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225 Years Ago: October - December 1773


On 1st October, 1773 James Cook, in the Resolution, and Tobias Furneaux, in the Adventure, were sailing west looking for the Tongan island of Amsterdam, sighted by Tasman in 1643, before they "proceeded to the South".

The next day Cook "at 2 pm Saw the Island of Middlesburg bearing WSW". The next day "we rainged the SW side of the Island at the distance of half a mile from shore on which the Sea broke with great [violence] as to leave us no hopes of finding Anchorage this continuing till we came to the most western point of the Island... Soon after we had come to an Anchor, I went a shore with Captain Furneaux and some of the officers and gentlemen... we were welcomed a shore by acclamations from an immence crowd of Men and Women not one of which had so much as a stick in their hands... In the evening we all returned aboard every one highly dilighted with his little excursion and the friendly behaver of the Natives who seem'd to [vie] with each other in doing what they thought would give us pleasure".

William Wales, the astronomer on the Resolution noted the "Island is called Eaoowe [Eua] by the Natives".

Johann Forster noted that "the Thermometer at 7 o'clock 66°." He compared the island to Tasman's description and commented "Tasman upon the whole is, I find, one of the most accurate & faithfull Describers... There were birds with a sweet Note in the Trees, which were Chiefly very large Shaddocks [Citrus maxima], whose Fruit were to us a delicious refreshment, & the Flowers spread a most admirable perfume all around... Having collected several plants & bought a few Curiosities we went on board & ate our Dinner... I went with Mr Hodges & my Servant up the hills to see the Country."

James Burney, second Lieutenant of the Adventure, described the appearance of Eua as "beautifull as can be imagined - equal to any Landscape I ever saw". He was "tattowd here" and described them as "people friendly & well desposed but great Thieves, on which account we had some quarrels with them".

John Elliott, midshipman in the Resolution, recorded "both sexes are stout and well made, Humane and friendly, but not so fair or courtly as our friends at the Society Isles."

"Early in the morning" of the 3rd, wrote Cook "while the Sloops were geting under sail I went a shore in company with Captain Furneaux and Mr Forster to take leave of the Chief and to carry him an assortment of garden seeds". Forster "brought from the Shore a very fine live Parrot off. It is of a fine lively green, the wing & tailfeathers the brightest blue, the head & breast of a purple Chestnut, & the belly very deep purple: the feet & bill black, the tip of both mandibles yellow, the Iris black. It eats Bananas, is tame & lively, seems to be young & may perhaps be carried to England alive." The Red-breasted Musk Parrot, Prosopeia tabuensis tabuensis.


"As soon as I was aboard", wrote Cook, "we bore away for the Island of Amsterdam all sails set", which was within sight, "called by the Natives Tongataboo [Tongatapu]" noted Wales. They anchored, wrote Cook, "with the Coasting Anchor and Cable out to sea to prevent the Ship from tailing ashore in case of a shift of wind or a Calm... we had a great number of the Islanders aboard and about the sloops... bringing little else with them but Cloth and other curiosities, things which I did not come here for and for which the Seamen only bartered away their clothes. In order to put a stop to this and to obtain the refreshments we wanted, I gave orders that no Curiosities should be purchassed... this had the desired effect for in the morning the Natives came off with Bananas and Cocoa-nutts in abundance and some Fowls and Pigs".

Wales recorded "an odd Circumstance happened at my landing. At least 4 or 500 of the Natives were assembled at the landing place, and as the boat could not come near the shore for want of Water sufficiently deep, I pulled of my Shoes &c to walk through, and when I got on dry ground put them down betwixt my legs to put on again, but they were instantly snatched away by a Person behind me. I turned round & just saw him mixing with the Crowd but it was in vain for me to attempt following him bare-footed over such sharp coral rocks as the shores are here composed off; and my situation and Attitude may be supposed ludicrous enough." With Cook's aid and a chief's help his shoes were retrieved. At the end of the day he added "I returned on board in the evening, after making a considerable circuit in the Island, without meeting with the least insult or incivillity from any one of the Natives, after that which happened at my landing."

Cook ended the day by writing "Mr Forster and his party spent the day in the Country botanizing and several of the officers were out Shooting". Anders Sparrman wrote "A kind of bat (Vespertilio vampyrus), about the size of a shoe, may be regarded as another plague on these islands; it spoils the natives' fruit and sucks their blood. To their great pleasure and satisfaction, they saw me shoot down many of these animals with a single shot from a tall casuarina tree, where thousands of them were resting".

"Next morning", wrote Forster, "the Capts went early a shore, I stood on board to bring plants aside & to describe several things, & to draw others. George [his son] had been the whole day before employed in drawing onboard."

Wales also "stayed on board to have got altitudes of the Sun for finding the Time & Longitude by the watch; but was hindered from doing anything by the Cloudyness of the Weather." Later in the day one of the natives was "discovered coming out at the scuttle of the Masters Cabbin, out of which he had taken his and the Ship's Log books, his Daily assistant, Nautical Almanack & some other Books". After being fired at "they threw the books overboard & all jumped after them. The Books were all picked up, & the Canoe filled & sunk along side."

"The different tradeing parties", wrote Cook, "were so successfull to day as to procure for both Sloops a tollerable supply of refreshments in concequence of which I gave the next morning every one leave to purchass what curiosities and other things they pleased."

Richard Pickersgill, third lieutenant on the Resolution, commented on their canoes which "were the Neatest I ever saw they were about 10 or 12 feet in length and in the middle about 2 or 3 feet in Bredth, ending in a sharp point each way, they were all Deck'd exept about 4 feet in the Middle where the People sat - they generally carried 3 or 4 men who work'd them with Paddles. On the top of the Deck was fixed a row of little knobbs resembling the little side fins of the tail of a Mackrell".

On the 7th Cook wrote, "In unmooring the Coasting Cable parted about the middle of its length, by this accident we lost the anchor which laid [in] 40 fathom Water without any Buoy to it... At 10 o'Clock we got under sail but as our decks were very much lumbered with fruit &ca we kept plying with our Top sails under the land till they were cleared."

Southward to New Zealand

The next day, 8th, Cook declared his "intention to make the best of my way to New Zealand and there take in Wood and Water and then proceed to the South." Most days the weather was "fresh gales and clowdy". Little was recorded in the various journals. On 16th Forster recorded "This morning a Dog was brought from the Pumpwell, where he had been without any food, ever since he was bought at Huaheine, upwards of 40 days: his Legs were as it were contracted & he voided blood by the Anus, & by the Captains order was hove overboard." The Resolution was faster than the Adventure, as the entry for 20th shows "The Adventure being about 3 Miles a stern I shortned sail to the three Top-sails for her to come up... The night was so obscure that we were frequently obliged to fire guns and burn false fires to prevent being seperated."

The next day "at 5 o'Clock in the AM we saw the land of New Zealand... At Noon Table Cape bore West distant 8 or 10 Leagues." Burney on the Adventure wrote "in the Night we crossd Hawk's Bay & ran to the S.W. alongshore being bound to Charlotte Sound". On 22nd, Cook "stretched in for the land... I was desirous of having some communication with the Inhabitants of this Country as far north as possible in order to give them some Hogs, Fowls, Seeds, roots &ca... Canoes reached us in which were about 18 people, the first that came were fishers and exchanged some fish for Cloth and Nails... It was evident that these people had not forgot the Endeavour being on their Coast for the first words they said to us was we are affraid of the guns".

The Resolution and Adventure Part Company

"At sunset" wrote Burney, "the Resolution was almost Hull down ahead - had a very boisterous Night, and next morning could see nothing of the Resolution - however the next day (the 24th) we fell in with her & joind Company again - being then off Cape Pallisser at the Entrance of Cooks Straits... From this time we had a great deal of Blowing Weather & almost continual foul winds (N.W.). Parted from the Resolution the Night of the 26th but joind her again on the 28th. The 29th at Night we lost Sight of her the 3d Time. After this we never had the good fortune to meet her again".

The Resolution is Alone During November

For Forster the month of November started well. "This is the first night out of 10 that I slept comfortably, the Ship now going steady & easy, which has not been the case all the stormy weather." On the 2nd Cook "entered the [Cook] Straits with a fresh gale at South so we thought of nothing but reaching Queen Charlottes Sound the next flood tide. Vaine were our expectations". The next day "we discovered a new inlet which had all the appearence of a good Harbour", but, "the Tide turned against us", and so the ship never entered Port Nicholson or Wellington harbour. Instead, they managed to sail over to Ship Cove.

"In the Afternoon", Wales "went with Capt Cook to see if we could not find a place which would be tolerably convenient for my Observatory, and also for the People who were to be employed on various points of Duty on Shore, as we should thereby be a mutual protection to each other, and pitched on the Beach at the bottom of the Cove, where I observed before. In the Morning I got the Observatory &c on the Shore and began to put it up." In the afternoon he "set up the Astronomical and Assistant Clocks: fixed up a stand for the Quadt and Adjusted it ready for Observation." Charles Clerke second lieutenant wrote "some of the Natives brought us onboard great plenty of Fish which they barter'd for any trifle or bauble whatever, but they were most attach'd [to] the white Cloath we got at the Society Isles".

The 5th was, according to Cook, "clowdy with rain which hindered us from finishing boot-toping the Starboard side which we had begun." William Falconer's "Universal Dictionary of the Marine", 1780, explains that boot-topping is "the act of cleaning the upper-part of a ship's bottom, or that part which lies immediately under the surface of the water, and daubing it over with tallow".

Forster noted "we went all ashore in the Afternoon, & took a walk into the woods near the Astronomers tent, we climbed up on the sides of a high hill, & got several new plants... The Native of Bolabola went with Mr Patton & shot a fine green new Cuckow with a white belly... he killed the bird, though it was the first time he had fired a gun at an object". The native was Odiddy; James Patten was the surgeon; the cuckoo is now called the Shining Cuckoo Chalcites lucidus lucidus.

On 10th Clerke wrote "we're all much surpriz'd that our Consort the Adventure does not make her appearance, nor are we able to form any idea what can have detain'd Her so long." The naturalists "were employed in describing & drawing & bringing overside the plants."

On 12th the crew finished "over hauling the bread [4292] pounds of which we found Mouldy and rotten and totally unfit for me to eat [3000] pounds more that few would eat but such as were in our circumstances, this damage our bread had susstained was wholy owing to the Casks being made of green wood and not well seasoned before the Biscuit was packed in them". The next day, Cook added "Great part of our Coals being expended we took into the Main hold two launch loads of ballast after taking out all the Coals."

In the evening of 15th Forster wrote, "we went to the Astronomers Observatory & set several Telescopes up, in order to observe the Emersion of one of Jupiters Satellites. We saw the Planet & three of its Satellites very finely, each in a Telescope made by different Artists."

The next day, Cook "went in the Pinnace over to the East Bay, accompanied by some of the officers and gentlemen; as soon as we landed we went upon one of the hills in order to take a view of the Straits, to see if we could discover any thing of the Adventure... The hill we were upon is the same as I was upon in 1770 on which we then built a tower of Stones which was now leveled to the very ground, done no doubt by the Natives with a view of finding some thing hid in it."

On 21st Wales "received Orders to get my Observatory & Instruments on board the Ship."

On 23rd, wrote Elliott, "Mr Pickersgill, the third Lieutenant, and two or three more, went on shore to see if they could observe anything and tho the Natives appeared very shy and jealous of them, yet in lifting up some of their coverings in a Canoe they found the Head of a young Man of about 20 or 22 years old. This they bought, and brought on board. Capt. Cook was then on Shore, but he soon came on board and found the Head upon the Capstain on the Quarter deck." In his journal, Cook wrote "a peice of the flesh had been broiled and eat by one of the Natives in the presince of most of the officers." According to Forster, Odiddy "was so much struck with horror that he hardly could see the cruel Scene, & went immediately into the Cabbin & shed a flood of tears."

Two days later, Cook "weighed with a light breeze out of the Cove". Before leaving he "wrote a memorandum seting forth the time we arrived last here, the day we sailed, the rout I intended to take & such other information as I thought necessary for Captain Furneaux to know and buried it in a bottle under the root of a tree in the garden in the bottom of the Cove... On our quiting the Coast and consequently all hopes of being joined by our consort, I had the satisfaction to find that not a man was dejected or thought the dangers we had yet to go through were in the least increased by being alone, but as cheerfully proceeded to the South or wherever I thought proper to lead them as if she or even more Ships had been in our Company." As they sailed south they suffered many gales.

The Adventure is Alone During November

According to Burney "Our Ship in her best trim is not able to keep up, or carry Sail with the Resolution - at this time we fall bodily to Leeward being quite Light & so crank that we are obliged to Strike to every Squall - and so unmanageable that there is no getting her round either one way or another."

On 4th, Furneaux "got in shore near Cape Pallisser and was visited by a number of the Natives in their Canoes with a great quantity of Cray fish, which we bought of them for nails... it blew one continual gale of wind... by this time our Decks were very leaky, the peoples beds and bedding wet, several of our people complaining of Colds, that we began to dispair of ever geting into Charlotte's Sound or joining the Resolution... We anchored in Tolaga Bay on the 9th".

Some Maoris came off to see them. "In one of the Canoes" wrote John Wilby, seaman, "was a corpse which they had Dress'd out and brot to us to look at but would not suffer us to Touch it." Burney wrote "All the 10th were Empd Wooding and Watering - & the 11th in the Forenoon hove up our Anchors & left the Bay - but the wind coming foul & blowing fresh, put back & anchord in Tolaga Bay again the 12th in the Morning... we Staid here till the 16th in which Time we got more Wood & Water on board & put the Ship in tolerable good Order... [we] were very near having a quarrel with the Natives ashore about a Gallon Cagg of Brandy which they stole - & which I had sent for from the Ship for the use of the Wooders & Waterers - Jack Row would fain have had me seizd one or two of the Zealanders & kept them in our Boat till the Liquor was restored - this I thought dangerous as the Zealanders were too numerous - and all our Empty casks ashore - if Sailors won't take care of their Grogg, they deserve to lose it". John Rowe was master's mate.

Furneaux "sailed again on the 16th. After this we met with several gales of wind off the mouth of the streights and continued beating backwards and forwards till the 30th... when we were so fortunate as to get a favourable wind". Burney added "that Afternoon we Ancord in Ship Cove Charlotte Sound... On coming in we were greatly disappointed at not finding the Resolution here - As soon as the Ship was Secured a Boat was sent to the Watering place - in our garden Stood a Large Tank of Wood on the Top of which was carved LOOK UNDERNEATH - we were not long in obeying the directions & found buried in a Bottle under the Log a Letter of which the following is a Copy -

Queen Charlotte Sound New Zealand
Novbr 24th 1773
His Britannic Majesty's Sloop, Resolution, Captain Cook - arrived last in this port on the 3d Instt and Saild again on the date hereof. Captn Cook intended to spend a few days in the East Entrance of the Straits looking for the Adventure Captn Furneaux, who he parted company with in the Night of the 29th of last Month - afterwards he will proceed to the South and Eastward - As Captain Cook has not the least hopes of meeting with Captn Furneaux he will not take upon him to name any place for a Rendezvous. he however thinks of retiring to Easter Island in Latde 27..06 So & Longde 100°..00' West of Greenwich, about the latter end of next March - it is even probable that he may go to Otaheite or one of the Society Isles; but this will depend so much on Circumstances, that nothing with any degree of certainty can be determined upon - James Cook

Burney added "Omy present at digging for Captn Cooks Letter - his disbelief & surprize afterwards on finding it - determined to learn to write & began with very good will, but so many people gave him paper, pens etc and set him copies & tasks that in a weeks time the poor fellow's head was bothered - too many Cooks spoilt the Broth".

The Resolution is Alone During December

The month began with "fresh gales" and the "sail-makers repairing Sails". The entries in Cook's journal are brief for the first week, though each day he records "a great Swell from the Southward." On 5th: "Cleaned and Smoak'd betwixt decks." Two days later Forster wrote "Our Longitude is as near as possible 180° East of London, & as our Ship goes finely through the water we shall in a few hours be at the Antipodes of London in 51° 33' Southerly Latitude. A place w[h]ere no other Ship has ever been since the Creation."

The next day Cook decided that the continuing swell and the "steady and strong gale for these last two days from the North and NW" meant that "there can be no land under the Meridian of New Zealand but what must lie far to the South of 60°." On 12th "Saw an Island of Ice in Latitude 62° 10' S which is 11½° father South than the first Ice we saw after leaving the Cape of Good Hope." According to Forster "At 8 o'clock in the morning the Thermometer on deck at 31½°, in my Cabin at 38°. In Mr Patton's the Surgeon's cabin, who had taken uncommon pains to line his cabin everywhere with Mats, the Thermometer was at 55°. In the Capts Cabin, where a Fire in a Stove was kept at 53°." The next day "a prodigious Quantity of Snow fell, the Air was so thick, that we could see hardly 10 or 12 yards ahead."

On 15th Cook noted there was so much ice about the ship that "we had to luff for one and bear for a nother, one of these mases was very near proving fatal to us, we had not weather[ed] it more than once or twice our length, had we not succeeded this circumstance could never have been related. According to the old proverb a miss is as good as a mile, but our situation requires more misses than we can expect, this together with the improbability of meeting with land to the South and the impossibility of exploreing it for the ice if we did find any, determined me to haul to the north."

The next day Forster recorded that "the last Dove of 5 I have had died all owing to the wretched situation of my Cabin, which is cold, full of chinks like a Sieve, admitting cold & wind, just as if I were quartered in the open Air. The Sailors between decks have a warmer & more comfortable birth."

The ship's course was east or south, so that by 21st, Cook was in latitude 66° 50' S, which meant "we came the second time under the Polar Circle". On 23rd Elliott wrote "The Sails and rigging at time compleatly cased in Ice, and almost immovable. In this situation, dreadfully cold as it was, we got our Boats out and took in Ice for Water, but too cold to take in much."

The year ended with "gentle breeze and clear pleasent weather; this gave us an oppertunity to air the spare Sails and to clean and smoak the Ship betwixt decks."

The Adventure is Alone During December

On 1st December, Burney "was sent onshore with the Tent." The next day "the Astronomer erected his Tent close to ours and got his Instruments on shore". Unfortunately, "found most of our Casks of Bread greatly damaged they having been buried in the Coals ever since we left England. The Damp has struck through the Casks (New Butt Ironbound) - were obliged to throw a great deal away and to get the rest on Shore with our oven to bake over again - imagine the Resolutions Bread must have been in the same condition for we see their oven has been set up and a good deal of bread dust lying by the place".

On 11th, "finish baking the Bread & got it all on board much mended". Three days later "in the Night some Indians by the Negligence of the Centinel, got to the Tent and took every thing they could lay their hands on and carried to a small canoe that lay hid among the Rocks: - 2 Musquets, a Cutlass - Several Bags of Linnen & many other things but being too greedy they were at last discovered after having made several successfull trips and almost compleated their Cargo - Mr Baily the Astronomer who first discovered the Thieves, fired at one of them with small shot but they Escaped to the woods".

On 17th Furneaux "sent our large Cutter with Mr Rowe, a midshipman and the Boats crew, to gather wild greens for the Ship's Company with orders to return that evening, as I intended to sail the next morning". The next day, according to Burney "the Cutter not returning we began to imagine some accident had happened - accordingly the Launch was hoisted out" and Furneaux "sent her with the 2d Lieut [Burney] mann'd with the Boats Crew and Ten Marines in search of her, who returned about 7 O'Clock the same night with the melancholy news of her being cut off by the Indians in Grass Cove where they found the Relicks of several and the intrails of five men lying on the beach and in the Canoes they found several baskets of human flesh and five odd shoes new, as our people had been served Shoes a day or two before; they brought onboard several hands, two of which we knew, one belonged to Thomas Hill, being marked on the Back T.H. another to Mr Rowe who had a wound on his fore finger not quite whole, and the Head, which was supposed was the head of my servant".

On 19th, wrote Burney, "at Daylight unmoord and got under sail but the wind dying away Anchord again between Ship Cove and the Motuara Island". The next day "at 4 in the Morning got under sail, but the wind failing again were obliged to anchor nearly in the same place... and next day we had a hard Gale of Wind with most violent Squalls from every Quarter". Fortunately, "in the Afternoon" of the 22nd "we hove our Anchor up & came to sail with a Modt Breeze at N.W. - we ran round the Hippa and at ½ past 3 got out of Charlotte Sound & stood through Cooks Straits. Next morning took our Departure from C. Pallisser it bearing N. 3/4 E. distance 13 or 14 Leagues which was the last we saw of the Land", 225 years ago.

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1563, volume 21, number 4 (1998).

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