The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks 1768–1771 [Volume Two]
1. During the Night it Blew as hard as ever; the Day was rainy with less wind but still not moderate enough for our undertakings.
2. Moderate and very rainy; great hopes that the Rain is a presage of approaching moderate weather.
3. In the morn our people were dubious about trying to get out and I beleive delayd it rather too long. At last however they began page 101 and warpd ahead but desisted from their attempts after having ran the ship twice ashore.1
4. Fine calm morn. Began early and warp'd the ship out, after which we saild right out till we came to the turtle reef where our turtlers took one turtle. Myself got some few shells but saw many Beautifull sea insects &c. At night our people who fishd caught abundance of sharks.
5. The Turtlers were again out upon the shoal and took one turtle. At 2 we weighd, resolvd to stand out as well as we could among the shoals, but before night were stoppd by another shoal which lay directly across our way.
6. Blew so fresh that we could not move but lay still all day, not without anxiety least the anchor should not hold.
1 This is a passage that reflects Banks's impatience to get away rather than justice to the seamen. Cook's entry (pp. 364–5) reads, ‘Strong breezes and hazy untill 6 oClock in the Am when it Moderated and we unmoord, hove up the anchor and began to warp out, but the Ship tailing up on the sand on the north side of the River, the Tide of Ebb makeing out and a fresh breeze seting in we were obliged to desist and Moor the Ship again just within the barr’.
2 The sheet anchor was the largest of a ship's anchors, generally stowed on the starboard side behind the best bower. Cook says he had both bowers out, a whole cable on the small bower and two cables on the other; even after this the ship kept driving slowly until the yards and topmasts were struck, ‘then she rid fast’.
8. The night Dark as pitch passd over not without much anxiety: whether our anchors held or not we could not tell and maybe might when we least thought of it be upon the very brink of destruction. Day light however releivd us shewd us that the anchors had held and also brought us rather more moderate weather, so that towards evening we venturd to get up Yards and top masts.
9. Night and morning still more moderate so that one anchor was got up and we had great hopes of sailing on the next morn.
10. Fine weather so the anchor was got up and we saild down to leward, convincd that we could not get out the way we had tried before and hoping there might be a passage that way: in these hopes we were much encouraged by the sight of some high Islands2 where we hopd the shoals would end. By 12 we were among these and fancied that the grand or outer reef ended on one of them so were all in high spirits, but about dinner time the people at the mast head saw as they thought Land all round us, on which we immediately came to an anchor resolvd to go ashore and from the hills examine whether it was so or not.
1 This is Banks's summary of what must have been a considerable discussion amongst the officers about this time. It was plain that the reef had closed in, and that quite independently of the gale the ship was in a very difficult position. Cook is quite frank about his own perplexity: ‘After having well View'd our situation from the mast head I saw that we were surrounded on every side with Shoals and no such thing as a passage to Sea but through the winding channels between them, dangerous to the highest degree in so much that I was quite at a loss which way to steer when the weather would permit us to get under sail; for to beat back to the Se the way we came as the Master would have had me done would be an endless peice of work, as the winds blow now constantly strong from that quarter without hardly any intermission—on the other hand if we do not find a passage to the north[war]d we shall have to come [back] at last’.— pp. 369–70.
2 The Islands of Direction, now called South Direction, North Direction, and Lizard.
3 Cape Flattery. Cook (p. 371): ‘We now judged our selves to be clear of all danger having as we thought a clear open sea before us, but this we soon found otherwise and occasiond my calling the headland above mentioned Cape Flattery… .’
4 i.e. a building for the manufacture of glass, not a greenhouse; cf. the names the Glass Houses and Glass House Bay conferred further south.
11. As propos'd yesterday the Captn went today to the Island,1 which provd 5 leagues off from the ship, I went with him. In going out we passd over 2 very large shoals on which we saw great plenty of Turtle but we had too much wind to strike any. The Island itself was high; we ascended the hill and when we were at the top saw plainly the Grand Reef still extending itself Paralel with the shore at about the distance of 3 leagues from us or 8 from the main; through it were several channels exactly similar to those we had seen in the Islands. Through one of these we determind to [go] which seemd most easy: to ascertain however the Practicability of it We resolvd to stay upon the Island all night and at day break in the morn send the boat to sound one of them, which was acordingly done. We slept under the shade of a Bush that grew on the Beach very comfortably.
1 Lizard Island.
2 One of these was Blepharocarya involucrigera F. Muell., collected on Lizard Island, named and renamed by Solander, unaccounted for by Bentbam, but not published until 1878.
3 No specimens of these lizards have been traced, nor has any description been found. No subsequent visitor to the island appears to have mentioned them and a collection made there in 1901 by A. E. Finckh (Johnston, Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W., 26, p. 214) contained only three very small lizards, three skinks and one gecko. It has been suggested that the island may have been inhabited by the monitor Varanus semirex Kinghorn, at present restricted to Coquet Island.
13. Ship stood out for the opening we had seen in the reef and about 2 O'Clock passd it.4 It was about ½ a mile wide. As soon as the ship was well without it we had no ground with 100 fathm of Line so became in an instant quite easy, being once more in the main Ocean and consequently freed from all our fears of shoals &c.
14. For the first time these three months we were this day out of sight of Land to our no small satisfaction: that very Ocean which had formerly been look'd upon with terror by (maybe) all of us was now the Assylum we had long wishd for and at last found. Satisfaction was clearly painted in every mans face: the day was fine and the trade wind brisk before which we steerd to the Northward; the well grown waves which followd the ship, sure sign of no land being in our neighbourhood, were contemplated with the greatest satisfaction, notwithstanding we plainly felt the effect of the blows they gave to our crazy ship, increasing her leaks considerably so that she made now 9 inches water every hour. This however was lookd upon as a light evil in comparison to those we had so lately made our escape from.
1 There are three species of Sea-eagles in Australia.
2 This was probably the nest of an osprey, Pandion haliaetus; see Mathews, Birds of Australia, V (1915-16), pp. 296–7.
3 Calipash, the upper shell or carapace of the turtle.
4 This opening through the reef is now called Cook's Passage. It is in latitude 14° 31′ S.
1 The charts referred to here are probably those in de Brosses's Histoire des Navigations aux Terres Australes, to which Cook refers more than once, and Dalrymple's ‘Chart of the South Pacifick Ocean’. I have discussed these maps, and the question as it presented itself to Cook, at some length in my Introduction to Cook I, pp. clvii-xiv.
2 We get the impression from this and the next reference to the long boat that the sailors were unconscionably slow, and perhaps inefficient, about their business. No sailor seems to have thought so; indeed Cook, in one of the versions of his journal, says the boat was ‘hoisted out very expeditiously’. The carpenter also was making a quick job of repairing the pinnace. The psychological point is that we are now reading a layman's journal: Banks had nothing to do on board the ship at this juncture but to wait and look on, and he may be excused for feeling that time passed very fast and that the actions of men were very slow. It was just when the ship was nearest the reef that Green the astronomer, assisted by Forwood the gunner, was taking observations; Green's remark on the situation (having remarked first that the observations were good) was merely that ‘We were about a 100 Yards from a Reef where we expected the Ship to strike every minute it being Calm and no soundings the swell heaving us right on’. —Cook, p. 378 n. So does professional habit conduce to fortitude.
1 Cook called this passage Providential Channel.
17. As we were now safe at an anchor it was resolvd to send the boats upon the nearest shoal to search for shell fish, turtle or whatever else they could get. They accordingly went and Dr Solander and myself accompanied them in my small boat. In our way we met with two water snakes, one 5 the other 6 feet long; we took them both; they much resembled Land snakes only their tails were flatted sideways, I suppose for the convenience of swimming, and were not venomous.1 The shoal we went upon was the very reef we had so near been lost upon yesterday,2 now no longer terrible to us; it afforded little provision for the ship, no turtle, only 300 lb of Great cockles, some were however of an immense size. We had in the way of curiosity much better success, meeting with many curious fish and mollusca besides Corals of many species, all alive, among which was the Tubipora musica.3 I have often lamented that we had not time to make proper observations upon this curious tribe of animals but we were so intirely taken up with the more conspicuous links of the chain of creation as fish, Plants, Birds &c &c. that it was impossible.4
1 There can be no doubt that these two snakes are the same two that Solander called Boa pelagica (p. 129); This name was subsequently used by Hermann, who received details of the specimens from the British Museum. Hermann ascribes the name to Gray, but so far as can be ascertained Gray's use of it must have been in manuscript only, and presumably borrowed from Solander. Hermann's publication in 1804 fulfils the requirements of the Rules of Zoological Nomenclature, but the name Boa pelagica was not used subsequently and has hitherto not been associated with any recognized species of sea-snake. Although the type specimens are lost, the details of them recorded by Solander in his Ms make it seem likely that they belonged to some species of Aipysurus, perhaps the one named A. duboisi by Bavay in 1869.
2 Cook refers to this shoal (p. 381) as a ‘low small Sandy Isle’, and implies that it was different from the reef, to which he sent the boats; he adds that ‘Mr Banks landed upon it and shott several small birds, call'd Nodies’. It is impossible to identify, and (to reconcile Banks with Cook) must have been part of the whole reef system.
3 This name still remains the same.
4 Cf. p. 20, n. 1 above.
5 One of those Cook called Forbes's Isles, after the Hon. John Forbes, one of the commissioners of longitude. The only geographical names Banks mentions in his running heads between coming within the reef again and his general ‘Account of … New Holland’ (p. 111 below) are Temple Bay, Cape Grenvile, Newcastle Bay, Endeavour's Streights, and Booby Isle. Cook, however, as we see from his journal and chart, bestowed them freely and conscientiously, and his journal at this stage is much fuller than Banks's.
19. Weighd anchor and steerd as yesterday with a fresh trade wind. All morn were much entangled with Shoals, but so much do great dangers swallow up lesser ones that these once so much dreaded shoals were now look[ed] at with much less concern than formerly. At noon we passd along a large shoal on which the boats which were ahead saw many turtle but it blew to[o] fresh to catch them. We were now tolerably near the main, which appeard low and barren and often interspersd with large patches of the very white sand spoke of before. On a small Island which we passd very near to were 5 natives, 2 of whoom carried their Lances in their hands; they came down upon a point and lookd at the ship for a little while and then retird.1
20. Steering along shore as usual among many shoals, Luffing up for some and bearing away for others. We are now pretty well experiencd in their appearances so as seldom to be deceivd and easily to know asunder a bottom colourd by white sand from a coral rock, the former of which, tho generaly in 12 or 14 fathom water, some time ago gave us much trouble. The reef was still supposd to be without us from the smoothness of our water. The mainland appeard very low and sandy and had many fires upon it, more than we had usualy observd. We passd during the day many low sandy Islands every one of which stood upon a large shoal;2 we have constantly found the best passage to lie near the main, and the farther from that you go near the reef the more numerous are the shoals. In the evening we observd the shoals to decrease in number but we still were in smooth water.
1 Cook (p. 384) mentions seeing ‘many hutts or habitations of the Natives’ upon this island, ‘only a small spot of sand with some trees on it’ but no natives themselves. It was the southernmost of the Boydong Cays. The low barren shore Banks notes was that of Shelburne Bay.
2 The Cairncross and other islets, off Newcastle Bay.
22. In the morn 3 or 4 women appeard upon the beach gathering shellfish: we lookd with our glasses and to us they appeard as they always did more naked than our mother Eve. The Ebb ran out so strong that we could not weigh till near noon. We had the Wind variable from N to W, the first time since we got the trade. Before we had proceeded far we met with a shoal which made us come to an anchor.3
1 From the description given it seems unlikely that these ‘Indians’ were Australian aborigines, who did not use the bow and arrow or have mother of pearl shell ornaments of this kind. They must have been Melancsians.
2 Cook says (p. 387), ‘I did not doubt but what there was a passage’. They were on Possession Island, and it is curious how casually Banks records what was one of the great moments of the voyage. Cook again (pp. 387–8): ‘I now once more hoisted English Coulers and in the Name of His Majesty King George the Third took posession of the whole Eastern Coast [of New Holland] … by the name of New South Wales, together with all the Bays, Harbours Rivers and Islands situate upon the said coast, after which we fired three Volleys of small Arms which were Answerd by the like number from the Ship’—and, we learn from other journals, there was suitable cheering. But the significant thing is not so much the incorporation of New South Wales within the possessions of King George III as the safe completion of the most hazardous piece of navigation of the voyage, and the discovery of Endeavour Strait, a double achievement which might well be cheered.
3 The ship seems to have been upon the Rothsay Banks, the edge of which is the northern limit of Endeavour Strait.
24. Swell continued and in the morn the Best bower cable was broke in weighing by it. The whole day was spent in fruitless attempts to recover the anchor tho there was no more than 8 fathm water.
25. This morn by the first sweep the anchor was recoverd and we soon got under sail and lost sight of land with only 9 fathm water. At dinner met shoals which made us anchor again;2 in the eve however found a passage out and saild clear enough of them.
26. Fine weather and clear fresh trade. Stood to the W and deepned our water from 13 to 27. At night many Egg birds coming from the W.
1 Hence the name Cook gave, Booby Island. It is likely that this was the Brown Booby (cf. 18 May 1770) since this is the only species Solander records (p. 23) from Australia, and it is the commonest species found here; two others do, however, occur in the area. The island now carries a light, as the landmark for the western entrance to Endeavour Strait, difficult to make from that direction.
2 The Cook Shoal.