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April - June 1770

 

Civil Time, Ship’s Time and the Date Line

 

When Joseph Banks recorded events in his journal, he used civil time, meaning that each day begins at midnight.  So 10 am comes before 2 pm on the same day.  However, in the eighteenth century, naval officers used nautical or ship’s time rather than civil time.  Ship’s time means that each day begins at noon.  So 2 pm comes before 10 am.  Hence, Captain Cook’s journal entries begin with the events of the afternoon, followed by midnight, followed by those of the morning, and end with noon.

 

As Endeavour was sailing westwards across the Pacific, she crossed 180° longitude on 7 October, 1769.  The journal writers should have adjusted their dates for the lost day.  However, they did not do so until they reached Batavia, and were told that what they thought was 10 July, 1770, was really 11 July 10 October, 1770, was really 11 October.  The International Date Line was not established until 1854. 

 

In this article I shall use civil time as recorded by Joseph Banks, unless I slip up.

 

Into the Unknown

 

During the first two weeks of April 1770, Endeavour sailed west from New Zealand.  Cook was hoping to pick up the coast of Van Diemen’s Land where Tasman had left it, and trace the coast of New Holland northwards from that point.

 

On several days, Cook wrote in his journal of “Gentle breezes” or “Light airs”.  Joseph Banks took the opportunity to go out in his “small boat” for “shooting” the many birds about the ship.  On one occasion, “a shoal of porpoises were about the Ship which leapd out of the water like Salmons, often throwing their whole bodies several feet high above the surface”.

 

On the 7 April, Cook “Punish’d Jno Bowles Marine with twelve lashes for refusing to do his duty when orderd both by the Boatswains mate and Sergt of Marines”, Richard Hutchins and John Edgcumbe, respectively.

 

Arrival at Australia

 

On 16 April, Cook wrote, “At 2 PM the wind came to WSW at which time we tack’d and stood to the NW, before 5 oClock we were obliged to close reef our topsails having a strong gale with very heavy squals.  About this time a small land bird was seen to pearch upon the riging”.  According to Banks over the next several hours, “the weather was most Variable with continual squalls and wind shifting all round the compass; such weather is often met with in the neighbourhood of land so that with this and the former signs our seamen began to prophesy that we were not now at any great distance from it”. 

 

On 18 April, Cook wrote, “by our Longitude we are a degree to the westward of the East side of Vandieman Land according to Tasmans the first discoverers Longitude of it who could not err much in so short a run as from this land to Newzeland and by our Latitude we could not be above 50 or 55 Leagues to the northward of the place where he took his departure from”.  That is, the island of Tasmania.

 

The next morning, Cook, “At 5 Set the Topsails Close reef’d and at 6 saw land extending from NE to West at the distance of 5 or 6 Leagues... We continued Standing to the westward with the wind at SSW”.  He named a point of land “Point Hicks, because Leuitt Hicks was the first who discover’d this land”.  Zachary Hicks, who usually spelt his surname as Hickes, was the second lieutenant.  The point’s location has been disputed ever since. 

 

At noon Cook saw “a round hillick, very much like the Ram head going into Plymouth Sound on which account I called it by the same name”.  Its location is also in dispute. 

 

Banks was “calld upon deck to see three water spouts, which at the same time made their appear­ance in different places but all between us and the land.  Two which were very distant soon disapeard but the third which was about a League from us lasted full a quarter of an hour.  It was a column which appeard to be of about the thickness of a mast or a midling tree, and reachd down from a smoak colourd cloud about two thirds of the way to the surface of the sea; under it the sea appeard to be much troubled for a considerable space and from the whole of that space arose a dark colourd thick mist which reachd to the bottom of the pipe.  When it was at its greatest distance from the water the pipe itself was perfectly transparent and much resembled a tube of glass or a Column of water, if such a thing could be supposd to be suspended in the air; it very frequently contracted and dilated, lenghned and shortned itself”.

 

The ship turned northwards and, as they sailed along the coast, Cook gave names to some of the features they saw, such as Mount Dromedary, “on account of its figure”; Point Upright, “on account of its perpendicular clifts”; Pigeon House, a “remark­able peaked hill laying inland the top of which look’d like a Pigeon house”; Cape St George, “we having discover’d it on that Saints day”; Long Nose, “on account of its figure”; Red Point, which “appear­ed of that colour”.

 

On several occasions the smoke of fires were seen ashore.  For example, on 21 April, Banks wrote, “Several smoaks were seen from whence we concluded it to be rather more populous; at night five fires”.  The next day, he noted, “Countrey hilly but rising in gentle slopes and well wooded...  In the morn we stood in with the land near enough to discern 5 people”.

 

The First Landing

 

On the 27 April, Banks wrote, “After dinner the Captn proposd to hoist out boats and attempt to land... but the Pinnace on being lowerd down into the water was found so leaky that it was impracticable to attempt it.  Four men were at this time observd walking briskly along the shore, two of which carried on their shoulders a small canoe; they did not however attempt to put her in the water so we soon lost all hopes of their intending to come off to us...  To see something of them however we resolvd and the Yawl, a boat just capable of carrying the Captn, Dr Solander, myself and 4 rowers was accordingly prepard...  They sat on the rocks expecting us but when we came within about a quarter of a mile they ran away hastily...  The surf was too great to permit us with a single boat... to attempt to land”.  The attempted landing was just north of Bulli.

 

The next day, Cook wrote, “At day light in the morning we discover’d a Bay which appeard to be tollerably well shelterd from all winds into which I resoloved to go with the Ship and with this view sent the Master in the Pinnace to sound the entrance... we stood into the bay and Anchor’d under the South shore about 2 Mile within the entrence”.  The Master was Robert Molyneux.  Banks saw “four small canoes; in each of these was one man who held in his hand a long pole with which he struck fish”.

 

Cook saw “on both points of the bay Several of the natives and a few hutts” and decided to land on “the south shore abreast of the Ship... in hopes of speaking with them”.  Accompanied “by Mr Banks Dr Solander and Tupia” the aborigines “all made off except two Men who seem’d resolved to oppose our landing.  As soon as I saw this I orderd the boats to lay upon their oars in order to speake to them but this was to little purpose for neither us nor Tupia could understand one word they said... I thou[gh]t that they beckon’d to us to come a shore but in this we were mistaken, for as soon as we put the boat in they again came to oppose us upon which I fired a musket between the two which had no other effect than to make them retire back where bundles of thier darts lay, and one of them took up a stone and threw at us which caused my fireing a second Musquet load with small shott, and altho’ some of the shott struck the man yet it had no other effect than to make him lay hold of a Shield or target to defend himself”.

 

According to Banks, “We were conscious from the distance the people had been from us when we fird that the shot could have done them no material harm... We however thought it no improper measure to take away with us all the lances which we could find about the houses, amounting in number to forty or fifty”.

 

The next day, Cook “sent a party of men a shore... to dig holes in the sand by which means and a small stream they found fresh water sufficient to water the ship...  As soon as the wooders and watere[r]s were come on board to dinner 10 or 12 of the natives came to the watering place and took away their canoes that lay there but did not offer to touch any one of our Casks that had been left ashore, and in the after noon 16 or 18 of them came boldly up to within 100 yards of our people at the watering place and there made a stand.  Mr Hicks who was the officer ashore did all in his power to entice them to him by offering them presents &ca but it was to no purpose, all they seem’d to want was for us to be gone.  After staying a short time they went away”.  Banks and Daniel Solander “went a little way into the woods and found many plants”.  The next day, Banks “Myself in the Even landed on a small Island on the Northern side of the bay to search for shells”.   It is now known as Bare Island.

 

The Death of Forby Sutherland

 

On 1 May, Cook recorded, “Last night Forby Sutherland seaman departed this life and in the AM his body was buried a shore at the watering place which occasioned my calling the south point of this Bay after his name”.  Forby was from the Orkneys, and died from tuberculosis. 

 

Also that day, according to Banks, “The Captn Dr Solander, myself and some of the people, making in all 10 musquets, resolvd to make an excursion into the countrey.  We accordingly did do and walkd till we compleatly tird ourselves, which was in the evening... We saw one quadruped about the size of a Rabbit, My Greyhound just got sight of him and instantly lamd himself against a stump which lay conceald in the long grass; we saw also the dung of a large animal that had fed on grass that resembled that of a Stag; also the footsteps of an animal clawd like a dog or wolf and as large as the latter; and of a small animal whose feet were like those of a polecat or weesel.  The trees over our heads abounded very much with Loryquets and Cocatoos”.

 

Cook added, “after dinner went a shore to the watering place where we had not been long before 17 or 18 of the natives appear’d in sight”.

 

The next morning, wrote Banks, “was rainy and we who had got already so many plants were well contented to find an excuse for staying on board to examine them a little at least.  In the afternoon however it cleard up and we returnd to our old occupation of collecting, in which we had our usual good success”.  According to Cook, they “made a little excursion along the Sea Coast to the southward... At our first entering the woods we saw 3 of the natives who made off as soon as they saw us; more of them were seen by others of our people but who likewise made off as soon as they found they were discover’d”.

 

On 3 May, Banks noted, “Our collection of Plants was now grown so immensly large that it was necessary that some extrordinary care should be taken of them lest they should spoil in the books.  I have therefore devoted this day to that business and carried all the drying paper, near 200 Quires of which the larger part was full, ashore and spreading them upon a sail in the sun kept them in this manner exposd the whole day, often turning them and sometimes tur[n]ing the Quires in which were the plants inside out.  By this means they came on board at night in very good condition”.

 

Cook, “went in the Pinnace to the head of the Bay accompan’d by Drs Soland[er] and Munkhouse in order to examine the Country and to try to form some Connections with the natives”, but they all “fled before we came near them”. 

 

The next day, “as the wind would not permit us to sail”, Cook “sent out some parties into the Country to try to form some Connections with the natives.  One of the Midshipmen met with a very old man and woman and two small Children; they were close to the water side where several more were in their canoes gathering shell fish and he being alone was afraid to make any stay with the two old people least he should be discoverd by those in the Canoes.  He gave them a bird he had shott which they would not touch neither did they speak one word but seem’d to be much frighten’d...  Dr Munkhouse and a nother man being in the woods not far from the watering place discoverd Six more of the natives who at first seem’d to wait his coming but as he was going up to them he had a dart thrown at him out of a tree which narrowly escaped him”.

 

Also that day, Cook “sent the yawl... to fish for sting rays who return’d in the evening with upwards of 4 hundred weight; one single one weigh’d 240 lb exclusive of the entrails”.  Banks spent the morning “in the woods botanizing as usual, now quite void of fear as our neighbours have turnd out such rank cowards”.

 

The next day, “as the wind still continued northerly”, Cook “sent the yawl again afishing and I went with a party of Men into the Country but met with nothing extraordinary...  In the evening the yawl return’d from fishing having caught two Sting rays weighing near 600 pounds.  The great quantity of this sort of fish found in this place occasioned my giving it the name of Sting ray’s harbour”.  Later in the voyage, Cook changed his mind, and named it Sting-Rays Harbour, then Botanist Harbour, then Botanist Bay and, finally, Botany Bay.  He added in his journal, “During our stay in this Harbour I caused the English Colours to be display’d ashore every day and an inscription to be cut upon one of the trees near the watering place seting forth the Ships name, date &ca”.

 

Banks and Solander “were employd the whole day in collecting specimens of as many things as we possibly could to be examind at sea.  The day was calm and the Mosquetos of which we have always had some more than usualy troublesome.  No Indians were seen by any body during the whole day”.

 

Leaving Botany Bay

 

On 6 May, “having seen every thing this place afforded we at day light in the Morning weigh’d with a light breeze at NW and put to sea”, wrote Cook.  

 

Endeavour soon passed “abreast of a Bay or Harbour wherein there apperd to be safe anchorage which I call’d Port Jackson” after George Jackson, deputy secretary to the Admiralty, whose sister Rachel had married William Wilson of Great Ayton.  

 

At sunset, Cook saw “some broken land that appear’d to form a Bay”, which he named Broken Bay; however it is not the present-day Broken Bay.  As Endeavour sailed north over the next week Cook also named Cape Three Points, “which projected out in three bluff points”; Point Stephens, after Philip Stephens the secretary to the Admiralty; Three Brothers, “as these hills bore some resemblence to each other”; Smoaky Cape, “on which were fires that caused a great quantity of smook”; Cape Byron, after John Byron who sailed Dolphin around the world in 1764-6.

 

On 12 May, Banks noted, “This evening we finishd Drawing the plants got in the last harbour, which had been kept fresh till this time by means of tin chests and wet cloths.  In 14 days just, one draughtsman [Sydney Parkinson] has made 94 sketch drawings, so quick a hand has he acquird by use”.  Three days later, Banks saw several people on the land but “not one was once observd to stop and look towards the ship; they pursued their way in all appearance intirely unmovd by the neighbourhood of so remarkable an object as a ship must necessarily be to people who have never seen one”.

 

Danger from Breakers

 

At sunset on 15 May, Cook “discoverd breakers ahead and on the larboard [port] bow, being at this time in 20 fathom water and about 5 Miles from the land”.  The area “may always be found by the peaked mountain” which he named Mount Warning.  “The point off which these shoals lay I have named Point Danger”.  They passed “a wide open Bay which I have named Morton bay”, after Lord Morton, President of the Royal Society.  In the official voyage account by John Hawkesworth, it is spelt Moreton, the name given to the present-day Moreton Bay, which is nearby.  He also named Cape Morton.

 

On 17 May, Cook saw three hills that were “very remarkable on account of there singlar form of elivation which very much resemble glass houses which occasioned my giving them that name”.  Cook was referring to buildings in which glass is made.

 

The ship passed some land that was “sandy next the sea”.  Cook thought it was part of the mainland, but it was an island: modern day Fraser Island.  After rounding Sandy Cape, he anchored in “a deep Bay which I have named Hervey’s Bay” after Augustus John Hervey, later 3rd Earl of Bristol.  

 

Mr Orton’s Ears

 

On the night of 22-23 May, “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 of 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 immediate resent­ment against the person on whome the suspicion fell least they should not have stoped here”.

 

Ants, Caterpillars and Bustards

 

In the morning Cook “went a shore with a party of men in order to examine the Country accompaned by Mr Banks and the other gentlemen”.  Banks found “many Mangrove trees in the branches of which were many nests of Ants, one sort of which were quite green.  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: 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...  Those who stayd on board the ship saw about 20 of the natives... we on shore saw none”.

 

Cook saw many birds, including “Bustards such as we have in England one of which we killd that weigh’d 17½ pounds which occasioned my giving this place the name of Bustard Bay”.

 

Endeavour sailed the next day.  In the evening, wrote Banks, “At Dinner we eat the Bustard we had shot yesterday, it turned out an excellent bird, far the best we all agreed that we have eat since we left England”.

 

As they sailed north Cook named Cape Capricorn as it “lay directly under the Tropick of Capricorn”; Cape Manyfold “from the number of high hills over it”; Keppel Bay after Rear Admiral Augustus Keppel; Cape Townshend after Charles Townshend, a Lord of the Admiralty.  

 

On 29 May, Cook anchored, having “some thoughts of laying the Ship a shore to clean her bottom.  With this View both the Master and I went to look for a convinient place for that purpose and at the same time to look for fresh water, not one drop of which we could find”.  He tried again for water over the next few days.  He named the inlet Thirsty Sound “by reason we could find no fresh water”.

 

Millions of Butterflies

 

Banks and Solander collected some new plants in the face of ravenous mosquitos and flesh-gripping sand burrs.  They saw a great cloud of butterflies: “the eye could not be turnd in any direction without seeing milions and yet every branch and twig was almost coverd with those that sat still: of these we took as many as we chose, knocking them down with our caps or anything that came to hand.  On the leaves of a gum tree we found a Pupa or Chrysalis which shone almost all over as bright as if it had been silverd over with the most burnishd silver and perfectly resembld silver; it was brought on board and the next day came out into a butterfly of a velvet black changeable to blue, his wings both upper and under markd near the edges with many light brimstone colourd spots, those of his under wings being indented deeply at each end”.

 

Endeavour sailed on 31 May.  The next day, wrote Banks, Tupaia “complaind... of swelld Gums; he had it seems had his mouth sore for near a fortnight, but not knowing what cause it proceeded from did not complain.  The Surgeon immediately put him upon taking extract of Lemons in all his drink”.  It was a sign of scurvy.

 

More places were named: Cape Palmerston, after Henry Temple, 2nd Viscount Palmerston, a lord of the Admiralty; Cape Hillsborough, after Wills Hill, 1st Viscount Hillsborough, secretary of state for the colonies; Cape Conway, after Henry Seymour Conway, a secretary of state; Whitsunday Passage, “as it was discoverd on the Day the Church commemorates that Festival”; Cumberland Isles “in honour of His Royl Highness the Duke of Cumberland”, Henry Frederick a brother of the King; Cape Gloucester, after William Henry, another brother, though it is not the modern day Cape Gloucester; Edgcumbe Bay, after Lord George Edgcumbe, commander-in-chief at Plymouth.

 

On 7 June, Cook “saw several large smooks upon the main, some people Canoes and as we thought Cocoa-nutt Trees upon one of the Islands, and as a few of these nutts would have been very exceptable to us at this time I sent Lieutt Hicks a Shore with whome went Mr Banks and Dr Solander to see what was to be got...  At 7 oClock they returnd on board having met with nothing worth observing, the trees we saw were a small kind of Cabbage Palms”.  The island was accordingly named Palm Island.

 

The next day, as the ship passed “a small Islet or rock”, Banks “saw with our glasses about 30 men women and children standing all together and looking attentively at us, the first people we have seen shew any signs of curiosity at the sight of the ship”.  The following day, he and Solander landed on the mainland, with Cook looking for fresh water.

 

On and Off the Reef

 

In the evening of 10 June, Cook saw “two low woody Islands which we some took to be rocks above water”.  He “shortend sail and hauld off shore” intending “to stretch off all night... to avoid the dangers we saw ahead... having the advantage of a fine breeze of wind and a clear moon light night... Before 10 oClock we had 20 and 21 fathom and continued in that depth untill a few Minutes before a 11 when we had 17 and before the Man at the lead could heave another cast the Ship Struck and stuck fast”.  Cook “took in all our sails hoisted out the boats and sounded round the Ship, and found that we had got upon the SE edge of a reef of Coral rocks”. 

 

It is now called Endeavour Reef.

 

In the early hours of the morning, ““we went to work to lighten her as fast as possible which seem'd to be the only means we had left to get her off as we went a Shore about the top of High-water.  We... threw’d over board our guns Iron and stone ballast, Casks, Hoops staves oyle Jars, decay'd stores &ca...  At a 11 oClock in the AM being high-water as we thought we try’d to heave her off without success, notwithstanding by this time we had thrown over board 40 or 50 Tun weight; as this was not found sufficient we continued to Lighten her by every method we could think off.  As the Tide fell the ship began to make water”, so the pumps were started., though only three of the four pumps worked.  In the evening, shortly after “10 oClock the Ship floated and we hove her into deep water having at this time 3 feet 9 Inches water in the hold”.

 

Banks described the events, and also how “the Seamen workd with surprizing chearfullness and alacrity; no grumbling or growling was to be heard throughout the ship, no not even an oath (tho the ship in general was as well furnishd with them as most in his majesties service)... we well knew that our boats were not capable of carrying us all ashore, so that some, probably the most of us, must be drownd”. 

 

The next morning, Cook “at a 11 got under Sail and Stood in for the land with a light breeze... and having got the sail ready for fothering the Ship we put it over under the Starboard fore chains where we suspected the Ship had sufferd most and soon after the leak decreased so as to be kept clear with one Pump with ease, this fortunate circumstance gave new life to every one on board”.  Endeavour anchored over night before sailing on.  Boats were sent ahead to find “a good harbour”, which they did.

 

On 16 June, Banks noted, Tupaia had “livid spots on his legs and every symptom of inveterate scurvy... Mr Green the astronomer was also in a very poor way”. 

 

Endeavour River

 

The next day, Cook took the ship into what is now called Endeavour River, and “moor’d her along side of a Steep beach on the south side”.  Banks “began our Plant gathering”.  The next morning Cook, “made a stage from the Ship to the shore; errected two tents one for the Sick and the other for the Stores and Provisions”.  Then he “got the sick a Shore which amounted at this time to 8 or 9 afflicted with different disorders but none very dangerously ill”.  He also “went upon one of the highest hill[s] over the harbour from which I had a perfect View of the inlet or River”.  Grassy Hill.

 

Banks went “walking in the countrey”.  He noted that Tupaia, “who had employd himself since we were here in angling and had livd intirely on what he caught was surprizingly recoverd.  Poor Mr Green still very ill”.

 

On 19 June, Cook “got the 4 remaining guns out of the hold and Mounted them on the quarter deck...  Set up the smiths forge and set the Armourer and his mate to work to make nails &ca to repair the Ship”.

 

In was another three days before Cook had “an oppertunity to examine the leak... the rocks had made their way thro’ four Planks...  A large piece of Coral rock was sticking in one hole and several pieces of the fothering, small stones, sand &ca” in the rest...  the Carpenters went to work upon the Ship while the Smiths were busy makeing bolts nails &ca”.  The following day, “the Carpenters finish’d the Starboard side and... heel’d the Ship the other way”. 

 

Meanwhile, every day, Banks “began to gather and Dry plants”.  Unfortunately on 26 June, as the men attempted to float the ship, the “plants which were for safety stowd in the bread room were this day found under water”, wrote Banks.  He “set to work to remedy it to the best of my power.  The day was scarce long enough to get them all shifted &c: many were savd but some intirely lost and spoild”.

 

Although they saw some “Indian houses”, and “the foot steps of Men”, and even, fires “still burning”, yet they saw “no body nor have we seen one sence we have been in Port”, wrote Banks.  However, they did see an animal “of a light Mouse colour and the full size of a grey hound and shaped in every respect like one, with a long tail which it carried like a grey hound, in short I should have taken it for a wild dog, but for its walking or runing in which it jump’d like a Hare or a dear”.  According to a report he receivd they have “very small legs and the print of the foot like that of a goat, but this I could not see my self because the ground the one I saw was upon was too hard and the length of the grass hinderd my seeing its leg”.  Probably, a kangaroo.

 

One “seaman who had been out in the woods brought home the description of an animal he had seen composd in so Seamanlike a stile that I cannot help mentioning it: it was (says he) about as large and much like a one gallon cagg, as black as the Devil and had 2 horns on its head, it went but Slowly but I dard not touch it”.  Probably a fruit bat or flying fox.

 

Ian Boreham


Originally published in Cook's Log, page 41, volume 43, number 2 (2020).

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