An Account of the Voyages undertaken by the order of His Present Majesty, for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, and successively performed by Commodore Byron, Captain Wallis, Captain Carteret, and Captain Cook, in the Dolphin, the Swallow, and the Endeavour: Drawn from the Journals which were kept by the several Commanders, and from the Papers of Joseph Banks, Esq. [Vol. II]
The Range from Mercury Bay to the Bay of Istands. An Expedition up the River Thames: Some Account of the Indians who inhabit its Banks, and the fine Timber that grows there. Several interviews with the Natives on different Parts of the Coast, and a Skirmish with them upon an Island.
I Continued plying to windward two days to get under the land, and on the 18th, about seven in the morning, we were a-breast of a very conspicuous promontory, being then in latitude 36° 26, and in the direction of N. 48 W. from the north head of Mercury Bay or Point Mercury, which was distant nine leagues: upon this point stood many people, who seemed to take little notice of us, but talked together with great earnestness. In about half an hour, several canoes put off from different places, and came towards the ship; upon which the people on the point also launched a canoe, and about twenty of them came in her up with the others. When two of these canoes, in which there might be about sixty men, came near enough to make themselves heard, they sung their war-song; but seeing page 171 ing that we took little notice of it, they threw a few stones at us, and then rowed off towards the shore. We hoped that we had now done with them, but in a short time they returned, as if with a fixed resolution to provoke us into a battle, animating themselves by their song as they had done before. Tupia, without any directions from us, went to the poop, and began to expostulate: he told them, that we had weapons which would destroy them in a moment: and that, if they ventured to attack us, we should be obliged to use them. Upon this, they flourished their weapons and cried out in their language, “Come on shore, and we “will kill you all:” Well, said Tupia, but why should you molest us while we are at sea? As we do not wish to fight, we shall not accept your challenge to come on shore; and here is no pretence for a quarrel, the sea being no more your property than the ship. This eloquence of Tupia, though it greatly surprized us, having given him no hints for the arguments he used, had no effect upon our enemies, who very soon renewed their battery: a musquet was then fired through one of their boats, and this was an argument of sufficient weight, for they immediately fell a-stern and left us.
From the point, of which we were now a-breast, the land trends W. ½ S. near a league, and then S. S. E. as far as we could see; and, besides the islands that lay without us, we could see land round by the S. W. as far as the N. W. but whether this was the main or islands, we could not then determine: the fear of losing the main, however, made me resolve to follow its direction. With this view, I hauled round the point and steered to the southward, but there being light airs all round the compass, we made but little progress.
About one o'clock, a breeze sprung up at east, which afterwards came to N. E. and we steered along the shore S. by E. and S. S. E. having from twenty-five to eighteen fathom.
At about half an hour after seven in the evening, having run seven or eight leagues since noon, I anchored in twenty-three fathom, not chusing to run any farther in the dark, as I had now land on both sides, forming page 172 the entrance of a streight, bay, or river, lying S. by E. for on that point we could see no land.
At day-break, on the 19th, the wind being still favourable, we weighed and stood with an easy sail up the inlet, keeping ncarest to the east side. In a short time two large canoes came off to us from the shore; the people on board said, that they knew Toiava very well, and called Tupia by his name. I invited some of them on board; and as they knew they had nothing to sear from us, while they behaved honestly and peaceably, they immediately complied: I made each of them some presents, and dismissed them much gratified. Other canoes afterwards came up to us from a different side of the bay; and the people on board of these also mentioned the name of Toiava, and sent a young man into the ship, who told us he was his grandson, and he also was dismissed with a present.
After having run about five leagues from the place where we had anchored the night before, our depth of water gradually decreased to six sathom; and not choosing to go into less, as it was tide of flood, and the wind blew right up the inlet, I came to an anchor about the middle of the channel, which is near eleven miles over; after which I sent two boats out to sound, one on one side, and the other on the other.
The boats not having found above three feet more water than we were now in, I determined to go no farther with the ship, but to examine the head of the bay in the boats; for, as it appeared to run a good way inland, I thought this a favourable opportunity to examine the interior part of the country and its produce.
At day-break, therefore, I set out in the pinnace and long-boat, accompanied by Mr. Banks, Dr. Solander, and Tupia; and we found the inlet end in a river, about nine miles above the ship: into this river we entered with the first of the flood, and within three miles sound the water perfectly fresh. Before we had proceeded more than one third of that distance, we found an Indian town, which was built upon a small bank of dry sand, but intirely surrounded by a deep mud, which possibly the inhabitants might consider as a defence. These people, as soon as they saw us, thronged page 173 to the banks, and invited us on shore. We accepted the invitation, and made them a visit, notwithstanding the mud. They received us with open arms, having heard of us from our good old friend Toiava; but our stay could not be long, as we had other objects of curiosity in view. We proceeded up the river till near noon, when we were fourteen miles within its entrance; and then, finding the face of the country to continue nearly the same, without any alteration in the course of the stream, which we had no hopes of tracing to its source, we landed on the west side, to take a view of the lofty trees which every where adorned its banks. They were of a kind that we had seen before, though only at a distance, both in Poverty-Bay and Hawke's-Bay. Before we had walked an hundred yards into the wood, we met with one of them which was nineteen feet eight inches in the girt, at the height of six feet above the ground: having a quadrant with me, I measured its height from the root to the first branch, and found it to be eighty-nine feet: it was as strait as an arrow, and tapered but very little in proportion to its height, so that I judged there were three hundred and fifty-six feet of solid timber in it, exclusive of the branches. As we advanced, we saw many others that were still larger; we cut down a young one, and the wood proved heavy and solid, not fit for masts, but such as would make the finest plank in the world. Our carpenter, who was with us, said that the timber resembled that of the pitch-pine, which is lightened by tapping; and possibly some such method might be found to lighten these, and they would then be such masts as no country in Europe can produce. As the wood was swampy, we could not range far; but found many stout trees of other kinds, all of them utterly unknown to us, specimens of which we brought away.
The river at this height is as broad as the Thames at Greenwich, and the tide of flood as strong; it is not indeed quite so deep, but has water enough for vessels of more than a middle size, and a bottom of mud, so soft that nothing could take damage by running a shore.page 174
About three o'clock, we re-embarked, in order to return with the first of the ebb, and named the river the Thames, it having some resemblance to our own river of that name. In our return, the inhabitants of the village where we had been ashore, seeing us take another channel, came off to us in their canoes, and trafficked with us in the most friendly manner, till they had disposed of the few trifles they had. The tide of ebb just carried us out of the narrow part of the river, into the channel that ran up from the sea, before it was dark; and we pulled hard to reach the ship, but meeting the flood, and a strong breeze at N. N. W. with showers of rain, we were obliged to desist; and about midnight, we ran under the land, and came to a grappling, where we took such rest as our situation would admit. At break of day, we set forward again, and it was past seven o'clock before we reached the ship. We were all extremely tired, but thought ourselves happy to be on board; for before nine it blew so hard that the boat could not have rowed a-head, and must therefore either have gone a-shore, or taken shelter under it.
About three o'clock, having the tide of ebb, we took up our anchor, and made sail, and plied down the river till eight in the evening, when we came to an anchor again; early in the morning we made sail with the first ebb, and kept plying till the flood obliged us once more to come to an anchor. As we had now only a light breeze, I went in the pinnace, accompanied by Dr. Solander, to the western shore; but I saw nothing worthy of notice.
When I left the ship, many canoes were about it; Mr. Banks therefore chose to stay on board, and traffic with the natives: they bartered their clothes and arms, chiefly for paper, and behaved with great friendship and honesty. But while some of them were below with Mr. Banks, a young man who was upon the deck stole a half-minute glass which was in the binacle, and was detected just as he was carrying it off. Mr. Hicks, who was commanding officer on board, took it into his head to punish him, by giving him twelve lashes with a cat-o'nine-tails; and accordingly ordered him to be taken to the gang-way, and tied up page 175 to the shrouds. When the other Indians who were on board saw him seized, they attempted to rescue him; and being resisted, called for their arms, which were handed up from the canoes, and the people of one of them attempted to come up the ship's side. The tumult was heard by Mr. Banks, who, with Tupia, came hastily upon the deck to see what had happened. The Indians immediately ran up to Tupia, who, finding Mr. Hicks inexorable, could only assure them, that nothing was intended against the lite of their companion; but that it was necessary he should suffer some punishment for his offence, which being explained to them, they seemed to be satisfied. The punishment was then inflicted, and as soon as the criminal was unbound, an old man among the spectators, who was supposed to be his father, gave him a hearty beating, and sent him down into his canoe. All the canoes then dropped astern, and the people said that they were afraid to come any more near the ship: after much persuasion, however, they ventured back again: but their chearful confidence was at an end, and their stay was short; they promised indeed, at their departure, to return with some fish, but we saw no more of them.
On the 23d, the wind being contrary, we kept plying down the river, and at seven in the evening, got without the N. W. point of the islands lying on the west side of it. The weather being bad, night coming on, and having land on every side of us, I thought it most advisable to tack, and stretch in under the point, where we anchored in nineteen fathom. At five in the morning of the 24th, we weighed, and made sail to the N. W. under our courses and double-reefed top-sails, the wind being at S. W. by W. and W. S. W. a strong gale and squally. As the gale would not permit us to come near the land, we had but a slight and distant view of it from the time when we got under sail till noon, during a run of twelve leagues, but we never once lost sight of it. At this time, our latitude, by observation, was 36° 15′ 20″, we were not above two miles from a point of land on the main, and three leagues and an half from a very high island, which bore N. E. by E. in this situation we had twenty-six fathom water: the farthest point on the main that we page 176 could see bore N. W. but we could perceive several small islands lying to the north of that direction. The point of land of which we were now a-! reast, and which I called Point Rondey, is the N. W. extremity of the river Thames; for under that name I comprehend the deep bay which terminates in the fresh-water stream, and the N. E. extremity is the promontory which we passed when we entered it, and which I called Cape Colville, in honour of the Right Hon. Lord Colville.
Cape Colville lies in latitude 36° 26′, longitude 194° 27; it rises directly from the sea to a considerable height, and is remarkable for a lofty rock, which stands to the pitch of the point, and may be distinguished at a very great distance. From the south point of this Cape the river runs in a direct line S. by E. and is no where less than three leagues broad for the distance of fourteen leagues above the Cape, and there it is contracted to a narrow stream, but continues the same course through a low flat country, or broad valley, which lies parallel with the sea-coast, and the end of which we could not see. On the east side of the broad part of this river the land is tolerably high and hilly; on the west side it is rather low, but the whole is covered with verdure and wood, and has the appearance of great fertility, though there were but a few small spots which had been cultivated. At the entrance of the narrow part of the river the land is covered with mangroves and other shrubs; but farther there are immense woods of perhaps the finest timber in the world, of which some account has already been given: in several places the wood extends to the very edge of the water, and where it is at a little distance, the intermediate space is marshy, like some part of the banks of the Thames in England: it is probable that the river contains plenty of fish, for we saw poles stuck up in many places to set nets for catching them, but of what kinds I do not know. The greatest depth of water that we found in this river was six-and-twenty fathom, which gradually decreased to one fathom and an half: in the mouth of the freshwater stream it is from four to three fathom, but there are large flats and sand banks lying before it. A page 177 ship of moderate draught may, notwithstanding, go a long way up this river with a flowing tide, for it rises perpendicularly near ten feet, and at the full and change of the moon, it is high water about nine o'clock.
Six leagues within Cape Colville, under the eastern shore, are several small islands, which, together with the main, seem to form good harbours; and opposite to these islands, under the western shore, lie other islands, by which it is also probable that good harbours may be formed: but if there are no harbours about this river, there is good anchoring in every part of it where the depth of water is sufficient, for it is defended from the sea by a chain of islands of different extent, which lie cross the mouth of it, and which I have, for that reason, called Barrier Islands: they stretch N.W. and S.E. ten leagues. The south end of the chain lies N.E. between two and three leagues from Cape Colville; and the north end lies N.E. four leagues and a half from Point Rodney. Point Rodney lies W. N. W. nine leagues from Cape Colville, in latitude 36° 15′ S. longitude 184° 53′ W.
The natives residing about this river do not appear to be numerous, considering the great extent of the country. But they are a strong, well-made, and active people, and all of them paint their bodies with red ochre and oil from head to foot, which we had not seen before. Their canoes were large and well-built, and adorned with carving, in as good a taste as any that we had seen upon the coast.
We continued to stand along the shore till night, with the main land on one side, and the islands on the other, and then anchored in a bay, with fourteen fathoms and a sandy bottom. We had no sooner come to an anchor, than we tried our lines, and in a short time caught near one hundred fish, which the people called Sea-bream; they weighed from six to eight pounds a-piece, and consequently would supply the whole ship's company with food for two days. From the success of our lines here, we called the place Bream Bay: the two point that form it lie north and south, five leagues from each other; it is every where of a good breadth, and between three and four leagues deep: at the bottom of it there appears to be a river of fresh water, page 178 The north head of the bay called Bream Head, is high land, and remarkable for several pointed rocks, which stand in a range upon the top of it: it may also be known by some small islands which lie before it, called the Hen and Chickens, one of which is high and terminates in two peaks. It lies in latitude 35° 46′ S. and at the distance of seventeen leagues and an half from Cape Colville, in the diretion of N. 41 W.
The land between Point Rodney and Bream Head, an extent of ten leagues, is low, and wooded in tufts, with white sand-banks between the sea and the firm land. We saw no inhabitans, but many fires in the night; and where there are fires, there are always people.
At day-break, on the 25th, we left the bay, and fteered along shore to the northward: we found the variation of the compass to be 12° 42′ E. At noon, our latitude was 36° 36′ S. Bream Head bore south, distant ten miles; and we saw some small islands, to which I gave the name of the Poor Knights, at N. E. by N. distant three leagues: the northermost land in sight bore N.N. W. we were in this place at the distance of two miles from the shore, and had twenty-six fathoms water.
The country appeared low, but well covered with wood; we saw some straggling houses, three or four fortified towns, and near them a large quantity of cultivated land.
In the evening, seven large canoes came off to us, with about two hundred men: some of them came on board, and said that they had heard of us. To two of them, who appeared to be Chiefs, I gave presents; but when these were gone out of the ship, the others became exceedingly troublesome. Some of those in the canoes began to trade, and, according to their custom, to cheat, by refusing to deliver what had been bought, after they had received the price: among these was one who had received an old pair of black breeches, which, upon a few small shot, being fired at him, he threw into the sea. All the boats soon after paddled off to some distance, and when they thought they were out of reach, they began to defy us, by singing their song and brandishing their weapons. We thought it adviseable page 179 to intimidate them, as well for their sake as our own, and therefore fired first some small arms, and then round shot over their heads: the last put them in a terrible fright, though they received no damage, except by over-heating themselves in paddling away, which they did with astonishing expedition.
In the night we had variable light airs; but towards the morning a breeze sprung up at S. and afterwards at S. E. with which we proceeded slowly to the northward, along the shore.
Between six and seven o'clock two canoes came off, and told us that they had heard of yesterday's adventure; notwithstanding which the people came on board, and traded very quietly and honestly for whatever they had: soon after two canoes came off from a more distant part of the shore; these were of a much larger size, and full of people: when they came near, they called off the other canoes which were along-side of the ship, and after a short conference they all came up together. The strangers appeared to be persons of a superior rank; their canoes were well carved with many ornaments, and they had with them a great variety of weapons: they had patoo-patoos both of stone and whalebone, upon which they appeared to set a great value; they had also ribs of whale, of which we had before seen imitations in wood, carved and adorned with tufts of dog's hair. Their complexions were browner than those of the people we had seen to the southward, and their bodies and faces were more marked with the black stains which they call Amoco: they had a broad spiral on each buttock; and the thighs of many of them were almost intirely black, some narrow lines only being lest untouched, so that at first sight they appeared to wear striped breeches. With respect to the Amoco, every different tribe seemed to have a different custom; for all the men, in some canoes, seemed to be almost covered with it, and those in others had scarcely a stain except on the lips, which were black in all of them without a single exception. These gentlemen, for a long time, refused to part with any of their weapons, whatever was offered for them; as last, however, one of them produced a piece of page 180 tale, wrought into the shape of an axe, and agreed to sell it for a piece of cloth: the cloth was handed over the ship's side, but his honour immediately put off his canoe with the axe. We had recourse to our usual expedient, and fired a musket ball over the canoe, upon which it put back to the ship, and the piece of cloth was returned; all the boats then went a-shore, without offering any further intercourse.
At noon, the main land extended from S. by E. to N. W. by W. a remarkable point of land bearing W. distant four or five miles; at three we passed it, and I gave it the name of Cape Bret, in honour of Sir Piercy. The land of this Cape is considerably higher than any part of the adjacent coast: at the point of it, is a high round hillock, and N. E. by N. at the distance of about a mile, is a small high island or rock, which, like several that have already been described, was perforated quite through, so as to appear like the arch of a bridge. This Cape, or at least some part of it, is by the natives called Motugogogo, and it lies in latitude 35° 10′ 30′ S. longitude 185° 25′ W. On the west side of it is a large and pretty deep bay, lying in S. W. by W. in which there appeared to be several small islands: the point that forms the N. W. entrance lies W. ¼ N. at the distance of three or four leagues from Cape Bret, and I distinguished it by the name of Point Pococke. On the west side of the bay we saw several villages, both upon islands and the main, and several very large canoes came off to us, full of people, who made a better appearance than any we had seen yet: they were all stout and well-made; their hair, which was black, was tied up in a bunch on the crown of their heads, and stuck with white seathers. In each of the canoes, were two or three Chiefs, whose habits were of the best fort of cloth, and covered with dog's skin, so as to make an agreeable appearance: most of these people were marked with the Amoco, like those who had been along-side of us before: their manner of trading was also equally fraudulent; and the officers neglecting either to punish or fright them, one of the midshipmen, who had been defrauded in his bargain, had recourse, for revenge, to an expedient which was equally page 181 Iudicrous and severe; he got a fishing-line, and when the man who had cheated him was close under the ship's side in his canoe, he heaved the lead with so good an aim, that the hook caught him by the back-side, he then pulled the line, and the man holding back, the hook broke in the shank, and the beard was left sticking in the flesh.
During the course of this day, though we did not range more than six or eight leagues of the coast, we had along-side and on board the ship between four and five hundred of the natives, which is a proof that this part of the country is well inhabited.
At eight o'clock the next morning, we were within a mile of a group of islands, which lie close under the main, at the distance of two-and-twenty miles from Cape Bret, in the direction of N. W. by W. ½ W. At this place, having but little wind, we lay about two hours, during which time several canoes came off, and sold us some fish, which we called Cavalles, and for that reason I gave the same name to the islands. These people were very insolent, frequently threatening us, even while they were selling their fish; and when some more canoes came up, they began to pelt us with stones. Some small shot were then fired, and hit one of them while he had a stone in his hand, in the very action of throwing it into the ship; they did not, however, desist, till some others had been wounded, and then they went away, and we stood off to sea.
The wind being directly against us, we kept plying to windward till the 29th, when we had rather lost than gained ground; I therefore bore up for a bay which lies to the westward of Cape Bret; at this time it was about two leagues to leeward of us; and at about eleven o'clock we anchored under the south-west side of one of the many islands which line it on the south-east, in four fathoms and a half water; we shoaled our water to this depth all at once, and if this had not happened, I should not have come to an anchor so soon. The master was immediately sent out with two boats to sound, and he soon discovered that we had got upon a bank, which runs out from the north-west end page 182 of the island, and that on the outside of it there was from eight to ten fathoms.
In the mean time the natives, to the number of near four hundred, crowded upon us in their canoes, and some of them were admitted on board: To one, who seemed to be a Chief, I gave a piece of broad-cloth, and distributed some trifling presents among the rest. I perceived that some of these people had been about the ship when she was off at sea, and that they knew the power of our fire-arms, for the very sight of a gun threw them into manifest confusion: under this impression they traded very fairly; but the people in one of the canoes took the opportunity of our being at dinner to tow away our buoy. A musquet was fired over them without effect; we then endeavoured to reach them with some small shot, but they were too far off. By this time they had got the buoy into their canoe, and we were obliged to fire a musket at them with ball; this hit one of them, and they immediately threw the buoy over-board; a round shot was then fired over them, which struck the water and went a-shore. Two or three of the canoes immediately landed their people, who ran about the beach, as we imagined, in search of the ball. Tupia called to them, and assured them, that while they were honest they should be safe, and with a little persuasion many of them returned to the ship, and their behaviour was such, as left us no reason to suspect that they intended to give us any farther trouble.
After the ship was removed into deeper water, and properly secured, I went with the pinnace and yawl, manned and armed, accompanied by Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander, and landed upon the island, which was about three quarters of a mile distant. We observed that the canoes which were about the ship, did not follow us upon our leaving her, which we thought a good sign; but we had no sooner landed than they crowded to different parts of the island, and came on shore. We were in a little cove, and in a few minutes were surrounded by two or three hundred people, some rushing from behind the heads of the cove, and others appearing on the tops of the hills: they page 183 were all armed, but they came on in so confused and straggling a manner, that we scarcely suspected they meant us any harm, and we were determined that hostilities should not begin on our part. We marched towards them, and then drew a line upon the sand between them and us, which we gave them to understand they were not to pass. At first they continued quiet, but their weapons were held ready to strike, and they seemed to be rather irresolute than peaceable. While we remained in this state of suspense, another party of Indians came up, and now growing more bold as their number increased, they began the dance and song, which are their preludes to a battle; still, however, they delayed the attack, but a party ran to each of our boats, and attempted to draw them on shore: this seemed to be the signal, for the people about us at the same time began to press in upon our line. Our situation was now become too critical for us to remain longer inactive; I therefore discharged my musket, which was loaded with small shot, at one of the forwardest, and Mr. Banks and two of the men fired immediately afterwards. This made them fall back in some confusion; but one of the Chiefs, who was at the distance of about twenty yards, rallied them, and running forward waving his patoo-patoo, and calling loudly to his companions, led him to the charge. Dr. Solander, whose piece was not yet discharged, fired at this champion, who stopped short upon feeling the shot, and then ran away with the rest. They did not, however, disperse, but got together upon a rising ground, and seemed only to want some leader of resolution to renew their attack. As they were now beyond the reach of small-shot, we fired with ball; but as none of them took place, they still continued in a body, and in this situation we remained about a quarter of an hour. In the mean time the ship, from whence a much greater number of Indians were seen than could be discovered in our situation, brought her broad-side to bear, and intirely dispersed them, by firing a few shot over their heads. In this skirmish only two of the Indians were hurt with the small-shot, and not a single life was lost, which would not have been the case if I had not restrained the men, who, either from sear or a love of mischief, page 184 shewed as much impatience to destroy them as a sportsman to kill his game. When we were in quiet possession of our cove we laid down our arms, and began to gather celery, which grew here in great plenty. After a little time, we recollected to have seen some of the people hide themselves in a cave of one of the rocks, we therefore went towards the place, when an old Indian, who proved to be the Chief that I had presented with a piece of broad-cloth in the morning, came out with his wife and his brother, and, in a supplicating posture, put themselves under our protection. We spoke kindly to them, and the old man then told us that he had another brother, who was one of those that had been wounded by the small-shot, and inquired, with much solicitude and concern, if he would die. We assured him that he would not, and at the same time put into his hand both a musket-ball and some small-shot, telling him, that those only who were wounded with the ball would die, and that the others would recover; at the same time assuring him, that if we were attacked again we should certainly defend ourselves with the ball, which would wound them mortally. Having now taken courage, they came and sat down by us; and, as tokens of our perfect amity, we made them presents of such trifles as we happened to have about us.
Soon after we re-embarked in our boats, and having rowed to another cove in the same island, climbed a neighbouring hill, which commanded the country to a considerable distance. The prospect was very uncommon and romantic, consisting of innumerable islands, which formed as many harbours, where the water was as smooth as a mill-pool. We saw also many towns, scattered houses, and plantations, the country being much more populous than any we had seen. One of the towns was very near us, from which many of the Indians advanced, taking great pains to shew us that they were unarmed, and in their gestures and countenances expressing great meekness and humility. In the mean time some of our people, who, when the Indians were to be punished for a fraud, assumed the inexorable justice of a Lycurgus, thought fit to break into one of their plantations and dig up some potatoes. page 185 For this offence I ordered each of them to be punished with twelve lathes, after which two of them were discharged; but the third, insisting that it was no crime in an Englishman to plunder an Indian plantation, though it was a crime in an Indian to defraud an Englishman of a nail, I ordered him back into his confinement, from which I would not release him till he had received six lashes more.
On the 30th, there being a dead calm, and no probability of our getting to sea, I sent the master with two boats to sound the harbour; and all the forenoon had several canoes about the ship, who traded in a very fair and friendly manner. In the evening we went ashore upon the main, where the people received us very cordially; but we found nothing worthy of notice.
In this bay we were detained by contrary winds and calms several days, during which time our intercourse with the natives was continued in the most peaceable and friendly manner, they being frequently about the ship, and we a-shore, both upon the islands and the main. In one of our visits to the continent, an old man shewed us the instrument they use in staining their bodies, which exactly resembled those that were employed for the same purpose at Otaheite. We saw also the man who was wounded in attempting to steal our buoy: the ball had passed through the fleshy part of his arm, and grazed his breast; but the wound, under the care of Nature, the best surgeon, and a simple diet, the best nurse, was in a good state, and seemed to give the patient neither pain nor apprehension. We saw also the brother of our old Chief, who had been wounded with small-shot in our skirmish: they had strack his thigh obliquely, and though several of them were still in the flesh, the wound seemed to be attended with neither danger nor pain. We found among their plantations the morus papyrifera, of which these people, as well as those of Otaheite, make cloth; but here the plant seems to be rare, and we saw no pieces of the cloth large enough for any use, but to wear by way of ornament in their ears.page 186
Having one day landed in a very distant part of the bay, the people immediately fled, except one old man, who accompanied us wherever we went, and seemed much pleased with the little presents we made him. We came at last to a little fort, built upon a small rock, which at high water was surrounded by the sea, and accessible only by a ladder. We perceived that he eyed us with a kind of restless solicitude as we approached it, and upon our expressing a desire to enter it, he told us that his wife was there. He saw that our curiosity was not diminished by this intelligence, and, after some hesitation, he said, if we would promise to offer no indecency he would accompany us: our promise was readily given, and he immediately led the way. The ladder consisted of steps fastened to a pole, but we found the ascent both difficult and dangerous. When we entered we found three women, who, the moment they saw us, burst into tears of terror and surprize; some kind words, and a few presents, soon removed their apprehensions, and put them into good humour. We examined the house of our old friend, and by his interest two others, which were all that the fortification contained, and having distributed a few more presents, we parted with mutual satisfaction.
At four o'clock in the morning of the 5th of December, we weighed with a light breeze; but it being variable, with frequent calms, we made little way. We kept turning out of the bay till the afternoon, and about ten o'clock we were suddenly becalmed, so that the ship would neither wear nor stay; and the tide or current setting strong, she drove towards land so fast, that before any measures could be taken for her security, she was within a cable's length of the breakers; we had thirteen fathoms water, but the ground was so foul that we did not dare to drop our anchor; the pinnace therefore was immediately hoisted out to take the ship in tow, and the men, sensible of their danger, exerting themselves to the utmost, and a saint breeze springing up off the land, we perceived with unspeakable joy that she made head way, after having been so near the shore that Tupia, who was not sensible of our hair's breadth escape, was at this very time conversing with the people upon the beach, whole page 187 voices were distinctly heard, notwithstanding the roar of the breakers. We now thought all danger was over, but about an hour afterwards, just as the man in the chains had cried “seventeen fathom,” the ship struck. The shock threw us all into the utmost consternation; Mr. Banks, who had undressed himself and was stepping into bed, ran hastily up to the deck, and the man in the chains called out “five fathom;” by this time, the rock on which we had struck being to windward, the ship went off without having received the least damage, and the water very soon deepened to twenty fathom.
This rock lies half a mile W. N. W. of the northermost or outermost island on the south-east side of the bay. We had light airs from the land, with calms, till nine o'clock the next morning, when we got out of the hay, and a breeze springing up at N.N. W. we stood out to sea.
This bay, as I have before observed, lies on the west side of Cape Bret, and I named it the Bay of Islands, from the great number of islands which line its shores, and form several harbours equally sase and commodious, where there is room and depth for any number of shipping. That in which we lay is on the south-west side of the south-westermost island, called Matuaro, on the south-east side of the bay. I have made no accurate survey of this bay, being discouraged by the time it would cost me; I thought also that it was sufficient to be able to affirm that it afforded us good anchorage, and refreshment of every kind. It was not the season for roots, but we had plenty of fish, most of which, however, we purchased of the natives, for we could catch very little ourselves either with net or line. When we shewed the natives our seine, which is such as the King's ships are generally furnished with, they laughed at it, and in triumph produced their own, which was indeed of an enormous size, and made of a kind of grass, which is very strong: it was five fathoms deep, and by the room it took up, it could not be less than three or four hundred fathoms long. Fishing seems indeed to be the chief business of life in this part of the country; we saw about all their towns a great number of nets, laid in heaps like hay-cocks, page 188 and covered with a thatch to keep them from the weather, and we scarcely entered a house where some of the people were not employed in making them. The fish we procured here were marks, sting-rays, sea-bream, mullet, mackrel, and some others.
The inhabitants in this bay are far more numerous than in any other part of the country that we had before visited; it did not appear to us that they were united under one head, and tho' their towns were fortified, they seemed to live together in perfect amity.
It is high-water in this bay, at the full and change of the moon, about eight o'clock, and the tide then rises from six to eight feet perpendicularly. It appears, from such observations as I was able to make of the tides upon the sea-coast, that the flood comes from the southward, and I have reason to think that there is a current which comes from the westward, and sets along the shore to S. E. or S. S. E. as the land happens to lie.