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An Account of the Voyages undertaken by the order of His Present Majesty, for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, and successively performed by Commodore Byron, Captain Wallis, Captain Carteret, and Captain Cook, in the Dolphin, the Swallow, and the Endeavour: Drawn from the Journals which were kept by the several Commanders, and from the Papers of Joseph Banks, Esq. [Vol. II]

Chap. XVI

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Chap. XVI.

Our Arrival at the Cape of Good Hope; some Remarks on the Run from Java Head to that Place; a Description of the Cape, and of Saint Helena; with some Account of the Hottentots, and the Return of the Ship to England.

On Friday the 15th of March, about ten o'clock in the morning, we anchored off the Cape of Good Hope, in seven fathoms, with an oozy bottom. The west point of the bay, called the Lion's Tail, bore W.N.W. and the castle S.W. distant about a mile and a half. I immediately waited upon the Governor, who told me, that I should have every thing the country afforded. My first care was to provide a proper place a-shore for the sick, which were not a few; and a house was soon found, where it was agreed they should be lodged and boarded at the rate of two shillings a head per day.

Our run, from Java Head to this place, afforded very few subjects of remark that can be of use to future navigators: such as occurred, however, I shall set down. We had lest Java Head eleven days before we got the general south-east trade-wind, during which time we did not advance above 5° to the southward, and 3° to the west, having variable light airs, interrupted by calms, with sultry weather and an unwholesome air, occasioned probably by the load of vapours which the eastern trade-wind and westerly monsoons bring into these latitudes, both which blow in these seas at the time of year when we happened to be there. The easterly wind prevails as far as 10 or 12° S. and the westerly as far as 6 or 8°; in the intermediate space the winds are variable, and the air, I believe, always unwholesome: it certainly aggravated the diseases which we brought with us from Batavia, and particularly the flux, which was not in the least degree checked by any medicine, so that whoever was seized with it considered himself as a dead man; but we had no sooner got into the trade-wind, than we began to feel its salutary effects: we buried, indeed, several of our people after-wards, page 526 but they were such as had been taken on board in a state so low and feeble, that there was scarcely a possibility of their recovery. At first we suspected that this dreadful disorder might have been brought upon us by the water that we took on board at Prince's Island, or even by the turtle that we bought there; but there is not the least reason to believe that this suspicion was well grounded; for all the ships, that came from Batavia, at the same season, suffered in the same degree, and some of them even more severely, though none of them touched at Prince's Island in their way.

A few days after we left Java, we saw boobies about the ship for several nights successively; and as these birds are known to roost every night on shore, we thought them an indication that some island was not far distant; perhaps it might be the island of Selam, which in different charts, is very differently laid down both in name and situation.

The variation of the compass off the west coast of Java is about 3° W. and so it continued, without any sensible variation, in the common track of ships, to the longitude of 288° W. latitude 22° S. after which it increased apace, so that in longitude 295°, latitude 23°, the variation was 10° 20′ W. In seven degrees more of longitude, and one of latitude, it increased two degrees. In the same space, farther to the west, it increased five degrees; in latitude 28°, longitude 314°, it was 24° 20′; in latitude 29°, longitude 317°, it was 26° 10′, and was then stationary for the space of about ten degrees farther to the west; but in latitude' 34°, longitude 333°, we observed it twice to be 280 ¼ W. and this was its greatest variation; for in latitude 35° ½, Iongitude 337°, it was 24°, and continued gradually to decrease; so that off Cape Anguillas it was 22° 30′ and in Table Bay 20° 30′ W.

As to currents, it did not appear that they were at all considerable, till we came within a little distance of the meridian of Madagascar; for after we had made 52° of longitude from Java Head, we found, by observation, that our error in longitude was only two degrees, and it was the same when we had made only nineteen. This error might be owing partly to a current setting to the westward, partly to our not making page 527 proper allowances for the setting of the sea before which we run, and perhaps to an error in the assumed longitude of Java Head. If that longitude is erroneous, the error must be imputed to the imperfection of the charts of which I made use in reducing the longitude from Batavia to that place; for there can be no doubt but that the longitude of Batavia is well determined. After we had passed the longitude of 307°, the effects of the westerly currents began to be considerable; for in three days our error in longitude was 10 5′. The velocity of the current kept increasing, as we proceeded to the westward, insomuch that for five days successively, after we made the land, we were driven to the S. W. or S. W. by W. not less than twenty leagues a day; and this continued till we were within sixty or seventy leagues of the Cape, where the current set some-times one way, and sometimes the other, though inclining rather to the westward.

After the boobies had left us, we saw no more birds till we got nearly a-breast of Madagascar, where, in latitude 27° ¾ S. we saw an albatross, and after that time we saw them every day in great numbers, with birds of several sorts, particularly one about as big as a duck, of a very dark brown colour, with a yellowish bill. These birds became more numerous as we approached the shore, and as soon as we got into soundings we saw gannets, which we continued to see as long as we were upon the bank which stretches off Anguillas to the distance of forty leagues, and extends along the shore to the eastward, from Cape False, according to some charts, one hundred and sixty leagues. The real extent of this bank is not exactly known; it is, however, useful as a direction to shipping when to haul in, in order to make the land.

While we lay here the Houghton Indiaman sailed for England, who, during her stay in India, lost by sick-ness between thirty and forty men, and when she left the Cape had many in a helpless condition with the scurvy. Other ships suffered in the same proportion, who had been little more than twelve months absent from England: our sufferings, therefore, were comparatively light, considering that we had been absent near three times as long.

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Having lain here to recover the sick, procure stores, and perform several necessary operations upon the ship and rigging, till the 13th of April, I then got all the sick on board, several of whom were still in a dangerous state, and, having taken leave of the Governor, I unmoored the next morning, and get ready to sail.

The Cape of Good Hope has been so often described, and is so well known in Europe, that I small mention only a few particulars, which in other relations are omitted or misrepresented.

Not with standing all that has been said to the contrary, no country that we saw during the voyage makes a more forlorn appearance, or is in reality a more sterile desart. The land over the Cape, which constitutes the peninsula formed by Table Bay on the north, and False Bay on the south, consists of high mountains, altogether naked and desolate: the land behind these to the east, which may be considered as the isthmus, is a plain of vast extent, consisting almost wholly of a light kind of sea-sand, which produces nothing but heath and is utterly incapable of cultivation. All the spots that will admit of improvement, which together bear about the same proportion to the whole as one to one thousand, are laid out in vineyards, orchards, and kitchen grounds; and most of these little spots lie at a considerable distance from each other. There is also the greatest reason to believe, that in the interior parts of this country, that which is capable of cultivation does not bear a greater proportion to that which is incorrigibly barren; for the Dutch told us, that they had settlements eight-and-twenty days journey up the country, a distance equal to at least nine hundred miles, from which they bring provisions to the Cape by land; so that it seems reasonable to conclude, that provisions are not to be had within a less compass. While we were at the Cape, a farmer came thither from the country, at the distance of fifteen days journey, and brought his) young children with him. We were surprised at this and asked him, if it would not have? been better to have lest them with his next neighbour? Neighbour! said the man, I have no neighbour within less than five days journey of me. Surely the country must be deplorably barren, in which those who page 529 settle only to raise provisions for a market, are dispersed at such distances from each other. That the country is every where destitute of wood appears to demonstration; for timber and planks are imported from Batavia, and fuel is almost as dear as food. We saw no tree, except in plantations near the town, that was six feet high; and the stems, that were not thicker than a man's thumb, had roots as thick as an arm or a leg; such is the influence of the winds here to the disadvantage of vegetation, setting the sterility of the soil out of the question.

The only town which the Dutch have built here is, from its situation, called Cape Town, and consists of about a thousand houses, neatly built of brick, and in general whited on the outside; they are, however, covered only with thatch, for the violence of the south-east winds would render any other roof inconvenient and dangerous. The streets are broad and commodious, all crossing each other at right angles. In the principal street there is a canal, on each side of which is planted a row of oaks, that have flourished tolerably well, and yield an agreeable shade; there is a canal also in one other part of the town, but the slope of the ground in the course of both is so great, that they are furnished with flood-gates, or locks, at intervals of little more than fifty yards.

A much greater proportion of the inhabitants are Dutch in this place than in Batavia; and as the town is supported principally by entertaining strangers, and supplying them with necessaries, every man, to a certain degree, imitates the manners and customs of the nation with which he is chiefly concerned. The ladies, however, are so faithful to the mode of their country, that not one of them will stir without a chaudpied, or chauffet, which is carried by a servant, that it may be ready to place under her feet whenever she shall sit down. This practice is the more remarkable, as very few of these chauffets have fire in them, which indeed the climate renders unnecessary.

The women in general are very handsome; they have fine clear skins, and a bloom of colour that indicates a purity of constitution, and high health. They make the best wives in the world, both as mistresses of a page 531 strangers of the rank of Gentlemen are always admitted, were suspended while we were there by the breaking out of the measles.

At the farther end of the High-street the company have a garden, which is about two thirds of an English mile long; the whole is divided by walks, that intersect each other at right angles, and are planted with oaks that are clipped into wall hedges, except in the centre walk, where they are suffered to grow to their full size, and afford an agreeable shade, which is the more welcome, as, except the plantations by the sides of the two canals, there is not a single tree that would serve even for a shepherd's bush, within many miles of the town. The greater part of this garden is kitchen ground; but two small squares are allotted to botanical plants, which did not appear to be so numerous by one half as they were when Odenland wrote his catalogue. At the farther end of the garden is a menagerie, in which there are many birds and beasts that are never seen in Europe, particularly a beast called by the Hottentots Coe Doe, which is as large as a horse, and has the sine spiral horns which are sometimes seen in private and public collections of curiosities.

Of the natives of this country we could learn but little, except from report; for there were none of their habitations, where alone they retain their original customs, within less than four days journey from the town; those that we saw at the Cape were all servants to Dutch farmers, whose cattle they take care of, and are employed in other drudgery of the meanest kind. These are in general of a slim make, and rather lean than plump, but remarkably strong, nimble, and active. Their size is nearly the same with that of Europeans, and we saw some that were six feet high; their eyes are dull, and without expression; their skins are of the colour of soot, but that is in a great measure caused by the dirt, which is so wrought into the grain that it cannot be distinguished from the complexion; for I believe they never wash any part of their bodies. Their hair curls strongly, not like a negroe's but falls in ringlets about seven or eight inches long. Their cloathing consists of a skin, generally that of a sheep, thrown over their shoulders; besides which the men wear page 532 a small pouch in the middle of the waist, and the women, a broad leather flap, both which hang from a girdle or belt that is adorned with beads and small pieces of copper. Both men and women wear necklaces, and sometimes bracelets, of beads; and the women wear rings of hard leather round their ancles, to defend them from the thorns, with which their country every where abounds: some of them have a sandal, made of wood or bark; but the greater part of them are unshod.

To a European, their language appears to be scarcely articulate; besides which it is distinguished by a very remarkable singularity. At very frequent intervals, while they are speaking, they cluck with the tongue against the roof of the mouth: these clucks do not appear to have any meaning, but rather to divide what they say into sentences. Most of these Hottentots speak Dutch, without any peculiarity of pronunciation.

They are all modest, even to sheepishness; for it was not without the greatest difficulty that we could persuade any of them to dance, or even to speak in their own language to each other, in our presence. We did however both see them dance, and hear them sing; their dances are by turns active and sluggish to excess; sometimes consisting of quick and violent motions, with strange distortions of the body, and unnatural leaps backwards, and forwards, with the legs crossing each other; and being sometimes so spiritless that the dancer only strikes the ground first with one foot, and then with the other, neither changing place nor moving any other part of his body: the songs also are alternately to quick and slow movement, in the same extremes as the dance.

We made many inquiries concerning these people of the Dutch, and the following particulars are related upon the credit of their report:

Within the boundaries of the Dutch settlements there are several nations of these people, who very much differ from each other in their customs and manner of life: all however are friendly and peaceable, except one clan that is settled to the eastward, which the Dutch call Bosch men, and these live entirely by plunder, or page 533 rather by theft; for they never attack their neighbours openly, but steal the cattle privately in the night. They are armed however to defend themselves, if they happen to be detected, with lances or assagays, and arrows, which they know how to poison by various ways; some with the juice of herbs, and some with the venom of the serpent called Cobra di Capelo. In the hands of these people a stone is also a very formidable weapon; for they can throw it with such force and exactness as repeatedly to hit a dollar at the distance of an hundred paces. As a defence against these freebooters, the other Indians train up bulls, which they place round their towns in the night, and which, upon the approach of either man or beast, will assemble and oppose them, till they hear the voice of their masters encouraging them to fight, or calling them off, which they obey with the same docility as a dog.

Some nations have the art of melting and preparing copper, which is found among them, probably native, and of this they make broad plates, which they wear as ornaments upon their foreheads. Some of them also know how to harden bits of iron, which they procure from the Dutch, and form into knives, so as to give them a temper superior to that of any they can buy.

The Chiefs, many of whom are possessors of very numerous herds of cattle, are generally clad in the skins of lions, tygers, or zebras, to which they add fringes, and other ornaments, in a very good taste. Both sexes frequently anoint the body with grease, but never use any that is rancid or fœtid, if fresh can be had. Mutton suet and butter are generally used for this purpose; butter is preferred, which they make by shaking the milk in a bag made of the skin of some beast.

We were told that the priest certainly gives the nuptial benediction by sprinkling the bride and bridegroom with his urine. But the Dutch universally declared, that the women never wrapped the entrails of sheep round their legs, as they have been said to do, and afterwards make them part of their food. Semicastration was also absolutely denied to be general; but it was acknowledged that some among the particular nation which knew how to melt copper had suffered that operation, page 534 who were said to be the best warriors, and particularly to excel in the art of throwing stones.

We were very desirous to determine the great question among natural historians, whether the women of this country have or have not that fleshy flap or apron which has been called the Sinus pudoris, and what we learned. I shall relate. Many of the Dutch and Malays, who said they had received favours from Hottentot women, positively denied its existence; but a physician of the place declared that he had cured many hundreds of venereal complaints, and never saw one without two fleshy, or rather skinny appendages, proceeding from the upper part of the Labia, in appearance somewhat resembling the teats of a cow, but flat; they hung down, he said, before the Pupendum, and were in different subjects of different lengths, in some not more than half an inch, in others three or four inches: these he imagined to be what some writers have exaggerated into a slap, or apron, hanging down from the bottom of the abdomen, of sufficient extent to render an artificial covering of the neighbouring parts unnecessary.

Thus much for the country, its productions, and inhabitants. The bay is large, safe, and commodious; it lies open indeed to the north-west winds, but they seldom blow hard; yet as they sometimes send in a great sea, the ships moor N. E. and S. W. so as to have an open hawser with north-west winds; the south-east winds blow frequently with great violence; but as this direction is right out of the bay, they are not dangerous. Near the town a wharf of wood is run out to a proper distance for the convenience of landing and shipping goods. To this wharf water is conveyed in pipes, from which several boats may fill water at the same time; and several large boats or hoys are kept by the Company to carry stores and provisions to and from the shipping in the harbour. The bay is defended by a square fort, situated close to the beach on the east side of the town, and by several outworks and batteries extending along the shore, as well on this side of the town as the other; but they are so situated as to be cannonaded by shipping, and are in a manner defenceless against an enemy of any force by land. The garrison page 535 consists of eight hundred regular troops, besides militia of the country, in which is comprehended every man able to bear arms. They have contrivances to alarm the whole country by signals in a very short time, and the militia is then to repair immediately to the town.

The French at Mauritius are supplied from this place with salted beef, biscuit, flour, and wine: the provisions for which the French contracted this year were 500,000lb. weight of salt beef, 400,000lb. of flour, 400,000lb. of biscuit, and 1,200 leagers of wine.

In the morning of the 14th we weighed and stood out of the bay; and at five in the evening anchored under Penquin, or Robin Island: we lay here all night, and as I could not sail in the morning for want of wind, I sent a boat to the island for a few trifling articles which we had forgot to take in at the Cape. But as soon as the boat came near the shore, the Dutch hailed her, and warned the people not to land at their peril, bringing down at the same time six men armed with musquets, who paraded upon the beach. The officer who commanded the boat not thinking it worth while to risk the lives of the people on board for the sake of a few cabbages, which were all we wanted, returned to the ship. At first we were at a loss to account for our re-pulse, but we afterwards recollected, that to this island the Dutch at the Cape banish such criminals as are not thought worthy of death, for a certain number of years, proportioned to the offence; and employ them as slaves in digging limestone, which though scarce upon the continent is plenty here: and that a Danish ship which by sickness had lost great part of her crew, and had been refused assistance at the Cape, came down to this island, and sending her boat a-shore, secured the guard, and took on board as many of the criminals as she thought proper to navigate her home: we conclude therefore that the Dutch, to prevent the rescue of their criminals in time to come, had given orders to their people here to suffer no boat of any foreign nation to come a-shore.

On the 25th, at three o'clock in the afternoon, we weighed, with a light breeze at S. E. and put to sea. page 536 About an hour afterwards we lost our Master, Mr. Robert Mollineux, a young man of good parts, but unhappily given up to intemperance, which brought on disorders that put an end to his life.

We proceeded in our voyage homeward without any remarkable incident; and in the morning of the 29th we crossed our first meridian, having circumnavigated the globe in the direction from east to west, and consequently lost a day, for which we made an allowance at Batavia.

At day-break, on the 1st of May, we saw the island of St. Helena; and at noon we anchored in the road before James's fort.

We stayed here till the 4th, to refresh, and Mr. Banks improved the time in making the complete circuit of the island, and visiting the most remarkable places upon it.

It is situated, as it were, in the middle of the vast Atlantic ocean, being four hundred leagues distant from the coast of Africa, and six hundred from that of America. It is the summit of an immense mountain rising out of the sea, which, at a little distance all round it, is of an unfathomable depth, and is no more than twelve leagues long and six broad.

The seat of volcanoes has, without exception, been found to be the highest part of the countries in which they are found. ætna and Vesuvius have no land higher than themselves in their neighbourhood; Hecla is the highest hill in Iceland; volcanoes are frequent in the highest part of the Andes, in South America; and the Pike of Teneriffe is known to be the covering of subterraneous fire; these are still burning, but there are innumerable other mountains which bear evident marks of fire that is now extinct, and has been so from the time of our earliest traditions: among these is Saint Helena, where the inequalities of the ground, in its external surface, are manifestly the effect of the sinking of the earth; for the opposite ridges, though separated always by deep, and some-time by broad vallies, are exactly similar both in appearance and direction; and that the sinking of the earth in these parts was caused by subterraneous fire, is equally manifest from the stones; for some of them, especially page 537 those in the bottom of the vallies, are burnt almost to a cinder: in some there are small bubbles, like those that are seen in glass which has been urged almost to fusion, and some, though at first sight they do not appear to have been exposed to the action of great heat, will be found, upon a closer inspection, to contain small pieces of extraneous bodies, particularly mundick, which have yielded to the power of fire, tho' it was not sufficient to alter the appearance of the stone which contained them.

It appeared, as we approached it on the windward side, like a rude heap of rocks, bounded by a precipice of amazing height, and consisting of a kind of half friable stone, which shews not the least sign of vegetation, nor is it more promising upon a nearer view: in sailing along the shore, we came so near the huge cliffs, that they seemed to over-hang the ship, and the tremendous effect of their giving way made us almost fear the event: at length we opened a valley, called Chapel Valley, which resembles a large trench; and in this valley we discovered the town. The bottom of it is slightly covered with herbage, but the sides are as naked as the cliffs that are next the sea. Such is the first appearance of the island in its present cultivated state, and the first hills must be passed before the vallies look green, or the country displays any other marks of fertility.

The town stands just by the sea side, and the far greater part of the houses are ill built; the church, which originally was a mean structure, is in ruins, and the market-house is nearly in the same condition.

The white inhabitants are all English, who, as they are not permitted by the East India Company, to whom the island belongs, to carry on any trade or commerce on their own account, subsist wholly by supplying such ships as touch at the place with refreshments, which, however, they do not provide in proportion to the fertility of the soil, and the temperament of the climate, which would enable them by cultivation to produce all the fruits and vegetables both of Europe and India. This island indeed, small as it is, enjoys the different advantages of different climates; for the cabbage-trees, which arrow upon the highest ridges, can by no art be cultivated page 538 upon the ridges next below, where the red-wood and gum-wood both flourish, which will not grow upon the ridges above, and neither of the three are to be found in the vallies, which in general are covered with European plants, and the more common ones of India.

Here are a few horses, but they are kept only for the saddle, so that all labour is performed by slaves; nor are they furnished with any of the various machines which art has invented to facilitate their task. The ground is not every where too steep for a cart, and where it is, the wheel-barrow might be used with great advantage, yet there is no wheel barrow in the whole island; every thing is conveyed from place to place by the slaves, and they are not furnished even with the simple convenience of a porter's knot, but carry their burthen upon their heads. They are indeed very numerous, and are brought from almost every part of the world; but they appeared to be a miserable race, worn out partly by excessive labour, and partly by ill usage, of which they frequently complained; and I am sorry to say, that instances of wanton cruelty are much more frequent among my countrymen here, than among the Dutch, who are, and perhaps not without reason, generally reproached with want of humanity at Batavia and the Cape.

Among the native products of this island, which are not numerous, must be reckoned ebony, tho' the trees are now nearly extinct, and are not remembered to have been plenty: pieces of wood are frequently found in the vallies, of a fine black colour, and a hardness almost equal to iron; these pieces, however, are always so short and crooked, that no use can be made of them. Whether the tree is the same with that which produces ebony upon the Isle of Bourbon or the islands adjacent, is not known, as the French have not yet published any account of it.

There are but few insects in this place; but there is a species of snail found upon the tops of the highest ridges, which probably has been there since the original creation of their kind at the beginning of the world. It is indeed very difficult to conceive how any thing which was not deposited here at its creation, or brought hither by the diligence of man, could find its way to a place so severed from the rest of the world, by seas of immense page 539 extent, except the hypothesis that has been mentioned on another occasion be adopted, and this rock be supposed to have been left behind, when a large tract of country, of which it was part, subsided by some convulsion of nature, and was swallowed up in the ocean.

At one o'clock in the afternoon of the 4th of May, we weighed and stood out of the road, in company with the Portland man-of-war and twelve sail of Indiamen.

We continued to sail in company with the fleet, till the 10th in the morning, when, perceiving that we sailed much heavier than any other ship, and thinking it for that reason probable that the Portland would get home before us, I made the signal to speak with her; upon which Captain Elliot himself came on board, and I delivered to him a letter from the Admiralty, with a box, containing the common log-books of the ship, and the journals of some of the officers. We continued in company, however, till the 23d in the morning, and then there was not one of the ships in sight. About one o'clock in the afternoon, died our First Lieutenant, Mr. Hicks, and in the evening we committed his body to the sea, with the usual ceremonies. The disease of which he died was a consumption; and as he was not free from it when he sailed from England, it may be truly said that he was dying during the whole voyage, tho' his decline was very gradual till we came to Batavia: the next day, I gave Mr. Charles Clerk an order to act as lieutenant in his room, a young man who was extremely well qualified for that station.

Our rigging and sails were now become so bad, that something was giving way every day. We continued our course, however, in safety till the 10th of June, when land, which proved to be the Lizard, was discovered by Nicholas Young, the same boy that first saw New Zealand; on the 11th we run up the channel, at six in the morning of the 12th we passed Beachy Head, at noon we were a-breast of Dover, and about three came to an anchor in the Downs, and went a-shore at Deal.

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