The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks 1768–1771 [Volume Two]
1. In the Morn at daybreak saw the Island of St Helena about six Leagues ahead; consequently before noon arrivd in the Road where we found his Majesties ship Portland Capt Elliot, sent out to convoy home the India men on account of the likeleyhood of a breach with Spain, also his Majesties sloop Swallow which had the day before brought word of the Pacifick measures adopted by that Court,3 also 12 Sail of Indiamen.page 263
2. As the fleet was to sail immediately and our ship to accompany it, it became necessary to make as much of a short time as possible, so this whole day was employd in riding about the Island, in the course of which we made very nearly the Compleat Circuit of it visiting all the most remarkable places that we had been told of.
3. Spent this day in Botanizing on the Ridge where the Cabbage trees grow,1 visiting Cuckolds point and Dianas peak, the Highest land in the Island as settled by the Observations of Mr Maskelyne, who was sent out to this Island by the Royal Society for the Purpose of Observing the transit of Venus in the Year .2
3 One of the things that bedevilled international politics in the second half of the 1760’s were claims and counter-claims to the Falkland Islands, over which Spain claimed sovereignty and where both the French and the English had made settlements. Bougainville handed over his settlement to Spain in 1766. In the autumn of 1770, after forcible removal of the English at Port Egmont by an expedition from Buenos Aires, Spain and Britain were very close to war, with public opinion much inflamed in both countries. France, however, could not support Spain, and Lord North, then prime minister, was conciliatory, so that peace was maintained. In January 1771, a Spanish declaration disavowed the Buenos Aires action and promised full and immediate restoration of Port Egmont and everything seized—though this restoration was not to affect the question of the prior right of sovereignty. (These are no doubt the ‘Pacific measures’ to which Banks refers.) The British government formally accepted this declaration as satisfaction for the injury received, and secretly promised that, once the Port Egmont garrison had been restored, it should be withdrawn. A British force accordingly landed in September 1771, but did not leave again till May 1774.
1 Five endemic ‘cabbage trees’, all Compositae, occur on St Helena: (1) red or ‘she cabbage tree’, also called Sparwood by Solander, Senecio prenanthifolia Benth. & amp; Hook. f.; (2) white or ‘he cabbage tree’, S. leucadendron Benth. & amp; Hook. f.; (3) black, Melano dendron integrifolium DC; (4) whitewood, Petrobium arboreum R. Br. and (5) Psiadia rotundifolia Hook, f., without a folk name.
2 Nevil Maskelyne (1732–1811), one of the great names in English science in the eighteenth century, Astronomer Royal from 1764 to his death, and a moving force behind the Endeavour’s, voyage. Sent to St Helena to observe the transit of 6 June 1761, he had been disappointed, as the phenomenon was concealed by clouds, but remained on the island for ten months keeping tidal records and making other scientific observations. On his voyage home he experimented in taking longitudes by lunar distances, and on his return published The British Mariner's Guide (1763). This, and his subsequent Nautical Almanac of 1767, provided the foundation for the accurate work in determining longitudes carried out by Cook and Green in the Endeavour.