Home > 225 Years Ago: January - March 1778

225 Years Ago: January - March 1778

 

On 1st January, 1778 Captain James Cook in the Resolution and Charles Clerke in the Discovery were anchored off Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean. William Ellis, surgeon's second mate on the Discovery, wrote "In the evening, captain Cook made the signal for the boats to return, and the next morning (January 2d), we weighed our anchors, and proceeded to the northward."

Heinrich Zimmerman, from Speir in Holland (now Speyer, Germany), seaman on the Discovery, noted in his journal they left "after having gathered such a supply of live turtles that we ate nothing else for four or five weeks; we kept them alive during that time by washing their eyes every day."

Cook "resumed our Course to the North… Set the Carpenters to work to caulk the main deck and weather work in the Waist." On the 6th he "Served the Fearnought Jackets and Trowsers allowed by the Admiralty, to the People". Presumably, the same ones that had been given out just over a year earlier as the ships headed towards Kerguelen.

On 10th William Bayly, astronomer on the Discovery, noted that "Capt Clerke dined with Capt Cook Yesterday Capt Cook & his people are all in good health except Mr Anderson the Surgeon who is very ill he being in a Consumptive State."

Arrival at the Hawaiian Islands

According to David Samwell, surgeon's first mate on the Resolution, the 18th arrived "without any material occurrence since we left Christmas Island, At day light this Morning we discovered high land bearing NebE". It was Oahu. Cook added, "soon after we saw more land bearing North and intrely ditatched from the first". This one was Kauai. The next day "at Sun rise the island first seen bore East… being directly to windward there was no geting nearer it so that I stood for the other, and not long after discovered a third island in the direction of WNW". The island of Niihau.

"This appearing to be a new Discovery excited our Curiosity much, expecting to meet with a new Race of People distinct from the Islanders to the Southward", wrote Samwell. Cook saw "some Canoes coming off from the shore towards the Ships, I immediately brought to to give them time to come up, there were three and four men in each". However, "what more than all suprisd us", wrote James King, second lieutenant on the Resolution, "was, our catching the Sound of Otaheite words in their speech, & on asking them for hogs, breadfruit, yams, in that Dialect, we found we were understood, & that these were in plenty on shore".

"The next morning" wrote Cook, "we stood in for the land and were met by several Canoes filled with people, some of them took courage and ventured on board. I never saw Indians so much astonished at the entering a ship before, their eyes were continually flying from object to object". Clerke's "Cabin was at one time full of them". They "were exceedingly curious and very desirous of handling and examining whatever came in their way, especially if composed of their favourite Metal, Iron; the Cabin Windows were open and suspended by Iron Hooks; one of them in examining one of these Hooks, withdrew its Support from the window, which immediately shut down like a Trap Door; something of the kind I believe my poor friends took it for, for they directly made their way out at the other Windows… we were going upwards of 4 knots at the time, however their Canoes soon picked them up."

Zimmerman recorded that "Lieutenant Williamson, an Irishman, had command to carry out the business of seeking fresh water with the three boats; we found a snug place at which to land and as we were going ashore about fifty people who had gathered at a short distance sprang into the sea and lifted the Lieutenant's boat with its crew into the air and would have carried it to land on their backs. Their crew, unable to decide whether this enterprise was of a friendly nature or antagonistic, struck the islanders smartly over the fingers with their oars and when these people would not desist from this doubtful courtesy and one of them even attempted to snatch Lieutenant Williamson's gun from his hands, the latter shot him down on the spot. The rest immediately dropped the boat into the water and carried the wounded man with a great clamor into the forest. We returned to the ship and told the Captain what had taken place. The latter [Clerke] reprimanded Lieutenant Williamson severely for this occurence". John Williamson was third lieutenant on the Resolution.

 

An ISLAND VIEW  in ATOOI
An ISLAND VIEW in ATOOI
by John Webber

"The drawing depicts Cook's visit to the village of Waimea; some men rolling barrels; others bartering with Hawaiians; at right, two natives carrying a pig strung to a pole. Behind them many native habitations, and a panoramic view of the interior" wrote Rudiger Joppien and Bernard Smith in their book, The Art of Captain Cook's Voyages, The Voyage of the Resolution and Discovery 1776 – 1780, Yale University Press, 1988.
 

"The next morning", wrote George Gilbert, AB on the Resolution, "Capt Cook went onshore himself with 4 or 5 boats well armed to purchas provisions and bring off water. He had no sooner landed but a number of the Natives came and prostrated themselves before him in the most submissive manner imaginable. The reason of this he was unacquainted with as he had not been informed that one of them had been killed the day before".

When Cook went ashore he found that "We no sooner landed, that a trade was set on foot for hogs and potatoes, which the people gave us in exchange for nails and pieces of iron formed into some thing like chisels. We met with no obstruction in watering on the contrary the Natives assisted our people to roll the Casks to and from the pond." He "took a walk up the Vally, accompaned by Dr Anderson and Mr Webber; conducted by one of the Natives and attended by a tolerable train… At Noon I returned on board to dinner and sent Mr King ashore to command the party; he was to have gone in the Morning, but was detained aboard to make lunar observations… At sun set I brought every body on board, having got during the day Nine tons of water".

Clerke reported an incident that day. "Their was one Stroke they played which I readily gave them Credit for; some of the Officers who were on Shore, looking after the watering Party &c, had their dinners sent to them, which dinner was conveyed in a Pewter Turene: one of the Midshipmen took these matters on shore, and upon landing, gave the Turene to an Indian (who accidentally was standing gaping by) to carry to the Officers, and troubled himself no farther about it; the Indian finding himself so easily possess'd of what I suppose he deemed a pretty piece of furniture, set off with it into the Country; where, upon examining the Contents, they found it to be roast Pork, which that they might make the most of the Prize, they brought down and sold to the Seamen who were watering; the Johns knew nothing of the Turene business, but relishing the Pork very well, they swore, damn their Eyes, they cou'd not tell how it was, but these wild Fellows had found out a way to roast Pork, as well as People cou'd in England."

According to Bayly "Capt Cook prohibited all intercourse between us & the women, on acct of a number of our people not being free from the fowl disease, they got at the Society Islands which was a great disappointment to the Girls." Thomas Edgar, Master, on the Discovery, commented "None of them were permitted to come on board the Ships & every precaution was taken to prevent the Men from medling with them on Shore & this requir'd the utmost vigilance of the Officers for the Women us'd all their Arts to entice them into their Houses".

"After we had been here three or four days", wrote Gilbert, "the wind came on to blow fresh along shore, which caused a great swell that the boats could not land; and Capt Cook not thinking it safe riding in the situation we were in, we hove up and stood out to Sea with an intention to look for a safer anchorage, leaving the Discovery still in the road We had no sooner got a little distance from the land but the wind shifted directly off the shore which entirely frustrated our design, for tho' we attempted to work up for four or five days, we could not get to windward; therefore giving over all hopes of fetching into anchorage again, we stood for an Island that lies in sight to the West, at about 8 leagues distance and the next morning came to an anchor in an open road on the lee side of it." The island of Niihau.

During these few days Henry Roberts, master's mate on the Resolution, recorded on 25th the punishment of William Bradley, seaman, "for disobeying orders, with 2 dozen, and having connections with women knowing himself to be injured, with the Veneral disorder."

"On the night of the 27th", wrote King, "the Serjeant of the Marines fell Overboard, he was a little in liquor & laid himself down to Sleep upon the Gangway; the Ship had not much way thro the water, & we toss'd overboard a pole that had a bell at one end & corks near the Middle, & a Shot at the other end; this machine was sent on board to us at long reach, & it was placed conveniently to be thrown overboard instantly; he got hold of this & kept the bell ringing, till a boat was hoistd out which pickd him up & also the machine. that this is a useful thing the present instance prov'd, but it does not answer all the purposes the humane inventor meant it shou'd." According to John Watts, seaman on the Resolution, "Departed this Life Thos Roberts Quarter Master. He had not done a week's duty since his Departure from England, His Complaint was ye Dropsy; He had been tap'd four times. ye Ship's Company remarkably healthy, not a Man in ye Sick List, after an Absence of 18 Months from England."

On 29th Cook "sent Lieutenant Gore with three armed boats to looke for the most convenient landing place and fresh water." John Gore was first lieutenant on the Resolution. Clerke visited the ship and, according to King, "On C Clerke's coming on board & perceiving by some bustle in getting the Canoes out of his way, that he was a Chief, those on board crouch'd down & did not rise till they were told to do so".

The next day Cook "I sent Mr Gore ashore again with a guard of Marines and a party to trade with the Natives for refreshments… In the evening the party a shore made the Signal for the boats". But, wrote King "the Surf broke so violently on the shore, that Mr Gore & the Marines did not venture to come off in the boats that were sent for them, & for what they had purchas'd most of which was lost & spoilt in getting into the boats; the Captain was very uneasy at their staying on shore, being apprehinsive, that his endeavours in hindring any connexions with the women would now be frustrat'd". Cook noted "the weather continued all the next day, and the sea run so high that we had no manner of communication with the people on shore; even the Natives durst not venture out in their canoes."

Departure from the Hawaiian Islands

On 1st February, wrote Samwell, "Captn Cook went ashore to day & brought off all the People… About 7 o'Clock in the afternoon we drove from the Bank having strong Gales with a heavy Swell, on which we immediately weighed our anchor and stood out to sea leaving the Discovery behind us, she made lights to us during the Night." Clerke recorded "the Resolution was drove off the Banks and went to Sea; hoisted her Lights throughout the Night, but at Sunrise saw her at a great distance in the Offing, bearing WBS. We now had a fine breeze with pleasant Weather, and the Wind having been off shore for some time, there appears very little Surf to interrupt any business we might wish to transact. A great Number of the Natives came off in their Canoes to traffic for Yams, Hogs &c. but I was under the necessity of getting away to Sea and joining my Commodore, so took my Anchor up and stood for him with all Sail."

"These five Islands", Atoui, Enēēhēēōū, Orrehoua, Otaoora and Wouahoo, names by which they are known to the Natives, I named Sandwich Islands, in honour of the Earl of Sandwich", John Montagu. On the 2nd, wrote Samwell, "we stood to the northward Eastward for the Coast of America."

Very little is recorded in the journals over the next month. The Resolution's log noted on 9th "Carpenters repairing the Boats & Sailmakers the Sails and the Armourer at the Forge making new Keel bands for the boats". Clerke wrote on 11th "We have been so long Inhabitants of the torrid Zone, that we are all shaking with Cold". And on 21st "Carpenters repairing the Quarter Deck, thro' which the Rats had eat a large hole; I suppose to come at some Yams which were stow'd there, as it was immediately under them. Oh! my poor Cats at Anamooka."

On 25th Bayly wrote "The Aurora borialis appeared very bright. This is the first time I have seen it this Voyage." On 28th Edgar noted "Thos Goodman seaman fell from the Fore Shrouds broke his Collar bone & otherwise much Bruisd himself."

Arrival at the North American Coast

On 1st March, Cook recorded "we had one Calm day: this was succeeded by a wind from the North, with which I stood to the East in order to make the land, which according to the Charts, ought not to have been far from us. On the 6th at Noon… we saw two Seals and several whales, and at day break the next Morning, the long looked for Coast of new Albion was seen." Gilbert described the view: "the inland parts are very mountainous but the shore is of a modrate height The appearance of this Country was very different to which we had been use to between the tropicks, it being entirely covered with snow which afforded a very dreary prospect; there being not the least verdure to be seen." Cook noted "At the northern extreme, the land formed a point, which I called Cape Foul Weather from the very bad weather we soon after met with… I stood to the NW under an easy sail waiting for day-light to range along the Coast. But at 4 in the morng the wind Shifted to NW and blew in squals with rain." On 9th the weather "grew worse and made it necessary to tack and stand off till 4 in the morng, when I ventured to stand in again."

The next day "we were within three leagues of the land… Seeing nothing like a harbour and the wind and weather being still unsetled I tacked and Stretched off SW… Each extream of the land seemed to shoot out into a point; the one to the North we saw on the 7th it was called Cape Perpetua on accou[n]t of its being first seen on that day". St Perpetua was an African martyr who died on 7th March 203. "The one to the south I called Cape Gregory". The feast of St Gregory of Nyssa is on 12th March.

Clerke expressed their frustration on 14th. "We have now very disagreeable Weather, fresh Gales with hard squalls of Wind sleet & Snow; & a very heavy Wterly Swell. It is really rather a lamentable business that these NWters this very unsettled Wear shou'd so far intrude upon us, that we can neither forward our Matters by tracing the Coast, not have the Satisfaction of getting into a Harbour to take a look at the Country. Whilst this Wear continues we cant look at the shore, but continue to dance about in the Offing here & make the best Weather of it we can."

On 20th Gore noted "The Sails were got out of the Bread Room And it Smoak'd with Sulfur: to Kill the Cockroaches Families Who had been very Troublesome to us, together with Their Neighbours the Ratts."

Two days later, Cook "continued to stand to the North [then] tacked to wait for day light… a small round hillock, which had the appearences of being an island… Between this island, or rock and the northern extreme there appeared to be a small opining in the land which flatered us with hopes of finding a harbour, these hopes lessened as we drew nearer, and at last we had some reason to think that this opining was closed by low land. On this account I called the point of land to the North of it Cape Flatery… It is in the very latitude we were now in where geographers have placed the pretended Strait of Jean de Fuca, but we saw nothing like it, nor is there the least probability that iver any such thing exhisted."

According to John Ledyard, corporal of marines on the Resolution, "From the 7th to the 28th we had the ruggedest weather we had yet experienced. The weather was cold, the gales of wind were successive and strong, and sometimes very violent! Our ships complained. We were short of water, and had an unknown coast to explore. And the very day we purposed to reconnoitre for a harbour, the wind veered to the N.E. and forced us off the coast a full week."

"At 9 oclock in the Morning of the 29th", wrote Cook "as we were standing to the NE we again saw the land… The SE extreme of the land formed a low point off which are many breakers, occasioned by sunken rocks, on this account it was called Point breakers… this land I named" Woody Point. It was renamed Cape Cook by Captain Richards of the Canadian Hydrographic Office in 1860.

Arrival at Nootka Sound

Ledyard wrote "We entered this inlet about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. The extremes of the opening at the entrance were about 2 miles distant, and we had the prospect of a snug harbour. It was matter of doubt with many of us whether we should find any inhabitants here, but we had scarcely entered the inlet before we saw that hardy, that intriped, that glorious creature man approaching us from the shore. As we advanced into the inlet we found it still more favorable, and perceived several small islands between the two shores. Night approaching we came to an anchor between one of those islands and the eastern shore about one quarter of a mile from each. In the evening we were visited by several canoes full of the natives; they came abreast our ship within two rods of us and there staid the whole night, without offering to approach nearer or to withdraw farther from us, neither would they converse with us. At the approach of day they departed in the same reserve and silence. On the 30th we sent our boats to examine a small cove in the opposite island, which answering our wishes we moved with both ships into it and moored within a few rods of the surrounding beach." Andrew David in his book Charts and Coastal Views of Captain Cook's Voyages: Volume Three: The Voyage of the Resolution and Discovery 1776-1780 (Hakluyt Society, 1997, ISBN 0-904180-55-7), says the cove "is named Ship Cove on all the surviving surveys of the sound and on the subsequent engraved chart… It was renamed Resolution Cove by the British Hydrographic Office c. 1849." David also says the ships Cook "had anchored off the south-eastern side of a large island, later named Bligh Island by Captain G.H. Richards in 1862 in honour of William Bligh, master of the Resolution". They had arrived at Nootka Sound, 225 years ago.

View of the  Entrance of NOOTKA Sound
View of the Entrance of NOOTKA Sound

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 24, volume 26, number 1 (2003).

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