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Historical Records of New Zealand

Lieutenant Menzies to Sir Joseph Banks (Banks Papers)

page 143

Lieutenant Menzies to Sir Joseph Banks (Banks Papers).

Nootka Sound, Sept. 26th, 1792.

Sir Joseph,—

I was favoured with your letter by the Dædalus, storeship, on our arrival here about twenty days ago. This ship has been about eleven months on her passage from England. On this side of Cape Horn she touched at the Marquesas, and in a few days after leaving them at a cluster of islands, where they found a fine harbour, and received good refreshments and much civility from the inhabitants. Though these were a new discovery to them, we have since learned that the Americans claim a priority.

They afterwards touched at the Sandwich Isles, where they unfortunately lost Lieut. Hergest, Mr. Gooch the astronomer, and one seaman at the Island of Woahoo, on the 10th of May last. The manner in which this fatal accident happened (they say) was thus: The vessel was laying off and on in Whyteetee Bay, on the south side of Woahoo, while they were procuring water and refreshments. Lieut. Hergest conceiving that this business was going on rather dilatory, ordered a few empty casks into the boat, and he and Mr. Gooch went on shore unarmed, to see the duty forwarded. While the casks were filling they both took a short walk back into a neighbouring plantation, and in the meantime a scuffle happened on the beach between the boat’s crew and the natives, in which one seaman was killed before they could get to the few arms they had in the boat. Some of the boat’s crew afterwards landed, and saw at a distance a group of the natives surrounding Messrs. Hergest and Gooch, hustling them back into the mountains, and stripping them, as they thought, of their clothes. The natives now arming themselves on all sides, with clubs, spears, and stones, obliged them to retreat to their boat for safety and join the ship, which soon after came to an anchor, and on the following day sent an armed boat on shore to demand the two gentlemen, when they were informed of their being both massacred on the preceding evening, and could procure no part of them, as the natives were all armed on an adjacent hill, where it was not in their power to use any compulsive means. Thus situated they left the Sandwich Island, and arrived here about the beginning of July.

I shall now proceed to give you a short account of our own progress since the date of my last letter to you from the Cape of Good Hope. We left that place on the 27th of August, 1791, and afterwards experienced a series of tempestuous weather until we passed the meridian of the east end of Madagascar. On the 26th September we made the coast of N. Holland, in the lat. of 35° south and long. 116° 15″ east. We coasted on to the eastward for about 33 leagues, when we entered a harbour which obtained the page 144 name of King George Sound, in lat. 35° 5″ south and long. 118° 16″ east. Here we remained for about a fortnight, which gave me an opportunity of examining the country in various excursions round the south, making a copious collection of its vegetable productions, particularly the genus BANKSIA, which are here very numerous. The climate appears to be exceedingly favourable. The soil tho’ light is good, and productive of a vast variety of vegetables, particularly inland, where the country appears chiefly covered with wood, diversified with pleasing pasturage and gentle rising hills of a very moderate height, well watered in many places by small rivulets. Whatever grains grow at the Cape would, I am certain, flourish here in greater perfection; in short, it is a delightful country, and well worth a more particular investigation from Government on account of its nearness and easy access to our settlements in India. We saw no natives or quadrupeds of any kind during our stay, tho’ some recent traces of the former were very evident in two deserted villages at the head of the Sound.

After leaving it we traced the coast about sixty leagues further to the eastward, and quitted it on the 15th of October, in the latitude of 34° 22″ south, and about the longitude of 122° east, shaping our course for Van Dieman’s Land, which we made on the 26th, and passing round it on the following day entered Dusky Bay, N. Zealand, on the 2nd Nov., where we remained twenty days, and where I was particularly entertained among a vast variety of cryptogamic plants, of which I have made a tolerable good collection, and added a new genus to the order of Musci. Next day, after departing from Dusky Bay, we discovered, in a violent gale of wind which separated us from our consort, a cluster of dreary barren rocks and islets, which we called the Snares, off the south-west end of N. Zealand, in lat. 48° 3″ south and long. 166° 20″ east; and in our passage we discovered a small inhabited island, about eight or nine leagues in circumference, in the lat. of 27° 36″ south and long. 215° 57″ east from Greenwich.

We anchored in Mattavai Bay on the 30th December, where we joined our consort,* who arrived about a week before us. Here the natives informed us of the departure of Capt. Edwards in the Pandora, frigate, with 13 of the Bounty’s people, but we are now sorry to learn of her being since lost in the Endeavour Straights.

We left Otaheite on the 24th January, 1792, and made Owhyhee on the 1st of March, where we left Tooworero with his friend Tianna, the hero of Mears’ voyage. We continued among these islands till the 16th, when we directed our course to the

* The Chatham. Lieutenant Menzies was on board Captain Vancouver’s ship, the Discovery.

page 145 N.W. coast of America, and made New Albion on the 17th of April, in lat. 39° 20′ north, and longitude 236° 18′ east. We continued tracing the coast to the northward without being able to find a harbour or inlet till we entered the Straits of Juan de Fuca* on the 29th, in lat. 48° 24′ N. From this to Cape Mendocino, in lat. 40° 30′ N. and long. 235° 48′ E., the coast preserves nearly a south direction, and affords in many places, particularly to the southward, most beautiful prospects of hills and dales, varied with woods and extended pastures mounting up their sides, presenting to the eye delightful rural landscapes, and to the mind the idea of a mountainous country in a high state of cultivation, which I could not pass without often regretting my not being able to land and examine it more particularly. We understand at present the Spaniards have no settlement to the northward of Port St. Francisco excepting Nootka, and one lately established at the entrance of De Fuca Straits. It may appear curious that on the day we made the Straits of Juan De Fuca we should fall in with the very same Capt. Gray, which in Mears’ voyage is said to perform that wonderful interior navigation in the sloop Washington. I accompanied one of the officers on board his vessel, the Columbia, and he positively averred to us that he was never above 50 miles up the Straits, and came back the same way he entered, and Mr. Duffin, who is in this port at present waiting to carry our despatches to China, says that he himself was not above 14 leagues up. On comparing this to Mr. Mears’ assertions you will see the difference. A little within the straits, which is about 4 leagues wide, we passed a small port on our right hand, where the Spaniards have since established a settlement, and continued our course in an easterly direction for about 80 miles. Here the straits widens to about 7 leagues and divides out in various directions; some branches out in a south and south-easterly direction for about 50 or 60 miles into a fine level country, which obtained the name of New Georgia, abounding with extended lawns and rich pastures, not unlike in beauty of prospect the most admired parks in England. Others branch out to the northward and north-eastward, but the principal branch leads to the north-westward, which, after examining all the others attentively to their terminations, we pursued, passing behind Nootka, about 20 leagues inland, and came out to the sea on the 9th of Aug., about the latitude of 51° 10′ N.
After this we again resumed our interior examination, keeping the continental shore aboard to the latitude of 52 ½°. Here a series of dirty rainy weather obliged us in some measure to

* See Lord Grenville’s despatch, ante, p. 122.

page 146 relinquish our northern pursuits for this season, and being informed by one of the traders of the store-ship* being at Nootka, and the catastrophe that befel her, we again came out to sea about the lat. 51° 40′ on the 20th of Aug., and arrived here on the 28th, where we found Don Quadra, Governor of St. Blas, and commander-in-chief of the royal navy of Mexico and Callifornia, an officer to whose liberality and friendly hospitality we are all ready to testify our sincerest gratitude. He had his broad pendant on board a brig laying in the cove, the rest of his vessels, to the number of six, being at this time out examining different parts of the coast, two of which we had left in De Fuca’s Straits behind Nootka.

He lived on shore at a very decent planked house, considering the situation, where he kept an open table, I may say, for the officers of every vessel that visited the port, and supplied them on board with greens and milk daily.

On our arrival he told Capt. Vancouver that he would put him in possession of this territory and port, agreeable to his orders and the wish of his Catholic Majesty, giving up all the houses, gardens, &c., &c., as they stood, and that he would haul down the Spanish colours before he went away, and on our hoisting the English colours that he would salute the British flag. But on the arrival afterwards of an American trader, Capt. Inghram, he wonderfully prevaricated from his first intentions, as we believe by the advice of this man (Inghram), and would not give up any part excepting a small nook of the cove, about 100 yards wide, where Mr. Mears had his house and built his vessel, which could not be accepted of.

Don Quadra left this place a few days ago in the brig for St. Blas, parting with us in the most friendly manner, and leaving Don Coamano and a frigate to command here in his absence, but we expect to see him soon again on our way to the southward at the port of Monterey in Callifornia. He put himself under my care as a patient on or arrival here for a severe head-ache of which he complained, he said, for upwards of two years, and I was extremely happy that my endeavours proved serviceable in the re-establishment of his health before he went away.

The surgeon of the Discovery is to return to England in the store-ship by the way of Botany Bay on account of the ill state of his health, and Capt. Vancouver’s earnest solicitations has induced me to accept his place, with this proviso, that he will take care it will not interfere but as little as possible with my other pursuits; indeed I have in some measure attended the surgeon’s duty since we left the Cape of Good Hope, on account

* The Dædalus.

Ante, p. 122.

page 147 of Mr. Cranston’s indisposition, and constantly prescribed for Capt. Vancouver himself since we left England, so that the difference now of attending the duty wholly will be very little, as I have two assistants, and the ship in general healthy; besides, I have by this change got an additional cabin, which will be very serviceable in preserving my collections, so that I trust it will meet with your approbation, as I can assure you that my endeavours will suffer no abatement in consequence thereof in executing the object of my mission.

Mr. Mudge, 1st lieu’t of the Discovery, goes home by the way of China with dispatches for the Admir’y, under whose care I send this and a box of seeds directed to you for his Majesty’s gardens; and as it is said that the Chatham will sail in the course of a few days for England by the way of Cape Horn I will embrace that opportunity to send duplicates.

I am also happy to acquaint you that Mr. Johnstone is lately promoted to the rank of lieutenant, and I have, &c.,

Archibald Menzies.