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October - December 1768


At the beginning of October 1768, Endeavour was sailing south in the Atlantic Ocean to Cape Horn.  The Admiralty’s instructions to Captain Cook allowed him to “touch upon the Coast of Brazil, or at Port Egmont in Falklands Isles, or at both… for completing your water and procuring refreshments for the Bark’s Company”. 


On 25 October, 1768, “we try’d the Deping Needle belonging to the Royal Society and found the North point to dep [dip] 26° below the horizon, but this instrument cannot be used at sea to any great degree of accuracy on account of the motion of the Ship which hinders the Needle from resting”.


Endeavour crossed the equator.  “After we had got an Observation” wrote Cook, “and it was no longer doubted that we were to the southward of the Line, the Ceremony on this occassion practised by all Nations was not omitted”.  According to Joseph Banks, “those who have crossd it before Claim a right of ducking all that have not”.  Those who had previously crossed the line (in Dolphin) were John Gore, Third Lieutenant; Robert Molyneux, Master; Richard Pickersgill, Master’s Mate; and Charles Clerke, Master’s Mate.


Banks continued, “About dinner time a list was brought into the cabbin containing the names of every body and thing aboard the ship, in which the dogs and catts were not forgot…  Many of the Men chose to be duckd rather than give up 4 days allowance of wine which was the price fixd upon and as for the boys they are always duckd of course; so that about 21 underwent the ceremony… the ducking lasted till almost night, and sufficiently diverting it certainly was to see the different faces that were made on this occasion, some grinning and exulting in their hardiness whilst others were almost suffocated and came up ready enough to have compounded after the first or second duck”. 


By 28 October, Endeavour was in the latitude of the Portuguese islands of Fernando de Noronha.  Cook knew of them from “the Journal of some East India Ships I have seen”.  Regrettably, he does not say when or where he saw this information, and Endeavour passed about sixty miles to the east. 


Cook decided on 6 November, “to put into Rio de Janeiro in preference to any other port in Brazil or Faulkland Islands, for at this place I knew we could recruit our stock of Provisions... procure Live Stock and refreshments for the People and from the reception former Ships had met with here I doubted not but we should be well received”.  Gore had been a midshipman in Dolphin under Commodore John Byron, when they called there in October 1764, and got a good reception.


South America offered the first opportunity for Banks to explore territory largely new to European naturalists.  According to James Maria Magra (or Matra), on 8 November, “we spoke with a small Portuguese fishing vessel, from which Mr. Banks purchased dolphin, bream, and other fish, about one hundred and fifty in number, which he gave to the ship’s company”.  Cook wrote, “the land in sight lay to the southward of Santo Espiritu”, the province of Brazil that lay to the north of Rio de Janeiro.  Both Sydney Parkinson and Alexander Buchan sketched the views of the coastline, mostly in pencil and wash; some are in pencil or watercolour.


Endeavour passed Cape St Thomas and Cape Frio, and on 13 November, arrived at Rio de Janeiro, which had become the capital of the Portu­guese territories in South America in 1763.  Cook “made sail for the Harbour, and set the Pinnace with a Lieutt before us up to the City of Rio de Janeiro to acquaint the Vice Roy with the reasons that induced us to put in here; which was to procure Water and other refreshments; and to desire the assistance of a Pilot to bring us into proper anchor­ing ground”.  The viceroy of Brazil was Dom Antonio Rolim de Moura Tavares (1709-1782), who had been created Conde de Azambuja in 1763.  He was appointed the tenth viceroy in 1767. 


The lieutenant sent ashore in the pinnace was Zachary Hickes (or Hicks).  “The pinnace return’d” the next day, wrote Molyneux, but not “Lieutt Hicks & Mr Clerke mate”, who had been “Detain’d on shore”.  Cook was told by the men in the pinnace that “the Viceroy had thought proper to detain the Officer untill I went a shore. Soon after we anchor’d a boat came on board bringing several of the Viceroys officers who asked ma[n]y questions in respect to the Ship, from whence She came, Cargo, number of men Guns &cª all of which was answerd to their satisfaction—they told me that it was the custom of this Port to detain the first officer that came from any ship on her first Arrival untill a Boat from the Viceroy had visited her…  About this time a Boat fill’d with soldiers kept rowing about the Ship, which had orders as I afterwards understood, not to suffer any one of the Officers or Gentlemen except my self to go out of the ship…  I waited upon the Viceroy and obtain’d leave to purchase Provisions, Refreshments &cª for the Ship, but obliged me to employ a person to buy them for me, under a pretence that it was the custom of the place, and he likewise insisted (notwithstanding all I could say to the contrary) on putting a Soldier into the Boats that brought any thing to and from Ship… and this indignity I was obliged to submit to other wise I could not have got the supply I wanted”.  Cook was unable “to convince him that we did not come here to trade as I believe he imagined, for he certainly did not believe a word about our being bound to the Southward to Observe the transit of Venus but look’d upon it only as an invented story to cover some other design we must be upon”. 


Gore later learnt that “one suspicion of us among many Others is that our Ship is a Trading Spy and That Mr Banks and the Doctor are both Super­cargoes and Engineers and not naturalists for the Business of such being so very abstruse and unprofitable That They cannot believe Gentlemen would come so far as Brazil on that Account only.  Our going into the south sea to observe the Transit of Venus They Cannot believe by any means.  Say They: That Ship Donn’t look like an English man of war nor have her officers the same dress”.


The viceroy, wrote Cook, “would not permit the Gentlemen to reside a shore during our stay here, not permit Mr Banks to go into the Country to gather Plants &ca”.  According to Parkinson the gentlemen “were displeased on receiving this intelligence, as we had expected to have met with agreeable entertainment on shore. Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander appeared much chagrined at their disappointment”.


According to Parkinson, “notwithstanding all the viceroy’s precautions, we determined to gratify our curiosity, in some measure, and having obtained a sufficient knowledge of the river and harbour, by the surveys that we had made of the country, we frequently, unknown to the centinel, stole out of the cabin window at midnight, letting ourselves down into a boat by a rope; and driving away with the tide till we were out of hearing, we then rowed to some unfrequented part of the shore, where we landed, and made excursions up into the country, though not so far as we could have wished to have done.  The morning after we went ashore, my eyes were feasted with the pleasing prospects that opened to my view on every hand.  I soon discovered a hedge in which were many very curious plants in bloom, and all of them quite new to me.  There were so many, that I even loaded myself with them. We found also many curious plants in the sallading [salad] that was sent to us; and desired the people that brought it to procure us, if possible, all the different sorts that grew upon the island”. 


Cook set about getting Endeavour checked and repaired, and obtaining provisions.  Shortly after anchoring, “the people were employ’d in unbending the Sails, in fitting and rigging the spare topmasts in the room of the others, and getting on Shore empty water casks”.  The next day, “Received on board fresh Beef and Greens for the Ships Compney with which they were served every day dureing our stay here.  Got all the empty Casks on Shore and set the Coopers to Work to repair them.  On 16 November, “Set up the Forge to repair the Iron work”.  The next day, “Set some people to repair the sails and the Caulkers to caulk the ship”. 


On 17 November, Cook noted in his journal that “For these three days past I have remonstrated to the Viceroy and his officers againest the puting a guard into my Boat, thinking that I could not answer it to the Admiralty the tamely submitting to such a Custom which when practised in its full force must bring disgrace to the Brittish Flag, on the other hand I was very loath to enter into disputes seeing how much I was like to be delay’d and imbarrassed in geting the supplys I wanted, for it was with much difficulty that I obtain’d leave for one of my people to attend the Market to buy necessarys for my Table and to Assist the Agent to buy the things for the Ship; having gain’d this point and settled every thing with the Agent in regard to what was wanting for the Ship: I resolved rather than be made a prisoner in my own Boat not to go any more a Shore unless I could do it without having a Soldier put into my Boat as had hitherto been done, and thinking that the Vice roy might lay under some Mistake which on proper application might be cleared up: I therefore drew up a Memorial, stating the whole case and sent to the Viceroy this afternoon, and thus a paper war commence’d between me and his Excellency”. 


The next day Cook received “an Answer to my Memorial wherein he tells me amongst other things that if I think it hard submitting to the Customs of this Port I may leave it when I please, but this did not suit my purpose at present, but I resolved to make my stay as short as possible”.

Work in the ship continued.  On 19 November, Cook, “Empd geting on board Rum, Water, and other necessarys.  Caulking and fiting the Ship”. 


On 20 November, Cook, “sent Lieutenant Hicks in the Pinnace with an Answer to the Viceroys Memorial, with orders not to suffer a soldier to be put to His Boat upon which the guard boat attended him to the landing place and reported it to the Viceroy, who refused to receive the Memorial and order’d Mr Hicks on board again, but in the mean time they had put a guard into the boat which Mr Hicks insisted should be order’d out that he might return on board in the same manner as he came without a guard, and upon his refuseing to return otherways all the Boats Crew were by Armed force taken out the Boat (tho they gave no provications or made the least resistance and hurried to prision where they remain’d untill the next day: Mr Hicks was then put into one of their Boats and brought on under the Custody of a guard”.


The next day “I received his Excellencys Answer to my last Memorial and letter, in his letter he owns there was some indecency in detain[in]g the boat, but lays the blame to my Officer, who only executed the orders I gave him with spirit.  In one part of his Memorial he says that from the built of the Ship and other circumstances he doubts that she is the Kings”.  It was probably the first time that a collier had sailed into Rio de Janeiro, with or without a British flag. 


On 22 November, Banks, “sent my servants ashore at day break who stayd till dark night and brought off many plants and insects”.  Two days later his “servants went ashore again and brought off many plants &c”.  The next day, according to Banks, “Dr Solander went into the town [pretend­ing to be the] surgeon of the Ship, to visit a friar who had desird that the surgeon might be sent to him”.  Solander recorded his deception different­ly, writing in a letter to John Ellis, the naturalist, that he went in “the watering boat, to land at the watering place, which is in the middle of the town, where happening to meet with a civil captain of the guard, and telling him I was the surgeon’s mate, and should be glad to go to some apothecaries shops to buy drugs, he granted me a guard; which happened to be a very good-natured serjeant, that followed me not only all round the town, but likewise a little way into the country, where I collected a few plants and insects”.


Banks decided to try going ashore himself the following day, writing, “I myself went ashore this morn before day break and stayd till dark night; while I was ashore I met several of the inhabitants who were very civil to me, taking me to their houses”.  The next day he learned, “that they heard it said in the town that people were sent out in search of some of our people who were ashore without leave: this we concluded meant either Dr Solander or myself which made it nescessary for us to go no more ashore while we stayd”.


Cook continued provisioning and repairing the ship.  On 22 November, “Empd geting on board Water, Provisions &cª Caulking the Ship and repairing the sails”.  The next day he “received from the Viceroy an Answer to my last Memorial wherein he still keeps up his doubts, she is not a Kings Ship and accuseth my people of smugling a thing I am very certain they were not guilty of, and for which his Excellency could produce no proff, notwithstanding many artfull means were made use of to tempt such of our people as were admitted a shore to trade by the Very Officers that were under his Excellencys own roof”.


On 27 November, Cook, “Bent the sails and cleaned the Ship fore and abaft”.  And two days after that, “Employ’d lashing the Cask that were on the upper decks and between decks and making ready for sea”.


Cook recorded two incidents that required formal discipline.  On 19 November, Cook, “Punished John Thurman Seaman with 12 lashes for refusing to assist the sailmaker in repairing the sails”, and on 30th, “Punished Robt Anderson Seaman and Willm Judge Marine with twelve lashes each, the former for leaving his duty a Shore and attempting to disert from the Ship, and the latter for useing abusive language to the Officer of the Watch, and John Reading Boatswains Mate with twelve lashes for not doing his duty in punishing the above two Men”.


During their stay in the harbour, Endeavour had lain at anchor in four different places.  Parkinson and Buchan had continued to sketch views of the area, whilst Pickersgill, Molyneaux and Cook drew charts. 


By 30 November, Cook was ready to leave, and “sent a Shore to the viceroy for a Pilot to carry us to sea”.  The next day, the south-easterly wind “hin­der’d us from sailing as we intended”. 


Cook, Banks and Solander took advantage of the arrival of “the Spanish Packet Hopp, Don Antonio Monte Negro y Velasco, commander” to send letters, which are dated 30 November or 1 Decem­ber.  Solander wrote to John Ellis, Carl Linnaeus and Lord Morton, President of the Royal Society.  Banks also wrote to Morton, and to William Phelp (or Philp) Perrin, an old school friend at Eton, and fellow student at Christ Church, Oxford.  Cook wrote to the Secretary of the Royal Society, and the Admiralty Secretary.  With the last letter, Cook included copies of the “Memorials and Letters that have passed between the Vice Roy & me”.  He also left “in the hands of the Vice Roy Duplicates thereof tobe forwarded by him to Lisbon”.


Cook finally weighed anchor on 2 December, with Endeavour “in as good a Condition for prosecuting the Voyage as the day we left England”.  Disastrously, “in turning down the Harbour Peter Flower Seaman fell over board and before any Assistance could be given him was drown’d, he was a good hardy seaman & had saild with me above five years”.  Flower had joined Cook in 1763, in Newfoundland.  Flower’s place was taken by Manoel Pereira, a Portuguese whose name was spelt at various times Ferrara, Farreyra, Pharah and Perrarah.  


In spite of the very limited collecting opportunities, Banks’s plant specimens from Brazil totalled 320 species, of which about 112 were new to science.  Parkinson illustrated 37 of them, and 23 plates engraved from these water­colours were later included in Banks’s Florilegium.  He also painted 22 Brazilian fish.  Solander was familiar with some of the plants of Brazil, having catalogued Hans Sloane’s herbarium specimens as part of his work at the British Museum. 


On 7 December, Cook “discharged the Pilot and his Boat, a breeze of wind springing up Easterly made sail out to sea”.


Two days later, Cook recorded, “the Fore topgt mast broke sho[r]t by the Cap.  Put the Carpenters upon making another”.  They continued south mak­ing for Cape Horn and the Pacific Ocean, and life reverted to normal activities.  On 12th, Cook “Exer­cised the People at Great Guns and Sml arms”.


Shortly after leaving Madeira, Cook had put the men into three watches instead of the usual two. That is, he split them into three groups, only one of which was on duty at any one time.  This gave them eight hours continuous rest off duty instead of four. But as the conditions worsened on the way south to Cape Horn, he now reverted to “Watch & Watch”, in which the men would alternate every four hours between duty and relief.


Banks noted on 17 December, “Wind foul, blew rather fresh, so the ship heeld much which made our affairs go on rather uncomfortably”.  The next day, “we began to feel ourselves rather cool tho the thermometer was at 76, and shut two of the Cabbin windows, all which have been open ever since we left Madeira”.  The next day, “fair wind and fine weather; the people were employd in preparing a new suit of sails for the bad weather”.


Christmas Day was celebrated so much by the men that Banks recorded, “all good Christians that is to say all hands get abominably drunk so that at night there was scarce a sober man in the ship, wind thank God very moderate or the lord knows what would have become of us”.  Cook, as usual, was briefer, “yesterday being Christmas day the people were none of the Soberest”.


On 30 December, Banks witnessed “towards night a thunderstorm in which the lightning was remarkably bright, and rangd in long streaks sometimes horizontal and sometimes perpendicular, the thunder was not loud but continued an immence while with a noise in some claps so like the flapping of sails that had I not been upon deck I should not have beleivd it to be thunder”.


Ian Boreham

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 64, volume 41, number 4 (2018).

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