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

3. Solander to Lord Morton

3. Solander to Lord Morton

To the Right Honourable the Earl of Morton,
President of the Royal Society
My Lord,

From Madeira I had the Honour to wait upon Your Lordship, just at our arrival into the port of Funchale, where we did not stay above six days; we were lucky enough there to become acquainted with Doctr Thomas Heberden (brother of Dr William, both Fellows of the Royal Society) who is not alone universally beloved but almost worshiped by every inhabitant of that place. His extensive knowledge in Physick and other Sciences, with the additional Title of Fellow of the Royal Society, have made him the Oracle of the Island. It is impossible to conceive what a high Idea they have got of the Royal Society of London from him, who is its only Member there, and so superior to all in real knowledge; it was sufficient to be of his Acquaintance, to get access to almost every thing. They even opened the Gates of a Nunnery to us, and when the Nuns heard that we belonged to the R. Society, they immediately concluded that we must be Conjurers, and wanted us to tell them Signs of Thunder and Tempests, to find out a place in their Garden where they might dig for Water, &c. in a word, we were kindly received by everybody. The Monks of a Convent invited us to dine with them, and, notwithstanding it was a Fish day, a fat Turkey and a piece of Beef was brought in for us. The Governor was very civil; he honoured us with a visit. Very differently have we been treated here. Tantalus coud never have been more tantalised, than we have been at Rio Janeiro. After a two months long Sea passage, we rejoiced to see Land, and flattered our selves with the hope of Pleasures unknown to them that are not enthusiastically curious. Every prospect promised us entertainment. We passed by Hills and Shores that we coud see were covered with Palms and fine Trees unknown to us; so were we impatient to get into the harbour: At last we anchored among 30 or 40 ships, within a quarter of a mile of a large well built Town; so nothing remained but to land when we observed a Guard-boat full of soldiers rowing round our ship, and were afterwards told that none of our Ship had leave to go on shore, but those that had to do with the bringing off water and other necessary Provisions for the ships Company. The particular Insults the Captain and his Officers have met with, I believe he has acquainted the Admiralty with; but it will be impossible to describe our disappointment. All intercourse with the Inhabitants has been hindered; so we have not had one Portugueze boat near our Ship, and only twice seen people from the shore, when two English Gentlemen now residing here, were sent in the Guard-boat to us, to interpret the Vice Roys Letters. Several Letters and Remonstrances have passed page 312 between our Captain, Mr Banks, and the Vice Roy, Conde de Azambuja; whose answers generally were, that he had Orders from his Court to treat all foreign Ships in this manner but to compleat our Mortification, a small Spanish Man of War came into this harbour about eight days ago, and we saw her Officers and Passengers immediately get leave to land, and to live on shore; when we have been obliged to stay on board all the time we have been here, very near three weeks; which, in so hot a climate, and in this land-lock't harbour, where we sometimes have hardly had a breath of air, has been very disagreeable, especially the days when our Ship was heeled down for cleaning; during which time we hardly coud walk. We then sent our Compliments to the Vice Roy, and begged he would grant us leave to land in any of the small Islands in the harbour, and that under Guard; but he even denied us this request. The Spanish Gentlemen dined on board our ship, the day after their arrival, and in the Evening invited us to go with them to the Opera, where they had, on purpose bespoke a large Box, not knowing our circumstances: We were in an awkward situation, being almost ashamed of telling them the reasons of our refusal. The Spanish Ship is a Pacquet from Buonas Ayres to Cadix; and it is in her we now send our Letters to Europe. Politeness and Science seem not yet to have found their way to this part of the World; The want of the former we have experienced every day; when the Vice Roy, in his Letters and Messages, among other things, has upbraided us with coming in a ship whose outside does not carry the appearance of a King's Ship; and from thence, I believe, he has likewise insinuated doubts of Captn Cook's Commission. I wish we had been able to make a little better shew: Our having so few Guns, and no Head,1 nor Quarter Galleries, is something they cannot reconcile with the Idea of a Man of War or King's Ship. How little they know of Sciences, Captn Cook had an opportunity of hearing from the Vice Roy himself, and likewise from others. They said he was going to observe, as they well knew, how the North Star passes to the South Pole next year: As absurd as this is to men of sense, so is it, that the whole Town of Janeiro believe it. This Place abounds with variety of Fish; we have been able to pick up from the Markets above fourty or fifty Species not before described. Our few botanical Collections have been made by clandestinely hiring people; and we have got them on board under the name of Greens for our Table. Now and then have we botanised in the bundles of Grass that have been brought for our Goats and Sheep. I don't believe Natural Historians have been worse off any where, than we are here. A large Guard-boat rows constantly round our Ship, to prevent any communication with the Shore. At Sea we have been very fortunate in finding a great many Sea Productions, that I hope will be better cleared up by us, than they have been by any one before, especially as Mr Banks's People have had an opportunity of drawing them when fresh and alive.

page 313
I have the Honour to remain
Your Lordships
most obedient and most
humble Servant

Dan. Ch. Solander

Rio de Janeiro
on board the Endeavour

1 i.e. figure-head.