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Historical Records of New Zealand Vol. II.

Captain Cook to Secretary Stephens

Captain Cook to Secretary Stephens.

Resolution, Cape of Good Hope, 18 November, 1772.


Please to acquaint their Lordships that I left Madeira with his Majesty's sloops Resolution and Adventure the 1st of August, touched at St. Jago, took on board some refreshments, and departed again in two days, and on the 30th of last month arrived at this place without any material occurrences happening. I find the sloops to answer as well as ships can do, and the crews were and continue healthy. From this last circumstance I thought to have made my stay very short here; waiting for some articles of provisions hath kept me longer than I intended; being at length compleat, as you will See by the inclosed state of the sloops, shall put to sea without loss of time.

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Lieutenant Shank, first of the Adventure, having requested leave to quit, in order to return home, and the surgeons having reported the same to be absolutely necessary for the establishment of his health, I granted it him accordingly, and appointed Mr. Kemp to be first Lieutenant of the Adventure, and Mr. James Burney, one of my midshipmen, to be second in his room, which I hope will meet with their Lordships' approbation; copies of the letters and orders on this affair you will herewith receive. I must beg leave to assure their Lordships that Mr. Shank has quited the sloop with the greatest reluctancy, and nothing but his bad state of health would have obliged him to give up a voyage on which he had set his heart. On my arrival at this place, I learnt that about eight months ago two French ships (La Fortune and Gross Ventre), from the Mauritius, discovered land in the meridian of that island, and in about latitude of 48°, along which they sail'd forty miles till they came to a bay, into which they were about to enter, when they were drove off the coast and seperated by a gale of wind.* The La Fortune arrived at the Mauritius soon after, and the captain is since gone to France to give an account of the discovery, and touched here about three months ago in his way. The Gross Ventre is lately arrived at the Mauritius from Batavia with a cargo of arrack. This account we have by a ship who left the island two days after the other arrived, in which time nothing about the discovery transpired. Also, in March last, two French frigates from the same island touched here in their way to the South

* The “Fortuna” and “Gros Ventre” were commanded by M. de Kerguelen. The land referred to is Kerguelen Island, discovered by Kerguelen in 1772 under circumstances identical with those mentioned by Cook.—(Kerguelen's Voyages, p. 21, and Ross's Voyages to the Southern Seas, vol. i, p. 63.) It was one of the objects of Cook's Third Voyage to locate and examine this land. The following passage from his Secret Instructions of date 6th July, 1776, indicates how little was known at that time of the movements of contemporary navigators:—“You are, if possible, to leave the Cape of Good Hope by the end of October, or the beginning of November next, and proceed to the southward in search of some islands said to have been lately seen by the French, in the latitude of 48° 0′ south, and about the meridian of Mauritius. In case you find those islands, you are to examine them thoroughly for a good harbour, and upon discovering one, make the necessary observations to facilitate, finding it again, as a good port in that situation may hereafter prove very useful, although it should afford little or nothing more than shelter, wood, and water.” (Vol. i, p. 24.) The island barely afforded even “shelter, wood, and water.” Cook's opinion of it can be gathered from the fact that he named it Desolation Island.

The Mascarin and the Marquis de Castries, under the command of M. Marion, who after leaving the Cape proceeded to New Zealand, where he was massacred on 8th June, 1772.—Nouveau voyage a la mer du sud, commencé sous les ordres de Marion, achevé après sa mort sous ceux da Chevalier du Clesmeur, Paris, 1783.

page 111 Sea; had on board the man Bougainville brought from the Otaheite, and who died before the ships left this place.* They are to touch some were on the coast of America before they proceed round Cape Horn, the rout they intended to take.

The paintings which Mr. Hodges has made of Madeira, Port Praya, and this place I have packed up and left here to be forwarded to you by the first safe opportunity, viz't, one large painting of this place, one small one of part of Funchall, and one of Port Praya, all in oil colours, and some others in water-colours of little note.

I am, &c.,

Jam's Cook.

* This native of Otaheite voluntarily embarked with M. de Bougainville when he left that island on 16th April, 1768. His name was Aotourou. Bougainville returned to France in March, 1769; in March of the following year Aotourou was sent to the Isle of France [Mauritius], and M. Marion instructed to convey him to Otaheite. He was, however, seized with small-pox soon after leaving the Isle of France, and was landed at Madagascar, where he died.—“Voyage autour du Monde, Lewis de Bougainville,” Nouvelle Biographie Générale, tom. xxxiii, p. 794.