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Historical Records of New Zealand

Captain Cook to Secretary Stephens

Captain Cook to Secretary Stephens.

Resolution, in Table Bay, Cape of Good Hope, 22 March, 1775.
As Captain Furneaux must have inform’d you of my proceedings prior to our final separation, I shall confine this letter to my transactions afterwards. The Adventure not arriving in Queen Charlotte’s Sound before the 26th of November,* I put to sea, and after spending two days looking for her on the coast, I stood away to the south, inclining to the east. I met with little interruption from ice till we got into the latitude of 66°, where the sea was so covered with it that we could proceed no farther; we then steered to the east, inclining to the south, over a sea strewed with mountains of ice, and crossed the Antarctic Circle in the meridian of 146° west. After this I found it necessary to haul to the north, not only to get clear of the ice islands, which were very numerous, but to explore a large space of sea we had left nearly in the middle of the ocean in that direction. After getting to the latitude of 48°, I edged away to the east, and then again to the south, till we arrived in the latitude of 71° 10′, longitude 1061/2° west; farther it was not possible to go, all the sea to the south being wholly covered with a solid sheet of ice, in which were ice mountains whose lofty summits were lost in the clouds. Hetherto we had not

* Cook put to sea on the 24th November, 1773.

page 21 seen the least signs of land, or any one thing to encourage our researches; nevertheless, I did not think the Pacific Ocean sufficiently explored, and as I found we were in a condition to remain in it another year, I resolved to do it, and accordingly stood away to the north, and searched in vain for Juan Fernandes land. * I was more successful with Easter Island, where I made a short stay, and next visited the Marquesas; from the Marquesas I proceeded to Otaheite and the Society Islands, where we were received with a hospitality altogether unknown among more civilized nations; these good people supplyed all our wants with a liberal and full hand, and I found it necessary to spend six weeks with them. I left these isles on the 4th of June, proceeded to the west, touched at Rotterdam, stayed two or three days, and then continued our rout for Terra del Espiritu Santo of Quiros, which we made the 16th of July. I found this land to be composed of a large group of isles (many of them never seen by any European before) lying between the latitude of 14° and 20°, and nearly under the meridian of 168° east. The exploring these isles finished all I had intended to do within the tropic, accordingly I hauled to the south, intending to touch at New Zealand, but on the 4th of September, in the latitude of 20°, I fell in with a large country, which I called New Caledonia. I coasted the N.E. coast of this country, and partly determined the extent of the S.W. I found the whole so incompass’d with shoals that the risk we ran in exploring it was very great. We were at last blown off the coast, and as it was now time for us to return to the south, I was obliged to leave it unfinished, and to continue our route to Queen Charlotte’s Sound, where we arrived on the 6th of October. I remain’d here refiting the sloop and refreshing my people till the 9th of November, when I put to sea, and proceeded directly for Terra del Fuego, but over such parts of the sea as I had not visited before. I choose

* Juan Fernandez, a Spanish pilot, was reported to have discovered, about the year 1576, a large continent (gran tierra firme), after a month’s sail from the coast of Chile, “upon courses W. and S.W.“ The land was described as fertile and pleasant; the natives as white people, clothed in woven fabrics : while “on the coast were seen the mouths of very large rivers.“—(Burney’s History of Discoveries in the South Seas, vol. i, p. 300.) It was in the expectation of striking the coast of this terra nondum cognita that Cook, after penetrating over 30 miles within the Antarctic Circle, turned northwards to explore the South Pacific Ocean between the meridians of 110° and 90° west longitude, as far north as the latitude of 30° S. We now know that no such land exists, but in Cook’s time this was not so; its existence was generally accepted, and it was regarded by Dalrymple—the most learned geographer of the day—as the western extremity of an extensive continent reaching eastward to Tasmania. Cook did not return from this voyage before he had set the vexed question of a southern continent for ever at rest.

page 22 to make the west entrance of the Straits of Magalhanes that I might have it in my power to explore the S.W. and south coast of Terra del Fuego, which was accordingly done, as well as that of Staten Land. This last coast I left on the 3rd of January last, and on the 14th, in the latitude of 54°, longitude 38° west, we discovered a coast, which from the imense quantity of snow upon it, and the vast height of its mountains, we judged to belong to a great continent; but we found it to be an isle of no more than 70 or 80 leagues in circuit.* After leaving this land I steered to S.E., and in 59° discovered another exceeding high and mountainous, and so buried in everlasting snow that it was necessary to be pretty near the shore to be satisfied that the foundation was not of the same composition. I coasted this land to the north, and found it to terminate in isles in that direction. These isles carried us insencibly from the coast, which we could not afterwards regain, so that I was obliged to leave it without being able to determine whether it belonged to a continent extending to the south, or was only a group of isles. Our thus meeting with land gave me reason to believe there was such a land as Cape Circumcision, so that I quited the horrid southern coast with less regret. But our second search for Cape Circumcision was attended with no better success than the first, and served only to assure us that no such land existed. At length, after having made the circuit of the globe, and nothing more remained to be done, the season of the year, and other circumstances, unnecessary, I presume, to mention, determined me to steer for the Cape of Good Hope, where I arrived on the date hereof, and found the Ceres, Captain Newte, bound directly for England, by whom I transmit this, together with an account of the proceedings of the whole voyage, and such surveys, views, and other drawings as have been made in it. The charts are partly constructed from my observations, and partly from Mr. Gilbert, my master, whose judgement and asseduity, in this as well as every other branch of his profession, is exceeded by none. The views are all by Mr. Hodges, and are so judiciously chosen and executed in so masterly a manner as will not only shew the judgement and skill of the artist, but will of themselves express their various designs; but these are not all the works of that indefaticable gentleman; there are several other views, portraits, and some valuable designs in oyl colours, which, for want of proper colours, time, and conveniences, cannot be finished till after our arrival in England. The other gentlemen whom Go-

* Called by Cook, South Georgia. This island had (apparently unknown to Cook) been discovered by a Frenchman named Anthony de la Roche, in May, 1675. It had also been seen by another Frenchman, Guyot, in 1756.

page 23 vernment
thought proper to send out have each contributed his share to the success of the voyage. I have received every assistance I could require from Mr. Wales, the astronomer. Mr. Kendal’s watch has exceeded the expectations of its most jealous advocates, and by being now and then corrected by lunar observations has been our faithfull guide through all the vicissitudes of climates.

In justice to my officers and crew, I must say they have gone through the dangers and fatigues of the voyage with the utmost constancy and cheerfullness; this, together with the great skill, care, and attention of Mr. Patten, the surgeon, has not a little contributed to that uninterrupted good state of health we have all along enjoyed, for it cannot be said that we have lost one man by sickness sence we left England. If I have failed in discovering a continent, it is because it does not exist in a navigable sea, and not for want of looking after. Insurmountable difficulties were the bounds to my researches to the south.

Whoever has resolution and perseverence to find one beyond where I have been, I shall not envy him the honour of the discovery; but I will be bold to say that the world will not be benefited by it. My researches has not been confined to a continent alone, but to the isles and every other object that could contribute to finish the exploring the southern hemisphere. How far I may have succeeded I submit to their Lordships’ better judgement, and am, &c.,

Jam’s Cook.