Home > 225 Years Ago: January - March 1774

225 Years Ago: January - March 1774


On 1st January, 1774 James Cook, in the Resolution, was searching for the Great Southern Land. The year started with "piercing cold weather, frequent snow showers, many ice islands", he wrote.

John Elliott, midshipman, recorded that "Mr Mawell, Mr Loggies & some others of the Gentlemen, having made an agreement amongst themselfs to make merry; A Quarrel arose between the two Pervious mention'd, which was the Occation of the former's Striking Mr Loggie, He in Return opend his knife & swore he'd stab him; For which he was Punished with a Dozen Lashes haveing done his Duty before the Mast". James Maxwell and Charles Loggie were 21 and 17 years of age when they had joined.

Johann Forster was not well, recording on the 3rd, "Though I never stir out of the Cabin, the least current however throws me again in a fever… I took something in the Evening to promote Perspiration." The next day he added "our course is N.W. the breeze fresh, despair is visibly painted on all faces, for they now begin to fear, that they shall be obliged to stay another year in these Seas & have another cold winter-campaign to go through." The following day: "we are to explore these Seas & to see whether any Land is in them: a small island at such a distance from Great Britain can be of no use & consequently of no consequence to this Great Nation."

On 5th "the wind increased", wrote Cook, "to a Storm and blew in squalls attended with showers of rain, obliged us at last to take in the Top-sails, the Fore top-sail being Split unbent it to repair". The next day "very strong gales and excessive heavy squalls attended with rain". Forster described it thus: "The Storm & rolling increase, & toss our poor bark in a strange manner, & we ship several large Seas. The water comes in at the sides of the Ship, which are by no means tight, though they were well caulked at N. Zeeland." The next day he "went the first time on deck since two days after Christmas. Feel still flying rheumatic pains in my limbs."

On 7th wrote Cook "at 8 AM observed several distances of the Sun and Moon, the results were as follows, Mr Wales 133º24', Mr Gilbert 133º10', Mr Clerk 133º00', and Self 133º37' West Longitude. Mr Kendals watch at the same time gave 133º44' W." William Wales was the astronomer, Joseph Gilbert the Master. The next day "at 9 o'Clock had again several Observations of the Sun and Moon the results were confirmable to yesterday and determined our Longde beyond a doubt. Indeed our error can never be great so long as we have so good a guide as Mr Kendalls watch." Larcum Kendall's copy of John Harrison's chronometer was often used, and occasionally praised.

The Ship turns South

On 10th Cook "hoisted out a small boat in which some of the officers went and Shott several Birds which made us a fresh meal". The next day he recorded, "at noon being little more than two hundred Leagues from my track to Otaheite in 1769 in which space it was not probable any thing was to be found, we therefore hauled up" and headed southward again. The crew were not impressed, as Elliott recorded. "Steering East we had all taken it into our heads that we were going streight for Cape Horn, on our roud [road] home, for we began to find that our stock of Tea, Sugar &c began to go fast, and many hints were thrown out to Captn Cook, to this effect; but he only smiled and said nothing, for he was close and secret in his intentions at all times, that not even his first Lieutenant knew, when we left a place, where we should go to next. In this instance all our hopes were blasted in a Minute, for from steering East, at Noon, Captn Cook ordered the Ship to steer due South, to our utter astonishment, and had the effect for a Moment, of causing a buz in the Ship but which soon subsided.

Forster had still not recovered. On 13th "I have still rheumatic pains about me & can hardly bear the least breath of air, though I was used to be on deck in all weathers for a considerable time." Three days later "the Storm & Sea much increased… At 9 o'clock, there came a huge mountainous Sea & took the Ship in her middle, & overwhelmed all her parts with a Deluge. The table in the Steerage, at which we were sitting, was covered with water, & it put our candle out: the great Cabin was quite washed over & over by the Sea coming through the Sides of the Ship". Two days later he commented "the weather still colder in proportion as we advance to the South; our days grow longer, we could see at 10 o'clock without candle. A cruise among the inhospitable Ice Islands is a dismall prospect & shocking to humanity; but to make this cruizing willfully longer, in order to satisfy interest & vanity is as Juvenal observes: Proper vitam vivendi perdere causas." [To destroy the point of living for the sake of life.]

Full allowance restored

On 20th Forster noted "our Sailors have long been at 2/3 allowance" for the bread has unfortunately been packed in green casks, which absolutely spoiled all that which was in contact with the Sides… The Doctor expects that if our this years cruize will prove so long as that of last year, to see more than half of the Ship's company sick." The surgeon was James Patten. Forster continued "Sunday last… the first Mate came to the Captain & asked him where he should get bread to fill his belly… The Captain ordered immediately 6 pounds of bread for his Mess, & full allowance of bread for every man."

On 26th Cook "came the third time within the Antarctick Polar Circle" at 109°31'W as the ship sailed south. "Soon after saw an appearence of land to the East and SE, haul'd up for it and presently after it disapeared in the haze. Sounded but found no ground with a line of 130 fathom." Two days later "the fog was so thick that we could not see a quarter of a Mile round us." According to Forster "at Midnight we passed a large Island of Ice, & it was so clear, that even in my cabin, which is very dark, I could read a book with small types... Mr Wales, the Astronomer, had left his Stop-Second-watch on his Shelf in his Cabin, & during this time a young Gentleman came in, took it in his hand, opened & dropt it, by which fall the Cylinder was broke, so that this caused him an infinite grief. There are hardly any watches in the Ship alive: the great part being stopped long ago." The next day, wrote Cook, "fell in with some loose ice, brought-to, hoisted out two Boats and took a quantity on board." Forster "ventured the first time on deck after a month confinement."

I whose ambition...

On 30th Cook "a little after 4 AM preceived the Clowds to the South near the horizon to be of an unusual Snow white brightness which denounced our approach to field ice, soon after it was seen from the Mast-head and at 8 o'Clock we were close to the edge of it which extended East and West in a streight line far beyond our sight... In this field we counted Ninety Seven Ice Hills or Mountain, many of them vastly large... I will not say it was impossible anywhere to get in among this Ice, but I will assert that the bare attempting of it would be a very dangerous enterprise and what I believe no man in my situation would have thought of. I whose ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go, was not sorry at meeting with this interruption, as it in some measure relieved us from the dangers and hardships, inseparable with the Navigation of the Southern Polar regions. Sence therefore we could not proceed one Inch farther South, no other reason need be assigned for our Tacking and stretching back to the North, being at that time in the Latitude of 71°10' South, Longitude 106°54' W."

On 2nd February Forster "got a violent toothach, & went to bed. The thermometer at 36°, in my Cabin 41°." On 6th, wrote Elliott, "Mr Maxwell in unbending the Main topsail, Cut it in several Places; for which he was Order'd off the Quarter Deck to do Duty before the Mast." James Maxwell had already been in trouble this year.

The same day Cook contemplated what to do about finding "the Land laid down in Mr Dalrymples Chart... or that of Bouvets, before we could reach either the one or the other the Season would be too far spent to explore it this Summer... [the] Southern Continent, mentioned by all authors who have written on this subject whose assertions and conjectures are now intirely refuted as all there enquiries were confined to this Southern Pacific Ocean in which altho' there lies no continent there is however room for very large Islands, and many of those formerly discover'd within the Southern Tropick are very imperfectly explored and there situations as imperfectly known. All these things considered, and more especially as I had a good Ship, a healthy crew and no want of Stores or Provisions I thought I cou'd not do better than to spend the insuing Winter within the Tropicks: I must own I have little expectation of makeing any valuable discovery, nevertheless it must be allowed that the Sciences will receive some improvement therefrom especially Navigation and Geography... my intintion is now to go in search of the Land said to be discovered by Juan Fernandas... to look for Easter Island... I next intend to get within the Tropicks and proceed to the west on a rout differing from former Navigators, touching at, and settling the Situation of such Isles as we may meet with... designing if Possible to be the Length of Cape Horn in November next, when we shall have the best part of the Summer before us to explore the Southern part of the Atlantick Ocean."

On 7th "at 11 o'Clock as we were takeing in the Top-sails, a Squall of wind took hold of them and tore them all to pieces, this loss was not great as they had already done much service and were worn to the very utmost: it was not long before others were bent and set close reef'd and we continued to advance to the North at a good rate." According to Forster "the Ship rolled very deep, often gunnel to." On 13th "Light airs next to a Calm, put a Boat in the Water in which some of the officers went and shott several Birds". Five days later he recorded "we are now three months out on this cruize, & it is high time to come to some port & have some Vegetables & fresh provisions, for thought few are sick, however those that recover from colds & Rheumatisms cannot recover their Strength & vigour".

On 19th "We are nearly upon the Track of the Dolphin Captain Wallis, having cross'd that of the Endeavour two days ago". Three days later, according to Forster, "Mr Cooper, our first Lieut. shot two Grampusses with Musket balls." Robert Palliser Cooper was a relative of Sir Hugh Palliser, Comptroller of the Navy. Two days later, wrote John Marra, gunner's mate, "the weather continuing fine, the Captain neglected no opportunity of ordering the hammocks, &c. to be aired; and he was no less careful of the mens apparel, never suffering any to appear dirty before him; insomuch that when other Commanders came on board, they could not help declaring, they though every day Sunday on board of Capt. Cooke." The next day Clerke recorded "Punish'd Jno Ennel with a dozen, Jno Leverick and Richd Lee with a ½ dozen each for drunkeness and neglect of duty". John Innel, John Leverick and Richard Lee were seamen aged 18, 21 and 20 years when they joined ship.

Illness on Board Ship

On 23rd Marra wrote "this day the Captain was taken ill, to the grief of all the ship's company."

On 26th Forster wrote "My Servant began to complain of a colic & pain in his stomach when I was still sick; I advised him to go to the Doctor & use something, but he postponed, til he grew at last very wretched & poor by pain & starving himself. The doctor gave him several Medecines & purges, Glysters etc, all which, after several days pains, cleared all the coagulated, hard, bilious, Faeces, & he at last was enabled to leave the bed; but he was so weak that at present after several days, he can but just stand on his Legs". Ernest Scholient is rarely mentioned by anyone.

Forster also wrote "The Capt who had likewise felt for several days a pain in his Stomach & being confined, did not chuse to use something". It was not until the next day that Cook writes about his illness: "I was now taken ill of the Bilious colick and so Violent as to confine me to my bed, so that the Management of the Ship was left to Mr Cooper my first Officer who conducted her very much to my satisfaction. It was several days before the most dangerous symptoms of my disorder were removed, during which time Mr Patten the Surgeon was to me, not only a skillful Physician but a tender Nurse and I should illdeserve the care he bestowed on me if I did not make this publick acknowledgement. When I began to recover, a favourate dog belonging to Mr Forster fell a Sacrifice to my tender Stomack; we had no other fresh meat whatever on board and I could eat of this flesh as well as broth made of it, when I could taste nothing else, thus I received nourishment and strength from food which would have made most people in Europe sick".

The next day Marra wrote "the captain this day much better, which each might read in the countenance of the other from the highest officer to the meanest boy on board". Forster recorded "we now go directly for Easter-Island, & every one in the Ship most ardently wishes to see this Island, in hopes of getting a good many refreshments". The next day he added "the Capt is much better, sits up, & eats something, but is very weak, & quite emaciated, & will continue so for a good while, unless we meet with Land, & get some refreshments."

On 2nd March Wales commented "it's scarcely 3 weeks ago we were miserable on acco of ye cold: we are now wretched with ye heat".

Easter Island

On 9th Cook wrote "judgeing our selves by observation to be nearly in the Latitude of Davis's land or Easter Island we steer'd nearly due west... In the evening took in the Studding Sails and ran under an easy sail during the night, at day-light made all sail again". The following night "at Middnight brought to till day-light then made sail and soon after saw the Land from the Mast head". On 13th "in stretching in for the land we discovered people and those Moniments or Idols mentioned by the Authors of Roggeweins Voyage which left us no room to doubt but it was Easter Island." The Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen dis-covered the island on Easter Day (5 April) 1522.

Cook "steer'd round the South point of the Island... ran along the western and NW side... untill we open'd the northern point without seeing any safe anchoring place." The next day he anchored off the west coast off Hanga-roa bay, Punta Roa. "We landed at the sandy beach where about 100 of the Natives were collected who gave us no disturbance at landing... After distributing among them some Medals and other trifles, they brought us sweet Potatoes, Plantains and some Sugar cane which they exchanged for Nails &ca". Forster added "in the night we dragged our Anchor & were obliged to heave it & stand out in order to regain our ground or perhaps to get a better one... After breakfast Capt Cook went ashore with the pinnace & Cutter, & I went with him".

Wales "went on Shoreto Examine the Tide by a mark which I had made in the morning, and found that it rose about 2 feet; but this could not be determined with any great nicety on account of the great surf which sets in".

On 15th Cook "got on board a few Casks of Water and Traded with the Natives for some of the produce of the island which appeared in no great plenty and the Water so bad as not to be worth carrying on board, and the Ship not in safety determined me to shorten my stay here. Accordingly I sent Lieutenants Pickersgill and Edgcumb with a party of Men, accompanied by Mr Forster and several more of the gentlemen, to examine the Country; I was not sufficiently recovered from a fit of illness to make one of the party."

According to Forster "we were in all 27 Men. We stood directly across the country under the high hill, till we came to the other Side of the Island, & there we found 7 stone pillars, 4 of which were still standing... One of the standing ones had lost its hat... In what manner they contrived these structures in incomprehensible to me, for we saw no tools with them... The Images represent Men to their waist, the Ears are large & they are about 15 foot high & above 5 foot wide; they are ill shaped & have a large solid bonnet on their head like some of the old Egyptian divinities... These pillars intimate that the Natives were formerly a more powerfull people, more numerous & better civilized".

Pickersgill reported to Cook that "the East shore is all steep clifts and the shore so rocky, which with the great surf I think renders it impossible for a boat to land; here we search'd for water but could find none nor could the Natives tell us of any. We had many of the Natives went with us a cross the Isthmus and one man constantly kept a head of us carrying a white flag who seem'd to direct the crowd. From this place we traveled about 3 miles further a long shore, the man still carrying his flag and the Natives flocking round us to about 150 in Number; this part of the Country was very barren, hardly a house or Plantation to be seen".

Forster continued "We marched to an elevated place & stopped a little in order to refresh, or to give Mr Hodges an opportunity of drawing some stone-pillars at a distance. When our people were seated & had laid their bags down, one of the Natives snatched a bag up & ran away with it. Mr Edgcumb fired a gun with Shot in his back, which caused him to throw down the bag, & to run away; all the people ran away & left us alone".

On 17th Cook "hoisted the boat in and made Sail NW with the wind at NNE." According to Marra, "The fresh provisions taken in at Easter Island were now dealt out by the captain's order, and at the captain's expence, equally among the men, namely, two pound of potatoes a man, and a bunch of bananas to each mess; and this without reducing their ordinary allowance, an act of generosity which produced its effect; it preserved the crew in health, and encouraged them to undergo chearfully the hardships that must unavoidably happen in the course of so long a voyage." The next day, he continued, "the captain was taken ill again." Forster added, "the Captain having staid too long unsheltered a shore in the heat of the day, & heated himself with walking a good way, & eating lard & salt pork plenteously has fallen again into his constipation, & bilious complaint. The greater part of those who went on the Expedition have burst lips & burnt faces, that cause them pain in proportion as the skin goes off."

Justice at Sea

On 18th Bowles Mitchel, midshipman, recorded "Wm Wedgerborough marine confined, there being strong persumptive proof, of uncleanliness; by easing himself betwixt decks - and proof positive in point of Drunkeness." The next morning "People &c turned aft in order to punish the above, when the Lieut of marines publicly declared he objected to it - which the Captn was made acquainted with (being ill at this time) the prisoner was again confined". The following day, "Read the articles of war & Punished Wm Wedgerborough marine with a dozen lashes - after his having another hearing, when their appear'd such proofs that no doubts could be left." William Wedgeborough was a Private in the Marines. John Edgcumbe was a Second Lieutenant in the Marines.

On 20th Forster noted "Several people taken ill with a bilious disorder". Two days later, "The Capt, Mr Patton & my Servt still ill of the bilious disorder." Five days later "The Capt & my Servt a good deal better. Mr Patton, Mr Wales & others, who were somewhat ill of the same disorder, find themselves much relieved, so as the wind freshens & by using some remedies."

On 28th Cooper "set the Forge up for the Armourer to make hatchets after the form of the stone ones of Otaheite, to trade with the Natives of Marquesas".

The next day Cook "Altered the Course to west N west" and the following day "altered Course to West" as he sought the Marquesas where he "intended to touch in order to settle their situation, which I find different in different Charts." The next day "in the evening a Gannet kept some time about the Ship", 225 years ago.

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1593, volume 22, number 1 (1999).

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Thank you for making these entries available. Immensely interesting. Fascinating. All the best and please continue. Educare est Orare.
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By trinibec on 3/19/2013 6:39:57 PM Like:0 DisLike:0

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