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225 Years Ago: January - March 1773


On 1st January, 1773 James Cook, in the Resolution, was sailing with Tobias Furneaux, in the Adventure, surrounded by ice southwards in search of the Southern Continent and, in particular, Cape Circumcision. At 60° 21' S Cook was the farthest south since 30th January 1769.

Cook’s journal records gales, showers of sleet and snow and hazy conditions. On 3rd "In the PM the Weather cleared up and we were favoured with a Sight of the Moon, which we had seen but once before sence we left the Cape [of Good Hope] by which a judgment may be formed of the kind of weather we have had since we have been at sea.”

The next day he wrote, "all the Rigging covered with Ice and the air excessive cold, the Crew however stand it tolerable well, each being cloathed with a fearnought Jacket, a pair of Trowsers of the same and a large Cap made of Canvas & Baize, these together with an additional glass of Brandy every Morning enables them to bear the Cold without Flinshing.” By now "the Ice Islands [icebergs] were now so familiar to us that they were generally pass’d unnoticed.”

John Elliott, midshipman in the Resolution, , aged 15 upon joining, wrote "Mr Loggie Midshipman was Discharged from that Station for having had some Dispute with the Boatswain”. Charles Loggie, aged 17, was noted for his drinking. James Gray, the Boatswain, 27, had been Quartermaster on the Endeavour.

On 9th James Burney, second Lieutenant of the Adventure, recorded in his journal: "being very fine Weather we brought too by an Island of Ice & hoisted our Boats out to pick up the loose pieces to water the Ship - we got 6 Boat Loads which when melted in the Coppers gave us 7 Tons of Excellent fresh water”.

Smith and Joppien in "The Art of Captain Cook’s Voyages", volume II, comment that Hodges, in his Antarctic drawings, "sets down a general impression by means of broad, fluent washes of umber and indian ink, darkening the forewater to create the vivid effect of low raking northern sunlight, striking upon the icebergs and the sails of the ships.”

The following day, Burney noted "We have had daylight the whole 24 Hours round, for some time past.”

Richard Pickersgill, third lieutenant on the Resolution, recorded in his journal: "the water was good and wholesome and I believe this to be the first instance of ships watering out of the Sea in hand Basketts.” According to Johann Forster, on the Resolution, on 12th "we saw a large Island of Ice & saw some lose pieces driving off the same: which induced the Captain to hoist 4 boats out & fetch new provisions of Ice; which was performed with amazing alacrity”.

The next day "we had Capt Fourneaux to breakfast & dinner: I went out to shoot a bird we saw swimming on the Sea. I winged it & it got some shot into the neck, so that we got the bird alive. It proved to be the Quackerbird, which I found to be a kind of Albatross, never described before, & I called it therefore Diomedea palpebrata. It is of a dusky grey, its head, wings & tail black, the bill of a jetty black, the feet of a dusky blue”. Nowadays called the Light-mantled Sooty Albatross Phoebetria palpebrata. According to Cook, "some of the Seamen call them Quaker Birds, from their grave Colour.”

Experiments with water

The next day a thermometer "was sent down 100 fathom and when it came up the mercury was at 32 [degrees Fahrenheit] which is the freezing point, some little time after, being exposed to the surface of the Sea, it rose to 33½ and in the open air to 36. Some curious and intresting experiments are wanting to know what effect cold has on Sea Water”. The next day, according to Forster, "Capt Cook took a half pint pot filled it with small Ice to the very top & filled the interstices with water: then was the pot set before the fire. Some particles of Ice were standing above the Surface of the water & the brim of the pot so that it might be said it were more than full. As soon as the Ice began to melt the water sunk gradually in the pot, till at last there was not the least Ice left & the water was ¼ of an Inch below the brim of the pot.”

According to Elliott, "the frost and cold [were] so intense as to cover the Rigging with Ice, like compleat christal ropes, from one End of her to the other, and even to stiffen our outer Coats on our backs, yet Capt. Cook would not allow any fire in the Gally, or anywhere else but at proper times in the day.”

By 17th there had been, wrote Cook, "five tolerable good Days suceeding one another, which have been usefull to us [to make] the necessary Observns for finding the Ships place and the Variation of the Compass... Mr Wales and I took each of us Six Distances with the Telescopes fitted to our Quadts, which agreed nearly with the [Kendal] Watch... we certainly can observe with greater accuracy with the Telescope when the Ship is sufficiently steady which however very seldom happens so that most observations at sea are made without, but let them be made either the one way or the other, we are sure of finding a Ships place at sea to a Degree and a half and generally to less than half a Degree.”

Crossing the Antarctic Circle

On 17th January, "we cross’d the Antarctic Circle for at Noon we were by observation four Miles and a half South of it and are undoubtedly the first and only Ship that ever cross’d that line.” Forster commented "A place where no Navigator ever penetrated, before the British nation, & where few or none will ever penetrate. For it is reserved to the free-Spirited sons of Britannia, to navigate the Ocean wherever it spreads its briny waves.” The next day "the Master & the Captain went up the Masthead & saw to the South & South West by South, a solid Field of Ice, so that it would be impossible to proceed & therefore having gone as far as 67° 15' South, we wore Ship & went North East by North.” Cook, "did not think it was consistant with the safty of the Sloops or any ways prudent for me to perservere in going farther to the South as the summer was already half spent and it would have taken up some time to have got round this Ice, even supposing this to have been practi-cable, which however is doubtfull.”

The weather got worse. Cook’s journal records gales, dirty hazy weather with snow, hail and sleet. On 23rd Cook "spread the Sloops abreast of each other at 4 miles distant in order the better to discover any thing that might lay in our way”, but the next day they came together again. This method of sailing together continued. On 28th "I now made Signal to the Adventure to come under my stern, and at 8 o’clock in the Morn spread them again”. Robert Cooper, first lieutenant on the Resolution, "smoak’d the Ship between the Decks with Gunpowder & Vinegar”. The icebergs receeded in number, so that on 30th Cook noted "the first and only day we have seen no Ice sence we first discovered it.”

On 1st February, Elliott recorded "Mr Coglan Midshipman was Disc[h]arged from that Station for haveing had a dispute with the Capts Servant; and was ordred to do his duty as a Foremastman.” John Coghlan was from Glamorgan. On the 3rd "Mr Coglan was Ordred by the Capt to his former Duty as Midshipman”. And on 7th "Mr Loggie was ordred by the Capt to his former Duty, as Midshipman”.

Meanwhile, in the Adventure, Burney recorded on 1st February, we "were this morning due South from the Island of Mauritius, our Latitude being 49° S°. Wind N.N.W. water still smooth though it blew very fresh. This afternoon we Saw a great deal of Sea Weed & some Divers (Birds which are never seen far from Land) - I imagine by the Smoothness of the Water these 2 day past & what we saw this afternoon that there is Land to the Westward - We made signal to Speak the Commodore & informd him of what we saw - we cruised hereabouts till the 6th without seeing any Land though we daily Saw numbers of Birds & pieces of Sea Weed... on the 6th the wind increasing without the least prospect of a Change we bore away for New Holland which was yet near 4000 miles from us”.

The Resolution and Adventure Part Company

On 8th Pickersgill, in the Resolution, recorded "we lost sight of our consort and tho- we fired guns we heard no answer - at 12 we made the proper sigl. and tacked, but heard no answer, we now repeated the sigl. every hour - at 4 it clear’d up a little when to our surprize we saw no Ship... We kept as near the place we parted in as we could, as her orders were to repair to the place of seperation where she was to cruze some days and not being able to find us, to repair to Charlottes Sound New Zealand and from there pursue the general instructions of which Capt. Furneaux had sufficient information.”

On 8th Burney, in the Adventure, recorded "this morning at 9, the Resolution being a head of us about a mile it came on so foggy that we lost Sight of each other - soon after the wind shifting we knew not which way to act to prevent parting Company - at 10 we heard a gun which they had fired, this we answerd, but were now more puzzled than ever as Some asserted the Sound came from the S.W. & others from the Eastward... the wind blew so fresh from the N.W. that at the end of 3 days we found ourselves 17 Leagues to Leeward, we therefore bore away again for New Holland... As Captain Cook intended running to the Southward as far as 55° S°. Captain Furneaux thought it most adviseable to Slant to the Southward to 52° 30 S° & then haul again to the Nward by degrees till we should be in the Latitude of Van Diemen’s Land.”

The Resolution is Alone during February

On the 13th Forster wrote, "an immense number of small Pinguins black above, white below, with red bills & a red line extending towards the Eye was seen jumping about the Ship; they all out-stripped the Ship & went a head, but each Flock was soon replaced by a new numerous body coming up from astern & soon going a head, & this continued for more than a hour & a half.” They were the Gentoo Penguin Pygoscelis papua. Cook added "the meeting with so many of these Birds gave us still some hopes of meeting with land”. They did not do so, but were about 40 miles from Heard Island. Cook "was resolved to go as far to the South as I conveniently could without looseing too much easting”.

On 15th, according to the ship’s log, "punish Wm Brisco & Francis Taylor with one dozen lashes each, Wm Atkinson, John Buttal & Phil. Brotherson with half a dozen each, all for Theft.” Atkinson was a seaman, Briscoe the tailor, Taylor and Buttal marines, and Brotherson the drummer.

The same day Pickersgill recorded, "in 57° S. we first fell in with Ice again and had little winds; we stood down to a large Island to water, but going too near it, we unfortunately got becalmed, and the ship set very fast upon it, we got out a Boat with all expidition, but were baffelled in all our attempts, in this situation we expected every moment to receive the fatal stroke, when Providence kindly intereceeded in our behalf and the ship went off without our assistance at a time when we least expected it and thus preserved us from immedeadate distruction for her head was hardly from under this Huge Mass of Ice before about ten or fifteen Tuns of ice fell from it into the Sea; this broke into lumps and afterwards drifted from the island and served us to water at.”

On 16th William Wales, the astronomer, missed the first sighting of the Aurora australis. The next day he recorded "I... found it to be the very same phenomenon which we call the Northern Lights in England. The natural state of the heavens, except in the S.E. quarter, and for about 10° of altitude all round the horizon, was a whitish haze, through which stars of the third magnitude were just discernable. All round, the horizon was covered with thick clouds, out of which arose many streams of a pale reddish light, that ascended towards the zenith. These streams had not that motion which they are sometimes seen to have in England but were perfectly steady, except a small tremulous motion which some of them had near their edges”.

On 18th "served Wine to the Ships Company instead of Grog", records Cooper. Three days later "at 1 pm, thinking we saw land to the SW, we Tacked and stood towards it, but at 3 o’Clock found it to be only clowds, which soon dissipated and we again resumed our course to the SE” wrote Cook. On 23rd "passed this 24 hours 70 or 80 Islands of Ice many of them as large as any we have seen”. The next day "stood to the South till 8 pm at which time we were in the Latitude of 61° 52' S, the Ice Islands were now so numerous that we had passed upwards of Sixty or Seventy sence noon... These obstacles together with dark nights and the advanced season of the year, discouraged me from carrying into execution a Resolution I had taken of crossing the Antarctick Circle once more”.

The gales continued as the ship sailed north. On 28th Cook wrote "we have a breeding sow on board which yesterday morning Farrowed nine Pigs every one of which was killed by the cold before 4 o’clock in the afternoon notwithstanding all the care we could take of them”.

The Adventure is Alone during February

Furneaux "kept between the Latitude of 52° and 53° South, had much Westerly winds hard gales with squalls, snow and sleet with a long hollow sea from the SW Quarter so that we judge there is no Land in that quarter... On the 26th at night we saw a Meteor of an uncomon brightness in the NNW, it directed its’ course to the SW. with a very great light in the southern sky, such as is known to the Northward by the name Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights: We saw the Lights for several nights running; and what is remarkable we have seen but one Island of Ice since we parted company with the Resolution... tho’ we were most of the time two or three degrees to the Southward of the Latitude we first saw it in. We were daily attended by great numbers of Sea birds, and frequently saw Porpoises curiously spotted white and black.”

The Resolution is Alone during March

March started with "the wind went again towards East, & brought its common concomitant evil rain & moisture” according to Forster. On Saturday, 6th, "Captain Cook having Observ’d many of the People in rather a ragged condition, this forenoon he gave them some Needles thread and Buttons, that they may have no excuse for their tatter’d - they also have every Saturday to themselves to wash &c - that they may likewise have no excuse for a dirty, or improper appearance” wrote Charles Clerke, second lieutenant. Midshipman Bowles Mitchel added that the captain "examined their hands - those who had dirty, suffered the usual punishment (the daily allowance of grog stopped”. The following day, he noted "servedthe people (stopped yesterday) their usual allowance”.

The wind gathered speed, so that on 10th, according to Cook, "by keeping about two or three points from the Wind she went at a great rate and altho we went in the through of the Sea, which as I have just observd run very high, we ship’d no Water to speake of, nor indeed has she done it at any other time. Upon the whole she goes as dry over the Sea as any ship I ever met with.” Forster saw things differently, "in the afternoon several Seas broke over the Quarterdeck, came down the Lather & between halfdecks, & as my Cabbin is just opposite I got water in it on more than one place.”

The next day according to Clerke, "one of the Armourers Assistants fell from the Fore Cat-Harpens into the weather Fore Chains and wou’d have been overboard, but was caught with great presence of mind by Solomon Rarden one of the Boatswains Mates who happen’d to be walking the Fore Castle and saw him falling. He luckily reciev’d no material Hurt.” Solomon Reading had save Thomas Fenton.

Forster’s problems continued when, on the 15th, "we have been obliged to prepare a better & warmer birth for two Ewes & a Ram, which we wished to bring safe to New Zeeland, no more convenient place could be devised than the space between my & the Maters Cabin. I was now beset with cattle & stench on both Sides... My poor Cabin was often penetrated by the wet, & all the many chinks in it admitted the air & the cold from all sides freely... I put on a good face”.

By 17th, Cook had resolved to steer "North inclinging to the East... makeing the best of my way to New Holland or New Zealand, my sole montive for wishing to make the former is to inform my self whether or no Van Diemens Land makes a part of that continent”. Three days later the Southern Lights reappeared, "so bright that we could discern our shadows on the Deck”, wrote Wales.

On 25th March Pickersgill recorded "we were regaled with the pleasing sight of the Mountains of New Zealand - after an absence from Land of 17 weeks and 3 days... how changed the scene! every body that was able to crawl on the masts and yards got up to satisfy their longing senses of a sight allmost forgot”. "Intending to put into Dusky Bay or any other Port I could find on the Southern part of Newzealand,” wrote Cook, "we steered in for the land under all the Sail I could set... in this Bay we were all strangers, in my last Voyage I did no more than discover and name it”.

The next day "as I did not like the place we had anchored in I sent Lieutt Pickersgill over to the SE side of the Bay to look for a more convenient Harbour while I went my self to the other side”. Pickersgill recorded, "the Captn. went with the pinnace on one side and I was sent with the Cutter on the other and after passing thro’ numbers of islands I at last came to a little cove on the South Sore, secure and commodious, with fresh water and a moderate depth of water.” In the morning Cook moved the ship and "anchored in Mr Pickersgills Harbour which I found full as safe and convenient as reported.”

Clerke comments "we’ve now arriv’d at a Port with a Ships Crew in the best Order that I believe ever was heard of after such a long Passage at Sea - particularly if we come to consult Climates; this happy state of Health was certainly owing to the Extraordinary indulgencies of Governt of Crowt, Wheat, Malt &c &c together with the strick attention paid by Capt Cook to the Peoples Clenliness.”

William Wales later remarked about Johann Forster "before we reached New Zealand the first time, there was scarce a man in the ship with whom he had not quarrelled with on one pretence or other”. Forster was busy, "In the morning I went a shore, & collected a few plants & seeds, but found to my great disappointment the Season too far gone, for there were hardly any flowers & but few seeds. In the mean while they hove the Anchor, & went away for the new anchoring place, & sent a boat for me... Early in the morning I got up, but could take no Excursion on account of the continual rain. We examined therefore several plants, & revised our descriptions & examined the drawings of them.”

According to Pickersgill the ship was in "a little cove that was just big enough to admit her and had 6 fathoms water, where we fastend her to the trees, the branches of which in many places hung over her.” Or, as Cook put it, "nature had in a manner prepared for us by a large tree which growed in a horizontal direction over the Water so long that the Top of it reached our gunwale... In the AM some of the officers went up the Bay in a small Boat on a shooting party, but returned again before noon and reported that they had seen Inhabitants in an Arm of the Bay.. they had but just got on board when the Natives appeared in two or three Canoes off a point about a Mile from us”

On 29th, "after the rain was over one small double Canoe in which were Eight of the natives appeared again and came within musquet shott of the Ship where they [were] looking at us for about half an hour or more and then retired, all the signs of friendship we could make notwithstanding. After dinner I tooke two Boats and went in search of them in the Cove where they were first seen, accompaned by several officers and gentlemen”. Forster tells us who they were: "the Captain went with the Master & me & two Marines in the Pinnace & the first Lieutenant, Mr Wales & my Son with 3 Marines in the small cutter.”


On 29th March, according to Johann Forster, "we saw no vestige of the Natives being there. Captain Cook laid some beads, ribbons, a looking glass...& then we went up to the head of the bay. We were gone only a few yards, we saw their hut; it was covered with flags & sticks over it, & had a mat before the door, or hole which forms the entrance to it.”
Forster drawing of a hut


The next day Cook "cleared places in the Woods near the Brook and set up Tents for the Water[er]s, Coopers, Sailmakers &c.” And on the following day "some hands assisting Mr Wales to clear a place for his observatory”.

The Adventure is Alone during March

On 1st March Burney recorded "at 7 in the Morning thought we saw Land to the Northward, but by the time we had run 15 miles that way it disappeard”. Furneaux then "bore away and directed our course toward the Land laid down in the charts by the name of Van Dieman’s land”, which was seen on the 9th, "bearing NNE about 8 0 9 Leagues distance; it appeared moderately high, and uneven near the Sea, the hills further back formed a double Land”.

The next day "being calm the ship then about four miles from the shore Sent the great Cutter onshore with the second Lieutenant to find if there was any harbour or good bay”. Burney landed but "saw no inhabitants, there was a very good path leading into the woods which would probably have led us to some of their Huts, but we could not stay to walk up, the Wind coming too fresh, obligd us to think of getting on board again.” They sailed on. The next day "at daylight "Sent the Master with 2 Boats to Sound and look for a Watering place”, which he found. In the afternoon the ship was worked into a bay, which Furneaux called Adventure Bay. It is on the east side of Bruni Island.

On 12th, Furneaux "sent our empty Casks ashore, and a guang of hands to cut wood.” The next few days were employed this way. On 15th John Wilby, midshipman, recorded "we Found out Sevl Huts or Wigwams with some Bags in them, made of weed But not the Least Appearance of any People. They have nothing to Live on but Shellfish, that we can Observe, for the Birds, what Few there are, is so shy, that its difficult to get a Shot at them. To the SW of the First Waterg Place there is a Large Lagoon which I believe has Plenty of Fish in it for one of our Gentlemen caught upwards of 2 Dozen Trout”. William Bayly, the astronomer, added "We found plenty of the dung of some Animal that seemed of the dear kind, the dung being in hard buttons”. Probably, a kangaroo.

The ship sailed on up the east coast of Tasmania. On 17th Wilby, noted "at Noon gave name to a Bluff Point Call’d it St Patrick’s Head in honour to the Day, have a great number of his Country on Board”. The next day Burney saw "a deep Bay which we named the Bay of fires, as we saw a great many all along the Coast.” The following morning he added "the Land to the N.W of us are Islands at 11 were abrest the S.E End of them. This for its unfruitfull & dreary appearance we called Cape Barren.”

Furneaux saw "a number of breakers about 1 mil from us, Sounded 8 fathoms, sandy ground; haul’d off & deepen’d the water, to 15 fathoms”. Wilby noted "from the Mast head we saw Land bearg about NNW But our Soundings greatly Decrease’d and thick Foggy Wr comeg on and in all Probability should have it Blowg We were Induce’d to Bear away for our Rendevous at New Zeald Every one being of Hopes to meet with our Concort, and Spending a Few Months in Ease & Quiteness.” They had, noted Burney, "a fresh gale from the Southward which continued till the 28th when it came round to the Northward”.

So Near and Yet So Far Apart

225 years ago at the end of March, 1773 Cook, in Dusky Bay, thought the Adventure "cannot be far off if not already in Queen Charlottes Sound... It may be asked why I did not proceed directly for that place as being the Rendesvouze, the Discovery of a good Port in the Southern part of this Country and to find out its produce were objects more intresting, it is quite immeterial whether the Adventure joins us now or a month or two hence.”

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1483, volume 21, number 1 (1998).

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