A Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas
[account of the country, natives, and natural produce of New Holland]
on the 31st, in the morning, we weighed anchor, having a fine breeze from the S. E. left the coast of New Zealand, and steered our course toward New Holland, taking our departure from a point of land near Blind Bay, which point we named Cape Farewell. We had fine weather and a fair wind till the 9th; then we saw one of the tropic birds, although we were in latitude 38° 34', thermometer 73. We were becalmed nine days, from the 9th to the 17th, and then the wind blew from the S. S. W. and S. W. and we had a broken sea that caused the ship to pitch and roll very much at the same time; we shipped a sea fore and ast, which deluged the decks, and had like to have washed several of us overboard: we were then in latitude 38° 46' and 22 degrees west of Cape Farewell, out of sight of land: so that the land of Van Diemen, if not page 133an island, must have tended away abruptly tothe east, or we should have seen it before this time. We continued our course, but nothing worthy of note occurred till the 19th, in the morning, and then we discovered the land of New Holland, extending a great way to the south, and to the eastward. It is moderately high: part of it appeared to be flat, and covered with sand; but, the weather being foggy, we had not a good view of it. We were obliged to steer E. N. E. to clear it; and saw three, water spouts, one of which continued very near a quarter of an hour. Latitude 37° 51'.
On the 20th, we sailed along shore with a fine brisk breeze, but we found no harbour. The land appeared rather level, with here and there a gentle ascent covered entirely with wood, some of which appeared large. About noon we saw some smoke ascending out of a wood near the sea side. Latitude 36° 51'.
On the 21st, we had fine clear weather, and a brisk gale: the coast appeared much the same as it did the day before, excepting that it was rather lower. In the evening the land appeared very low and strait, stretching away to the N.E. and was well covered with trees. We saw some clouds of smoke rising from them a good way up the country, but we found no harbour. Latitude 35° 51'.
On the 22d, the coast made a good view, being flat, level, and covered with verdure. The hills within land were remarkably flat: we discovered five men upon them, through our glasses, who were quite naked. It is probable they live upon the produce of the earth, as we did not see any canoes, and the coast seems to be unfavourable for fishing. Latitude 35° 27'.
On the 25th, we were in latitude 34° 22'. The weather was very fine, but we were often becalmed. The land appeared still flat, remarkably level, and strait on the top. We saw several fires along the coast lit up one after another, which might have been designed as signals to us.
On the 27th, in the morning, the wind being against us, we stood off and on shore. At noon, being about one mile from land, some of our men were sent on shore in a boat, which soon returned, not being able to land for the surf, page 134which ran very high all along the coast. They espied three men, sitting on the beach, who were naked, and of a very dark colour; but, on the boat's approach ing nearer toward them, they fled into the woods. Our people also discovered several canoes drawn upon the beach, and a kind of house or wig-wam adjacent. We also, from the ship, saw five men walking, two of whom carried a canoe on their shoulders. The country looked very pleasant and fertile; and the trees, quite free from underwood, appeared like plantations in a gentleman's park.
The natives often reconnoitred us, but we could not prevail on them to come near us or to be social; for, as soon as we advanced, they fled as nimbly as deer, excepting at one time, when they seemed determined to face us: then they came armed with spears, having their breasts painted white; but, as soon as they saw our boat go off from the ship, they retreated. Constrained by hunger, they often came into the bay to fish; but they kept in the shallows, and as near as possible to the shore. In one of their houses, at the top of the bay, we had laid some nails, pieces of cloth, and various trinkets; and though the natives had been there in our absence, yet they had not taken any of them.
This bay is in latitude 34°6', and makes a good harbour, being only two or three points open to the eastward; but the water is in general shallow; and it has several arms extending from it, which are also shallow. On these shallows we found a great number of rays, some shell-fish, and a few sharks. The rays are of an enormous size: one of them which we caught weighed two hundred and thirty-nine pounds, and another three hundred and twenty-six. They tasted very much like the European rays, and the viscera had an agreeable flavour, not unlike stewed turtle. These rays, and shell-fish, are the natives chief food.
The country is very level and fertile; the foil, a kind of grey sand; and the climate mild: and though it was the beginning of winter when we arrived, every thing feemed in perfection. There is a variety of flowering shrubs; a tree that yields gum; and a species of palm, [Borasus flabellifer,] the berries of which are of two sorts; one small, eaten by the hogs, and the other, as large as a cherry, has a stone in it; it is of a pale crimson colour, and has the taste of a sweet acid. We also found a species of Salvia Fortea.page 136
We met with but one quadruped on the island, which was about the size of a hare: we found also the skin of a snake, and saw a great number of birds of a beautiful plumage; among which were two sorts of parroquets, and a beautiful loriquet: we shot a few of them, which we made into a pie, and they ate very well. We also met with a black bird, very much like our crow, and shot some of them too, which also tasted agreeably. From the number of curious plants we met with on shore, we called the bay Botany-Bay.
Having got on board a good stock of hay for our sheep, on the 6th of May we weighed anchor, and left this bay. On this day, Forbes Sutherland, a native of the Orkneys, who had departed this life, was carried on shore, and decently interred.
Having only moderate breezes from the N. and N.E. we made but little way till the 9th. In the evening of that day we saw two of the most beautiful rainbows my eyes ever beheld: the colours were strong, clear, and lively; those of the inner one were so bright as to reflect its shadow on the water. They formed a complete semicircle; and the space between them was much darker than the rest of the sky.
In latitude 32° 51', on the 10th, the land appeared considerably higher, and more broken, very sandy, and less fertile. We saw several clusters of islands; among which, it is probable, there may be some good harbours.
On the 11th, we passed high broken land, having several distinct peaks and hills, an extensive flat along the shore covered with pretty large trees, and a sandy beach. We saw also many snakes, and three remarkable hills, which we called The Three Brothers. Latitude 32° 2'.
On the 14th, latitude 30° 22', the land appeared high, and well covered with wood; but, being three or four leagues from it, we could not distinguish many particulars upon it, though we saw clouds of smoke arise from different distant parts of the country. The wind was very variable after our leaving the last bay, and we had some calms. The wind hangs mostly between the N. and E. on this coast, blows very gently, and then dies away to a stark calm; but this day we had a fresh breeze from the S.W.page 137
On the 15th, we were in the latitude of 28° 40'. The breeze continued brisk from the S. W. the land appeared very uneven; and we saw a remarkable high peak, with three points at the top: behind it were three other hills, with round tops; and the nearest land was well covered with wood. We saw fix men, quite naked, walking upon a strait, white, sandy beach; and, in the evening, having a low point of land a-head, we discovered several breakers, at a considerable distance from the shore. The wind freshening, we stood to the east; and, soon after dark, brought to, continued founding every half-hour, and found thirty fathoms water.
On the 16th, we were in latitude 27° 40', and saw a vast tract, of low land, with, here and there, a rising hill.
On the 17th, the land appeared higher, having many remarkable peaks; one of which was like a glass-house: we also saw some smoke, and the appearance of a large river; the water of which was of a pale green colour. Latitude 26° 28'.
On the 18th, in latitude 25° 36', the land appeared to rise perpendicular, of an unequal height, and looked like a wall along the coast, without having any break; which prevented us from seeing the back land; and it was covered with great patches of white sand and stinted shrubs. The sea was full of a sort of orange-coloured powder, like that we saw on the coast of Brazil. On this day, we saw a water-snake.
On the 20th, in the forenoon, we were a-breast of a point which seemed to be the last of the land to the north, and tended away abruptly to the south. From this point there runs a very large shoal, on several parts of which the water broke. We sailed along-side of it, and had from seventeen to nine fathoms water. Before night came on, we got round it, and kept our course westward, as we had seen the looming of land in that quarter. The barren sandy land continued to this point, and was uninhabited. We saw a large turtle, some large grampusses that leaped out of the water, a great number of porpoises, many sharks which would not take bait, and several men-of-war birds. Latitude 24° 24'.page 138
On the 21st, in the forenoon, we discovered land again, extending a great way and forming a curve. It was very flat, level, and covered with trees, with a few hills within-land. We sailed along it, to look for a harbour, to the N. W. There was no appearance of land to the S. W. so that it is very probable there is a river in that part. We found no current, and our course was very shallow, as we had but from seven to twenty fathoms water at a great distance from land.
On the 22d, in the evening, we anchored in an open road or bay, round the north cape of the great bay. As we failed along, this day, the country appeared very barren and sandy, having only a few low shrubs.*
On the 23d, the captain and some others went on shore, and saw a few of the natives, but could not get near them. We saw, too, about twenty of them from the ship, who stood gazing at us upon the beach; also smoke arising out of the woods, which, perhaps, was only an artifice of theirs, to make us think they were numerous. We observed nothing worthy of note on land, excepting a great variety of plants; one of which bore a fruit like a small crab-apple, having a large stone in it, the Eawharra of Otaheite, and the dung of some quadruped that fed on grass. We hauled the seine, and tore it in pieces, but caught no fish: though we saw great shoals of them in this bay, they would not take the bait. We found a nautilus pompilius, and some of a curious kind of hammer oysters; as also a number of porpoises. We shot a duck of a beautiful plumage, with a white beak, black body, and white and green on the wings. We likewise shot another large bird, of the bustard kind, coloured black, white, and brown, which weighed seventeen pounds. The hills seen in this bay, which was called Bustard Bay, appeared very barren, having nothing upon them but a few diminutive shrubs; but we saw a large tract of low and flat land, that was covered with small wood, had several lagoons in it, and some of the same kind of plants which grow on the island of Otaheite and in the East-Indies.
* This day the captain's clerk had his ears cut off, and his cloaths also cut off his back. The captain and officers offered, some time after, at Batavia, a reward of fifteen guineas, to any one who should discover the person or persons who cut off his ears, and fifteen gallons of arrack, to any one that should discover him or them who had cut off his cloaths.
On the 24th, in the morning, we weighed anchor, and left this bay. At noon we were becalmed, and caught, with hook and line, several sorts of beautiful-coloured fishes. We saw some very large pelicans, which were near five feet high, and the tail of some quadruped, which we supposed might be a guanica. In latitude 23° 51' the land tended away from the sandy point in the great bay to the north-west.
On the 25th, in the forenoon, we crossed the tropic of Capricorn. The land appeared very desolate, being little else than sand and rocks, parcelled out into several islands and ragged points. We came to at night, in a sort of bay formed by the turning of the land, and found a considerable tide flowing into it. There was the appearance of an opening in the land, which may possibly be the mouth of a river.
On the 26th, we got in among a parcel of islands, to get clear of which we proposed going by a passage to the north-west, which was next to the main; but, finding our water shoal very much, we sent some men in a boat a-head of us, to sound, and came into three and two and a half fathom water. They returned with an account that there was hardly water enough; so we tacked about and stood out. The next morning, we had a fine breeze, and went through a passage to the north-east, between two islands: in this sound, the tide fell thirteen feet. Our people, who went off in the boat, saw many of the natives upon one of the islands, and they hallooed to them: they were of the same sort as those we had seen before. On the land round about, we saw both high and low ridges, with some peaks: part of it was well covered; though there appeared some large patches of white sand. Latitude 22° 52'.
On the 28th, resolving to keep the main close aboard, which continued tending away to the west, we got into another cluster of islands; where we were much alarmed, having but three fathoms water, on a sudden, in a ripling tide: we put about, and hoisted out the boats, to seek for deeper water; after which, as it was very gloomy and blew fresh, we kept an easy sail to the west, sounding all the way; and, at night, came to the entrance of a bay. This cluster of islands is very much page 140variegated; some of them are high, others low; some exceedingly broken and mere barren rocks, others well cloathed. Part of the main land is very high, and has extensive flats, covered with trees. Latitude 22° 8'.
On the 29th, in the morning, we passed into the bay, which appears to be the entrance into some river, by the strong tide that runs into the channel, which fell twelve feet in fix hours. The captain intended to ground the ship here, in order to clean her bottom; but,
On the 31st, we left this bay, not being able to find any fresh water, or any kind of provisions, not even fish. The bay is open to the north; is very large and deep, and capable of containing a navy at anchor. There were many creeks, that seemed to end in a lagoon; but the captain could not determine whether the inlet, that led into the country, was a river. The country about the bay is but indifferently cloathed; the trees are small; and the soil on the hills is very stony, and bare of grass under the trees. That part of the shore, which I saw, seemed to be a rock, composed of broken stones, cemented together with mud. On our first view of this coast, we conceived the most pleasing hopes, but were unhappily disappointed. We saw only two of the Indians, but the marks of many more, and the footsteps of an animal that had a cloven hoof. We saw also many of the Yam-trees, the greater part of them having been stripped of the bark; and several sorts of ants, some of which build their nests of earth against the side of a tree, while others make them of leaves, glued together and hung upon the branches.
From a hill, at the entrance into the bay, we had thirty islands in view. Through this labyrinth of islands we passed with some difficulty, on account of the number of shoals which we met with; one of which we should have been upon, had not the men in the boat given us timely notice. We were encouraged to attempt a passage through them, from an expectation, we had formed, of finding one to the north side of the land.
On the 2d of June, we were in the latitude of 20° 56', and still among islands, through which we were obliged to steer with great caution, keeping a boat out ahead, and coming to every night: we yet narrowly escaped a bank, the foundings page 141were so unequal. The land appeared very high, and much broken; had but an indifferent aspect, and seemed to be thinly inhabited.
On the 3d, in the morning, we had land on every quarter, excepting at south-east, and stood to north-west; where there appeared to be an opening, which carried us into a strait, in which we found deep water. This strait lies almost north and south; is about seven leagues long, and one and a half broad. On the west of it lies the main, and, on the east, a row of islands which extend a considerable way to the south. The land on both sides looked much better than that which we had seen before; being high, abounding in trees, and not sandy. We discovered three persons through our glasses, and a canoe with out-riggers, like those of Otaheite. In the evening, we had almost got out of the straits, the islands sailing, and the main tending more to the west. Latitude 20° 27'.
On the 4th, we cleared the straits and islands, and got into an open sea. The land upon the coast was full of very high hills, whose bowels are probably rich in ore; but their surface is poor indeed, being more barren, and fuller of stones, than any land we had seen. We had clear and pleasant weather, and the land still tended away to the west. Latitude 19° 48'.
On the 7th, we were between a parcel of islands and the main. The main-land looked very barren and dreary: the hills upon it looked like a heap of rubbish, on which nothing was to be seen, excepting a few low bushes: but the islands made a better appearance. We saw a few people in canoes, striking fish, some smoke on the main, and some palm-trees. Latitude 18°48'.
On the 8th, the main land appeared still higher, and very barren. We discovered several islands that looked like so many heaps of rubbish, which had lain long enough to have a few weeds and bushes grow on them. On one of them, which is not more than two miles in circumference, we saw a company of the natives, entirely naked, and of a dark complexion, standing quite still, and beholding the ship with astonishment. At night we saw a fire, which yielded a very grateful odour, not unlike that produced by burning the wood of gum benjamin.page 142
On the 10th, we continued our course to the north-west; and, about nine o'clock in the morning, we sailed down a reef of coral-rocks. Our water shoaled very soon, from twenty-one to eight fathoms; which alarmed us very much: every countenance expressed surprize, and every heart felt some trepidation. About eleven, the ship struck upon the rocks, and remained immoveable. We were, at this period, many thousand leagues from our native land, (which we had left upwards of two years,) and on a barbarous coast, where, if the ship had been wrecked, and we had escaped the perils of the sea, we should have fallen into the rapacious hands of savages. Agitated and surprised as we were, we attempted every apparent eligible method to escape, if possible, from the brink of destruction. The sails were immediately handed, the boats launched, the yards and topmasts struck, and an anchor was carried to the southward: the ship striking hard, another anchor was dispatched to the south-west. Night came on, which providentially was moon-light; and we weathered it out as patiently as possible, considering the dreadful suspense we were in.
On the 11th, early in the morning, we lightened the ship, by throwing overboard our ballast, fire-wood, some of our stores, our water-casks, all our water, and fix of our great guns; and set the pumps at work, at which every man on board assisted, the Captain, Mr. Banks, and all the officers, not excepted; relieving one another every quarter of an hour. About noon, the ship heaved much on one side; upon which five anchors were carried out, and dropt at different parts; while all the hands on board plied the pumps incessantly, hoping to have heaved her off the rock, but hoping in vain. At four o'clock in the afternoon it was low water, and the ship, in several places, grounded on the rock. Between nine and ten, the tide rose four feet, and the ship righted again; and, about ten, after some farther attempts to clear her, she providentially got off. This desirable event gave us spirits; which, however, proved but the transient gleam of sun-shine, in a tempestuous day; for they were soon depressed again, by observing that the water increased in the hold, faster than we could throw it out; and we expected, every minute, that the ship would sink, or that we should be obliged to run her again upon the rocks.page 143
In the midst of these gloomy prospects and alarming apprehensions, we found means to stop the leak, by a method suggested to us by an officer, who had, in a former voyage, made use of it with success: we sewed a great quantity of hair and oakum to a large piece of canvas, which we let down by two ropes, one on each side of the bow of the ship: in making way, the sucked this under, close to her bottom; and, when it reached the leak, it was forced in by the intruding water, and obstructed its passage so much, that we kept it under with a single pump. Providentially, too, at this instant, a breeze sprang up, and we steered towards the land, the boats going before, in quest of a harbour, which they also happily found, at about two or three leagues distance. On the 14th of June, we dropped anchor in the mouth of it; but the entrance into it was so narrow, that we were obliged to place buoys all the way, to steer by. While we lay on the rock, it was calm; and, from the time we left it, till this day, it blew gently; but now it began to blow hard, which prevented us from getting into the bay till the 18th; when we reached the desired haven, though not without some danger, the ship having several times-touched the ground.
When we threw the guns overboard, we fixed buoys to them, intending, if we escaped, to have heaved them up again; but, on attempting it, we found it was impracticable.
Soon after we arrived in the bay, we laid the ship on a steep bank, on the side of a river; set up tents on shore, unloaded her, carried all the cargo and provisions into them, and there lodged and accommodated our sick.
On the 22d, we examined the ship's bottom, and found a large hole, through the planks into the hold, which had a piece of coral-rock, half a yard square, sticking in it: the same rock, therefore, that endangered us, yielded us the principal means of our redemption; for, had not this fragment intruded into the leak, in all probability the ship would have sunk.
We lost no time, but immediately set about repairing the ship's bottom, and in a few days made it sound again. In the mean time, the boats were sent out, in page 144search of another passage, which they found, and returned to the ship on the 3d of July.
On the 4th of July, the ship was carried to the other side of the river, and examined thoroughly; but, being found in good condition, she was soon placed in her former station; where she was loaded, and properly fitted to proceed on the voyage.
During the time we staid here, we picked up a great many natural curiosities from the reef we struck upon, consisting of a variety of curious shells, most of which were entirely new to Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander. We met also with many new species of fish, Madrepores and other curious corals; sea-weed and other beautiful marine productions.
On shore we were not less successful. Of vegetables, we found Glycine rosea, which yields a sort of bean purslain, that eats very well, boiled; Cicas circinalis, the kernels of which, roasted, tasted like parched pease; but it made some of our people sick, who ate of it: of this fruit, they make a kind of sago in the East-Indies: we cut down many of them for the cabbage, which is very good food. We found also a black purple fruit, with a kernel in it which had a flat sweet taste; two sorts of fruit like pears, having stony sides, somewhat like the Guava, and of a very indifferent taste; a small-leaved plant, that smelt like lemon and orange peel, and made an agreeable substitute for tea; the E peea, Taro, E owhaee, and E peepee, of Otaheite: also wild Plantain, like the Meyia of Otiheite, which is very full of feed, and has hardly any pulp; a sort of fig-tree, that bears fruit on the main stem, which tastes very insipid; the Etee and Eroa, of which the natives of Otaheite make the best lines; many gum-trees, and a great number of other plants, among which was a beautiful Nymphea, with blue and white petala.
Of birds, we found grey pigeons, with red beaks and reddish brown crests, which ate very well; two sorts of small, doves; two sorts of. beautiful perroquets; a very uncommon hawk, pied black and white; several other sorts of hawks; large black cocatoes, with scarlet and orange-coloured feathers on their tails, and some white spots between the beak and the ear, as well as one on each page 145wing; the goat-sucker, or churn-owl; merops, or bee-eaters; large bats; a small bird, with wattles of a deep orange red; a bird like a Tetrao, having wattles of a fine ultramarine colour, and whose beak and legs were black; an owl, having the iris of its eyes gold colour, the pupil of them dark blue; a large black and white gull, with a bright yellow beak, on the gibbous part of which was a spot of scarlet; the corners of its mouth, and irides of the eyes, were of a bright scarlet colour; the legs and feet a greenish yellow: a black-bird, of the oyster-cracker genus; with a bright red beak, except toward the point, where it was yellow; the iris of its eyes scarlet; the irides of them bright orange; the feet and legs of a pale-red colour: a large olive-coloured bird of the loxia genus, having the iris of its eyes of a gall-stone colour, and the pupils of them black: a black and white shag, the iris of whose eyes was of a fine dark-green colour, the pupils black; the skin which surrounded the eyes was of a verditer-green colour; the beak a pale grey; on each side of which was a bare yellow spot; the feet were black: a large pigeon, the iris of the eyes of which was of a blood colour, the pupils of them black; their irides of a carmine colour; its legs and feet pale red. The two last were taken in a bay called Tasmano Bay. The black and white hawk before-mentioned, had the iris of its eyes very broad, of a rich scarlet colour, inclining to orange; the beak was black, the cera dirty grey yellow; the feet were of a gold or deep buff colour, like king's-yellow. Besides these, we saw many other curious birds.
Of quadrupeds, there are goats, wolves, a small red animal about the size of a squirrel; a spotted one of the viverra kind; and an animal of a kind nearly approaching the mus genus, about the size of a grey-hound, that had a head like a fawn's; lips and ears, which it throws back, like a hare's; on the upper jaw fix large teeth; on the under one two only; with a short and small neck, near to which are the fore-feet, which have five toes each, and five hooked claws; the hinder legs are long, especially from the last joint, which, from the callosity below it, seems as if it lies flat, on the ground when the animal descends any declivity; and each foot had four long toes, two of them behind, placed a great way back, the inner one of which has two claws; the two other toes were in the middle, and resembled a hoof, but one of them was much larger than the other. The tail, which is carried like a grey-hound's, was almost as long as the body, page 146and tapered gradually to the end. The chief bulk of this animal is behind; the belly being largest, and the back rising toward the posteriors. The whole body is covered with short ash-coloured hair; and the flesh of it tasted like a hare's, but has a more agreeable flavour.
Mr. Banks found, in the woods, an Opossum*, with two young ones sucking at her breasts.
There were many alligators on the coast, some of them very large, and we frequently saw them swimming round the ship.
We found also several sorts of snakes, ants, and a small culex, or fly, which is not bigger than a grain of sand; the bite or sting of which was venomous, and caused protuberances on the skin, which itched violently.
Of fish, we found many different sorts, and a variety of beautiful shell-fish; among them three sorts of oysters; some were found in lagoons; some adhering to the mangrove; and others along the shore: large cavalhe, or scomber; large mullets, some flat-fish, a great number of small scombri; and skate or ray-fish; one of which, that we caught, was curiously marked on the back with polygons finely coloured; and another of an orbicular figure, with a blue grey-coloured back, and white belly, which tasted like veal; some other parts like beef; and the entrails as agreeable as turtle. We caught also turtles of a bright green colour, some of which weighed near four hundred pounds †.
* This creature has a membraneous bag near the stomach in which it conceals and carries its young when it is apprehensive of danger.
† On opening a turtle that we caught we found part of a wooden lance in it, which had gone in by the breast before the calapee.
They had lances and levers, very neatly made of a reddish wood; and had two pieces of bone, joined together with pitch, that stood out at the end of them. To polish their lances they made use of the ficus riduola, which served the purpose of a rasp. Their canoes were made out of the trunks of trees; had an outrigger; and eight outriggers on which they laid their lances. Their paddles were long in the blade. To throw the water out of their canoes, they used a large shell called the Persian-crown.
Their language was not harsh, as may be seen by the following vocabulary, and they articulated their words very distinctly, though, in speaking, they made a great motion with their lips, and uttered their words vociferously, especially when they meant to shew their dissent or disapprobation. When they were pleased, and would manifest approbation, they said Hee, with a long flexion of the voice, page 148in a high and shrill tone. They often said Tut, tut, many times together but we knew not what they meant by it, unless it was intended to express astonishment. At the end of this Tut, they sometimes added Urr, and often whistled when they were surprised.