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July - September 1769


On 1 July, 1769, James Cook and Joseph Banks returned from their circuit of Tahiti to Matavai Bay.  Cook wrote, “Upon my return to the Ship I found that the Provisions had been all examin’d & the Water got on bd amounting to 16 Tuns, I now determin’d to get every thing off from the Shore & Leave the Place as soon as Possible, the geting the several Articles on board & Scraping & Paying the Ships Sides took us up the whole of the following week without anything remarkable happening”. 


Banks might have disagreed with the last point.  On 3 July, he walked up the Tuaruru Valley with William Monkhouse, the surgeon.  He “had a most excellent opportunity of searching for any apearance of minerals but saw not the smallest”.  The next day, “employd myself in planting a large quantity of the seeds of Water melons, Oranges, Lemons, limes &c. which I had brought from Rio de Janeiro; they were planted on both sides of the fort in as many varieties of soil as I could chuse. I have very little Doubt of the former especialy coming to perfection as I have given away large quantities among the natives and planted also in the woods; they now continualy ask me for seeds and have already shewd me melon plants of their raising which look perfectly well”.


The next day, “saw the operation of Tattowing the buttocks performd upon a girl of about 12 years old, it provd as I have always suspected a most painfull one”.


On 9 July, Robert Molyneux, Master, recorded in his journal, “Clement Webb and Samuel Gibson Marines Elop’d from the Fort & can’t be heard off.  Webb is a sober man & was steward of the Gunroom which Office he faithfully perform’d but being extravagantly fond of a young women with whom he has been connected for some time.  Gibson is a wild young man & a sworn Brother to Webb he has no other reason than the pleasure of living in a fine Country without controul they both had large Promises from some of the Principal men & was to have Lands & servants assighn’d them”.


The next day, Cook decided “to seize upon as many of the Chiefs and as we could, this was thought to be the readiest method to induce the other natives to produce that the two men... We had no sooner taken [some] Chiefs into Custody in Mr Banks’s Tent, than they became as desireous of having the men brought back as they were before of keeping them...  I dispatch’d Mr Hicks away in the Long boat with a Strong party of men... he recover’d the men without the least opposission and return’d with them about 7 oClock” the next morning.


Banks “met them from the boat but no sign of forgiveness could I see in their faces, they lookd sulky and affronted”.  According to Molyneux, “the Offenders are close confin’d”.  It was not until 14 July, that Cook “Punished the two Marines... with 2 Dozn lashes each and then released them from confinement”.


Tupaia and Taiata


Two Polynesians joined the ship.  Joseph Banks wrote, “This morn Tupia came on board, he had renewd his resolves of going with us to England, a circumstance which gives me much satisfaction.  He is certainly a most proper man, well born, cheif Tahowa or preist of this Island, consequently skilld in the mysteries of their religion; but what makes him more than any thing else desireable is his experience in the navigation of these people and knowledge of the Islands in these seas...  The Captn refuses to take him on his own account, in my opinion sensibly enough, the government will never in all human probability take any notice of him; I therefore have resolvd to take him.  Thank heaven I have a sufficiency and I do not know why I may not keep him as a curiosity, as well as some of my neighbours do lions and tygers at a larger expence than he will probably ever put me to; the amusement I shall have in his future conversation and the benefit he will be of to this ship, as well as what he may be if another should be sent into these seas, will I think fully repay me”.


Captain Cook did at least approve.  “For some time before we left this Island several of the natives were daily offering themselves to go away with us, and as it was thought that they must be of use to us in our future discoveries, we resolved to bring away one whose name is Tupia, a Cheif and a Priest: This man had been with us most part of the time we had been upon the Island which gave us an oppertunity to know some thing of him: we found him to be a very intelligent person and to know more of the Geography of the Islands situated in these seas, their produce and the religion laws and customs of the inhabitants than any one we had met with and was the likeliest person to answer our purpose; for these reasons and at the request of Mr Banks I received him on board together with a you[n]g boy his servant”, who was referred to as Tiata by Cook, as Tayeto by Banks and as Taiyota by Sydney Parkinson. 




Endeavour sailed from Tahiti on 13 July.  Cook changed the way he wrote up his journal, reverting back to the method he had used before arriving at Tahiti, as “The way of reckoning the Day in Sea Journals is from Noon to Noon”.  Thus, in his journals the afternoon events appear before the morning events.  Banks continued to record every­thing “according to the civil account, that is to begin and end at midnight”.


Cook “determined to run down to Huaheine and Ulietea before we stood to the southward”, i.e. to visit the islands of Huahine and Raiatea before searching for the Southern Continent.  They arrived at the east side of Huahine on 16 July.  “Some of the natives came off to the Ship but they were very shy of coming near untill they discover’d Tupia, but after that they came on board without hesitation”. 


Endeavour “Anchor’d in a small Harbour on the West side of the Island... soon after, I went a Shore, accompined by Mr Banks, Dr Solander and Dr Munkhouse, [and] Tupia”. 


The following morning, Cook “set about surveying the Island and Dr Munkhouse with some hands went a shore to trade with the Natives, while the Long-boat was employ’d compleating our water”.  Banks also went ashore, walking “up the hills”, and looking at the houses and boathouses.  The next day he “went to take a farther view of a building which we had seen yesterday and admird a good deal, taking with us Tupias boy Tayeto for himself was too much engagd with his freinds to have time to accompany us.  The boy told us that it was calld Ewharre no Eatua or the house of the god”.  Both Parkinson and Spöring sketched the place.


On 19 July, Cook gave to “Oree the chief... a small plate on which was stamp’d the following Inscription viz. His Britannick Maj. Ship Endeavour, Lieutt Cook Commander 16th July 1769.  Huaheine.  This was accompanied with some Medals or Counters of the English coine struck 1761 together with some other presents, all these but more particularly the plate the Cheif promised never to part with; this we thought would prove as lasting a Testimony of our having first discover’d this Island as any we could leave behind”.


Raiatea, Taha`a and Bora Bora


The next day Endeavour sailed to Raiatea.  Cook “landed in company with Mr Banks and the other Gentlemen... I then hoisted an English Jack and took posession of the Island & those adjacent in the name of His Britk Majestys, calling them by the same names as the Natives do”. 


On 21 July, Banks “walkd out this morn and saw many large Boathouses...  On these the inhabitants were at work making and repairing the large Canoes calld by them Pahee, at which business they workd with incredible cleverness tho their tools certainly were as bad as possible.  I will first give the dimensions and description of one of their boats and then their method of building”, which he did, adding “The form of these Canoes is better to be expressd by a drawing than by any description”.  He went on to give a detailed description of the boats, and Spöring drew one.  Cook “was employ’d in the Pinnace surveying the northern part of the Island”. 


The next day, Banks “Saw a double pahie such as that describd yesterday but much larger, she had upon her an awning supported by pillars which held the floor of it 4 feet at least above the deck or upper surface of the boat”.


The weather prevented Endeavour from sailing.  Cook “did not think it safe to breake the Ship loose and put to sea as I intended” until 25 July, when she departed from Raiatea for the neighbouring island of Taha`a.  Parkinson sketched the scene between the two islands. 


On 28 July, Cook, “being near the entrence of the Harbour which lies on the S East side of Otaha [Taha`a]... and finding that it might be examined without looseing time, I sent away the Master in the Long-boat with orders to sound the Harbour and if the wind did not shift in our favour to land upon the Island and to traffick with the Natives for such refreshments as was were to be got. Mr Banks and Dr Solander went along with him”. 


According to Banks, they “purchasd 3 hoggs, 21 fowls and as many yams and plantains as the boat would hold.  Indeed of these last we might have had any quantity and a more useful refreshment they are to us in my opinion even than the pork; they have been for this week past boild and servd instead of bread; every man in the ship is fond of them and with us in the Cabbin they agree much better than the Bread fruit did which sometimes gripd us.  But what makes any refreshments of this kind the more acceptable is that our bread is at present so full of vermin that notwistanding all possible care I have sometimes had 20 at a time in my mouth, every one of which tasted as hot as mustard”.


Cook sailed for the island of Bora Bora, “but as we could not weather the Island we Tack’d... and stood to the SW...  This island is very remarkable on account of a high craggy hill upon it, which terminates at the top in two peeks the one higher then the other”. 


On 1 August, Cook needed a harbour “to stop a leak in the Powder room which could not be easily done at sea & to take in more ballast as I found her too light to carry sail upon a wind”.  The next day Endeavour anchored in a harbour on the west coast of Raiatea.  On the following day, “I went a shore to look for a place to get Stones for Ballast and a watering place, both of which I found very convenient... sent an Officer a shore to superintend the getting off Ballast and water”.


Cook “went in the Pinnace to the Northward to survey that part of the Island, accompined by Mr Banks and Dr Solander, while the Carpenters were Employd on board stoping the leakes of the Powder-room and fore sail room”.  Banks “spent this day ashore and been very agreably entertaind by the reception we have met with from the people, tho we were not fortunate enough to meet with one new plant”.


On 3 August, Banks “went along shore in the opposite direction to that we took yesterday”.  The next day “Dr Solander and myself go upon the hills accompanied by several Indians, who carried us by excellent paths so high that we plainly saw the other side of the Island”.  Banks rarely mentions Parkinson or Spöring, but they sometimes went along.  That day, Parkinson wrote “we went on shore, and took a walk up into the country, which is very pleasant”.  He noticed, and drew “a great number of boat-houses all round the bays, built with a Catanarian arch, thatched all over; and the boats kept in them are very long, bellying out on the sides, with a very high peaked stern, and are used only at particular seasons”.  


Time to go south


It was not until 8 August, that Cook could write “The Carpenter having finished stoping the leakes about the Powder room and sail room, I now intend to sail as soon as ever the wind will permit us to get out of the harbour”, which occurred the following day. 


On 9 August, Cook wrote “the Islands Ulietea, Otaha and Bolobolo so call’d by the Natives... together with Huaheine, Tubai and Maurua as they lay continuous to one a nother I have named Society Isles”.  We now know these islands as Raiatea, Taha`a, Bora Bora, Huahine, Tupai and Maupiti.


According to Parkinson, “we weighed anchor, and proceeded from this bay to the southward, to see what discoveries we could make there, pursuant to the directions of the admiralty”.


The following day, Banks recorded the single entry “Myself sick all day”.  Two days later, he noted “Get rid of sea sickness today”.


On 13 August, Cook “Saw land bearing SE”.  It was the island of Rurutu.  The next day “hoisted out the Pinnace and sent Lieutt Gore Mr Banks and Tupia to endeavour to land upon the Island, and to speake with the natives, and to try if they could learn from them what lands lay to the southward of us”.  However, “the Pinnace return'd on board without landing, not but what it was practicable but they did not think it altogether safe with only one boat as it would have been attended with some danger on account of the surff and rocks upon the shore: and the natives were arm’d and shew’d no signs of either fear or friendship”.  Tupaia told Cook “their are several Islands laying at different directions from this, that is from the south to the west and N.W...  If we meet with the Islands to the southward he speaks off it well if not I shall spend no more time searching for them, being now fully resolved to Stand directly to the Southward in search of the Continent”.


On 15 August, Banks noted that they “Crossd the tropick”.  The following day, “Soon after we rose this morn we were told that land was in sight; it provd to be a cloud but at first sight was so like land that it deceivd every man in the ship, even Tupia gave it a name.  The ship bore down towards it but in about 3 hours all hands were convincd that it was but a cloud”.


On 24 August, “About 9 it began to flow fresh with rain which came on without the least warning, at the same time a water spout was seen to leward; it appeard to me so inconsiderable that had I not been shewd it I should not have particularly notic’d the apearance; it resembled a line of thick mist, as thick as a midling tree, which reachd not in a strait line almost to the waters edge and in a few minutes totaly disapeard; its distance I suppose made it appear so trifling, as the Seamen judg’d it not less than 2 or 3 miles from us. Many Birds about the ship, Pintado, Common and Southern Albatross”.


Anniversary of departure from England


The next day, Banks wrote “It was this day a twelvemonth since we left England, in consequence of which a peice of cheshire cheese was taken from a locker where it had been reservd for this occasion and a cask of Porter tappd which provd excellently good, so that we livd like English men and drank the hea[l]ths of our freinds in England”.


On 28 August Cook recorded “departed this life Jno Radon Boatswains Mate, his death was occasioned by the Boatswain, out of mere good nature, giving him part of a Bottle of rum last night, which it is supposed he drank all at once, he was found to be very much in Liquor last night, but as this was no more than what was common with him when he could get any, no farther notice was taken of him then to put him to Bed where this morning about 8 oClock he was found speechless and past recovery”.  According to Lieutenant Zachary Hickes, the man’s name was Raden, who had drunk “three half pints of Rum”.  According to Banks, the man’s name was Rayden, adding “Where he could have got his liquor is a mystery which however nobody seems to enquire into”.  The Boatswain was John Gathrey. 


Banks further commented, “I have more than once had occasion to congratulate myself on my prudence in not taking wine on board at Madera, as I beleive I may safely say that there is not a cask on board the ship that has not been tap’d to the great dissatisfaction of the owners, who in general have had the comfort to find the gentlemen honest enough not to have filld up with salt water; in some cases however this was not a Consideration of much comfort as many of the casks were  ⅔ empty and some quite”.


Comet observed


A day later on the 29th. “In the course of last night a phenomenon was seen in the heavens which Mr Green says is either a comet or a Nebulus he does not know which, the Seamen have observd it these 3 nights”. Cook also saw the comet, which was observed all over western Europe as well.  Banks noted seeing it also on 2 September, “brighter than when last observd”.


According to Parkinson, on 1 September, “we had hard piercing gales and squalls from the W. and N.W. with violent showers of hail and rain.  The sea ran mountain-high and tossed the ship upon the waves: she rolled so much, that we could get no rest, or scarcely lie in bed, and almost every moveable on board was thrown down, and rolled about from place to place. In brief, a person, who has not been in a storm at sea, cannot form an adequate idea of the situation we were in”.


Time to turn west


Cook’s orders from the Admiralty were to observe the Transit of Venus, and then to “proceed to the southward in order to make discovery of the Continent... until you arrive in the Latitude of 40°, unless you sooner fall in with it.  But not having discover’d it or any Evident signs of it in that Run, you are to proceed in search of it to the Westward”. 


On 2 September, Cook wrote “Very Strong gales with heavy Squalls of Wind, hail and rain.  At 4PM being in the Latd of 40° 22′ S and having not the least Visible signs of land, we wore and brought too under the fore sail and reefd the Main sail and handed it.  I did intend to have stood to the Southward if the winds had been moderate so long as they continued westerly notwithstanding we had no prospect of meeting with land, rather than stand back to ye northrd on the same track as we came; but as the weather was so very tempestuous I laid a side this design, thought it more advisable to stand to the Northward into better weather least we should receive such damages in our sails & rigging as might hinder the further prosecutions of the Voyage”. 


Food and drink and health


On 9 September Parkinson remarked, “This day a whole allowance of beef was given to the ship’s company”.  Two days later Hicks wrote, “began to make Wort of the Malt for the Sick”. 


Banks wrote a great deal about their food and health on 23 September.  
"Dr Solander has been unwell for some days so today I opend Dr Hulme’s Essence of Lemon Juice, Mr Monkhouse having prescribd it for him, which provd perfectly good, little if at all inferior in taste to fresh lemon juice.

We also today made a pye of the North American apples which Dr Fothergill gave me, which provd very good, if not quite equal to the apple pyes which our freinds in England are now eating, good enough to please us who have been so long deprivd of the fruits of our native Countrey.  

In the main however we are very well off for refreshments and provisions of most species: our ships beef and Pork are excellent as are the peas; the flour and oatmeal which have at some times faild us are at present and have in general been very good.  Our water is as sweet and has rather more spirit than it had when drank out of the river at Otahite.  

Our bread indeed is but indifferent, occasiond by the quantity of Vermin that are in it, I have often seen hundreds nay thousands shaken out of a single bisket.  We in the Cabbin have however an easy remedy for this by baking it in an oven, not too hot, which makes them all walk off, but this cannot be allowd to the private people who must find the taste of these animals very disagreable, as they every one taste as strong as mustard or rather spirits of hartshorn.  They are of 5 kinds, 3 Tenebrios, 1 Ptinus and the Phalangium cancroides; this last is however scarce in the common bread but was vastly plentyfull in white Deal bisket as long as we had any left.

Wheat was allowd to the ships company which has been boild for their breakfasts 2 or 3 times a week in the same manner as firmity is made; this has I beleive been a very usefull refreshment to them as well as an agreable food, which myself and most of the officers in the ship have constantly breakfasted upon in the cold weather; the grain was originaly of a good quality and has kept without the least damage.  

This however cannot be said of the Malt of which we have plainly had two kinds, one very good but that has been some time ago us’d; that that is at present in use is good for nothing at all, it has been originaly of a bad light grain and so little care has been taken in the making of it that the tails are left in with innumerable other kinds of Dirt; add to all this that it has been damp’d on board the ship so that with all the care than can be usd it will scarce give a tincture to water.  Portable Soup is very good, it has now and then requird an airing which has hindered it from moulding.  Sour Crout is as good as ever and I have not the least doubt of its remaining so.

So much for the Ships Company.  We ourselves are hardly as well of as them; our live stock consists of 17 Sheep, 4 or 5 fowls, as many S[outh] Sea hogs, 4 or 5 Muscovy ducks, an English boar and sow with a litter of piggs; in the use of these we are rather sparing as the time of our Getting a supply is rather precarious.  Salt Stock we have nothing worth mentioning except a kind of Salt Beef which was put up by one Mellish a butcher at New Crane Stairs, which is by much the best salt meat I have ever tasted...

Our Malt liquors have answerd extreemly well: we have now both small beer and Porter upon tap as good as I ever drank them, especialy the latter which was bought of Sam. & Jno. Curtiss at Wapping New Stairs. The Small beer had some art usd to make it keep, it was bought of Bruff & Taylor in Hog Lane near St Giles’s.  Our wine I cannot say much for tho I beleive it to be good in its nature, we have not a glass fine these many months I beleive cheifly owing to the Carelessness or ignorance of the Steward."


Land is near


Over the next few days signs of land were seen, especially sea weed.  On 29 September, Banks saw a bird “like a snipe but less and with a short bill which I judge to be a land bird”.


Also that day, Parkinson wrote, “The captain apprehended that we were near land, and promised one gallon of rum to the man who should first discover it by day, and two if he discovered it by night; also, that part of the coast of the said land should be named after him”.


Ian Boreham

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 34, volume 42, number 3 (2019).

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