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Historical Records of New Zealand

J. Johnstone to J. Berteret (Banks Papers).*

J. Johnstone to J. Berteret (Banks Papers).*

Cape of Good Hope, August 22, 1791.

The Chatham was, without a doubt, the most improper vessel that could have been pitched upon. She draws 12 ½ feet of water, and is scarcely the burthen of 120 tons; she has neither breadth nor length in the least reasonable proportion; where then is the fitness for rivers and shallows, which they say we are to explore? As you may conclude, we are very tender, and for sailing we have not been a match for the dullest merchant vessel we have met with. The Discovery sails much better, and she is stiff from her good bearings, and by her projecting sides affords great page 137 convenience and room for working. She has answered so far as to please those belonging to her.

We could have anchored at Funchal in an hour or two, but the Discovery, having acted with much more caution in respect to the land, was not able to come to us, and therefore made us a signal to join her.

We anchored at Teneriffe in Santa Cruz Bay on the 29th of April, and here we took in 25 tons of stone ballast, finding our own—which was 25 tons of and 4 of iron pigs—too little.

On the Sunday after our arrival we dined with an Englishman, and both ships had liberty, in consequence of which all hands got drunk, and insulted everyone, even the Spanish centinels. The Spanish guard was called out, and some of our men were forced down to their boats rather roughly, when the capt., who heard of the attack just as he had finished his coffee, came down, and was instantly thrust by the butt end of a musket into the sea.

The capt., when he came on board, lamented that he was not decked in his uniform, as he could in that case have made a national affair of it; he wrote, however, to the Spanish Governor, resting his charge on there having been a lieut. in uniform among those who were beaten, and received an evasive answer. I daresay the Governor thought him in the wrong.

July 10, we came into False Bay and found the Gorgon, with five transports for New S. Wales. If you were to see the broils on board those ships you would think with me that duty and command are not sufficiently defined. There is a naval lieut. as agent, but between him and the master of the ship is a daily contention. The officer of the troops also thinks he has a command, so that on board of them regularity and subordination are out of practice.

Our astronomical quadrant is of Bird, vamped up by Roweden. We young astronomers take upon us to condemn its exactness, and find it awkward in the adjustment.

* MS. in Sir Joseph Banks’s handwriting, indorsed, “Extract and abstract—J. Johnstone to J. Berteret.“

The armed tender selected, in place of the Gorgon, to accompany the Discovery on Vancouver’s expedition to the north-west coast of America. Ante, p. 113.