The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks 1768–1771 [Volume Two]
4. Banks to Lord Morton
4. Banks to Lord Morton
I should certainly have wrote to your Lordship from Madeira to have given you an account of our proceedings there, had not the shortness of our stay renderd it impossible: I shall not however let the present opportunity pass, as I imagine it will be the only one I shall have of aquainting your Lordship with the success of a scheme which I am convincd you have honourd with no small share of good wishes.
We set sail from Plymouth (after having been confind there by contrary winds for almost ten days) all in high spirits, myself more particularly was I was after many delays at last fairly embarkd in an undertaking from which I promisd myself three years uninterrupted enjoyment of my Favourite pursuit.
My Sea sickness was more than usualy favourable so that in about a week I was able to begin as we all were, and light winds giving us an opportunity we made our first essay on the inhabitants of the Sea calld by the seamen blubbers, in these we hop'd to make great additions to natural history as probably nobody but ourselves ever had so good an opportunity of taking and preserving them; nor were we mistaken, for our first Essay produced an animal whoom we could not referr to any known genus whoose singularity of structure I hope some time or other to shew to your Lordship of these we have already taken twelve species and made Drawings and descriptions of all as well as preservd in spirit as many as we could.
18 days brought us to Madeira where we were to stay no more than five days, one of which was spent in getting leave of the Governor to range about in search of what we could find, notwithstanding this delay we Collected above 300 Species of Plants 200 of Insects and about twenty of fish; many of all the three kinds such as had not before been describd. for our extrordinary success we were not a little indebted to the assistance of a very ingenious gentleman brother to Dr Heberdone, who has long been settled in the Island: he was indeed indefatigable in procuring us all the assistance in his power from the people of the Island, as well page 314 as in Communicating some very ingenious observations of his own on the trees that are found there.
From Madeira we saild happy in having Collected sufficient to keep us employd till we arrivd at this place, where from the Situation &c. we did not doubt of making very great acquisitions, the Voyage was pleasant and took us up two Months the whole in fine weather so that never a day passd but the business of Drawing went on without interruption, the Calms of the line lasted about a fortnight in which time I was almost Constantly in a boat rowing about the ship and seldom returnd empty, so that upon the whole the voyage was profitable to the undertaking tho we had uncommonly bad success in fishing.
What will most likely surprise your lordship I have yet to tell which is the reception that we met with here as it is quite extrordinary in its nature. I shall give a minute detail of the Particulars
On the 13th of this Month we arrivd here having saild up the river with a very light breeze and amusd ourselves with observing the shore on each side coverd with Palm trees a production which neither Dr Solander or myself had before seen and from which as well as every thing else which we saw we promis'd ourselves the highest satisfaction as soon as we came to an anchor a boat full of armd soldiers came from the town and without saying a word stationd themselves near our ship soon after another came off bringing a Colonel and officers of the Portugese who askd many questions but seemd satisfied with our answers and told us that the next morn we might come ashore in the morn the Captn Went on shore early and we prepard to have followd him but he returnd and brought with him an officer who after some time told us that we should not be allowd to Come ashore at night however we atempted it but were stopd and sent aboard again
Your lordship Can more easily imagine our situation than I can describe it all that we so ardently wishd to examine was in our sight we could almost but not quite touch them never before had I an adequate Idea of Tantalus's punishment but I have sufferd it with all possible aggravations three weeks have I staid aboard the ship regardless of every inconvenience of her being heeld down &c &c. which on any other occasion would have been no small hardships but small evils are totaly swallowd up in the Larger bodily pain bears no comparison to pure in short the torments of the damnd must be very severe indeed as doubtless my present ones Cannot nearly Equal them I twice remonstrated to his excellency letting him know my business and who I was offering to submit myself to any precautions he should think nescessary and to be attended whersoever I should go by whoever he should apoint but all to no perpose his answers were so little to the purpose that I am forced to submit to the nescesity of my situation
I have taken the liberty to Enclose to Your lordships [sic] the Memorials as well as the answers which I have receivd which I shall forward by a Spanish pacquet now laying in the harbour they may serve to convince page 315 your Lordship that I have left no stone unturnd to get the liberty I askd tho that is a point which I fancy your lordship will not much doubt
The people here are ignorant to a degree of wonder of which I shall give only one instance when the Captn first went ashore the Viceroy upon being told that the ship was fitted out to observe the transit of Venus gravely askd whether that was the Passing of the North star to the South pole this alone will I think sufficiently shew your lordship the state of Learning in this place.
The Captn means to write to the Society an account of this transaction which I fancy will be very full so I shall not trouble your Lordship with any more particulars but Content myself with assuring your Lordship that I am your affectionate and much obligd
Rio De Janeiro
Decr 1st 1768