The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks 1768–1771 [Volume One]
2 See Hulme's letter to Banks, Appendix, II, p. 301 below. Nathaniel Hulme (1732–1807) joined the navy as a surgeon's mate in 1755, and his observations and reflections on the common ill of seamen, scurvy, provided the groundwork for his thesis for his Edinburgh M.D. (1765), De Scorbuto. He expanded this in a Latin essay of 1768 on scurvy, which had an appendix in English on the benefits of lime—i.e. lemon—juice on long voyages, showing that this had been familiar to the English since the sixteenth century. Nevertheless lime juice proper, as later used, did not become a common precaution on ships till the nineteenth century. Cook set more store on wort of malt and on fresh food generally. Hulme held important medical posts and was elected F.R.S. in 1794.
2. Many birds today about noon passd by the ship making a noise something like gulls, they were black upon the back and white under the belly probably of the sterna kind;1 in company with them were 20 or 30 Men of war birds soaring over the flock, probably the whole were in pursuit of a shoal of fish.
3. Several of the same kinds of birds seen today as were seen yesterday, also many Egg-birds; the trade continued to blow fresh with very pleasant weather.
4. At 10 this morn my servant Peter Briscoe saw the Land which we had almost passd by, we stood towards it and found it to be a small Island (Lagoon Island)2 about 1½ or 2 miles in lengh. Those who were upon the topmast head distinguishd it to be nearly circular and to have a Lagoon or pool of water in the middle which occupied much the largest part of the Island. About noon we were Close to it within a mile or thereabouts and distinctly saw inhabitants upon it of whoom we counted 24. They appeard to us through our glasses to be tall and to have very large heads or possibly much hair upon them, 11 of them walkd along the beach abreast of the ship with each a pole or pike as long again as himself in his hand and every one of them stark naked and appearing of a brown copper colour; as soon however as the ship had fairly pass'd the Island they retird higher up on the beach and seemd to put on some cloaths or at least cover themselves with something which made them appear of a light colour.
1 Probably a flock of Wideawake or Sooty Terns, Sterna fuscata. This is confirmed by Cook's remarks on these birds ‘—a large flock of Birds, they had brown backs and white bellies they fly and make a noise like Stearings [an old name for the Arctic Tern] and are shaped like them only something larger’.—Cook I, p. 68.
2 The ship was passing through the Tuamotus. The land bore south, says Cook, distant three or four leagues; its native name is Vahitahi.
After dinner land was again seen which we came up with at sunset; it provd a small Island not more than £¾ of a mile in lengh but almost round,1 we ran within less than a mile of it but saw no signs of inhabitants nor any Cocoa nut trees, or indeed any that bore the least resemblance to Palms tho there were many sorts of trees or at least many varieties of verdure.
In the neighbourhood of both this and the other Island were many birds, man of war birds and a small black sort of sterna? with a white spot on his head which the seamen calld Noddies2 but said that they were much smaller than the West Indian Noddies.
While we were near the Island a large fish was taken with a towing line baited with a peice of Pork rind cut like a swallows tail the seamen calld it a King fish Scomber lanceolatus.3
1 Banks notes the name in his margin, ‘Thrum cap’. It was Aki Aki. The name Thrum Cap was conferred by Cook because of its shape and the shaggy appearance it was given by palms and bushes. Thrums were the end-pieces sticking out in rough weaving; to thrum, in nautical speech, was to fasten bunches of rope yarn over a sail or mat, for the purpose, e.g., of stopping a leak.
2 The White-capped Noddy, Anous minutus.
3 Acanthocybium solandri (Cuv. and Val.). Cuvier and Valenciennes in their Hist. Nat. Poiss. 8, p. 192, founded the species on the description of this fish by Solander, pp. 267–8; they make no reference to Parkinson's painting of it (II, pl. 87).
4 Marginal note ‘Bow Island’; Hao. It was seen first by Bougainville, who called it La Harpe.
Along the low beach or bowstring we saild within less than a league of the shore till sunsett when we judg'd ourselves about half way between the two horns, we then brought too and sounded, 130 fathom of line out and no ground; night which came on here almost instantly after sunset made us lose sight of the land before the line was well hauld in. We then steerd by the sound of the breakers which were very distinctly heard in the ship till we were clear of all.
That this land was inhabited appeard clearly by three smoaks in different parts of the Island which we saw repeated several different times, probably as signals from one to the other of our aproach. Our 2nd Lieutenant affirmed that he saw from the deck many inhabitants in the first clump of Trees, that they were walking to and fro as if on their ordinary business without taking the least notice of the ship, he saw also many houses and Canoes hauld up under the trees. To this I only say that I did not see them or know that any one else had till the ship had passd the place £½ an hour.
6. Pleasant breeze, at £½ past 11 land in sight again, at 3 came up with it, proved to be two distinct Islands with many small ones near them Joining by reefs under water.2
1 The conjecture that there was an opening through the northern reef was right: it is the Kaki pass, very narrow, and certainly hardly to be seen distinctly from the ship.
2 Marginal note, ‘the groups’. Called by Cook the Two Groups: Marokau to the north, Ravahere to the south. Banks's description which follows is much longer and more circumstantial than Cook's.
The people seemd as well as we could judge (who were a good £½ mile from the shore) to be about our size and well made, of a dark brown complexion, stark naked, wearing their hair tied back with a fillet which passd round their head and kept it sticking out behind like a bush. The greatest number of them carried in their hands two weapons, one a slender pole from 10 to 14 feet in lengh at one end of which was a small knob or point not unlike the point of a spear, the other not above 4 feet long made much like a paddle as possibly it was intended, for their canoes were very different in size. The two which we saw them launch seemd not intended to carry more than barely the 3 men who got into each of them, others there were which had 6 and some 7 men; one of these hoisted a sail which did not seem to reach above 6 feet high above the boat, this (as soon as they came to the reef and stoppd their boat) they took down and converted into a shed to shelter them from a small shower of rain which then fell. The Canoe which followd us to sea hoisted a sail not unlike an English lugsail and near as lofty as an English boat of the same size would have carried.
The people on the shore made many signals but whether they meant to frighten us away or invite us ashore is dificult to tell: they wavd with their hands and seemd to beckon us to them but they were assembld together with clubs and staves as they would have done had they meant to oppose us. Their signs we answerd by waving our hats and shouting which they answerd by shouting again. Our situation made it very improper to try them farther, we wanted nothing, the Island was too trifling to be an object worth taking possession of; had we therefore out of mere curiosity hoisted out a boat and the natives by attacking us oblige us to destroy some of them the only reason we could give for it would be the desire of satisfying a useless curiosity. We shall soon by our connections with the inhabitants of Georges Island (who already know our strengh and if they do not love at least fear us) gain some knowledge of the customs of these savages; or possibly persuade one of them to come with us who may serve as an interpreter, page 248 and give us an opportunity hereafter of landing where ever we please without running the risk of being obligd to commit the cruelties which the Spaniards and most others who have been in these seas have often brought themselves under the dreadfull nescessity of being guilty of, for guilty I must call it.
7. This morn at day break Land in sight again, by 8 O'Clock came up with an Island made up like the last of narrow slips of land and reefs of rocks, the greatest part of the land lookd green and pleasant but it was without cocoa nut trees or any sign of inhabitants.1
I purposely omit to mention the size of these Islands as it is almost impossible to guess at, and very dificult to give an idea of the contents of narrow strips of land which run one within another as a ribband thrown carelessly down would do. If you measure the lengh of it, it 4 or 5 times exceeds the space of sea that it occupies, if the circumference, such land of 100 Leagues in circumference would scarce contain 100 square miles; if the Space of sea that they occupy you err as much, for of that 20, 40, nay sometimes 100 parts are sea for one of land, tho that sea is so shut in by banks and reefs that no ship can get into it.
8. Pleasant breeze but we have as yet found the trade hardly so strong as it was in the Atlantick. At 2 O'Clock Land was seen from the masthead, the ship stands for it and about sunset came abreast of it distant 2 leagues. It prove'd an Island larger than any we had seen as it extended 6 or 7 leagues, it was every where coverd with plenty of large trees probably Cocoa nuts and it is also inhabited as2 we judge from a smoak rising from among the trees; in everything it appeard exactly of the same nature with the rest which we have seen.3 We could plainly distinguish it in some places broken off into reefs behind which we saw distant land and thence judg'd that there was a lagoon within it; the land however appeard to be broader than any we had seen before.
1 Marginal note, ‘Bird Island’. Cook notes, ‘there is some wood upon it but no Inhabitants but birds and for this reason is call'd Bird Island’.—I, p. 72. It was Reitoru.
2 I substitute this as for Banks's &. SP read &.
3 Marginal note, ‘Chain Island’. Anaa.
4 i.e. clew, a ball of thread or yarn.
5 sic; perhaps a slip for to. S at P at.
Take a strong Iron bound cask for no weak or wooden bound one should ever be trusted in a long voyage, take out the head and when the whole is well cleand cover the bottom with salt. Then take the Cabbage and stripping off the outside leaves take the rest leaf by leaf till you come to the heart which cut into four; these leaves and heart lay upon the Salt about 2 or 3 inches thick and sprinkle Salt pretty thick over them and lay cabbage upon the salt stratum super thick till the cask is full. Then lay on the head of the cask with a weight which in 5 or 6 days will have pressd the cabbage into a much smaller compass. After this fill up the cask with more cabbage as before directed and Head it up. N.B. the Cabbage should be gatherd in dry weather some time after sun rise that the dew may not be upon it. Halves of cabbages are better for keeping than single leaves.
10. Last night a halo was observ'd round the moon which was followd by a very disagreable night, the wind being all round the compass and sometimes blowing very fresh with severe thunder and lightning and very heavy rain.
This morning the wind from N to NW, the weather very hazey and thick. About 9 it cleard up a little and showd us Osnabrug Island2 discoverd by the Dolphin in her last voyage, it was distant about 6 leagues and appeard like a very short cone. Very light winds NW. About one land was seen ahead in the direction of Georges Land, it was however so faint that very few could see it. Soon after it was seen off the deck in the same faint manner but appearing high. Our distance when it was first seen was 25 leagues. At sun set the ship was nearly abreast Osnabrug Island 2 or 3 leagues from it, it appeard to have many trees upon it but in some parts the rocks were quite bare.
1 This pickled cabbage is not to be confused with the sauerkraut on which Cook set such store as a preservative of health.
2 Spelt Osnabrugh in the margin, and by Cook Osnaburg. The name was given by Wallis, who discovered it in 1767; Bougainville called it Le Boudoir. Mehetia or Maitea.
As soon as I came down a shark att the stern attackd the net in which tomorrows dinner was towing to freshen, we hookd and took him just as it became dark.
11. Up at 5 this morn to examine the shark who proves to be A blew Shark Squalus glaucus1 while we were doing it 3 more came under the Stern of which we soon caught 2 which were common grey Sharks Squalus Carcharias,2 on one of whom were some sucking fish Echinus remora.3 The seamen tell us that the blew shark is worst of all sharks to eat, indeed his smell is abominably strong so as we had two of the better sort he was hove overboard.
Little wind and variable with Squalls from all points of the Compass bringing heavy rain. Georges Island in sight appearing very high in the same direction as the land was seen last night, so I found the fault was in our eyes yesterday tho the non-seers were much more numerous in the ship than the seers.
Today and yesterday many birds were about the ship among which a bird which I took to be the common tropick bird Phaeton æthereus was one, he was about the size of our tropick bird but differd from him in having black barrs upon his back and the long feathers in his tail white,4 so much I say5 but the weather was so uncertain that I could not go out to shoot one.
Calm this even, at sunset Georges Land appeard plain tho we had not neard it much: since the clouds went from the tops of the hills it appeard less high than it did tho it certainly is very high.
As I am now on the brink of going ashore after a long passage thank god in as good health as man can be I shall fill a little paper in describing the means which I have taken to prevent the scurvy in particular.
1 Prionace glauca. There are two signed and dated paintings by Parkinson, I, pls. 49, 50, of this fish.
2 Now Carcharodon carcharias. This species had been taken in the Atlantic; cf. September 29, 1768.
3 Remora remora.
4 The White-tailed Tropic Bird; when immature these birds have crescentic black bars on their upper parts.
5 The MS is a mixture of saw and say. S say, P say.
6 This was a decoction of malt, used as a standard remedy for scurvy: ‘the Sanguine and well-grounded expectations of the certain efficacy the Wort possesses to cure the Sea-scurvy and the very great probability of that distemper raging at some time or other in the course of a long voyage induced, I apprehend, the Rt Honourb10 the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to send out a quantity of Malt in the Endeavour …’.— William Perry the surgeon reporting to Cook at the end of the voyage, end. in Cook to Stephens, 12 July 1771, P.R.O. Adm 1/1609.
12. Very nearly calm all last night, Georges Land was now but little nearer to us than last night, the tops of the hills were wrap'd in clouds. About 7 a small breze sprung up and we saw some Canoes coming off to us, by ten or eleven they were up with us. I forbear to say any thing about either people or canoes as I shall have so many better opportunities of observing them: we however bought their cargoes consisting of fruits and cocoa nuts which were very acceptable to us after our long passage.
1 Banks had Hulme's letter bound up in his journal at this point: see p. 243, n. 2 above, and Appendix, II, p. 301.