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The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks 1768–1771 [Volume One]

[August 1769]

page 387

[August 1769]

15. Grossd the tropick this morn, wind North and weather very pleasant; at night wind rather variable.

16. Soon after we rose this morn we were told that land was in sight; it provd to be a cloud but at first sight was so like land that it deceivd every man in the ship, even Tupia gave it a name. The ship bore down towards it but in about 3 hours all hands were convened that it was but a cloud.

17. A heavy swell from the SW all day so we are not yet under the Lee of the continent:1 in the Even no wind. Our Taros (roots of the Yam kind calld in the W. Indies Cocos) faild us today, many of them were rotten; they would probably have kept longer had we had either time or opportunity of drying them well, but I beleive that at the best they are very much inferior to either Yamms or potatoes for keeping.

18. SE swell continues today with little wind at N.

19. Weather and swell much as yesterday; some of our people tell me that they have seen Albatrosses both yesterday and the day before.

20. A Large Albatross about the ship most of the day.2 Little wind, the swell less than yesterday but still troublesome, at night a heavy Dew.

21. A fine breeze at NW. Some Pintado birds (Proc. capensis)3 about the ship. This day our Plantains faild us, they were all eat, not one ever was rotten. Indeed since we left Ulhietea the Hogs have almost intirely subsisted upon them, of which we have no small number who I fear will feel the loss of them most sensibly as not one I beleive has yet eat the smallest proportion of English food.

22. Fresh breeze of wind but little sea. Several Albatrosses and Pintado birds about the ship today.

23. Light breeze. Our hogs and fowls begin to die apace, of the latter a great many, want of proper food and cold which now begins

1 The great Pacific swell, to those who had experienced it, was a continual incitement to scepticism about the southern continent; but Banks's phrasing implies his belief that the continent existed.

2 Probably the Wandering Albatross (see Fleming, Emu, 49, 1950, p. 182).

3 The Cape Pigeon, Daption capensis.

page 388 to pinch even us is I suppose the cause. Afternoon calm, many Albatrosses and Pintado birds about the ship.

24. The morning was calm. About 9 it began to blow fresh with rain which came on without the least warning, at the same time a water spout was seen to leward; it appeard to me so inconsiderable that had I not been shewd it I should not have particularly notic'd the apearance; it resembled a line of thick mist, as thick as a midling tree, which reachd not in a strait line almost to the waters edge and in a few minutes totaly disapeard; its distance I suppose made it appear so trifling, as the Seamen judg'd it not less than 2 or 3 miles from us. Many Birds about the ship, Pintado, Common and Southern Albatross.1

25. Less wind today but the swell occasiond by yesterdays wind still troublesome. Birds today about the ship Pintado, Common and Southern Albatross and a shearwater in size and shape like the common, but grey or whitish on the head and back.2 It was this day a twelvemonth since we left England, in consequence of which a peice of Cheshire cheese was taken from a locker where it had been reservd for this occasion and a cask of Porter tappd which provd excellently good, so that we livd like English men and drank the hea[l]ths of our freinds in England.

26. Few birds today cheifly Albatrosses, few pintados. In the evening several grampuses3 about the ship.

27. Pleasant breeze: birds today as plentifull as ever, Albatrosses of both kinds, Pintados and grey shearwaters.

28. Birds as yesterday with the addition of a kind of shearwater, quite black, the same as was seen and shot on the 21st of March last in our passage to the westward (p. atrata).4 Tupia not well today, he complains of a pain in his stomach; his distemper probably proceeds from cold of which we have for some days past had more than from our latitude we shoud have expected. One of the seamen Rayden by name was this morn found so drunk that he had scarce any signs of life and in about an hour he expird.5 Where he could

1 It is difficult to discover what Banks regarded as the Southern Albatross.

2 Probably the White-headed Petrel, Pterodroma lessonii (Garnot). See 19 September 1769 below.

3 Possibly the Killer Whale, Orcinus area.

4 Procellaria alrata: the Herald Petrel was taken on 21 March 1769, and this was probably the same species (see Murphy and Pennoyer, Amer. Mus. Novit., 1580, 1952, p. 39).

5 The man's name (variously spelt) was John Reardon; he was the boatswain's mate. Hicks records that ‘his death was occasioned by His drinking three half pints of Rum’ (Turnbull MS); given him by the boatswain says Cook, ‘out of mere good nature’, so that the unfortunate toper at least got his liquor fairly.

page 389 have got his liquor is a mystery which however nobody seems to enquire into, probably not fairly. I have more than once had occasion to congratulate myself on my prudence in not taking wine on board at Madera, as I beleive I may safely say that there is not a cask on board the ship that has not been tap'd to the great dissatisfaction of the owners, who in general have had the comfort to find the gentlemen honest enough not to have filld up with salt water; in some cases however this was not a Consideration of much comfort as many of the casks were ⅔ empty and some quite.

29. Very moderate and pleasant, scarce any motion; few or no birds about the ship. In the course of last night a phenomenon was seen in the heavens which Mr Green says is either a comet or a Nebulus he does not know which, the Seamen have observd it these 3 nights.1

30. Our Comet is this morn acknowledged and proves a very large one but very faint. Tupia as soon as he saw it declard that the people of Bola bola would upon the sight of it kill the people of Ulhietea who would as many as could fly into the mountains. More sea today than yesterday heaving in from WSW. Several birds, Pintados, Albatross's of both kinds, the little silver backd bird which we saw off Faukland Isles and Cape Horn, Pr. velox2 and grey shearwater.3 Peter saw a green bird about the size of a dove, the colour makes us hope that it is a land bird,4 it took however not the least notice of the ship. Some sea weed was also seen to pass by the ship but as it was a very small peice our hopes are not very sanguine on that head. The thermometer today 52 which pinches us much who are so lately come from a countrey where it was seldom less than 80. A swell from SW.

31. Blows fresh this morn with a good deal of sea; about 7 in the morn a heap of sea weed passd the ship. An immense quantity of birds are about her today: Albatrosses of both kinds which are

1 For this ‘Comet of 1769’, which created much contemporary excitement, cf. Cook I, p. 160, n, 2.

2 According to Banks's entries for 31 August and 19 September (pp. 390 and 392 below), it is clear that he used Solander's MS name (pp. 67–8) of Procellaria velox for a species of Pachyptila or Halobaena, whereas it clearly applies to a gadfly petrel (cf. 15 February 1769); one of these was taken on 19 September. Solander gave a clear description of Pachyptila vittata Forst. on 2 October (p. 61), saying that it was blue-grey above with a conspicuous oblique dark streak.

3 This particular bird is unidentifiable. There are no drawings or descriptions of a grey shearwater of this date.

4 Unidentifiable; there are no green sea-birds, but it is possible that this was a Golden Plover going southward on migration. Dr D. L. Serventy states that at sea the plumage of these birds sometimes appears to have a greenish gloss.

page 390 easily distinguishd one from the other by their beaks, which in, one is white in the other black;1 also large black shearwaters and a smaller sort with grey backs,2 Pintados; but above all many millions I may safely say of the small bird mentiond yesterday about as large as a dove, greyish on the back, some with a dark colourd mark going in a crooked direction on that and its wings.3 I try'd today to catch some of these numerous attendants with a hook but after the whole morning spent in the atempt caught only one Pintado which provd to be Procellaria capensis of Linnæus.

1 ‘Albatrosses of both kinds’: Wandering Albatrosses have pale bills throughout life; immatures of Diomedea melanophris Temminck, the Biack-browed Albatross, and of D. chrysostoma Forster, the Grey-headed Albatross, have very dark bills, and both occur in these seas. According to Fleming (Emu, 49, 1950, p. 183) D. melanophris is the albatross most commonly seen in the area.

2 Several dark shearwaters occur here. The smaller bird with a grey back may have been Pterodroma lessonii (Garnot), to which Solander gave the name of Procellaria vagabunda. See 19 September below.

3 A flock of whale birds; Pachyptila vittata is common here.