Home > 225 Years Ago: July - September 1772

225 Years Ago: July - September 1772

Webber portrait             of Cook On 1st July, 1772 James Cook, in the Resolution, was sailing "for Plymouth Sound where we arrived on Friday the 3rd of July and found our consort the Adventure Sloop waiting for us. The evening before we met between the Start and Plymouth Lord Sandwich in the Augusta Yacht, the Glory Frigate & Hazard Sloop. His Lordship was upon his return from vissiting Plymh yard and where he had waited some days longer than he had occasion for my arrival, as soon as we join'd this little squadron we saluted his Lordship with 17 Guns, and soon after he and Mr Palliser came on board... After a stay of something more than an hour they took their leave and we gave his Lordship three cheers at parting."

Johann Forster and his son George were waiting to go aboard. On the 7th he recorded in his journal "We saw the races at Bodmyn, four horses started, one was distanced; & thes econd heat the prize was got by it."

William Wales later wrote "On July 10th, 1772, the three timekeepers Nos. 1, 2. and 3 made by Arnold were set going by himself. Nos. 1 and 2 were taken on board the Adventure by Mr. Bayly; and No. 3, together with that made by Mr. Kendall, were carried by myself on board the Resolution."

James Burney, able seaman on the Resolution, recorded in his journal: "Friday 10th this day our Ships Company receivd 7 months Pay to enable them to equip themselves for a long voyage & get drunk drinking success to it".

John Elliott, midshipman on the Resolution, recorded in his journal: "Leave England with Cook - 13th July, 1772. Not yet 14 years old, and the youngest person in the Ship, except Mr Vancouver."

According to Cook "on the Friday before we departed the Watches were put in motion in the presence of my self Captain Furneaux, the first Lieutenant of each of the Sloops, the two astronomers and Mr Arnold and afterward put on board: Mr Kendals and one of Mr Arnolds on board the Resolution and the other two on board the Adventure: the Commander, First Lieutenant and Stronomer on board each of the Sloops had each of them Keys of the Boxes which containd the Watches and were allways to be present at the winding them up and comparing the one with the other."

The voyage south was accompanied by several gales. Forster took time to adjust to the new life. On 15th he wrote "I had been seasick ever since the first day of our Voyage, could eat very little, was obliged to throw up my Vicutals, had no headeach. I found myself much better & greatly relieved by some mulled Portwine." Richard Pickersgill, third lieutenant of the Resolution, wrote on 20th July "During this gale we had a vast number of little black and white Peterals flying in the wake of the Ship, these Birds are a sure signof an approaching storm, and are hardly ever seen in fine calm weather; I believe they come to feed on Marine Insects which they find most plentyfull in troubled waters."

On 22nd there was calm weather, so Cook "took the opportunity of the Calm to send a Boat on board the Adventure with Mr Wales in order to compare the Watches". Forster "Caught a great many small crabs that floated... on the water."

The next day, Elliott, wrote "In sailing past Cape Finistere we were Chased by two Spanish Men of War. The nearest, a Sixty four, fired several shot at the Adventure, to bring her to, and Capt. Foneraux did bring to, which displeased Capt. Cook, as he condsidered it an Insult to the British Flag. The Spaniard asked what ship that was ahead, and being told it was the Resolution, Capt. Cook, he said: Oh, Cook is it? and wished us all a good Voyage."


More gales followed, and then, on 29th July there was another calm period. Pickersgill wrote "Whilst we lay here becalm'd we experian-ced an intolerable degree of heat the Thermometers rising to near 90°... in this situation we were tantalized within a mile of our port [Funchal on Madeira] for several hours untill the sun went down, when we got a little wind that soon wafted us into our desired situation." Forster "was roused by the morning Gun, & as I knew the Ship was going to salute the Castle, I got up, in order to be out of the way, when the Guns on both sides of my Cabin should be fired."

"When Capt. Cook waited upon the British Consul," at Madeira, recorded Elliott, "he took the two Forsters, Myself, and another young officer to breakfast with him, who, during our Visit, told us that he had been greatly surprized and amused a little time back in consequence of a Gentleman arriving in an American Ship, recommended to him by a Letter from Mr Banks, until the Resolution should arrive. That some time after his arrival, the Maid servant by some accident discovered that the said Gentleman was a Lady. The Maid was greatly astonished, and informed her Master, who, equally surprized as herself, charged her to keep the matter secret, not intending to take the least notice of the circumstance to the Lady, until Mr Banks' arrival. But as soon as ever Mr Banks found himself under necessity of giving up his plan of going out in the Resolution, he wrote to the Lady to quit Madeira immediately, and she had been gone only a week when we arrived. This account both surprized and amused Capt. Cook".

During their stay "the Sloops were supply'd with fresh Beef and Onions and a Thousand Bunches of the latter were distributed among the people for a Sea store", wrote Cook "a Csutom I observed last Voyage and had reason to think they recived great benifit therefrom. Having compleated our Water and taken on board a large supply of Wine, fruit & other necessarys, we on Sunday the 2nd of Augt at 10 o'Clock in the pm weigh'd and put to sea with the Adventure in company". The following day John Marra, Gunner's Mate on the Resolution, was punished "with one dozen lashes for behaving Insolent to his Superior Officer".

The next day, Pickersgill noted, we "saw the Isle of Ferro... Louis 14th attempted to make this island the Meridian of the world and published an Eddict requiring all his subjects to keep their accounts of Longitude from here, had it been followed by the rest of the Powers of Europe, it would have saved a great deal of confusion occasion'd at present by every Navigator keeping his Longitutde from where he pleases, and some times never mentions the place at all espicelly if you only get a Part of a Journal."

Life Aboard Ship

We get an occasional insight into life aboard. Robert Cooper, First Lieutenant of the Resolution wrote "Pump'd the Ship out, & put a foot of salt Water down the Pump, which has been done twice or three Times a Week & which will contribute greatly towards the health of the Ships Company, before this was observ'd the Stench of the Bulge water was exceedingly offencive." Charles Clerke, Second Lieutenant of the Resolution wrote "Brew'd some Beer with the essence of malt, which we have on board - it has several times fermented and blew the Bungs out - more than once the Head of the Cask out". Cook wrote "cleaned and air'd betwixt decks with Charcoal fires."

On 13th August the ships anchored in Porto Praya Bay, Santiago, one of the Cape Verde Islands. Cook thought that if he "could procure a Supply of fresh provisions it would be a means not only of saveing our sea store but many of our antiscorbutick articles untouched for some time longer". They departed on the 15th.

Gales and Showers

On 20th, Burney wrote "One of our Carpenters Mates, Henry Smock, being at work on the Outside of the Ship, the Weather being very fine, fell overboard without being perceivd & was unfortunately drownd before any of us knew any thing of the Matter." The following day, Cook observed, "the rain powered down upon us not in drops but in streames, I never saw it rain harder in my life the wind at the same time was variable inclining to blow in squalls and obliged the people to attend the deck so that few in the Ship escaped a good drenching, we however made the best use we could of it by filling most of our empty Water Casks... A little swallow has been our companion for several days, unable to fly about in the heavy rain it was taken up upon the deck and brought into the Cabbin, where it became so familiar that it went out and came in at the Windows at its pleasure". Forster noted on the following day that "after our breakfast was over, our little guest left again the Steerage, & soon after entered the Cabin of Mr Wales the Astronomer, where it stood part of the morning. It left the Cabin & flew still before noon about the Ship, & then it was never any more seen... His sudden disappearance made me apprehend the worst for his life; for we had some very cruel & illnatured people in the Ship; who made it their business to disturb other peoples happiness & enjoyments".

On 27th Cook "Spoke with the Adventure and Captain Furneaux inform'd us that one of his young Gentlemen was dead. At this time we have not one Sick on board." It was John Lambrecht, able seaman, 18 years old, who died, recorded Tobias Furneaux, "of a Fever he caught at St Jago by bathing and making too free with the water in the heat of the day." Two days later on the Adventure Donald Stewart, marine, was punished "with a dozen lashes for Fighting and Contempt to his Officers".

On 31st Cook "bore down to and sent a Boat on board the Adventure with Mr Wales to compare the Watches." The next day, 1st September, according to Forster "the Ships Company were mustered according to a Quarterbill, & every one's business in case of an Engagement was fixed & in consequence part of them were exercised in managing the great Guns & others in handling the small Arms." On the 3rd, "Several Shoals of flying fish were seen & a Bonito (Scomber Pelamys) was caught my Son finished a drawing of it & we feasted upon the Fish, which in my opinion is a very dry Fish, & not so palatable as it is generally represented."

Pickersgill wrote on 7th September "we saw a Vessel standing to the N.ward but did not come near her, here we frequently burnt Charcoal fires between decks to prevent Damps - as the Adventure was very sickly and had lost one of their young gentlemen in a feaver, but the rest were in a fair way of recovery."

Life Aboard Ship

Burney wrote on the same day "2 of the Men by way of Fun made an house of Office of a pair of Breeches belonging to our Armourer which he finding out complaind of the Fact being fully provd the Aggressors were obligd between them to buy the Breeches, each paying an equal Share. They then tossd up which should keep them & Winner was orderd on the Spot to try how his new purchase fitted; which, after many wry faces, he did, to the no small diversion of the Spectators, many Jokes, or what were meant as Such being made on the Occasion".

The next day, noted Pickersgill, "we cross'd the equinoctial Line being then in Longitude 10° 22' W. of Greenwich; here according to the usual Custom of seamen we brought the ship too and duck'd a great number of the seamen who never before had been a cross, and refused to pay the accustomed fine, this cerimony was perform'd by hoisting the Person to be Duck'd by a rope to the yard arm and then letting go the rope lett him plung[e] into the sea, this repeated three times he is taken in and is free of the Line; after which a tub of punch is made and they all get merry over the forfits." William Bayly recorded that "Capt Furneaux did not chose to let it be carried into execution on board the Adventure for fear of an Accident, though I confess I did not see any great danger in it".

On the 10th, Bayly on the Adventure recorded "at 11 oClock Mr [Samuel] Kemp, Midshipman departed this life of a Putrid fever which he contracted at St Jago [Santiago], he recovered so far as to be able to walk about but for want of taking proper care of himself catched cold & had a relapse". The following day, according to the Resolution's Log, "Punish'd Richard Lee, Seaman & Fras [Fracis] Taylor Marine, with 12 lashes Each for frequently insultg one of the petty Officers & behaving with Insolence to ye Officer of the Watch when remanded for the same." Cook learnt about the death on 14th, "Captn Furneaux dine[d] with me to day, a nother of his Midshipmen is dead. His crew are however healthy. At this time I have not one Sick on board."

They passed, without seeing, the island of Ascension.

On 27th, wrote Bayly, "Capt Furx Mr Falkener & my Self went on Board the Resolution to donner & spent the afternoon on board, & Lieutenat Charls Clark dind on board the Adventure, returning on board our respective ships in the evenin after spending the afternoon very agreeable."

The following day wrote Forster"We found now the weather pretty cool, though the difference was hardly 10 degrees on the Ther-mometer, the Effect on our relaxed bodies, was very sensible, especially as the change had been pretty sudden, being gone in about 20 days from the Line beyond the Tropics into 25° 29'S. My Son contracted by this change a cold which ended in a terrible toothach & swelling of the gums & cheek."

At the end of September, 225 years ago, Cook saw a ship, but "finding that we could not speak the sail (which was a Snow) without being seperated too far from the Adventure we made sail and soon after she hoisted her Colours, which was either s Portugese or St Georges Ensign, the distance being too great to distinguish the one from the other."

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1419, volume 20, number 3 (1997).

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