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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. V

Chap. V.

Dangerous Situation of the Ship in her Course from Trimity Bay to Endeavour River.

Hitherto we had safely navigated this dangerous coast, where the sea in all parts conceals shoals that suddenly project from the shore, and rocks that rise abruptly like a pyramid from the bottom, for an extent of two and twenty degrees of latitude, more than one thousand three hundred miles; and therefore hitherto none of the names which distinguish the several page 332 parts of the country that we saw, are memorials of distress; but here we became acquainted with misfortune, and we therefore called the point which we had just seen farthest to the northward, Cape Tribulation.

This Cape lies in latitude 16° 6′ S. and longitude 214° 39′ W. We steered along the shore N. by W. at the distance of between three and four leagues, having from fourteen to twelve and ten fathoms water: in the offing we saw two islands, which lie in latitude 16° S. and about six or seven leagues from the main. At six in the evening, the northernmost land in sight bore N. by W. ½ W. and two low woody islands, which some of us took to be rocks above water, bore N. ½ W. At this time we shortened sail, and hauled off shore E. N. E. and N. E. by E. close upon a wind, for it was my design to stretch off all night, as well to avoid the danger we saw a-head, as to see whether any islands lay in the offing, especially as we were now near the latitude assigned to the islands which were discovered by Quiros, and which some geographers, for what reason I know not, have thought fit to join to this land. We had the advantage of a fine breeze, and a clear moonlight night, and in standing off from six till near nine o'clock, we deepened our water from fourteen to twenty-one farthoms; but while we were at supper it suddenly shoaled, and we fell into twelve, ten, and eight fathoms, within the space of a few minutes; I immediately ordered every body to their station, and all was ready to put about and come to an anchor, but meeting at the next cast of the lead with deep water again, we concluded that we had gone over the tail of the shoals which we had seen at sun-set, and that all danger was past: before ten, we had twenty and one and twenty fathoms, and this depth continuing, the gentlemen left the deck in great tranquillity, and went to bed; but a few minutes before eleven, the water shallowed at once from twenty to seventeen fathoms, and before the lead could be cast again, the ship struck, and remained immoveable, except by the heaving of the surge, that beat her against the crags of the rock upon which she lay. In a few moments every body was upon the deck, with countenances page 333 which sufficiently expressed the horrors of our situation. We had stood off the shore three hours and a half, with a pleasant breeze, and therefore knew that we could not be very near it, and we had too muck reason to conclude that we were upon a rock of coral, which is more fatal than any other, because the points of it are sharp, and every part of the surface so rough as to grind away whatever is rubbed against it, even with the gentlest motion. In this situation all the sails were immediately taken in, and the boats hoisted out to examine the depth of water round the ship: we soon discovered that our fears had not aggravated our misfor tune, and that the vessel had been lifted over a ledge of the rock, and lay in a hollow within it: in some places there was from three to four fathoms, and in others not so many feet. The ship lay with her head to the N. E. and at the distance of about thirty yards on the starboard side, the Water deepened to eight, ten, and twelve fathoms. As soon as the long-boat was out, we struck our yards and top-masts, and carried out the stream anchor on the starboard bow, got the coasting anchor and cable into the boat, and were going to carry it out the same way; but upon sounding a second time round the ship, the water was found deepest a-stern: the anchor therefore was carried out from the starboard quarter instead of the starboard bow, that is, from the stern instead of the head, and having taken ground, our utmost force was applied to the capstan, hoping that if the anchor did not come home, the ship would be got off, but to our great misfortune and disappointment we could not move her: during all this time the continued to beat with great violence against. the rock, so that it was with the utmost difficulty that We kept upon our legs; and to complete the scene of distress, we saw, by the light of the moon, the sheathing boards from the bottom of the vessel floating away all round her, and at last her false keel, so that every moment was making way for the sea to rush in which was to swallow us up. We had how no chance but to lighten her, and we had lost the opportunity of doing that to the greatest advantage, for unhappily we went on shore just at high water, and by this time it had page 334 considerably fallen, so that after she should be lightened so as to draw as much less water as the water had sunk, we should be but in the same situation as at first; and the only alleviation of this circumstance was, that as the tide ebbed the ship settled to the rocks, and was not beaten against them with so much violence. We had indeed some hope from the next tide, but it was doubtful whether she would hold together so long, especially as the rock kept grating her bottom under the starboard, bow with such force as to be heard in the fore storeroom. This however was no time to indulge conjecture, nor was any effort remitted in despair of success: that no time might be lost, the water was immediately started in the hold, and pumped up; six of our gunss, being all we had upon the deck, our iron and stone ballast, casks, hoop staves, oil jars, decayed stores, and many other things that lay in the way of heavier materials, were thrown overboard with the utmost expedition, every one exerting himself with an alacrity almost approaching to chearfulness, without the least repining or discontent; yet the men were so far imprest with a sense of their situation, that not an oath was heard among them, the habit of profaneness, however strong, being instantly subdued, by the dread of incurring guilt when death seemed to be so near.

While we were thus employed, day broke upon us, and we saw the land at about eight leagues distance, without any island in the intermediate space, upon which, if the ship should have gone to pieces, we might have been set a-shore by the boats, and from which they might have taken us by different turns to the main: the wind however gradually died away, and early in the forenoon it was a dead calm; if it had blown hard, the ship must inevitably have been destroyed. At eleven in the forenoon we expected high water, and anchors were got out, and every thing made ready for another effort to heave her off if she should float, but to our inexpressible surprize and concern she did not float by a foot and an half, though we had lightened her near fifty ton, so much did the day-tide fall short of that in the night. We now proceeded to lighten her still more, and threw overboard page 335 every thing that it was possible for us to spare: hitherto she had not admitted much water, but as the tide fell, it rushed in so fast, that two pumps, incessantly worked, could scarcely keep her free. At two o'clock she lay heeling two or three streaks to starboard, and the pinnace, which lay under her bows, touched the ground: we had now no hope but from the tide at midnight, and to prepare for it we carried out our two bower anchors, one on the starboard quarter, and the other right a-stern, got the blocks and tackle which were to give us a purchase upon the cables in order, and brought the falls, or ends of them, in a-baft, straining them tight, that the next effort might operate upon the ship, and by shortening the length of the cable between that of the anchors, draw her off the ledge upon which she rested, towards the deep water. About five o'clock in the afternoon, we observed the tide begin to rife, but we observed at the same time that the leak increased to a most alarming degree, so that two more pumps were manned, but unhappily only one of them would work: three of the pumps however were kept going, and at nine o'clock the ship righted, but the leak had gained upon us so considerably, that it was imagined she must go to the bottom as soon as she ceased to be supported by the rock: this was a dreadful circum-stance, so that we anticipated the floating of the ship not as an earnest of deliverance, but as an event that would probably precipitate our destruction. We well knew that our boats were not capable of carrying us all on shore, and that when the dreadful crisis should arrive, as all command and subordination would be at an end, a contest for preference would probably ensue, that would increase the horrors even of ship-wreck, and terminate in the destruction of us all by the hands of each other; yet we knew that if any should be left on board to perish in the waves, they would probably suffer less upon the whole than those who should get on shore, without any lasting or effectual defence against the natives, in a country, where even nets and fire-arms would scarcely furnish them with food; and where, if they should find the means of subsistence, they must be condemned to languish out the remainder of life in a page 336 desoate wilderness, without the possession, or even hope, of any domestic comfort, and cut off from all commerce with mankind, except the naked savages who prowled the desert, and who perhaps were some of the most rude and uncivilized upon the earth

To those only who have waited in a state of such suspence, death has approached in all his terrors; and as the dreadful moment that was to determine our fate came on, every one saw his own sensations pictured in the countenances of his companions: however, the capstan and windlace were manned with as many hands as could be spared from the pumps, and this ship floating about twenty minutes after ten o'clock, the effort was made, and she was heaved into deep water. It was some comfort to find that she did not now admit more water than she had done upon the rock; and though, by the gaining of the leak upon the pumps, there was no lest than three seet nine inches water in the hold, yet the men did not relinquish their labour, and we held the water as it were at bay; but having now endured exceissive fatigue of body and agitation of mind for more than four-and-tweenty hours, and having but little hope of succeeding at last, they began to flag: none of them could work at the pump more than five or six minutes together, and then, being totally exhausted, they threw themselves down upon the deck, though a stream of water was running over it from the pumps between three and four inches deep; when those who succeeded them had worked their spell, and were exhausted in their turn, they threw themselves down in the same manner, and the others started up again, and renewed their labour; thus relieving each other till an accident was very near putting an end to their efforts at once. The planking which lines the inside of the ship's bottom is called the cieling, and between this, and the outside planking, there is a space of about eighteen inches: the man who till this time had attended the well to take the depth of water, had taken it only to the cieling, and gave the measure accordingly; but he being now relieved, the person who came in his stead, reckoned the depth to the outside planking, by which it appeared in a few minutes to have gained upon the pumps eighteen page 337 inches, the difference between the planking without and within. Upon this, even the bravest was upon the point of giving up his labour with his hope, and in a few minutes every thing would have been involved in all the confusion of despair. But this accident, however dreadful in its first consequences, was eventually the cause of our preservation: the mistake was soon detected, and the sudden joy which every man felt upon finding his situation better than his fears had suggested, operated like a charm, and seemed to possess him with a strong belief that scarcely any real danger remained. New confidence and new hope, however founded, inspired new vigour; and though our state was the same as when the men first began to slacken in their labour, through weariness and despondency, they now renewed their efforts with such alacrity and spirit, that before eight o'clock in the morning the lake was so far from having gained upon the pumps, that the pumps had gained considerably upon the leak. Every body now talked of getting the ship into some harbour, as a thing not to be doubted, and as hands could be spared from the pumps, they were employed in getting up the anchors: the stream anchor and best bower we had taken on board; but it was found impossible to save the little bower, and therefore it was cut away at a whole cable: we lost also the cable of the stream anchor among the rocks; but in our situation these were trifles which scarcely attracted our notice. Our next business was to get up the fore-top-mast and fore-yard, and warp the ship to the south-east, and at eleven, having now a breeze from the sea, we once more got under fail and stood for the land.

It was, however, impossible long to continue the labour by which the pumps had been made to gain upon the leak, and as the exact situation of it could not he discovered, we had no hope of stopping it within. In this situation, Mr. Monkhouse, one of my midshipmen, came to me and proposed an expedient that he had once soon used on board a merchant ship, which sprung a leak that admitted above four feet water an hour, and which by this expedient was brought safely from Virginia to London; the master having such confidence in it, that he took her out of harbour, knowing her condition, page 338 and did not think it worth while to wait till the leak could be otherwise stopped. To this man, therefore, the care of the expedient, which is called fothering the ship, was immediately committed, four or five of the people being appointed to assist him, and he performed it in this manner: He took a lower studding sail, and having mixed together a large quantity of oakum and wool, chopped pretty small, he stitched it down in handfuls upon the sail, as lightly as possible, and over this he spread the dung of our sheep and other filth; but horse dung, if we had had it, would have been better. When the fail was thus prepared, it was hauled under the ship's bottom by ropes, which kept it extended, and when it came under the leak, the suction which carried in the water, carried in with it the oakum and wool from the surface of the sail, which in other parts the water was not sufficiently agitated to wash off. By the success of this expedient our leak was so far reduced, that instead of gaining upon three pumps, it was easily kept under with one. This was a new source of confidence and comfort; the people could scarcely have expressed more joy if they had been already in port; and their views were so far from being limited to running the ship a-shore in some harbour, either of an island or the main, and building a vessel out of her materials, to carry us to the East Indies, which had so lately been the utmost object of our hope, that nothing was now thought of but ranging along the shore in search of a convenient place to repair the damage she had sustained, and then prosecuting the voyage upon the same plan as if nothing had happened. Upon this occasion I must observe, both in justice and gratitude to the ship's company, and the gentlemen on board, that although in the midst of our distress every one seemed to have a just sense of his danger, yet no passonate exclamations, or frantic gestures, were to be heard or seen; every one appeared to have the perfect possession of his mind, and every one exerted himself to the uttermost, with a quiet and patient perseverance, equally distant from the tumultuous violence of terror, and the gloomy inactivity of despair.

In the mean time, having light airs at E. S. E. we got up the main-top mast, and main-yard, and kept page 339 edging in for the land, till about six o'clock in the evening, when we came to an anchor in seventeen fathoms water, at the distance of seven leagues from the shore, and one from the ledge of rocks upon which we had struck.

This ledge or shoal lies in latitude 15° 45′ S. and between six or seven leagues from the main. It is not however the only shoal on this part of the coast, especially to the northward; and at this time we saw one to the southward, the tail of which we passed over, when we had uneven soundings about two hours before we struck. A part of this shoal is always above water, and has the appearance of white sand: a part also of that upon which we had lain is dry at low water, and in that place consists of sand stones; but all the rest of it is a coral rock.

While we lay at anchor for the night, we found that the ship made about fifteen inches water an hour, from which no immediate danger was to be apprehended; and at six o'clock in the morning, we weighed and stood to the N. W. still edging in for the land with a gentle breeze at S. S. E. At nine we passed close without two small islands that lie in latitude 15° 41′ S. and about four leagues from the main: to reach these islands had, in the height of our distress, been the object of our hope, or perhaps rather of our wishes, and therefore I called them Hope Islands. At noon we were about three leagues from the land, and in latitude 15° 37′ S. the northernmost part of the main in sight bore N. 30 W. and Hope islands extended from S. 30 E. to S. 40 E. In this situation we had twelve fathoms water, and several sand-banks without us. At this time the leak had not increased; but that we might be prepared for all events, we got the sail ready for another fothering. In the afternoon, having a gentle breeze at S. E. by E. I sent out the Master with two boats, as well to found a-head of the ship, as to look out for a harbour where we might repair our defects, and put the ship in a proper trim. At three o'clock we saw an opening that had the appearance of an harbour, and stood off and on while the boats examined it, but they soon found that there was not depth of water in it sufficient for the ship. When it was near sun-set, there being many page 340 shoals about us, we anchored in four fathoms, at the distance of about two miles from the shore, the land extending from N. ½ E. to S. by E. ½ E. The pinnace was still out with one of the mates; but at nine o'clock she returned, and reported, that about two leagues to leeward she had discovered just such a harbour as we wanted, in which there was a sufficient rise of water, and every other convenience that could be desired, either for laying the ship ashore, or heaving her down.

In consequence of this information, I weighed at six o'clock in the morning, and having sent two boats a-head, to lie upon the shoals that we saw in our way, we ran down to the place; but notwithstanding our precaution, we were once in three fathoms water. As soon as these shoals were passed, I sent the boats to lie in the channel that led to the harbour, and by this time it began to blow. It was happy for us that a place of refuge was at hand; for we soon found that the ship would not work, having twice missed stays: our situation, however, though it might have been much worse, was not without danger: we were entangled among shoals, and I had great reason to fear being driven to leeward, before the boats could place themselves so as to prescribe our course. I therefore anchored in four fathoms, about a mile from the shore, and then made the signal for the boats to come on board. When this was done, I went myself and buoyed the channel, which I found very narrow; the harbour also I found smaller than I expected, but most excellently adapted to our purpose; and it is remarkable, that in the whole course of our voyage we had seen no place which, in our present circumstances, could have afforded us the same relief. At noon, our latitude was 15° 26′ S. During all the rest of this day, and the whole night, it blew too fresh for us to venture from our anchor and run into the harbour; and for our farther security, we got down the top-gallant yards, unbent the mainsail and some of the small sail; got down the fore-top-gallant mast, and the gibb boom, and sprit-sail, with a view to lighten the ship forwards as much as possible, in order to come at her leak, which we supposed to be somewhere in that part; for in all the joy of our unexpected deliverance, we had not forgot that at this time there was nothing but a lock of wool between us and destruction. The page 341 gale continuing, we kept our station all the 15th. On the 16th, it was somewhat more moderate; and about six o'clock in the morning, we have the cable short, with a design to get under sail, but were obliged to desist, and veer it out again. It is remarkable that the sea breeze, which blew fresh when we anchored, continued to do so almost every day while we staid here; it was calm only while we were upon the rock, except once; and even the gale that afterwards wasted us to the shore, would then certainly have beaten us to pieces. In the evening of the preceding day, we had observed a fire near the beach over against us; and as it would be necessary for us to stay some time in this place, we were not without hope of making an acquaintance with the people. We saw more fires upon the hills to-day, and with our glasses discovered four Indians going along the shore, who stopped, and made two fires; but for what purpose it was impossible we should, guess.

The scurvy now began to make its appearance among us, with many formidable symptoms. Our poor Indian, Tupia, who had some time before complained that his gums were fore and swelled, and who had taken plentifully of our lemon juice by the Surgeon's direction, had now livid spots upon his legs, and other indubitable testimonies that the disease had made a rapid progress, notwithstanding all our remedies, among which the bark had been liberally administered. Mr. Green, our astronomer, was also declining; and these, among other circumstances, imbittered the delay which prevented our going ashore.

In the morning of the 17th, though the wind was still fresh, we ventured to weigh, and push in for the harbour; but in doing this we twice run the ship a ground: the first time she went off without any trouble, but the second time she stuck fast. We now got down the fore-yard, fore-top-masts, and booms, and taking them overboard, made, a rast of them along-side of the ship. The tide was happily rising, and about one o'clock in the afternoon, she floated. We soon warped her into the harbour, and having moored her along-side of a steep beach to the south, we got the anchors, cables, and all the hawsers on shore before night.