The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks 1768–1771 [Volume Two]
11. Banks to the Comte de Lauraguais
11. Banks to the Comte de Lauraguais
[Mitchell Library Ms. The Ms, a copy, is accompanied by a letter of 8 pp. folio, closely written, evidently from Lauraguais to D'Alembert — though this is no page 324 where explicitly stated: it is a sort of dissertation on Bougainville and Banks, sings the praises of the latter, and announces a second voyage by him. It is endorsed by Banks, ‘Mr Lauragais Mss. which I stoppd in the Press’. Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, pp. 313–20, prints Banks's letter from a copy of the printed document which escaped destruction (Edge-Partington coll.). As this was formerly in the possession of Edward Stanhope, one of Banks's heirs, it is probable that Banks retained it himself. This printed version is a good deal revised; its original, says Cameron, was sold ‘some years ago’, and has a note on it in Banks's hand, ‘Abstract of Endeavour's voyage written for Count Lauragais who printed it. I seized the impression and burn'd it’.]
My Dear Count,
The abstract of my Voyage which I have so long Promis'd you, I at last begin to write: the multiplicity of employments in wch I am engaged will I know, with you plead my excuse for having so long delay'd it.
On the 25th of August 1768 we set sail from Plymouth and on ye 12 of Sepr arriv'd at Madeira after a moderate, Passage. Here we were receiv'd with great Civility by our Consul, and not uncivily by the Portuguese Governor: and during our stay we collected some specimens of Natural Curiosities not unworthy our Notice.
On ye 18th of ye same Month we set Sail from yt Place, and on the 13th of November arriv'd at Rio de janerio: where instead of being receivd as friends and allies, of his most faithful Majesty; orders were immediately issued out, yt every insult possible should be offered to the officers of our ship, whose duty obligd them to land: and as for us (Foutres Philosophers) we were refus'd to land, on any pretence whatsoever on the peril of being sent to Portugal in Irons. A thing I verily believe their absurd Viceroy would have done, had he caught either Dr Solander or myself upon any of our little Excursions.
Notwithstanding the Vigilance of his Excellence le Comte D'Azambusio, however we ventur'd a shore each of us once: and had several parcels of Plants brought off to us under the title of grass for our Cattle: as we were absolutely forbid to have them under any other Denomination.
The abject slavery of the Portuguese in this Colony, is beyond imagination: suffice it to say, that to prevent any attempt against Government, every officer and other person of any Distinction, is oblig'd to attend ye Levée of ye Viceroy twice every day; under penalty of his displeasure: which is follow'd by an Instant excommunication from all Society. For whoever speaks to a man under these circumstances, is instantly himself under ye same.
From these unfriendly and illiberal people, we departed on ye 7th of Decr not forgetting in our way out of ye Harbour to land upon a small Island Call'd Raza off ye mouth of it; where in a few hours we much increas'd our natural Collections.
On ye 15th of January we arriv'd at Terra del Fuego, and soon anchor'd page 325 in a small bay near ye middle of ye Streight le Maire, which had been formerly call'd by the Nassau fleet the Bay of good Success: here we lay some Days in a tolerable Harbour, which offered plenty of Woods and water; and an innumerable quantity of Plants incomparably different from any which had before been describ'd by any writers on Botany. The inhabitants who were of a moderate size, were friendly to us: but seem'd to have no provisions to spare, nor if they had would it have suited our Palates: being generally the Flesh of Seals. We found however a kind of watercress (cerdamine) and a kind of Parcely (apium) which we made into Soupe; and no doubt, re'p’d benefit from their antiscorbutik virtues; tho’ in reality none of our people were absolutly ill of the scurvy.
From hence we Sail'd on ye 21st january, and having passed Cap Horn, and Pass'd sufficiently to the westward of ye Coast of America; we sail'd in almost a N.W. direction for ye Island of Otaheite; ye Taiti of Mr Bougainville, which was ye Place of our Destination. On ye 4th of April we saw land, may be the 4 Facardin1of that gentleman, and from thence passing by several low Islands, arriv'd at ye place of our Destination. On ye 13th of the same month the inhabitants receiv'd us wth great politeness: but it was visibly the Effect of Fear we immediately erected a small stockade defence, and in yt observ'd the transit of the Planet Venus over ye Sun on the of June 1769: for which observation we had ye most favourable weather imaginable.
1 The Ms here indicates a note, which however is not supplied. Cameron prints the following: ‘During March 1768, says Bougainville, we ran on the first sands and isles marked on the chart of M. Bellin, by the name of Quiro's Isles.—On the 22nd of that month, at six in the morning, we saw at once four little isles, bearing S.S.E. half E. and a little isle about four leagues West; the four isles called Les Quatre Facardins. Page 204.’ The four isles were, it seems, all part of the atoll of Vahitahi or Lagoon Island, the island sighted by the Endeavour on 4 April. The conte, Les Quatre Facardins, was a fragment, written in an intentionally exaggerated Arabian Nights style, by Count Anthony Hamilton (1646?–1720), which was printed at Paris in 1749, and appeared in an English translation, London 1760.
The coast of these Islands abounds in Harbours, the country is fertile, and ye Climate Temperate, the inhabitants are a Robust, lively and very ingenious People: they always strenuously oppos'd us, so that we sometimes were laid under the desagreeable necessity of effecting our Landing by Force; they were however when subdued, unalterably our friends and carried yt sentiment to lengths which in Europe we are unacquainted with, Notwth standing that their barbarous customs taught them to eat ye Bodies of such of their Enemies as were kill'd in Battle. But what surpriz'd us ye most, was that notwithstanding ye distance, these people all along that large extent of Coasts, spoke different dialects of ye language of Otaheite, every one of which were tolerably well understood by ye Indian who accompanied us.
From these brave people we departed on the 1st of april 1770, and steering a Course nearly West in the 19th of ye same Month fell in wth the coast of new Holland in Latie 38 S. a coast which had never before been investigated by any navigator. Along this Coast we sail'd often carrying [sic] to an anchor, generally in very fine Harbours. ‘till on ye 10th of June we struck upon a Rock in Latie 15 S. nearly about ye same place where Mr Bougainville heard ye voice of God:2 on this Rock we lay 23 hours in ye utmost danger; and when ye ship got off, which was effected by throwing over board almost every thing heavy, we found her so leaky, that she would hardly swim: we got her however into a small harbour, where with great difficulty in two Months we refitted her.
1 ‘firm land’, the Spanish tierra firme, mainland or continent.
2 This is a reference to Bougainville's description of his approach to the Great Barrier Reef, 6 June 1768. He was sailing west from the New Hebrides. He writes, ‘La mer brisoit avec fureur sur ces écueils, et quelques têtes de roches s’élevoient sur l'eau de distance en distance. Cette derniere rencontre étoit la voix de Dieu et nous y fûmes dociles. La prudence ne permettant pas de suivre pendant la nuit une route incertaine au milieu de ces parages funestes, nous la passâmes à courir des bords dans l'espace que nous avions reconnu le jour, et le 7 au matin, je fis gouverner au Nord-Est-quart-Nord, abandonnant le projet de pousser plus loin à l'Ouest sous la parallele de 15 degrés’.—Voyage autour du Monde (Paris 1771), p. 257. He pushed north into the dreadful embarrassments of the coasts of New Guinea and the Louisiade Archipelago.
After having repaird our ship as well as we could, we, on ye 4th of august sallied first into a sea of Dangers, more difficult to imagine than to describe:2without a wall of rocks, ran paralel to ye shore at ye distance of 8 or 10 Leagues within were Shoals innumerable, which ye smoothness of ye water, caus'd by the barrier that prevented our retreat, prevented us from discovering. In this Sea of Dangers we remaind, after having once escaped and having been driven back again into it with ye utmost hazard of our Lives ’till we carried in Latie 10 S. where to our great Joy we discoverd an opening to ye west of us, which seem'd to promise a passage into ye Indian Sea: we accordingly followed it and found it indeed a Streigth between New Guinea and New Holland through which we passed and became at once easy and happy.
We now resolved to see the Coast of new Guinea, in order to ascertain whether or no ye Chart has laid down that Country in a right Position: and accordingly on ye 3d of sepr fell in wth it about the Island of Vleer Moyen, as it is laid in the Charts of the ingenious President de Brosses.3 From hence we coasted along round the cape St Augustin: finding the land very low every where, and shoaling off so far, that in 6 fathom of water we sometimes could not see it from ye deck, nor could we ever get nearer it than a league, tho’ our ship did not draw above 13 feet of Water.
Nearly about the place call'd Keer Veer in ye Dutch Charts, we landed with our Boat, and Saw Cocoa nut trees, and a fertile or at least a Rich Soil: the natives soon attack'd us wth their arrows, and we being but 8 in number not able to bring our ship nearer, than a League, or our Boat than a quart[er] of a Mile of the Shore, we were oblig'd to retire: wch we did in Safety, tho’ followed by near 300 of ye inhabitants; who to our great surprise threatened us with fire thronk4 out of reeds, I know not how, but exactly ressembling the flash of an Musquet so much so, that those who remain'd in the ship were much alarm'd.
1 sic, i.e. bearded.
2 Does he mean the reverse—‘more difficult to describe than to imagine’?
3 The Ms has here a marginal note: ‘author of L'Histoire des Navigations aux Terres Australes’.
4 sic; obviously a slip for ‘thrown’.
Tho’ we had been remarkably Healthy, through the great Variety of climates which we had pass'd before, yet the uncommon Malignity of ye air of Batavia so fatal to Europeans, was not the less terrible during our stay here about two Months, and afterwards at sea of Distempers contracted here:1 we lost above ⅓ of our people among whom were all my Artists, and the two poor Indians, whose loss especially I much regretted, I hope[d] to have pleas'd my country men much with the answers they would have made to their questions; wch I was capable of doing having learnt tolerably well their Language.
From hence touching at the Cape of good hope and St Helena, as is ye Custom of India ships, we arriv'd in the Downs on ye 13th of July 1771 so well satisfy'd with the discoveries which we had made in ye three Kingdoms of nature, that we resolv'd to solicit the Government to furnish Ships for an other undertaking of ye same Nature which they have accordingly done: and in the Month of March 1772 we hope to enter upon our new undertaking
The Number of Natural productions discover'd in this Voyage is incredible: about 1000 Species of Plants that have not been at all describ'd by any Botanical author; 500 fish, as many Birds, and insects Sea and Land innumerable: out of these some considerable oeconomical purposes may be answer'd particularly with the fine Dyes2 of the Otaheitians and the Plant of which the new Zealanders make their Cloth of which we have brought over ye seeds. The fine red Colour us'd by the inhabitants of the Islands situated between the tropicks in the South Sea the tinge of which seems to be between that of Scarlet and a pink is made by mixing the juice of the Fruit of a Fig Tree suppos'd to be peculiar to those Islands with the juice of the Leaves of the Cordia Sebestena orientalis Lenius.3
NB: The fig tree is now describ'd under the name of Ficus Tinctoria and probably did not escape the researches of so accurate a Botaniste as Mr de Commerson who sail'd with Mr Bougainville, is disputed4 to be.—Quadrupedes we found few and none remarkable but one Species totally different from any known kind the full grown of it was as large as Sheep, Yet went totally on its hind legs as the Ferbua and the Tarsier of De Buffon, yet in every other part of its external Structure was totally different from either of these Animals.
1 Ms ‘contracted: here’ etc, which leads to a quite erroneous statement, as only a few men died actually at Batavia.
2 Ms ‘Clayes’ with the ‘a’ deleted; obviously ‘Dyes’ is meant; Cameron prints ‘dye’
3 i.e. Linnaeus.
4 sic, i.e. ‘reputed’.
Your oblig'd and affectionate
sign'd Jos. BanksLondon xxxx December 1771