feathers which were highly Valued by these people; When this came to be known in the isle all the Principal people of both Sex endeavour'd by every means in their power to Ingratiate themselves into our favour". He also "resolved to make a longer stay & to begin with the repairs of the Ship; accordingly I ordered the empty Casks and Sails to be got on shore to repair, the Smiths Forge to be set up to repair our Iron work, the Ship to be Caulked and the rigging &ca to be overhauled, Works which the high southern Latitudes had made highly necessary."

The next morning he "set out for Oparre accompaned by the two Mr Forsters and some of the officers to pay Otoo a formal visit by appointment". He and Forster "were very much surprized seeing there a great fleet of their War-Canoes on shore, all dressed & manned & quite ready for Action... 159 double Canoes, & about 70 smaller ones with thatched houses for to receive the Chiefs during night, & to carry provisions for the fleet... in the Afternoon we saw that all the fleet was gone, & that this had been only a kind of revue or Exercise".

 

On 29th Forster "went with Mr Sparmann & two Men to attend me, up the hills in order to reach their Summits, which had been attempted by the people in the Endeavour but they could never do it." From the summit "we saw Huaheine & Tethuroa [Tetiaroa]... We had the whole Isle as it were under our feet... our Ship surrounded by Canoes appeared very diminutive". As they came down the hill "the rain having made the road still more slippy I fell down & hurt my thigh in such a manner that I was very near fainting for pain." The injury was to plague him for some years.

May started with Cook recording "Had a Vast Supply of Provisions sent and brought us by different Chiefs." On 3rd "In looking into the State of our Sea Provisions we found the Biscuit in a state of decay and that the airing and Picking we had given it at New-zealand had not done it that service we intended and expected so that we were obliged to have it all a Shore here where it has under gone a nother airing and clencing, in which has been found unfit to eat [3420] pounds". Next day he wrote "Nothing happen'd worthy [of] remark."

On 8th "in the Middle Watch through the negligence of one of our Sentinels on Shore... gave one of the Natives an oppertunity to carry off his Musquet". Charles Clerke, second lieutenant "read the Articles of War and punish'd Richd Baldie, marine with a dozen for so far neglecting his duty". The next day Clerke "gave Rich'd Baldie the other dozen for his very extraordinary carelessness and neglect". That afternoon, according to Forster, "Capt Cook came ashore & soon after there came several Men & brought the Gun & a bundle of cloath belonging to one of the Marines of whom it had been stolen out of the Tent, with the 2 hour Glass".

On 13th Cook noted "some of the gentle[men] on board were desirous of takeing some [natives] as Servants, but I refused all manner of Solicitations of this kind, knowing from experience that they would be of no use to us in the course of the Voyage".

 

Review of             the War Galleys at Tahiti
"Review of the War Galleys at Tahiti" by William Hodges
The next day "we saw a Number of War Canoes coming round the point of Oparre, being desirous to have a nearer view of them I hastned down to Oparre (accompanied by some of the officers &ca) which we reached before the Canoes were all landed and had an oportunity to see in what manner they approached the shore... This fleet consisted of Forty sail... and were come to Oparre to be reviewed before Otou as those we had seen before had done".

 

They were now ready to leave. According to John Elliott, seaman, "when under sail, and saluting the King one of our gunners Mates, slip'd overboard (being an exelent swimmer) intending to stay at Otaheite, they having promis'd a House, Land and a Pretty Wife: after much difficulty we got him on board again (for he would have been a great loss to us) and proceeded on our way". John Marra was "confin'd in irons", wrote Cooper. Cook considered him "a good Seaman and had Saild both in the English and Durch Service. I pick'd him up at Batavi in my return home from my last Voyage".

Huaheine

On 15th the ship reached Huaheine, where Cook "Anchor'd in the North entrance of Owharre Harbour, hoisted out the boats and Warp'd into a proper birth and there Moor'd the Ship with the bower and Kedge Anchor". The next day "Mr F. and his party out botanizing his Servt a feeble Man was set upon by five or six fellows who would have strip'd him if they had not been prevented by a nother of the party." By the 18th Wales was complaining "The Audacity of these People is so great that I cannot go on shore even Close to the Ship to observe the Meridian Altitude without a Guard."

Before they left the island on 23rd Cook commented "the few Red feathers we had left was here of little Value when compared to what they bore at Otaheite, this obliged me to set the Smiths to work to make different sorts of Iron tools, Nails &ca, in order to inable me to procure refreshments at the other isles and to support my Credit and influence among them."

The ship arrived at Raiatea, and on 25th "in the Afternoon we warped into the harbour", wrote Forster, "which was a very laborious task for our crew". The next day, according to Cook "Afforded nothing remarkable except Mr F. seeing a burying place for Dogs". And on 28th "Mr F. and his party out Botanizing. Spent the day with the Chief [Oreo] and his friends". Cooper "punish'd Chas Williams Coopers Mate for losing his Tools 1 dozn lashes". The next day, wrote Forster, "2 Rudders, a grappling, a boathook & other things of Iron were stolen out of the boats, which were moored to the buoy. Capt Cook went to Orea about it... in about an hours time, all the things were restored, except the Iron-tiller of the pinnace."

June started with "a brisk Trade for Hogs and Fruit, Nothing else remarkable" for Cook. However, the next day "had Intillegence that three days before two Ships had arrived at Huaheine, (viz) Captain Furneaux and Mr Banks... I was considering wheather or no I should send over a boat that very night, when a man, a friend of Mr F. said the whole was a lie".

On 4th "got everything in readiness to Sail... As I could not promise or even Suppose that any more English Ships would be sent out to the isles our Companion Odiddee chose to remain in his Native country, but he left us with great regret... Odiddee did not leave us till we were almost out of the Harbour, in order that he might have an oppertunity to fire some of the guns, for being his Majestys Birth Day we gave them the Salute at going away." Cook "directed his course to the west: this was taken with a View of carrying into execution the resolution I had taken of viseting Quiros's discoveries."

On 6th "Lightning all night", wrote Forster, "for which reason the electric Chain was fixed at the Maintop gallant mast head or Truck." Nothing was seen for ten days, then on 16th Cook saw "a low reef Island or rather a number of small Islots connected together by sand banks & breakers... we saw no inhabitants... I looked upon it to be a new discovery and named it Palmerston Island, in honour of my Lord Palmerston one of the Lords of the Admiralty."

Niue

On 21st "found what we took to be land was only Clouds, reassumed our WBS Course, and an hour after saw land from the Mast head in the same direction... Shortned Sail and spent the night Plying under Top-sails. At Day break bore up for the Nother point of the Isle and ran along the West Shore... A little before Noon preceiving some People runing along the Shore and Seeing landing was Practical, Brought-to, hoisted out and Man'd two Boats in one of which I went my self and Mr Pickersgill in the other. Mr F. and his party and Mr H. accompanied us."

Forster "climbed up a rock... We found however immediately a new plant & I gradually crept higher up among the dangerous Corall-rocks, with my Son, Mr Sparrman & my Servant. A party was drawn up on a neighbouring rock to protect us in case of necessity, & Capt Cook went with one marine to the right hand in a deep gullet which seemed to be a path into the Country. I was gone still higher up, when at once I heard some Indians hollow out, at a few Yards from me. I called for My Son & Mr Sparrman, but found they were gone down & left me with my Servant. I made haste to get over two precipices & to join the party... We stood there for some while & told the Natives they should come down, we were friends, they shouted & called one another... at last a young Man... slang a Stone with the left at us, with so much accuracy that it just past a Saylor & hit Mr Sparrman's arm, who let fly immediately, upon which, I thinking the Capt had fired, did the same, whereupon both retired".

That afternoon the party "landed with some difficulty in a very bad place & waded a shore, entered the Gullet, examined the Canoes... I looked up and saw 2 Men advancing dressed & blacked... with Spears. I advised Capt Cook to retire, I went round the point, & looked over the rock, when I found Capt Cook snapt his piece twice, which missed fire. I asked, shall I fire, he sayd: You may! consequently I let go, but my piece missed likewise fire; then Mr Hodges, Mr Sparrman & my Son fired, & probably wounded some of the Men who had thrown 2 Spears at Capt Cook, one of which passed him & just slid along my Sons Thigh & fell very short of me. We saw some of our people drawn up on a rocky Corall in the water... The Mate, Mr Burr, ordered the people to be ready & hearing the firing, he saw another party coming down a path where they might cut us off. He ordered therefore his Men to fire, whereupon the Natives retired, but still in another place a Man strung his bow, at whom Mr Burr fired his piece, whereupon he retired in the bushes. We waded up to our party & joined in firing. A great many came down the Gullet, we had been in, (upwards of 30 in number) & then Mr Pickersgill shot at them from the Cutter, which made them retire... Hereupon we embarked & went on board & thus we left this inhospitable Shore with it still more inhospitable Inhabitants." "The Conduct and aspect of these Islanders occasioned" Cook "giving it the Name of Savage Island". It was Niue.

On 25th "In the Evening judgeing our Selves not far from Roterdam shortned Sail and spent the night under our Top-sails. At 6 AM bore away West, at Day light Saw land (Islands) extending from SSW to NNW". They were of the Haapai, Kotu and Nomuka groups. "At Noon the most Southermost Isle bore SW distant about 4 Miles [Telekitonga], near and to the North of this Isle were 3 others and Several more to the west". The Otu Tolu group.

The next day "we stretched to the West and soon after saw more isles a head and on each Bow... Towards Noon some people came off in Canoes from one of the isles... they shewed us Annamocka or Rotterdam... they likewise gave us the names of some of the other Isles and wanted us much to go to theirs." Their island was Mango. Abel Tasman discovered the island of Nomuka in 1643 and named it Rotterdam.

Nomuka

On 27th, Cook "at 5 o'Clock Anchored on the North side of Annamocka... As soon as we approached the South end of the isle Several of the Natives came off in their Canoes one of which asked for me by name, a proof that these people have a communication with Amsterdam". William Harvey, midshipman, wrote "The Captain & Master went on shore in search of water & rec'd by the Natives in a very friendly manner, these Islanders are very courteous yet very light fingerd". The Master was Joseph Gilbert. According to Cook by Noon "the Botanizing and Shooting parties all come in except the Surgeon for whom we could not wait as the Water Ebing fast out of the Cove."

In afternoon Wales "went on shore, and when we landed met the surgeon, who had been left behind in the forenoon. The Natives had by surprize snatched and wrested his Gun from him, and it was with some difficulty he kept them from Striping him by presenting a tooth-pick Case which they Mistook for a Pistol; but as soon as we appeared they left him and shifted for themselves."

The next day "The Capt and Mr Cooper being both on shore, and not coming off untill late in the Afternoon I could not wind the Watch up at the usual Time, and by some fatallity or other I forgot afterwards untill it was down; I have, two or three times before, been near let it go down on the same Account but luckily recollected before it was down. I took several Altitudes this Morning from whence I find it is 2h10'41" slower than it was before; and as I had got several at this place before it was let go down no inconvenience can possibly Arrise from this Accident; however as I had now kept it going two years I had begun to flatter my self with the hopes of carrying it home without any thing of this sort happening."

The same day Cook noted in his journal a "woman and a man presented to me a young woman and gave me to understand she was at my service. Miss, who probably had received her instructions, I found wanted... a Shirt or a Nail, neither the one nor the other I had to give without giving her the Shirt on my back which I was not in a humour to do. I soon made them sencible of my Poverty and thought by that means to have come of with flying Colours but I was misstaken, for I was made to understand I might retire with her on credit, this not suteing me neither the old Lady began first to argue with me and when that fail'd she abused me, I understood very little of what she said, but her actions were expressive enough and shew'd that her words were to this effect, Sneering in my face and saying, what sort of a man are you thus to refuse the embraces of so fine a young Woman, for the girl certainly did not [want] beauty which I could however withstand, but the abuse of the old Woman I could not".

The next day "I went a Shore in Company with Mr F. and some of the officers, they made a little excursion into the isle but I did not quit the landing place... while I was now on Shore I got the names of Twenty Islands which lay between the NW and NE, some of them in Sight. Two which laid most to the West were remarkable on account of their great hight, in the most westermost we judged was a Vulcano by the Continual Column of Smoak we saw assend from the center of the isle, to clear up this point it was necessary we should approach them nearer". The island was Tofua. The next morning "Stretched out for the high Islands having the Advantage of a gentle breeze", on the last day of June, 225 years ago.

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1625, volume 22, number 2 (1999).

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