The Second Island Sweep
It Was with no thought of refreshment that Cook had come to Tahiti again, but merely to allow Wales to set up his instruments at a precisely known point and check the chronometer; he accordingly told his astronomer that there would be no more than two or three days for the purpose. ‘As to Sick we had none.’ In the end the stay lengthened to three weeks, with three weeks more spent at the neighbouring islands before the cruise was resumed. After his Tahitian experience of the previous August he expected little in the way of supplies, but now he was astonished at the recovery of the island, and the plenty and prosperity evident at both Matavai and Pare. Tu, with a large train of followers, at once brought a present of hogs. When—following on Marquesan experience—red feathers were produced as possible currency, excitement rapidly spread over the whole island. Vehiatua sent emissaries for them from Tautira. Polynesian trade might be an exchange of ceremonial gifts, or a less elevated sort of exchange, in the one case it was made plain that the mark of taio, or friendship, was ura, or red feathers; in the other ura simply commanded the greater return. As Cook's stock of trade goods was greatly depleted this was a boon. Tahiti produced few red feathers of its own; red was a royal and sacred colour; red feathers were potent aids to prayer and other exercises of religion; they conferred wealth and great distinction on their owners, ensured envy among chiefs as well as the favour of the gods. All things considered, Cook thought he would be as well off here as at any other island, and getting tents, casks, sails ashore, set on foot all the processes of overhaul and repair. The social Clerke surveyed everything with satisfaction: ‘Tho’ we ever found ourselves at Home among these good People, their reception this visit was if possible more social than ever… . Nothing in Nature cou'd exceed the unbounded civillity and friendship with which they now treated us… .' The only inconvenience in such abounding provision was
to find room in which to stow it.1 There were, however, before those three weeks were over, one or two causes for dissatisfaction evident as well as for pleasure.
One of these—though rather a thing that baffled the mind and could cause difficult relations—was the rivalry among chiefs, and the tender susceptibilities of chiefs. Steering a way through these without mishap was like steering a way through a cluster of atolls; without real knowledge of the language it was impossible, indeed, to make proper enquiry. Cook kept on thinking of Tu as a ‘king’, of other great chiefs as his ‘subjects’—if they seemed to have influence with him, perhaps as his ‘counsellors’; the renewed prosperity of the island he tended to put down to the ‘policy’ of Tu—who must be a wiser man than he had before thought him—or to measures advocated by these councillors. Again, he thought of an obviously great man, ‘Towha’ or To‘ofa,2 the paramount chief of the Oropa’a part of the Atehuru district, as Tu's ‘admiral’, and so in all innocency wounded feelings. Then how one day should Tu say frankly that the Admiral was not his friend, and the next day urge Cook to show him much respect; on another day both of them suggest that he should help them to make war against Taiarapu—which at the moment was, Cook gathered, in alliance with them to make war against Eimeo, or Moorea? True, such things were not unknown in European statecraft, but that was not a department with which the captain was intimately acquainted. Wounded feelings might mean a cessation in the supply of hogs or fruit. It was fortunate that such difficulties, ever inadequately understood, were resolved, and mutual presents sealed the renewal of friendship. Another complication arose from the readiness of chiefs, such as Tu or his father Teu, to be ‘mataou-ed’, or frightened, and consequently to cut off the supply of food, thus annoying their subjects as well as Cook. It might be that not only chiefs, but apparently the whole population, were matau, and would suddenly disappear; then Cook would know, before ever his own people had reported it, that something had been stolen, and that all Matavai had fled from his anticipated vengeance.
Not invariably was it so: once at least Cook was the first to move. A Tahitian who tried to steal a cask at night from the watering place was caught, sent on board the ship and put in irons. The captain decided to make a grand example. Early next morning Tu, To‘ofa,
and several other ‘grandees’ came on a visit, bringing as gifts both provisions and what Cook thought were ‘some of the most valuable curiosities in the island’. He exhibited his captive and recounted the crime. Tu begged for the man's liberty. Cook refused, took him ashore and had him tied to a post. He then addressed Tu at some length—and it must have been in some intelligible language, as To'ofa at least listened carefully—on the behaviour of the Tahitians and the British respectively, the merits of theft and fair payment, the punishment sailors received if they broke the rules; so that ‘it was but right this man should be punished also, besides I told him it would be the means of saving the lives of some of his people by detering them from commiting crimes of this nature in which some would be kill'd at one time or a nother'. Tu, who seemed to understand, only desired the man might not be killed. Cook turning out the guard to keep off the now great crowd, thereupon had the unfortunate fellow flogged with two dozen lashes. To'ofa with great eloquence harangued the crowd on their sins, their duties and indebtedness to the visitors. The day was completed by Cook's carrying out a promise he had made earlier to have the marines put through their drill and firing practice, which caused great amazement, fright and pleasure. Barely more than a week after this display of potent force, a sentry went to sleep on shore in the night; his musket was stolen. This time Tu sent to inform Cook of the theft before fleeing to the hills, and apparently also sent men to get the musket back; it was brought back at the end of a day of the most troublesome and vexing complications, coming and going, swearing and counterswearing, seizure and freeing of canoes—followed by stoppage of supplies, interviews, the firing of the ship's guns to please Tu, an exhibition of fireworks to please everybody. Cook was compelled to think again over his relations with this people, without attaining final satisfaction. He had always respected their property, apart from detaining canoes for a while. He had ignored the fact that they were generally first aggressors. If he destroyed property he was sure to be the loser in the end; he might possibly make them sue for peace, but the honour he got from that would be empty. ‘Three things made them our fast friends,’ he concluded: ‘Their own good Natured and benevolent disposition, gentle treatment on our part, and the dread of our fire Arms; by our ceaseing to observe the Second the first would have wore off of Course, and the too frequent use of the latter would have excited a spirit of revenge and perhaps have taught them that fire Arms were not such terrible things as they had imagined, they are very sencible of the superiority they
have over us in numbers and no one knows what an enraged multitude might do.’1
This is thinking rather deeper than Clerke did, ‘social’ as Clerke was and made his friends.
To balance such irritations were some things of new interest or deeper enquiry: most interesting of all for a sailor the great war fleet of over three hundred double canoes, large and small, with all their crews and equipment, which Cook unexpectedly found at Pare when he paid his first formal visit to Tu four days after his arrival—the Tahitian fleet, as he erroneously supposed, drawn up for inspection by its royal master. It was on this occasion that he was almost torn in two between To'ofa and his followers and those of Tu competing for his attention; bitterly did he regret his seeming neglect of To'ofa when he was told that Tu ‘was gone into the Country Mataou’ (because his people had stolen some of Cook's clothes in the wash). The canoes were magnificent, with flags and streamers, chiefs and principal officers splendid in their breast plates, helmets and plumes—‘the whole made a grand and Noble appearence such as was never seen before in this Sea’. Cook, wanting much to go aboard, had lost his chance when he lost sight of To'ofa, and shortly after he started on his return to Matavai the whole fleet moved off to the west. Nor did he see that noble armament again, though he did see later a group of ten canoes, and later still one of forty rehearsing their manœuvre of landing on a beach, their crews engaging in mock battle. He gave To'ofa a pendant for his own canoe; Tu not merely a grapnel and rope which the chief begged of him, but a jack and pendant for a new double canoe almost ready to launch, the largest Cook had seen, 108 feet long—that is, almost as long as the Resolution
—and Tu agreed to call it Britannee
The purpose of the fleet, which was only a part of the total force in preparation, was, so it was gathered, to impose obedience on Aimeo, whose chief had revolted against Tu his lawful sovereign—or, alternatively, ‘had thrown off the yoke of Otahiete and assumed an independency’. Neither interpretation was correct, however obscure the precise nature of the trouble. Certainly there was a struggle in progress on Aimeo, in which one of the chief contestants was related to Tu: but the last thing Tu wanted was to be engaged in warfare on his behalf. Some of the Aimeo chiefs may have been tributary to Tahitian chiefs: the one island was certainly not tributary to the other. To‘ofa and that other important ari'i
, Potatau, certainly eager for war, at this time were bringing pressure on Tu
to join them. He agreed, then drew back. Hence, no doubt, the combination of respect and fear in which he held To‘ofa. Having failed to get Cook as an ally against Taiarapu, the chiefs thought he might lend his assistance in their actual war, but once again he was disobliging.
The sight of the fleet and computation of its strength in warriors and paddlers stimulated Cook to calculate also the population of the island. His statistical technique one cannot admire, his estimate must have been considerably too large.1
He collected a little more information on the wide-spread family connections of Tu, and on the habits of the people; had a visit from Purea, who, he gallantly asserted, ‘looked as well and as young as ever'; the ship's bread being inspected by the warrant officers, had to throw away three thousand pounds more of it as too rotten for consumption; noted the decline in the number of sheets and shirts on board the ship, as an index to payment by young gentlemen to young ladies for services rendered; considered the question of Odiddy. The youth, tractable and sweetnatured, without being either knowledgeable or highly intelligent, had become a favourite of all his ship-mates, had made something of a sensation in the island by his traveller's tales of white lands and snow, perpetual daylight, tempests and cannibals, and had been much patronised by Tu, who wanted him to stay at Tahiti. There were not wanting those among his new friends who urged him to take a further step in adventure and travel to England; there were not wanting volunteers who wanted to do likewise. Cook and Forster urged him to return to his own island of Raiatea. Forster was anxious to take a young person of his own and instruct him in mechanic arts. Cook, who had not much approved of Furneaux's embarking of Omai, said roundly he would take no one except Odiddy, if Odiddy really wished to go; told Odiddy that if he did, he must look on Cook as a father, but he would probably never return; Odiddy wept; Forster was offended. Tu suggested that Cook might take one or two of his entourage to Tonga to collect red feathers for him. Cook refused that request. Odiddy decided to go home to Raiatea. By the afternoon of 14 May all farewells had been made, Tu's with a last hog and a turtle, Cook's with a three-gun salute, the Resolution
was under sail and under way, when the lieutenant of marines, idly looking out of a port, noticed a man swimming from the ship towards a canoe obviously in wait to pick him up. The cutter was launched and picked him up instead, he dived overboard and began swimming again, was taken up a
second time and put in irons. It was John Marra
, gunner's mate, who made this attempt to desert; it was his second, because he had tried at Deptford, even before the voyage began. His intention, he explained to the world when he came to write a book, was anthropological study; he had been promised, Mr Elliott tells us, ‘a House, Land and a Pretty Wife’. Cook now had him to reflect upon, and like Cook in his journal we may anticipate a little. After a night in irons he was let out at Huahine with a sentinel over him, at the more attractive Raiatea returned to irons. He no doubt expected a flogging.
I kept the Man in confinement till we were clear of the isles then dismiss'd him without any other punishment,' wrote the captain, ‘for when I considered the situation of the Man in life I did not think him so culpable as it may at first appear, he was an Irishman by birth, a good Seaman and had Saild both in the English and Dutch Service. I pick'd him up at Batavi in my return home from my last Voyage and he had remained with me ever sence. I never learnt that he had either friends or connection to confine him to any particular part of the world, all Nations were alike to him, where than can Such a Man spend his days better than at one of these isles where he can injoy all the necessaries and some of the luxuries of life in ease and Plenty.1
He added, ‘I know not if he might not have obtained my consent if he had applied for it in proper time.’ This is an unusual mood for a person commanding one of the vessels of the royal navy.
The following day the ship was in Fare harbour at Huahine. The chief Ori was as welcoming as ever. His people were less so. The second day saw Forester's servant, Ernst Scholient, ‘a feeble man’, set on during a botanical excursion by a group of bravos who would have stripped him had he not been rescued by a companion, an assault all too reminiscent of that on Sparrman at the same place in the previous year; while two men in a canoe tried to cut away the anchor buoy. These two were chased off by a musket shot and the canoe destroyed by way of example. The other matter was not so easily dealt with. A council of chiefs, protesting their own innocence, which Cook had not doubted, advised him to kill the assailants: that was all very well, he answered, but who was going to produce them?—and the subject was dropped. In spite of this advice one party of officers had their trade goods stolen; another, themselves acting in some obscure way with reckless imprudence, were deprived of all their belongings, including their guns, by a mob from whom they had to be rescued by the interposition of the chiefs. The property was restored, but Cook complained to Ori
of ‘repeated outrages’. The old chief invited him to take a force on shore and march inland with himself to chastise the ‘banditti’. After some hesitation he agreed to do so, mainly as a demonstration of power. There was a long march, no banditti were found, Odiddy began to talk of an ambush, and when the party came into a deep valley very well suited for such an exercise Cook decided he had gone far enough. Two chiefs brought pigs and dogs and the young plantain trees of peace and ceremonially presented them; arriving back at the beach he fired several volleys of muskets to impress people who had seen them used before only by sportsmen missing two shots out of three; and for the last two days the supply of breadfruit and coconuts rose enormously. On the whole, thought Cook, the expedition had done good, though Wales was inclined to laugh at it; yet he was well aware of the carelessness of his sailors in their rambles and of his shortage of trade goods; nor were red feathers here of much value. His previous visit must have thinned out the island stock of hogs. He put his armourers to work to turn old iron into tools and nails. It was not really a very satisfactory visit. Once again he was led to contrast Ori, ‘the good old chief’, ‘a good Man to the utmost sence of the word’, with his people, too many of whom seemed to take advantage of his age. When they parted Cook said they would see each other no more, at which the old man wept, and said again, ‘then let your sons come, we will treat them well’.
It took the whole of 23 May, with a light wind, to get from Huahine round the south end of Raiatea to its western side; another day and a half, when the eastern trade wind blew, to get the ship through the reef, where the sea broke with frightful violence, into the placid Haamanino harbour. While she was warping in, Orio, the chief, came off with his hospitable gift, and when Cook went on shore to return this visit he had an experience he had not had before. It was very Polynesian, and it denoted the reunion of friends. He wasmet by four or five lamentably weeping old women, cutting their heads with sharks' teeth, so that the blood poured down over their faces to their shoulders; they bloodily embraced him and Forster, after which they washed themselves (we learn nothing about the gentlemen) and were as cheerful as anybody. Orio came to dinner. The ship was surrounded with vast numbers of canoes and people, who remained two or three days in the neighbourhood feasting; for it appears that there was an additional excitement to the arrival of the Resolution—that of a party of the arioi society; which might account for an unusual succession of dramatic performances, though Cook had a different theory. There were two
‘theatres’; there was very broad, and repetitive, comedy, there was frequent allusion to the ship and Brittannee; there was only one actress, Orio's beautiful daughter Poetua, ‘at whose Shrine’, writes the admiring but discriminating captain, ‘many pretty things were offered by her numerous Votarists and I believe was one great inducement why her father gave us these entertainments so often’.1 Wales also, after a pleasant excursion into the country, finding that ‘the Princess Poydoa’ performed that evening: ‘as these were my favorite amusements, I made scarce more than a hop skip & Jump to the Play-house where I found she could twist & distort a set of very delicate features with as much dexterity as ever.’2 Next day Cook had the enchanting lady and her family to breakfast.
Provisions were plentiful at Raiatea; trade was brisk. There is little theft recorded. There was one expedition along the shore to reclaim property, and the iron tiller of the pinnace went irreclaimably, but as among the number of articles returned were some that Cook did not even know he had lost, he thought he had done well, and the alarmed chief was restored to tranquillity. A visit to what Odiddy said was his estate found his brother solidly in possession; Cook got nothing here beyond a hog or two, together with a detailed recipe, from his own observation, for the killing and cooking of the animal. Odiddy got drunk. Cook made every enquiry he could into the politics of the island and its neighbouring Borabora, where he would have gone had he not now all the supplies he needed, and been anxious to proceed with his voyage. He met the chiefs of Tahaa, almost a northern extension of Raiatea within the same reef. His departure was delayed for a day by an astonishing story brought him that two ships had arrived at Huahine, one commanded by Banks, the other by Furneaux; the appearance of these commanders was described to the life, the informant adding with verisimilitude that on one of the ships he had been made drunk. Cook almost sent a boat over at once with orders to Furneaux, and did send Clerke to the farther part of Raiatea to make enquiry. By the end of another day there was universal assertion that the man was a liar, while he himself had disappeared. It was the first time—it was not the last—that Cook encountered this singular species of island practical joke; he was fortunate that it caused him no more inconvenience than it did. He could address himself to taking a final leave of ‘these happy isles’. He had set off fireworks. There is indeed
a valedictory air breathing over this last visit. Thinking upon bountiful Nature and its blessings, upon the benevolent disposition of Native mankind, upon the cheerful and generous response to the wants of the Navigator, Cook cannot find a hard word to say, among the last words of his journal, even about the less pleasing aspects of Huahine. He has become almost a sentimental man. When everything was in readiness to sail the chiefs came to the ship to make their farewells. ‘Oreo's last request was for me to return and when he found I would not make him the Promise, he asked the name of my Marai’
—a word to which the English gave the too exclusive significance of burial place. A strange question to ask a seaman, thought Cook; ‘however I hesitated not one moment to tell him Stepney the Parish in which I lived when in London. I was made to repeat it several times over till they could well pronounce it, then Stepney Marai no Tootee was echoed through a hundred mouths at once.’ They asked Forster the same question. ‘What greater proof could we have of these people Esteeming and loving us as friends whom they wished to remember, they had been repeatedly told we should see them no more, they then wanted to know the name of the place were our bodies were to return to dust.’1
They left, Poetua left, all weeping hard. Cook did his best to believe their sorrow was unfeigned. Odiddy was allowed to stay a little longer, till the ship was almost out of the harbour: he had the privilege of firing some of the guns which jointly rejoiced over the birthday of King George III and bade farewell to the island. Then, clutching the testimonial that Cook had written for him, he climbed slowly over the side into his canoe and burst into tears.
This day of grief and celebration was 4 June, a day also of gentle breezes and fine weather, which did not persist. John Marra, that devotee of freedom, was released from confinement. Cook directed his course a little south of west, as he resumed his purpose to visit Quiros's discoveries, the theme that remained so strongly in his mind from his cogitations when turning north from the ice. The course he steered indicates that he thought he would need further refreshment before he reached his goal, because it was not islets he was interested in, and the southerly inclination would bring him to Tonga. From there he would have to turn north. He followed his practice of bringing to for the night. On the 5th he recognised the
atoll Wallis had called Lord Howe's Island, rightly identifying it with one the Raiateans had told him of, Mopihaa, where they went turtling; and after eleven days more encountered the man of war and tropic birds which might or might not indicate land. This time they did, another atoll, to which Cook gave the name of Palmerston, a Lord of the Admiralty; he could not reconcile this with anything Quiros had found. He could see no people; he might have landed if he had descried a convenient place, because his breadfruit and plantains had just run out and ship's bread was being served again, but there being none he ran on. On the afternoon of the 20th still another island was sighted, of a different sort. People were seen on it next morning and he took two boats to examine its western coast. To land on the rocky base of the shore was easy enough; to get any farther up the shrub-covered cliffs was a different matter, nevertheless the naturalists began to collect plants while Cook explored the way up. He displayed the colours and, according to Hodges, took possession of the island—not very effectively, as advancing natives were not at all friendly, hurling lumps of coral one of which struck Sparrman on the arm. He fired his musket, as some other person did,1
to Cook's annoyance, and the islanders retired. So did Cook, looking along the coast for another landing place, without much luck, till he saw four canoes drawn up on a small stony bit of beach. He wished to leave some nails and medals in them as a sign of friendship; Hodges wished to sketch them. Within a very few minutes of their landing the people rushed down on them through a sort of chasm ‘with the ferocity of wild Boars’, undeterred by the discharge of muskets in the air, a spear whizzed close over Cook's shoulder, and the armed guard Cook had placed on a flat rock let fly at another party that had appeared above. Cook snapped his own musket at his assailant, five paces off, but was glad afterwards that it had missed fire; apart from Sparrman's bruise, no one on either side was hurt. As it seemed pretty clear that the inhabitants did not wish to encourage visitors, the captain rowed back to the ship and made sail. He called the place Savage Island. It was Niue. He fixed its position very accurately; considering the impediments to inspection, he gave a good account of it.2
Stout well-made men the people appeared, almost naked, some of them painted black extensively.
Their canoes were much like those of Amsterdam. It was a raised coral island. ‘To judge of the whole Garment by the skirts it cannot produce much, for so much as we saw of it consisted wholy of Coral rocks all overrun with trees Shrubs &ca
, not a bit of soil was to be seen, the rocks alone supplied the trees with humidity.’ The loose rocks were coral; so were the cliffs of the coast. There was a consequent question. ‘If these Coral rocks were first formed in the Sea by animals, how came they thrown up, to such a height? has this Island been raised by an Earth quake or has the Sea receeded from it? Some Philosophers have attempted to account for the formation of low isles such as are in this Sea, but I do not know if any thing has been said of high Islands or such as I have been speaking of.’ He left the question open for the philosophers.
The winds were still easterly; the course was WSW. At daylight on 25 June islands were again seen in the west, with a reef of rocks lying full ahead, as far too on either hand as the eye could reach. Cook bore up to the south to look for an opening; then, as the wind fell and an easterly swell continued, stood off to the south-east. When the day came again he saw the opening he wanted. Even before sighting land he had rightly judged himself not far from Rotterdam or ‘Annamocka’, Nomuka. He was now coming in to the Tongan archipelago about a degree of latitude farther north than he had done the previous year. The islands thickened ahead, but his passage was clear, just south of the ‘Otu Tolu sub-division of the Nomuka group, with breakers further south. Canoes brought coconuts, shaddocks and the names of islands; by the end of the day on the 26th the ship was anchored off the north shore of Nomuka, where Tasman had been, and one of the people had already asked for Cook by name. Early in the morning the captain and the master went on shore to look for water. Courteously received, they were taken to a pond brackish but usable. Courtesy went further: Cook had no sooner returned to the beach than a man and an elderly dame presented to him an extremely personable young woman, who—he understood—was to be at his service. ‘Miss, who probably had received her instructions, I found wanted by way of Handsel, a Shirt or a Nail, neither the one nor the other I had to give without giving her the Shirt on my back which I was not in a humour to do.’ That did not settle the matter: we see for once the captain driven off a field of battle in utter rout.
I soon made them sencible of my Poverty and thought by that means to have come of with flying Colours but I was misstaken, for I was made to understand I might retire with her on credit, this not suteing me niether
the old Lady began first to argue with me and when that fail'd she abused me, I understood very little of what she said, but her actions were expressive enough and shew'd that her words were to this effect, Sneering in my face and saying, what sort of a man are you thus to refuse the embraces of so fine a young Woman, for the girl certainly did not [want] beauty which I could however withstand, but the abuse of the old Woman I could not and therefore hastned into the Boat, they then would needs have me take the girl on board with me, but this could not be done as I had come to a Resolution not to suffer a Woman to come on board the Ship on any pretence what ever and had given strict orders to the officers to that purpose….1
In the meanwhile the boat had been loaded with yams and shaddocks, which were plentiful as well as more welcome to Cook. Although the island had few pigs or fowls, a brisk trade went on till noon, both on shore and at the ship. The islanders helped to roll the casks to and from the pond, nails and beads changed hands amid mutual pleasure. Botanising and shooting parties (ducks were not lacking) were at large; it seemed a morning generally profitable. At noon all had returned to the beach except the surgeon; Cook could not wait for him, as the tide was ebbing fast. After dinner officers who landed again found the unhappy Patten bereft of his gun; Cook heard the news and hastened ashore ‘for fear our people should take such steps to recover the gun as I might not approve’. They had taken no steps, and Cook refrained from taking any, because, he says, he was displeased with the occasion of its being lost—in other words, officers who were careless should suffer for it. He soon changed his mind: ‘in this I was wrong and only added one fault to a nother; my Lenity in this affair and the easy manner they had obtained this gun which they thought secure in their possession incourag'd them to commit acts of greater Violence….'2
Next day Clerke and Gilbert went for more water, their men were jostled and got the casks filled with difficulty, Clerke's gun was snatched away, tools were carried off. One or two muskets were fired without intent to harm. Just as the loaded launch was ready to leave Cook arrived; this time he decided restitution must be made. He sent for the marines, and ordered guns to be fired to bring back Forster and his botanising party. His annoyance secured the return of Clerke's weapon at once. He was determined to have Patten's as well; as soon as the marines arrived he seized two large double sailing canoes and himself
peppered with small shot a man who made some resistance. At this display of determination the people all fled, but some returned when he called and brought the musket, when he immediately restored the canoes. The other things he was willing to let go, except an adze. The exhibition of the man he had shot, looking dead though only slightly wounded, was at first regarded as a fair exchange for this. Patten dressed his wounds; Cook, no doubt as an exercise of charity, gave him a spike nail and a knife, of which he was immediately relieved by the owner of the canoe he had defended. The adze was insisted on, and, after Cook had been berated for his meanness by the same elderly woman who had denounced his lack of gallantry the morning before, was at length returned. It had been a troublesome morning. Both Cook and Lieutenant Cooper had been kept on shore well beyond the usual hour of dinner, into the late afternoon; in their absence Wales could not unlock the chronometer to wind it up, for the first time on the voyage everybody forgot, and it ran down. Fortunately, Wales's observations were enough to set it running properly again.1
The ship being now plentifully supplied with provisions Cook resolved to sail as soon as he got a wind. When he went ashore again he found the people so very obliging that he was sure he could stay longer without further trouble—in spite of what Clerke called ‘their great abilities and strict perseverance’ as pilferers. He contented himself with collecting all the information he could about the islands to the northward, with observing all he could immediately about him, and with giving (almost now his standard present) a young dog and a bitch, animals of which the island had none, to a man who had done his best to moderate the people's behaviour in the morning. The island was roughly triangular, not large, by no means fully populated or cultivated; its people seemed poorer than those of the islands farther to the south; Cook could distinguish no particular chief or authority among them. They suffered from some sort of ‘leprous’ complaint—probably it was yaws. He was fairly certain that his visit had not added any venereal disease to their ills. He noted the reefs, rocks, and anchorages, and many names of islands and islets. He had not thought of giving a name to the group as a whole, it seems, when he made sail at daylight on 29 June, with the intention of inspecting two high islands to the north-west—a flat-topped one above which a continual column of
smoke argued a volcano, and another, with a high rounded peak. With a contrary wind it was two days before he could come up with these islands and pass between them—days during which canoes kept bringing out provisions and ‘curiosities’ to the ship. When he did reach them the level summit of the one, ‘Amattafoa’, or Tofua, was covered with cloud, so that he could not tell whether it was indeed a volcano (which it is) or was merely being burnt off; at least he had a good view of the beautiful cone of ‘Oghao’, or Kao. They were both inhabited. In the passage between these his seaman's eye was fastened on a large sailing canoe—everybody admired the Tongan canoe-building—to see whether, in tacking, it put about or merely shifted its lateen sail and went the other end foremost. The latter it did. Some of the largest canoes, nevertheless, were so rigged as to have to go about, he noted; and the detailed description he gives of spars, rigging and manœuvres shows that in matters of naval architecture his seaman's eye was keen. Hodges was drawing hard. Cook had considered touching at Amsterdam—Tongatapu—again, but a fresh breeze from the south blew that idea away, the canoes hastened to be gone, and he steered west with all sails set. Some time in the days which followed he settled on a general island name: the islets, sand-banks and breakers that surrounded Annamocka and stretched off to the north, he thought, must also extend south to Amsterdam, so that the whole, with Middleburg and Pylstaert, made one group. He appears to have forgotten theft and violence: ‘this groupe I have named the Friendly Archipelago as a lasting friendship seems to subsist among the Inhabitants and their Courtesy to Strangers intitles them to that Name.’1
If this is a little romantic, the speculation which follows is hard-headed and characteristic enough. ‘The Inhabitants of Boscawen and Keppels Isles, discovered by Captain Wallis in 15°53′ and nearly under the same Meridian as this Archipelago, seem, from the little account I have had of them, to be the same Sort of friendly people as these. The Latitude and discriptions of these two isles point them out to be the same as Cocos and Traitors discovered by Lemaire and Schouten, but if they are the same Mr
Dalrymple has placed them above 8° too far to the west in his Chart.’2
The two islands, Tafahi and Niuatoputapu, were indeed discovered first in 1616 and rediscovered in 1767; their people are very Tongan; though geographically a little remote from Tonga, they have historically always been connected with it; Dalrymple did err.
Cook put his friendly islands behind him at the close of June. For
the next few days he made west in about latitude 20°. If he had sailed a more northerly course he could hardly have avoided the large islands of Fiji, interest in examining which might certainly have diverted him from his pursuit of Quiros. The fearful choice did not arise: all he saw of the group was its southern outlier Vatoa (Turtle Island the name he gave, derived from some of the inhabitants) and a nearby reef. There were no turtles to be caught, and he sailed on. He went almost as far south as 21°, then, in unsettled weather, gradually decreased his latitude to 18°26′, by which time, 11 July, he was in longitude 175° E, whence he steered north-west to get into the latitude of ‘Quiros's Isles’. The weather became pleasant, he ran by day under all the sail he could set, lying to or plying under topsails at night lest he should pass land in the dark; man of war and tropic birds flew overhead again; on 15 July at noon, in longitude 171°16′ E, he judged he was in the right latitude, 15°9′ (he had Bougainville as well as Dalrymple to lean on) and turned directly west. The following morning brought south-easterly squalls, rain and thick haze—weather that, he reflected, in this ocean in the tropics generally indicated the vicinity of high land; in mid-afternoon, in the south-west, there was the land. He lost ground during the night, because of a great sea and a tremendous gale, which tore sails to pieces and worked ill to rigging, and lasted three days; but he had no doubt from the first that he was at Quiros's Austrialia del Espiritu Santo, the Great Cyclades of Bougainville, that the shore he saw through the haze was what Bougainville had called Aurora.
Quiros, coming from the north, saw islands that Cook did not see, and was convinced that he was on the fringe of a continent: to men who are already half-persuaded, the high ridges do rise up one behind another with a continental aspect. Bougainville, coming from the east, saw six islands and sailed right through the group. Cook, coming in a few miles to the south of Bougainville's track, missed that discoverer's northernmost islet, the volcanic Pic de l'Etoile or Mera Lava—an inconsiderable loss—but had a larger intention before him than merely verifying the existence of land. In the first place, he wanted to coast south from his landfall, to see how far the group extended in that direction. The south-east gale stopped him from doing this, and after tacking off Aurora, or Maewo, for twenty-four hours, he changed his mind, hauling round the northern end of the island into smoother water. His daily proceedings, his notes, for two-thirds of the next six weeks are so complicated, geographically speaking, that one must, as a preliminary, stand off
and view them from a distance. The group is known by the name he himself gave it, the New Hebrides. As he sailed round it, it extends, roughly, over five degrees of latitude, from 14°35′ to 19°35′ S (there is another island farther south that he charted, without including it in his circumnavigation), and three degrees of longitude, from 166°30′ to 169°30′ E. To some angelic observer, poised high above the globe, to some cosmonaut speeding round it, the islands would seem flung out over the surface of the ocean in the form of a vast irregular letter Y. The upper right, or eastern, arm of this letter consists north to south of Maewo, Pentecost, and Ambrim, and inside the two former, Oba; the left or western arm of Espiritu Santo and Malekula. The long single leg or tail of the letter, pushed increasingly to the east from top to bottom, is formed by the islands Epi, Efate, Eromanga, Tana and Aneityum. There are smaller linking islands and islets in abundance, though the three bottom units stand more isolated than the others, and the course sailed by Cook, if dotted on the chart, serves to define the whole design. What he did, briefly, having turned the upper end of the right or eastern arm, was to sail down inside that arm, first between Maewo and Oba, then along Pentecost and through the channel between Ambrim and Malekula, where the two extended arms approach each other. That course brought him to the western side of Epi, at the top of the leg, having examined which he went through the leg, as it were, to its eastern side, down past Efate and Eromanga and round the bottom of Tana. He thus left Aneityum unenclosed. He then sailed up the leg and part of the arm on their western sides, and through Bougainville Strait—the passage between Malekula and Espiritu Santo—so that he was on the eastern coast of the latter, the largest island of the group. This he circumnavigated, to the north and down its west side; having arrived off the entrance to Bougainville Strait again, he departed to the south-west. He came round the northern end of Maewo on 18 July; he departed from Espiritu Santo on 31 August. Within this period he was anchored for two nights and the intervening day at Malekula, where he landed; for a night and a morning at Eromanga, where landing was abortive; for two weeks at Tana. For the rest of the time he was sailing, observing, and putting down on paper the remarkable chart that includes ten large islands, six or eight smaller ones, and three dozen or more islets and rocks. As an achievement in marine surveying that month's work ranks with his New Zealand of the first voyage.
Between Maewo and Omba (Bougainville's ‘Isle of Lepers’) the wind was still stormy, though the sea was smooth, and it was not till
the morning of the 20th that Cook was finished with plying between the two islands and could stand over to Pentecost. All three islands were high and heavily wooded, cascades could be seen on the hills, the smokes of habitation above the forest, people on the shore; a canoe came out from Omba to reconnoitre. On the morning of the 21st land in the south-west detached itself from Pentecost as the separate island of Ambrim, where rose two heavier columns of smoke that Cook guessed to signify volcanoes—probably the two now called Marum and Benbow; volcanic eruptions have in fact much altered the western coast of Ambrim that Cook saw. Two other pieces of land appeared separately—the first itself really the two neighbouring small islands of Pa Uma and Lopevi; the second high, sharp-peaked Epi. To the west, however, was a larger mass. The wind had now sunk to a gentle breeze, the weather was fine. A creek or bay on this larger coast offered inviting anchorage, which Cook hoisted out the boats to inspect; while this was doing a throng of people armed with bows and arrows inspected the ship, and a current carried her two leagues to windward, in view of another and more promising harbour. Here the boats were sent instead. They signalled the ship in, and she anchored at sunset, 21 July. Cook had often sailed past good harbours, but this one was probably the best in the New Hebrides—Port Sandwich (the name he gave it), just above the south-east end of ‘Mallecollo’ or Malekula. Two natives were induced to come on board for a short time; others came off by moonlight, bringing torches to help in their scrutiny of the ship. They were not allowed on board, and went away after exchanging for pieces of cloth a few arrows, the green gummy bone points of which looked very much to suspicious eyes as if they had been poisoned.
Morning brought out many of these people again, some in canoes, some swimming. They came with nothing except their bows and arrows and curiosity, but Cook's welcome seemed to be leading on a friendly intercourse; they filled the deck and the rigging when suddenly all was changed. A man in a canoe, refused admittance into one of the ship's boats, drew an arrow on the boat-keeper, flung off a friend who tried to stop him, and aimed the arrow again; before he could loose it, Cook, running on deck, let go a charge of small shot. The canoes on that side of the ship paddled off fast; on the other side arrows began to fall. A musket discharged in the air and a four-pounder fired over the canoes sent everybody overboard from decks and rigging; some, in their anxiety to get ashore, even left their canoes behind, and drums began to beat. Perhaps this was
not so bad a warning, thought Cook—doing nothing, when the confusion abated, to detain the canoes, even encouraging people to come alongside again; and, deciding the time had come to land, he took the marines as a guard; he would trade for provisions and a party cut wood. Leaping into the water with a green branch in his hand, he was presented with another in exchange, though behind the unarmed man who gave it stood a crowd of four or five hundred carrying bows and arrows, clubs and spears. Cook distributed medals and bits of cloth. There was no opposition to the cutting of wood. No one wanted to trade, there was only the handing over of a small pig, and in response to Cook's enquiries, the bringing of half a dozen small coconuts and a little fresh water. Was the pig a peace offering? Cook returned cloth for it; now and again an arrow, but never a bow, was exchanged for cloth. No one wanted nails or tools of iron; the people were most unwilling to let their visitors go beyond the beach—to do anything, in fact, but go away. Cook accordingly went, and set his men to work on the rigging for the afternoon. He went on shore a second time himself, with Forster and one or two others, when he saw a man bringing along the strand to the landing place a buoy (that object apparently of such sovereign desire all over the Pacific) that had been taken away from the kedge anchor during the night; the moment the boat landed the buoy was put into it by another man who walked off without a word. Cook and Forster—no one else—were allowed to go just within the skirt of the woods and look from the outside at a few oblong thatched houses, and small plantations; there were pigs and a few fowls running about, yams piled up on platforms. They were allowed to land briefly at two other points on the harbour shore, collected some island names, took some soundings, looked in vain for a stream of water, and went on board at nightfall. Not a single canoe had been out to the ship during the whole afternoon.
Next morning Cook sailed from this harbour where his reception had been so curious, and now the people seemed willing to trade with anything they had, even their bows. Certainly they were a different species from any he had hitherto met in the great ocean. They were small of stature, very dark; he thought them ugly and ill-proportioned; their lips were thick, their noses flat, their hair and beards crisp and curled, though not woolly. The men were naked, with a belt round the middle so tight it almost gave them two bellies, attached to this a penis case made of cloth or a leaf; they wore bracelets of shell-studded cord and hogs' tusks, curved cylindrical pieces of shell stuck through the nose, ear-rings of tortoise shell. The few women who
were seen, clothed somewhat more heavily in a sort of apron or skirt to the knees, had their heads, faces and shoulders painted red or yellow with turmeric; on the whole, there was nothing to choose between the sexes in beauty. They seemed, in short, a rather ‘Apish Nation’; no fragment of language picked up elsewhere in the Pacific served to communicate with them. Their only animal, so far as could be seen, was the pig; Cook therefore left with them, as with other beneficiaries, a dog and bitch from the Society Islands. He thought, as he saw vast numbers of them picking up shellfish on the reef at low tide, as he left, that he had not interfered with their usual pursuits, and that therefore a longer stay would have ripened a friendship. He did not know that you cannot make a ghost your friend. He did not realise the truth about himself, that he was a ghost. Some of his shipmates were in danger of becoming ghosts in a more straightforward manner; for a pair of red fish rather like large bream had been caught and served at dinner to the officers and petty officers, with the most acute poisoning effects, while a pig and a dog which had had a share died outright. It was a week or ten days before everybody recovered, and Cook's mind was carried back to Quiros, who with his whole company suffered painfully from fishpoisoning at his Bay of St Philip and St James. On the other hand, experiments with a poisoned arrow on a dog left the animal quite unscathed.1
Off the southern point of Malekula was a group of small islands which Cook failed to name; Wales therefore named them after the Astronomer Royal, for he felt almost sentimentally indebted to Maskelyne's help in his career. In the night, having run south again, they fetched in close with the west side of Epi; by noon of the 24th ‘we were not Able to distinguish the number of isles around us’. Nevertheless Cook distinguished and charted them. He was in some danger at this stage when a calm fell and he was at the mercy of the currents, all too close to island shores, with no soundings at the end of a 180 fathom line. Luckily a breeze sprang up, with which he was able to pass inside these islands and stretch to the east for a short time, into a clear sea. He gave to the ones he had escaped, off the south-east end of Epi, the name of another astronomer, Dr Antony Shepherd of Cambridge. Great columns of smoke could still be seen rising from the mountain in the middle of Ambrim. Now outside the islands, except for the remarkable peaked rock he called the Monument,
he steered for a large shape in the south. There were islets lying near it; currents in a dead calm carried him to the north-west for a while, then with a westerly breeze he got through a passage between one of these, his Montagu, and the larger mass that he called Sandwich. The First Lord was still much in his mind. Montagu was Emau. Sandwich was Efate; he could see no end to its shores, but thought its appearance, beyond a fringe of rocks and breakers, most delightful. He sailed on. It was 26 July; in the afternoon, the wind sinking again, and no bottom, he was again apprehensive of the effect of the currents. A south-west breeze relieved his mind, and he stretched south-east all night. At sunrise the high hills of another land appeared in the south. He came up with it slowly, partly because of the lightness of the airs and the ship's drift to leeward, partly because of his own caution in standing to the east one night. By the last day of the month he almost despaired of reaching it; meanwhile still more land had been sighted in the south and sunk beneath the horizon again. On 1 August however, close in, he could range from the northern point along the western side. Then the wind changed from south-east to north-west, he abandoned the thoughts he had of anchoring and continued south; in the night it fell, and he drove to the north with the current. The master was sent to examine a bay for anchorage: while he did so the ship still drove until, a south-west breeze springing up, Cook resolved to go back to the south, though down the island's east side. Just after sunrise on the 3rd, having rounded its north-east point, he was off a high bluff and inside a small island. He sent Clerke with two boats to see if he could cut wood on this island, but the surf stopped them even from landing; and the wind swinging round again, Cook went into a wide bay on the north-west side of the high bluff, where at the end of the day he anchored.
It was wood and water that he wanted. He looked for a landing place. The shore was rocky. Some men appeared who, in return for pieces of cloth and medals, were ready to haul the boats over the rocks, a procedure not fancied by Cook: as he rowed they ran, joined by many others, finally directing him to a sandy beach where he landed dry-shod, with nothing in his hands but a green branch he had somehow got from them. He was faced by a great multitude armed with clubs, darts, stones, and bows and arrows, but was received, he thought, ‘very courteously’. They pressed near his boat; he motioned them back, and a chief made them form a sort of semi-circle round its bow. He distributed trinkets and made signs that he wanted water, hoping that he might see where they got
it; the chief sent a man to a hut, who brought back a little in a bamboo. He asked similarly for food, and was brought a yam and a few coconuts. This was not getting very far. Then the chief, on his part, motioned Cook to haul the boat on shore. Cook was watching him narrowly, and he seemed to be giving directions among the crowd. It indicated no good: Cook stepped into the boat and ordered her off, signifying that he would come back later. At that the nearest of the crowd surged forward to drag the boat on shore by its gangboard and snatched some of the oars, others began to shoot arrows and hurl stones and darts: ‘our own safety became now the only consideration’ (writes Cook) ‘and yet I was very loath to fire upon such a Multitude and resolved to make the chief a lone fall a Victim to his own treachery, but my Musquet at this critical Moment’—as at Niue—‘refused to perform its part and made it absolutely necessary for me to give orders to fire’; the people thus thrown into confusion, a second discharge drove them off the beach, though they continued to throw stones and darts from the shelter of the bushes. Four lay seemingly dead on the shore—‘happy for many of these poor people not half our Musquets would go of otherwise many more must have fallen’.1 One man in Cook's boat had his cheek pierced by a dart; in the cutter thirty yards off Gilbert was struck on the breast by an arrow which fortunately did not penetrate. Back in the ship Cook fired a gun to show its effect: the ball fell short but the splash and the noise were sufficiently frightening. Still thinking he might stay, he hove up the anchor with the intention of moving the ship closer in. No sooner was it at the bows, however, than a northerly breeze springing up blew right into the bay, so he set his sails, plyed out, and steered for the south end of the island. An unprofitable morning: Cook remained unaware that he was a ghost.
We are fortunate to have not only his side of the story, but the other. It convinces us that when he gave to the high bluff at the entrance to the bay the name Traitors' Head he was not, in fact, quite just. Yet how could he be just? Both here and at Malekula he had encountered some of the deepest feelings, or beliefs, of mankind, and they were beliefs of which he knew nothing. He thought he had learnt something when at his next port of call he picked up the name of the place, ‘Erromango’ or Eromanga, which he applied to the whole island,2
when he noted that the people were different from those of Malekula, were better looking, spoke a different language,
even while their garb, or absence of it, was much the same. Certainly they were both very different from the cheerful Polynesians; but he had had no chance to feel the sombre element in the human life of these lush islands. It is true that there was a darker side to Polynesian life than Cook had yet experienced; the prohibitions of all pervading tapu
could be awful as well as inconvenient, the gods angry as well as generous; but Polynesian existence seems sunny while Melanesian does not, though the same sun shone on both. No European, however romantic, ever stepped on to a Melanesian island with the thought that he was stepping into the golden age. The Melanesian peoples nourished the immemorial and pardonable conviction that strangers were enemies; and there were other strangers, other enemies, besides ordinary men. They lived, like so many other savage peoples, on the narrow and terrible border of the unseen. They were very close to their dead; they feared the spirits of the dead, the menacing and maleficent ancestors who would not rest. The border could be burst, the invisible irruption become a visible one—in the forest, by night on a village path: why not from the sea? It was the part of wisdom to avoid or propitiate ghosts; but if the worst came to the worst they could be attacked with human weapons and driven away. Cook had broken through the border, but he had not disguised himself. Spirits, ghosts, were not the colour of human beings, they were white. Cook and his men were white. When he was at Port Sandwich, and the people, yet uncertain, crowded his rigging, Forster heard the word constantly repeated, ‘Tomarr’. It may have been the Malekulan damar
, peace; it was more probably temar
, ancestors; possibly it was both. The single pig, the few coconuts, the small quantity of water offered the captain, the principal ghost, were propitiatory and symbolic; you did not offer ghosts great quantities of food. The people were anxious that he should depart. At Eromanga the boats were first seen rowing off from the small island, Goat Island, where Cook had gone for wood. This island, everybody knew, was the habitation of ghosts: no one else had ever landed there, or come from there. Again there was the symbolic offering of a little water, the yam, the coconuts; then the attack, the product of fear not bellicosity. Only the chief, Narom, was killed. So at least the tale handed down from generation to generation on Eromanga, and it is not an unlikely tale. Cook did not discover it.
By evening he had run right down the coast of Eromanga on his west, and had to the south in full view the island he had just glimpsed four days earlier. Shaping his course for its eastern end, ind part
he came up with it half-way through the night, guided by a large fire burning on it. In the morning this proved to be an exceedingly active volcano, the flames and smoke and rumbling of which were his constant companions for the next fortnight. To the north-east and south-west were the two small islands of Aniwa and Futuna. A small distance from the east end of the island he was steering for what was a promising inlet, and as his need of wood and water was now real he sent the boats to sound it; on a favourable signal followed them in, anchored, then warped in still farther. This was only the morning after the attack at Eromanga, and it was a question how the people would behave here: Cook did not want more flights of arrows, more musket-volleys. He looked at his harbour, his Port Resolution to be. It leads north and south; it is not large, from entrance to head less than a mile; a finger of fairly deep water runs up its middle, shoals spreading on each side; at the entrance on both sides is fairly high land, which continues all along the west side behind a shore of rocks; at the head and on most of the east side is beach. Gazing beyond the head he would have seen some flat land, behind it, standing up remarkably above the forested slopes, the almost 3,500 feet of Mount Merrin; close south-west, a bare 600 feet high, the volcano Yasua or Yasur, spreading its fine ash over the country for miles. No river ran into the harbour, but a pool of fresh water lay twenty yards from the beach at its head. It is a harbour that still speaks vividly of this eighteenth-century visit, although, raised by earthquake just over a hundred years after Cook, and partly silted up, with a population about it that has declined to a few score, it is not the harbour into which he came with hope and caution in that first week of August.
While the ship was warping in, large numbers of the people collected and gazed; many came off in canoes and some swam, not too near, while those in the canoes had their arms ready; growing bolder they came under the stern, exchanging coconuts for pieces of cloth; growing too bold, in the usual fashion tried to carry away the buoys, were frightened off with a few muskets and the noise of a gun; recovered themselves and came back for the buoys, finally retired when swivel-guns were fired over them. Only one pacific old man in a small canoe travelled backwards and forwards, bringing two or three coconuts or a yam each time: whatever feeling animated this elder in the first place, as long as the ship stayed his friendship was to be undeviating and useful. In the afternoon Cook landed with a strong party. He found the people assembled in two large groups, to his right and his left, all armed with their darts, clubs, slings, bows
and arrows; he distributed to the senior among them presents of cloth and medals and boldly filled two casks at the pool. These people let go a few coconuts but nothing else; they pressed hard on the party, and would, he thought, have attacked had he not disconcerted them by re-embarking unexpectedly soon. Relations were thus still uncertain, the people difficult; as Gierke said, 'their behaviour upon this our first Visit was not the most friendly I've ever experienc'd among Indians—they did not insult us tis true but they did by no means seem reconcil'd to the liberty we took in landing upon their Coasts'; and this, though written with a tinge of humour, is probably an accurate observation. Cook now resolved to warp the ship in closer, to within two or three hundred yards of the shore, and moor her broadside on. This would make easier the labour of loading wood and water, it would give more protection to his working-parties, and it would, he thought, overawe the natives. The armed groups formed themselves on the beach again. A single canoe would come out from time to time with coconuts or plantains—never many—and invite the visitors on shore. Cook always saw that the occupants were recompensed; when the old man came he tried to make him understand the need to disarm. Then some bravoes cheated in the first little exchange they tried: 'this', says Cook, 'was what I expected and what I was not sorry for as I wanted a pretence to shew the Multitude on shore the effect of our firearms without materially hurting any of them',1
so he let one of them have a barrel of small shot and fired off some musketoons or swivels. The crowd was unimpressed.
Cook decided to land; and this was the critical moment. If here again he was a ghost, there seems not to have been unanimity how to treat him. He took three boats with the marines and armed seamen. As he neared the shore he saw laid out in a clear space between the two large bodies of men a few bunches of plantains, a yam, and two roots of taro; leading to them from the water were four small reeds stuck in the sand. The old man with two other elders stood by and invited him on shore. The roots and the fruit, we perceive, were once again the propitiatory offering; the reeds were the usual means of indicating the tapu nature of an object. Cook was baffled, and suspected a trap; he did not want another Eromanga incident. He signed to the crowds, every moment growing larger, to move farther back; the three old men added their persuasions, without success.
In short every thing conspired to make us believe they intended to attack us as soon as we were on shore. The consequence of such a step was easily
seen, many of them must have been kill'd and wounded and we should hardly have escaped unhurt. Sence therefore they would not give us the room we required I thought it was best to frighten them away rather than oblige them by the deadly effect of our fire Arms and accordingly order a Musquet to be fired over the heads of the party on our right for this was by far the Strongest body, the alarm it gave them was only momentary, in an instant they recovered themselves and began to display their weapons, one fellow shewed us his back side in such a manner that it was not necessary to have an interpreter to explain his meaning; after this I ordered three or four more to be fired, this was the Signal for the Ship to fire a few four pound Shott over them which presently dispersed them and then we landed and marked out the limits on the right and [left] by a line.1
Only one person stood his ground, the old man, Paowang. Reasons for his self-possession in face of the supernatural can be conjectured, if not confirmed; if he was a natural sceptic, he made no instantaneous conquest of his fellows' minds. The space Cook wanted for a passage to the fresh water was roped off and guarded by the marines. No one had been hurt. The natives began to drift back in a friendly way, threw down coconuts without expecting a return, and seemed to have no notion of trade. Many, noted Cook—and the observation is not without significance—‘were afraid to touch any thing which belonged to us’. There were marked differences, obviously, between these people and those in the islands of the more eastern groups. In the afternoon it was possible to work very peaceably, and haul the seine profitably; the following morning 'many of the younger sort were very daring and insolent and obliged us to stand with our Arms in hand', and Lieutenant Edgcumbe found it necessary to fire a slug at one; thereafter active opposition died down. There was toleration, even some amiability. The ancestor-spirits, one must suppose, when fully discussed were deemed not so maleficent after all. The only fury that arose was from the volcano.
Indeed, in a day or two more Cook ceased to protect with particularity his passage to the water, though he kept a guard on shore. He was scrupulous in cutting wood only after permission, and in making some return for any service rendered him. There was little food to be got, from plantations none the less flourishing; when fruit or roots were presented, in small quantities, or a single pig or a cock, it was usually done with a good deal of ceremony. Fishing was not good. The people seemed to form two clans, one on the eastern side of the harbour, one on the west—of whom the former seemed rather more open-hearted to wanderers. The naturalists managed to make
some useful expeditions, others had little excursions inland, but on the whole, visitors were discouraged from going far beyond the beach—or, for some days, even from walking along the shore. At last they were allowed to go shooting in the woods. It was never possible to explore the volcano. No objection, however, was made to the repeated investigation of steaming hot sulphurous patches on the western slope just above the beach, and the hot springs below high water mark which were first discovered when a sailor, one of a party gathering ballast, scalded his fingers. Wales and Cook went on a pleasant visit to an eastern village. The people themselves were scrupulous in bringing back any ship's property carelessly lost, if they found it; as the days went on a few, including Paowang and an old chief whom he introduced, were prevailed upon to dine on board. The usual dog and bitch were presented to Paowang. Cook's chief anxiety might seem to arise from his own men. One day two or three boys threw a few stones from behind a thicket at the wooding party; the petty officers replied with their muskets. Cook was extremely displeased at such wanton abuse of fire-arms, 'and took measures to prevent it for the future'. It may have been at this time that he gave the order that no man was to shoot until shot at. He maintained the guard, because he was not prepared to rely whole-heartedly on native good feeling: even after ten days, when the visit was drawing to an end—or perhaps because it had gone on so long—although most of the crowd about the landing place behaved with 'courtesy and friendship', others were 'a little troublesome, daring and insolent'. At that stage it seemed best to ignore such trespasses.
He was accumulating a good many useful observations of the people and the country, to which both Forster and Wales contributed. Forster reported that the island was called 'Tanna', which it has remained. This was an error: like other islands in the group, it had no name in the minds of its inhabitants; names were given from outside, and Tana
merely meant the ground on which they stood.1
As Cook had come further south, the islanders had grown more handsome: these were far different from the 'apish' Malekulans, better looking than the Eromangans. Had they, he wondered, not without cause, some mixture from the east? They spoke still another language—were there in it some traces of Tongan? They were as naked as their more northern fellows, wearing their hair, however, differently, in a multitude of odd queues. They were agile,
handling their weapons well, and their style in throwing their spears reminded Wales of the Homeric heroes. His passage on this subject much struck Cook, who copied it out. Their canoes were clumsy. They were, he gathered, cannibals. They seemed to have no chiefs of great importance. They had no animals beyond pigs and fowls; their word puaka
, for pig, served equally well for the novel dog, goat and cat. To island vegetable productions he could now add wild figs, nutmegs and a sort of inedible orange. The great natural wonders, of course, were the hot springs and the steaming 'pipeclay' on the slope above them, on the way up to the volcano. Now the position of this volcano led to thought, it controverted the opinion of the philosophers that all volcanoes must be at the summits of the highest hills: there were hills in this island higher by far, and he could see that the smoke on Ambrim came from a 'valley' between the hills rather than from the peaks: 'to these remarks must be added another which is that during wet or moist weather the Volcano was most vehement. Here seems to be a feild open for some Philosophical reasoning on these extraordinary Phenomenon's of nature, but as I have no tallant that way I must content my self with stateing facts as I found and leave the causes to men of more abilities.'1
He had further reflections, consistent with his intentions as a humane discoverer, not always consistent with facts. 'I cannot say what might be the true cause of these people shewing such a dislike to our makeing little excursions into their Country'—a naturally jealous disposition, hostile visits from their neighbours, quarrels amongst themselves? They seldom or never travelled unarmed. 'It is possible all this might be on our account, but I can hardly think it, we never gave them the least molestation, nor did we touch any part of their property, not even Wood and Water without first having obtained their consent.'2
Some of that was true: his last request had been for permission to cut down a casuarina, a hard wood with which to repair his tiller, found to be sprung just as he was ready to put to sea. But there was the incident of the wooders firing on the boys; there was the fact that he had landed only after a show of force, whether that were justified or not. There was the fact that all his precautions could not control events. His last day, before he wrote those words, was marred by an incident that made him the volcano of fury. Some logs were being brought on board, the usual guard was on shore, the usual assembly pressing round the landing place. The sentry ordered them back, at which one of them presented his bow and arrow as if to shoot. Cook, who was near, thought
this was only a matter of form; he was astonished when the sentry fired, and with ball. The man was killed. Patten, for whom Cook sent at once, could do nothing; the people fled. It was an outrage, a crime, the sentry was flung into irons, and was to be flogged. The officers took his side; there was apparently an argument of much warmth between them and Cook, who finally remitted the flogging, but gave what he considered a faithful account in his journal.1
Had he not set his face like stone against this sort of thing ever since Poverty Bay
? He could turn back a page or two in his journal and find his own, cooler yet clear, comment:
thus we found these people Civil and good Natured when not prompted by jealousy to a contrary conduct, a conduct one cannot blame them for when one considers the light in which they must look upon us in, its impossible for them to know our real design, we enter their Ports without their daring to make opposition, we attempt to land in a peaceable manner, if this succeeds its well, if not we land nevertheless and mentain the footing we thus got by the Superiority of our fire arms, in what other light can they than at first look upon us but as invaders of their Country; time and some acquaintance with us can only convince them of their mistake.2
Only time and acquaintance: the captain had an inadequate view of the future. He did not conceive that invasion might follow after him. Meanwhile, the morning of 20 August having brought a favourable wind, he weighed anchor and put to sea, hoisted in his boats, and stretched to the east to take a nearer view of Futuna.
For the next eleven days he was viewing islands from the sea, close enough in to get a good idea of their characteristics, fixing the positions of their leading points with considerable accuracy. A remarkably clear morning on the 21st showed him no land to the east of the high flat-topped Futuna; he was equally convinced, as he ran back to coast the southern side of Tana, that to the south there was nothing in the group beyond Annatom or Aneityum. Next day he was past the western sides of Tana and Eromanga, steering for the same side of Efate, to finish its survey and that of the islands north-west of it. It was now, knowing that he could get no native name for it, that he called it Sandwich Island, in honour of 'My Noble Patron', and the two islets on its north-east side, Montagu and Hinchinbrook. He was much taken with the appearance of the
island, its gentle slopes and luxuriant vegetation: Wales thought it 'one of the most beautiful & desirable Islands we have yet seen in the South Seas'. He came up with Malekula on the 23rd—he was lucky in his continuous south-east wind and fine weather, which let him keep within two miles of the shore, so that in the night he could hear the people assembled about a fire on the beach; and at morning hauled round the northern end into the strait between Malekula and Espiritu Santo that his predecessor had called Bougainville Passage. So far Espiritu Santo was to him merely the 'northern land' or the 'northern isle'. There were islets, low and woody, off its southern shore, including one larger quite high piece of land that because of the day he called St Bartholomew—the first saint's name Cook had ever given to an island. Islets stood off its eastern shore too: on the night of 24 August he had run outside the most northerly of them, on the morrow doubling both it and a bluff head to its west. Looking south he saw 'a very large and deep bay', and he could see its opposite shore running up to the north-west. He did not doubt that this was Quiros's Bay of St Philip and St James, the famous bay. To clinch his conviction he would have to explore it to its head. Variable winds made this a little complicated: a north-east swell hurried him over to the western side, the wind fell calm when he was two miles from it in 120 fathoms, and 'we were apprehensive'—there is almost an echo from that June of 1606—‘we should be obliged to Anchor in a great depth upon a lee shore’; rescue came with a breeze, and next afternoon, after another calm, the ship was able to stand off and on while Cooper and Gilbert reconnoitred the beach, and a few canoes sailed out to reconnoitre in their turn, not bold enough to come alongside. Their occupants seemed another people still, in their differences from those of the group already encountered. The sailors landed near a fine river, Quiros's Jordan; they noticed that plants grew close to high water mark, an indication of the absence of surf and easy access to the land. Cook was sure they had sounded the anchorage that Quiros called the Port of Vera Cruz. He was right. He had answered one of the main questions which had been in his mind as he turned north from the ice in the previous February. 'Quiros describes this Land … as being very large, M. de Bougainville neither confirms nor refutes this account.' He could say accurately where it was and what its limits were.
He wanted to spend no further time here. If he stayed, he could not expect to find supplies, and he 'had no time to spend in amusements'—however he would define amusements. He steered for the open sea. When night fell the country was alight with fires from the
shore to the hill-tops as the people burnt off the growth for their plantations; it must be a well-populated place, he thought, as well as a fertile one. He had been unable to find a native name for the whole of it: let it then be 'Tierra Del Espiritu Santo
, the only remains of Quiros's Continent'. Let the headland at the eastern entrance to the great bay be Cape Quiros; and let the north-western point—we are about to see more loyalty to the House of Hanover than sense of the fitness of things—be Cape Cumberland in honour of His Royal Highness the Duke. This cape he doubled on the afternoon of 27 August; in four days more, the wind being difficult,1
he had coasted the island's western shore, doubled its south-western extremity and looked more closely at its southern end—when, 'haveing made the Circuit of the isle and with it finished the Survey of the whole Archipelago so that I had no more business there, besides the Season of the year made it necessary I should think of returning to the South', he put it behind him, hauled to the southward, and on the morning of 1 September was out of sight of land. There can be no doubt that, while he was anxious not to waste time, he found time to feel a sense of satisfaction in what he had done, which was not diminished as he worked over his journal and coordinated his impressions. He could not help looking back to Quiros, 'that great Navigator'; he could not help adding a phrase or two to his criticism of Bougainville. He himself—or rather 'we'—had not only ascertained the extent and situation of the islands already known to exist, but added to them several new ones and explored the whole: 'I think we have obtained a right to name them and shall for the future distinguish them under the name of'—certainly not the Great Cyclades; but what? It is unlikely that he hit on the New Hebrides until somewhat later, when he was finding a name for another country newly discovered. They had explored the whole, they had 'finished the Survey': but what did that mean? One must not claim too much. When he left the coast of Eromanga behind him and steered Nnw
for Sandwich Island, it was 'in order to finish the Survey'. He had later made the note, 'The word Survey, is not to be understood here, in its literal sence. Surveying a place, according to my Idea, is takeing a Geometrical Plan of it, in which every place is to have its true situation, which cannot be done in a work of this kind.'2
He did not, that is, he carefully points out, profess to offer
a Newfoundland. But he cannot refrain from pointing out, also, the care taken by Wales in calculating longitudes. The longitude of Port Sandwich was settled from the mean of 32 sets of observations, that of Port Resolution from the mean of 45 sets, either taken at those ports or reduced to them by 'the Watch'; and
It is necessary to observe, that each set of observations, consists, of between Six and ten observed distances of the Sun and Moon or Moon and Stars, so that the whole number amounts to several hundreds and these have been reduced by means of the Watch to all the islands, so that the Longitude of each is as well assertained as the two Ports above mentioned, as a proof of this I shall only observe that the difference of Longitude between the two Ports pointed out by the Watch, and by the observations did not differ from each other two miles.1
The Watch, indeed, had become 'our never failing guide'.
There was no further use for Alexander Dalrymple
's Historical Collection.
Cook, we may say, could now do with the Pacific Ocean
as he liked. The season of the year made it necessary that he should think of returning to the south: not because wind and weather drove him from latitude 15°, but because he had designed, seven months before, to cross the ocean from west to east between the latitudes of 50° and 60° and be the length of Cape Horn in November, with the summer in front of him for the South Atlantic. It does not seem that at that time he had envisaged another call at his New Zealand base; but by the time he had got to Tana this was certainly his design. He was like an artist perfecting the formal construction of a picture as he works on it. At Port Resolution Wales bemoaned the difficulty of taking altitudes accurately to check the chronometer—‘Indeed I begin to despair of doing any thing to the Purpose here, and yet am so great a slave to it that I have scarce time to eat.’ He would have ample opportunity at New Zealand, Cook told him;2
in his own journal the captain explained necessity more at length. He must return to the south 'while I had yet some time left to explore
any lands I might meet with between this and New Zeland, where I intended to touch to refresh my people and recrute our stock of wood and Water, for another Southern Cruse'. He almost seemed to be working by some sort of instinct. He held his course for three days, and on the morning of the fourth, in latitude 20°, Midshipman Colnett sighted land. The first cape seen, in the south-east in the afternoon, was named after him.
It was a country, or rather a coast—for there was little seen of the country—that was to interest Cook a good deal, and place him in more continuous danger than he had yet been in. He had come to the north-eastern side of the fourth largest island in the Pacific, a comparatively narrow island running about three hundred miles from its south-east to north-west, barred all round by reef that hardly rose above the sea; an island breaking off at its northern end into shoals and a sort of continuation of islands within the same reef, at the south into a mass of low sandy islets, shoals and reefs, partly within the main reef, partly about a larger island standing out more independently. The wind blew from the east, south-east, fortunately not too often from the north-east—so that he would too frequently feel that he was on a lee shore, towards which the swell also tended; and too frequently the wind fell to a calm. A breeze off the land at the end of the day could sometimes be very welcome. Cook was on this coast from the time he sighted it till the end of September. Of those twenty-seven days, he spent eight at anchor inside the reef almost at the northern end of the island, and landed briefly on one of the sandy islets at the other end just before he sailed away. For the rest of the period he was under sail, charting and observing, more than once uncomfortable in mind, once in the most extreme peril; baffled in the end of his desire to circumnavigate the country, but leaving it not without conjecture as to its relation to the greater landmass he had charted in the west. He found his mind turning much to New South Wales.
Cook was a day coming up with the land. At sunrise on 5 September he could see how it ran, and also the reef running parallel with it. Whether he coasted it in one direction or the other, southeast or north-west, seemed of no great importance: he chose the latter. After following the reef for a short distance, he came to an opening and sent in boats to sound, arming them because of the nearness of a dozen sailing canoes; he wanted to get ashore both to look at the land and to observe an approaching eclipse of the sun. The people in the canoes were friendly, the passage through the reef negotiable—there were no dangers but the steep-to reef itself—
through it, the ship anchored not far off a small sandy islet, the canoes followed and were joined by others, the ship was surrounded by a crowd of unarmed curious people whose shyness was so soon overset that several of them could be entertained to dinner. Here was another new language, as strange as the new friendliness, even if nothing to choose between the nakedness now found and that lately left; these people were ignorant not only of goats, dogs and cats but even of hogs; they immediately showed an inclination for large spike nails and red cloth, without inclination to appropriate them undirected. In the afternoon Cook landed on a pleasant sandy beach amid a still friendly crowd, distributed a few presents, and was the subject of what appeared to be celebratory speeches from the chiefs. One of these, called 'Teabooma', took charge of the search for a watering-place; he was, clearly, here the most striking personality. But though the captain could breathe freely this welcoming air, though friendship was so obvious, equally obvious did it quickly become that he could expect no supply of refreshment beyond water, that the people had nothing to spare in fact, 'but good Nature and Courtious treatment'. In these things, he adds, 'they exceeded all the nations we had yet met with, and although it did not fill our bellies it left our minds at ease'.1 At the time this mattered the less, as he had New Zealand in view. He could relax the usual restrictions on trade; and 'such was the prevailing Passion for curiosities' that the native clubs and darts came to a good market. Contrary to what one might think, the ship was not a museum of ethnographical specimens; for the sailors would hand over at one island anything acquired at the last, destroy anything they had obtained when they were tired of looking at it. What riches, we reflect, were thrown away!
Next day Pickersgill found an excellent watering place nearly abreast of the ship; in the afternoon Wales, Clerke and Cook observed the eclipse, or at least the end of it (the first contact being obscured by clouds) from the sandy islet off which she was anchored. Their times, with telescopes by three different makers, varied by only four seconds.2
In the evening came a third loss by death—Simon Monk the ship's butcher, a man highly thought of, who had fallen down the fore hatchway the previous night and injured himself
beyond recovery. Poor Simon Monk consigned to the deep, Cook went to the heights. Hills were for explorers to climb. He wanted, as usual, 'to take a View of the Country'. Up the path over the steep range behind the shore he was guided and accompanied by a numerous train. From the summit he gazed down into a large valley with a river winding through it; beyond the range on its other side appeared again the sea. The country then could not be very wide. The captain was rather taken by some at least of the prospect beneath him. 'The plains along the Coast on the side we lay appeared from the hills to great advantage, the winding Streams which ran through them which had their direction from Nature, the lesser streames conveyed by art through the different plantations, the little Stragling Villages, the Variaty in the Woods, the Shoals on the Coast so variegated the Scene that the whole might afford a Picture for romance.'1
This, however, was not the whole aspect of the country: much of it was scorched and rocky waste, the grass coarse, the trees sparse; where they stood more thickly they were eucalypts without undergrowth, or mangroves on the shore. 'No Land of Canaan', it seemed to Wales. Before Cook went away he could not fail to be impressed by a different sort of tree, the ever-present Niaouli or Leucadendron; and he recurs to the laboriously, the skilfully irrigated plantations of taro. This day of exploration was followed by a night in which Cook for the second time, with the Forsters, underwent the rigours of fish-poisoning. His clerk had bought from the natives a fish with a large ugly head—very likely a toadfish—against which, as food, they had given no warning. Although Cook ordered it for supper the scientists took so long over describing and drawing it that no more could be dressed—fortunately—than the liver and roe. The three victims just tasted of these, the suspicious Forster (according to his own account) only after being assured by Cook that he had eaten the fish before, on the coast of New Holland, and that it was perfectly innocuous. Rash confidence! Vomits and sweats relieved them; the dogs also, who had got ahead of the servants with what went from the table, were sick, and a pig which ate the entrails died. In the morning the natives who saw the fish hanging up were solemn in their warnings. All the evidence we have indicates that Cook was stubborn about food. After two days Forster was able to resume his botanising, not without a certain grievance.
While Cook was still suffering the ill effects of this supper Teabooma came with a small ceremonial present of yams and sugarcanes;
Cook in return bestowed the usual dog and bitch,1
which were joyfully received. A few days later he took a boar and sow ashore for the chief: the country, he thought, should be stocked. Teabooma he could not find, and it required much persuasion, and elaborate expatiation on the fecundity of pigs, before an assembly of courteous elders would accept these. Meanwhile he had sent Gilbert, of whose judgment he thought highly, and Pickersgill with the launch and the cutter to the north-west inside the reef, to see how far the coast was continuous. The expedition was not very successful. It reached an off-lying island, visible from the ship: Gilbert correctly concluded that the land ended opposite this island, but Pickersgill, no doubt misled by the glimpse of islets further north within the reef, differed; the cutter sprang a leak and nearly foundered; after three days they arrived back agreeing on the information, which Cook hardly needed, that there was no passage for the ship. There was not much more he could do here but set the carpenters to work on the cutter and complete his water. As first discoverer he did take possession, cutting an inscription testifying to the fact into a large tree close by, as he had done before elsewhere. He had been able to find no general name for the country, and as yet he gave it none; the district where he landed, where alone he met the people, was called, he learnt, Balade; the island along the coast to which Gilbert and Pickersgill had gone, was 'Balabea' or Balabio; the sandy islet of the eclipse he called Observatory Isle, for once ignoring a native name when he found it—this one being Pudiue. When he came to set down his impressions of the people themselves he found he had a good deal to say, in spite of the shortness of his visit. Like the Tanese in colour, they were taller and better built, with more agreeable features; their heads, covered with coarse black hair, needed frequent scratching, and their large, rather fan-shaped combs were ingeniously adapted to 'beat up the quarters of a hundred lice at a time'. He remarks upon the frequent elephantiasis, that common Melanesian disease of the generally naked men; the thick short petticoats of the women, the shell and tortoise shell ornaments, the sparse tattooing of both sexes, the men's peculiar cylindrical black caps. 'Was I to judge of the Origin of this Nation, I should take them to be a race between the people of Tanna and the Friendly isles or between Tanna and the New Zealanders or all three.' General affability, he remarks also, did not stretch to welcoming embraces from the
women. A race both chaste and honest: for seamen this was dumbfounding. Their weapons and tools, their beehive houses, hot and stifling, were all neatly made; they had earthenware pots for cooking, not much variety of food to cook in them. How like this sterile country was to New South Wales! Perhaps fish in the sea to some extent compensated; for he saw turtle nets, smaller nets, gigs for striking in shallow water on the reef; and canoes, heavy, clumsy structures of large tree-trunks hollowed out, two joined together by spars and a massive deck, laborious to paddle but going very well under their lateen sails. Cook notes their build and managemen with the attentive observation he had devoted to the canoes of Tonga and the other islands. As for the language, that was incomprehensible. Nevertheless he seemed to hear echoes of other tongues, and one word at least became clear, tea
for a chief; he himself was 'Tiacook'.
It was on the afternoon of 12 September that Cook performed his ceremony of annexation; next morning at sunrise he got under sail and, passing through the break in the reef by which he had entered, was soon at sea. The country must be an island, and he intended to circumnavigate it round by the south-east; Gilbert, however, strong in his conviction that he had seen its north-western end, persuaded his captain that the easier way was there. For two and a half days Cook tried this direction, outside the reef. He saw more land, and could not be certain whether this proved Gilbert wrong or was made up of detached islands—which indeed it was—but hesitated to move in for a closer view because he feared the wind might fall and the sea be too deep to anchor. Inside the reef further north were shoals: when he was certain he had passed the end of the land, on the morning of the 15th, the breakers still stretched illimitably northwards. To explore shoals would entail altogether too much risk—a gale of wind or a calm would be equally fatal; he therefore determined to return to the south-east. The shoals gave him thought. They must end somewhere; they could not go farther north than 15° S, because in that latitude Bougainville had had a clear run west from his Grandes Cyclades, for a considerable distance:
but I think it not attall improbable but that they may extend to the west as far as the Coast of New South Wales, the Eastern extent of the isles and shoals off that Coast between the Latitude of 15° & 23° were not known and M. Bougainville meeting with the Shoal of Diana above 60 Leagues from the Coast, together with the signs he had of land to the Se1 all
conspire, to increase the Probability. The semilarity of the two Countries might also be advanced as a nother argument. I must confess it is carrying conjectures a little too far to pretend to say what may lay in a space of 200 leagues, it is however in some degree necessary if it was only to put some future Navigator (if any should come into these parts) on his guard.1
It is an interesting example of Cook's geographical thought.
He tacked, with the wind blowing straight on to the reef. He weathered one of its points, and then the breeze began to fail. In the middle of the afternoon it failed altogether. We hear another echo from the first voyage: 'it fell Calm and we were left to the Mercy of a great swell which set directly upon the reef which was hardly one league from us, we Sounded but could find no ground with a line of 200 fathoms. I ordered the Pinnace and Cutter to be hoisted out and sent a head to tow, but they were of little use against so large a swell.'2
The light breeze that sprang up this time fortunately lasted for some hours; from midnight the boats towed in a dead calm. The dawn might have been grim. When it came there was no reef in sight. The surprised Cook, when he got his latitude at noon on the 16th and found himself further south than he expected, concluded that a current or tide had come to his rescue all that anxious night. For the next ten days the wind was exasperating: light breezes, light airs and calm, variable light breezes and calms, winds faint and variable, run the journal entries, but at least, after the first two or three of those days, the weather was clear enough to give a good view of the land. It was mountainous. Balade over again. On the 22nd, the anniversary of George III's coronation, the coast was seen to change direction more southerly at a high promontory accordingly called Cape Coronation; on the 23rd another high point announced the south-easterly end of the land. This Cook named Queen Charlotte's Foreland. Three days earlier he had had his first sight of some peculiar 'elevated objects', one like a tower, others massed like the masts of a fleet of ships; now they began to appear on coast and islands in vast clusters. The coast was greener than it had been, and some, including Cook, thought they were trees. Opinions differed, bets were taken. Forster, convinced that smoke on shore
meant a volcano, more convinced that these were pillars of basalt, like the Giant's Causeway in Ireland, was unwisely dogmatic, even dictatorial. There was no volcano: his other guess was not unreasonable, though its conversion into a certainty was unreasonable. The question had to wait a little, as Cook slowly and cautiously probed his way to the south and Ssw
, in his attempt to round the southern end of the land. Off that end stood a system, or semi-chaos, of islets, sand-banks and reefs, which gave him some difficult hours. A fine breeze at east was succeeded by a dead calm; 'our situation was now worse than ever, we were but a little way from the Shoals, which instead of turning to Sw
as we expected, they took a Se
direction towards the Se
land and seem'd wholy to shut up the Passage between the two'.1
land' was the larger island which Cook called the Isle of Pines. He would have to go round it by the south, if he could get away from the shoals—and a faint northerly breeze came in time to rescue him. It changed to south-west and then to fresh south-easterly gales, so that only on the fifth attempt was he able to weather the island and the dangers round about it. By now it was 28 September. Nevertheless this island, and the low islets, had their use. They all displayed a plenitude of the 'elevations' which had caused so much controversy. Everyone was satisfied they were trees, 'except our Philosophers', who still maintained they were stone pillars. Wales, to whom Forster was a constant source of mirth, admitted that 'nothing of the sort ever sure had so singular a form'; and their amazing size made all other vegetation look like so many bunches of reeds.
The night after this day brought the climax of danger. Cook wanted to fall in with the main coast a little to the south-west of Queen Charlotte's Foreland, so that he could continue his circumnavigation, and he steered Nwbw
. This brought him, as he began to find before long, into a sort of large triangular bay, the sides of which were formed not by mainland shore but by 'low isles', reefs and shoals. He tried to extricate himself by hauling off south-west: in vain, a continuous reef lay straight ahead. The wind still blew from the east, in what Cook called very fresh gales. At least the surrounding reefs kept the water smooth, except where the shattering breakers fell. He took a careful look at the main coast in the north, as the afternoon wore on, and addressed himself to the crisis. There was, he said later, a good lookout and the ship was managed very briskly. This is rather to file down the sharp edge of statement; but we can see that it is literally true, without quite doing justice to
superb seamanship on the part both of the commander and of the men he commanded. Certainly he writes more at length.
After a short trip to the Nne we stood again to the south in order to have a nearer and better View of the shoals at Sun-set, we gained nothing by this but the Melancholy prospect of a sea strewed with Shoals: we were now about one mile from the reef to leeward of us and contrary to expectation had soundings … but Anchoring in a strong gale with a Chain of breakers to leeward was the last resource, it was thought safer to spend the night makeing short boards over that space we had in some masure made our selves acquainted with in the day. Proper persons were stationed to look out and each man held the rope in his hand he was to manage, to this we perhaps owe our safety, for as we were standing to the Northward the People on the Fore Castle and lee gang-way saw breakers under the leebow which we escaped by the expeditious manner the ship was tack'd. Thus we spent the night under the terrible apprehensions of every moment falling on some of the many dangers which surrounded us. Day-light shewed that our fears were not ilfounded and that we had spent the night in the most eminent danger havg had shoals and breakers continually under our lee at a very little distance from us.1
It was an exceedingly dark night, Wales tells us; 'I realy think our situation was to be envyed by very few except the Thief who has got the Halter about his Neck.' That night, with its cries of Breakers ahead!, remained fast in Midshipman Elliott's memory: 'every way we stood for an Hour, the Roaring of Breakers was heard … a most anxious, and perilous Night, at last Daylight appear'd.'
Daylight appeared, and Cook found he had gained nothing to windward all night. He might have worked his way south out of that dangerous position as soon as possible. Scientific passion overcame him. He pushed instead into the apex of the near-fatal triangle:
I was now almost tired of a Coast I could no longer explore but at the risk of loosing the ship and ruining the whole Voyage, but I was determined not to leave it till I was satisfied what sort of trees those were which had been the subject of our speculation. With this view we stood to the north in hopes of finding anchorage under some of the isles on which they grow….2
He was stopped by the shoals between the Isle of Pines and Queen Charlotte's Foreland. Yet to leeward were some low isles where the trees grew: and near one of these isles, not locked in by reefs, he anchored and immediately went ashore. He took the botanists. It was indeed a singular tree, 'a kind of spruce pine', thought Cook, 'very proper for Spars which we were in need of'; which was a bad
judgment, though his carpenter agreed and a few were cut, because the timber was too heavy. There were trunks between sixty or seventy feet tall, but however tall they were, the branches were remarkably short, and the larger the tree, the shorter the branch. Trees a hundred feet high (for those that Cook now saw were by no means of the largest size) with branches shorter than six feet might well puzzle the mind. Thus was discovered the great Araucaria columnaris
, the pin colonnaire
or Cook pine. There were other things here to keep the naturalists busy—trees, shrubs, smaller plants, water-snakes, pigeons and doves; there was the hull of a wrecked canoe and the fire-places of native turtlers. Cook called the little expanse of prolific sand Botany Isle.1
Meanwhile, at low water, Gilbert had reconnoitred from the mast-head; in spite of the encumbered sea he thought there might be a passage to the main coast and along it. Cook, balancing danger against advantages, determined not to risk his ship. His mind went to the little vessel he carried, stored in frame: if she were only set up, now she could be usefully employed, but he had certainly not the time both to put her together and send her away exploring. He had last considered fitting her up at Tahiti, but there too, so demanding was the work to be done on the ship, time lacked. He wrote out his reasons a little apologetically, so it seems; because he adds, 'After such an explanation few (I believe) will blame me for putting again to sea at daylight in the morning with a gentle breeze at Ebn
It was the last day of September. The wind, deceitful to the last, fell again; swell and current combined to carry the ship still once more towards the breakers, from which she was rescued by a north-westerly breeze; that breeze went round to the south-west, turned to hard rainy squalls, the squalls to a hard gale with a great sea. But the shoals were astern; Cook could do nothing but stretch to the south-east and east, and hope the way was clear. By noon on 1 October the land was gone.
He could not get back in that gale even if he wanted to. He concluded that he did not want to. The southern summer, in which he had much to do, was coming on, the ship needed attention, he thought of 'the vast distance we were from any European Port where we could get supplies in case we should be detained by any accident in this Sea another year'. What did he mean by that? What sort of accident? Did he envisage calling at the cape before plunging into
the South Atlantic again? None the less he regretted that lost coast—perhaps, except for New Zealand, the largest island in the whole South Pacific: 'I was constrained as it were by necessity to leave it sooner than otherwise I should have done.' He had discovered it, he had left it only half-charted, and one should not leave unfinished business. Well: he must find a name for it. He found New Caledonia. He does not give his reasons, nor suggest why the world should not be happy with existing Nova Scotia. It is possible that the lofty coast reminded him of those sparsely covered hills of Scotland, as he, a young master, had viewed them from the sea. It is more likely that he considered the existence, not very far away, of a New Britain and a New Ireland as well as of the New South Wales he himself had added to the map, and thought of so often on this latest shore: then was not a New Scotland demanded? If that was too like to Atlantic Scotia, why not Pacific Caledonia? And then (it seems likely that two problems were solved together) the name of Caledonia's offlying islands in the northern hemisphere could be taken for the southern group he had a few weeks ago left behind, and the New Hebrides would complete the circle.
The fresh gales continued for some days, fell calm; revived less harshly from the south-east. Cook altered his course more to the west, and sent off a boat in the calms to shoot sea-birds for the pot—albatrosses 'were geese to us'. A harpooned dolphin was much admired by everyone who could get a slice of her. On 10 October, about half-way to New Zealand, in latitude 29°, a small steep-sided surf-beaten island was sighted and a landing made. It was uninhabited. The country this place reminded Cook of, from its trees and plants—the flax-plant thick near the shore, the 'cabbage-palm'—and birds was New Zealand; although he found growing everywhere, to a vast size, another spruce pine quite different from any tree in New Zealand or that in New Caledonia.1
The sailor's mind at once turned to masts and yards. He took possession, conferring the name Norfolk Isle, 'in honour of that noble family'. He sailed on. The wind went to the north, and for five days more the weather was pleasant. Then, at midnight of the 16th, the spring storm burst, in heavy squalls, rain, thunder and lightning. He may have thought of that fearful north-west gale of October the year before, which kept him out of the strait so long and reft away his consort; but this time he was off the west coast of New Zealand, approaching the northern end of the strait, and the storm was to be a short one. Daybreak showed him the snows of Mount Egmont; the following morning he
dropped anchor before Ship Cove, the strong flurries down from the hills stopping him short of his accustomed berth.
He landed, and at once went to see if his bottle remained where he had buried it. It was gone; and trees which were standing when he last left the place had been felled with axes and saws. A little later signs were found that an astronomer other than Wales had set up his equipment—no other surely than Bayly. So the Adventure had come into harbour, whatever had happened to her afterwards. That, at least, was reassuring. Next morning, the wind having fallen, the Resolution was warped in and moored. The crew needed refreshment, the ship needed wood and water; she badly needed some refitting. The sails had been much damaged in the gale, the main and fore sails had to be condemned as useless; the fore and main topmasts, urgently in want of attention, were struck; the whole hull was urgently in want of caulking. The forge, the observatory, the tents were set up on shore, orders given for the boiling of greens every day with oatmeal and portable soup for breakfast, with pease and portable soup for dinner. The regimen was unfailing. The vegetable gardens planted on Motuara, ignored by the local people and gone to waste, had some things flourishing. Those people themselves did not appear for a few days: when those who were old friends did there was general joy, they 'embraced us over and over and skiped about like Mad men'.1 They were soon bringing plenty of fish; there were also strangers from further up the Sound, whose chief trade was in greenstone and women—‘two articles which seldom came to a bad market’. Cook could have dispensed with them both. He noticed at first some nervousness, and there was some incomprehensible talk of killing.
The ship's work went on energetically, in spite of some bad weather. The more she was looked into, the more to be done was found. The longest job was caulking; for Cook had only two skilled men and had run out of proper material. At sea he had tried sealing the deck with varnish covered with sand. Now the seams were payed with a kind of putty made of fat from the galley and chalk from the gunner; pitch and tar had been exhausted for months and 'varnish of pine' too was all gone. He took in shingle ballast and struck down six of his guns into the hold. We are reminded of his preparations at the Bay of Good Success for his first passage of the Horn. He went about the Sound shooting for provender, taking Forster to botanise, and enquiring into the fate of the livestock left on previous visits;
the survival of some at least seemed probable, a sow was actually seen, but he placed still another boar and sow ashore to clinch the matter. He had been in harbour more than a fortnight when, on 5 November, he started out in the pinnace, with thoughts of getting to the end of the sound, or seeing if elsewhere it communicated with the sea outside; for this was a possibility he had suspected from his first hill-top view. Seventeen or eighteen miles from the ship the occupants of a canoe agreed with fishermen whom he had earlier met that the sound ended in land; on its east side, however, they said there was a passage to the sea. He made for the passage; found friendly people at a settlement inside its entrance who bore out the story; went down on a strong ebb tide till he could see through a narrow opening indubitably into the strait, and came back on the flood. Thus was discovered the way into Queen Charlotte Sound, now known as Tory Channel. It was a very satisfactory expedition.
Days were now few. The ship was the important thing; interruption to work on her a nuisance. John Marra again became prominent, for drunkenness and departing from her without leave. Desertion was naturally suspected; according to Elliott the captain declared that if he were not well assured the fellow would be killed and eaten before morning he would have let him go; but the only motive here, according to the fellow himself, was the pursuit of the fair. This time he got twelve lashes. So did John Keplin, 'for leaving the Boat when on duty and declareing he would go with the Indians',1 even after he changed his mind and came back. More important to Cook, and not to be called an interruption, were his efforts to disentangle the truth about the Adventure. His informants concurred that she had returned and departed again, in safety. Then what was the other tale about a ship stranded on the coast, beaten to pieces on the rocks, her crew killed and eaten, some said on the other side of the strait, some on the other side of the sound?—all of which was also vehemently denied. Or a third story about a ship which had 'lately' been here and then crossed the strait? Cook felt easy, in the end, about the Adventure, but could not dismiss the possibility of disaster to some visitor unknown. The indefatigable Wales on his part had been conducting professional enquiry, and his results for the longitude of Ship Cove agreed with Bayly's. Cook bowed finally to the evidence, he accepted the mortification of having produced an inaccurate chart, and he went on to a wider statement:
it appears that the whole of Tavai-poenammoo, is laid down 40′ too far East in the said Chart, as well as in the Journal of the Voyage; but the error in Eahei-no-mauwe is not more than half a degree or 30′ because the distance between Queen Charlotte's Sound and Cape Palliser has been found to be greater by 10′ of Longitude than it is laid down in the Chart. I mention these errors not from a supposition that they will much affect either Navigation or Geography, but because I have no doubt of their existance, for from the multitude of observations which Mr Wales took the situation of few parts of the world are better assertained than that of Queen Charlotte's Sound. Indeed I might with equal truth say the same of all the other places where we have made any stay at. For Mr Wales, whose abilities is equal to his assiduity, lost no one observation that could possibly be obtained. Even the situation of such islands as we past without touching at are by means of Mr Kendalls Watch determined with almost equal accuracy.1
He is away from his own failing to a happier subject. Between his leaving Queen Charlotte Sound in November 1773 and returning to it in October 1774, 'which was near a year', the accumulated error of the watch was just over 19 minutes 31 seconds. 'This error can not be thought great if we consider the length of time and that we had gone over a space equal to upwards of three quarters of the Equatorial Circumference of the Earth and through all the Climates and Latitudes from 9° to 71°.'2 Would that John Harrison could have seen those words as the pen wrote them out, somewhere in the southern ocean in a longitude east of New Zealand!
It was at daylight on 10 November that Cook weighed anchor and stood out of the Sound and through the strait. In the afternoon he passed Cape Campbell and steered south-east.