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

June 1771

June 1771

1. Trade more moderate and pleasant weather.

2. Saw some Gulph-weed3 today for the first time.

3. This day passd under the Sun and were for the last time Ascii.4 Showers and squalls of Wind; saw more Gulph weed.

4. Gulph-Weed rather increasd.

5. Less Gulph weed than yesterday, so least we should leave its station we began to catch it by means of a pole with 6 large hooks fastned to its end. Out of it we took Scyllæa pelagica,5 Medusa Porpita6 Syngnathus pelagicus7 and Lophius pelagicus8 and Cancer minutus.9

3 Any one of several species of Sargassum, a most prolific species being S. natans (L.) Meyen, a species known only in the free-floating condition and one which has never been found with reproductive organs. Peter Osbeck noted that ‘the Grass-Sea is that part of the ocean in which the East India sailors meet with seaweed (Fucus natans) swimming in greater or less quantities; though all sorts of Fucus are called sea-weeds’.—Voyage, II, p. 109. Osbeck entered the Grass-Sea in lat. 17½° N and long. 22½° from Ascension Island, and 37° 21′ W from London; the algae lasted to lat. 24½° N and long. 24½° W from Ascension, and 39° 9′ W from London.

4 A rather high-flown way of signifying that the ship had passed the Tropic of Cancer. Cook gives the latitude for June 3 as 22° 21′ N, and for June 4 as 23° 40′. Ascius, a not very common word in Latin, from the Greek askios, shadowless. Pliny, Natural History, Bk II, chap. 75, attributes to Onesicritus, the Greek historian and geographer, the information that the constellation of the Bears ‘is not visible at the places in India where there are no shadows, and that these places are called Shadeless (ascia), and no reckoning is kept of the hours there’. (Loeb ed., 1938, H. Rackham, I, p. 319). The word is also used by St Ambrose. It is unlikely that Banks was acquainted with either Onesicritus or the early Christian Fathers, but it is quite probable that he had picked up some Pliny in his general scientific reading, and, passing ‘under the sun’, extended the term ascii to mean dwellers in the tropics generally.—I owe light on this rather recondite allusion to my colleague, Professor H. A. Murray. S has the note, ‘Being perpendicularly under the Sun: consequently they had no shadows’.

5 A nudibranch mollusc given this scientific name by Linnaeus.

6 Porpita porpita. See 30 September 1768.

7 Syngnathus pelagicus Linn. This fish is still known by the same name.

8 Probably Histrio histrio, a frog-fish.

9 Planes minutus.

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6. More Gulf-weed in which took up several individuals of the aformentiond species, besides which were caught Cancer pelagicus1 and a shrimp not describd. Several tropick birds were seen2 all of which flew in a strait line towards the Coast of Africa.

7. Still more Gulph-weed, in general laying in long lines upon the water of a very small breadth but extending in lengh as far as the eye could reach. More Tropick birds were seen most of which flew as yesterday and one black shearwater.3

8. Less Gulph-Weed; 2 Tropick birds flying as before.

9. Scarce any weed, the water smooth as if there had been no wind for some time in these Lat.

10. Still Light winds and no sea; very little weed.

11. Rather more weed than lately. Quite calm so that I went out in the boat and took up many individuals of all the species mentiond before but nothing new.

12. Water as smooth as in a harbour: were we in an unknown sea we should build much on the probability of some Land in the neighbourhood. Some Porpoises and Skipjacks were seen but very little weed.

14. Light winds and smooth water; two turtle were seen and a little Gulph-weed.

15. Saw a small sloop which we soon outsaild and left behind. No weed at all today.

16. Spoke an homeward-bound Brazil-man4 and soon left him.

17. Saw two Ships very far off.

18. Saw 3 New En[g]Iand Schooners cruising for whales. Sent a boat on board one who told us that he had yesterday spoke an outward bound Englishman, who told him that all was peace in Europe, and that the Spanyards had agreed to pay the Manilla ransom with interest in one year and a million of Dollars for damages done at Falklands Islands.5

1 Neptunus pelagicus.

2 Both the Red-billed and the White-tailed Tropic Birds occur in this region.

3 Possibly Bulweria bulwerii (Jardine and Selby), Bulwer's Petrel. This bird breeds at Madeira, the Canary and the Cape Verde Islands.

4 Cook (p. 474): ‘a Portuguese ship from Rio de Janeiro bound to Lisbon’.

5 These last reports seem to have been ‘exaggerated’. Manila had been taken by a British fleet and an East India Company force in the closing stages of the Seven Years’ War, 6 October 1762. The Spanish authorities there agreed to ransom the city and its contents for 4 million dollars, paying half in money and drawing bills for the rest on the Treasury at Madrid. But the news of the conquest reached Europe only after the conclusion of the peace negotiations. England handed back the Philippines and the Spanish government refused to honour the bills. The ‘Manila ransom’ became a standing source of irritation, and in fact was never paid.

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The vessel had by their own account been out 5 weeks and caught nothing; they had chasd a whale 60 Leagues into Fyall1 harbour into which they could not follow it as the Portugese suffer no Whaler to go into any of their Ports in the Western Islands.2 They had they said no meat on board but livd upon what they could catch; they sold us readily 4 large Albacores saying that they could catch more. As for American news King George they said had behavd very ill for some time but they had brought him to terms at last.3

20. Saw a large ship ahead which on our lowering our foretopsail hoisted a flag at her maintopmast head; she soon however made sail and left us.

21. About noon we discoverd a fleet of 13 sail of large ships on our weather quarter; these we doubted not were our consorts the India fleet. One Shearwater was seen.

22. The Fleet held so much better a wind than us that the[y] fairly went out of sight to windward of us, who indeed had split both our Topgallant sails in a squall.

23. Wind very foul. Saw one Shearwater: the reason of so few having been seen this passage may be that during their breeding time they do not wander far out at Sea.

30. Both yesterday- and today a few Shearwaters were seen; in the night many were about the ship crying very much.

1 Fayal.

2 The Azores.

3 This seems to refer to the repeal in 1770 of the ‘Townshend duties’ on colonial imports, as a result of the American non-importation measures and devotion to homespun—a repeal which gave great satisfaction in the colonies. Cook adds (p. 474), ‘to Confirm this the Master [of a Rhode Island schooner] said that the Coat on his back was made in Old England’.