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5 December, 1769


On 5 December, 1769, James Cook wrote “At 4 AM weigh'd with a light breeze at SE, but had Variable light airs and sometimes calm untill near noon when a gentle breeze sprung up at North—at this time we had not got out of the Bay... I have named it the Bay of Islands on account of the great number which line its shores and these help to form several safe and Commodious harbours where in is room and depth of water sufficient for any number of Shipping... I have made no accurate survey of this Bay, the time it would have required to have done this discouraged me from attempting of it... [By] 10 oClock it was Calm; At this time the tide or Current seting the Ship near one of the Islands, where we was very near being a shore but by the help of our boat and a light air from the southward we got clear; about an hour after when we thought ourselves out of all danger the Ship struck upon a Sunken rock and went immediatly clear without receiving any perceptible damage”.


Joseph Banks wrote “A small spirt of fair wind before day break made us heave up the anchor in a great hurry, but before we were well underway it was as foul as ever so we were obligd to atempt turning out. Many canoes came from all parts of the bay which is by far the most populous place we have been in. In the middle of the day we were becalmd and caught many fish with hooks. About 10 at night as we were going through the outer heads on a sudden we wer[e] becalmd so that the ship would neither wear nor stay: in a moment an eddy tide took hold of us and hustled us so fast towards the land that before the Officers resolvd what was best to be done the ship was within a Cables lengh of the breakers, we had 13 fathom water but the ground so foul that they dar’d not drop an anchor. The eddy now took another turn and set her along shore opening another bay but we were too near the rocks to trust to that: the pinnace was orderd to be hoisted out in an instant to take the ship in tow, Every man in her was I beleive sensible of the Danger we were in so no one spard to do his best to get her out fast. The event however shewd how liable such situations must be to Confusion: they lowerd down too soon and she stuck upon a gun: from this she must be thrust by main force, in doing which they had almost ove[r]set her which would have tumbled out her oars: no man thought of running in the gun: at last that was done and she was afloat, her crew was soon in her and she went to her duty. A faint breeze of wind now sprung up off the land and with that and towing she to our great Joy got head way again... myself went down to bed and sat upon my cott undressing myself when I felt the ship strike upon a rock [Whale Rock], before I could get upon my leggs she struck again. I ran upon deck but before I could get there the danger was over; fortunately the rock was to wind ward of us so she went off without the least damage and we got into the proper channel, where the officers who had examind the bay declard there to be no hidden dangers—much to our satisfaction as the almost certainty of being eat as soon as you come ashore adds not a little to the terrors of shipwreck”.

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