The Life of Captain James Cook
XI — Batavia to England
Batavia to England
Batavia, said Cook, was certainly a place that Europeans need not covet to go to. ‘Founded by the Dutch on the ruins of Jakarta in the early seventeenth century, it had been instrumental in extending their empire through the East Indies, had sent vast riches to the Netherlands, seen the coming and going of fleets, had provisioned and loaded and mended them; gained a reputation as ‘Queen of the Eastern Seas’. It was a queen that stank to heaven, corrupt and filthy. At the end of the century an earthquake choked the streams with mud and turned the surrounding country into a swamp, the tree-lined canals which the Dutch built, on the pattern of home, became torpid ordure-choked tanks of disease. Both in the city and out of it mosquitoes bred infinitely; the fresh food for which the sailor pined betrayed him. In the eighteenth century, with a mortality of something like fifty thousand a year, the place was one of the deadliest on earth. Little wonder that the seamen who greeted the Endeavour had a spectral look. Even then, Cook might have got away from the East Indies with relatively little damage, had it not been for a call he made later. Meanwhile, Batavia had its efficiency as well as its fevers.
Preliminary to Cook's application to the authorities for their help in repair, he called on the carpenter for a report. Mr Satterley gave a faithful one, within his competence; for he could not see everything.
The Ship very Leakey (as she makes from twelve to six Inches pr Hour) Occationd by her Main Keel being wounded in many places and the Scarph of her stern being very open. The False Keel gone beyond the Midships (from forward and perhaps farther) as I had no opportunity of seeing for the water when haul'd a shore for repair). Wounded on her Larboard side under the Main Channel where I immagine the greatest Leak is (but could not come at it for the water). One Pump on the Larboard side useless the others decay'd within 1 1/2 Inch of the bore. Otherwise Masts, Yards, Boats & Hull in prety good condition.1
1 Journals I, 432.
Satterley and all the other officers were agreed that the ship must be hove down and her bottom inspected before she could safely leave for Europe. Her safety was further ensured in that thunderous climate by fixing an ‘electrical chain’ to the top of the main mast: this, on her second night in harbour, warded off a thunderbolt which shattered and carried away the main mast of a Dutch Indiaman lying a quarter of a mile off, with only an iron spindle rigged. Cook, making formal application to the governor-general and council for assistance, was granted everything he asked for; then, after making proper calculations, found he would have to apply also to this exalted body for a loan of money—5000 rix dollars—where-with to meet the expense; and then found his business would be delayed because someone had translated the English expression ‘heave down’ wrongly. Nevertheless, on 18 October he took the ship from her anchorage in the road across to the outlying Cooper's or Kuyper Island, where, and at its companion Onrust, the Dutch had their equipment, and the crew were put to clearing her of all her stores and ballast. Cook was rather nettled that his own men were not allowed to do the actual work of repair, of which they were quite capable, according to naval regulations; but the Dutch had their regulations also. It was not till 6 November that the officers of the yard at Onrust took the ship in hand.
1 This was pretty clearly the copy in the hand of Richard Orton, the clerk, that I have called the Mitchell Ms, known earlier as the Corner copy. It was this that was printed by Admiral Wharton in 1893. Its nature is discussed in Journals I, ccxviii-ccxxi.
Altho' the discoveries made in this Voyage are not great, yet I flatter my self that they are such as may merit the attention of their Lordships, and altho' I have faild in discovering the so much talk'd of southern Continent (which perhaps do not exist) and which I my self had much at heart, yet I am confident that no part of the failure of such discovery Can be laid to my Charge… . Had we been so fortunate not to have run a shore much more would have been done in the latter part of the Voyage than what was, but, as it is I presume this Voyage will be found as Compleat as any before made to the South Seas, on the same account.1
1 The whole letter is printed in Journals I, 499–501. The last sentence of the quotation runs in Cook's draft, ‘I presume that this Voyage will be thought as great and as compleat if not more so than any Voyage before made in the South Seas on the same account.’ He may have thought that the phrase ‘if not more so’ looked like boasting.
1 From the first settlement of Sydney to the end of the eighteenth century there was minor coastal exploration that corrected or clarified Cook's chart. The position at the beginning of 1801, in relation to Cook, is thus summarised by Flinders, in the lucid and admirable introduction to his Voyage to Terra Australis (1814), I, cciii: ‘On the east coast of New South Wales from Bass’ Strait to Bustard Bay in latitude 24°, the shore might be said to be well explored; but from thence northward to Cape York, there were several portions which had either been passed by captain Cook in the night, or at such a distance in the day time, as to render their formation doubtful: The coast from 15°30' to 14°30' was totally unknown.
‘The following openings or bights had been seen and named by captain Cook, but were yet unexamined: Kepppel and Shoal-water Bays; Broad Sound; Repulse, Edgecumbe, Cleveland, Halifax, Rockingham, and Weary Bays. To the northward of these were Weymouth, Temple, Shelburne, and Newcastle Bays; and perhaps many others which distance did not permit our great navigator to notice. There was also a numerous list of islands, of which a few only had been examined; and several were merely indicated from a distant view.’
Then there were the reefs. When Flinders came to work carefully north from Hervey Bay, he found Cook's longitudes fairly constantly and progressively in error, due initially to an overcalculation of the width of Hervey Bay by sixteen miles, and then to the trend of the coast to the west. He thought Cook was out at York Cape by 35 miles. But the authority of Cook was so great, even for a precisian like Flinders, that he wrote, of one point in his Prince of Wales Channel, ‘the position of almost every island in this neighbourhood is so different in his chart to what I make them, that it has occasioned me much perplexity and uneasiness.’—Voyage, I, 349.
2 ‘The Islands discover'd by Quiros call'd by him Astralia del Espiritu Santo lays in this parallel but how far to the East is hard to say, most charts place them as far to the west as this Country, but we are morally certain that he never was upon any part of this coast.'—Journals I, 376. De Brosses's plate IV places ‘Terre du St Esprit’ in New Holland, on the coast of a sort of bulging Queensland. The map in Harris, Vol. I, has nothing of this sort.
As soon as the ship anchored Banks went ashore with Solander to live, tried a hotel and then hired a house next door to it, sending for Tupaia and his boy Taiata also. These two were transported with the sights of the town. Tupaia brought in some fresh South Sea news; for while he, was walking in the street with Banks a man ran from a house and asked had he not been there before? No: but it appeared that a compatriot of his had, the man who had been taken away from Tahiti by those predecessors of Cook, not Spaniards as had been concluded, but the French expedition of the Sieur de Bougainville. Any Spanish iron could easily have been brought by Bougainville's store ship from the River Plate. Carteret's visit to Batavia had been followed by Bougainville's. So here were the French in the Pacific, hard on the heels of the British, the French at King George the Third's Island! Cook ruminated a little on that. He had to wait some time to get a full account of Bougainville's adventure, and when he did he found it extremely interesting. In the meantime there was plenty to do, both for him and the natural historians. Banks was as busy as he had been at Tahiti in the pursuit of miscellaneous experience and information. One little piece of experience he never acquired, and nor did Cook. They were both experimental eaters. Banks, in his later years, boasted of his catholicity to a friend: ‘I believe I have eaten my way into the Animal Kingdom farther than any other man’—a claim that Cook could well have contested. Certainly they had both tried dog in Tahiti, shags in New Zealand, kangaroo in New South Wales. It might be useless in the light of that belief, said the friend, to ask what he had eaten, ‘but allow me to inquire what you have not eaten?’ Banks's answer, after a short pause, skipped the years.
I never have eaten Monkey although when at Batavia Capt Cooke Dr Solander and my self had determined to make the experiment, but on the morning of our intended feast I happened to cross the yard of the House in which we resided and observed half a dozen of those poor little Devils with their arms tied upon cross sticks laying on their backs preparatory to their being killed, Now as I love all sorts of Animals I walked up to them and in consequence of their plaintive chattering and piteous looks I could not resist cutting the Strings by which they were page 262 bound and they immediately scampered off so that we lost our Monkey dinner.1
This was an episode that did not come into any journal, and it might well disappear under the dark cloud that now descended upon the voyage. Men began to fall sick. When the ship arrived in Batavia, three people were more or less indisposed—Tupaia, who had never got used to ship food; Green, suffering from the effects of his own intemperance; and Hicks. Cook, perhaps, did not know how fatally stricken the last was, because he thought none of them qualified for a sick list; Monkhouse, the surgeon, must have been of the same opinion. By the time the letter went away to Stephens, reporting that remarkable record of health, the tents set up to take the crew while the ship was under repair became hospital as well as lodging—‘owing as I suppose to the extreem hot weather’, said Cook at first, bringing in ‘fever’, and other diseases later. The swooping enemy was malaria. Tupaia and Taiata early went down with it, apart from the sailors; then Banks and his servants, Solander and the surgeon, all severe cases. Monkhouse died on 5 November, succeeded as surgeon by his mate, William Perry, an able person who had immediately to buy more medical stores. The young Taiata died, and a few days later Tupaia, inconsolable. Of him Cook writes a short notice which indicates that Banks's tiger-substitute had not been entirely a success: ‘He was a Shrewd, Sensible, Ingenious Man, but proud and obstinate which often made his situation on board both disagreable to himself and those about him, and tended much to promote the deceases which put a period to his life.’2 Green's servant John Reynolds died, three sailors died. Banks took a house in the country for himself and Solander, where they were surrounded with servants and nurses; Cook sent his own servant to him, and, a sick captain, stayed by his ship, while Banks returned the servant. Every man in the ship fell sick except one, the sail-maker, John Ravenhill, regarded as an old man, more or less drunk every day. By the time the carpenters at Onrust had begun to look at the ship Cook congratulated himself on Dutch obstinacy—so far from his own men being able to do the work he had then only about twenty officers and men fit for any duty at all; by the time it was finished he had twelve or fourteen.
1 This story is from a sheaf of reminiscences of Banks collected by Dawson Turner, his projected biographer. The Ms was generously lent to me by the late Kenneth A. Webster. Banks does not ever seem to have eaten penguin or walrus.
2 Journals I, 442.
1 This story is from a sheaf of reminiscences of Banks collected by Dawson Turner, his projected biographer. The Ms was generously lent to me by the late Kenneth A. Webster. Banks does not ever seem to have eaten penguin or walrus.
2 The Dutch blamed Cook for not giving a straight answer. Their minutes of their dealings with him will be found in the Algemeen Rijksarchief at the Hague, Kol. Arch. Inv. No. 700, 438–40.
On 26 December 1770 the restored Endeavour weighed and came to sail. She was to have eleven days of the same frustrating sort of passage she had had through the Strait of Sunda three months before, in reverse, with unpleasant squally rainy weather for the last part of it. She was like a hospital ship, said Cook, upwards of forty of her company sick, the rest in a weakly condition except for the sail-maker, more or less drunk; yet the Dutch captains congratulated him on his good luck in not seeing half his people die. What Solander saw was the mosquitoes breeding on the surface of the ship's very scuttle-butt. On the eleventh day, by which time the general health had deteriorated badly, he anchored off Prince's Island or Panaitan, at the southern entrance of the strait, to see if he could get wood and water, and fresh food for the sick. He had just had the first salt meat day since Savu, but now there was turtle again. During a week at Prince's Island he did get fresh food, fish, flesh, fowl and fruit, and water, but he soon concluded the water was bad, and put lime into the casks as a purifier. It was 16 January 1771 when he could at last get away from the island, to head in sultry weather with variable light winds and calms towards the Indian Ocean. Then the real martyrdom descended; upon the weakened malaria-stricken company came dysentery, whether caused by the Prince's Island water or its death-laden fruit—the ‘bloody flux’. In the next six weeks twenty-three men were to die. Banks, afflicted again, ‘endurd the pains of the Damnd almost’; by the end of January not more than eight or nine men could keep the deck, and the watches were reduced to four men each. It was not of much use to ‘clean between the decks and wash with vinegar’. Cook's journal is little more than notes of the weather nad a list of deaths, here and there a brief obituary phrase or a few words on the waxing or waning of disease. The first who went, on 24 January, was John Truslove, corporal of marines, ‘a Man much esteem'd by every one on board'. Then Spöring died, and Sydney Parkinson, and Ravenhill the sail-maker, whom drink could preserve no longer; page 265 and Green—‘he had long been in a bad state of hilth, which he took no care to repair but on the contrary lived in such a manner as greatly promoted the disorders he had had long upon him, this brought on the Flux which put a period to his life.’1 Cook found his papers in distressing confusion. Two of the carpenter's crew died; then, as January came to an end, one-handed John Thompson the cook, and three other men—in one week eleven deaths: ‘A Melancholy proff of the Calamitous Situation we are at present in, having hardly well men enough to tend the Sails and look after the Sick, many of the latter are so ill that we have not the least hopes of their recovery.’2 About this time the south-east trade wind began to blow steadily, a wholesome air, and Cook thought the worst was perhaps over, though the lives of several men were despaired of. Five died in the second week of February, including Jonathan Monkhouse, that valuable midshipman; then in the third week ‘Mr John Satterly, Carpenter, a Man much Esteem'd by me and every Gentleman on board',3 a Seaman, and a marine; in the fourth week ‘Alexr Simpson a very good Seaman’; in the fifth, on 27 February, three more seamen, of whom one was sick when he entered at Batavia and never recovered, and the others had clearly long been doomed, ‘so that the death of these three men in one day did not in the least alarm us; on the contrary we are in hopes that they will be the last that will fall a Sacrefice to this fatal desorder, for such as are now ill of it are in a fair way to recovering.’4 It was no wonder that one or two men, who did not die, were affected with a sort of hysteria.5 The terrible period, however, was over.
1 Journals I, 448.
3 ibid., 450.
4 ibid., 452.
5 ‘I shall mention what effect only the imagery approach of this disorder had upon one man. He had long tended upon the Sick and injoy'd a tolerable good state of hilth: one morning coming upon deck he found himself a little griped and immidiatly began to stamp with his feet and exclaim I have got the Gripes, I have got the Gripes, I shall die, I shall die!—in this manner he continued untill he threw himself into a fit and was carried off the deck in a manner dead, however he soon recover'd and did very well.'—ibid., 458. This seems to have been the trouble also with Thomas Rossiter, drummer of the marines, who was punished with twelve lashes on 21 February for getting drunk, grossly assaulting the officer of the watch; ‘and beating some of the sick.’—ibid., 451.
Another Indiaman, from Bengal, the Holton, arrived and departed in the next few days—indeed Dutch and English vessels were coming constantly into Table Bay, one of the great refreshing points of the world for shipping. Cape Town, says Cook, after this visit, ‘may be consider'd as one great Inn fited up for the reception of all comers and goers', and its inhabitants were correspondingly civil and polite. He studied these vessels with interest, as he had those at Batavia, and the Holton sent him into a train of thought which forms an interesting appendix to his reflections within the Barrier Reef, after that swift passage through Providential Channel.
This Ship during her stay in India lost by sickness between 30 and 40 Men and had at this time a good many down with the scurvy, other Ships suffer'd in the same proportion, thus we find that Ships which have been little more than Twelve Months from England have suffer'd as much or more by Sickness than we have done who have been out near three times as long. Yet their sufferings will hardly if at all be mentioned or known in England when on the other hand those of the Endeavour, because the Voyage is uncommon, will very probable be mentioned in every News paper, and what is not unlikely with many additional hardships we never experienced; for such are the disposission of men in general in these Voyages that they are seldom content with the hardships and dangers which will naturaly occur, but they must add others which hardly ever had existence but in their imaginations, by magnifying the most trifling accidents and Circumstances to the greatest hardships, and unsurmountable page 267 dangers without the imidiate interposion of Providence, as if the whole Merit of the Voyage consisted in the dangers and hardships they underwent, or that real ones did not happen often enough to give the mind sufficient anxiety; thus posteriety are taught to look upon these Voyages as hazardous to the highest degree.1
This is an interesting passage, or—one might call it—piece of rambling—and addressed to whom? To some vague public in his mind, to the Admiralty, to himself? Does it begin as apologetic justification, as he thinks of his dead sailors, a third of his original ship's company? It is not altogether good prophecy, for the newspapers were not to enlarge on the sufferings of the Endeavour's men. It is accurate enough about the natural leaning of men to imagination; in its reference to the immediate interposition of Providence it foreshadows one of the controversies arising from this voyage—or rather supplied with fresh fuel thereby; but does Cook want posterity—he has come a long way from the Holton's sickness—to think that voyages such as his are not particularly hazardous? He is no doubt writing as a professional sailor, a responsible person; but also as James Cook, this time in no crisis of the spirit, with a constitutional distaste for fanfaronade, reluctant (as he was in his letter to Mr Stephens from Batavia) to make extreme claims. So we get this kind of interim statement, by implication, of some of the principles of a particular explorer's mind.
1 Journals I, 460–1.
1 Journals I, 466.
2 Cook to Maskelyne, 9 May 1771; Royal Society Council Minutes, VI, 107–10. I have printed this in Journals I (2nd ed., 1968), 692–3.
The passage continued without much incident. Two or three times a sail was sighted or a vessel spoken. On 19 June, in the middle of the North Atlantic, west of the Azores, Cook sent a boat on board a schooner out from Rhode Island on the whale fishery, heard that all was peace in Europe, disputes between Britain and her American colonies made up; there were other whaling vessels; on the 21st and 22nd he seemed to have caught up with the East India fleet. But his sails were splitting; in the morning of the 22nd the carpenter reported the main topmast sprung in the cap, ‘which we supposed happen'd in the PM when both the weather backstays broke, our Rigging and Sails are now so bad that some thing or another is giving way every day.'2 The East Indiamen sailed out of sight again. Banks's surviving dog, his greyhound bitch, the chaser of kangaroos, died suddenly. The goat seemed immortal. Early in July ships were seen or spoken every day. From a London brig bound to the West Indies it was learnt on 7 July that no account having been received in England of the Endeavour, wagers had been laid that she was lost; which seemed strange to Cook, because the Dutch fleet with his packet had sailed from the Cape five months before. There had certainly been news manufactured at home, when the newspapers recollected the ship, in the context of threatened war with Spain. For example:
It is surmised, that one ground of the present preparations for war, is some secret intelligence received by the Ministry, that the Endeavour man of
1 Journals I, 471.page 270 war, which was sent into the South Sea with the astronomers, to make observations, and afterwards to go into a new track to make discoveries, has been sunk, with all her people, by order of a jealous Court, who has committed other hostilities against us in the Southern hemisphere. Mr. Banks, and the famous Dr. Solander, were on board the above vessel, and are feared to have shared the common fate with the rest of the ship's company.
2 ibid., 475.
So Bingley's Journal for Friday, 28 September 1770, which at least confirms our feeling that Cook's secret instructions for his behaviour after he should leave Tahiti were not altogether secret. The Banks family had its correspondents, and in October Miss Sarah Banks was informing the naturalist and traveller over England, Thomas Pennant, that there was not the least foundation for such alarming reports, though ‘we begin to fear we shall not see them till spring, upon account of their having missed the Trade Wind….’1 Then rumour swung the other way: early in January 1771 it was printed that the ship was ‘safely arrived at the island of Batavia’, on the authority of ‘the last Ships from India’.2 In May there is at last something authentic: ‘Certain Advices came yesterday to the India house, that the ship Endeavour … arrived the 10th of October last at Batavia, all well on board’; a little later an abstract is given of a letter from Mr Sydney Parkinson, ‘principal drawer to Mr. Banks’.3 The East India Company had in fact passed on its information to the Admiralty before it did so to the press: the Lords' minutes for 7 May include the message, and the resolution that the Secretary of State be acquainted therewith, ‘for the King's information, as it was feared the said Vessel was lost.’4 A natural fear, perhaps, even in the Admiralty. Byron's Pacific voyage had lasted twenty-three months, Wallis's twenty-one months; even Carteret, in his dreadful ship, and monsoon-bound in the East Indies for five months, had reached home, however unexpectedly, in thirty-three months. Cook had certainly been at Rio de Janeiro at the end of November 1768, presumably had departed from it within a few days; after that, what? What the Lords had not understood, when they put Cook into the Endeavour, was that they had inaugurated a new dispensation.
1 S.S. (Sarah) Banks to Thomas Pennant, 6 October 1770; Atl, Ms Papers 155:20.
2 General Evening Post, 8 January 1771, and other papers of same date.
3 London Evening Post, 9 May, 16 May 1771. For these notices see Journals I, 642–3.
4 Adm 3/78.
It is with pleasure I have to request that you will be pleased to acquaint my Lords Commissrs of the Admiralty with the Arrival of His Majesty's Bark under my Command at this place, where I shall leave, her to wait until' further Orders. And In Obedience to their Lordships orders immediately, & with this Letter, repair to their Office, in order to lay before them a full accot of the proceedings of the whole Voyage… .
He made no doubt that his communications from Batavia and by way of the Portland had been received, since when nothing material had happened beyond the death of Hicks and the promotion of Clerke,
a Young Man well worthy of it, & as such must beg leave to recommend him to their Lordships, this as well as all other appointments made in the Bark Vacant by the Death of former Officers, agreeable to the inclosed List, will, I hope meet their approbation.
You will herewith receive my Journals containing an Account of the Proceedings of the whole voyage, together with all the Charts, Plans & drawings, I have made of the respective places we have touched at, which you will be pleased to lay before their Lordships. I flatter my self that the Latter will be found sufficient to convey a Tolerable knowledge of the places they are intended to illustrate, & that the discoveries we have made, tho' not great, will Apologize for the length of the Voyage.1
1 Journals I, 504–5.