Part 1 out of 11
Produced by Sue Asscher
CAPTAIN COOK'S JOURNAL.
(PLATE: PORTRAIT OF CAPTAIN JAMES COOK WITH A FACSIMILE OF HIS SIGNATURE.
Collotype, Waterlow & Sons Ltd.)
CAPTAIN COOK'S JOURNAL
FIRST VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD
H.M. BARK "ENDEAVOUR"
A Literal Transcription of the Original MSS.
NOTES AND INTRODUCTION
CAPTAIN W.J.L. WHARTON, R.N., F.R.S.
Hydrographer of the Admiralty.
Illustrated by Maps and Facsimiles.
ELLIOT STOCK, 62 PATERNOSTER ROW
DEDICATED BY PERMISSION
ADMIRAL H.R.H. THE DUKE OF EDINBURGH,
WHOSE DEEP INTEREST IN ALL MATTERS CONNECTED WITH
THE RISE AND PROGRESS OF THE BRITISH NAVY
IS WELL KNOWN TO ALL WHO HAVE HAD
THE PRIVILEGE OF SERVING WITH HIM.
STRANGE it must appear that the account of perhaps the most celebrated
and, certainly to the English nation, the most momentous voyage of
discovery that has ever taken place--for it practically gave birth to the
great Australasian Colonies--has never before been given to the world in
the very words of its great leader. It has fallen out in this wise.
After the return of the Endeavour it was decided that a full and
comprehensive account of the voyage should be compiled. COOK'S JOURNAL
dealt with matters from the point of view of the seaman, the explorer,
and the head of the expedition, responsible for life, and for its general
success. The Journals of Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander looked from the
scientific side on all that presented itself to their enthusiastic
What could be better than to combine these accounts, and make up a
complete narrative from them all?
The result, however, according to our nineteenth-century ideas, was not
altogether happy. Dr. Hawkesworth, into whose hands the Journals were
put, not only interspersed reflections of his own, but managed to impose
his own ponderous style upon many of the extracts from the united
Journals; and, moreover, as they are all jumbled together, the whole
being put into Cook's mouth, it is impossible to know whether we are
reading Cook, Banks, Solander, or Hawkesworth himself.
The readers of the day were not, however, critical. Hawkesworth's book,*
(* "Hawkesworth's Voyages" 3 volumes quarto 1773.) which undoubtedly
contains all the most generally interesting passages of the three
writers, gave a clear description of the events of the voyage in a
connected manner, and was accepted as sufficient; and in the excitement
of devouring the pages which introduced so many new lands and peoples,
probably few wished for more, and the Journals were put away as dealt
Since that time it has been on several occasions in contemplation to
publish Mr. (after Sir Joseph) Banks' Journal; but this has never been
Cook's Journal was in triplicate. The Admiralty Orders of the day
enjoined that the captain should keep a journal of proceedings, a copy of
which was to be forwarded to the Admiralty every six months, or as soon
after as possible. In the case of this voyage the ship was two and a half
years from England before any opportunity of sending this copy occurred.
The ship was the whole of this time in new and savage lands. When Batavia
was reached the duplicate of Cook's Journal was sent home, and six months
later, when the ship arrived in England, the full Journal of the voyage
was deposited at the Admiralty.
The Secretary of the Admiralty, Sir Philip Stephens, a personal friend
and appreciator of Cook, appears to have appropriated the Batavia
duplicate, as we find it in the hands of his descendants, and passing
thence by sale, first to Mr. Cosens in 1868, and then in 1890 to Mr. John
The other and complete copy is still in possession of the Admiralty,
though in some unexplained manner it was absent for some years, and was
only recovered by the exertions of Mr. W. Blakeney, R.N.
A third copy of the Journal also terminates a few days before reaching
Batavia. It is in the possession of Her Majesty the Queen, and from its
appearance was kept for, and probably presented to, George III, who took
great interest in the voyage.
Neither private possessors nor the Admiralty have felt moved to publish
this interesting document until Mr. Corner acquired his copy, when, being
an enthusiastic admirer of Captain Cook, he determined to do so, and was
making preliminary arrangements, when he suddenly died, after a few
hours' illness. His son, anxious to carry out his father's wishes, which
included the devotion of any proceeds to the restoration of Hinderwell
Church--the parish church of Staithes, whence Cook ran away to sea--has
completed these arrangements, and the present volume is the result.
The text is taken from Mr. Corner's copy so far as it goes, paragraphs
from the Admiralty copy, which do not appear in the former, being added,
with a notation of their source.
The last portion, from October 23rd, 1770, which is only given in the
Admiralty copy, is necessarily taken from it.
The three copies are, practically, identical, except for the period
August 13th to 19th, 1770, during which the wording is often different,
though the events are the same.
It is not very difficult to account for this.
The two first-mentioned Journals are in the handwriting of an amanuensis,
Mr. Orton, the clerk. No autograph journal is, so far as is known, in
existence, but some rough original must have been kept, as both copies
bear internal evidence of having been written up after the lapse of an
interval after the events described.
This is markedly the case in the Australian part of the Journal.
It is known that Botany Bay was at first called by Cook, Stingray Bay, on
account of the number of rays caught there; but after Banks had examined
his collection, and found all his plants new to science, Cook determined
to call it Botany Bay. It is, however, called Botany Bay from the first
in the Journals.
The name, "New South Wales," was not bestowed without much consideration,
and apparently at one stage New Wales was the appellation fixed upon, for
in Mr. Corner's copy it is so called throughout, whereas the Admiralty
copy has "New South Wales."
It would therefore seem that about the period of the discrepant accounts
Mr. Corner's copy was first made, and that Cook, in the Admiralty copy,
which for this part is fuller, revised the wording of his description of
this very critical portion of the voyage.
The Queen's Copy has been written with especial care, and by several
different hands. It was evidently the last in point of time.
In reading COOK'S JOURNAL of his First Voyage it must be remembered that
it was not prepared for publication. Though no doubt the fair copies we
possess were revised with the care that characterises the man, and which
is evidenced by the interlineations and corrections in his own hand with
which the pages are dotted, it may be supposed, from the example we have
in the published account of his Second Voyage, which was edited by
himself, that further alterations and additions would have been made, to
make the story more complete, had he contemplated its being printed.
This does not, however, in any way detract from the interest of a
transcript of his record on the spot; and though many circumstances
recorded in Hawkesworth, from Banks or others, will not be found, it is
probable that an exact copy of the great navigator's own impressions, and
the disentanglement of them from the other interpolated matter, will be
In printing this Journal the only alterations that have been made are the
breaking-up into chapters, with modern headings; the addition of
punctuation; and in the form of the insertion of the daily record of
wind, weather, and position of the ship. These in the original are on the
left hand page in log form. To save space they have been placed at the
end of every day's transactions.
The eccentricities in the spelling have been preserved. A good many of
these would seem to be due to Mr. Orton, the transcriber, as Cook's own
letters are generally correct in their orthography. The use of the
capital letter was usual at the time.
References will be found to sketches and plans which have not been
Cook's knack of finding names for localities was peculiarly happy. Those
who have had to do this, know the difficulty. Wherever he was able to
ascertain the native name, he adopts it; but in the many cases where this
was impossible, he manages to find a descriptive and distinctive
appellation for each point, bay, or island.
He seems to have kept these names very much to himself, as it is seldom
the officers' logs know anything of them; and original plans, still in
existence, in many cases bear different names to those finally pitched
Cook's names have rarely been altered, and New Zealand and Australian
places will probably for all time bear those which he bestowed.
In the orthography of his native names he was not so successful. The
constant addition of a redundant "o" has altered many native sounds, such
as Otaheite for Tahiti, Ohwhyhee for Hawaii; while his spelling generally
has been superseded by more simple forms. This is a matter, however, in
which great difficulties are found to the present day by Englishmen,
whose language presents no certain laws for rendering any given sound
into a fixed combination of letters.
Cook's language is unvarnished and plain, as a sailor's should be. His
incidents, though often related with circumstance, are without
exaggeration; indeed if any fault is to be found, it is that he takes
occurrences involving much labour and hardship as such matters of course,
that it is not easy for the reader, especially if he be a landsman, to
realise what they really entail.
Cook was assiduous in obtaining observations to ascertain the Variation
of the compass--i.e., the difference between the direction shown by the
magnetic needle and the true north. He is constantly puzzled by the
discrepancies in these observations made at short intervals. These arose
from the different positions of the ship's head, whereby the iron within
a certain distance of the compass is placed in different positions as
regards the needle working the compass card, the result being that the
needle is attracted from its correct direction in varying degree. This is
known as the Deviation of the compass. The cause of this, and of the laws
which govern it, were only discovered by Captain Flinders in 1805.
Happily for the navigators of those days, little iron entered into the
construction of ships, and the amount of the Deviation was not large,
though enough to cause continual disquiet and wonderment.
Cook's longitudes in this voyage are all given as west of Greenwich, not
divided into east and west, as is usual at this day. The latter system
again has only been adopted universally since his time.
Though Cook himself gives, at the beginning of the Journal, a note of the
method of reckoning days adopted, it may not be amiss to give further
It was the usual custom on board ships to keep what was known as Ship
time--i.e., the day began at noon BEFORE the civil reckoning, in which
the day commences at midnight. Thus, while January 1st, as ordinarily
reckoned, is from midnight to midnight, in ship time it began at noon on
December 31st and ended at noon January 1st, this period being called
January 1st. Hence the peculiarity all through the Journal of the p.m.
coming before the a.m. It results that any events recorded as occurring
in the p.m. of January 1st in the log, would, if translated into the
ordinary system, be given as happening in the p.m. of December 31st;
while occurrences in the a.m. of January 1st would be equally in the a.m.
of January 1st in both systems.
This puzzling mode of keeping the day at sea continued to a late period,
and was common to seamen of all nations.
The astronomical day, again, begins at noon AFTER the midnight at which
the civil day begins, and hence is a whole day later than the ship's day.
This does not enter into Cook's Journal, but one of the logs of the
Endeavour, extant, that of Mr. Green the astronomer, was kept in this
time, and the events of say Thursday, June 24th, of Cook's Journal, are
therein given as happening on Wednesday, June 23rd. These differences of
reckoning have been a fertile source of confusion in dates in many
Besides Cook's Journals there are other Journals and Logs of the voyage
extant. Perhaps it may be necessary to state that a Log is the official
document in which the progress of the ship from hour to hour is recorded,
with such official notes as the alteration in sail carried, expenditure
of provisions and stores, etc. A Journal contains this information in a
condensed form, with such observations as the officer keeping it may feel
inclined to insert.
The ship's Log Book of the Endeavour is in the British Museum. Mr. R.M.
Hudson of Sunderland possesses Cook's own log, not autograph however,
presented by Cook to Sir Hugh Palliser, the ancestor of his wife.
The Journals of all the officers of the Endeavour are preserved at the
Public Record Office. There is, however, nothing to be got out of them,
as they are mainly copies one of the other, founded on the ship's log.
The portion of Mr. Molineux's, the Master's, Log that exists (at the
Admiralty) is a most beautifully kept and written document, enriched with
charts and sketches that attest the accuracy of Cook's remark, that he
was a "young man of good parts."
The log kept by Mr. Green, however, does contain a few original remarks,
some of which have been made use of. This book contains a mass of
astronomical observations, and witnesses to the zeal of this gentleman in
his especial duty.
He records in one place, when far away from land, his disgust that the
officers were unwilling to aid him in lunar observations. No doubt they
saw no particular use in them when there was no coast to fix; but there
is ample proof that he received every aid when Cook thought it necessary.
Sufficient charts have been placed in this book to enable the reader to
follow the more interesting parts of the voyage; some being reproductions
of Cook's own charts, others modern publications. In the case of the
coast of East Australia, the coast-line as laid down by Cook, and as now
known, are given side by side for comparison.
It must be understood, that although this book is styled CAPTAIN COOK'S
JOURNAL, he was on this voyage only a Lieutenant in Command, and
therefore only Captain by courtesy.
FLORYS, WIMBLEDON PARK,
April 7th, 1893.
SKETCH OF CAPTAIN COOK'S LIFE.
LIST OF PERSONS WHO LEFT ENGLAND IN H.M.S. ENDEAVOUR, 26TH AUGUST, 1768.
CHAPTER 1. ENGLAND TO RIO JANEIRO.
CHAPTER 2. RIO JANEIRO TO TAHITI.
CHAPTER 3. TAHITI.
CHAPTER 4. TAHITI TO NEW ZEALAND.
CHAPTER 5. EXPLORATION OF NEW ZEALAND.
CHAPTER 6. EXPLORATION OF MIDDLE ISLAND OF NEW ZEALAND.
CHAPTER 7. PASSAGE FROM NEW ZEALAND TO NEW HOLLAND.
CHAPTER 8. EXPLORATION OF EAST COAST OF AUSTRALIA.
CHAPTER 9. FROM TORRES STRAIT TO BATAVIA.
CHAPTER 10. BATAVIA TO CAPE OF GOOD HOPE.
CHAPTER 11. CAPE OF GOOD HOPE TO ENGLAND.
1. PORTRAIT OF CAPTAIN JAMES COOK WITH A FACSIMILE OF HIS SIGNATURE.
COLLOTYPE, WATERLOW & SONS LTD.
2. MODERN CHART OF SOUTH PACIFIC OCEAN SHOWING TRACK OF H.M.S. ENDEAVOUR,
1769 TO 1770.
3. FACSIMILE OF SATURDAY, 3RD JUNE, 1769.
4. CHART OF THE ISLAND OTAHEITE, BY LIEUTENANT JAMES COOK, 1769.
REPRODUCTION OF THE ORIGINAL PUBLISHED CHART.
5. TAHITI: TYPES OF CANOES.
6. CHART OF THE SOCIETY ISLES, DISCOVERED BY LIEUTENANT JAMES COOK, 1769.
REPRODUCTION OF THE ORIGINAL PUBLISHED CHART.
7. WAR CANOE OF NEW ZEALAND.
8. TRACK OF ENDEAVOUR FROM TORRES STRAIT TO JAVA. AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER
9. FACSIMILE OF TUESDAY, 23RD OCTOBER, 1770.
10. CHART OF NEW ZEALAND, EXPLORED IN 1769 AND 1770, BY LIEUTENANT I:
COOK, COMMANDER OF HIS MAJESTY'S BARK ENDEAVOUR, ENGRAVED BY I. BAYLY.
REPRODUCTION OF THE ORIGINAL PUBLISHED CHART.
11. PRINTERS' PLATE: Owl on books, distant town, hills, tree and moon.
"REST, PRAY, SLEEP."
Elliott Stock, 62, Paternoster Row.]
SKETCH OF CAPTAIN COOK'S LIFE.
CAPTAIN COOK'S life, or the account of so much of it as is recoverable,
has been so often recounted that there is no occasion to insert more in
this publication than is necessary as a reference to the reader, to
enable him to realise the career and character of the man.
Cook's first biographer, Andrew Kippis, wrote in 1788, and his work has
recently been republished.* (* "A Narrative of the Voyage round the
World, performed by Captain James Cook, with an Account of His Life" by
A. Kippis, D.D., F.R.S. London: Bickers & Son 1889.)
The latest and best life is by Walter Besant,* (* "Captain Cook" by
Walter Besant: "English Men of Action" London, Macmillan & Co. 1890.)
whose graceful pen has given us a fascinating, interesting, and, as far
as is possible, complete picture of this great Englishman. Many details
of Cook's private life are lost, but enough has been collected by Mr.
Besant to place our hero vividly before us, and a perusal of his work is
Many things in the following sketch are taken from Mr. Besant, to whom I
wish to tender my acknowledgments.
James Cook rose from nearly the lowest ranks. The second son of James
Cook, a Yorkshire labourer, and Grace his wife, he was born on the edge
of the Cleveland Hills on February 27th, 1728, in the little village of
Marton, which lies about four miles south-south-east of Middlesborough,
and five miles west of the well-known hill and landmark, Roseberry
Topping. Eight years later his father removed to Great Ayton, which lies
close under Roseberry Topping.
At the age of thirteen Cook, who, it is recorded, had had some elementary
schooling both at Marton and Great Ayton, was apprenticed to one
Sanderson, a draper and grocer of Staithes, a fishing village on the
coast, about fourteen miles from Ayton and nine north-west of Whitby.
A year later Cook went, or ran away, to sea, shipping at Whitby on board
the Freelove, a collier belonging to the brothers Walker.
In this hard school Cook learnt his sailor duties. No better training
could have been found for his future responsibilities. Here he learnt to
endure the utmost rigours of the sea. Constant fighting with North Sea
gales, bad food, and cramped accommodation, taught him to regard with the
indifference that afterwards distinguished him, all the hardships that he
had to encounter, and led him to endure and persevere where others, less
determined or more easily daunted by difficulties, would have hurried on,
and left their work incomplete.
All details of Cook's life during his thirteen years in the merchant
service are lost: what voyages he made, how he fared, whether he advanced
in general knowledge, all is gone. The only fact known is that in May
1755, when Cook was twenty-seven years of age, and mate of a vessel of
Messrs. Walker, then in the Thames, he, to avoid the press, then active
on account of the outbreak of the war with France, volunteered on board
H.M.S. Eagle, of 60 guns, as an able seaman.
Captain Hugh Palliser, who succeeded to the command of this ship in
October, was certainly Cook's warmest patron, and it would appear that
Cook did work superior to that of an able seaman in the Eagle. Be that as
it may, all that is absolutely known is that that ship took her share of
the fighting at the taking of Louisbourg and elsewhere on the North
American and West Indian Station, and returned to England in 1759.
By Palliser's interest Cook was now appointed master of the Mercury. It
is therefore evident that his qualifications as a navigator recommended
themselves to Palliser.
The Mercury went to North America, and here Cook did his first good
service recorded, namely, taking soundings in the St. Lawrence, to enable
the fleet then attacking Quebec to take up safe positions in covering the
army under Wolfe. This he accomplished with great skill, under many
difficulties, in the face of the enemy, much of it being done at night.
He was immediately employed in making a survey of the intricate channels
of the river below Quebec, and for many years his chart was the guide for
navigation. Cook was indeed a born surveyor. Before his day charts were
of the crudest description, and he must have somehow acquired a
considerable knowledge of trigonometry, and possessed an intuitive
faculty for practically applying it, to enable him to originate, as it
may truly be said he did, the art of modern marine surveying.
The expedition to Quebec concluded, Cook was appointed master of the
Northumberland, bearing Admiral Lord Colville's flag, and during that
ship's winter at Halifax he applied himself to further study of
mathematics and astronomy.
In 1762, the Northumberland being at Newfoundland during the capture of
that island from the French, Cook again was employed in surveys. This
attracted the attention of Captain Graves, the Governor, who conceived a
high opinion of his abilities in this respect.
In the latter part of 1762 Cook returned to England and married Elizabeth
Batts, daughter of a man in business at Wapping; but a few months
afterwards he was called upon by Captain Graves to go again to
Newfoundland to make marine surveys.
In this important work he was engaged until 1767, Captain Palliser, who
succeeded Captain Graves as Governor, being only too glad to avail
himself of Cook's services.
The charts he made during these years in the schooner Grenville were
admirable. The best proof of their excellence is that they are not yet
wholly superseded by the more detailed surveys of modern times. Like all
first surveys of a practically unknown shore, and especially when that
shore abounds in rocks and shoals, and is much indented with bays and
creeks, they are imperfect, in the sense of having many omissions; but
when the amount of the ground covered, and the impediments of fogs and
bad weather on that coast is considered, and that Cook had at the most
only one assistant, their accuracy is truly astonishing. The originals of
these surveys form part of the most precious possessions of the
Hydrographic Office of the Admiralty.
We now approach the crowning achievements of Cook's life.
After many years' neglect the exploration of the Pacific was awaking
interest. This great ocean, which very few, even to this day, realise
occupies nearly one half of the surface of the globe, had been, since the
first voyage of Magellan, crossed by many a vessel.
Notwithstanding, very little was known of the islands occupying its
For this there were two reasons. First, the comparatively small area
covered by islands; secondly, the fact that nearly all who traversed it
had followed Magellan's track, or, if they started, as many did, from
Central America, they made straight for Magellan's discovery, the Ladrone
Islands. For this, again, there was a reason.
Few sailed for the purpose of exploration pure and simple; and even those
who started with that view found, when embarked on that vast expanse,
that prudence dictated that they should have a moderate certainty of, by
a certain time, falling in with a place of sure refreshment. The
provisions they carried were bad at starting, and by the time they had
fought their way through the Straits of Magellan were already worse;
water was limited, and would not hold out more than a given number of
days. Every voyage that is pursued tells the same story--short of water,
and eagerly looking out for an opportunity of replenishing it. The winds
were found to blow in fixed directions, and each voyager was fearful of
deviating from the track on which it was known they would be fair, for
fear of delays. And ever present in each captain's mind was the dread of
the terrible scourge, scurvy. Every expedition suffered from it. Each
hoped they would be exempt, and each in turn was reduced to impotence
from its effects.
It was the great consideration for every leader of a protracted
expedition, How can I obviate this paralyzing influence? And one after
another had to confess his failure.
It is yearly becoming more difficult for us to realise these obstacles.
The prevailing winds and currents in each part of the ocean are well
known to us: the exact distance and bearing from one point to another are
laid down in the chart; steam bridges over calm areas, and in many cases
conducts us on our entire journey at a speed but little inferior to that
of land travelling by railroad; modern science preserves fresh and
palatable food for an indefinite period; and, in a word, all the
difficulties and most of the dangers of long voyages have disappeared.
Take one element alone in long voyages--the time required. The average
progress of a ship in the eighteenth century was not more than fifty
miles a day. Nowadays we may expect as much as four hundred miles in a
full powered steamer, and not less than one hundred and fifty in a
well-fitted sailing ship.
But navigation, and more especially the navigation of the unknown
Pacific, was very different in Cook's days, when all the obstacles above
mentioned impeded the explorers, and impelled them to follow a common
There were a few who had deviated from the common track.
The Spaniards, Mendana, Quiros, Torres, in the latter part of the
sixteenth century, starting first from their colonies in Peru, had
ventured along the central line of the Pacific, discovering the
Marquesas, certain small coral islands, the Northern New Hebrides, and
the Solomon Islands; but their voyages, mainly for fear of Drake and his
successors, were kept so secret that no one quite knew where these
Abel Tasman, in 1642, coming across the Indian Ocean from the westward,
had touched at Tasmania, or, as he called it, Van Diemen's Land, had
skirted the western coast of the north island of New Zealand without
landing, and had stretched away to the north-east, and found the Tonga
The English Buccaneers were not among these discoverers; Dampier, Woods
Rogers, and others, all went from Acapulco to the Ladrones, looking out
for the valuable Spanish galleons from
Manila, and they added little or nothing to the knowledge of the Pacific
and what it contained.
It was not therefore strange that the imagination of geographers ran riot
amongst the great unknown areas. They were impressed, as they looked at
the globes of the day, with the fact that, while the northern hemisphere
contained much land, the southern showed either water or blank spaces;
and starting with the ill-founded idea that the solid land in either
hemisphere should balance, they conceived that there must be a great
unknown continent in the southern part of the Pacific to make up the
deficiency. This was generally designated Terra Australis Incognita, and
many is the ancient chart that shows it, sketched with a free and
uncontrolled hand, around the South Pole. It was held by many that Tasman
had touched it in New Zealand; that Quiros had seen it near his island of
Encarnacion, and again at Espiritu Santo (New Hebrides), but no one had
been to see.
In George III's reign the desire to know more of this unknown ocean arose
in England. The king himself took great interest in it, and for the first
time since Queen Elizabeth's age, when Davis, Frobisher, Drake,
Narborough, and others, had gone on voyages of discovery, the pursuit was
In 1764 the Dolphin and Tamor, under the command of Commodore Byron and
Captain Mouat, sailed on a voyage round the world. They spent some time,
as ordered, in exploring the Falkland Islands, and, after a two months'
passage through Magellan Strait, they stood across the Pacific. They,
however, also followed near the well-beaten track, and passing north of
the Paumotus, of which they sighted a few small islands, they too made
for the Ladrones. As usual, they suffered much from scurvy, and the one
idea was to get to a known place to recover. Byron returned in May 1766,
having added but little to the knowledge of the Pacific, and the Dolphin
was again sent in the August of the same year, with the Swallow, under
the command of Captains Wallis and Carteret, on a similar voyage.
They did somewhat better. After the usual struggle through the long and
narrow Strait of Magellan, against the strong and contrary winds that
continually blow, and which occupied four months, they got into the
As they passed out they separated, the Dolphin outsailing the Swallow,
and a dispassionate reader cannot well escape the conclusion that the
senior officers unnecessarily parted company.
The Dolphin kept a little south of the usual route, fell in with some of
the Paumotu Group, and finally discovered Tahiti, where she anchored at
Royal Bay, after grounding on a reef at its entrance, with her people, as
usual, decimated by scurvy. They were almost immediately attacked by the
natives, who, however, received such a reception that they speedily made
friends, and fast friends too. The remainder of the month of the Dolphin
stay was marked with the most friendly intercourse, and she sailed with a
high opinion of Tahiti and the Tahitians; the Queen, Cook's Obereia,
being especially well disposed to them. Their communication with the
natives must, however, have been limited, as they remained too short a
time to learn the language, and we gather little of the manners and
customs from the account of the voyage.
After sailing from Tahiti we hear the same tale--sickness, want of water,
doubt of what was before them. After sailing by several small islands,
and an attempt to water at one, course was steered as before for the
Ladrones. Let Wallis tell his own story. He says:--
"I considered that watering here would be tedious and attended with great
fatigue; that it was now the depth of winter in the southern hemisphere;
that the ship was leaky, that the rudder shook in the stern very much,
and that what other damage she might have received in her bottom could
not be known. That for these reasons she was very unfit for the bad
weather which she would certainly meet with, either in going round Cape
Horn or through the Streight of Magellan; that if she should get safely
through the streight or round the Cape, it would be absolutely necessary
to refresh in some port; but in that case no port would be in her reach.
I therefore determined to make the best of my way to Tinian, Batavia, and
so to Europe by the Cape of Good Hope.
"By this rout, as far as we could judge, we should sooner be at home; and
if the ship should prove not to be in a condition to make the whole
voyage, we should still save our lives, as from this place to Batavia we
should probably have a calm sea, and be not far from a port."
These are scarcely the sentiments of a bold explorer, and we shall look
in vain for any similar ideas on the part of Cook. Here was a ship just a
year from England, just come from a convenient and friendly island, where
every refreshment and opportunity for refit were to be found, and the
only thought is how to get home again!
It was the vastly different conduct of Cook's voyages; the determination
that nothing should stop the main object of the expedition; his resource
in every difficulty and danger; that caused, and rightly caused, him to
be hailed as a born leader of such expeditions.
Wallis followed nearly on Byron's track: went from the Ladrones, through
the China Sea, to Batavia, and so home, arriving in May 1768.
The Swallow, under Captain Carteret, was navigated in a different spirit.
She was badly fitted out for such a voyage, had not even a forge, and all
the articles for trade were on board the Dolphin. But Carteret was not
easily daunted. He might, under the circumstances, when he found himself
alone, have abandoned the voyage; but he boldly went forward. Passing
from the Strait of Magellan, he touched at Juan Fernandez, and steering
somewhat south of Wallis's line, he passed south of Tahiti, discovering
Pitcairn's Island on his way, and some of the islands south of the
By this time his people were severely afflicted with scurvy, and his ship
in a bad state; but Carteret only thought of getting to some place of
refreshment, from which he might afterwards pass on his voyage towards
the south, in the hope of falling in with the great southern Continent.
In this he was not fortunate. Missing all other islands, he fell across
the Santa Cruz Group, and hoping that he had found what he wanted, he
anchored and tried to water. The party were, however, attacked by the
natives, and several, including the master, were wounded and died by
poisoned arrows. All hope of a quiet refit was over, and his ship's
company being in a wretched condition, no forge or tools on board to
enable him to effect his many repairs, Carteret, who was himself very
ill, was obliged to give up all intention of exploration to the
southward. He got enough water to last him, and sailed on toward the
Solomon Islands. These he also just missed, but fell in with New Britain,
and passing between it and New Ireland, demonstrated for the first time
that these two large islands were not one, as had been supposed. He here
managed to do something to repair his leaky vessel, heeling and caulking
her, but got little but fruit for his scurvy-stricken crew. He was
attacked by the fierce islanders, and was altogether unable to do as much
as he evidently earnestly desired towards examining the islands.
Thence they struggled on by Mindanao to Makassar in Celebes, delayed by
contrary winds, disappointed of refreshments at every place they tried,
and losing men from scurvy. At Makassar they met with but an inhospitable
reception from the Dutch, who refused to permit them to receive
refreshments there, and after waiting at Bonthain, a place in Celebes,
several months, for the monsoon to change, they at last arrived at
Batavia, the only port in the Dutch Indies really open to ships, in June
1768. Thence, after heaving down and a thorough repair, they reached
home, via the Cape, on March 20th, 1769.
Of all the voyages before Cook's, Carteret's showed most determination
and true spirit of enterprise; and had his ship been better supplied, and
more suited to the exigencies of such a long cruise, he would, but for
one thing, have accomplished far more. This was the fatal disease, which
no captain had as yet succeeded in warding off, and which hampered and
defeated the efforts of the most enthusiastic. No man could go beyond a
certain point in disregarding the health of his crew.
These, then, were the kind of voyages, with their scanty fruits, to which
the English people were getting accustomed, and they were not such as to
In all the years that had elapsed since the Spaniards first sailed on the
Pacific, but little real knowledge of the lands in it had been gained.
Let us attempt to give a picture of what was known.
The Marquesas and Santa Cruz Group were known to exist; but of the
Solomons grave doubts were felt, as no man had seen them but Mendana, and
they were, if placed on a map at all, shown in very different longitudes.
Several voyagers had sighted different members of the extensive Paumotu
Group, but the varying positions caused great confusion.
Tahiti had been found by Wallis.
Tasman had laid down the south point of Tasmania, the western coast of
the North Island of New Zealand, and the Tonga Islands. Dampier and
Carteret had shown that New Britain and New Ireland were separate
islands, lying north-east of New Guinea. Quiros had found the northern
island of the New Hebrides.
But of none of these lands was anything really known. Those who had
visited them had merely touched. In no case had they gone round them, or
ascertained their limits, and their descriptions, founded on brief
experience, were bald and much exaggerated.
Let us turn to what was unknown.
This comprises the whole of the east coast of Australia, or New Holland,
and whether it was joined to Tasmania on the south, and New Guinea to the
north; the dimensions of New Zealand; New Caledonia and the New Hebrides,
with the exception of the fact that the northern island of the latter
existed; the Fiji Islands; Sandwich Islands; the Phoenix, Union, Ellice,
Gilbert, and Marshall Groups, with innumerable small islands scattered
here and there; the Cook Islands, and all the Society Islands except
Tahiti. The majority of the Paumotu Group. The coast of North America
north of 45 degrees north was unknown, and there was the great,
undefined, and imaginary southern Continent to disprove.
Whether other voyages of exploration would have been undertaken one
cannot say; but in 1768 the Royal Society put in a word.
A transit of Venus over the sun's disc was to occur in 1769, and
astronomers were anxious to take advantage of it, the object of the
observation being to ascertain the distance of the earth from the sun,
the fundamental base line in all astronomical measurements, and which was
very imperfectly known.
The Central Pacific afforded a favourable position, and the Royal Society
memorialised the king to send a ship for the purpose. The request was
granted, and at first Alexander Dalrymple, who had conducted marine
surveys in the East Indies, and was known as a scientific geographer, was
selected as observer. As, however, it was found that he also expected to
command the ship, the Admiralty positively refused to have anything to do
with him, and after some discussion James Cook was selected.
This says volumes for Cook's reputation at the time. To have risen
absolutely from the ranks was a great deal, but to be chosen as a master,
to command a ship, and undertake a scientific observation of this
importance, was a most exceptional occurrence, and speaks well for the
judgment of those who had the selection.
It seems that Mr. Stephens, the Secretary to the Admiralty, had much to
do with it. How Stephens had become acquainted with Cook history does not
relate, but doubtless his personal visits to the Admiralty in connection
with the completion of his charts of Newfoundland, from which he returned
every winter, had brought him into contact with the Secretary, who had
clearly formed a high opinion of him.
Cook, we may be sure, jumped at the chance, and his pride must have been
great when he found he was to receive a commission as Lieutenant.
This in itself was a most unusual step. The occasions on which a master
had been transferred to the executive line of the Royal Navy were very
rare, and many an admiral used his influence in favour of some deserving
officer in vain.
This was not without good reason, as the whole training of the Master of
those days was unfavourable to success in command of ships or men. The
exception was, however, in this case amply justified.
Cook was allowed to choose his vessel, and bearing in mind the dangers of
grounding in unknown seas, he pitched upon his old friends, the
stoutly-built, full-bottomed colliers of the North Sea trade.
His ship, the Endeavour, was a Whitby built vessel of three hundred and
seventy tons, and was known as H.M. Bark Endeavour, there being another
vessel, a cutter, of the same name in the Royal Navy. She was brought to
the dockyard at Deptford to fit out. Her appearance was, of course,
wholly different from that of a vessel built as a man-of-war, and we
shall see that this caused trouble at Rio Janeiro, where the combination
of merchant build and officers in uniform in an armed ship, aroused
suspicions in the mind of the Portuguese Viceroy.
It is nowhere directly stated whether the Endeavour was sheathed with
copper or not; but as Cook in the account of his second voyage expresses
himself as adverse to this method of protecting ships' bottoms, and the
operation is recorded of heeling and boot topping, which was cleaning and
greasing the part of the ship just below waterline, it may be concluded
that her sheathing was wood.
She proved a most suitable vessel. The log states she was a little crank,
but an admirable sea-boat. Her rate of sailing was of course, with her
build, slow, but her strength and flat bottom stood her in good stead
when she made acquaintance with a coral reef.
She mounted ten small carriage guns and twelve swivels.
Mr. Banks, a scientific botanist, afterwards well known as Sir Joseph
Banks, and for a long time President of the Royal Society, a gentleman of
private means, volunteered to accompany Cook, and took with him a staff
of his own, of artists and others.
He also induced Dr. Solander, a Swedish naturalist, afterwards attached
to the British Museum, to accompany him.
Mr. Charles Green, one of the assistants at the Royal Observatory at
Greenwich, was sent as astronomer.
This scientific staff added much to the success of the expedition.
Banks and Solander, both men of observation, were able to collect
specimens of natural history, and study the manners and customs of the
natives with whom they came in contact, which neither the time at Cook's
disposal nor his training enabled him to undertake; and though the
Journal of the former has never yet been published, and cannot at the
present time be traced, many interesting remarks were extracted by Dr.
Hawkesworth from it and went far to make his account of the voyage
Mr. Green also demands special notice.
One great question of the day amongst seamen and geographers was the
discovering of some ready and sure method of ascertaining the longitude.
Half the value of the explorations made up to this time had been lost
from this want. The recognised means of finding longitude was by the
observation of lunars; that is, accurately measuring the angular distance
between the centres of the moon and of the sun, or of the moon and some
The motion of the moon is so rapid that this angular distance changes
from second to second, and thereby, by previous astronomical calculation,
the time at Greenwich at which its distance from any body is a certain
number of degrees can be ascertained and recorded.
By well-known calculations the local time at any spot can be obtained,
and when this is ascertained, at the precise moment that the angular
distance of sun and moon is observed, the difference gives the longitude.
This seems simple enough, but there is a good deal of calculation to go
through before the result is reached, and neither the observation nor the
calculation is easy, especially with the astronomical tables of those
days, and there were very few sailors who were capable of, or patient
enough to make them, nor was the result, as a rule, very accurate. For
one thing, the motions of the moon, which are extremely complicated, were
not enough known to allow her calculated position in the heavens to be
very accurate, and a very small error in this position considerably
affects the time, and therefore the longitude.
Luckily for Cook, the Nautical Almanac had just been started, and
contained tables of the moon which had not previously been available, and
which much lightened the calculations.
The great invention of the chronometer, that is, a watch that can be
trusted to keep a steady rate for long periods, was at this time
completed by Harrison; but very few had been manufactured, and
astronomers and sailors were slow to believe in the efficacy of this
method of carrying time about with a ship. Thus Cook had no chronometer
supplied to him.
Green had accompanied Mr. Maskelyne, afterwards Astronomer Royal, to
Barbados in 1763 in H.M.S. Princess Louisa, in order to test Harrison's
timekeeper, and also a complicated chair, from which it was supposed
observations of Jupiter's satellites could be observed on board ship; and
as this trial afforded the final triumph of the new method, one would
have thought that on a voyage of circumnavigation he would have made
every effort to get one of these watches.
Be this as it may, the Endeavour had no chronometer, and lunars were the
mainstay of the expedition.
In these observations Green was indefatigable. Cook, an excellent
observer himself frequently took part in them; but it was Green's
especial business, and no doubt to him is due the major part of the
determinations of accurate longitude, which is one of the very remarkable
points of this voyage.
Green's log, which is extant, is filled with lunar observations, and the
extraordinary coincidence between different observations attests the care
with which they were made. I dwell upon this because, while full of
admiration for Cook's knowledge, and his untiring zeal in every detail of
his expedition, it is evident, from a study of the original documents,
that without Green many opportunities of getting longitude would have
been lost, Cook having no time to spare to make use of them. Let us give
honour to whom honour is due.
The final results of the observations are not equally good, but this
arises from the errors, before referred to, in the moon's place in the
heavens as given in the almanac, which would vary with her position, and
affect the longitude accordingly. The astonishing thing is, not that some
longitudes are considerably in error, but that the majority of them are
so near the truth.
The Endeavour sailed from the Thames on June 30th, 1768, and was in
Plymouth Sound from July 14th to the 26th, when she finally sailed, Banks
and the scientific staff having joined here.
She carried a complement, all told, of ninety-four, and very close
stowage it must have been.
A list is given in this book, immediately before the "Journal," of every
person on board when the ship sailed from Plymouth.
The draught of the ship was 13 feet 6 inches, and her provisions were
calculated to last eighteen months. The original intention had been that
the transit of Venus should be observed at the Marquesas; but the
Dolphin's return before Cook sailed, with the news of the discovery of
Tahiti and its friendly inhabitants, caused this island to be finally
The exact text of Cook's orders cannot be given. They were secret orders;
but, curiously enough, while the covering letter, which enjoined him to
show them to nobody, which is dated July 30th, 1768, is duly entered in
Admiralty Records, the orders themselves, which should follow in the
letter book, are omitted. They have never been published. Nevertheless,
we can gather what they were.
Cook, in the published account of his Second Voyage, says he had
instructions to proceed directly to Tahiti, and afterwards to prosecute
the design of making discoveries in the Pacific by proceeding southward
to the latitude of 40 degrees, and if he did not find land to continue
his voyage to the west till he fell in with New Zealand, which he was
directed to explore, and thence to return to England by such route as he
should judge most convenient.
Precautions against the terrible scourge, scurvy, had not been forgotten.
Besides the supply of all anti-scorbutics then known, a special letter
was written to Cook directing him to take a quantity of malt to sea, for
the purpose of being made into wort, as a cure for scorbutic disorders,
as recommended by Dr. McBride.
The directions for its use were as follows:--
"The malt must be ground under the direction of the surgeon, and made
into wort, fresh every day, in the following manner:--
"1. Take one quart of ground malt, and pour on it three quarts of boiling
water. Stir them well, and let the mixture stand close covered up for
three or four hours, after which strain off the liquor.
"2. The wort, so prepared, is then to be boiled into a panada, with sea
biscuit or dried fruits generally carried to sea.
"3. The patient must make at least two meals a day of the said panada,
and should drink a quart or more of the fresh infusion as it may agree
with him, every twenty-four hours.
"4. The surgeon is to keep an exact account of its effects."
Though it is somewhat anticipating events, it is convenient to record
here the result of these efforts to defeat the hitherto unconquerable
enemy. Mr. Perry's report at the termination of the voyage is as
"Sour krout, mustard, vinegar, wheat, inspissated orange and lemon
juices, saloup, portable soup, sugar, molasses, vegetables (at all times
when they could be got) were, some in constant, others in occasional use.
These were of such infinite service to the people in preserving them from
a scorbutic taint, that the use of the malt was (with respect to
necessity) almost entirely precluded.
"Again cold bathing was encouraged and enforced by example; the allowance
of salt beef and pork was abridged from nearly the beginning of the
voyage, and the sailors' usual custom of mixing the salt beef fat with
their flour, etc., was strictly forbad.
"Upon our leaving England, also, a stop was put to our issuing butter and
cheese, and throughout the voyage raisins were served with the flour
instead of pickled suet. At Tierra del Fuego we collected wild celery,
and every morning our breakfast was made with this herb, with ground
wheat and portable soup.
"We passed Cape Horn, all our men as free from scurvy as on our sailing
"Three slight cases of scorbutic disorders occurred before arriving at
Otaheite. Wort was given, with apparently good effect, and the symptoms
"No other cases occurred during the voyage, but the wort was served out
at sea as a regular article of diet."
To this it may be added, that no opportunity was, as appears by the
Journal, ever lost of getting wild celery and any other wild herb that
The personal washing is mentioned by Mr. Perry, and the tradition in the
Navy is, that the men's deck was more constantly scrubbed than had then
been usual; in fact, that unusual attention was paid to cleanliness.
Stoves were used to dry the decks below even in hot weather.
As this voyage forms the subject of this book, its events may be passed
Calling at Madeira--where the log records that the Endeavour was fired
upon by the fort on the Loo Rock through some misapprehension while
shifting berth, though Cook passes this by in silence--and Rio Janeiro,
Cook proceeded to double Cape Horn. His predecessors had struggled
through the Strait of Magellan, losing much time and wearing out their
men with the continual anchoring and weighing in that long and narrow
passage, rendered necessary by the constant foul and strong winds that
prevail. The idea was to avoid the heavy seas and gales of the open sea;
but Cook's action was amply justified by a more rapid passage without any
danger. Discovering several of the low coral atolls of the Paumotu Group,
he arrived at Tahiti on April 13th, 1769.
On July 13th, the transit of Venus having been observed under favourable
conditions on June 1st, he left Tahiti, exploring and mapping the Society
Islands immediately to the westward, never before visited, and then stood
to the southward. It may here be mentioned that it is only during the
last decade that Cook's charts of the Society Group have been superseded
by more elaborate surveys by the French.
Cook went to 40 degrees south, discovering one of the Austral Group on
his way, when, finding no sign of the hypothetical southern Continent,
and getting into very dirty weather, he first gained a more northern
latitude and favourable winds, and then stood for New Zealand.
On October 7th he arrived at Poverty Bay, and during the next six months
he completely circumnavigated and mapped the islands of New Zealand. He
had received on board at Tahiti a native, one Tupia, formerly the high
priest, and a man of much intelligence. Tupia proved to be of the utmost
service, as, to their astonishment and delight, they found that the
languages were sufficiently identical to enable him to act as a most
efficient interpreter; which made it possible to obtain information, and
establish relations with the New Zealanders which they could never have
succeeded in doing without him.
Cook now, after consideration, determined to explore the unknown east
coast of New Holland. The health of his ship's company, and the good
order on board, permitted him to make this good use of his time, instead
of hurrying on to a civilised port, as all his forerunners had had to do.
He struck Australia at its south-east point, and followed the whole coast
to the northward, mapping it as he went.
When nearing the northern end the voyage nearly came to a premature
conclusion by the ship grounding on a coral reef, twenty miles from the
land. Cook's seamanship was, however, equal to the occasion. The ship was
got off, much damaged and leaking severely, and carried into a little
port they discovered not far off. Here she was cleared out and laid upon
the ground, the tide sufficing to dry enough of her bottom to let the
carpenters repair it.
The wisdom of Cook's choice of a ship of the build of the Endeavour was
here very apparent. It was not every ship that could be safely beached in
this way without danger of falling over. After long delay she proceeded
on her voyage, and soon had a second narrow escape. The long line of
coral reefs that front the northern part of Eastern Australia, for a
distance of 1200 miles, approach the coast about the place where the ship
had grounded. The passage between the outer reef and the land is strewn
with shoals, and finding his further progress much impeded by them, and
fearful of a repetition of his disaster, Cook with some difficulty found
a channel to seaward, and gained the open ocean. He was, however, yet
determined to follow the land he was exploring, and more especially to
solve the great question as to whether Australia was joined to New Guinea
or no; and three days after his escape from the line of reefs he found
himself with a light wind, embayed on the outer side of them, with the
reefs close to him, and the ship drifting slowly but surely on them, the
heavy swell of the great ocean breaking mountains high on their outer
Here again calmness and promptitude saved him, and the ship was pushed
through a narrow channel in these terrible reefs into the smooth, though
reef-dotted, waters within. No event in the voyage is more dramatically
narrated, though without any exaggeration, than this hair-breadth escape.
With the caution born of recent dangers, Cook now slowly found his way
through the maze of reefs, by a route that no one has again followed, to
the northern point of Australia, and was rewarded for his pertinacity by
finding the channel now known as Torres Strait, which led him between New
Guinea and Australia.
Thus far Cook's enthusiasm in adventure and desire to explore had been
fully shared by his companions; but it is apparent that at this point
they fell short of his high standard. Cook, having secured his direct
passage to Batavia, and having still a little provision left, was anxious
to do still more in the way of discovery, and stood over to the
little-known New Guinea shore. It is evident, however, from Cook's
expressions, though he does not complain, that his people were pining for
fresh food and civilisation. Australia had produced them little but
occasional fish and a few turtle. The salt provisions of those days were
most unpalatable, and the effect of their continued hard work and
inadequate food for so long, for they were now over two years from
England, with no communication of any kind with the outer world, were
telling on them, though they were still free from scurvy.
Cook, therefore, after landing once in New Guinea, unwillingly turned his
ship's head towards Batavia.
The complaints grew louder as he passed by Timor without attempting to
communicate, and falling in with the island of Savu, he yielded to
importunity, and touched there to get refreshments.
Thence he went by the south shore of the chain of islands to Sunda Strait
So far all had gone well. It was undoubtedly far the most successful
voyage ever made. Much had been done--more than his orders directed--to
explore unknown lands, and the dire enemy of seamen, scurvy, had been
But his luck was not to last.
It was absolutely necessary to remain some time at Batavia, while the
roughly repaired damage to the ship was made good in the Dutch dockyard.
Two months and a half in the sickly climate of Batavia, during a bad time
of the year, wrought a sad change in his ship's company. The port they so
much desired proved but the door of the grave to many of them, and Cook
sailed for England on December 27th, 1770, with dysentery pervading the
ship. The surgeon had already died of it; so had the poor Tahitian,
Tupia, with two seamen, and one of Mr. Banks' artists.
Worse was, however, to follow. Day by day, as the ship slowly found her
way over the Indian Ocean towards the Cape, against the wet and unhealthy
north-west monsoon, the sick list grew larger. Man after man succumbed,
and before half the distance to Capetown was traversed twenty-two more
were carried off. Green, the astronomer, two more of Banks' staff, two
midshipmen, the boatswain and carpenter were among the number. The crew
was more than decimated.
The ship touched at the Cape, and war with France being expected, the
Endeavour joined the East India convoy, under H.M.S. Portland, at St.
Helena. The heavy-sailing, collier-built craft was not, however, when the
ships had crossed the line and got upon a wind, able to keep up with
them, and she once more found herself alone on her way.
Two more officers, the First Lieutenant, Mr. Hicks, and the Master, Mr.
Molineux, died after leaving the Cape, but not of dysentery, and the ship
finally reached England on June 12th, 1771.
Ninety-four persons left England in the Endeavour, of whom fifty-four
returned. Thirty-eight died on the voyage, out of which number thirty-one
died after reaching Batavia, most of them from fever and dysentery
contracted at that place.
After paying off in August 1771, the Endeavour was sold in 1775, and for
many years sailed as a collier in the North Sea.
This voyage gave a new impetus to discovery, and the immediate thought
was to resume it, under this heaven-born leader.
Cook was given little leisure, as it was nearly at once decided to send
him out again, and he was appointed to command the Resolution on November
28th, 1771, the interval having been occupied in considering what ships
should be employed.
Cook's experience of the qualities of the Endeavour caused him to uphold
the selection of similar vessels, for there were to be two, and the
Resolution and Adventure, of 462 and 336 tons respectively, both Whitby
built colliers, were bought for the voyage. Cook was promoted to
Commander, and Tobias Furnaux, in the Adventure, was placed under his
command. It was not, however, until April 1772 that they sailed.
It was originally intended that Banks should again accompany Cook, and
with a view to his better accommodation a poop was added to the
Resolution. The short trip, however, from Deptford to Sheerness proved to
Cook that the ship was dangerously over-weighted, and the poop was
removed, with the consequence that Banks did not sail. The alteration
delayed final departure until June 22nd from Sheerness, and July 13th
The naturalists on this voyage were two Forsters, Germans, father and
son; and as astronomers Mr. Wales sailed in the Resolution, and Mr.
Bayley in the Adventure. Two of Cook's former companions sailed as
Lieutenants: Clerke, who was Lieutenant, and Pickersgill, who was master
of the Endeavour when she reached England. This witnesses to the
confidence and enthusiasm that Cook inspired amongst those under him.
There were also other Endeavours amongst the junior officers.
The main object of the voyage was the settlement of the great question of
the southern Continent. Cook was directed to explore the whole region
about the South Pole, starting from the Cape of Good Hope, and working
eastward. The winter of the southern hemisphere was to be employed as
Cook thought fit.
This voyage brought Cook's qualities as a seaman and commander more
prominently to view even than the former. The conditions were very
different. Instead of mapping coasts and islands, the principal duty was
exploration of tempestuous seas in high latitudes, amongst ice, searching
in vain for the illusive southern land.
Cook carried it out thoroughly. No gales, no temperatures deterred him
from searching wherever the ships would safely sail, and it was only ice
in dense masses that turned him back.
What his people thought of it we do not know, but the Forsters have given
a piteous account of the privations and hardships of an exploration that
gave them little chance of exercising their special knowledge.
Cook was better provided with instruments for the determination of
longitude than before, and the ships carried four chronometric
timekeepers; but the proper method of making use of them was scarcely yet
realised, and the course of his voyage did not permit them to be of much
Mindful of his former success in combating scurvy, and making use of his
experience, Cook carried with him all his former anti-scorbutics, and
redoubled his general precautions as to cleanliness, both of person and
ship. The result was complete immunity from more than symptoms of scurvy.
He was able to say, when he returned, that no man had died not only of
this disease, but of any other, due to the exposures of the voyage. Three
lost by accidents, and one from a complaint contracted before leaving
England, were the sole losses on a voyage lasting three years, and during
which the exposure to heat, cold, rain, and all the hardships of a sea
life was probably never surpassed.
Leaving the Cape on November 22nd, Cook stood at once to the southward,
intending to pass over a spot in latitude 54 degrees South, where in 1739
M. Bouvet sighted land that was generally supposed to be a part of the
Southern Continent, and which he had been especially directed to examine.
Gales, however, drove him from his course, and to this day Bouvet's
Islands (for Cook proved they could be nothing else) are doubtfully shown
upon charts.* (* They were again reported in 1825 by the Sprightly, an
English whaler, but Sir James Ross searched for them in 1840 without
success.) Cook soon got into the ice, and fought with it and gales of
wind, in snow and sleet and fog, working gradually eastwards from the
longitude of the Cape for four months. The ship penetrated to 67 degrees
South at one point, and kept as high a latitude as ice permitted
everywhere, but without discovering any land. Cook found to his great joy
that the ice yielded good fresh water, and replenished his water casks in
this manner, without any fear of falling short. With all his power of
communicating his enthusiasm to others, it may be doubted if they shared
his pleasure at finding that the search in these inclement regions need
not be curtailed from lack of this necessary.
At last, in the longitude of Tasmania, Cook hauled to the northward, and
headed for New Zealand, where, after sailing over eleven thousand miles
since leaving the Cape without once sighting land, he anchored in Dusky
Bay on March 26th, 1774, with the Resolution only, the Adventure having
parted company in thick weather on February 9th. Moving on to Queen
Charlotte's Sound, his old anchorage at the north end of Middle Island,
he found the Adventure there on May 18th. Captain Furneaux had, after
vainly searching for his consort, run for Tasmania, and explored the east
coast. He did not, however, clear up the point for which he states he
visited this coast, namely, whether it joined New Holland or not, as
strong winds from the eastward made him fearful of closing what he
thought was a deep bay, though really the Strait, and he sailed for the
rendezvous in New Zealand under the impression that Tasmania and
Australia were one.
The ships left New Zealand on June 7th, 1773, and, after making a wide
circuit to the south and east in search of land, arrived at Tahiti on
August 16th. A good many of the Adventure's people were ill with scurvy,
and Cook is much puzzled to know the reason why they were attacked while
his own crew were free. He puts it down to the greater trouble he had
taken to make all his men use wild celery and other herbs in New Zealand,
and no doubt this had its effect; but one cannot but suspect that the
constant care on his part to keep the ship clean and sweet below had much
to do with it. The Adventure had the same anti-scorbutics, and Cook
especially mentions that they were in use; but the personal efforts of
the captain in the direction of general sanitary precautions were, we
know, exercised in one case, while we know nothing of the other.
After a month's stay at Tahiti and the Society Islands, where the crews
were much benefited by fresh provisions, the ships sailed for the
Friendly Islands, never visited since Tasrnan's time, and touched at Eoa
and Tongatabu, or, as Tasman had called them, Middleburg and Amsterdam.
These were finally left on October 7th for New Zealand, which was made on
the 21st, and from this day to November 2nd the time was spent in
fruitless endeavours to get into Cook's Strait. Gale succeeded gale--no
uncommon thing here--and in one of them the Adventure parted company
never again to rejoin. Cook anchored in Queen Charlotte's Sound on
November 2nd, and waited until the 25th for his consort in vain. Whilst
here they gained further and indisputable proof of the cannibalistic
tendencies of the Maoris, some of the natives eating human flesh before
them. Cook has been much blamed for permitting this scene, which took
place on board; but there had been so much disputing in England as to the
possibility of the fact, that he could not resist the opportunity of
putting it beyond a doubt.
It was, however, to be shortly proved in a much more horrible manner, for
the Adventure, which only arrived at Queen Charlotte's Sound after the
Resolution left, had a boat's crew attacked, overpowered, and eaten by
the natives. The circumstances were never wholly known, as not a man
escaped; but the cooked remains were found, the natives decamping as the
Cook sailed south on November 25th, 1773, and was soon again battling
with the ice, into which he pushed as far as was safe with as much
hardihood as if he had still had the second ship with him. He gained the
latitude of 67 degrees south, and worked eastward, searching religiously
for land--which, needless to say, he never found--his ropes frozen, and
sails like, as he says, plates of metal. Whatever the feelings of others
on board were, Cook never flinched from every effort to get south,
penetrating in one place to 71 degrees south, where he was stopped by
dense pack, until he found himself nearly in the longitude of Tierra del
Fuego, when, satisfied that no Southern Continent existed in the Pacific,
he, on February 6th, steered north, to continue exploration in more
genial weather and more profitable latitudes. All this time there was no
scurvy, and very little sickness of any kind; an indisputable proof of
the untiring supervision Cook exercised over the health of his men. The
object of his voyage, so far as the Southern Pacific was concerned, was
now accomplished, and Cook might have rounded Cape Horn, and made for the
Cape of Good Hope, completing his tour of the world in southern
latitudes; but such was not his idea of his duty. His own nervous words
will explain his feelings best:--
"We undoubtedly might have reached the Cape of Good Hope in April, and so
have put an end to the expedition so far as related to the finding of a
continent, which indeed was the first object of the voyage; but for me at
this time to have quitted this Southern Pacific Ocean with a good ship
expressly sent out on discoveries, a healthy crew, and not in want either
of stores or provisions, would have betrayed not only a want of
perseverance, but of judgment, in supposing the South Pacific Ocean to be
so well explored that nothing remained to be done in it. This, however,
was not my opinion; for, although I had proved there was no continent but
what must lie far to the south, there remained, nevertheless, room for
very large islands in places wholly unexamined, and many of those which
were formerly discovered are but imperfectly explored, and their
situation as imperfectly known. I was, besides, of opinion that my
remaining in this sea some time longer would be productive of
improvements in navigation and geography, as well as other sciences."
Cook mentions that, on communicating his intentions to his officers, they
all heartily concurred; and he adds, "Under such circumstances it is
hardly necessary to say that the seamen were always obedient and alert,
and they were so far from wishing the voyage at an end that they rejoiced
at the prospect of its being prolonged another year." This, be it
remembered, without a prospect of news from home or contact with
civilisation, for Cook's design was to pass again through the breadth of
the Pacific searching for islands as far as Quiros' discovery of Espiritu
Santo, which lay due north of New Zealand, and then to return through the
tempestuous regions they were now quitting to Cape Horn. Perhaps the
charms of Tahiti reconciled them.
This design Cook triumphantly carried out; though shortly after leaving
southern latitudes he was so ill of what he describes as a bilious
cholic, that his life was despaired of. He first searched for, and
visited, Davis' discovery of Easter Island, where he examined and
described the wonderful colossal, though rude, statues there found. He
then went to the Marquesas, a group but little known, where, after the
usual attempt of the natives to appropriate sundry articles, and the
consequent necessity of firing upon them, peaceful relations were
established, and a brisk trade in much-wanted refreshments was set up.
This did not last long, however, as the market was spoiled by some red
feathers, obtained at the Friendly Islands, being given for a pig; after
which nothing would buy provisions but these same red feathers, and these
being scarce, trade ceased. Cook therefore sailed once more for Tahiti.
On his way he touched at some of the coral atolls of the innumerable
Paumotu Group, and arrived at Matavai on April 22nd, again with not a
sick man on board.
Three weeks were spent here with much satisfaction to all. Provisions
were in plenty, the king and people very friendly, and all went well. The
islanders were preparing for an attack on Eimeo, a neighbouring island,
and a gathering of the fleets gave Cook an opportunity of learning much
of their naval power and manner of conducting war. He observed that the
general prosperity of Tahiti seemed to be at a much higher point than on
his former visit.
After another three weeks' stay at Huaheine, and Ulietea, also amongst
old friends, the Resolution sailed on June 4th to the west.
Discovering Palmerston and Savage Islands on the way, she called at
Namuka, one of the Friendly Group, thus extending the knowledge of those
islands gained the year before. Thence Cook sailed west, discovering
Turtle Island, but just passing out of sight to the southward of the
large Fiji Group, and thus lost the chance of adding them to his other
He was now bound for the New Hebrides, of which the northern island had
been discovered by Quiros. Bougainville, the French explorer, had, in
1768, passed just south of Quiros' Island, and named one or two others he
sighted, but had made no stay, and knew nothing of the extent of the
This was not Cook's fashion. He explored and circumnavigated the whole
Group, which extends in a long line for three hundred and fifty miles. He
touched first at Mallicolo, where, after a temporary disagreement,
friendship was formed. Passing Sandwich Island, Erromanga was landed
upon; but the suspicion of the natives here impelled them to attack the
boats, and no intercourse was established.
The ship then anchored in the convenient harbour of Resolution Bay in the
island of Tanna, and remained a fortnight, wooding and watering.
Observations on the hot springs that gush from the side of the volcano
bordering the harbour were made, and the relations with the natives were
altogether friendly. Sighting Anityeum, the southern member of the New
Hebrides, and making sure there was nothing beyond it, Cook returned
along the west side of the islands, passing eastward of them again,
between Mallicolo and Espiritu Santo. The latter island was closely
followed round its whole extent, and Quiros' Bay of St. Philip and St.
James identified in the great inlet in the northern side. Having laid
down the whole of this extensive group of islands, and very accurately
fixed the longitude by many lunar observations, Cook, on August 31st,
sailed to the westward to search for more lands.
His chart of the New Hebrides is still, for some of the islands, the only
one; and wherever superseded by more recent surveys the general accuracy
of his work, both in outline and position, is very remarkable. On several
occasions up to the present year (1893) Cook's recorded positions have
saved the adoption of so-called amendments reported by passing ships,
which would have been anything but amendments in reality.
Four days after leaving the New Hebrides Cook discovered New Caledonia.
He explored the whole of the eastern side of this large island, which is
three hundred miles in length, anchoring in one harbour inside the reefs
which border it, and making friends with the natives. Other attempts to
get inside the reefs were, however, unsuccessful, and after several
narrow escapes from shipwreck Cook gave up, to his regret, a complete
circumnavigation of the island. The summer approaching, he wished to
refit and recruit in New Zealand before once more standing south.
Norfolk Island was discovered and landed upon on the way, and Queen
Charlotte's Sound was once more reached on October 19th.
The Adventure's visit was ascertained from the Maoris, but Cook was much
puzzled by incompletely understood accounts of white men having been
killed. As far as could be gathered a ship had been lost on the coast,
and Cook was led to believe that this disaster had no reference to the
It was found that pigs and fowls left here on the former visit were still
in existence, and presumably thriving. It may here be mentioned, that
wherever Cook touched he invariably, so far as his stock allowed, left
animals to stock the country, and that New Zealand was, when the settlers
eventually came, found to be well supplied with pigs.
After a stay of three weeks the Resolution sailed, on November 10th, for
Cape Horn. She kept farther north than on the last occasion, the object
being to pass over new ground, and more completely disprove the existence
of any land.
The western part of Tierra del Fuego being reached, Cook followed the
shore to the south-east, mapping the outside of this dangerous and
inhospitable archipelago. On December 20th he put in to what he
afterwards called Christmas Sound, where large numbers of kelp geese were
obtained, giving the crew what Cook describes as a dainty Christmas
feast, though the flesh of these birds is as tough, fishy, and
unpalatable as can well be imagined; on this occasion, however, the
seamen seemed to have concurred in the verdict of their omnivorous
commander, to whom nothing ever came amiss. Be it remembered, however,
how long they had been on salt provisions, and that the South Sea
Islands, though pleasant in many respects, produced but little solid
food--no beef, mutton, or flesh of any quadruped but pigs, and those in
not very great plenty--while New Zealand gave them nothing but fish.
Rounding Cape Horn, he passed through the Strait Le Maire, and followed
the north shore of Staten Island, anchoring at one place to obtain seals
Whilst praising the flavour of a young seal cub, Cook is compelled to
admit that the flesh of an old sea lion is abominable; a remarkable
statement as coming from him.
Leaving Staten Island, Cook steered east and discovered South Georgia,
named after the king. He followed the north coast of this desolate and
ice-clad island, obtaining more refreshment in the shape of seals,
penguins, and shags--unpalatable, but welcome food to men who had so long
subsisted on bad salt meat. From South Georgia the ship's head was once
more turned southwards, and before many days ice was again encountered.
In stormy and thick weather the Resolution made her way, disproving the
existence of a great tract of land laid down by speculative geographers,
until January 31st, 1775, when Sandwich Land was discovered in about
latitude 60 degrees south. This ice-covered group of islands was sketched
under great difficulties from gales, fogs, snow, and numerous icebergs;
and Cook then bore away along their parallel, to seek once more for
Bouvet's Islands to the eastward.
He found nothing, and on February 26th steered for the Cape of Good Hope,
even he being glad to leave this trying, tempestuous latitude. On March
23rd he anchored in Table Bay, having learnt from some vessels outside of
the safe arrival of the Adventure in England the year before, and of her
boat's crew having been eaten by the Maoris, which cleared up the mystery
of the wrecked ship.
The Resolution finally arrived at Spithead on July 29th, 1775, after an
absence of three years and eighteen days.
Captain Furneaux had, on leaving New Zealand, sailed straight for Cape
Horn, the Cape of Good Hope, and England, arriving just a year before the
Cook speaks most warmly of Captain Furneaux; but one cannot help
contrasting his action with Cook's. Left, by the separation, his own
master, he might have continued exploration, as did Cook. His ship was
staunch, his provisions in much the same condition as the Resolution's;
but he went straight home. His crew had suffered from scurvy, whereas
Cook's had not; but he says not one word of this, nor does he give any
reason why he gave up any further thought of the objects of the voyage,
except a search for Bouvet's Islands, which he also looked for on his
It was the indomitable perseverance that led Cook to act so differently
that raised his reputation so far above all other leaders.
Thus ended this very remarkable voyage. Never was a ship's crew exposed
to more continual hardships, with so little to keep up interest and
excitement, as the people of the Resolution; and yet Cook is able to
record, with allowable pride, that only four lives had been lost, and
only one by a sickness contracted before leaving England.
Once more the scurvy was defeated; and, without a doubt, owing to the
intelligent action and untiring supervision of the captain. He gives a
full description of the measures adopted, and while giving full
acknowledgment to the anti-scorbutics with which he was supplied, he is
of opinion that the general sanitary precautions formed the best
prevention. Cleanliness of persons, bedding, clothes, and ship, were
continually enforced. All these were foreign to the sailors of the time,
and extraordinary it is that it was a man born in the lower rank of life,
and brought up in a collier, who had the sense to perceive that in these
lay the surest preventatives against this paralysing scourge.
Cook was promoted to captain--a proud position for the collier boy--and
elected a Fellow of the Royal Society; perhaps even a greater distinction
for a man of his bringing up. He contributed papers on his methods of
preventing scurvy, and on the tides of the Pacific.
He also employed himself in publishing the account of his recent voyage,
the only one which he himself edited.
He was not, however, long at rest. The Admiralty wished to send an
expedition to explore the north-western coasts of North America, and to
examine the Polar Sea from the Bering Straits side, with a view of the
discovery of a north-west passage. Cook seems to have volunteered for the
command without being actually asked, and, needless to say, was at once
In February he once more received his commission to command the
Resolution, this time accompanied by the Discovery, a vessel very similar
to the Adventure, his consort during the last voyage. Clerke, a master's
mate in the Endeavour, and second lieutenant in the Resolution, was
appointed as commander to the Discovery. He, like Cook, was fated not to
return from this third journey to the great Pacific.
Others who had sailed with Cook before were ready to accompany him, once
more to encounter privations and find new lands.
Cook's orders were long and detailed, but were to the effect that he was
to proceed by way of the Cape of Good Hope to search in the Indian Ocean
for the land recently seen by M. Kerguelen; thence via Tahiti, on to the
coast of North America in about latitude 45 degrees, which he was to
follow to latitude 65 degrees, searching especially for any channel which
might lead to the north-east, as it was supposed there might be a passage
communicating with Hudson's Bay. He was further to look for any passage
north of North America to the Atlantic, and to make such other
explorations as might seem fit to him. A money reward of 20,000 pounds
was also offered in case of success in finding such a passage.
Chronometers were again carried, and more confidence in them being felt,
more use was made of them.
Cook took with him Omai, a young Society islander, who had induced
Captain Furneaux to take him to England, and whom Cook now engaged to
return to his native country.
The ships sailed on July 11th, 1776, and arrived at Table Bay on October
Sailing thence on November 30th, he passed and roughly mapped Prince
Edward's, Marion, and Croset's Islands, all of which had been discovered
by Marion de Fresne. He then struck Kerguelen's Land, spent Christmas Day
in one of its harbours, and mapped the eastern side of this large but
desolate island. He was unaware that Kerguelen had visited this island a
second time, and had gained much more information about it than he did in
his first voyage.
Cook had taken on board at the Cape as many cattle, horses, bulls, cows,
goats, and sheep as he could stow, with a view of landing them at Tahiti
or elsewhere, and it is without surprise that we learn that after several
weeks in these stormy seas a good many of them had died. When we consider
the size of the ships the wonder is where they found room for these
On January 26th the ships arrived in Tasmania, and anchored in Adventure
Bay, principally with a view of getting fodder for the remaining cattle.
Pigs were left here, according to Cook's usual custom.
After four days the ships sailed, and arrived in Queen Charlotte's Sound,
New Zealand, on February 12th, 1777. Here Cook learnt the history of the
attack on the Adventure's boat's crew from the chief who led it, but made
no attempt at reprisals, although urged by many other natives to kill
him. He seems to have been guided by the consideration that, as related
by the natives, it was a dishonest act of barter on the part of one of
the sailors which commenced the disturbance; and that occurring so long
before, no good purpose would be served by punishment. It says much for
his humane treatment of natives.
On leaving this, Cook records that he had at different times left about a
dozen pigs in New Zealand. These increased, and stocked the whole island
by the time the English settlers arrived.
On the way to Tahiti Cook fell across several islands belonging to what
was afterwards called after him, the Cook Group. He visited Mangaia,
Atiu, Takutea,* (* Spelt by Cook Mangeea, Wateeo, and Otakootaia.) and
the Hervey Islands. Relations were established with the natives, and Cook
was much interested at finding on Atiu three natives of the Society
Islands, the survivors of twelve, who had been blown away in a canoe, and
landed on this island, five hundred miles distant. As he remarks, this
throws great light on the manner in which the different islands of the
Pacific have been peopled.
Cook now made up his mind that he was too late to prosecute discovery
this year on the American Continent, it being well into April, and being
anxious to save the remaining cattle that he wished to land at Tahiti,
and which had been taken on board especially for this purpose, the island
being still far to windward, he bore away for the Friendly Islands for
fodder and refreshments. He landed on Palmerston on the way--an island
discovered last voyage--and arrived at Namuka* (* Cook's Anamooka.) on
May 1st, with not a sick man in the ships.
The ships remained in the Friendly Group for two months and a half,
visiting and mapping the different islands, and learning much of the
manners of this interesting race, seeing their great concerted dances,
and the ceremonies of coming of age of the heir to the throne. Cook here
first became acquainted with the mysterious rite of Tabu, which was
closely connected with his own death. A selection of useful animals,
including horses, were left at Tongatabu.
While at the Friendly Islands Cook heard of the Fiji Group, and saw some
of the natives, who had come over in a canoe. The intelligence he was
able to gather concerning them was imperfect, and he saw no reason to
justify a long detour to leeward to search for them, when his object was
to stock the Society Islands with the animals he had. Had he known their
size and importance, his course might possibly have been different. As it
was, he sailed for Tahiti, and discovering Tubuai, one of the Austral
Group, on his passage, arrived there on August 13th, 1777.
Six weeks were spent here, and the old friendships further cemented.
Bulls and cows and other animals were presented to the king. Cook also
attended at several ceremonies consequent on war being declared against
Eimeo, which included the offering of the dead body of a man, previously
killed for the purpose, to the war god. He positively refused to aid in
this war, which very shortly came to an end.
Eimeo was next visited, and here the theft of a goat, which Cook intended
to land at Huaheine, induced him to take severe measures to get it back.
Several war canoes and houses were destroyed before it was returned. At
Huaheine, Omai was established, with many valuable European articles in
his possession. Here again Cook acted with considerable severity in the
case of a thief cutting off his ears, and confining him on board. His
action has been questioned, but considering his humane character, and the
judgment that he always displayed in these questions, we are justified in
believing that he had good reason for departing from his ordinary custom
of mild treatment of natives. At Ulietea, or Raiatea, next visited, a
midshipman and a seaman of the Discovery deserted. Cook took his usual
step of confining some natives of importance, and informing their
relatives that they would be retained until the deserters were returned.
In this case he impounded the king's son and daughter, with the desired
effect, as the stragglers were soon brought back from Bolabola, whither
they had gone; but both Cook and Captain Clerke were nearly captured by
the natives when on shore in the interval.
It is only surprising that more of Cook's people did not attempt to
remain in these pleasant islands. The hardships of the sea press much on
certain natures, and the allurements of the easy and careless life of a
tropical island offered such a contrast, that it scarcely required the
desire of the natives to get white men with their superior knowledge, and
above all superior arms, to remain with them, to induce them to desert.
This last, however, made desertion more easy, and had not Cook taken
strong measures, no doubt the epidemic would have spread.
After visiting Bolabola, Cook sailed north, to prosecute the main object
of his voyage, the exploration of the north-west coast of America. On
December 24th he fell in with Christmas Island, which he so named from
the season. After mapping it, and getting many turtle, he continued his
course to the north, and discovered Atooi or Kauai, the western island of
the Sandwich Group.
Communicating with this island and another, he finally left on February
3rd, 1778, and on March 7th made the coast of North America, a little
south of the Columbia River. Gales ensued, and Cook missed the entrance
of Juan de Fuca Strait, making the land again a little north of it.
Anchoring first in Nootka Sound in Vancouver Island--though Cook did not
know it was an island--the ships continued their exploration to the
north-west, skirting the coast as near as stormy weather permitted them,
and calling at various places until the north-west extremity of the
Alaska Peninsula was reached. In one place, afterwards called Cook's
River, it was hoped that the desired passage eastward was found; but it
was soon discovered that it was merely an inlet.
Passing through the Aleutian Chain, east of Unalaska, Cook visited that
island, and continued his voyage through the Bering Sea, clinging to the
land as much as possible, and finally got into Bering Strait. Here he had
both continents in sight, and communicated with both sides.
Standing further north, he, in latitude 70 degrees 30 minutes north, came
across the icy barrier of the Arctic Sea. After vainly trying for a
passage in fog and strong wind, surrounded by loose ice, and after
mapping a good deal of the shores on both sides, the ships again turned
south at the end of August, exploring as they went first on the Asiatic
side, and afterwards on the American, especially examining Norton Sound.
In the beginning of October they once more arrived at Unalaska, and the
Resolution having sprung a dangerous leak, the opportunity was taken to
On October 26th the ships sailed for the Sandwich Islands, where Cook had
determined to winter, for the double purpose of refreshing his crew,
gaining more knowledge of the Group, and being in a convenient position
for resuming his exploration in the spring.
The voyage just accomplished was very remarkable, whether for the amount
of coast mapped, which extended for between three and four thousand
miles, or for the determination with which it was prosecuted in
tempestuous and thick weather, on a most dangerous and inhospitable
coast, part of the time in ice. The crews were perfectly healthy, with no
sign of scurvy, and he brought both his ships off without any damage.
Maui, another of the Sandwich Group, was made on November 26th, and after
communicating, the ships stood over to Owhyhee (Hawaii). Wind was against
them, and it was not until January 17th that the two ships, having passed
along the north side of the island to the eastward, at last anchored in
Kealakekua Bay, on the south-west side.
The events which followed the arrival of the ships at Hawaii, which
terminated in Captain Cook's death, were not understood at the time, but
have been elucidated by the inquiries of the early missionaries, which
throw much light upon the beliefs of the islanders.
It appears that a tradition existed that a chief of earlier times, one
Rono, Orono, or Lono (the R and the L in the Pacific languages are almost
interchangeable), had, after killing his wife, become frantically insane,
and after travelling through the islands boxing and wrestling with all he
met, had departed in a canoe, prophesying that he would some day return
in an island with trees, hogs, and dogs. He was deified, and temples
erected in his honour.
When Cook's ships arrived it was believed that the prophecy was
fulfilled. Rono had returned as he had said, and the natives flocked to
do him honour. When Cook landed he was received with adoration, the
crowds prostrating themselves, and the priests escorting him with much
ceremony. Led to a temple, he was clothed with red cloth, had pigs
offered to him, and was generally treated in a manner which, though
satisfactory as showing the friendly feelings of the natives, was
puzzling to the Europeans. This continued throughout their stay, presents
of all kinds being showered upon them. The officers, however, observed
that the warrior chiefs were not so enthusiastic as the priests and
common people. The death of a seaman, who was buried on shore in the
presence of a large concourse, would seem to have been the first
circumstance that threw doubts upon the godlike character of the
visitors; but the ready way in which the fence of a Morai or sacred
inclosure, which included various images, was granted for fuel, shows
that the priests still held to their idea. The king, Taraiopu (or
Terreooboo, as his name was written by Captain King), arrived shortly
after the ships anchored, and showed himself to be as much impressed with
the public belief as any of his subjects.
Thus matters continued during the eighteen days the ships remained; but
towards the end of this time the natives began to show anxiety that they
should be gone. The drain of hogs and other provisions, which were poured
upon the visitors, doubtless led to anxious thoughts as to how long this
was to last; and probably those members of the community who were less
amenable to the influence of the priests, and were jealous of their own
authority, were by no means so certain that the popular opinion of the
supernatural nature of the white men was correct.
The ships sailed on February 4th, but, as ill-luck had it, the Resolution
sprung her foremast in a gale, and Cook resolved to return to Kealakekua
Bay for repairs. Here they again anchored on the 11th.
Their reception was, however, very different.
No crowd of canoes round the ship; no enthusiastic mass of natives on
shore. Everything was silence.
What had happened was that the king had departed, leaving the bay under
"tabu," i.e., a sacred interdict.
The priests, however, received them with as much friendliness as before,
and the Morai was given up to them as a place of repairs for the damaged
The king hurried back on hearing of the return of the ships, and removed
the tabu; but the native disposition was changed. Some of the party on
shore had persuaded women to break the tabu.
Whether this affected relations is uncertain, but the inhabitants
generally exhibited considerable hostility, and headed by some chiefs,
showed an inclination to attack a watering party. Thefts followed, and
the capture of a canoe as a reprisal caused a scuffle on the beach, in
which the Englishmen were worsted by the crowd, though a friendly chief
soon restored order.
Instructions were now given to the party on shore at the Morai to permit
no natives to approach in the night, and a musket was fired at one of
them who came near.
On the morning of February 14th the Discovery's cutter was found to have
Cook at once decided to have recourse to his usual practice, and get
either the king or some principal chief on board, as a hostage till it
was returned. He at the same time gave orders to prevent any canoes from
leaving the bay, in order that he might, if necessary, seize them, and
sent his boats to carry this out. Guns were fired from the ships at two
large canoes that attempted to pass. Cook himself landed with a small
armed force, and went in search of the king, who at once consented to
come on board. The conduct of Taraiopu throughout showed that he had
perfect confidence in Cook, and was entirely friendly, whether he still
believed in the Rono theory or not.
While walking down to the boat, the natives, who were momentarily
increasing in numbers, implored the king not to go. His wife joined her
entreaties. Taraiopu hesitated. At this moment a man ran up and cried,
"It is war; they have killed a chief!" One of the guard boats had, in
fact, fired at a canoe attempting to leave the bay, and killed a man. The
natives at once ran to arms, and Cook, seeing his intentions frustrated,
walked towards the boat. A native attacked him with a spear, and Cook
shot him with his gun. Still, no further attack was made, but the men in
the boats hearing Cook's shot, and seeing the excited crowd, commenced to
fire without orders. Cook still moved to the shore, calling to his men to
cease firing; but whilst so doing, and with his back to the exasperated
natives, he was stabbed in the back with a dagger, and fell with his face
in the water.
There was then general confusion. The boats were a little way from the
beach, and several of the marines were also killed, before they could
reach them. Cook's body was at once dragged off by the natives.
The boats returned on board amid general consternation, and it is
mentioned that a general silence reigned on board when it was known that
their beloved commander had fallen.
The party at the Morai were shortly after attacked, but beat off the
assailants, and reinforcements were sent from the ships. Lieutenant King,
a favourite officer of Cook's, behaved with great discretion, and
assisted by some of the priests, made a truce, during which the mast and
other articles on shore for repairs were got off.
The sailors were mad for reprisals, but Captain Clerke, on whom the
command devolved, decided on pacific measures, and every attempt was made
to recover Cook's body. All that was obtained, however, were some of his
bones, which were brought down with much solemnity by a chief, and
delivered wrapped up in new cloth and red feathers.
It was known in after years that Cook's body had been instantly cut up;
the flesh was burnt, as was the custom with great chiefs and many of the
bones were preserved with great honour in a Morai dedicated to Rono.
It seems clear that Cook's death was due to a revulsion of feeling on the
part of some of the natives, who no longer believed in his divine
character, but that many regarded the outrage with horror. When the first
Europeans came to reside on the island, and learnt the story from the
native side, they found universal regret prevailing at this untoward
Cook left officers imbued with his own noble sentiments. No general
attack was made in revenge for what they saw was the result of
misunderstanding, although they were ignorant of the exact circumstances
which led, first to the uncommon and extraordinary veneration with which
he had been treated, and then to the sudden change in the native
It was found necessary to fire on the natives who prevented the watering
party from working, and some of the sailors on this duty burnt some
houses; but before the ships left, friendly relations were again
established, and many natives visited them.
After Cook's remains had been committed to the sea, the prosecution of
the voyage was determined upon, although Captain Clerke was in the last
stage of consumption, and as soon as the Resolution's mast could be
repaired, the two vessels once more departed, on February 22nd, 1779.
Cook's intentions were carried out as if he had still been in command.
The remainder of the Sandwich Group was mapped, and the ships proceeded
once more to the north. Calling at Petropavlovsk in Avatcha Bay,
Kamtchatka, they again passed through Bering Strait, and sought in vain
for a passage either to the north-east or north-west, being everywhere
baffled by dense masses of ice. Captain Clerke at last abandoned the
struggle, and repassed Bering Strait on his way south on August 1st.
On August 22nd Captain Clerke died.
This officer had accompanied Captain Cook in all his voyages, and had
also circumnavigated the globe in the Dolphin with Captain Byron before.
No man had seen more of the Pacific, and he proved himself, during his
short period of command, a worthy successor of Cook.
Captain Gore, who had been with Cook on his First Voyage, now succeeded,
King being put as Commander into the Discovery, and the two ships made
the best of their way home, via Macao and the Straits of Sunda, arriving
at the Nore on October 4th, 1780, after an absence of four years and two
months. During the whole of this voyage not the slightest symptom of
scurvy appeared in either ship, so completely were Cook's precautions
Cook had six children. Three died young. Of the others, all boys, the
eldest, James, entered the Navy, and lived to be a Commander, when, in
1794, he was drowned. The second, Nathaniel, also in the Navy, was lost
in a hurricane in 1780. The third died when at Cambridge. They none of
them lived to be married, and no descendant of the great navigator has
perpetuated his race.
Of Cook's private life during his brief intervals at home we know
nothing. A man rising from the ranks, and of his reserved character,
would have but few friends, when he had such short time to make them in
his new sphere. He lived at Mile End when at home, but after his death
his widow removed to Clapham, living there for forty years, at first with
her cousin, Isaac Smith, who had served with Cook in the Endeavour and
Resolution. She died in 1835, at the great age of ninety-three.
Of Cook's character, none could be a better judge than Captain King, who
writes as follows, after describing his death:--
"Thus fell our great and excellent commander. After a life of so much
distinguished and successful enterprise, his death, as far as regards
himself, cannot be considered premature, since he lived to finish the
great work for which he seems to have been designed. How sincerely his
loss was felt and lamented, by those who had so long found their general
security in his skill and conduct, and every consolation in their
hardships in his tenderness and humanity, it is neither necessary nor
possible for me to describe. The constitution of his body was robust,
inured to labour, and capable of undergoing the severest hardships. His
stomach bore without difficulty the coarsest and most ungrateful food.
Indeed, temperance with him was scarcely a virtue, so great was the
indifference with which he submitted to every kind of self-denial. The
qualities of his mind were of the same hardy, vigorous kind with those of
his body. His understanding was strong and perspicacious. His judgment in
whatever related to the service he was engaged in quick and sure. His
designs were bold and manly, and both in the conception and in the mode
of execution bore evident marks of a great original genius. His courage
was cool and determined, and accompanied by an admirable presence of mind
in the moment of danger. His manners were plain and unaffected. His
temper might, perhaps, have been justly blamed as subject to haughtiness
and passion, had not these been disarmed by a disposition the most
benevolent and humane. Those intervals of recreation, which sometimes
unavoidably occurred, and were looked for by us with a longing that
persons who have experienced the fatigues of service will readily excuse,
were submitted to by him with a certain impatience whenever they could
not be employed in making further provision for the more effectual
prosecution of his designs."
This is a pretty complete picture, and of a great man; a man who had
before him continually his duty, and who had in an eminent degree the
capacity to carry it out.
Though, under his determination to do this, he drove his people hard;
though he tried them with his irascibility; their conviction of his
greatness, their confidence in his leadership and in his justice, led
them to love him. He had no sympathy with the ordinary foibles and
weaknesses of his men. The charms of Tahiti, the paradise of the sailor,
were no charms for him; he hardly notices the attractive ladies of that
island; the attractions of the place to him were the abundance of
provisions, as a means of fitting his expedition for further exploration
and hardship. The strongest proof of his capacity as a commander is the
devotion of his officers. Those who know the Navy know how difficult it
is for any man who rises from the ranks to be successful in command. But
Cook was a gentleman born; he had the intuition of great minds for
fitting themselves to every position to which they may rise, and there is
never a whisper of disinclination to submit to the rule of the once
collier boy, the son of a labourer.
His intelligence is remarkably shown in his greatest triumph, the
suppression of scurvy. That it should be left to a man of little
education to discern the combination of means by which this enemy of long
voyages could be conquered, is the most remarkable thing about this
remarkable man. He himself notices the disinclination of the sailor to
any new article of food, especially when not particularly palatable; but
he soon found the means to induce them to understand that their lives
greatly depended upon these rather nasty messes. Sour krout; the
unsavoury portable soups of that day; the strange greens that Cook
insisted on hunting up at every land he visited, and boiling with their
ordinary food; the constant washing between decks; the drying below with
stoves, even in the hottest weather; the personal baths; the change of
wet clothing; the airing of bedding, were all foreign and repugnant to
the notions of the seamen of the day, and it required constant
supervision and wise management to enforce the adoption of these odd