Home > 225 Years Ago: January - March 1777

225 Years Ago: January - March 1777


At the beginning of January, 1777 Captain James Cook in the Resolution and Charles Clerke in the Discovery were sailing from Kerguelen Land to Australia.

Cook's journal for this voyage summarises long sea passages with just a few words. Fortunately, others give us some detail.

On 2nd William Anderson, surgeon on the Resolution, wrote "Clean'd and smoak'd below." The next day James King, Second Lieutenant on the Resolution, recorded that Edward Cawn, seaman, got 12 lashes "for leaving his Bed on Deck all Night". Two days later James Burney, First Lieutenant on the Discovery, remarked "The 2 Ships are excellent company keepers, being nearly equal in their sailing. What little difference there is, is in favour of the Discovery".

The same day Anderson wrote "The weather so foggy we could not see above a quarter of a mile till the evening when it cleard a little with small rain." The Discovery "parted from us in the fogg. We fir'd several guns early in the morning but they were not answer'd till late after which she answerd those we fir'd regularly. In the afternoon she came in sight". The next day "bore down and sent a boat on board the Discovery. Found them all well but they had not heard any of our guns yesterday morning untill nine o clock".

Cook sent over to Clerke a note on what to do should they become separated. "Rendezvous. In case of separation before the Ships reach the Meridian of Van Diemen's land, You are to make the best of your way to Adventure bay on the cast coast thereof, in Latitude 43' 22' South. If you should happen to arrive there before me you are diligently to employ your people in wooding and watering the Sloop and in cutting Grass to make into hay for the live stock I have on board; you are however not to spend more than eight days on this service, but if not joined by me in that time to take on board all the hay you have made and can conveniently stow and proceed to Queen Charlotte's Sound in New Zealand agreeable to my order dated at the Cape of Good Hope."

Anderson reflected on the dangers on the 9th: "I cannot help indulging a reflection here on the dangerous situation we are constantly in from those foggs, notwithstanding I have before been almost in every perilous circumstance that can attend a discovering voyage. We us'd then to be more cautious, as the notion of land being in unknown seas seem'd more universal, at least with us… In common voyages little danger is to be apprehended unless what arises from one ship running foul of another, a thing which may almost constantly be avoided… in the night and attended with these foggs who can discern the danger soon enough to avoid it!"

On the same day George Forster was elected Fellow of the Royal Society. The son of Johann Forster, they had both sailed with Cook on his Second Voyage. George was nominated by Joseph Banks, Daniel Solander, Nevil Maskelyne, the astonomer royal, and others.

By 18th the fogs had given way to "moderate breezes with fine weather.". The next day Anderson continued "we carried away the fore topmast and maintop galant mast in a squall though our Consort receiv'd no damage". King explained "The Shortness of our time makes it absolutely necessary to carry all the Sail possible; It was this Necessity that probably caused the Loss of Our Mast". Cook recorded "The Main-top gallant we could not replace, as we had neither a spare one on board nor a spar to make one."

Adventure Bay

"On the 24th at 3 AM we made the Coast of Van Diemen land" wrote Cook. Anderson remarked that "though now the middle of summer here a spot or two of snow was seen on the highest hills… At ten we pass'd a point suppos'd to be the boundary of Stone Bay where Abel Tasman anchor'd", i.e. Storm Bay. According to David Samwell, surgeon's first mate on the Resolution, "both Ships anchored in Adventure Bay in Van Diemen's Land, this Bay was so called by Captn Furneaux who had anchored here in the Adventure last Voyage."

The next day Cook and Clerke sent "parties, one to cut wood and the other grass". Clerke wrote of his party from the Discovery "The Guard I had sent with the Parties on shore which consisted of the following Marines, Hamlet Thompson, Geo: Moody, Ben: Harriot, Jos: Pool & Willm Broom, stole some Liquor & made themselves exceedingly drunk, for which they receivd a dozen lashes each in the Morning." The Privates were all from the Plymouth division of marines. Hamlet Thompson was from the 6th Company, George Moody from the 70th, John Herriott the 12th, James Poole the 33rd and William Broom the 36th. According to Thomas Edgar, Master, they "made themselves so Beastly Drunk that they were put motionless in the Boat, and when brought on board were oblig'd to be hoisted into the Ship".

William Bayly, astronomer on the Discovery, wrote "In the morning I carried my Tent observatory & Instruments on Shore & set all up, but was not able to get any observations it being cloudy all day, in the evening Capt Cook Sent for me & told me he had Altered his mind relative to his stay, & ordered me to pack all up & carry the whole on board again, as he intend[ed] to sail for New Zealand in a day or two."

The Local Inhabitants

A Man of Van             Diemen's Land
A Man of Van Diemen's Land
by John Webber
engraved by James Caldwall
A Woman of Van             Diemen's Land
A Woman of Van Diemen's Land
by John Webber
engraved by James Caldwall
John Henry Martin, seaman on the Discovery, described the natives. "They have few, or no wants, & seemed perfectly Happy, if one might judge from their behaviour, for they frequently wou'd burst out, into the most immoderate fits of Laughter & when one Laughed every one followed his example Emediately."


Off to New Zealand

On 29th there was "a dead Calm which continued all the day and effectually prevented our sailing… We had not be[en] long landed before about twenty of them men and boys joined us". Samwell added "The Men had not been long with us before they were joined by ten or twelve Women, some of them carrying their Children on their Baks supported by the skin of some wild beast thrown over their Shoulders & tyed before".

According to Cook "At eight o'clock in the Morning of the 30th, a light breeze springing up at West we weighed and put to sea." Edgar, felt that "Adventure Bay… is a very fine One & will hold a great number of Shipping. Its shelterd from all Winds that can hurt you from the Southward by Maria's Islands. In sailing into Adventure Bay with the Wind Southly be sure to give Penguin Island a small birth there being some foul ground laying off it & when Past Luff up & Steer in for the Middle of the Bay and Anchor in 12 or 13 fathm Water Sandy Bottom."

Cook "persued our course to the Eastward without meeting with any thing worthy of note, till the night between the 6th & 7th of Febry".

Anderson explained "a boat was sent on board the Discovery, who found they had lost one of their marines who fell overboard the night before last and was never seen afterwards." It was George Moody.

"On the tenth at 4 PM", wrote Cook, "we discovered the land of New Zealand, it proved to be Rocks point… I steered for Cape Farewell, which at day break the next Morning bore SBW distant about four leagues… I now steered for Stephen's island which we came up with at 9 PM and at 10 the next Morning anchored in our old station on Queen Charlottes Sound."

According to Anderson "after getting within it the wind became so unsteady and at times calm that it oblig'd us to tow in with the boats. At last however we got in and anchord about ten oclock in ship Cove in 7 fathoms, the Discovery having been at anchor some time before by keeping farther out towards Motuara island where the wind was more steady."

Reception by the Local Inhabitants

Samwell noted "While we were standing into the Cove we saw three or four Canoes near the Hippah on Motuara on the opposite side of the Sound, & when we came to an Anchor they drew near the Ship but were very cautious & fearful of coming alongside, but in short time having consulted together they came in a body towards the Ship singing the Song of peace & Friendship, & one Man waving a white Ahoo or Cloth & at the same time speaking to us, & he was answered by Omai who kept waving a Handkerchief & assuring them we were their Friends & so they ventured along side of the Ship. This Timidity most probably proceeded from the Affair of the Adventures people which they could not yet have forgot & whose Death they immagined we were come to revenge. However after being informed by Omai who we were and that Toote (as they called Capt Cook) was our Are or Chief whom they were well acquainted with, they made no Hesitation at coming on board the Ship & most of them were known to those who had been here before, whom the N. Zealanders immediately recollected & seem'd to express great Joy at seeing them again… Trading immediately commenced & before night we had a great Number of Canoes about us. Several Tribes or Families came & took their Abode in Ship Cove to be near us.

The next day, the 13th, Bayly wrote "the Ships tents were caryed on Shor & set up by the side of the brook of water that runs down from the Mountains… in the afternoon I carryed my observatory & Instruments on Shore & set the Obsy close by the Ships tents that the whole might [be] under the centinals eye Capt Cook put up his observatory close by the side of mine."

Samwell remarked "today our Ship, which for the variety of living Things she contained might be called a second Noahs Ark, poured out the Horses, Cattle, Sheep, Goats &c. with peacocks, Turkeys, Geese & Ducks, to the great Astonishment of the New Zealanders, who had never seen Horses or Horned Cattle before; these being all feeding & diverting themselves about the Tents familiarised the Savage Scene & made us almost forget that we were near the antipodes of old England among a rude & barbarous people. A Brewery was erected close to the Tents for making Spruce Beer both for present use & for a sea Stock, which no doubt was of infinite use to the Ships Companies by keeping them free from the Scurvy, and reflects great Honour on the Commander who paid due Attention to this important Article. Spruce is met with in great plenty here, we made much of the Essence here which was put into Casks & brewed at Sea as it was wanted."

The same day Cook wrote to James Cleveley, carpenter on the Resolution. "Whereas Captain Clerke has represented to me by letter of this date that the Scuppers on the maindeck of His Majesty's Sloop the Discovery under his Command are so small that the continuance of the water there before it can be vented lays them under many inconveniences; and that as he has but one large lead Scupper, desires to be supplied with another, as it would be the means of rendering the Vessel more comfortable; You are therefore, hereby required and directed to supply the Carpenter of the said Sloop with a large Lead Scupper accordingly, taking his receipt for the same and for so doing this shall be your order."

"On the 15th", wrote Cook, "I made an excursion in my boat to look for grass, and visited the Hippah or fortified Village at the SW point of Motuara, and the places w[h]ere our Gardens were on that island. There were no people at the former but the houses and pallisades were rebuilt and in good order and had been inhabited not long before." The gardens had been laid down by Tobias Furneaux on the Adventure after the separation from Cook on the Resolution during the Second Voyage.

The Inside of a             Hippah, in New Zealand
The Inside of a Hippah, in New Zealand
by John Webber
engraved by Benjamin Thomas Pouncy
Rudiger Joppien, and Bernard Smith in their book The Art of Captain Cook's Voyages, Vol. III: The Voyage of the Resolution and Discovery 1776 - 1780 (Yale University Press, 1988, ISBN: 0-300-04105-5) believe this drawing by Webber "is probably the fortified village on the island of Motuara, visited by Cook on 15 February and by Anderson on 20 February. Cook had already been there in January 1770 when he found it deserted… Webber provides a most comprehensive view of the pa and relates it to the landscape overlooking the sound. Though Cook and Anderson both tell us that the pa was uninhabited, Webber introduces a man leaning on a staff into the foreground, with three figures seated on the ground nearby. For Webber the scene provided an opportunity to depict Maori weapons, and flaxen garments (pake pake). Yet the group as a whole is presented so as to strike a humane and deliberately pensive note, one which would appeal to current European sentiment."


"About Noon" on 15th, Bayly wrote "some little quarrel arose betwe[e]n the Sergant of Marines of the Resolution & an old Indian on which the Indian went off in his Canoe in a terrable Rage to a little cove where was a number of Indians at dinner, & they all lanched their Canoes & went across the Sound toward a Cove wher Captt Cook had some men cutting grass. Capt Cook saw the Inraged Indian & endeavoured to enquire the cause & Passify him; but he could neither do one or the other– he therefore sent his Pinnes man'd & amred to His grass cutters to protect them in case they wanted it; but the Indians altered their rout when they saw the Pinnis coming after them."

For several days, as Anderson put it "The people still employ'd in wooding, watering, cutting grass, brewing spruce beer and melting oil from some seals blubber which we brought from Kerguelins Land."

According to Samwell "The New Zealanders came on board every day to traffick & they found their Dealings with us much more to their Advantage than they had ever done before; for every one was so flush of Trade that they sold their Instruments of War & every thing they brought to Market at a very high price, getting a Hatchet for an Article that would not have fetched above a small Nail the last Voyage-a report of which spreading about the Country was the Occasion of more of the Natives coming to us this Voyage than either of the 2 former. They brought us many Girls on board but all of them very ordinary, & they like other Courtezans were so lavish of red Paint in daubing their faces & so fragrant of noisome smells that they did not meet with many Admirers even among the Ship's Company, who upon these occasions are never known to be peculiarly nice in the Choice of their Paramours."

On 23rd, wrote Samwell, "Being ready for Sea we struck the Tents & got every thing on board." The next day "Being ready for sailing we ran out of Ship Cove & came to anchor in the Sound". William Ellis, surgeon's second mate on the Discovery, wrote "at eight the next day (Tuesday 25th), we again got up our anchor, and made sail, standing through Cook's Straits."

According to Anderson "we took two of the natives with us who offer'd voluntarily to go with Omai to Otaheite. The eldest was about seventeen… and consider'd amongst the Indians here as a person of some consequence from his father having been one of their chiefs… The other was a boy about ten who as we understood was intended to serve" the other one. Cook noted that "we had no sooner lost sight of the land than our two Adventurers, what from the Sea sickness and reflection, repented heartily of the step they had taken".

Cook "stood to the North and NE according as the wind would admit". He added "my proceeding to the North this year depended intirely on my making a quick passage to Otaheite or the Society Islands." On 23rd King recorded "The Ships Company put to 2/3 Allowance of salt provisions… The reason of this alteration… was owing to some appearance of general disobedience among the people: many complaints had been made to the Captn of inferior Officers & particularly others having their victual stolen but no offender could be found".

"On 29th", wrote Cook, "the Discovery made the Signal for seeing land… We soon discovered it to be an island of no great extent… The night was spent in standing off and on, and at day break the next Morning I bore up for the lee or West side of the island… We presently found it was inhabited by seeing men in all parts come out of the woods upon the reef to oppose (as we thought) our landing, for they were all armed with long pikes or clubs which they brandished in the air with signs of threatning." Samwell saw a "small Canoe with two Men in her paddling toward the Ship, it was some time before Omai who understood their Language could prevail upon them to come along side… Capt. Cook threw a Shirt to thm, one of them immediately tyed it round his Head like a Turban."

Cook "reasumed our course along shore till we opened the north side of the island without seeing a Creek or Cove where a boat could land… I ordered a boat from each Ship to Sound the Coast and to endeavour to find a landing place; with this View I went in one of them". But "we could find no bottom till within a Cables length of the breakers… so that anchoring would be attended with more danger than landing… The curiosity of many was so strong that they took to the Water and Swam off to the boats and came on board without reserve; nay we found it some difficulty to keep them out, and we found it still more difficult to prevent them from carrying off every thing they could lay their hands upon."

Anderson "enquird the name of the Island which they called Mang'aeea or Mang'Ia", now written Mangaia. They departed. "at Noon the next day" wrote Cook "we again saw land… it prov'd to be an island nearly of the same extent". It was Atiu, and they sailed towards it.

Meanwhile, back in London George Forster's book A Voyage Round the World was published, some two months ahead of the official publication about the Second Voyage. Forster's work, heavily influenced by his father was priced two guineas and published in March 1777, 225 years ago.

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1926, volume 25, number 1 (2002).

Sort by:
profile photo
Would be interested to learn what is known of William Anderson's Scottish family - have you any information re his parents, where he was born, etc?
By M Stannard on 12/1/2013 11:59:48 PM Like:0 DisLike:0

Unsolicited e-mail warning

It has come to our attention that spam mailers (senders of bulk unsolicited e-mail) have been forging their mail with this domain as the point of origin. As a matter of policy, we do not send out e-mail from our domain name. If you have received an email that appears to be from "@CaptainCookSociety.com" it was forged and sent without our consent, knowledge, or the use of our servers.