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]
Departure from Endeavour River; a particular Description of the Harbour there, in which the ship was refitted, the adjacent Country, and several Islands near the Coast: the Range from Endeavour River to the Northern Extremity of the Country, and the Dangers of that Navigation.
To the harbour which we had now lest, I gave the name of Endervour River. It is only a small harbour, or creek, which runs in a winding channel three or sour leagues inland, and at the head of which there is a small brook of fresh water: there is not depth of water for shipping above a mile within the bar, and at this distance only on the north side, where the bank is so steep for near a quarter of a mile, that a ship may lie a-float at low water, so near the shore as to reach it with a stage, and the situation is page 369 extremely convenient for heaving down; but at low water, the depth upon the bar is not more than nine or ten feet, nor more than seventeen or eighteen at the height of the tide; the difference between high and low water, at spring tides, being about nine feet. At the new and full of the moon it is high water between nine and ten o'clock: it must also be remembered, that this part of the coast is so barricaded with shoals, as to make the harbour still more difficult of access; the satest approach is from the southward, keeping the main land close upon the board all the way. Its situation may always be found by the latitude, which has been very accurately laid down. Over the south point is some high land, but the north point is formed by a low sandy beach, which extends about three miles to the northward, where the land begins again to be high.
The chief refreshment that we procured here was turtle, but as they were not to be had without going five leagues out to sea, and the weather was frequently tempestuous, we did not abound with this dainty: what we caught, as well as the fish, was always equally divided among us all by weight, the meanest person on board having the same share as myself; and I think every commander, in such a voyage as this, will find it his interest to follow the same rule. In several parts of the sandy beaches, and sand hills near the sea, we found purslain, and a kind of bean that grows upon a stalk, which creeps along the ground: the purslain we found very good when it was boiled, and the beans are not to be despised, for we found them of great service to our sick: the best greens, however, that could be procured here, were the tops of the coccos, which have been mentioned already, as known in the West Indies by the name of Indian kale: these were, in our opinion, not much inferior to spinnage, which in taste they somewhat resemble; the roots indeed are not good, but they might probably be meliorated by proper cultivation. They are found here chiefly in boggy ground. The few cabbage palms that we met with, were in general small, and yielded so little cabbage that they were not worth seeking.page 370
Besides the kanguroo and the opossum, that have been already mentioned, and a kind of polecat, there are wolves upon this part of the coast, if we were not deceived by the tracks upon the ground, and several species of serpents; some of the serpents are venemous, and some harmless: there are no tame animals here except dogs, and of these we saw but two or three, which frequently came about the tents, to pick up the scraps and bones that happened to lie scattered nerr them. There does not indeed seem to be many of any animal, except the kanguroo; we scarcely saw any other above once, but this we met with almost every time we went, into the woods. of land sowls we saw crows, kites, hawks, cockatoos of two forts, one white and the other black, a very beautiful kind of loriquets, some parrots, pigeons of two or three forts, and several small birds not known in Europe. The water sowls are herns, whistling ducks, which perch, and, I believe, roost upon trees, wild geese, curlieus, and a few others, but these do not abound. The face of the country, which has been occasionally mentioned before, is agreeably diversified by bill and valley, lawn and wood. The soil of the hills is hard, dry and stony, yet it produces coarse grass besides wood; the soil of the plains and vallies is in some places sand, and in some clay; in some also it is rocky and stony, like the hills; in general, however, it is well clothed, and has at least the appearance of sertility. The whole country, both hill and valley, wood and plain, abounds with ant hills, some of which are six or eight feet high, and twice as much in circumserence. The trees here are not of many forts; the gum tree, which we found on the southern part of the coast, is the most common, but here it is not so large: on each side of the river, thro' its whole course, there are mangroves in great numbers, which in some places extend a mile within the coast. The country is in all parts well watered, there being several fine rivulets at a small distance from each other, but none in the place where we lay, at least not during the tune we were there, which was the dry season; we were however well supplied with water by springs, which were not far off.page 371
In the afternoon of the 4th, we had a gentle breeze at S. E. and clear weather, but as I did not intend to, sail till the next morning, I sent all the boats to the reef, to get what turtle and shell fish they could. At low water. I went up to the mast-head, and took a view of the shoals, which made a very threatening appearance: I could see several at a remote distance, and part of many of them was above water. The sea appeared most open to the north-east of the turtle reef, and I came to a resolution to stretch out that way close upon a wind, because if we should find no passage, we could always return the way we went. In the evening the boats brought in a turtle, a sting ray, and as many large cockles as came to about a pound and a half a man, for in each of them there was not less than two pounds of meat: in the night also we caught several sharks, which, though not a dainty, were an acceptable increase of our fresh provisions.
In the morning I waited till half ebb before I weighed, because at that time the shoals begin to appear, But the wind then blew so hard, that I was obliged to remain at an anchor: in the afternoon, however, the gale becoming more moderate, we got under sail, and stood out upon a wind N. E. by E. leaving the turtle reef to windward, and having the pinnace sounding a-head: we had not kept this course long, before we discovered shoals before us, and upon both the bows; and at half an hour after four, having run about eight miles, the pinnace made the signal for shoal water, where we little expected it: upon this we tacked, and stood on and off, while the pinnace stretched farther to the eastward, and night approaching, I came to an anchor in twenty fathoms water, with a muddy bottom. Endeavour River then bore S. 52 W. Cape Bedford. W. by N. ½ N. distant five leagues, the northermost land in sight, which had the appearance of an island, N. and a shoal, a small sandy part of which appeared above water, bore N. E. distant between two and three miles: in standing off from turde reef to this place, we had from fourteen to twenty fathoms water, but when the pinnace was about a mile farther to the E. N. E. there was no more than four or five seet water, with rocky ground; and yet this did not appear to us in the page 372 ship. In the morning of the 6th we had a strong gale, so that instead of weighing, we were obliged to veer away more cable, and strike our top-gallant yards. At low water, myself, with several of the officers, kept a look out at the mast-head, to see if any passage could be discovered between the shoals, but nothing was in view except breakers, extending from the S. round by the E. as far as N. W. and out to sea beyond the reach of our sight; these breakers, however, did not appear to be caused by one continued shoal, but by several, which lay detached from each other: on that which lay farthest to the eastward, the sea broke very high, which made me think it was the outermost, for upon many of these within, the breakers were inconsiderable, and from about half ebb to half flood, they were not to be seen at all, which makes sailing among them still more dangerous, especially as the shoals here consist principally of coral rocks, which are as steep as a wall; upon some of them however, and generally at the north end, there are patches of sand, which are covered only at high water, and which are to be discerned at some distance. Being now convinced that there was no passage to sea, but through the labyrinth formed by these shoals, I was altogether at a loss which way to steer; when the weather should permit us to get under sail. It was the Master's opinion, that we should beat back the way we came, but this would have been an endless labour, as the wind blew strongly from that quarter, almost without intermission; on the other hand, it no passage could be found to the northward, we should be compelled to take that measure at last. These anxious deliberations engaged us till eleven o'clock at night, when the ship drove, and obliged us to veer away to a cable and one third, which brought her up; but in the morning, the gale increasing, she drove again, and we therefore let go the small bower, and veered away to a whole cable upon it, and two cables on the other anchors, yet she still drove, tho' not so fast; we then got down top gallant-masts, and struck the yards and top-masts close down, and at last had the satisfaction to find that she rode. Cape Bedford now bore W. S. W. distant three leagues and an half, and in this situation we had shoals to the eastward, extending page 373 from the S. E. by S. to the N. N. W. the nearest of which was about two miles distant. As the gale continued, with little remission, we rode till seven o'clock in the morning of the 10th, when, it being more moderate, we weighed, and stood in for the land, having at length determined to seek a passage along the shore to the northward, still keeping the boat a-head: during our run in we had from nineteen to twelve fathoms: after standing in about an hour, we edged away for three small islands that lay N. N. E. ½ E. three leagues from Cape Bedford, which the Master had visited while we were in port. At nine o'clock, we were a-breast of them, and between them and the main: between us and the main there was another low island, which lies N. N. W. four miles from the three islands; and in this channel we had fourteen fathoms water. The northermost point of land in sight now bore N. N. W. ½ W. distant about two leagues. Four or five leagues to the north of this head land we saw three islands, near which lay some that were still smaller, and we could see the shoals and reess without us, extending to the northward, as far as these islands between these reess and the head-land, we directed our course, leaving to the eastward a small island, which lies N. by E. distant four miles from the three islands. At noon we were got between the head-land and the three islands: from the head-land we were distant two leagues, and from the islands four; our latitude, by observation, was 14° 51′. We now thought we saw a clear opening before us, and hoped that we were once more out of danger; in this hope, however, we soon found ourselves disappointed, and for that reason I called the head-land Cape Flatetry. It lies in latitude 14° 56′ S. longitude 214° 43′ W. and is a lofty promontory, making next the sea in two hills, which have a third behind them, with low sandy ground on each side: it may however be still better known by the three islands out at sea: the northermost and largest lies about five leagues from the Cape, in the direction of N. N. E. From Cape Flattery the land trends away N. W. and N. W. by W. We steered along the shore N. W. by W. till one o'clock, for what we thought the open channel, when the petty officer at the mast-head cried out that he saw land a-head, extending quite round to the islands that lay without us, page 374 and a large reef between us and them; upon this I ran up to the mast-head myself, from whence I very plainly saw the reef, which was now so far to windward that we could not weather it; but the land a-head, which he had supposed to be the main, appeared to me to be only a cluster of small islands. As soon as I got down from the mast-head, the Master and some others went up, who all insisted that the land a-head was not islands, but the main; and to make their report still more alarming, they said that they saw breakers all round us. In this dilemma we hauled upon a wind in for the land, and made the signal for the boat that was founding a-head to come on board, but as she was far to leeward, we were obliged to edge away to take her up, and soon after we came to an anchor, under a point of the main, in somewhat less than five fathoms, and at about the distance of a mile from the shore. Cape Flattery now bore S. E. distant three leagues and an half. As soon as the ship was at anchor I went a-shore upon the point, which is high, and afforded me a good view of the sea-coast, trending away N.W. by W. eight or ten leagues, which, the weather not being very clear, was as far as I could see. Nine or ten small low islands, and some shoals, appeared off the coast; I saw also some large shoals betweent the main and the three high islands, without which I was clearly of opinion there were more islands, and not any part of the main. Except the point I was now upon, which I called Point Look-out, and Cape Flattery, the main land to the northward of Cape Bedford is low, and chequered with white sand and green bushes, for ten or twelve miles inland, beyond which it rises to a considerable height. To the northward of Point Lookout, the coast appeared to be shoal and flat for a considerable distance, which did not encourage the hope that the channel we had hitherto found in with the land would continue. Upon this point, which was narrow, and consisted of the finest white sand we had ever seen, we discovered the sootsteps of people, and we saw also smoke and fire at a distance up the country.
In the evening I returned to the ship, and resolved the next morning to visit one of the high islands in the offing, from the top of which, as they lay five page 375 leagues out to sea, I hoped to discover more distinctly the situation of the shoals, and the channel between them.
In the morning therefore of the 11th I set out in the pinnace, accompanied by Mr. Banks, whose fortitude and curiosity made him a party in every expedition, for the northermost and largest of the three islands; and at the same time I sent the Master in the yawl to leeward, to sound between the low islands and the main. In my way I passed over a reee of coral rock and sand, which lies about two leagues from the island, and I left another to leeward, which lies about three miles from it. On the north part of the reef, to the leeward, there is a low sandy island, with trees upon it; and upon the reef which we passed over we saw several turtle; we chased one or two, but having little time to spare, and the wind blowing fresh, we did not take any.
About one o'clock we reached the island, and immediately ascended the highest hill, with a mixture of hope and fear, proporitioned to the importance of our business, and the uncertainty of the event. When I looked round I discovesed a reef of rocks, lying between two and three leagues without the islands, and extending in a line N. W. and S. E. farther than I could see, upon which the sea broke in a dreadful surf this, however, made me think that there were no shoals beyond them, and I conceived hopes of getting without these, as I perceived several breaks or openings in the reef, and deep water between that and the island, I continued upon this hill till sun-set, but the weather was so hazy during the whole time, that I came down much disappointed. After respecting upon what I had seen, and comparing the intelligence I had gained with what I expected, I determined to stay upon the island all night, hoping that the morning might be clearer, and afford me a more distinct and comprehensive view. We therefore took up our lodging under the shelter of a bush which grew upon the beach; and at three in the morning, having sent the pinnace with one of thee Mates whom I had brought out with me, to sound between the island and the reefs, and examine what appeared to be a channel through them, I climbed the page 376 hill a second time, but, to my great disappointment, found the weather much more hazy than it had been the day before. About noon the pinnace returned, having been as far as the reef, and found between fifteen and twenty-eight fathoms of water; but it blew so hard that the Mate did not dare to venture into one of the channels, which, he said, appeared to him to be very narrow. This, however, did not discourage me, for I judged, from his description of the place he had been at, that he had seen it to disadvantage. While I was busy in my survey, Mr. Banks was attentive to his favourite pursuit, and picked up several plants which he had not before seen. We found the island, which is visible at twelve leagues distance, to be about eight leagues in circumference, and in general very rocky and barren. On the north-west side, however, there are some sandy bays, and some low land, which is covered with long thin grass, and trees of the same kind with those upon the main: this part also abounded with lizards of a very large size, some of which we took. We sound also fresh water in two places, one was a running stream, but that was a little brackish where I tasted it, which was close to the sea; the other was a standing pool, close behind the sandy beach, and this was perfectly sweet and good. Notwithstanding the distance of this island from the main, we saw, to our great surprize, that it was sometimes visited by the natives, for we found seven or eight frames of their huts, and vast heaps of shells, the fish of which we supposed had been their food. We observed that all these huts were built upon eminences, and entirely exposed to the S. E. contrary to those which we had seen upon the main; for they were all built either upon the side of a hill, or under some bushes which afforded them shelter from the wind. From these huts, and their situation, we concluded that at some seasons of the year the weather here is invariably calm and fine, for the inhabitants have no boat which can navigate the sea to so great a distance, in such weather as we had from the time of our first coming upon the coast. As we saw no animals upon this place but lizards, I called it Lizard Island; the other two high islands, which lie at the distance of four or five page 377 miles from it, are comparatively small; and near them lie three others smaller still, and low, with several shoals or reefs, especially to the S. E. There is, however, a clear passage from Cape Flattery to these islands, and even quite to the outward reefs, leaving Lizard island to the north-west, and the others to the south-east.
At two in the afternoon, there being no hope of clear weather, we set out from Lizard Island to return to the ship, and in our way landed upon the low sandy island with trees upon it, which we had remarked in our going out. Upon this island we saw an incredible number of birds, chiefly sea-fowl: we found also the nest of an eagle with young ones, which we killed, and the nest of some other bird, we knew not what, of a most enormous size: it was built with sticks upon the ground, and was no less than six-and-twenty feet in circumference, and two feet eight inches high. We found also that this place had been visited by the Indians, probably to eat turtle, many of which we saw upon the island, and a great number of their shells, piled one upon another in different places.
To this spot we gave the name of Eagle Isrand, and after leaving it we steered S. W. directly for the ship, founding all the way, and we had never less than eight fathoms, nor more than fourteen, the same depth of water that I had found between this and Lizard Island.
When I got on board, the Master informed me that he had been down to the low islands, between which and the main I had directed him to found: that he judged them to lie about three leagues from the main that without them he found from ten to fourteen fathoms, and between them and the main seven, but that a flat, which ran two leagues out from the main, made this channel narrow. Upon one of these low islands he slept, and was a-shore upon others; and he reported, that he saw every where piles of turtle-shells, and fins hanging upon the trees in many places, with the flesh upon them, so recent that the boat's crew eat of them; he saw also two spots clear of grass, which appeared to have been lately dug up, and from the shape and size of them he conjectured they were graves.page 378
After considering what I had seen myself, and the report of the Master, I was of opinion that the passage to leeward would be dangerous, and that by keeping in with the main we should run the risk of being locked in by the great reef, and at last be compelled to return back in search of another passage, by which, or any other accident that should cause the same delay, we should infallibly lose our passage to the East Indies, and endanger the ruin of the voyage, as we had now but little more than three months provisions on board at short allowance.
Having stated this opinion, and the facts and appearances upon which it was founded, to the officers, it was unanimously agreed, that the best thing we could do would be to quit the coast altogether, till we could approach it with less danger.
In the morning therefore, at break of day, we got under sail, and stood out N. E. for the north-west end of Lizard island, leaving Eagle Island to windward, and some other islands and shoals to the leeward, and leaving the pinnace a-head to ascertain the depth of water in every part of our course. In this channel we had from nine to fourteen fathoms. At noon the north-west end of Lizard island bore E. S. E. distant one mile; our latitude, by observation, was 14° 38′, and our depth of water fourteen fathoms. We had a steady gale at S. E. and by two o'clock we just setched to windward of one of the channels of openings in the outer reef, which I had seen from the island. We now tacked, and made a short trip to the S. W. while the Master in the pinnace examined the channel; he soon made the signal for the ship to follow, and in a short time she got safe out. As soon as we got without the breakers, we had no ground with one hundred and fifty fathoms, and found a large sea rolling in from the S. E. a certain sign that neither land nor shoals were near us in that direction.
Our change of situation was now visible in every countenance, for it was most sensibly felt in every bread. We had been little less than three months entangled among shoals and rocks, that every moment threatened us with destruction, frequently passing out nights at anchor, within hearing of the surge that page 379 broke over them; sometimes driving towards them, even while our anchors were out, and knowing that if by any accident, to which an almost continual tempest exposed us, they should not hold, we must in a few minutes inevitably perish. But now, after having sailed no less than three hundred and sixty leagues, without once having a man out of the chains heaving the lead, even for a minute, which perhaps never happened to any other vessel, we found ourselves in an open sea, with deep water, and enjoyed a flow of spirits, which was equally owing to our late dangers and our present security; yet the very waves, which by their swell convinced us that we had no rocks or shoals to fear, convinced us also that we could not safely put the same confidence in our vessel as before she had struck; for the blows she received from them so widened her laaks, that she admitted no less than nine inches water in an hour, which, considering the state of our pumps, and the navigation that was still before us, would have been a subject of more serious consideration, to people whose danger had not so lately been so much more imminent.
The passage or channel, through which we passed into the open sea beyond the reef, lies in latitude 14° 32′ S. and may always be known by the three high islands within it, which I have called the Islands of Diretion, because by these a stranger may find a safe passage through the reef quite to the main. The channel lies from Lizard Island N. E.⅓ N. distant three leagues, and is about one third of a mile broad, and not more in length. Lizard Island, which is, as I have before observed, the largest and the northermost of the three, affords safe anchorage under the north-west side, fresh water, and wood for fuel. The low islands and shoals also, which lie between it and the main, abound with turtle and fish, which may probably be caught in all seasons of the year, except when the weather is very tempestuous; so that, all things considered, there is not perhaps a better place for ships to refresh at upon the whole coast than this island, And, before I dismiss it, I must observe, that we found upon it, as well as upon the beach in and about Endeavour River, bamboos, cocoa-nuts, pumice-stone, page 380 and the seeds of plants which are not the produce of this country, and which, it is reasonable to suppose, are brought from the eastward by the trade-winds. The islands which were discovered by Quiros, and called Australia del Espiritu Santa, lie in this parallel, but how far to the eastward cannot now be ascertained; in most charts they are placed in the same longitude with this country, which, as appears by the account of his voyage which has been published, he never saw; for that places his discoveries no less than two-and-twenty degrees to the eastward of it.
As soon as we were without the reef we brought to and having hoisted in the boats, we stood off and on upon a wind all night; for I was not willing to run to leeward till I had a whole day before me. In the morning, at day-break, Lizard Island bore S. 15 E. distant ten leagues; and we then made sail and stood away N. N. W. ½ W. till nine o'clock, when we stood N. W. ½ N. having the advantage of a fresh gale at S. E. At noon our latitude, by observation, was 13° 46′ S. and at this time we had no land in sight. At six in the evening we shortened sail, and brought the ship to, with her head to the N. E. and at six in the morning made sail and steered west, in order to get within sight of the land, that I might be sure not to over-shoot the passage, if a passage there was, between this land and New Guinea. At noon our latitude, by observation, was 13° 2′ S. longitude 216° W. which was 1° 23′ W. of Lizard Island. At this time we had no land in sight; but a little before one o'clock we saw high land from the mast-head, bearing W. S. W. At two we saw more land to the N. W. of that we had seen before; it appeared in hills, like islands, but we judged it to be a continuation of the main land. About three we discovered breakers between the land and the ship, extending to the southward farther than we could see; but to the north we thought we saw them terminate a-breast of us. What we took for the end of them in this direction, however, soon appeared to be only an opening in the reef; for we presently saw them again, extending northward beyond the reach of our sight. Upon this we hauled close upon a wind, which was now at E. S. E. and we had scarcely trimmed page 381 our sails before it came to E. by N. which was right upon the reef, and consequently made our clearing it doubtful. At sunset the northermost part of it that was in sight bore from us N. by E. and was two or three leagues distant; this however being the best tack to clear it, we kept standing to the northward with all the sail we could set till midnight; when, being afraid of standing too far in this direction, we tacked and stood to the southward, our run from sunset to this time being six leagues N. and N. by E. When we had stood about two miles S. S. E. it fell calm; we had sounded several times during the night, but had no bottom with one hundred and forty fathoms, neither had we any ground now with the same length of line; yet, about tour in the morning, we plainly heard the roaring of the surf,' and at break of day saw it foaming to a vast height, at not more than a mile's distance. Our distress now returned upon us with a double force; the waves, which rolled in upon the reef, carried us towards it very fast; we could reach no ground with an apchor, and had not a breath of wind for the sail. In this dreadful situation, no resource was left us but the boats; and to aggravate our misfortune, the pinnace was under repair: the long boat and yawl, however, were put into the water, and sent a-head to tow, which, by the help of our sweeps abaft, got the ship's head round to the northward; which, if it could not prevent our destruction, might at least delay it. But it was six o'clock before this was effected, and we were not then a hundred yards from the rock upon which the same billow, which washed the side of the ship, broke to a tremendous height the very next time it rose; so that between us and destruction there was only a dreary valley, no wider than the base of one wave, and even now the sea under us was unfathomable, at lead no bottom was to be found with a hundred and twenty fathoms. During this scene of distress, the Carpenter had found means to patch up the pinnace; so that she was hoisted out, and sent a-head, in aid of the other boats, to tow; but all our efforts would have been ineffectual, if, just at this crisis of our fate, a light air of wind had not sprung up, so light, that any other time we page 382 should not have observed it, but which was enough to turn the scale in our favour, and, in conjunction with the assistance which was afforded us by the boats, to give the ship a perceptible motion obliquely from the reef. Our hopes now revived; but in less than ten minutes it was again a dead calm, and the ship was again driven towards the breakers, which were not now two hundred yards distant. The same light breeze however returned before we had lost all the ground it had enabled us to gain, and lasted about ten minutes more. During this time we discovered a small opening in the reef, at about the distance of a quarter of a mile: I immediately sent out one of the Mates to examine it, who reported that its breadth was not more than the length of the ship, but that within it there was smooth water: this discovery seemed to render our escape possible, and that was all, by pushing the ship through the opening, which was immediately attempted. It was uncertain indeed whether we could reach it; but if we should succeed thus far, we made no doubt of being able to get through: in this however we were disappointed, for having reached it by the joint assistance of our boats and the breeze, we found that in the mean time it had become high water, and to our great surprize we met the tide of ebb rushing out of it like a mill-stream. We gained however some advantage, though in a manner directly contrary to our expectations; we found it impossible to go through the opening, but the stream that prevented us carried us about a quarter of a mile: it was too narrow for us to keep in it longer; yet this tide of ebb so much assisted the boats, that by noon we had got an offing of near two miles. We had, however, reason to despair of deliverance, even if the breeze which had now died away should revive, for we were still embayed in the reef; and the tide of ebb being spent, the tide of flood, notwith standing our utmost efforts, again drove the ship into the bight. About this time, however, we saw another opening, near a mile to the westward, which I immediately sent the First Lieutenant, Mr. Hicks, in the small boat to examine: in the mean time we struggled hard with the flood, sometimes gaining a little, and sometimes losing; but page 383 every man still did his duty with as much calmness and regularity as it no danger had been near. About two o'clock, Mr. Hicks returned with an account that the opening was narrow and dangerous, but that it might be passed: the possibility of passing it was sufficient encouragement to make the attempt, for all danger was less imminent than our present situation. A light breeze now sprung up at E. N. E. with which, by the help of our boats, and the very tide of flood, that, without an opening, would have been our destruction, we entered it, and were hurried through with amazing rapidity, by a torrent that kept us from driving against either side of the channel, which was not more than a quarter of a mile in breadth. While we were shooting this gulph, our soundings were from thirty to seven fathoms, very irregular, and the ground at bottom very foul.
As soon as, we had got within the reef, we anchored in nineteen fathoms, over a bottom of coral and shells. And now, such is the vicissitude of life, we thought ourselves happy in having regained a situation, which,; but two days before, it was the utmost object of our hope to quit. Rocks and shoals are always dangerous to the mariner, even where their situation has been ascertained; they are more dangerous in seas which have never before been navigated, and in this part of the globe they are more dangerous than in any other; for here they are reefs of coral rock, rising like a wall almost perpendicularly out of the unfathomable deep, always overflowed at high-water, and at low-water dry in many places; and here the enormous waves of the vast Southern Ocean, meeting with so abrupt a resistance, break, with inconceivable violence, in a surf which no rocks or storms in the northern hemisphere can produce. The danger of navigating unknown parts of this ocean was now greatly increased, by our having a crazy ship, and being short of provisions and every other necessary; yet the distinction of a first discoverer made us chearfully encounter every danger, and submit to every inconvenience; and we chose rather to incur the censure of imprudence and temerity, which the idle and voluptuous so liberally beflow upon unsuccessful fortitude and perseverance, than leave a page 384 country which we had discovered unexplored, and give colour to a charge of timidity and irresolution.
Having now congratulated ourselves upon getting within the reef, not with standing we had so lately congratulated ourselves upon getting without it, I resolved to keep the main land on board in my future route to the northward, whatever the consequence might be; for if we had now gone without the reef again, it might have carried us so far from the coast, as to prevent my being able to determine, whether this country did, or did not, join to New Guinea; a question which I was determined to resolve from my first coming within sight of land. However, as I had experienced the disadvantage of having a boat under repair, at a time when it was possible I might want to use her, I determined to remain fast at anchor, till the pinnace was perfectly refitted. As I had no employment for the other boats, I sent them out in the morning to the reef, to see what refreshment could be procured, and Mr. Banks, in his little boat, accompanied by Dr. Solander, went with them. In this situation I found the variation by amplitude and azimuth to be 4° 9 E. and at noon, our latitude by observation was 12° 38′ S. and our longitude 216° 45′ W. The main land extended from N. 66 W. to S. W. by S. and the nearest part of it was distant about nine leagues. The opening through which we passed I called Providential Channel; and this bore E. N. E. distant ten or twelve miles: on the main land within us was a lofty promontory which I called Cape Weymouth; on the north side of which is a bay which I called Weymouth Bay: they lie in latitude 12° 42′ S. longitude 127° 15′ W. At four o'clock in the afternoon the boats returned with two hundred and forty pound of the meat of shell-fish, chiefly of cockles, some of which were as much as two men could move, and contained twenty pounds of good meat. Mr. Banks also brought back many curious shells and Mollusca; besides many species of coral, among which was that called the Tubipora musica.
At six o'clock in the morning we got under sail, and stood away to the N. W. having two boats a-head to page 385 direct us; our soundings were very irregular, varying five or six fathoms every cast, between ten and twentyseven. A little before noon we passed a low sandy island, which we left on our starboard side, at the distance of two miles. At noon our latitude was 12° 28′, and our distance from the main about four leagues: it extended from S. by W. to N. 71 W. and some small islands from N. 40 W. to 54 W. Between us and the main, were several shoals, and some without us, besides the main or outermost reef, which we could see from the mast-head, stretching away to the N. E. At two in the afternoon, as we were steering N. W. by N. we saw a large shoal right a-head, extending three or four points upon each bow; upon this we hauled up N. N. E. and N. E. by N. to get round the north point of it, which we reached by four, and then edged away to the westward, and ran between the north end of this shoal and another, which lies two miles to the northward of it, having a boat all the way a-head sounding; our depth of water was still very irregular, from twenty-two to eight fathoms. At half an hour after six, we anchored in thirteen fathoms: the northernmost of the small islands seen at noon bore W. ½ S. distant three miles: these islands are distinguished in the chart by the name of Forbes's Islands, and lie about five leagues from the main, which here forms a high point that we called Bolt Head, from which the land trends more westerly, and is in that direction all low and sandy; to the southward it is high and hilly, even near the sea.
At six in the morning we got again under sail, and steered for an island which lay at a small distance from the main, and at this time bore from us N. 40 W. distant about five leagues: our course was soon interrupted by shoals; however, by the help of the boats, and a good look-out from the top of the mast, we got into a fair channel that led us down to the island, between a very large shoal on our starboard side and several small ones towards the main: in this channel we had from twenty to thirty fathoms water. Between eleven and twelve o'clock we hauled round the north-east side of the island, leaving it between us and the main, from which it is distant about seven or eight miles. This island is about a league in circuit, and page 386 we saw upon it five of the natives, two of whom had lances in their hands; they came down upon a point, and having looked a little while at the ship, retired. To the N. W. of it are several low islands and quays, which lie not far from the main: and to the northward and eastward are several other islands and shoals; so that we were now encompassed on every side: but having lately been expossed to much greater danger, and rocks and shoals being grown familiar, we looked at them comparatively with little concern. The main land appeared to be low and barren, interspersed with large patches of the very fine white sand, which we had found upon Lizard island and different parts of the main. The boats had seen many turtle upon the shoals which they passed, but it blew too hard for them to take any. At noon our latitude by observation was 12° and our longitude 217° 25′: our depth of water was fourteen fathoms; and our course and distance, reduced to a strait line, was, between this time and the preceding noon, N. 29 W. thirty-two miles.
The main land within the islands that have been just mentioned forms a point, which I called Cape Grenville: it lies in latitude 11° 58′ longitude 217° 38′; and between it and Bolt Head is a bay, which I called Temple Bay. At the distance of nine leagues from Cape Grenville, in the direction of E. ½ N. lie some high islands, which I called Sir Charles Hardy's Isles; and those which lie off the Cape I called Cockburn's Isles. Having lain by for the boats, which had gone out of their station, till about one o'clock, we then took the yawl in tow; and the pinnace having got a-head, we filled, and stood N. by W. for some small islands which lay in that direction; such at least they were in appearance, but upon approaching them, we perceived that they were joined together by a large reef: upon this we edged away N. W. and left them on our starboard hand; we steered between them and the islands that lay off the main, having a clear passage, and from fifteen to twenty-three fathoms water. At four o'clock, we discovered some low islands and rocks, bearing W. N. W. and stood directly for them: at half an hour after six, we anchored on the north-east side of the northernmost of them, at one mile distance, page 387 and in six fathoms. These islands are N. W. four leagues from Cape Grenville, and from the number of birds that I saw upon them, I called them Bird Isles. A little before sun-set we were in sight of the main land, which appeared all very low and sandy, extending as far to the northward as N. W. by N. some shoals, quays, and low sandy isles stretching away to the N. E.
At six o'clock in the morning, we got under sail, with a fresh breeze at E. and stood away N. N. W. for some low islands in that direction, but were soon obliged to haul close upon a wind to weather a shoal which we discovered upon our larboard bow, having at the same time others to the eastward: by the time we had weathered this shoal to leeward, we had brought the islands well upon our lee bow; but seeing some shoals run off from them, and some rocks on our starboard bow, which we did not discover till we were very near them, I was afraid to go to windward of the islands, and therefore brought to, and having made the signal for the pinnace, which was a-head, to come on board, I sent her to leeward of the islands, with orders to keep along the edge of the shoal, which ran off from the south side of the southernmost island, sending the yawl at the same time, to run over the shoal in search of turtle. As soon as the pinnace had got to a proper distance, we wore, and stood after her: as we ran to leeward of this island, we took the yawl in tow, she having seen only one small turtle, and therefore made but little stay upon the shoal. The island we found to be a small spot of land, with some trees upon it, and we could discern many huts, or habitations of the natives, whom we supposed occasionally to visit these islands from the main, they being only five leagues distant, to catch turtle, when they come ashore to lay their eggs. We continued to stand after the pinnace N. N. E. and N. by E. for two other low islands, having two shoals without us, and one between us and the main. At noon, we were about four leagues from the main, which we saw extending to the northward, as far as N. W. by N. all flat and sandy. Our latitude, by observation, was 11° 23′ S. and our longitude 217° 46′ W. our soundings were from fourteen to page 388 twenty-three fathoms; but these, as well as the shoals and islands, which are too numerous to be particularly mentioned, will be best seen upon the chart. By one o'clock we had run nearly the length of the southernmost of the two islands in sight, and finding that the going to the windward of them would carry us too far from the main, we bore up and ran to leeward, where finding a fair open passage, we steered N. by W. in a direction parallel to the main, leaving a small island which lay between it and the ship, and some low sandy isles and shoals without us, of all which we lost sight by four o'clock, and saw no more before the sun went down: at this time the farthest part of the land in sight bore N. N. W. ½ W. and soon after we anchored in thirteen fathoms, upon soft ground, at the distance of about five leagues from the land, where we lay till daylight.
Early in the morning we made sail again, and steered N. N. W. by compass, for the northernmost land in sight; and at this time, we observed the variation of the needle to be 3° 6′ E. At eight o'clock, we discovered shoals a-head, and on our larboard bow, and saw that the northernmost land, which we had taken for the main, was detached from it, and that we might pass between them, by running to leeward of the shoals on our larboard bow, which were now near us: we therefore wore and brought to, sending away the pinnace and yawl to direct us, and then steered N. W. along the S. W. or inside of the shoals, keeping a good look-out from the mast-head, and having another shoal on our larboard side: we found however a good channel of a mile broad between them, in which we had from ten to fourteen fathoms. At eleven o'clock, we were nearly the length of the land detached from the main, and there appeared to be no obstruction in the passage between them, yet having the long-boat a-stern, and rigged, we sent her away to keep in shore upon our larboard bow, and at the same time dispatched the pinnace a-starboard; precautions which I thought necessary, as we had a strong flood that carried us an end very fast, and it was near high-water: as soon as the boats were a-head, we stood after them, and by noon got through the passage. Our latitude, by observation, page 389 was then 10° 36′, and the nearest part of the main, which we soon after found to be the northernmost, bore, W. 2 S. distant between three or four miles: we found the land which was detached from the main, to be a single island, extending from N. to N. 75 E. distant between two and three miles; at the same time we saw other islands at a considerable distance, extending from N. by W. to W. N. W. and behind them another chain of high land, which we judged also to be islands: there were still other islands, extending as far as N. 71 W. which at this time we took for the main.
The point of the main which forms the side of the channel through which we had passed, opposite to the island, is the northern promontory of the country, and I called it York Cape. Its longitude is 218° 24′ W. the latitude of the north point is 10° 37′, and of the east point 10° 42′ S. The land over the east point, and to the southward of it, is rather low, and as far as the eye can reach, very flat, and of a barren appearance. To the southward of the Cape the shore sorms a large open bay, which I called Newcastle Bay, and in which are some small low islands and shoals; the land adjacent is also very low, flat, and sandy. The land of the northern part of the Cape is more hilly, the vallies seem to be well cloathed with wood, and the shore forms some small bays, in which there appeared to be good anchorage. Close to the eastern point of the Cape are three small islands, from one of which a small ledge of rocks runs out into the sea: there is also an island close to the northern point. The island that forms the streight or channel through which we had passed, lies about four miles without these, which, except two, are very small: the southernmost is the largest, and much higher than any part of the main land. On the north-west side of this island there appeared to be good anchorage, and on shore, vallies that promised both wood and water. These islands are distinguished in the chart by the name of York Isles. To the southward, and south-east, and even to the eastward and northward of them, there are several other low islands, rocks, and shoals: our depth of water in sailing between them and the main, was twelve, thirteen, and fourteen fathoms.page 390
We stood along the shore to the westward, with a gentle breeze at S. E. by S. and when we had advanced between three and four miles, we discovered the land a-head, which, when we first saw it, we took for the main, to be islands detached from it by several channels: upon this we sent away the boats, with proper instructions, to lead us through that channel which was next the main; but soon after discovering rocks and shoals in this channel, I made a signal for the boats to go through the next channel to the northward, which lay between these islands, leaving some of them between us and the main: the ship followed, and had never less than five fathoms water in the narrowest part of the channel, where the distance from island to island was about one mile and a half.
After four o'clock in the afternoon we anchored, being about a mile and a half, or two miles, within the entrance,' in six fathoms and a half, with clear ground: the channel here had begun to widen, and the islands on each side of us were distant about a mile: the main land stretched away to the S. W. the farthest point in view bore S. 48 W. and the southernmost point of the islands, on the north west side of the passage, bore S. 76 W. Between these two points we could see no land, so that we conceived hopes of having, at last, found a passage into the Indian sea; however, that I might be able to determine with more certainty, I resolved to land upon the island which lies at the south-east point of the passage. Upon this island we had seen many of the inhabitants when we first came to an anchor, and when I went into the boat, with a party of men, accompanied by Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander, in order to go ashore, we saw ten of them upon a hill, nine of them were armed with such lances as we had been used to see, and the tenth had a bow, and a bundle of arrows, which we had never seen in the possession of the natives of this country before: we also observed, that two of them had large ornaments of mother-of-pearl hanging round their necks. Three of these, one of whom was the bow-man, placed themselves upon the beach a-breast of us, and we expected that they would have opposed our landing, but when we came within about a musket's shot of the beach, they walked leisurely away. We page 391 immediately climbed the highest hill, which, was not more than three times as high as the mast-head, and the most barren of any we had seen. From this hill, no land could be seen between the S. W. and W. S. W. so that I had no doubt of finding a channel through. The land to the north-west of it consisted of a great number of islands of various extent, and different heights, ranged one behind another, as far to the northward and westward as I could see, which could not be less than thirteen leagues. As I was now about to quit the eastern coast of New Holland, which I had coasted from latitude 38 to this place, and which I am consident no European had ever seen before, I once more hoisted English colours, and though I had already taken possession of several particular parts, I now took possession of the whole eastern coast, from latitude 38° to this place, latitude 10 ½ S. in right of his Majesty King George the Third, by the name of New South Wales, with all the bays, harbours, rivers, and islands situated upon it: we then fired three vollies of small arms, which were answered by the same number from the ship. Having performed this ceremony upon the island, which we called Possession Island, we reimbarked in our boat, but a rapid ebb tide setting N. E. made our return to the vessel very difficult and tedious. From the time of our last coming among the shoals, we constantly found a moderate tide, and flood setting to the N. W. and the ebb to the S. E. At this place it is high water at the full and change of the moon, about one or two o'clock, and the water rises and falls perpendicularly about twelve seet. We saw smoke rising in many places from the adjacent lands and islands, as we had done upon every part of the coast, after our last return to it through the reef.
We continued at anchor all night, and between seven and eight o'clock in the morning, we saw three or four of the natives upon the beach gathering shell-fish; we discovered, by the help of our glasses, that they were women, and, like all the other inhabitants of this country, stark naked. At low water, which happened about ten o'clock, we got under sail, and stood to the S. W. page 392 with a light breeze at E. which afterwards veered to N. by E. our depth of water was from six to ten fathoms, except in one place, where we had but five. At noon Possession Island bore N. 53 E. distant four leagues, the western extremity of the main land in sight bore S. 43 W. distant between four and five leagues, and appeared to be extremely low, the south-west point of the largest island on the north-west side of the passage bore N. 71 W. distant eight miles, and this point I called Cape Cornwall. It lies in latitude 10° 43 S. longitude 219° W. and some low islands that lie about the middle of the passage, which I called Wallis's Isles, bore W. by S. ½ S. distant about two leagues: our latitude, by observation, was 10° 46′ S. We continued to advance with the tide of flood W. N. W. having little wind, and from eight to five fathoms water. At half an hour after one, the pinnace, which was a-head, made the signal for shoal water, upon which we tacked, and sent away the yawl to found also: we then tacked again, and stood after them: in about two hours, they both made the signal for shoal water, and the tide being nearly at its greatest height, I was afraid to stand on, as running a-ground at that time might be fatal; I therefore came to an anchor in something less than seven fathoms, sandy ground. Wallis's Islands bore S. by W. ½ W. distant five or six miles, the islands to the northward extended from S. 73 E. to N. 10 E. and a small island, which was just in sight, bore N. W. ½ W. Here we found the flood tide set to the westward, and the ebb to the eastward.
After we had come to an anchor, I sent away the Master in the long-boat to sound, who, upon his return in the evening, reported, that there was a bank stretching north and south, upon which there were but three fathoms, and that beyond it there were seven. About this time it fell calm, and continued so till nine the next morning, when we weighed, with a light breeze at S. S. E. and steered N. W. by W. for the small island which was just in sight, having first sent the boats a-head to sound: the depth of water was eight, seven, six, five, and four fathoms, and three page 393 fathoms upon the bank, it being now the last quarter ebb. At this time, the norther most island in sight bore N. 9 E. Cape Cornwall E. distant three leagues, and Wallis's Isles S. 3 E. distant three leagues. This bank, at least so much as we have sounded, extends nearly N. and S. but to what distance I do not know: its breadth is not more than half a mile at the utmost. When we had got over the bank, we deepened our water to six fathoms three quarters, and had the same depth all the way to the small island a-head, which we reached by noon, when it bore S. distant about half a mile. Our depth of water was now five fathoms, and the northern-most land in sight, which is part of the same chain of islands that we had seen to the northward from the time of our first entering the streight, bore N. 71 E. Our latitude, by observation, was 10° 33′ S. and our longitude 219° 22′ W. in this situation, no part of the main was in sight. As we were now near the island, and had but little wind, Mr. Banks and I landed upon it, and found it, except a few patches of wood, to be a barren rock, the haunt of birds, which had frequented it in such numbers, as to make the surface almost uniformly white with their dung: of these birds, the greater part seemed to be boobies, and I therefore called the place Booby Island. After a short stay, we returned to the ship, and in the mean time the wind had got to the S. W. it was but a gentle breeze, yet it was accompanied by a swell from the same quarter, which, with other circumstances, confirmed my opinion that we were got to the westward of Carpentaria, or the northern extremity of New Holland, and had now an open sea to the westward, which gave me great satisfaction, not only because the dangers and fatigues of the voyage were drawing to an end, but because it would no longer be a doubt whether New Holland and New Guinea were two separate islands, or different parts, of the same.
The north-east entrance of this passage, or streight, lies in the latitude of 10° 39′ S. and in the longitude of 218° 36′ W. It is formed by the main or the northern extremity of New Holland, on the S. E. and by a congeries of islands, which I called the Prince of Wales's Islands, to the N. W. and it is probable that these islands extend quite to New Guinea. They page 394 differ very much both in height and circuit, and many of them seemed to be well clothed with herbage and wood: upon most, if not all of them, we saw smoke, and therefore there can be no doubt of their being inhabited: it is also probable, that among them there are at least as good passages as that we came through, perhaps better, though better need not be desired, if the access to it, from the eastward, were less dangerous: that a less dangerous access may be discovered, I think there is little reason to doubt, and to find it little more seems to be necessary, than to determine how far the principal, or outer reef, which bounds the shoals to the eastward, extends towards the north, which I would not have left to future navigators, if I had been less harrassed by danger and fatigue, and had had a ship in better condition for the purpose.
To this channel, or passage, I have given the name of the ship, and called it Endeavour Streights. Its length from N. E. to S. W. is ten leagues, and it is about five leagues broad, except at the north-east entrance, where it is somewhat less than two miles, being contracted by the islands which lie there. That which I called Possession Island is of a moderate height and circuit, and this we left between us and the main, passing between it and two small round islands, which lie about two miles to the N. W. of it. The two small islands, which I called Wallis's Islands, lie in the middle of the south-west entrance, and these we left to the southward. Our depth of water in the streight was from four to nine fathoms, with every where good anchorage, except upon the bank which lies two leagues to the northward of Wallis's Islands, where, at low water, there are but three fathoms: for a more particular knowledge of this streight, and of the situations of the several islands and shoals on the eastern coast of New Wales, I refer to the chart, where they are delineated with all the accuracy that circumstances would admit; yet, with respect to the shoals, I cannot pretend that one half of them are laid down, nor can it be supposed possible that one half of them should be discovered in the course of a single navigation: many islands also must have escaped my pencil, especially between latitude 20° and 22° where we saw islands out at page 395 sea as far as an island could be distinguished; it must not therefore be supposed, by future navigators, that where no shoal or island is laid down in my chart, no shoal or island will be found in these seas: it is enough that the situation of those that appear in the chart is faithfully ascertained, and, in general, I have the greatest reason to hope that it will be found as free from error as any that has not been corrected by subsequent and successive observations. The latitudes and longitudes of all, or most of the principal head-lands and bays, may be in; for we seldom failed of getting an observation once at least every day, by which to correct the latitude of our reckoning, and observations for settling the longitude were equally numerous, no opportunity that was offered by the sun and moon being suffered to escape. It would be injurious to the memory of Mr. Green, not to take this opportunity of attesting that he was indefatigable both in making observations and calculating upon them; and that, by his instructions and assistance, many of the petty officers were enabled both to observe and calculate with great exactness. This method of finding the longitude at sea, may be put into universal practice, and may always be depended upon within half a degree, which is sufficient for all nautical purposes. If, therefore, observing and calculating were considered as necessary qualifications for every sea officer, the labours of the speculative theorist to solve this problem might be remitted, without much injury to mankind: neither will it be so difficult to acquire this qualification, or put it in practice, as may at first appear; for, with the assistance of the nautical almanack, and astronomical ephemeris, the calculations for finding the longitude will take up little more time than the calculation of an azimuth for finding the variation of the compass.