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July - September 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 October, 1770, was really 11 July 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.


By 1 July, 1770, most of the damage that Endeavour had suffered on the Great Barrier Reef had been repaired.  However, the carpenters had not been able to complete the work on the sheathing on the part of the hull that was still under water.  On 5 July, James Cook wrote “One of the Carpenters crew, a Man I could trust, went down and examined it and found three streaks of the sheathing gone about 7 or 8 feet long and the Main plank a little rub’d...  The Carpenter [John Satterley] who I look upon to be well skilld in his profission and a good judge of these matters was of opinion that this was of little concequence, and as I found that it would be difficult if not impractical for us to get under her bottom to repair it, I resolved to spend no more time about it. Accordingly at High-water hove her off and Moor’d her along side the beach where the stores &ca lay”


After being at Endeavour River, as Cook later named it, for several weeks already, he was keen to leave as soon as circumstances allowed.  Two things were uncertain.  Was there a safe passage out to sea?  Would the winds that kept blowing up the river change direction so the ship could sail away?


When Cook had climbed Grassy Hill on 30 June, he seen sand banks and sholas all along the coast.  On 2 July, he “sent the Master in the Pinnace out of the Harbour to Sound about the Shoals in the offening and to look for a Channel to the northward”.  Robert Molyneux returned the next day, reporting “he had found a passage out to sea between the shoals which passage lies out ENE or EBN from the harbours Rivers mouth, he found these shoals to consist of Coral rocks”.  Two days later, Cook “sent the Master in a boat out to sea to sound again about the shoals”.  When Molyneux returned he said he had been “seven Leagues out at sea and at that distance off saw shoals without him and was of opinion that there was no geting out to sea that way”.


On 17 July, Cook “sent the Master and one of the mates in the Pinnace to the northward to look for a Channell that way clear of the shoals”.  The next day Endeavour’s men were “Employ’d geting every thing in readiness for sea”.  Cook, “Mr Banks and I went over to the [north] side of the River and travel’d six or 8 miles along shore to the northward, where we assended a high hill [Indian Head] from whence I we had an extensive view of the Sea Coast to leeward; [which] afforded us a Meloncholy prospect of the difficultys we are [to] incounter, for in what ever direction we turn’d our eys Shoals inum[erable] were to be seen”.  The next day, “the Master return’d with the Pinnace and reported that there was no safe passage for the Ship to the northward”.


By now the ship was “ready to put to sea the first oppertunity”.  Unfortunately, day after day “the wind would not permit us to sail”.  By 31 July, Cook “had thoughts of trying to warp the ship out of the harbour, but upon my going first out in a boat I found it blow’d too fresh for such an attempt”.  However, on 3 August, the strong breezes moderated at “6 oClock in the AM... and we unmoord, hove up the anchor and began to warp out, but... a fresh breeze seting in we were obliged to desist and Moor the Ship again”.  Cook commented in his journal, “laying in Port spends time to no purpose, consumes our provisions of which we are very Short in many articles, and we have yet a long Passage to make to the East Indias through an unknown and perhaps dangerous Sea, these circumstances considerd, makes me very anxious of geting to sea”.


Finally, on 4 August, “at 5 oClock in the morning when it fell calm this gave us an oppertunity to warp out.  About 7 we got under sail having a light air from the land which soon died away and was succeeded by the Sea breeze from SEBS with which we stood off to Sea EBN having the Pinnace ahead sounding”.




Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander had collected so many plants at Endeavour River that by 3 July, they had to employ one man exclusively to turn them in their paper quires beneath the drying sun, and pack them up before the evening damp.  Banks commented, “Our Plants dry better in Paper Books than in Sand”. 


On 16 July, Banks wrote, “As the ship was now nearly ready for her departure Dr Solander and myself employd ourselves... examining what we wanted, and making up our complement of specimens of as many species as possible”.  A week later, on 24 July, “The Dr and me were obligd to go very far for any thing new; to day we went several miles to a high hill where after sweating and broiling among the woods till night we were obligd to return almost empty”.


By the time they left the area on 4 August, the two naturalists had collected over 200 plant species, and Sydney Parkinson had sketched many of them.


Crocodiles, Kangaroos and Turtles


An Estuarine Crocodile, Crocodilus porosus, was first seen on 3 July, when Banks wrote, “an Allegator was seen swimming along side” Endeavour


On 6 July, Banks “Set out today with the second lieutenant [John Gore] resolvd to Go a good way up the river and see if the countrey inland differd from that near the shore”.  The next day Banks wrote, “we set out in search of Game.  We walkd many miles over the flats and saw 4 of the animals [kangaroos], 2 of which my greyhound fairly chas’d, but they beat him owing to the lengh and thickness of the grass which prevented him from running while they at every bound leapd over the tops of it.  We observd much to our surprize that instead of Going upon all fours this animal went only upon two legs, making vast bounds”.  The next day he “saw also an Allegator of about 7 feet long come out of the Mangroves and crawl into the Water.  By 4 O’Clock we arrivd at the ship”.  According to Cook, “Mr Gore and Mr Banks returnd having met with nothing remarkable”. 


Possibly, Cook was more interested in what the master had with him on his return that day, 8 July, as he brought three turtle that he had caught “weighing 791 pounds”.  Banks recorded the impact, “The promise of such plenty of good provisions made our situation appear much less dreadfull; were we obligd to Wait here for another season of the year when the winds might alter we could do it without fear of wanting Provisions: this thought alone put every body in vast spirits”


Over the next few days more turtles were caught and eaten.  “In the evening” of 14 July, wrote Banks, “the Boat returnd from the reef bringing 4 Turtles, so we may now be said to swim in Plenty.  Our Turtles are certainly far preferable to any I have eat in England, which must proceed from their being eat fresh from the sea... Most of those we have caught have been green turtle [Chelonia mydas] from 2 to 300 lb weight... two only were Loggerheads [Caretta caretta] which were but indifferent meat”. 


Also that day, wrote Banks, “Our second lieutenant [Gore] who was a shooting today had the good fortune to kill the animal that had so long been the subject of our speculations.  To compare it to any European animal would be impossible as it has not the least resemblance of any one I have seen.  Its fore legs are extreemly short and of no use to it in walking, its hind again as disproportionaly long; with these it hops 7 or 8 feet at each hop in the same manner as the Gerbua, to which animal indeed it bears much resemblance except in size, this being in weight 38 lb and the Gerbua no larger than a common rat”. 


The following day the kangaroo was “Dressd for our dinners and provd excellent meat”.


On 27 July, Banks, wrote, “This day was dedicated to hunting the wild animal.  We saw several and had the good fortune to kill a very large one which weighd 84 lb”.  The kangaroo was eaten the following day but was not considered pleasant. It was only after the ship had left Endeavour River, and Cook and Banks were describing the place, its people, animals, birds and plants, that the name of the “wild animal” is given as “Kangooroo or Kanguru”, which was the name “called by the natives”.  The correct spelling of the name is Gangurru. Some of the animals they saw were probably wallabies as well as kangaroos.


Aboriginal People


Endeavour River lay in the lands of the Guugu Yimithirr Bama (Aboriginal people).  The location is called by them Waymburr, and the river is called Waalumbaal Birri. 


None of the Bama appeared until 9 July, when Cook “saw Seven or eight of the Natives... and two of them came down upon the sandy point opposite the ship but as soon as I put off in a boat in order to speak with them they run away as hard fast as they could”. 


The next day, “4 of the Natives came down to the sandy point on the north side of the harbour, having along with them a small wooden Canoe with outriggers in which they seemd to be employ’d striking fish &ca.  Some were for going over in a boat to them but this I would not suffer but let them alone without seeming to take any notice of them, at length two of them came in the Canoe so near the Ship as to take some things we throw’d them, after this they went away and brought over the other two and came again along side nearer then they had done before and took such trifles as we gave them.  After this they landed close to the Ship and all 4 came went a shore carrying their arms with them, but Tupia soon prevaild upon them to lay down their arms and come and set down by him, after which most of us went to them, and made them again some presents and stay’d by them untill dinner time, when we made them understand that we were going to eat and ask’d them by signs to go with us, but this they declined and as soon as we left them they went away in their canoe”.


Banks’s account is similar, but the differences make it worth reading as well.  “Four Indians appeard on the opposite shore; they had with them a Canoe made of wood with an outrigger in which two of them embarkd and came towards the ship but stop’d at the distance of a long Musquet shot, talking much and very loud to us.  We hollowd to them and waving made them all the signs we could to come nearer; by degrees they venturd almost insensibly nearer and nearer till they were quite along side, often holding up their Lances as if to shew us that if we usd them ill they had weapons and would return our attack.  Cloth, Nails, Paper, &c &c. was given to them all which they took and put into the canoe without shewing the least signs of satisfaction: at last a small fish was by accident thrown to them on which they expressd the greatest joy imaginable, and instantly putting off from the ship made signs that they would bring over their comrades, which they very soon did and all four landed near us, each carrying in his hand 2 Lances and his stick to throw them with.  Tupia went towards [them]; they stood all in a row in the attitude of throwing their Lances; he made signs that they should lay them down and come forward without them; this they immediately did and sat down with him upon the ground.  We then came up to them and made them presents of Beads, Cloth &c. which they took and soon became very easy, only Jealous if any one attempted to go between them and their arms.  At dinner time we made signs to them to come with us and eat but they refusd; we left them and they going into their Canoe padled back to where they came from”.


The next morning, wrote Cook, “four of the natives made us another short visit, 3 of them had been with us the preceeding day and the other was a stranger.  One of these men had a hole through the Bridge of his nose in which he stuck a peice of bone as thick as my finger, seeing this we examined all their noses and found that they had all holes for the same purpose, they had likewise holes in their ears but no ornaments hanging to them, they had bracelets upon their arms made of hair and like hoops of small cord”.


More visits occurred over the next few days.  On 17 July, “Mr Banks, Dr Solander and my self [Cook] took a turn into the woods on the other side of the water where we met with five of the natives and altho we had not seen any of them before they came to us without showing the least signs of fear”.


The following day during another visit, Banks wrote “Indians were over with us today and seemd to have lost all fear of us and became quite familiar; one of them at our desire threw his Lance which was about 8 feet in Lengh - it flew with a degree of swiftness and steadyness that realy surprizd me, never being above 4 feet from the ground and stuck deep in at the distance of 50 paces.  After this they venturd on board the ship and soon became our very good freinds, so the Captn and me left them to the care of those who staid on board and went to a high hill”, Indian Hill.  When they returned to the ship Cook found “several of the natives on board; at this time we had 12 Turtle upon our decks which they took more notice of then any thing else in the ship, as I was told by the officers for their curiosity was satisfied before I got on board and they went away soon after”.


Disagreement and Reconciliation


About ten of the Bama people visited Endeavour the following day, 19 July, “and brought with them a larger quantity of Lances [spears] than they had ever done before, these they laid up in a tree leaving a man and a boy to take care of them and came on board the ship”, wrote Banks.  “They soon let us know their errand which was by some means or other to get one of our Turtle of which we had 8 or 9 laying upon the decks.  They first by signs askd for One and on being refusd shewd great marks of Resentment; one who had askd me on my refusal stamping with his foot pushd me from him with a countenance full of disdain and applyd to some one else; as however they met with no encouragement in this they laid hold of a turtle and hauld him forwards towards the side of the ship where their canoe lay.  It however was soon taken from them and replacd.  They nevertheless repeated the expiriment 2 or 3 times and after meeting with so many repulses all in an instant leapd into their Canoe and went ashore”. 


They ignored their weapons.  Instead, Cook noted, “emmidiatly upon their landing one of them took a handfull of dry grass and lighted it at a fire we had a shore and before we well know’d what he was going about he made a large circuit round about us and set fire to the grass on the ground in his way and in an Instant the whole place was in flames, luckily at this time we had hardly any thing ashore besides the forge and a sow with a Litter of young pigs one of which was scorched to death in the fire”.


A second fire was lit “where some of our people were washing and where all our nets and a good deal of linnen were laid out to dry”.  Cook “was obliged to fire a musquet load[ed] with small shott at one of the ri[n]g leaders which sent them off.  As we were apprised of this last attempt of theirs we got the fire out before it got head, but the first spread like wild fire in the woods and grass”.


Cook looked for the Bama people “and very soon met them comeing toward us”.  According to Banks, “an old man... said something which we could not understand.  We followd for near a mile, then meeting with some rocks from whence we might observe their motions we sat down and they did so too about 100 yards from us.  The little old man now came forward to us carrying in his hand a lance without a point.  He halted several times and as he stood employd himself in collecting the moisture from under his arm pit with his finger which he every time drew through his mouth”. 


This ritual is called “ngaala ngundaamay”.  The man was blowing his sweat into the air, calling for protection and peace.  This act of reconciliation occurred because Waymburr is a place where the Bama believed no blood was to be deliberately spilled.


After that, wrote Cook, “They all came along with us abreast of the ship where they stay’d a short time and then went away”.


Four days later, Cook “sent some people into the Country to gather greens, one of which straggle’d from the rest and met with four of the natives by a fire on which they were broiling a fowl and the hind leg of one of the animals before spoke of, he had the prescience of mind not to run from them (being unarm’d) least they should pursue him, but went and sit down by them and after he had sit a little while and they had felt his hands and other parts of his body they suffer’d him to go away without offering the least insult and perceiving that he did not go right for the ship they directed him which way he should go”.


Out Through the Reef to Safety


Having left Endeavour River, the ship proceeded slowly with the pinnace ahead sounding.  Cook anchored overnight rather than risk the unknown in the dark.  The next day, 6 August, Cook “and several of the officers kept a look out at the Mast head to see for a passage between the Shoals, but we could see nothing but breakers... extending out to sea as far as we could see”.  Progress was slow for several days. 


On 10 August, Cook “We now judged our selves to be clear of all danger having as we thought a clear open sea before us, but this we soon found otherwise and occasiond my calling the [nearest headland] Cape Flattery”.  He decided “to Visit one of the high Islands [that] seem’d to be of such a hieght that from the top of one of them I hoped to see and find a Passage out to sea clear of the shoals”.  The next day he landed with Banks and “went upon the highest hill” from where he saw “several breaks or Partitions in the reef and deep water”.  Banks “found some few plants which I had not before seen [and] one small tract of woodland which abounded very much with large Lizzards some of which I took”.  So, Cook named it Lizard Island.


On 13 August, Endeavour sailed though a channel with “the Pinnace a head sounding”, with depths “from 9 to 14 fathom”.  Outside the reef the depth was “150 fathom”.  At last Cook was “free’d from fears of Shoals &ca—after having been intangled among them more or less ever sence the 26th of May, in which time we have saild 360 Leagues without ever having a Man out of the cheans [chains] heaving the Lead when the Ship was under way, a circumstance that I dare say never happen’d to any ship before and yet it was absolutely necessary”.  The passage is now known as Cook’s Passage.


In Through the Reef to Safety


Cook had wanted to stay inside the reef so he could follow the mainland to see if it became the land known as New Guinea.  On 15 August, being out of sight of the mainland, he “steer’d West in order to make the land, being feerful of over shooting the Passage supposeing there to be one between this land and New Guinea”.  He was unable to sail far as “we saw the Reef or breakers extend away to the northward as far as we could see”. 


The next morning “it fell quite Calm... A little after 4 oClock the roaring of the Surf was plainly heard and at day break the vast foaming breakers presented were too plainly to be seen not a Mile from us towards which we found the Ship was carried by the waves surprisingly fast.  We had at this time not an air of wind and the depth of water was unfathomable so that there was not a possibility of Anchoring”.  The pinnace was being repaired so “the Yawl was put into the water and the Long-boat hoisted out and both sent ahead to tow” the ship away from danger.  Two sweeps (large Oars) were put through the stern ports to help pull the ship round.  By “6 oClock... we were not above 80 or 100 Yards from the breakers”. 


Cook reflected, “All the dangers we had escaped were nothing little in comparison of being thrown upon this Reef where the Ship must be dashed to peices in a Moment.  A Reef such a one as is here spoke of is scarcely known in Europe, it is a wall of Coral Rock rising all most perpendicular out of the unfathomable Ocean, always overflown at high-water generally 7 or 8 feet and dry in places at Low-water”. 


Fortunately, “At this critical juncture when all our endeavours seem’d too little a small air of wind sprung up, but so small that at any other time in a Calm we should not have observed it, with this and the assistance of our boats we could observe the Ship to move off from the Reef in a slanting direction... A small opening was now seen in the Reef about a quarter of a Mile from us which I sent one of the Mates to examine, its breadth was not more than the length of the Ship but within was smooth water, into this place it was resolved to push her”. 


“It was impossible to get in”, wrote Cook, “the only hopes we had was another opening we saw a bout a Mile to the Westward of us which I sent Lieutant Hick[s] in the Small boat to examine”.  About 2 pm, he “returned with a favourable account... with the help of our boats and a flood tide we soon enter’d the opening and was hurried thro’ in a short time... our depth of water in the Channell was from 30 to 7 fathom... untill we had got quite within the Reef where we anchor’d in 19 fathom” amongst more shoals. 


Cook named the passage Providential Channel.  Charles Green, assisted by master’s mate Charles Clerke and gunner Stephen Forwood, had still taken noon observations, which were “very good the Limbs very distinct, a good Horizon.  We were about 100 Yards from a Reef where we expected the Ship to strike every minute”.


Cook wrote in his journal a passage that has often been quoted since.  “Such are the Vicissitudes attending this kind of service and must always attend an unknown Navigation: Was it not for the pleasure which naturly results to a Man from being the first discoverer, even was it nothing more than sands and Shoals, this service would be insuportable especialy in far distant parts, like this, short of Provisions and almost every other necessary.  The world will hardly admit of an excuse for a man leaving a Coast unexplored he has once discover’d, if dangers are his excuse he is than charged with Timorousness and want of Perseverance and at once pronounced the unfitest man in the world to be employ’d as a discoverer; if on the other hand he boldly incounters all the dangers and obstacles he meets and is unfortunate enough not to succeed he is than charged with Temerity and want of conduct. The former of these aspersins cannot with Justice be laid to my charge and if I am fortunate enough to surmount all the dangers we may meet the latter will never be brought in question.  I must own I have ingaged more among the Islands and shoals upon this coast than may be thought with prudence I ought to have done with a single Ship and every other thing considered, but if I had not we should not have been able to give any better account of the one half of it than if we had never seen it, that is we should not have been able to say whether it consisted of main land or Islands and as to its produce, we must have been totally ignorant of as being inseparable with the other”.


Banks commented, “How little do men know what is for their real advantage: two days [ago] our utmost wishes were crownd by getting without the reef and today we were made again happy by getting within it”.


A Passage Between New Holland and New Guinea


Endeavour sailed north along the coast.  Cook named several places, including Cape Weymouth, Cape Grenville, Temple Bay, Sir Charles Hardys Isles, and Newcastle Bay.  They continued to find shoals, and need to look for channels between them for Endeavour to pass through, with boats leading the way.

On 21 August, Cook decided that the “point of the Main[land] which we found is the Northern Promontary of this country I have named York Cape in honour of His late Royal Highness the Duke of York”.  Prince Edward, Duke of York, the younger brother of King George III, had died in 1767.


Cook hoped he “had at last found a Passage into the Indian Seas, but in order to be better informd I landed with a party of Men accompan’d by Mr Banks and Dr Solander” on an Island.  “We saw a number of People upon this Island... From the appearence of these People we expected they would have opposed our landing but as we approached the Shore they all made off and left us in peaceable posession of as much of the Island as served our purpose.  After landing I went upon the highest hill... Having satisfied myself of the great Probabillity of a Passage, thro’ which I intend going with the Ship, and therefore may land no more upon this Eastern coast of New Holland, and on the Western side I can make no new discovery the honour of which belongs to the Dutch navigators; but the Eastern Coast from the Latitude of 38° South down to this place I am confident was never seen or viseted by any European before us, and Notwithstand[ing] I had in the Name of His Majesty taken posession of several places upon this coast, I now once more hoisted English Coulers and in the Name of His Majesty King George the Third took posession of the whole Eastern Coast from the above Latitude down to this place by the name of”.  He left the name blank, later adding Wales, which he changed to New Wales, and then to New South Wales.  It was not until the next day that he named the island “Posession Island”. 


The passage they had passed through he “named Endeavours Straight after the name of the Ship”.


The Island of New Guinea


Cook, as Banks put it on 27 August, “was now resolvd to hawl up to the Northward in order to make the coast of New Guinea in order to assure ourselves that we had realy got clear of the South Sea”.  More shoals were in the way, so progress was slow.  Land was seen the next day, Habeeke (Habe) Island, just off the southern coast of the main island.  It “was at this time as muddy as the River Thames, so it was thought not Prudent to go any nearer at present and accordingly we stood along shore, seeing fires”.  As Endeavour sailed west, Cook noticed the land “Seem’d to end in a point and Turn away to the northward.  We took it to be Point St Augustine or Walsche Caep”, the Dutch name for False Cape on Pulau Dolok, formerly known as Frederik Hendrik Island. 


On 31 August, they were still unable to land because, as Banks put it, the coast “was still as muddy as the Thames at Gravesend”.  Four days later, he complained, “this was the sixth day we had now coasted along still upon the same bank of mud, which by its shoalness prevented our approaches near enough to make going ashore convenient”.


It was on 3 September, that Cook “went a shore in the Pinnace accompaned by Mr Banks and Dr Solander, having a mind to land once in this Country before we quit it altogether which I now am determined to do without delay for I found that it is only spending time to little purpose and carrying us far out of our way staying upon this coast, which is so shallow that we can hardly keep within sight of land”.  The landing place became known as Cook’s Bay.


The party “took a walk along the Sea beach but had not gone above 200 Yards before we were attacked by 3 or 4 Men who came out of the woods alittle before us, but upon our immidiatly fireing upon them they retired; finding that we could not search the Country with any degree of safety, we returnd to the boat and was follow’d by 60 or as some thought about 100 of the natives who had advance’d in small parties out of the woods...  their Arms were ordinary darts about 4 feet long made of a kind of Reed and pointd at one end with hard wood; but what appear’d most extraordinary to us was something they had which caused a flash of fire or smook very much like the going off of a Pistol or sml Gun but without any report, the deception was so great that the People in the Ship actualy thought that they had fire arms, indeed they seem’d to use these things in imitation of such... I thought the Combustible matter was containd in a Reed or peice of small Bamboo which they gave a swing round in the hand and caused it to go off”.  They used smouldering tinder in a hollow cane.


Cook “made sail to the Westward with a design to leave the Coast altogether to the no small satisfaction of I beleive the Major part of ye Ships company.  However it was contrary to the inclination and opinion of some of the officers, who would have had me send a party of men a shore to cut down the Cocoa-nutt Trees for the sake of the Nutts, a thing that I think no man leiving could have justified, for as the Natives had attack’d us for meer landing without takeing away any one thing, certainly they would have made a vigorous effort to have defended their property, in which case many of them must have been kill’d and perhaps some of our own people too”. 


According to Banks, the men in Endeavour “were now pretty far gone with the longing for home which the Physicians have gone so far as to esteem a disease under the name of Nostalgia; indeed I can find hardly any body in the ship clear of its effects but the Captn Dr Solander and myself; indeed we three have pretty constant employment for our minds which I beleive to be the best if not the only remedy for it”.


Cook explained his intentions for the next part of the voyage.  “As the ship is leaky we are not yet sure whether or no we shall not be obliged to heave her down at Batavi, in this case it be comes the more necessary that we should make the best of our way to that place, especially as no new discovery can be expected to be made in those seas which the Dutch have I beleive long ago narrowly examined, as appears from 3 Maps bound up with the French History of Voyages to the Terra Australis, published in 1756”.


This book was Histoire des navigations aux terres australes, contenant ce que l’on sait des moeurs et des productions des contrées découvertes jusqu’à ce jour by Charles de Brosses, published in 1756.  Among its maps was Carte reduite de l’Australasie by Robert de Vaugondy, which included Isles Arow, Isle Timorland and Isle Wessels.


The Failings of Charts


On 6 September, Banks wrote “During last night a low Island was seen and in the morn another, of a flat appearance but tolerably high.  We supposd that these might be the Arow Isles as the latitude agreed very well, but if they were these Isles must be far nearer the Coast of New Guinea than any of our draughts place them”.  They were probably Karang and Enu, two of the Aru Islands.


The next day, Cook “saw land extending from NNW to WBN distant 5 or 6 Leagues... As I was not able to satisfy myself from any Chart what land it was... and fearing that it might trend away more Southerly and the weather being hazey so that we could not see far, we steerd SW which Course by 4 oClock run us out of sight of the land”.  It was the probably the southern coast of Yamdena, the largest of the Tanimbar Islands, i.e. Timorland on the chart.  


Cook was exasperated with the charts he had with him.  On 7 September, he wrote we “ought to have been within sight of Wessels Isle, which according to the Charts is laid down about 20 or 25 Leagues from the Coast of New-Holland.  But we saw nothing by which I conclude that it is wrong laid down, and this is not to be wonderd at when we consider that not only these Islands but the lands which bounds this sea have been discover’d and explor’d by different people and at different times, and compiled and put together by others, perhaps some ages after the first discoveries were made. Navigators formerly wanted many of the helps towards keeping an accurate Journal which the present Age is possess’d of: it is not they that are wholy to blame for the faultiness of the Charts, but the Compilers and Publishers who publish to the world the rude sketches of the Navigator as accurate surveys without telling what authority they have for so doing, for were they to do this we should be than as good or better judges than they and know where to depend upon the Charts and where not. Neither can I clear Seamen of this fault among the few I have known who are Capable of drawing a Chart or sketch of a Sea Coast, I have generally, nay almost always observed them run into this error; I have known them lay down the line of a Coast They never have seen and put down soundings where they never have sounded, and after all are so fond of their performences as to pass’d the whole off as sterling under the Title of a Survey Plan &ca. These things must in time be attended with bad concequences and can not fail of bringing the whole of their works into disrepute.  If he is so modest as to say such and such parts or the whole of his Plan is difective, the publishers or venders will have it left out because they say it hurts the sale of the work, so that between the one and the other we can hardly tell when we are posessed of a good Sea Chart untill we our selves have proved it”.


Off Timor


Banks continued to be a keen naturalist.  On 7 September he saw “Infinite flying fish about the ship, some nectris’s and Man of War Birds, many Gannets also seen; at Night 2 Bobies [Boobies] were caught”.  Two days later, he took advantage of calm winds.  “Myself in my small boat a shooting killd 3 dozn. of Bobies and gannets”.  The next day, “Many dolphins were about the ship and one shark was caught at Sunset... [then] in the morn another shark was caught: the two together weighing 126 lb were servd to the ships company and every man in her, I may venture to affirm, from the Captn to the Swabber dind heartily upon it”.  According to Falconer’s Marine Dictionary of 1780 a swab is “a sort of mop formed of a large bunch of old rope-yarns, and used to clean the decks and cabins of a ship: hence the person who uses it is called the swabber”.


By now, land was in sight.  Cook felt “assured that this was part of the Island of Timor”.  Endeavour continued to sail west along the southern coast for several days. 


On 16 September, Cook “was strongly importune’d by some of my officers to go to the Dutch settlement at Concordia [Kupang] on this Island for refreshments, but this I refuse’d to comply with, knowing that the Dutch may look upon all Europeans with a jealous eye that come a mong these Islands, and our necessities were not so great to oblige me to put into a place where I might expect to be but indifferently treated”.


Endeavour sailed on passing through Rote Strait, which separates Timor from the smaller Rote Island.


That evening, Banks noted “About 10 O’Clock a Phænomenon appeard in the heavens in many things resembling the Aurora Borealis but differing materialy in others: it consisted of a dull reddish light reaching in hight about 20 degrees above the Horizon... Through and out of this passd rays of a brighter colourd light tending directly upwards... it lasted as bright as ever till near 12 when I went down to sleep”.  It was the Aurora Australis.




On 17 September, Cook “unexpectedly saw an Island bearing WSW, for by the most of the Maps we had on board we were to the southward of all the Islands that lay between Timor and Java... which made me at first think it a new discovery but in this I was Mistaken”.  It was the island of Savu. 


“We now steer’d directly for it and by 10 oClock were close in with the North side of it where we saw Houses, Cocoa-nutt Trees and Flocks of Cattle grazing.  These were temtations hardly to be withstood by people in our Situation, especially such as were but in a very indifferent state of health and I may say mind too, for in some this last was worse than the other sence I refuse’d to touch at the Island of Timor.  Wherefore I thought I could not do less than to try to procure some refres[h]ments here as there appear’d to be plenty”.


Cook “sent Lieutt Gore in shore to see if there were any convenient place to land”.  He was told “there was a Bay to Leeward where we could Anchor and likewise get refreshments”.  As they sailed to it, they “saw Dutch Colours hoisted in a Village”.  The following day “the Dutch Governor and [the] King of this part of the Island with his attendance came on board...  I was not attall at a loss for Interpreters for both Dr Solander and Mr Sporing understood Dutch enough to keep up a conversation conversation with the Dutchman, and several of the Natives could speak Portuguese which Language two or 3 of my people understood”.


On 19 September, Cook “went aShore accompined by Mr Banks & sever[al] of the Officers and Gentlemen to return the Kings Viset... The King gave us a dinner of boild Pork and Rice, served up in baskets after their Manner and Palm wine to drink with this and some of our own Liquor we fair’d tolerable well.  After we had dined, our servants were call’d in to pertake of what remaind which was more than they could eat...  We stay’d at the Kings Pallace all the After noon, and at last were obliged to return on board without doing any thing, any farther than a promise of having some Buffaloes in the Morning”.


The next day, “before I could begin a Trade for Buffaloes which was what we most wanted, I was obliged to give 10 guines for two one of which weigh’d only 160 pounds.  After this I bought 7 More at a More reasonable price one of which we lost after he was paid for.  I might now have purchas’d as Many Buffaloes as I pleas’d for they now drove them down to the water side by Herds”.


On to Batavia


Endeavour sailed from Savu on 21 September.  She sailed west and then northwest “in order to make the Land of Java”, as Cook put it. 


Banks continued to write about fish, birds and food.  On 22 September, “Many very large Albecores were leaping about the ship at night; some bobies but none were fools enough to settle on the Rigging”.  Two days later, “Infinite flying fish and bobies; some Gannets seen”.  Two days later, “Eat today a buttock of Buffaloe which had been 3 days in salt: it eat so well and had so thouroughly taken salt that it was resolvd to Salt meat for the ships company when our biggest Buffaloes who would weigh above 300 lb were killd”.  On 28 September, “Our beef experiment was this day tried and succeeded but scurvily.  The meat which had been killd on the 26th was not salted till Cold: it hardly stunk: the outside which had been in absolute contact with the salt was quite good but under that which formd a crust of various thickness the meat was in a wonderfull manner corrupted; it lookd well but every fibre was destroyd and disolv’d so that the whole was a paste of the consistence of soft putty yet this hard[l]y stunk”.


On 30 September, 1770, as the ship approached Batavia, Cook “took into my posission the Officers, Petty officers and Seamens Log book & Journals, at least all that I could find and enjoyn’d every one not to divulge where they had been”.  Banks and the other civilians retained their journals.


Ian Boreham

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 44, volume 43, number 3 (2020).

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