The Naval Pioneers of Australia by Louis Becke and Walter Jeffery

Produced by Sjaani and PG Distributed Proofreaders THE NAVAL PIONEERS OF AUSTRALIA BY LOUIS BECKE AND WALTER JEFFERY AUTHORS OF “A FIRST FLEET FAMILY”; “THE MUTINEER,” ETC. _WITH ILLUSTRATIONS_ LONDON JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET 1899 PREFACE This book does not pretend to be a history of Australia; it merely gathers into one volume that which
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This book does not pretend to be a history of Australia; it merely gathers into one volume that which has hitherto been dispersed through many. Our story ends where Australian history, as it is generally written, begins; but the work of the forgotten naval pioneers of the country made that beginning possible. Four sea-captains in succession had charge of the penal settlement of New South Wales, and these four men, in laying the foundation of Australia, surmounted greater difficulties than have ever been encountered elsewhere in the history of British colonization. Under them, and by their personal exertions, it was made possible to live upon the land; it was made easy to sail upon the Austral seas. After them came military and civil governors and constitutional government, finding all things ready to build a Greater Britain. Histories there are in plenty, of so many hundred pages, devoted to describing the “blessings of constitutional government,” of the stoppage of transportation, of the discovery of gold, and all the other milestones on the road to nationhood; but there is given in them no room to describe the work of the sailors–a chapter or two is the most historians afford the naval pioneers.

The printing by the New South Wales Government of the Historical Records of New South Wales has given bookmakers access to much valuable material (dispatches chiefly) hitherto unavailable; and to the volumes of these Records, to the contemporary historians of “The First Fleet” of Captain Phillip, to the many South Sea “voyages,” and other works acknowledged in the text, these writers are indebted. Their endeavour has been to collect together the scattered material that was worth collecting relating to what might be called the naval period of Australia. This involved some years’ study and the reading of scores of books, and we mention the fact in extenuation of such faults of commission and omission as may be discerned in the work by the careful student of Australian history.

The authors are very sensible of their obligations to Mr. Emery Walker, not only for the time and trouble which he has bestowed upon the finding of illustrations, but also for many valuable suggestions in connection with the volume.



_London_, 1899.















“Whenever I want a thing well done in a distant part of the world; when I want a man with a good head, a good heart, lots of pluck, and plenty of common sense, I always send for a Captain of the Navy.”–LORD PALMERSTON.






Learned geographers have gone back to very remote times, even to the Middle Ages, and, by the aid of old maps, have set up ingenious theories showing that the Australian continent was then known to explorers. Some evidence has been adduced of a French voyage in which the continent was discovered in the youth of the sixteenth century, and, of course, it has been asserted that the Chinese were acquainted with the land long before Europeans ventured to go so far afloat. There is strong evidence that the west coast of Australia was touched by the Spaniards and the Portuguese during the first half of the sixteenth century, and proof of its discovery early in the seventeenth century. At the time of these very early South Sea voyages the search, it should always be remembered, was for a great Antarctic continent. The discovery of islands in the Pacific was, to the explorers, a matter of minor importance; New Guinea, although visited by the Portuguese in 1526, up to the time of Captain Cook was supposed by Englishmen to be a part of the mainland, and the eastern coast of Australia, though touched upon earlier and roughly outlined upon maps, remained unknown to them until Cook explored it.

[Illustration: MARTIN FROBISHER. From the portrait in Holland’s “Herolowologia Anglica” [London, 1620]. _To face p_. 2.]

_Early Voyages to Australia_, by R.H. Major, printed by the Hakluyt Society in 1859, is still the best collection of facts and contains the soundest deductions from them on the subject, and although ably-written books have since been published, the industrious authors have added little or nothing in the way of indisputable evidence to that collected by Major. The belief in the existence of the Australian continent grew gradually and naturally out of the belief in a great southern land. Mr. G.B. Barton, in an introduction to his valuable Australian [Sidenote: 1578] history, traces this from 1578, when Frobisher wrote:–

“Terra Australis seemeth to be a great, firme land, lying under and aboute the south pole, being in many places a fruitefull soyle, and is not yet thorowly discovered, but only seen and touched on the north edge thereof by the travaile of the Portingales and Spaniards in their voyages to their East and West Indies. It is included almost by a paralell, passing at 40 degrees in south latitude, yet in some places it reacheth into the sea with great promontories, even into the tropicke Capricornus. Onely these partes are best known, as over against Capo d’ buona Speranza (where the Portingales see popingayes commonly of a wonderful greatnesse), and againe it is knowen at the south side of the straight of Magellanies, and is called Terra del Fuego. It is thoughte this south lande, about the pole Antartike, is farre bigger than the north land about the pole Artike; but whether it be so or not, we have no certaine knowledge, for we have no particular description thereof, as we have of the land under and aboute the north pole.”

Then Purchas, in 1678, says:–

“This land about the Straits is not perfectly discovered, whether it be Continent or Islands. Some take it for Continent, and extend it more in their imagination than any man’s experience towards those Islands of Saloman and New Guinea, esteeming (of which there is great probability) that Terra Australis, or the Southerne Continent, may for the largeness thereof take a first place in order and the first in greatnesse in the division and parting of the Whole World.”

[Illustration: FROBISHER’S MAP. From “A true Discourse of the late Voyages of Discoverie for the finding of a passage to Cathaya by the Northweast under the conduct of _Martin Frobisher_, Generall:” [London, 1578]. _To face p_. 4.]

The most important of the Spanish voyages was that made by De Quiros, who left Callao in December, 1605, in charge of an expedition of three ships. One of these vessels was commanded by Luis Vaez de Torres. De Quiros, who is believed to have been by birth a Portuguese, discovered several island groups and many isolated islands, among the former being the New Hebrides, which he, believing he had found the continent, named Tierra Australis del Espiritu Santo. Soon after the ships commanded by De Quiros became separated from the other vessels, and Torres took charge. He subsequently found that the land seen was an island group, and so determined to sail westward in pursuance of the scheme of exploration. In about the month of August he fell in with a chain of islands (now called the Louisiade Archipelago and included in the British Possession of New Guinea) which he thought, reasonably enough, was the beginning of New Guinea, but which really lies a little to the southeast of that great island. As he could not weather the group, he bore away to the southward, [Sidenote: 1605] and his subsequent proceedings are here quoted from Burney’s _Voyages_:–

“We went along three hundred leagues of coast, as I have mentioned, and diminished the latitude 2-1/2 degrees, which brought us into 9 degrees. From thence we fell in with a bank of from three to nine fathoms, which extends along the coast to 7-1/2 south latitude; and the end of it is in 5 degrees. We could go no further on for the many shoals and great currents, so we were obliged to sail south-west in that depth to 11 degrees south latitude. There is all over it an archipelago of islands without number, by which we passed; and at the end of the eleventh degree the bank became shoaler. Here were very large islands, and they appeared more to the southward. They were inhabited by black people, very corpulent and naked. Their arms were lances, arrows, and clubs of stone ill-fashioned. We could not get any of their arms. We caught in all this land twenty persons of different nations, that with them we might be able to give a better account to your Majesty. They give [us] much notice of other people, although as yet they do not make themselves well understood. We were upon this bank two months, at the end of which time we found ourselves in twenty-five fathoms and 5 degrees south latitude and ten leagues from the coast; and having gone 480 leagues here, the coast goes to the north-east. I did not search it, for the bank became very shallow. So we stood to the north.”

The “very large islands” seen by Torres were no doubt the hills of Cape York, the northernmost point of Australia, and so he, all unconsciously, had passed within sight of the continent for which he was searching. A copy of the report by Torres was lodged in the archives of Manila, and when the English took that city in 1762, Dalrymple, the celebrated geographer, discovered it, and gave the name of Torres Straits to what is now well known as the dangerous passage dividing New Guinea from Australia. De Quiros, in his ship, made no further discovery; he arrived on the Mexican coast in October, 1606, and did all he could to induce Philip III. of Spain to sanction further exploration, but without success.

Of the voyages of the Dutch in Australian waters much interesting matter is available. Major sums up the case in these words:–

“The entire period up to the time of Dampier, ranging over two centuries, presents these two phases of obscurity: that in the sixteenth century (the period of the Portuguese and Spanish discoveries) there are indications on maps of the great probability of Australia having already been discovered, but with no written documents to confirm them; while in the seventeenth century there is documentary evidence that its coasts were touched upon or explored by a considerable number of Dutch voyagers, but the documents immediately describing these voyages have not been found.”

The period of known Dutch discovery begins with the [Sidenote: 1644] establishment of the Dutch East India Company, and a knowledge of the west coast of Australia grew with the growth of the Dutch colonies, but grew slowly, for the Dutchmen were too busy trading to risk ships and spend time and money upon scientific voyages.

In January, 1644, Commodore Abel Janszoon Tasman was despatched upon his second voyage of discovery to the South Seas, and his instructions, signed by the Governor-General of Batavia, Antonio Van Diemen, begin with a recital of all previous Dutch voyages of a similar character. From this document an interesting summary of Dutch exploration can be made. Tasman, in his first voyage, had discovered the island of Van Diemen, which he named after the then Governor of Batavia, but which has since been named Tasmania, after its discoverer. During this first voyage the navigator also discovered New Zealand, passed round the east side of Australia without seeing the land, and on his way home sailed along the northern shore of New Guinea.

But to come back to the summary of Dutch voyages found in Tasman’s instructions: During 1605 and 1606 the Dutch yacht _Duyphen_ made two exploring voyages to New Guinea. On one trip the commander, after coasting New Guinea, steered southward along the islands on the west side of Torres Straits to that part of Australia, a little to the west and south of Cape York, marked on modern maps as Duyphen Point, thus unconsciously–for he thought himself still on the west coast of New Guinea–making the first authenticated discovery of the continent.

Dirk Hartog, in command of the _Endragt_, while on his way from Holland to the East Indies, put into what Dampier afterwards called Sharks’ Bay, and on an island, which now bears his name, deposited a tin plate with an inscription recording his arrival, and dated October 25th, 1616. The plate was afterwards found by a Dutch navigator in 1697, and replaced by another, which in its turn was discovered in July, 1801, by Captain Hamelin, of the _Naturaliste_, on the well-known French voyage in search of the ill-fated La Perouse. The Frenchman copied the inscription, and nailed the plate to a post with another recording his own voyage. These inscriptions were a few years later removed by De Freycinet, and deposited in the museum of the Institute of Paris. Hartog ran along the coast a few degrees, naming the land after his ship, and was followed by many other voyagers at frequent intervals down to the year [Sidenote: 1623-1627] 1727, from which time Dutch exploration has no more a place in Australian discovery.

During the 122 years of which we have records of their voyages, although the Dutch navigators’ work, compared with that done by Cook and his successors, was of small account; yet, considering the state of nautical science, and that the ships were for the most part Dutch East Indiamen, the Dutch names which still sprinkle the north and the west coasts of the continent show that from Cape York in the extreme north, westward of the Great Australian Bight in the south, the Dutchmen had touched at intervals the whole coast-line.

But before leaving the Dutch period there are one or two voyages that, either on account of their interesting or important character, deserve brief mention.

In 1623 Arnhem’s Land, now the northern district of the Northern Territory of South Australia, was discovered by the Dutch yachts _Pesa_ and _Arnhem_. This voyage is also noteworthy on account of the massacre of the master of the _Arnhem_ and eight of his crew by the natives while they were exploring the coast of New Guinea. In 1627 the first discovery of the south coast was made by the _Gulde Zeepard_, and the land then explored, extending from Cape Leeuwin to the Nuyts Archipelago, on the South Australian coast, was named after Peter Nuyts, then on board the ship on his way to Batavia, whence he was sent to Japan as ambassador from Holland.

In the year 1628 a colonizing expedition of eleven vessels left Holland for the Dutch East Indies. Among these ships was the _Batavia_, commanded by Francis Pelsart. A terrible storm destroyed ten of the fleet, and on June 4th, 1629, the _Batavia_ was driven ashore on the reef still known as Houtman’s Abrolhos, which had been discovered and named by a Dutch East Indiaman some years earlier–probably by the commander of the _Leeuwin_, who discovered and named after his ship the cape at the south-west point of the continent. The _Batavia_, which carried a number of chests of silver money, went to pieces on the reef. The crew of the ship managed to land upon the rocks, and saved some food from the wreck, but they were without water. Pelsart, in one of the ship’s boats, spent a couple of weeks exploring the inhospitable coast in the neighbourhood in the hope of discovering water, but found so little that he ultimately determined to attempt to make Batavia and from there bring [Sidenote: 1629] succour to his ship’s company. On July 3rd he fell in with a Dutch ship off Java and was taken on to Batavia. From there he obtained help and returned to the wreck, arriving at the Abrolhos in the middle of September; but during the absence of the commander the castaways had gone through a terrible experience, which is related in Therenot’s _Recueil de Voyages Curieux,_ and translated into English in Major’s book, from which the following is extracted:–

“Whilst Pelsart is soliciting assistance, I will return to those of the crew who remained on the island; but I should first inform you that the supercargo, named Jerome Cornelis, formerly an apothecary at Haarlem, had conspired with the pilot and some others, when off the coast of Africa, to obtain possession of the ship and take her to Dunkirk, or to avail themselves of her for the purpose of piracy. This supercargo remained upon the wreck ten days after the vessel had struck, having discovered no means of reaching the shore. He even passed two days upon the mainmast, which floated, and having from thence got upon a yard, at length gained the land. In the absence of Pelsart, he became commander, and deemed this a suitable occasion for putting his original design into execution, concluding that it would not be difficult to become master of that which remained of the wreck, and to surprise Pelsart when he should arrive with the assistance which he had gone to Batavia to seek, and afterwards to cruise in these seas with his vessel. To accomplish this it was necessary to get rid of those of the crew who were not of his party; but before imbruing his hands with blood he caused his accomplices to sign a species of compact, by which they promised fidelity one to another. The entire crew was divided [living upon] between three islands; upon that of Cornelis, which they had named the graveyard of Batavia, was the greatest number of men. One of them, by name Weybehays, a lieutenant, had been despatched to another island to seek for water, and having discovered some after a search of twenty days, he made the preconcerted signal by lighting three fires, but in vain, for they were not noticed by the people of Cornelis’ company, the conspirators having during that time murdered those who were not of their party. Of these they killed thirty or forty. Some few saved themselves upon pieces of wood, which they joined together, and going in search of Weybehays, informed him of the horrible massacre that had taken place. Having with him forty-five men, he resolved to keep upon his guard, and to defend himself from these assassins if they should make an attack upon his company, which in effect they designed to do, and to treat the other party in the same manner; for they feared lest their company, or that which remained upon the third island, should inform the commander upon his arrival, and thus prevent the execution of their design. They succeeded easily with the party last mentioned, which was the weakest, killing the whole of them, excepting seven children and some women. They hoped to succeed as easily with Weybehays’ company, and in the meanwhile broke open the chests of merchandise which had been saved from the vessel. Jerome Cornelis caused clothing to be made [Sidenote: 1629] for his company out of the rich stuffs which he found therein, choosing to himself a bodyguard, each of whom he clothed in scarlet, embroidered with gold and silver. Regarding the women as part of the spoil, he took one for himself, and gave one of the daughters of the minister to a principal member of his party, abandoning the other three for public use. He drew up also certain rules for the future conduct of his men.

[Illustration: A DUTCH MAN-OF-WAR OF THE END OF THE 17th CENTURY. From a print after Vandervelde.]

“After these horrible proceedings he caused himself to be elected captain-general by a document which he compelled all his companions to sign. He afterwards sent twenty-two men in two shallops to destroy the company of Weybehays, but they met with a repulse. Taking with him thirty-seven men, he went himself against Weybehays, who received him at the water’s edge as he disembarked, and forced him to retire, although the lieutenant and his men had no weapons but clubs, the ends of which were armed with spikes. Finding force unavailing, the mutineer had recourse to other means. He proposed a treaty of peace, the chaplain, who remained with Weybehays, drawing up the conditions. It was agreed to with this proviso, that Weybehays’ company should remain unmolested, and they, upon their part, agreed to deliver up a little boat in which one of the sailors had escaped from the island where Cornelis was located to that of Weybehays, receiving in return some stuffs for clothing his people. During his negotiations Cornelis wrote to certain French soldiers who belonged to the lieutenant’s company offering to each a sum of money to corrupt them, with the hope that with this assistance he might easily compass his design. His letters, which were without effect, were shown to Weybehays, and Cornelis, who was ignorant of their disclosure, having arrived the next day with three or four others to find Weybehays and bring him the apparel, the latter caused him to be attacked, killed two or three of the company, and took Cornelis himself prisoner. One of them, by name Wouterlos, who escaped from this rout, returned the following day to renew the attack, but with little success.

“Pelsart arrived during these occurrences in the frigate _Sardam_. As he approached the wreck he observed smoke from a distance, a circumstance that afforded him great consolation, since he perceived by it that his people were not all dead. He cast anchor, and threw himself immediately into a skiff with bread and wine, and proceeded to land on one of the islands. Nearly at the same time a boat came alongside with four armed men. Weybehays, who was one of the four, … informed him of the massacre, and advised him to return as speedily as possible to his vessel, for that the conspirators designed to surprise him, having already murdered twenty-five persons, and to attack him with two shallops, adding that he himself had that morning been at close quarters with them. Pelsart perceived at the same time the two shallops coming towards him, and had scarcely got on board his own vessel before they came alongside. He was surprised to see the people covered with embroidery of gold and silver and weapons in their hands, and demanded of them why they approached the vessel armed. They replied that they would inform him when they came on board. He commanded them to cast their arms into the sea, or otherwise he would sink them. Finding themselves compelled [Sidenote: 1629] to submit, they threw away their weapons, and being ordered on board, were immediately placed in irons. One of them, named Jan de Bremen, confessed that he had put to death or assisted in the assassination of twenty-seven persons. The same evening Weybehays brought his prisoner on board.

“On the 18th day of September the captain and the master-pilot, taking with them ten men of Weybehays’ company, passed over in boats to the island of Cornelis. Those who still remained thereon lost all courage as soon as they saw them, and allowed themselves to be placed in irons.”

Pelsart remained another week at the Abrolhos, endeavouring to recover some of the _Batavia’s_ treasure, and succeeded in finding all but one chest. The mutineers were tried by the officers of the _Sardam_, and all but two were executed before the ship left the scene of their awful crime. The two men who were not hanged were put on shore on the mainland, and were probably the first Europeans to end their lives upon the continent. Dutch vessels for many years afterwards sought for traces of the marooned seamen, but none were ever discovered.

The 1644 voyage of Tasman was made expressly for the purpose of exploring the north and north-western shores of the continent, and to prove the existence or otherwise of straits separating it from New Guinea. Tasman’s instructions show this, and prove that while the existence of the straits was suspected, and although Torres had unconsciously passed through them, they were not known. Tasman explored a long length of coast-line, establishing its continuity from the extreme north-western point (Arnhem Land) as far as the twenty-second degree of south latitude (Exmouth Gulf). He failed to prove the existence of Torres Straits, but to him, it is generally agreed, is due the discovery and naming of the Gulf of Carpentaria (Carpenter in Tasman’s time being President at Amsterdam of the Dutch East India Company) and the naming of a part of North Australia, as he had previously named the island to the south, after Van Diemen. From this voyage dates the name New Holland: the great stretch of coast-line embracing his discoveries became known to his countrymen as Hollandia Nova, a name which in its English form was adopted for the whole continent, and remained until it was succeeded by the more euphonious name of Australia. Tasman continued doing good service for the Dutch East India Company until his death at Batavia about 1659.

The last Dutch voyage which space permits us to mention [Sidenote: 1727] briefly is that of the _Zeewigk_, which ship was wrecked on the Abrolhos in 1727, with a quantity of treasure on board. Some of the crew built a sloop out of the wreck and made their way to Batavia, taking with them the bulk of the treasure; but from time to time, even down to the present century, relics of the wreck, including several coins, have been recovered, and are now to be seen in the museum of the West Australian capital. But before the Dutch had given up exploring the coast of New Holland, Dampier, the first Englishman to set foot upon its shores, had twice visited the continent, and with his two voyages the English naval story of Australia may properly begin.



“I dined with Mr. Pepys, where was Captain Dampier, who had been a famous buccaneer, had brought hither the painted Prince Job, and printed a relation of his very strange adventure and his observations. He was now going abroad again by the King’s encouragement, who furnished a ship of 290 tons. He seemed a more modest man than one would imagine by the relation of the crew he had consorted with. He brought a map of his observations of the course of the winds of the South Sea, and assured us that the maps hitherto extant were all false as to the Pacific Sea, which he makes on the south of the line, that on the north and running by the coast of Peru being I exceedingly tempestuous.”

Thus wrote John Evelyn on August 6th, 1698.

Of the adventurous career of Dampier prior to this date too much fiction and quite enough history has already been written; but we cannot omit a short account of the buccaneer’s life up to the time of his receiving King William’s commission.

Dampier was born in 1652 at East Coker, [Sidenote: 1673-1698] Somersetshire. Of his parents he tells us that “they did not originally design me for the sea, but bred me at school till I came of years fit for a trade. But upon the death of my mother they who had the disposal of me took other measures, and, having removed me from the Latin school to learn writing and arithmetic, they soon placed me with a master of a ship at Weymouth, complying with the inclinations I had very early of seeing the world.”

Dampier made several voyages in merchantmen; then he shipped as able seaman on the _Royal Prince_, Captain Sir Edward Spragge, and served under him till the death of that commander at the end of the Dutch war in 1673. Soon after he made a voyage to the West Indies; then began an adventurous life–ashore cutting logwood in the Bay of Campeachy when not fighting; afloat a buccaneer–of which he has given us details in his _Voyage round the Terrestrial Globe_.

In March, 1686, Dampier in a little barque, the _Cygnet_, commanded by Captain Swan, quitted the American coast and sailed westward across the Pacific. On this voyage the _Cygnet_ touched at the Ladrones, the Bashee Islands, the Philippines, Celebes, Timor, New Holland, and the Nicobar Islands. Here Dampier left his ship and worked his way to England, which he reached in 1691. (The _Cygnet_ was afterwards lost off Madagascar.) He had brought home with him from Mindanao a tattooed slave, whom he called the “Painted Prince Jeoey,” and who was afterwards exhibited as the first painted savage ever seen in England. “Jeoey,” who died at Oxford, is the “painted Prince Job” mentioned by Evelyn.

It has been stated that the _Cygnet_ touched at New Holland. This land was sighted on January 4th, 1688, in what Dampier says was “latitude 16.50 S. About three leagues to the eastward of this point there is a pretty deep bay, with abundance of islands in it, and a very; good place to anchor in or to haul ashore. About a league to the eastward of that point we anchored January the 5th, 1688, two miles from the shore.”

A modern map of West Australia will show the West Kimberley goldfield. To the west of the field is the district of West Kimberley, and upon the coast-line is the Buccaneer Archipelago. The bay in which Dampier anchored is still called Cygnet Bay, and it is situated in the north-west corner of King’s Sound, of which “that point” to which “we went a league to the eastward” is named Swan Point, while a rock called Dampier’s Monument more particularly commemorates the buccaneer’s visit.

The ship remained in Cygnet Bay until March 12th, and during that time the vessel was hove down and repaired. Dampier’s observations on the aboriginal inhabitants during his stay is summed up in his description of the natives whom he saw, and who were, he says, “the most miserable people in the world. The Hodmadods” (Hottentots) “of Monomatapa, though a nasty people, yet for wealth are gentlemen to these.” He gives an accurate description of the country so far as he saw it, and asserts that “New Holland is a very large tract of land. It is not yet determined whether it is an island or a main continent; but I am certain that it joins neither Asia, Africa, nor America.”

While the ship was being overhauled under the sweltering rays of a tropical sun, the men lived on shore in a tent, and Dampier, who was tired of the voyage, probably because there were no Spaniards to fight and no prizes to be made, endeavoured to persuade his companions to shape their next course for some port where was an English factory; but they would not listen to him, and for his pains he was threatened that when the ship was ready for sea he should be landed and left behind.

Evelyn tells us that in 1698 Dampier was going abroad again by the King’s commission, and this second voyage of the ex-buccaneer to the South Seas, although of small importance to geographers, is noteworthy, inasmuch as Dampier’s was the first visit of a ship of the English royal navy to Australian seas.

To understand what sort of an expedition was this of two hundred years ago, how Dampier was equipped and what manner of ship and company he commanded, it will not be out of place to give some account of the navy at that time. When James II. abdicated in 1688, according to Pepys, the royal navy was made up of 173 ships of 101,892 tons, an armament of 6930 guns, and 42,003 men. William died in 1702, and the number of ships had then increased to 272, and the tonnage to 159,020 tons.

The permanent navy, begun by Henry VIII. and given its first system of regular warfare by the Duke of York in 1665, had become well established, and trading vessels had ceased to form a part of the regular establishment. King William III., although not so good a friend to the service as his predecessor, and anything but a sailor, like the fourth William, did not altogether neglect it. In the Introduction to James’ _Naval History_ we are told that between the years 1689 and 1697 the navy lost by capture alone 50 vessels, and it is probable that an equal number fell by the perils of the sea. King William meantime added 30 ships, and half that number were captured from the French, while several 20 and 30-gun ships were besides taken from the enemy.

Coming back to the first naval expedition to Australia, the ship commanded by Dampier was the _Roebuck_, as Evelyn tells us, a vessel of 290 tons. Dampier has left very little description of his ship, but it is not difficult to picture her, for by this time the ratings of ships had been settled upon certain lines, and the meaning of the word “rating” as used at this period is easily ascertainable.

According to Charnock’s _Marine Architecture_, the _Roebuck_, lying at Deptford in June, 1684, was a sixth-rate of 24 guns and 85 men. This was her war complement; but Dampier himself tells us that he “sailed from the Downs early on Saturday, January 14th, 1699, with a fair wind, in His Majesty’s ship the _Roebuck_, carrying but 12 guns on this voyage and 50 men with 20 months’ provisions.”

In 1677, according to James’ _History_, the smallest fifth-rate then afloat corresponds nearest to the _Roebuck_, and, no doubt, by Dampier’s time this vessel had been reduced in her rating. The vessel of 1677 is described as being of 265 tons and 28 guns, “sakers and minions,” with a complement of about 100 men. The largest sixth-rate was 199 tons, 18 guns, and 85 men. So from these particulars we can take it as correct that the _Roebuck_ in 1699 was a sixth-rate. It is worth remembering that in Cavendish’s second expedition to the South Sea, in 1591, there was a ship called the _Roebuck_, commanded by John Davis, and likely enough the sixth-rate in which Dampier sailed was named after her, those who gave her the name little thinking at the time of her christening (she was built before Dampier’s voyage, and was certainly not the _Roebuck_ of Cavendish’s fleet) how appropriately they were naming her for her future service.

[Illustration: THE SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS, BUILT IN THE YEAR 1637. From a print in the British Museum by Paine.]

Her armament is a matter of interest, for just about her time–that is, between the years 1685 and 1716–the naming of guns after beasts and birds of prey went out of fashion, and they were distinguished by the weight of the shot fired. James, quoting from Sir William Monson’s _Naval Tracts_, supplies the following table on the subject of sea guns; and, as they were probably still in use in Dampier’s time, we print it here:–

| Bore of | Weight of | Weight of | Weight of Names. |cannon in | cannon in | shot in | powder in | inches. | pounds. | pounds. | pounds. | | | |
Cannon-royal | 8-1/2 | 8000 | 66 | 30 Cannon | 8 | 6000 | 60 | 27 Cannon-serpentine | 7 | 5500 | 53-1/2 | 25 Bastard cannon | 7 | 4500 | 41 | 20 Demi-cannon | 6-3/4 | 4000 | 33-1/2 | 18 Cannon-petro | 6 | 4000 | 24-1/2 | 14 Culverin | 5-1/2 | 4500 | 17-1/2 | 12 Basilisk | 5 | 4000 | 15 | 10 Demi-culverin | 4 | 3400 | 9-1/2 | 8 Bastard culverin | 4 | 3000 | 5 | 5-3/4 Sakers | 3-1/2 | 1400 | 5-1/2 | 5-1/2 Minion | 3-1/2 | 1000 | 4 | 4 Falcon | 2-1/2 | 660 | 2 | 3-1/2 Falconet | 2 | 500 | 1-1/2 | 3 Serpentine | 1-1/2 | 400 | 3/4 | 1-3/4 Rabinet | 1 | 300 | 1/2 | 1/2

The small arms were matchlocks, snaphainces, musketoons, blunderbusses, pistols, halberts, swords, and hangers.

From this it will be seen that the _Roebuck’s_ guns, considering the peaceful service she was upon, were probably known to her company as “sakers” and “falcons.”

In a sixth-rate the sakers were carried all on the one deck, and the minions on the quarterdeck. Charnock supplies an illustration of a sixth-rate of the time, and the picture is a familiar one to all who have taken even a slight interest in the ships of a couple of centuries ago. A lion rampant decorates the stem, set as it remained till early in the present century (the galley prow had gone with Charles I.); the hull looked not a whit more clumsy than that of an old north-country collier of our youth, but the flat stern, with its rows of square windows, richly carved panelling, and big stern-lanterns, and the row of round gun-ports encircled by gold wreaths along the ship’s sides, are distinctive marks of this period.

A vessel of this kind was ship-rigged, about 88 feet long by 24 feet beam; the depth of her hold, in which to store her twenty months’ provisions (a marvellously large quantity as stores were then carried), was about 11 feet, and her draught of water when loaded about 12 feet aft. She had one deck and a poop and forecastle, the former extending from either end of the ship to the waist. A good deal of superfluous ornament had by this time been done away with, although there was plenty of it so late as 1689. Charnock describes a man-of-war of that date. After the Restoration, ships grew apace in grandeur in and out. Inboard they were painted a dull red (this was, it is said, so that in fighting the blood of the wounded should not show), outside blue and gilded in the upper parts, then yellow, and last black to the water-line, with white bottoms. Copper sheathing had not come into use, and ships’ bottoms were treated with tallow, which was made to adhere by being laid on between nails which studded the bottom.

The pitching of the vessels imperilled the masts of these somewhat cranky ships of 1689, says a writer of about Dampier’s time, who also tells us that ships then had awnings, and that “glass lanthorns were worthier best made of crystal horn; lanthorns were worthier than isinglass.”

The sails were the usual courses: big topsails and topgallantsails, staysails, and topmastsails, with a spritsail and a lateen-mizen; the spanker and jib were not yet, but the sprit-topsail had just gone out. The ship when rigged and fitted ready for sea probably cost King William’s Admiralty about L10,000. But the _Roebuck_ was pretty well worn out when Dampier was given the command of her, as he tells us when relating her subsequent loss.

_The British Fleet_, by Commander C.N. Robinson, is an invaluable book to the student of naval history, and, notwithstanding plenty of book authorities and ten years’ study of the subject, the present writers are compelled to draw upon Commander Robinson for many details. With the aid of this work and from allusions to be found in the writings of a couple of centuries ago, it is possible to make some sort of picture of Dampier’s companions in the _Roebuck_.

Dampier himself was a type of naval officer who entered the service of the country by what was then, and remained for many years afterwards, one of the best sources of supply. He had been given a fair education, and had been duly apprenticed and learned the profession of a sailor in a merchant ship. Upon his return from his first voyage to the South Seas he published an account of his travels, and dedicated it to the President of the Royal Society, the Hon. Charles Mountague, who, appreciating the author’s zeal and his intelligent public spirit, recommended him to the patronage of the Earl of Oxford, then Principal Lord of the Admiralty. Dampier’s dedication has nothing of the fulsome flattery and begging-letter style so often the chief characteristic of such compositions, but is the straightforward offer of a humble worker in science of the best of his work to the man best able to appreciate and to make the most of it. Dampier’s dedication led to his appointment in the navy, and the transaction does honour to both the patron and him who was patronized.

As is well known, until comparatively recent times only the officers of the fighting branch held commissions; all others were either warrant or petty officers. In the time of William III., a captain and one lieutenant were allowed to each ship, and none of the other officers held commissions. The peaceful mission of the _Roebuck_ justifies us in concluding that Dampier held the King’s commission as a lieutenant commanding, and he was probably given a lieutenant to take charge in case of accident, a master, a couple of master’s mates, a gunner, a boatswain and carpenter, and the usual petty officers; seamen and boys made up the complement. Dampier’s pay, so far as we can ascertain, would be at the rate of about L12 per month.

Two regiments of marine infantry had been formed so early as 1689, but they were disbanded nine years later. It was not until 1703 that the marines, all infantry, became a permanent branch of the service.

Uniforms had not even been thought of at this time, and the _Roebuck’s_ officers, from her commander downwards, ate and drank and clothed themselves in much the same fashion as their men. Dampier probably had a room right aft under the long poop, and the other officers at the same end of the ship in canvas-partitioned cabins, the fore part of her one living deck being occupied by the crew. There was probably a mess-room under the poop common to all the officers. What they had to eat and drink, as we have said, was the same for all ranks. Here is a scale of provisions for eighty-five men of a sixth-rate of 1688 for two months, taken from Charnock:–

Tons cwts. qrs. lbs. Beer (each man a wine gallon per day) . . 17 0 0 0 Bread ( ” 1 lb. per day) . . 2 2 1 0 Beef ( ” 4 ” week) . . 1 4 0 0 Pork ( ” 2 ” ” ) . . 0 12 0 16 Pease ( ” 2 pints per week) . . 0 12 0 16 Oatmeal ( ” 3 ” ” )[A] . . 0 13 2 18 Butter ( ” 6 oz. per week) . . 0 2 1 3 Cheese ( ” 12 ” ” ) . . 0 4 2 6 Water (in iron-bound casks) . . 7 0 0 0

[Footnote A: In lieu of three eighths of a fish.]

In 1690 flour and raisins were added, and an effort made to condense water. Beer took the place of all forms of drink, and water was at that time carried in casks.

The dress, from contemporary prints, can be easily made out, and the allusions of Pepys and Evelyn supply the names and materials of the garments. Pepys’ diary and letters inform us how the pursers of the time supplied the men with slops, and in _The British Fleet_ considerable detail on this subject is given. Roughly it may be assumed that Dampier’s sailors wore petticoats and breeches, grey kersey jackets, woollen stockings and low-heeled shoes, and worsted, canvas, or leather caps. Canvas, leather, and coarse cloth were the principal materials, and tin buttons and coloured thread the most ornamental part, of the costume. Charnock says that in 1663 “sailors began first to wear distinctive dress. A rule was that only red caps, yarn and Irish stockings, blue shirts, white shirts, cotton waistcoats, cotton drawers, neat leather flat-heeled shoes, blue neckcloths, canvas suits, and rugs were to be sold to them. Red breeches were worn.”

Smollett’s pictures of the service in _Roderick Random_, written forty years after Dampier’s time, give us some idea of life on board ship, for in the forty years between the two dates it differed in no essential particulars. Pepys describes a sailor who had lost his eye in action having the socket plugged with oakum, a fact which tells more than could a volume of how seamen were then cared for. It was the days of the press and of the advance-note system, which prevailed well into the present century, and those seamen who went with Dampier of their own free will on a voyage where nothing but the poorest pay and no prize money was to be got were probably the lowest and most ill-disciplined rascals, drawn from a class upon whose characters, save for their bulldog courage and reckless prodigality, the least written the better.

[Illustration: A SIXTH-RATE, 1684. From Charnock’s “History of Marine Architecture” [London, 1800]. _To face p_. 32.]

The modern bluejacket, superior in every respect, notwithstanding certain croakers, is infinitely better than his ancestors in the very quality which was their best; the modern sailor faces death soberly and decently in forms far more terrible than were ever dreamt of by his forefathers. When the _Calliope_ steamed out of Apia Harbour in the hurricane of March, 1889, the youngest grimy coal-trimmer, whose sole duty it was to silently shovel coal, even though his last moment came to him while doing it, never once asked if the ship was making way. All hands in this department were on duty for sixteen hours, and during that time no sound was heard, save the ring of the shovels firing the boilers, nor was a question asked by any man as to the progress of the ship or the chances of life and death.

Compare this end-of-the-century story with that of the loss of the _Wager_, one of the ships of Anson’s squadron; and compare the behaviour of the _Wager’s_ castaways with that of the bluejackets who stood to attention on the deck of the _Victoria_ till the word was given to jump as the ship heeled over–recent instances quoted merely because they occur to the writers’ minds, for there are any number of others. Such cases illustrate forcibly this truth: we have, by careful training of the modern sailor, added to the traditional bravery of the class a quality, not lacking, but never properly developed, in the old type, that is, the dignity of coolness and self-restraint, the perfect control of men in the supreme moments of excitement and death.

Dampier’s men, from a very early stage in his voyage, were a trouble to him. Two only of them, he says, had ever crossed the line, and he was in continual fear of some sickness arising because they were too lazy to shift themselves, but would lie in their hammocks in wet clothes. Three months after the ship got to sea, when nearing Brazil, he tells us that

“the disorders in my ship made me think at present that Pernambuco would not be so fit a place for me, being told that ships ride there two or three leagues from the town, under the command of no forts; so that whenever I should have been ashore it might have been easy for my discontented crew to have cut or slipt their cables, and have gone away from me, many of them discovering already an intention to return to England, and some of them declaring openly that they would go no further onwards than Brazil. I altered my course, therefore, and stood away from Bahio de todos los Santos, or the Bay of All Saints, where I hoped to have the governor’s help, if need should require, for securing my ship from any such mutinous attempt, being forced to keep myself all the way upon my guard and to lie with my officers, such as I could trust, and with small arms, upon the quarterdeck, it scarce being safe for me to lie in my cabin, by reason of the discontents among my men.”

Similar instances of the ill-discipline of the ship are given at intervals throughout Dampier’s account of his voyage, and the commander and his officers were all on bad terms with each other, which, however, so far as can be judged now, was, in some degree, the fault of Dampier’s uncertain temper.

The scientific results of the _Roebuck’s_ voyage were, chiefly on these accounts, of no great importance, judged by the standard of such work to-day; but, with the state of nautical science at the time, not much was to be expected in the way of accurate surveying.

When Dampier set out to explore the coast of New Holland, what charts, what instruments, what scientific knowledge and equipment, had he for the work?

Dampier’s time was distinctively an intermediate period. Little more than a century had elapsed since Gerard Mercator’s chart was published, and Edward Wright had taught its true principles, and about half a century before the voyage of the _Roebuck_ such improvements as Gunter’s application of logarithms to nautical calculations, middle latitude sailing, and the measurement of a degree on the meridian were introduced. Hadley’s quadrant came thirty years after Dampier, who must have used Davis’ instrument, then about ninety years old. Davis’ work on navigation, with Wright’s chart showing the northern extremity of Australia, and Addison’s _Arithmetical Navigation_ (1625) were, no doubt, text-books on board the _Roebuck_. Longitude by chronometer was to come half a century after Dampier was in his grave, and such charts as he possessed did little more than indicate the existence of Terra Australis. The Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch maps were not easy for Englishmen to procure, and all that Dampier has to say on the matter is:–

“But in the draught that I had of this coast, which was Tasman’s, it was laid down in 19 degrees, and the shore is laid down as joining in one body or continent, with some openings appearing like rivers, and not like islands, as really they are…. This place, therefore, lies more northerly by 40 minutes than is laid down in Mr. Tasman’s draught, and besides its being made a firm, continued land, only with some openings like the mouths of rivers, I found the soundings also different from what the line of his course shows them, and generally shallower than he makes them, which inclines me to think that he came not so near the shore as his line shows, and so had deeper soundings, and could not so well distinguish the islands. His meridian or difference of longitude from Sharks’ Bay agrees well enough with my account, which is 232 leagues, though we differ in latitude. And, to confirm my conjecture that the line of his course is made too near the shore, at least not so far to the east of this place, the water is there so shallow that he could not come there so nigh.”

That the narrative of Tasman’s voyage was at [Sidenote: 1638-1697] that time in existence there is little doubt, and an outline of the coasts visited by him was given in an atlas presented to Charles II. of England, in 1660, by Klencke, of Amsterdam, and now in the British Museum. Major also found in the British Museum copies of charts and a quantity of MS. describing Tasman’s 1644 voyage, which, there is reason to believe, were made from Tasman’s originals by one Captain Bowrey in 1688, who had spent fourteen years before that date trading in the Dutch East Indies. These documents are all that have been found, and a diligent search of geographers still leaves undiscovered Tasman’s original narrative. The 1688 copies were probably known to Dampier when he sailed in the _Roebuck_, and he was, likely enough, supplied with specially made duplicates by the naval authorities. In 1697 a translation of a French book was published in England by John Dunton, of the Poultry, London, with the title _A New Discovery of Terra Incognita Australis, or the Southern World, by James Sadeur, a Frenchman._ The Frenchman told a story of thirty-five years’ adventures in New Holland; but his tale was a lie from beginning to end. Coming so close to the date of Dampier’s voyage, it is worth noting that he does not allude to the book, and so probably, notwithstanding the little knowledge Englishmen then had of the southern continent, Dampier was shrewd enough to detect the imposture.

The _Roebuck_ struck soundings on the night of August 1st, 1699, upon the northern part of the Abrolhos. Dampier then cautiously ran northward, keeping the land in sight until he anchored in Dirk Hartog’s Road, in a sound which he named Sharks’ Bay, for the reason that his men caught and ate, among other things, many sharks, including one eleven feet long, and says Dampier, “Our men eat them very savorilly.” He gives us, too, a description of the kangaroo, the first introduction of that animal to civilization. Says the navigator, “The land animals that we saw here were only a sort of racoons, different from those of the West Indies, chiefly as to their legs; for these have very short fore legs, but go jumping upon them as the others do, and, like them, are very good meat.”

Sharks’ Bay is in what is now called the Gascoyne division of West Australia, after the river of that name. Its chief town is Carnarvon, situated at the mouth of the river. Wool-growing [Sidenote: 1699] is the principal industry, and the population is about 800.

[Illustration: CAPTAIN WILLIAM DAMPIER, R.N. From the picture in the National Portrait Gallery painted by Thomas Murray.] _To face p_. 38.

Dampier stayed eight days in the bay, then ran northward along the coast, discovering the archipelago named after him, and himself naming Rosemary Island, which lies off the coast close to Roeburne, the chief town of the north province of the colony. From here he continued his course north till he reached Roebuck Bay, a few leagues to the south of the scene of his first visit, and where is now the town of Broome. The Eastern Extension Telegraph Cable Company’s alternative cable from Banjoewangi comes in here, and the town has additional importance as being the harbour for a large pearling fleet.

Dampier left here on September 5th, intending again to land further north, but he abandoned the idea and directed his course for Timor. After he left Timor he called at New Guinea, discovered and named New Britain, now a German colonial possession, spent some weeks upon the New Guinea coast, and then returned to Timor, whence he began his voyage home. Off Ascension the _Roebuck_ sprang a leak and foundered. Her company, who with difficulty saved their lives, landed upon Ascension, where they remained till they were rescued and brought to England in the _Canterbury_, East Indiaman.

During his stay on the coast of New Guinea Dampier, besides those discoveries already enumerated, made others, and the frequent appearance of his name on a modern chart of this coast still commemorates them.

Of Dampier’s personality his writings give us little insight. As a good writer should, he keeps his private affairs out of his book, but how much we should have been interested in knowing something of the man’s shore life! Mr. Clark Russell in his admirable sketch of Dampier, for example, takes it for granted that he never married, at any rate during his sea career. Dampier himself tells us he was married, and gives us a very good idea of when, but he so seldom, after once getting to work upon his narrative, gives us a glimpse of himself that it is easily understood how Mr. Russell came to miss that passage in the _Voyage round the World_ in which the old sailor tells us how in 1687 he named an island the Duke of Grafton’s Isle “as soon as we all landed on it, having married my wife out of the Duchess’s family and leaving her at Arlington House at my going abroad.”

He was, perhaps, not a great man, though a good sailor, who had certain qualities which placed him above his fellows. We imagine somehow that his expressed pious dislike for buccaneering was not altogether the cause of his abandoning the life, and that when he set out upon his career as an explorer the search for a land where gold could be easily got without fighting for it was his main motive. He himself tells us so, but we think that he might have been a greater man if his mind had been capable of a little higher aim than the easy getting of riches. The obscurity of his end is not remarkable when one considers how little was then thought of the value of his discoveries. It took many years for Cook’s survey of New Holland to bring forth fruits.

In his third volume, written after his return from Ascension, he says:–

“It has always been the fate of those who have made new discoveries to be disesteemed and slightly spoken of by such as either have had no true relish and value for the things themselves that are discovered, or have had some prejudice against the persons by whom the discoveries were made. It would be vain, therefore, and unreasonable in me to expect to escape the censure of all, or to hope for better treatment than far worthier persons have met with before me. But this satisfaction I am sure of having, that the things themselves in the discovery of which I have been employed are most worthy of our diligent search and inquiry, being the various and wonderful works of God in different parts of the world; and, however unfit a person I may be in other respects to have undertaken this task, yet, at least, I have given a faithful account, and have found some things undiscovered by any before, and which may at least be some assistance and direction to better qualified persons who shall come after me.”

This is a very fair summary of his work, and in his dedication of his book to the Earl of Pembroke he says truly enough:–

“The world is apt to judge of everything by its success; and whoever has ill-fortune will hardly be allowed a good name. This, my lord, was my unhappiness in my late expedition in the _Roebuck_, which foundered through perfect age near the island of Ascension. I suffered extremely in my reputation by that misfortune, though I comfort myself with the thoughts that my enemies could not charge any neglect upon me.”

Upon his return from the _Roebuck_ voyage his next exploit was the command of a privateering expedition consisting of the _St. George_ and the _Cinque Ports_, equipped by a company to cruise [Sidenote: 1715] against the Spaniards in the South Seas. He sailed upon this voyage in April, 1703, first having the honour of a presentation by the Lord High Admiral to the new Queen (Anne). It is well known that the voyage was a failure, and how Dampier, in command of the _St. George_, quarrelled with Funnel, in command of the _Cinque Ports_. After this voyage he began his downward career, and the next heard of him is when he sailed as pilot on the well-known Woodes Rogers expedition, returning in 1711 a very small sharer in booty to the value of about L150,000.

It was on this voyage that Alexander Selkirk was found upon Juan Fernandez, and Woodes Rogers learned from his pilot, Captain Dampier, how the man had been left upon the island more than four years before from the _Cinque Ports_, and that Selkirk was the best man in her, and so Rogers took him on board his ship.

This, so far as written story goes, is the last of Dampier, and nothing is known of how he spent his declining days. The discovery of his will proves that he died in Coleman Street, St. Stephen’s, London, some time in 1715. The will does not mention the value of his property, but he could not have died rich, and was probably not only poor, but, to judge by the fact of his death not having been recorded by his contemporaries, must have been almost, so far as the great folks who once patronized him were concerned, friendless.

CHAPTER III. [Sidenote: 1755]


From Dr. Hawkesworth’s pedantic volumes to Sir Walter Besant’s delightful sketch, there are any number of versions of the story of Cook’s life and work. Let us assume that everyone knows how James Cook, son of a superior farm labourer in Yorkshire, at thirteen years of age apprenticed to a fishing village shopkeeper, ran away to sea in a Whitby collier, and presently got himself properly apprenticed to her owners, two Quaker brothers named Walker, and how at twenty-seven years of age, when he had become mate of a small merchantman, he determined to anticipate the hot press of May, 1755, and so at Wapping volunteered as A.B. on board His Majesty’s ship _Eagle_.

His knowledge of navigation and his good conduct led to such recognition that when he was under thirty he was appointed master of the _Mercury_. His surveying work on the St. Lawrence at the siege of Quebec was so carried out that the Admiralty saw in him one of the most promising officers in the service; and Sir Hugh Palliser, one of the first men to “discover” Cook, was from this time, his best friend, giving him, in 1764, an appointment as marine surveyor of Newfoundland, where Palliser was governor. Cook was then a good seaman and a clever navigator, but there is no doubt his special talents were by this particular service afforded an opportunity for full development, and so he became the best scientific man in the navy. In 1769 it was determined to send an expedition to the Pacific to observe the transit of Venus. Cook had just returned from Newfoundland, and he was appointed to the command.

Seventy years had elapsed since Dampier’s voyage in the _Roebuck_. Meanwhile what had the English done in the way of South Sea exploration? What was the navy like at this time, a year before Nelson, a youngster of twelve, first went to sea?

There are books enough in print to reply to these questions; but with how much more interest could they be answered if the [Sidenote: 1769] newspaper press, with its interviewers and its photo-reproductions, had been then what it is now. To put life into the skeleton histories, to give us sea life as it was and sailors as they were, we have to trust mostly to the novelists, who, except in rare instances, draw untrustworthy exaggerations.

No doubt there are families who have, so to speak, specialized their traditions for generations; and a naval family’s traditions for the last two centuries would make a most entertaining book. Suppose, for instance, there were living at Portsmouth a man whose family for generations had prided itself on some one of its members having shaken hands with all the great sailors who at some time or other in their careers must have sailed from Spithead. This man could tell us how his father had actually shaken hands with Nelson.

There died in February, 1898, in Melbourne, Australia, Lieutenant Pascoe, son of Nelson’s flag-lieutenant at Trafalgar, so that the first proposition is established. Now Nelson’s Pascoe could easily have been patted on the head by Cook, and the father of any of Cook’s men could easily have sailed with Dampier. Looked at in this way, it does not seem difficult to span the gulfs between each of these naval epochs, and if one compares Dampier’s _Roebuck_ and her crew with Cook’s _Endeavour_ and her crew and with the ships and seamen of Nelson’s time, it still seems easy enough; but between us and them steam and iron have come, and we are as far apart from those others as the Martians are from us.

At the time when Cook started on his voyage England had for several years been engaged in, and was almost constantly at, naval war. From the French and Spanish prizes we got many valuable hints in the designing of ships, and our builders improved upon them with the best workmanship and materials in the world, so that the warships of Cook’s time differed little from, and in many cases were, the hulks which, until very recent years, lay in our naval seaports. It ought not to be necessary to remind readers that Nelson’s _Victory_, still afloat in Portsmouth harbour, was launched in 1765.

[Illustration: CAPTAIN JAMES COOK, R.N. From picture in the National Portrait Gallery, painted by John Webber, K.A. _To face p._ 48.]

The sailors were for the most part pressed men, but there was a notable difference between them and the seamen of Dampier’s time. They were, and remained for long after, wild, improvident, overgrown children such as the nautical novelists who wrote a few years later [Sidenote: 1769] have pictured them; but the lawless rascals who manned king’s ships or were pirates by turns, as fortune provided, were rapidly dying out, and veterans of the Spanish main were mostly to be found spending the evening of their days spinning yarns of treasure islands to the yokels of the village alehouse.

One of the causes which led to this improvement in the class of seamen was the disgraceful behaviour of the crew of the _Wager_, a ship of Anson’s squadron, when she was lost off the Horn in 1740. A good deal of the trouble was owing to the then state of the law, by which the pay of and control over a ship’s company ceased upon her wreck. The law was so amended as to enlist seamen until regularly discharged from the service by the captain of the ship under the orders of the Admiralty.

The food of sailors and the accommodation provided for them were little, if any, better than these things had been fifty years before–for the matter of that than they remained for fifty years later, and to the shame of those responsible, than the food still is in many merchant ships, for even now occasionally we hear of cases of scurvy on shipboard–a disease which Cook, over 120 years ago, avoided, though voyaging in such a manner as nowadays is unknown.

But the most important change that had come to the sea service was in the methods of finding a ship’s position at sea. Hadley’s sextant was in use in 1731, Harrison’s chronometer in 1762, and five years later the first number of the _Nautical Almanac_ was published, so that when Cook sailed longitude was no longer found by rule of thumb, and the great navigator, more than any other man, was able to and did, prove the value of these discoveries.

In 1764 Byron, who had been a midshipman on the _Wager_, sailed as commodore of an expedition consisting of two ships, the _Dolphin_ and the _Tamar_, to make discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere. This voyage of discovery was the first English scientific expedition since that of the _Roebuck_. Byron returned in 1766 without touching at New Holland, his principal discovery being the Falkland Islands. Three months after his return another expedition sailed under the command of Wallis in the _Dolphin_, and with Carteret in the _Swallow_. The voyage resulted in many minor discoveries, but will be chiefly remembered for that of Tahiti and the story of Wallis’ stay there. The _Dolphin_ [Sidenote: 1766-1769] reached England in May, 1768. The two vessels had previously separated in Magellan Straits; and the _Swallow_, pursuing a different course to that taken by the _Dolphin_, made many discoveries, including Pitcairn Island; the Sandwich Group; and several islands in the neighbourhood of New Guinea, New Ireland and the Admiralty Islands. The _Swallow_ reached England six months after Cook sailed. The _Dolphin’s_ return so long before her consort alarmed the Admiralty for the safety of the _Swallow_, and Carteret on his way home, falling in with the French scientific expedition under Bougainville, who himself had been exploring in the Pacific, was informed that two vessels had been sent out to search for him and his men, who, it was thought, might be cast away in the Straits of Magellan.

Dampier’s voyage was made solely for discovery purposes; Anson, who forty years later went into the South Seas and so near to Australia as the Philippines, had gone out to fight; Byron, Wallis, and Carteret, who immediately preceded Cook, had sailed to discover and chart new countries; but Cook, who made the greatest discovery and did more important charting than all of them put together, sailed in the _Endeavour_ for the purpose of making certain astronomical observations, and exploration was only a secondary object of the voyage. Wallis’ return determined the spot where the observations could best be carried out; and, on his advice, Cook was ordered to make for Port Royal, in Tahiti.

One incident in the matter of Cook’s appointment should be noted in this connection. The command of the expedition was at first intended for Dalrymple, the celebrated geographer and then chief hydrographer to the Admiralty. The precedent of Halley’s command of the _Paramour_ in 1698 had taught a lesson of the danger of giving the command of a ship to a landsman, and Sir Edward (afterwards Lord) Hawke, First Lord of the Admiralty in 1768, said, to his everlasting credit, that he would sooner cut off his right hand than sign a commission for any person who had not been bred a seaman. Dalrymple, there is little doubt, never forgave Cook for taking his place, and later on showed his resentment by an unfair statement which will be presently alluded to.

The _Endeavour_ was what was then known as a “cat-built” ship, of 368 tons burden, a description of vessel then much used in [Sidenote: 1768] the Baltic and coal trade, having large carrying capacity, with small draught. A pencil sketch by Buchan (one of the artists who accompanied Cook) of her hull, lying at Deptford, shows the short, stumpy north-country collier, of which even nowadays one may occasionally see specimens afloat. Her great, square stern has a row of four glazed windows, alternated with ornamental panels and surrounded by scroll work, and two square ports underneath them close to the water’s edge, probably for loading and unloading Baltic timber. The usual stern-lantern “tops off” the structure. There is a framework for a quarterdeck extending to the waist and the frame of a topgallant poop above this, Buchan probably having made the sketch when she was refitting for the voyage and this structure being erected for the accommodation of the officers.

Cook was appointed a first lieutenant in the navy and commander of the _Endeavour_ on May 25th, 1768, and his ship’s company, all told, numbered eighty-five persons.

Sir Joseph Banks (then plain Mr.), Green the astronomer, Dr. Solander the naturalist, two draughtsmen, and a staff of servants were also on board. The ship, for defence against savages it is to be presumed, carried ten four-pound carriage guns and twelve swivels. The food supply was for eighteen months, and consisted of beef, pork, peas, oatmeal, butter, cheese, oil, vinegar, beer, and brandy, and included materials for Dr. McBride’s method of treating the scurvy. The Admiralty gave Cook a special order on this matter, in which they say:–

“The malt must be ground under the direction of the surgeon, and made into wort (fresh every day, especially in hot weather) in the following manner viz.: 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.

“The wort so prepared is then to be boiled into a panada with sea-biscuit or dried fruits usually carried to sea. The patient must make at least two meals a day on the said panada, and should drink a quart or more of the fresh infusion, as it may agree with him, every twenty-four hours. The surgeon is to keep an exact journal of the effects of the wort in scorbutic and other putrid diseases not attended with pestilential symptoms, carefully and particularly noting down, previous to its administration, the cases in which it is given, describing the several symptoms, and relating the progress and effects from time to time, which journal is to be transmitted to us at the end of the voyage.”

We have a curious illustration of the state [Sidenote: 1748-1768] of the times in the manner of Cook’s treatment by the Viceroy of the Brazils, where, on the way out, he touched to refresh. The Viceroy pretended to believe that the ship was a merchantman, and not a king’s ship, and therefore wanted her to comply with certain port regulations which Cook was of opinion did not become the dignity of his commission. In evidence of the _Endeavour_ being one of His Majesty’s ships, Cook wrote to the Viceroy and, among other things, drew attention to the distinctive uniform of his officers, which is a reminder to us that at this time the dress of naval officers was beginning to assume uniformity. George II. suggested the colours which were adopted by the Admiralty order in 1748, and, from admirals to lieutenants, officers were now dressed in blue coats with white facings, lace collars and cuffs, and gold trimmings. The uniform was continually changing, even up to within the last few years, and nowadays one naval officer has as many different suits of uniform as would have served all the commissioned officers of a line-of-battle ship in his father’s time.

When Cook left on this voyage he had, it has been shown, many advantages over Dampier in the matter of nautical instruments, but there is little doubt that he had absolutely no knowledge of the eastern coast of Australia. Dalrymple was the first to suggest that charts, which there is no doubt, did exist in Cook’s time, and which do indicate the eastern coast, were known to Cook. Without going into all the evidence rebutting Dalrymple’s insinuation, which has been discussed often enough, one fact is worth remembering: Dalrymple, the most learned geographer of the period, published his _Historical Collection of Voyages_ in 1770, and in that work he makes no mention of the charts; but, on the contrary, his chart of the Pacific only indicates the coastline on the north and the west of the continent. Cook, who up to the moment of his appointment had been too busy at the practical work of his profession to find or study rare books or search libraries for documents and maps relating to the Pacific, was scarcely likely in 1768 to know what was not known to Dalrymple two years later; and also, be it remembered, Dalrymple was very indignant at being passed over in favour of Cook. It may be taken for granted that beyond such books as Dampier’s _Voyage,_ De Brosses’ volumes, and such charts as the library of the _Endeavour_ furnished, old maps afforded no help to Cook in his survey of New Holland. Of the charts Cook says something in his journal. In September, 1770, he writes:–

“The charts with which I compared such parts of this coast as I visited are bound up with a French work entitled _Histoire des Navigations aux Terres Australes_, which was published in 1756, and I found them tolerably exact.”

As to what Cook did in the matter of dry geographical details, if the reader wants them he must go to one or other of the hundred or more books on the subject. In a few words, he sailed between the two main islands of New Zealand, discovering for himself the existence of the straits separating them. He first saw the south-east coast of New Holland at Point Hicks, named by him after his first lieutenant, and now called Cape Everard, in the colony of Victoria; from here he ran north to Botany Bay, where he anchored, took in water and wood, and buried a sailor named Forby Sutherland, who died of consumption and whose name was given to the southern headland of the bay. It is worth noting that in every original document relating to this voyage, save one chart, this bay is called Stingray Bay, after, as Cook himself says, the great number of stingrays caught in it. In one chart, in Cook’s own writing, the name Botany Bay is given; but all the _Endeavour_ logs call it Stingray Bay, and the name Botany Bay was probably an afterthought.

From here Cook coasted north, marking almost every point and inlet with such accuracy and such minuteness as fully justifies in its particular meaning the statement that Cook discovered and surveyed the whole of the eastern coast of Australia. He then sailed through Torres Straits, proving that New Guinea was a separate island, and thence made his way to Batavia.

Before leaving the coast he landed on August 21st on Possession Island, which lies about a couple of miles off the western shore of the Cape York peninsula, and there formally took possession of the continent, observing the usual ceremony of hoisting the colours and firing a volley. According to Hawkesworth, Cook took possession of the country, and named it New South Wales. There is no evidence whatever of this, and Hawkesworth himself was probably the first person to write the name. In none of the official log-books or other documents does any other name than New Holland occur, and until Flinders suggested the name “Australia,” “New Holland” was the generally accepted title of the continent.

Another remarkable mis-statement, which is believed by many, relates to the discovery and naming of Port Jackson, the port of Sydney. On Sunday, May 6th, 1770, Cook’s official log contains this entry:–

“Abrest of an open bay; dist. off the nearest shore, two or three miles. Lat’d. obs., 33 degrees 47.

“At this time (noon) we were between two or three miles distant from the land, and abrest of a bay or harbour, in which there appeared to be a good anchorage, and which I called Port Jackson.”

It is still often written that the “open bay” was so named after a seaman by the name of Jackson on board the ship; but Sir George Jackson, who afterwards changed his name to Duckett, was at this time, with Mr. Philip Stephens, joint secretary to the Admiralty. Cook named Port Jackson and Port Stephens after these two officials, and there was no seaman named Jackson on board the _Endeavour_. Cook did not enter Port Jackson, and the discovery of the finest harbour in the world was left for another less well remembered, but no less efficient and zealous, naval officer.

The simple entries in the _Endeavour’s_ logbooks, to the sailor who reads them, tell far better than the fine writing of Dr. Hawkesworth the difficulties which Cook laboured under on this voyage. For example, His Majesty’s ship _Endeavour_ was so well found that on April 14th, 1770, Cook has this entry:–

“The spritsail topsail being wore to rags, it was condemned as unfit for its proper use, and taken to repair the topgall’ntsails, they being so bad as not to be worth the expense of new canvas, but, with the help of this sail, will be made to last some time; also took out one of the ship’s tents (50) yards of canvas to repair the jibb that was split on the 1st instant, there being neither new canvas nor twine in the ship to spare for that purpose.”

But the most serious trouble was when on the 11th of June the _Endeavour_ got ashore on the Barrier Reef. Here is Cook’s entry:–

“Shoal’d the water from 20 to 17 faths., and before the man in the chains could have another cast the ship struck and lay fast on some rocks, upon which we took in all sail, hoisted out the boats, and sounded round the ship, and found that we had got upon the edge of a reef of coral rocks, which lay to the N.W. of us, having in some places round the ship 3 or 4 fathoms, and in others about as many feet; but about 100 feet from her starboard side, she laying with her head to the N.E., were 7, 8, and 10 fathom. Carried out the stream anchor and two hawsers on the starboard bow and the coasting anchor and cable upon the starboard quarters, got down yards and topmasts, and hove taught upon the hawser and cable; but as we had gone ashore about high water, the ship by this time was quite fast. Turned all hands to lighten the ship, and in order to do this we not only started water, but hove overboard guns, iron and stone ballast, casks, hoops, staves, oyl-jars, stores, and whatever was of weight or in the way at coming at heavy articles. All this time the ship made but little water. Being now high water, as we thought, hove a strain upon the stern anchor, as I found the ship must go off that way, if at all, but all we could do was to no purpose, she not being afloat by a foot or more, notwithstanding we had hove overboard 40 or 50-ton weight; but as this was not sufficient, we continued to lighten her by every method we could think of. By that time she begun to make water as much as two pumps could free. At noon she lay with three streaks heel to starboard. Lat obs’ed, 15 degrees 45 So.”

This was off what Cook called Cape Tribulation, and on the two following days these entries appear:–

“Light airs and fine weather, which gave us an opportunity to carry out boath the bowers, the one on the starboard quarter and the other right astern. The spare stream anchor we likewise carried out, and got purchases upon all the cables, and hove taught upon all the 5 anchors. At 4 it was low water, so far as we could judge by the rocks about the ship and part of the shoal being dry, which we had not seen before. The rise and fall of the water did not appear to exceed 3 or 4 feet. As the tide began to rise the leak incresed, which obliged us to set the 3rd pump to work, which we should have done the 4th also could we have made it deliver any water. The ship now righted, and the leak gained on the pumps in such a manner that it became a matter of consideration whether we should heave her off or no in case she floated, for fear of her going down with us in the deep water; but as I thought we should be able to run her ashore, either upon the same shoal or upon the main, in case we could not keep her, I resolved at all risks to heave her off if possible, and accordingly tur’nd as many men to the capstan and windlass as could be spar’d from the pumps, and at 20 minutes past ten hove her afloat and into deep water.” (He did not do this without losing his anchors, as he tells us, but)

“The pumps gain’d on the leak these 4 hours. Some hands employ’d sowing oakem, wool, etc., into a sail to fother the ship. Weigh’d the coasting anchor and warped out to the S.E., and at 11 got under sail, with a light breeze at E.S.E., and stood in for the land, having a small boat laying upon the point of the shoal, the south point of which at noon bore north, distant one mile. The pumps gain’d upon the leak this 4 hours. Light airs and clear weather. Standing off the shore in for the main. Got up the main topmast and main-yard. Having got the sail ready for fothering the ship, we put it over under the starboard fore chains, where we suspected she suffer’d most, and soon after the leak decreas’d so much as to be kept clear with one pump with ease. This fortunate circumstance gave new life to everyone on board. Anchor’d in 17 fathom water, 5 leagues from the land, and about 3 miles from the shore.”

On the 17th they found a harbour where they hove the ship down and repaired her, when it was found that–

“One of the holes, which was big enough to have sunk us if we had had eight pumps instead of four, and had been able to keep them incessantly going, was in great measure plugged up by a fragment of the rock, which, after having made the wound, was left sticking in it; so that the water which had at first gained upon our pumps was what came in at the interstices between the stone and the edges of the hole that received it.”

Endeavour River, Cape Flattery, Providential Channel, and other names on the chart commemorate the accident; yet after all this trouble Cook continued his survey, sailing safely through the cluster of rocks between New Guinea and the mainland. This passage and the Barrier Reef are probably two of the most dangerous places in the world, and more vessels have been wrecked on that bit of coast between the southern end of the Barrier Reef and the Indian Ocean side of Torres Straits than on any similar stretch of coast-line anywhere.

So far the voyage had been without other disaster than this, but on the way back the _Endeavour_ put into Batavia to refresh, and in a letter to the Secretary of the Admiralty, dated the 9th of May, 1771, Cook wrote:–

“That uninterrupted state of health we have all along enjoyed was, soon after our arrival at Batavia, succeeded by a general sickness, which delayed us there so much that it was the 20th of December before we were able to leave that place. We were fortunate enough to loose but few men at Batavia, but on our passage from thence to the Cape of Good Hope we had twenty-four men died, all, or most of them, of the bloody flux. This fatal disorder reign’d in the ship with such obstinacy that medicines, however skilfully administered, had not the least effect. I arrived at the Cape on the 14th of March, and quitted it again on the 14th of April, and on the 1st of May arrived at St. Helena, where I joined His Maj.’s ship _Portland_, which I found ready to sail with the convoy”;

and on the 12th of July he brought up in the Downs, reporting one more death–that of Lieutenant Hicks.

For his services Cook was promoted a step. His after-life and death need no mention here, and although in both his second and third voyages he touched at New Zealand and Tasmania, his connection with Australia practically ends with the _Endeavour_ voyage. But a word or two about the _Endeavour’s_ officers, taken from documents recently obtained by the New South Wales Government, which perhaps contain some things new to many readers.

In the Record Office, London, there are no fewer than ten logs of Cook’s voyage; three of these are anonymous, but six of them are signed by the ship’s officers, and one, from circumstantial evidence, is no doubt by Green, the astronomer. The signed logs are by Hicks, Cook’s first lieutenant; Forwood, the gunner; and Pickersgill, Clerke, Wilkinson, and Bootie, mates. Hicks, as we have seen, died on the passage home; Forwood, after the _Endeavour’s_ return, is not heard of again. Pickersgill was promoted to be master on the death of that officer (Robert Molineux) in April, 1771. He had previously served as a midshipman under Wallis in 1766-1788, and he served again under Cook in the _Resolution_ as third lieutenant. On the return of Cook from his second voyage, Pickersgill was appointed commander of the _Lion_, and sent to survey Baffin’s Bay, but he was relieved of the command early in 1777, and then we lose sight of him. Wilkinson also had served under Wallis, but he died soon after the return of the _Endeavour_, and Bootie died on the way home.

The best-known of these log-writers is Charles Clerke. Though only a youngster, he had seen much service. When the Seven Years’ War in 1756 broke out, he was, at fifteen years of age, serving on a man-of-war. He was on the _Bellona_ in her celebrated engagement with the _Courageux_, off Vigo, in 1761, and he accompanied Byron in the _Dolphin_, afterwards serving in America, where it is probable Cook first met him. Consequent on the many deaths, Clerke was made third lieutenant of the _Endeavour_ after the ship left Batavia, and Cook, referring to his appointment, wrote to the Admiralty that Clerke was a young man well worthy of the step. He again served with Cook as second lieutenant of the _Resolution_, and in Cook’s third voyage he was captain of the _Discovery_ and second in command of the expedition. When Cook was killed on February 14th, 1779, he took charge, but only survived his superior until the 22nd of August. He died off the Kamschatka coast, and was buried at the harbour of St. Peter and St. Paul. His shipmates erected a board with an inscription upon it over his grave; and La Perouse, when in 1787 he visited the spot, caused the board to be replaced by a copper plate, on which the inscription was re-engraved.

In a volume of the _New South Wales Records_ is printed for the first time a batch of letters from Clerke to Sir Joseph Banks, and these documents so well depict poor Clerke’s cheery disposition, notwithstanding that he was suffering from a fear of the King’s Bench, and, what was more serious, the sad disease which ended in his death, that we may be pardoned for reproducing extracts from them. The first was written just before Clerke sailed with Cook on that fatal third voyage as commander of the _Discovery_:–

“DEAR SIR,–I am very sorry to inform you that I am fairly cast away. The damnation Bench of Justices fell out among themselves, upset and fairly frustrated the friendly intentions of Sir Fletcher Norton, &c., wrote a rascally letter, hoping that I would not find any inconvenience from it, and put off the adjournment to Monday se’nnight. Now, you know, this is quite beyond our reach; it seems the whole legends of the Bench do not furnish such another incident. Indeed, there’s a fatality attends my every undertaking; those people whom I most honour and esteem, that favour me with the name of friend–to them I become a trouble and burthen. However, though we cannot help misfortunes, we can help deserving them, and I am determined that want of gratitude and attention shall never be an accusation against me; therefore I’m resolved to decamp without beat of drum and, if I can, outsail the Israelites, get to sea, and make every return in my power. I think I had better write to Lord Sandwich to thank him, as I cannot now wait upon him–for my visitations must be very private–and ask him if he has any orders for me. Do tell me what I must do on that head, and if you would have me wait on you ere I depart, &c., &c., and believe me in prosperity or adversity.

“Yours, &c.,


This is followed by another, written on the evening of the same day, in which he says:–

“I this day received a letter from Lord Sandwich, acquainting me he shall certainly order the _Discovery_ to sea very soon, in short giving me to understand that if I cannot leave town by the 10th or 11th instant I must give up all. Now, that completes the wretchedness of my situation. I find the Jews are exasperated and determined to spare no pains to arrest me if they could once catch me out of the rules of the Bench; this, you know, would be striking the finishing stroke. Let me, my good friend, entreat the influence of your friendship here. I shall certainly be cleared the 16th or 18th instant, and shall then be happy.”

He got away all right, and on November 23rd, 1776, wrote from the Cape of Good Hope:–

“Here I am hard and fast moor’d alongside my old friend Capt’n Cook, so that our battles with the Israelites cannot now have any ill effects upon our intending attack upon the North Pole. I think I acquainted you from Plymouth, on the 1st of August, that I was getting under-way; I then got a good outset with [Sidenote: 1779] a fresh easterly breeze, and made a very good passage to within a few leagues of this land without any kind of accident befalling us…. We shall now sail in a very few days, and return to the old trade of exploring, so can only say adieu, adieu, my very good friend. Be assured that, happen what will, it is wholly out of the power of durance of time or length of space in the least to alleviate that sense of gratitude your goodness has inspired; but, indeed, I shall ever endeavour upon all and every occasion to acquit myself,” etc.

The next letter is a pathetic farewell to his friend, written on the 17th of August, 1779, five days before the author’s death:–

“MY EVER-HONOURED FRIEND,–The disorder I was attacked with in the King’s Bench Prison has proved consumptive, with which I have battled with various success, although without one single day’s health, since I took leave of you in Burlington Street; it is now so far got the better of me that I am not able to turn myself in my bed, so that my stay in this world must be of very short duration. However, I hope my friends will have no occasion to blush in owning themselves such, for I have most perfectly and justly done my duty to my country as far as my abilities would enable me, for where that has been concerned the attention to my health, which I was most sensible was in the most imminent danger, has never swerved me a single half-mile out of the road of duty; so that I flatter myself I shall leave behind that character that it has ever been my utmost ambition to attain, which is that of an honest and faithful servant to the public whom I had undertaken to serve.

“I have made you the best collections of all kinds of matter I could that have fallen in our way in the course of the voyage; but they are by no means so complete as they would have been had my health enabled me to pay more attention to them. I hope, however, you will find many among them worthy of your attention and acceptance. In my will I have bequeathed you the whole of every kind. There are great abundance, so that you will have ample choice.

“I must beg you to present my warmest and most affectionate compliments to Dr. Solander, and assure him I leave the world replete with the most social ideas for his much-esteemed and ever-respected friendship.

“I must beg leave to recommend to your notice Mr. Will. Ellis, one of the surgeon’s mates, who will furnish you with some drawings and accounts of the various birds which will come to your possession. He has been very useful to me in your service in that particular, and is, I believe, a very worthy young man, and, I hope, will prove worthy of any services that may be in your way to confer upon him.

“The two clerks of the two ships, Mr. W. Dewar and Mr. Greg Santham, have, I believe, been very honest servants in their stations, and having by Captain Cook’s (and very soon by my death) lost those to whom they looked up to for protection, are, I fear, destitute of friends. If it should be in your power to render them any services, I flatter myself they will be worthy of such attention.

“If I should recollect anything more to say to you, I will trouble my friend Mr. King with it, who is so kind as to be my amanuensis on this occasion. He is my very dear and particular friend, and I will make no apology in recommending him to a share in your friends ship [sic: friendship], as I am perfectly assured of his being
deserving of it, as in that also of the worthy doctors.

“Now, my dear and honoured friend, I must bid you a final adieu. May you enjoy many happy years in this world, and in the end attain that fame your indefatigable industry so richly deserves. These are most sincerely the warmest and sincerest wishes of your devoted, affectionate, and departing servant,


It will take nothing from the fame of Cook to call his connection with the discovery of Australia an accident. He himself says that, having circumnavigated New Zealand, “we intended to return home by the Cape of Good Hope or by Cape Horn to determine the question of a southern continent,” but the season of the year was against this course, and “we ultimately resolved to return by the East Indies. With this in view, we resolved to steer west till we should fall in with the coast of New Holland, and then follow that coast to the north till we should arrive at its northern extremity.”

Having adopted this course and having reached the coast, Cook made the very best use of his time, and surveyed it as probably no other man then living would have done, but that he did so is unquestionably due to the fact that the season did not admit of the old regulation pursuit of explorers–the search for the solution of the southern continent problem.

CHAPTER IV. [Sidenote: 1779]


Captain Cook’s “discovery” of New Holland was turned to no account until a generation later, and to Sir Joseph Banks more than to any other man belongs the credit of the suggestion. In 1779 a commission of the House of Commons was appointed to inquire into the question of transportation, then, in consequence of the loss of the American colonies, an important problem needing a speedy solution. At this period, indeed up to a much later time, the English prison administration was notoriously bad. The gaols were crowded and filthy, and there was no discipline; no system governed them other than the system of rascality practised by many of the gaolers.

Mr. Banks (as he then was) gave evidence before the House of Commons, and strongly urged the establishment of a penal colony at Botany Bay, giving his opinion, of course, as the botanist who had accompanied Cook and had seen what prospect there was of establishing a settlement at New Holland. Banks from this time till his death took a keen interest in the New South Wales colonizing scheme, and had much influence for good in the future of the colony. He was a man of independent means, and there is not the slightest reason nor the least evidence to the contrary, to doubt his perfect disinterestedness in all that he did. But when President of the Royal Society the caricaturists and the satirists had little mercy on him, believing him more courtier than scientist. Peter Pindar’s _Sir Joseph Banks and the Emperor of Morocco_ is only one of the many satires of which Banks was the principal victim.

The proposals of one Jean Maria Matra and of Admiral Sir George Young for forming new colonies to take the places of those lost to us in America, with the evidence and subsequent advocacy of Banks, ultimately led to the Government’s decision to colonize New South Wales. But it was not until 1786 that that decision was reached, and a year later still when Captain Arthur Phillip was given a commission as captain of the expedition and governor of the new colony.

All that is known of Phillip prior to his appointment is contained in a semi–official account of the expedition called _Phillip’s Voyage,_ published about a hundred years ago. We are here told that his father was a German teacher of languages who settled in London, his mother the widow of Captain Herbert, of the royal navy, and that young Phillip was born in Bread Street, in the parish of All Hallows, London.

It may be presumed that, by the influence of his mother’s connections through her first marriage, he was sent to Greenwich School, and thence into the navy, where he began his career under Captain Michael Everett at the outbreak of war in 1755.

At twenty-three he was serving as a lieutenant in the _Stirling Castle_, and later on, when peace came, after a turn of farming in the New Forest, he volunteered to serve under the Portuguese Government. Leaving the Portuguese service with distinction, he rejoined the English navy in 1778, and the Admiralty at once made him master and commander of the _Basilisk_, fireship, soon afterwards appointing him post captain. He commanded the _Ariadne_, frigate, later on the _Europe_, and was then selected for the command of the first fleet to New South Wales. All the remarkable story of the colonizing expedition does not belong to this chapter on Phillip, but it runs through the lives of the four naval governors.

Lord Sydney, the Home Secretary of the day, selected Phillip, and Lord Howe, then at the head of the Admiralty, expressed this opinion on the appointment:–

“I cannot say the little knowledge I have of Captain Phillip would have led me to select him for a service of this complicated nature; but as you are satisfied of his ability, and I conclude he will be taken under your direction, I presume it will not be unreasonable to move the King for having His Majesty’s pleasure signified to the Admiralty for these purposes as soon as you see proper, so that no time may be lost in making the requisite preparations for the voyage.”

It took a long time to prepare the expedition, and when the fleet sailed from Spithead on May 13th, 1787, the transports had been lying off the Motherbank with their human freight on board for months before; yet, through the neglect of the shore officials, they sailed without clothing for the women prisoners and without enough [Sidenote: 1787] cartridges to do much more than fill the pouches of the marine guard.

There were eleven sail altogether: the _Sirius_, frigate, the _Supply_, tender, six transports, and three storeships. The frigate was an old East Indiaman, the _Berwick_. She had been lying in Deptford Yard, had been burnt almost to the water’s edge not long before, and was patched up for the job. The _Supply_ was a brig, a bad sailer, yet better in that respect than the _Sirius_, though much overmasted; she was commanded by Lieutenant Ball.

The expedition was a big affair, and it seems curious enough nowadays that so little interest was taken in it. There were more than a thousand people on board, and one would have thought that if the departure of the convicts did not create excitement, the sailing of the bluejackets and the guard of about 200 marines bound for such an unknown part of the world would have set Portsmouth at any rate in a stir. But the Fitzherbert scandal, the attack on Warren Hastings, and such-like stirring events were then town talk, and at that period there were no special correspondents or, for the matter of that, any newspapers worth mentioning, to work up popular excitement over the event.

On the way out the fleet called at Teneriffe, at Rio, and at the Cape to refresh; and Phillip’s old friends, the Portuguese, gave him a hearty welcome and much assistance at the Brazils. When the ships reached Botany Bay in January, 1788, the voyage of thirty-six weeks had ended without serious misfortune of any kind. Lieutenant Collins, of the Marines, Judge-Advocate and historian of the expedition, thus sums up the case:–

“Thus, under the blessing of God, was happily completed in eight months and one week a voyage which, before it was undertaken, the mind hardly dared to contemplate, and on which it was impossible to reflect without some apprehension as to its termination. This fortunate completion of it, however, afforded, even to ourselves, as much matter of surprise as of general satisfaction; for in the above space of time we had sailed 5021 leagues, had touched at the American and African continents, and had at last rested within a few days’ sail of the antipodes of our native country without meeting with any accidents in a fleet of eleven sail, nine of which were merchantmen that had never before sailed in that distant and imperfectly explored ocean. And when it is considered that there was on board a large body of convicts, many of whom were embarked in a very sickly state, we might be deemed peculiarly fortunate that of the whole number of all descriptions of persons coming to form the new settlement only thirty-two had died since their leaving England, among whom were to be included one or two deaths by accidents, although previous to our departure it was generally conjectured that before long we should have been converted into an hospital ship. But it fortunately happened otherwise; and the spirits visible in every eye were to be ascribed to the general joy and satisfaction which immediately took place on finding ourselves arrived at that port which had been so much and so long the theme of our conversation.”

[Illustration: CAPTAIN ARTHUR PHILLIP. From an engraving after a portrait by F. Wheatly, prefixed to “The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay” [London, 1789]. _To face p_. 78.]

To understand fully what Phillip’s good management had effected, without going into detail, it may be said at once that no succeeding voyage, in spite of the teachings of experience, was made with such immunity from sickness or mutiny. The second voyage, generally spoken of as that of the second fleet, for example, was so conducted that Judge-Advocate Collins says of it:–

“The appearance of those prisoners who did not require medical assistance was lean and emaciated. Several of these miserable people died in the boats as they were rowing on shore or on the wharf as they were being lifted out of the boats, both the living and the dead exhibiting more horrid spectacles than had ever been witnessed in this country. All this was to be attributed to confinement, and that of the worst species–confinement in a small space and in irons, not put on singly, but many of them chained together. On board the _Scarborough_ a plan had been formed to take the ship…. This necessarily, on that ship, occasioned much future circumspection; but Captain Marshall’s humanity considerably lessened the severity which the insurgents might naturally have expected. On board the other ships the masters, who had the entire direction of the prisoners, never suffered them to be at large on deck, and but a few at a time were permitted there. This consequently gave birth to many diseases. It was said that on board the _Neptune_ several had died in irons; and what added to the horror of such a circumstance was that their deaths were concealed for the purpose of sharing their allowance of provisions until chance and the offensiveness of a corpse directed a surgeon or someone who had authority in the ship to the spot where it lay.”

Phillip’s commission made him governor-in-chief, and captain-general over all New South Wales, which then meant from Cape York, in the extreme north of Australia, to the “south cape of Van Diemen’s Land,” then, of course, supposed to be part of the main continent. He was ordered to land at Botany Bay and there form the settlement, but was given a discretionary power to change the site, if he considered it unsuitable.

[Illustration: A VIEW OF BOTANY BAY. From an engraving from a drawing by R. Cleveley, in “The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay” [London, 1789].]

Recognizing the unsuitability of Botany Bay, Phillip, before all the ships of the first fleet were arrived, set out in an [Sidenote: 1788] open boat to explore the coast; and so, sailing northward, entered that bay only mentioned by Cook in the words before quoted, “abrest of an open bay,” and by Hawkesworth (writing in the first person as Cook) thus:–

“At this time” (noon May 6th, 1770) “we were between two and three miles from the land and abrest of a good bay or harbour, in which there appeared to be a good anchorage, and which I called Port Jackson.”

Perhaps, when Phillip’s boat passed between the north and south heads of Port Jackson, he exclaimed what has so often been repeated since: “What a magnificent harbour!” And so on the 26th January, 1788, Sydney was founded upon the shores of the most beautiful bay in the world.

Phillip’s “eye for ground” told him that the shores of Port Jackson were a better site for a settlement than the land near Botany Bay, but he had no sooner landed his people than the need for better soil than Sydney afforded was apparent. Then began a series of land expeditions into the interior, in which, with such poor means as these pioneers possessed, the country was penetrated right to the foot of the Blue Mountains. The first governor, despite the slight foothold he had established at Sydney–little better such a home than the deck of a ship–persistently searched for good land, and before his five years of office had expired agricultural settlement was fairly under way.

On the seaboard, although he was almost without vessels (scarcely a decent open boat could be mustered among the possessions of the colonists), with the boats of the _Sirius_ the coast was searched by Phillip in person as well as by his junior officers.

Major Ross, who commanded the Marines, and who was also lieutenant-governor, described the settlement thus:–

“In the whole world there is not a worse country than what we have yet seen of this. All that is contiguous to us is so very barren and forbidding, that it may with truth be said, ‘Here nature is reversed, and if not so, she is nearly worn out’; for almost all the seed we have put in the ground has rotted, and I have no doubt it will, like the wood of this vile country, when burned or rotten turn to sand;”

Captain Tench, one of Ross’ officers, wrote:–

“The country is very wretched and totally incapable of yielding to Great Britain a return for colonising it…. The dread of perishing by famine stares us in the face. [Sidenote: 1792] The country contains less resources than any in the known world;”

and the principal surgeon, White, described the colony in these words:–

“I cannot, without neglect of my duty to my country, refrain from declaring that if a ‘favourable picture’ has been drawn, it is a ‘gross falsehood and a base deception.'”

Yet shortly before Phillip left it, in 1792, Collins says:–

“In May the settlers were found in general to be doing very well, their farms promising to place them shortly in a state of independence of the public stores in the articles of provisions and grain. Several of the settlers who had farms at or near Parramatta, notwithstanding the extreme drought of the season preceding the sowing of their corn, had such crops that they found themselves enabled to take off from the public store some one, and others two convicts, to assist in preparing their grounds for the next season.”

In June, according to the same authority, the ground sown with wheat and prepared for maize was of sufficient area, even if the yield per acre did not exceed that for the previous season, to produce enough grain for a year’s consumption.

The last returns relating to agriculture, prepared before Phillip left, show that the total area under cultivation was 1540 acres, and the previous year’s returns show that the area had doubled as a result of the year’s work. Besides this, considerable progress had been made with public buildings; and the convict population, which by the arrival of more transports had now reached nearly 4000 souls, were slowly but surely settling down as colonists.

With a thousand people to govern, in the fullest meaning of the word, and a desolate country, absolutely unknown to the exiles, to begin life in, Phillip’s work was cut out. But, more than this, the population was chiefly composed of the lowest and worst criminals of England; famine constantly stared the governor in the face, and his command was increased by a second and third fleet of prisoners; storeships, when they were sent, were wrecked; many of Phillip’s subordinates did their duty indifferently, often hindered his work, and persistently recommended the home Government to abandon the attempt to colonize. Sum up these difficulties, remember that they were bravely and uncomplainingly overcome, and the character of Phillip’s administration can then in some measure be understood.