Home > 225 Years Ago: April - June 1775

225 Years Ago: April - June 1775


On 1st April, 1775, Captain James Cook in the Resolution was in Cape Town, with many ships from other nationalities. "One of the French that were at Anchor in the Bay was the Ajax Indiaman bound to Pondicherry, commanded by Captain Crozet, who was Second in Command with Captain Morion [Marion du Fresne], who sailed from this place with two Ships in March 1772... for New Zealand, where in the Bay of isles he and some of his people were killed by the Inhabitants... Captain Crozet seemed to be a man possessed of the true spirit of a discoverer". According to George Forster, son of naturalist, Johann Forster, "M. Crozet, who, attended by all his officers, dined with us, upon captain Cook's invitation, and entertained us with many curious particulars relating to his voyage".

Crozet showed Cook a chart "wherein was delineated not only his own discoveries but that of Captain Kerguelen... By this Chart it appeared that a Voyage had been made by the French across the South Pacifick Ocean in 1769, under the Command of one Captain Surville, who... fell in with New Zealand at its Northern extremity and put into Doubtless Bay, where it seems he was when I passed it on my former voyage in the Endeavour... We learnt that it was a Ship from New Spain which had been at Otaheite before our first arrival".

On 6th "the Royal Charlotte, Captain Clemints from China, put in here and sailed again the 10th. By her I transmitted to the Secretary of the Admiralty two of the officers Journals." The same day he noted "Strong gales and squally weather. The Cutter sunk along side which occasioned the loss of the Masts, Sails and oars, and the Jolly boat broak adrift, drove out to Sea and was lost". The repairs to the ship continued, but they were "delayed for want of Caulkers to Caulk the Ship which was absolutly necessary to be done before we put to Sea. The Dutch Caulkers being employed on their Ships, so that none could be spared to assist us."

It was not until "26th of April this work was finished; and having got on board all necessary stores and a fresh supply of Provisions and Water, we took leave of the Governor and other principal officers and the next Morning repaired on board, and soon after, the Wind coming fair, we weighed and put to Sea as did also the Spanish Frigate Juno from Manila, a Deanish Indiaman and the Dutton." The identity of the Danish ship has been discovered by W. Wilfried Schuhmacher to be the Prins Federik - see Mariner's Mirror, 1977, vol. 63, no. 3, pages 231-232: "Some Danish Indiamen at the Cape of Good Hope".

Cook wrote little about their stay. Johann Forster meant to do so, writing upon arrival "Here I break off my Journal at the Cape, as I intend to put my Remarks on the Cape of Good Hope all together, & will there describe the Country, Town, Government, Manners etc. & will therefore resume my Journal from our going away." Regrettably, such an account has never been found. It is from George that we learn that the Forsters made natural history excursions to False Bay, to the Dutch East India Company's garden and menagerie. Johann bought a live springbok and a Jerboa and several other animals and birds. Anders Sparrman, who had joined the ship on its outward visit to the Cape, turned down the offer of a homeward passage "free of charge and with the greatest comfort", preferring to "explore the unknown interior of the continent", which he did for another year.

Three seamen were taken on during the stay. Soon after leaving "we found a Man in the hold a Hannoverian by birth", according to the fellow German Forster, "who had been engaged in the Dutch Service & wanted now to go home, & by means of one of our Sailors had been concealed; as this had been done without the Capt leave, both were punished with a dozen at the Gangway." He was John Hendrick.

St Helena

On 29th the Dutton, with "Capt Rice lowered his Topgallant-Sails & took his Studding-Sails in order that we might come up with him & sail in Company", wrote Forster. They sailed for St Helena. Cook commented "Depending on the goodness of Mr Kendals Watch, I resolved to try to make the island by a direct course, it did not deceive us and we made it accordingly on the 15th of May at Day-break". According to seaman John Elliott, "the day before we saw St Helena, the Dutton, spoke us, and said they were afraid that we should miss the Island, but Captn Cook laugh'd at them, and told them that he would run their jibboom on the Island if they choose".

Cook "dispatched a boat with an officer to acquaint the Governor who we were, without which no ship is allowed to pass the forts... it was middnight before we got to an Anchor in the Road before the Town or Chappel Vally which is on the NW side of the island." In the morning, "I received a very pressing invitation, both from Governor Skottowe and his Lady, a very accomplished Woman and a Native of the island, to take up my aboad with them during my stay and also offered me the use of a Horse to ride out whenever I thought proper." John Skottowe had become Governor in 1764, and was the son of Thomas Skottowe, on whose farm at Great Ayton Cook had spent his early years. Forster "took my Lodgings at Mr Mason's a Planter of this Isle".

"In order... to gain some knowlidge of" St Helena, Cook "took a ride into the Country the next morning in company with Mr Stuart [a passenger on the Dutton] and Mr George Forster... I was agreeably surprised with the prospect of a Country finely diversified with hill and vally, Wood and Lawn and all laid out in inclosures." Johann could not go "on account of a Headache which plagued me. I visited a small Garden the Governor has in Town... In the afternoon paid a visit to Capt Tippet Chief Engineer of the Isle & Commander of the Artillery".

Two days later Cook wrote "the two Mr Forsters and my self dined with a party at the Country house of one Mr Masons, at a remote part of the island, which gave me an oppertunity to see the greatest part of it, and I am well convinced that the island in many particulars has been misrepresented. It is no wonder that the account which is given of it in the narrative of my former Voyage should have given offence to all the principle Inhabitents. It was not less mortifying to me when I first read it, which was not till I arrived now at the Cape of Good Hope; for I never had the perusal of the Manuscript nor did I ever hear the whole of it read in the mode it was written, notwithstanding what Dr Hawkesworth has said to the Contrary in the Interduction... How these things came to be thus misrepresented, I can not say, as they came not from me". Hawkesworth had, in fact, based this part of the narrative on Joseph Banks' journal.

"The two preceding evenings before we sailed Mr Graham and Mr Laurel gave each of them a ball; it is to these gentlemen we are obliged for a sight of the celebrated beauties of St Helena". According to Forster, the first ball "broke up not before 3 o'clock in the Morning" and for the second "the Dances ended at midnight: We returned to our Lodgings at about 2 o'clock." According to Cook, "During the time we lay at this isle we finished some repairs of the Ship, painting and scraping, which we had not time to do at the Cape; we also filled all our empty Water Casks and the crew was served with fresh beef".


They sailed on 21st and "kept Company with the Dutton till Wednesday 24th when having put a Packet on board her for the Admiralty containing some of the Officers Journals, we parted company, she continuing her Course to the west and we steered for Ascension, where it was necessary for me to touch to take in Turtle for the refreshment of my people as the salt Provisions they had to eat was what had been in the Ship the voyage. We made this isle on the morning of the 28th and the same evening anchored in Cross Bay on the NW side of the isle".

During their stay Forster "took a long walk ashore to the high white hills... we emptied a bottle & I wrote on a piece of paper, which I rolled up & put into the bottle, corking it afterwards up the following Words: His Brittanic Majesties Sloop Resolution, that sailed eastward round the world Capt Cook Commander. May ye 30st 1775. John Reinhold Forster F.RS. George Forster. The next morning Capt Cook took with the first Lieut & me another walk towards the same hills, but we could not reach them as dinner time drew near & the Capt on acct of a Lumbago & I from my yesterdays Excursion were both much tired." According to Cook, "notwithstanding we had several parties out every night, we got but twenty four Turtle".

Fernando de Noronha

"On Wednesday 31st of May we left Ascension and... steered for the Island of Fernando de Norono on the Coast of Brazil, in order to determine its Longitude, as I could not find this had yet been done... It is but seldom that oppertunities of this kind offer and when they do they are but too often neglected." The island was reached on 9th June. "We hoisted our Colours and then bore up round the North end of the isle... As the purpose for which I made the island was now answered I had no intention to anchor and therefore after firing a gun to leeward we made sail and stood away to the Northward".

Back in the Northern Hemisphere

On 11th "we crossed the Equator" and sailed north. Their passage was accompanied by a mix of breezes, squalls and calm. On 25th Forster "saw an outward boun[d] Ship, which afterwards hoisted Dutch colours, going probably to Surinam." Two days later "my Yerbua Capensis died". On the last day of June, 225 years ago, Cook noted, "a Ship steering to the Westward passed us within a hail, we judged her to be English as they Answered us in that Language, but we could not understand what they said".

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1740, volume 23, number 2 (2000).

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Ted, according to Cook's journal entry for 9&10th June 1775, he determined the Latitude as 3 degrees 53 minutes south. He calculated the longitude in two ways. Using the Kendall chronometer he calculated 32 degrees 34 minutes West. More traditional readings, using the sun and moon, produced a figure of 32 degrees 44 minutes and 30 seconds West.
By Cliff Thornton on 11/28/2018 12:17:52 PM Like:0 DisLike:0
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Isle Fernando de Noronha visit. I can find no record of Cook actually determining the longitude
of the island. Can you help please.
By Ted Gerrard MRIN on 11/27/2018 10:17:42 PM Like:0 DisLike:0
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Dear Sir
As part of the "Les Amis de Julien CROZET" society, see http://www.lesamisdejuliencrozet.com/,
we are looking at incorporating some extract/ copy of James Cook above log into the references
and acknowledgments of Julien Crozet's legacy. Would it be possible to obtain some copy of
the original section from James Cook's log.
I am living in Australia but am originaly French and have sojourned on Crozet island for a full year
in 1971 as part of the 9th expedition to this this island and am a good friend of Henri Perau
who set up the above mentioned society (Henri was on the same expedition in 1971, and in the
later years became operations manager in the administration of these French territories.
I would be grateful to hear from your society about the above query.
Thanking you in advance
Christian Siegel
By Christian Siegel on 5/24/2015 5:13:18 PM Like:0 DisLike:0

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