Home > 23 May, 1770

23 May, 1770


On 23 May, 1770, James Cook wrote “Last night some time in the Middle Watch a very extraordinary affair happend to Mr Orton my Clerk, he having been drinking in the Evening, some Malicious person or persons in the Ship took the advantage of his being drunk and cut off all the cloaths from off his back, not being satisfied with this they some time after went into his Cabbin and cut off a part of both his Ears as he lay asleep in his bed. The person whome he suspected to have done this was Mr Magra one of the Midshipmen, but this did not appear to me upon inquirey, however as I know'd Magra had once or twice before this in their drunken frolicks cut off his Cloaths and had been heard to say (as I was told) that if it was not for the Law he would Murder him, these things consider'd induce'd me to think that Magra was not altogether innocent. I therefore, for the present dismiss'd him the quarter deck and susspended him from doing any duty in the Ship, he being one of those gentlemen, frequently found on board Kings Ships, that can very well be spared, or to speake more planer good for nothing. Besides it was necessary in me to show my immedate resentment againest the person on whome the suspicion fell least they should not have stop'd here. With respect to Mr Orton he is a man not without faults, yet from all the enquiry I could make, it evidently appear'd to me that so far from deserving such treatment he had not designedly injured any person in the Ship, so that I do and shall all ways look upon him as an enjure'd man. Some reasons might however be given why this misfortune came upon him in which he himself was in some measure to blame, but as this is only conjector and would tend to fix it up[on] some people in the Ship whome I would fain believe would hardly be guilty of such an act[i]on, I shall say nothing about it unless I shall hereafter discover the Offenders which I shall take every method in my power to do, for I look upon such proceedings as highly dangerous in such Voyages as this and the greatest insult that could be offer'd to my authority in this Ship, as I have always been ready to hear and redress every complaint that have been made against any Person in the Ship.

I went a shore with a party of men in order to examine the Country accompaned by Mr Banks and the other gentlemen. We landed a little within the South point of the Bay where there is a channel leading into a large Lagoon. The first thing that I did was to sound and examine this channel... After this I made a little excursion into the woods while some hands made 3 or 4 hauls with the Sain but caught not above a dozen very small fish; by this time the flood was made, and I embarqued in the boat in order to row up the Lagoon but in this I was hindred by meeting every where with shoal water. As yet we had seen no people but saw a great deal of smook up and on the west side of the Lagoon which was all too far off for us to go by land excepting one; this we went to and found 10 small fires in a very small compass and some cockle shells laying by them but the people were gone... All or most of the same sorts of land and sea water fowl as we saw at Sting Ray harbour we saw here, besides these Black & White Ducks, and we saw some Bustards such as we have in England one of which we kill'd that weigh'd 17½ pounds which occasioned my giving this place the name of Bustard Bay”.


Joseph Banks wrote “Wind blew fresh off the land so cold that our cloaks were very necessary in going ashore; as the ship lay a good way from the land we were some time before we got there; when landed however the sun recoverd its influence and made it sufficiently hot, in the afternoon almost intolerably so. We landed near the mouth of a large lagoon [Bustard Bay] which ran a good way into the countrey and sent out a strong tide; here we found a great variety of Plants, several however the same as those we ourselves had before seen in the Islands between the tropicks and others known to be natives of the east Indies, a sure mark that we were upon the point of leaving the Southern temperate Zone and for the future we must expect to meet with plants &c. a part of which at least have been before seen by Europaeans. The Soil in general was very sandy and dry: tho it producd a large variety of Plants yet it never was coverd with a thick verdure. Fresh water we saw none, but several swamps and boggs of salt water; in these and upon the sides of the lagoon grew many Mangrove trees in the branches of which were many nests of Ants, one sort of which were quite green [Weaver ant, Oecophylla smaragdina virescens]. These when the branches were disturbd came out in large numbers and revengd themselves very sufficiently upon their disturbers, biting sharper than any I have felt in Europe. The Mangroves had also another trap which most of us fell into, a small kind of Caterpiler, green and beset with many hairs [Cup moth, Doratifea sp]: these sat upon the leaves many together rangd by the side of each other like soldiers drawn up, 20 or 30 perhaps upon one leaf; if these wrathfull militia were touchd but ever so gently they did not fail to make the person offending them sensible of their anger, every hair in them stinging much as nettles do but with a more acute tho less lasting smart...


On the shoals and sand banks near the shore of the bay were many large birds far larger than swans which we judg’d to be Pelicans [Australian pelican, Pelicanus conspicillatus], but they were so shy that we could not get within gunshot of them. On the shore were many birds, one species of Bustard [Australian Bustard, Eupodotis australis], of which we shot a single bird as large as a good Turkey...


Those who stayd on board the ship saw about 20 of the natives, who came down abreast of the ship and stood upon the beach for some time looking at her, after which they went into the woods; we on shore saw none. Many large fires were made at a distance from us where probably the people were. One small one was in our neighbourhood, to this we went; it was burning when we came to it, but the people were gone; near it was left several vessels of bark which we conceivd were intended for water buckets, several shells and fish bones, the remainder I suppose of their last meal. Near the fires, for their were 6 or 7 small ones, were as many peices of soft bark of about the lengh and breadth of a man: these we supposd to be their beds: on the windward side of the fires was a small shade about a foot high made of bark likewise. The whole was in a thicket of close trees, defended by them from the wind; whether it was realy or not the place of their abode we can only guess. We saw no signs of a house or any thing like the ruins of an old one, and from the ground being much trod we concluded that they had for some time remaind in that place.

No comments

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.