James Cook and South Georgia in 1775
Proceedings after leaving Staten Island,
with an Account of the Discovery of the Isle of Georgia,
and a Description of it.
Having left the land in the evening of the 3d, as before mentioned, we saw it again next morning, at three o'clock, bearing west. Wind continued to blow a steady fresh breeze till six p.m., when it shifted in a heavy squall to S.W., which came so suddenly upon us, that we had not time to take in the sails, and was the occasion of carrying away a top-gallant mast, a studding-sail boom, and a fore studding-sail. The squall ended in a heavy shower of rain, but the wind remained at S.W. Our course was S.E., with a view of discovering that extensive coast laid down by Mr Dalrymple in his chart, in which is the gulph of St Sebastian. I designed to make the western point of that gulph, in order to have all the other parts before me. Indeed I had some doubt of the existence of such a coast; and this appeared to me the best route for clearing it up, and for exploring the southern part of this ocean.
On the 5th, fresh gales, and wet and cloudy weather. At noon observed in 57° 9', latitude made from Cape St John, 5° 2' E. At six o'clock p.m., being in the latitude 57° 21', and in longitude 57° 45' W., the variation was 21° 28' E.
At eight o'clock in the evening of the 6th, being then in the latitude of 58° 9' S., longitude 53° 14' W., we close-reefed our top-sails, and hauled to the north, with a very strong gale at west, attended with a thick haze and sleet. The situation just mentioned is nearly the same that Mr Dalrymple assigns for the S.W. point of the gulph of St Sebastian. But as we saw neither land, nor signs of land, I was the more doubtful of its existence, and was fearful that, by keeping to the south, I might miss the land said to be discovered by La Roche in 1675, and by the ship Lion in 1756, which Mr Dalrymple places in 54° 30' latitude, and 45° of longitude; but on looking over D'Anville's chart, I found it laid down 9° or 10° more to the west; this difference of situation being to me a sign of the uncertainty of both accounts, determined me to get into the parallel as soon as possible, and was the reason of my hauling to the north at this time.
Towards the morning of the 7th the gale abated, the weather cleared up, and the wind veered to the W.S.W., where it continued till midnight, after which it veered to N.W. Being at this time in the latitude of 56° 4' S., longitude 53° 36' W., we sounded, but found no bottom with a line of one hundred and thirty fathoms. I still kept the wind on the larboard-tack, having a gentle breeze and pleasant weather. On the 8th, at noon, a bed of sea-weed passed the ship. In the afternoon, in latitude 55° 4', longitude 51° 43' W., the variation was 20° 4' E.
On the 9th, wind at N.E., attended with thick hazy weather; saw a seal, and a piece of sea-weed. At noon, latitude 55° 12' S., longitude 50° 15' W., the wind and weather continuing the same till towards midnight, when the latter cleared up, and the former veered to west, and blew a gentle gale. We continued to ply till two o'clock the next morning, when we bore away east, and at eight E.N.E.; at noon, observed in latitude 54° 35' S., longitude 47° 56' W., a great many albatrosses and blue peterels about the ship. I now steered east, and the next morning, in the latitude of 54° 38', longitude 45° 10' W., the variation was 19° 25' E. In the afternoon saw several penguins, and some pieces of weed.
Having spent the night lying-to, on the 12th, at day-break, we bore away, and steered east northerly, with a fine fresh breeze at W.S.W.; at noon observed in latitude 54° 28' S., longitude in 42° 8' W.; that is, near 3° E. of the situation in which Mr Dalrymple places the N.E. point of the gulph of St Sebastian; but we had no other signs of land than seeing a seal and a few penguins; on the contrary, we had a swell from E.S.E., which would hardly have been, if any extensive track of land lay in that direction. In the evening the gale abated, and at midnight it fell calm.
The calm, attended by a thick fog, continued till six next morning, when we got a wind at east, but the fog still prevailed. We stood to the south till noon, when, being in the latitude of 55° 7', we tacked and stretched to the north with a fresh breeze at E. by S. and E.S.E., cloudy weather; saw several penguins and a snow-peterel, which we looked on to be signs of the vicinity of ice. The air too was much colder than we had felt it since we left New Zealand. In the afternoon the wind veered to the S.E., and in the night to S.S.E., and blew fresh, with which we stood to the N.E.
At nine o'clock the next morning we saw an island of ice, as we then thought, but at noon were doubtful whether it was ice or land. At this time it bore E. 3/4 S., distant thirteen leagues; our latitude was 53° 56' 1/2, longitude 39° 24' W.; several penguins, small divers, a snow-peterel, and a vast number of blue peterels about the ship. We had but little wind all the morning, and at two p.m. it fell calm. It was now no longer doubted that it was land, and not ice, which we had in sight. It was, however, in a manner wholly covered with snow. We were farther confirmed in our judgement of its being land, by finding soundings at one hundred and seventy-five fathoms, a muddy bottom. The land at this time bore E. by S., about twelve leagues distant. At six o'clock the calm was succeeded by a breeze at N.E., with which we stood to S.E. At first it blew a gentle gale; but afterwards increased so as to bring us under double-reefed top-sails, and was attended with snow and sleet.
We continued to stand to the S.E. till seven in the morning on the 15th, when the wind veering to the S.E., we tacked and stood to the north. A little before we tacked, we saw the land bearing E. by N. At noon the mercury in the thermometer was at 35° 1/4. The wind blew in squalls, attended with snow and sleet, and we had a great sea to encounter. At a lee-lurch which the ship took, Mr Wales observed her to lie down 42°. At half past four p.m. we took in the top-sails, got down top-gallant yards, wore the ship, and stood to the S.W., under two courses. At midnight the storm abated, so that we could carry the top-sails double-reefed.
At four in the morning of the 16th we wore and stood to the east, with the wind at S.S.E., a moderate breeze, and fair; at eight o'clock saw the land extending from E. by N. to N.E. by N.; loosed a reef out of each top-sail, got top-gallant yards across, and set the sails. At noon observed in latitude 54° 25' 1/2, longitude 38° 18' W. In this situation we had one hundred and ten fathoms water; and the land extended from N. 1/2 W. to E., eight leagues distant. The northern extreme was the same that we first discovered, and it proved to be an island, which obtained the name of Willis's Island, after the person who first saw it.
At this time we had a great swell from the south, an indication that no land was near us in that direction; nevertheless the vast quantity of snow on that in sight induced us to think it was extensive, and I chose to begin with exploring the northern coast. With this view we bore up for Willis's Island, all sails set, having a fine gale at S.S.W. As we advanced to the north, we perceived another isle lying east of Willis's, and between it and the main. Seeing there was a clear passage between the two isles, we steered for it, and at five o'clock, being in the middle of it, we found it about two miles broad.
Willis's Isle is an high rock of no great extent, near to which are some rocky islets. It is situated in the latitude of 54° S., longitude 38° 23' W. The other isle, which obtained the name of Bird Isle, on account of the vast number that were upon it, is not so high, but of greater extent, and is close to the N.E. point of the main land, which I called Cape North.
The S.E. coast of this land, as far as we saw it, lies in the direction of S. 50° E., and N. 50° W. It seemed to form several bays or inlets; and we observed huge masses of snow, or ice, in the bottoms of them, especially in one which lies ten miles to the S.S.E. of Bird Isle.
After getting through the passage, we found the north coast trended E. by N., for about nine miles; and then east and east-southerly to Cape Buller, which is eleven miles more. We ranged the coast, at one league distance, till near ten o'clock, when we brought-to for the night, and on sounding found fifty fathoms, a muddy bottom.
At two o'clock in the morning of the 17th we made sail in for the land, with a fine breeze at S.W.; at four, Willis's Isle bore W. by S., distant thirty-two miles; Cape Buller, to the west of which lie some rocky islets, bore S.W. by W.; and the most advanced point of land to the east, S. 63° E. We now steered along shore, at the distance of four or five miles, till seven o'clock, when, seeing the appearance of an inlet, we hauled in for it. As soon as we drew near the shore, having hoisted out a boat, I embarked in it, accompanied by Mr Forster and his party, with a view of reconnoitring the bay before we ventured in with the ship. When we put off from her, which was about four miles from the shore, we had forty fathoms water. I continued to sound as I went farther in, but found no bottom with a line of thirty-four fathoms, which was the length of that I had in the boat, and which also proved too short to sound the bay, so far as I went up it. I observed it to lie in S.W. by S. about two leagues, about two miles broad, well sheltered from all winds; and I judged there might be good anchorage before some sandy beaches which are on each side, and likewise near a low flat isle, towards the head of the bay. As I had come to a resolution not to bring the ship in, I did not think it worth my while to go and examine these places; for it did not seem probable that any one would ever be benefited by the discovery. I landed at three different places, displayed our colours, and took possession of the country in his majesty's name, under a discharge of small arms.
I judged that the tide rises about four or five feet, and that it is high water on the full and change days about eleven o'clock.
The head of the bay, as well as two places on each side, was terminated by perpendicular ice-cliffs of considerable height. Pieces were continually breaking off, and floating out to sea; and a great fall happened while we were in the bay, which made a noise like cannon.
The inner parts of the country were not less savage and horrible. The wild rocks raised their lofty summits till they were lost in the clouds, and the valleys lay covered with everlasting snow. Not a tree was to be seen, nor a shrub even big enough to make a toothpick. The only vegetation we met with was a coarse strong-bladed grass growing in tufts, wild burnet, and a plant like moss, which sprung from the rocks.
Seals, or sea-bears, were pretty numerous. They were smaller than those at Staten Land: Perhaps the most of those we saw were females, for the shores swarmed with young cubs. We saw none of that sort which we call lions; but there were some of those which the writer of Lord Anson's voyage describes under that name; at least they appeared to us to be of the same sort; and are, in my opinion, very improperly called lions, for I could not see any grounds for the comparison.
Here were several flocks of penguins, the largest I ever saw; some which we brought on board weighed from twenty-nine to thirty-eight pounds. It appears by Bougainville's account of the animals of Falkland Islands, that this penguin is there; and I think it is very well described by him under the name of first class of penguins*. The oceanic birds were albatrosses, common gulls, and that sort which I call Port Egmont hens, terns, shags, divers, the new white bird, and a small bird like those of the Cape of Good Hope, called yellow birds; which, having shot two, we found most delicious food.
[* See Bougainville, English translation p.64.]
All the land birds we saw consisted of a few small larks, nor did we meet with any quadrupeds. Mr Forster indeed observed some dung, which he judged to come from a fox, or some such animal. The lands, or rather rocks, bordering on the sea-coast, were not covered with snow like the inland parts; but all the vegetation we could see on the clear places was the grass above-mentioned. The rocks seemed to contain iron. Having made the above observations, we set out for the ship, and got on board a little after twelve o'clock, with a quantity of seals and penguins, an acceptable present to the crew.
It must not, however, be understood that we were in want of provisions: we had yet plenty of every kind; and since we had been on this coast, I had ordered, in addition to the common allowance, wheat to be boiled every morning for breakfast; but any kind of fresh meat was preferred by most on board to salt. For my own part, I was now, for the first time, heartily tired of salt meat of every kind; and though the flesh of the penguins could scarcely vie with bullock's liver, its being fresh was sufficient to make it go down. I called the bay we had been in, Possession Bay. It is situated in the latitude of 54° 5' S., longitude 37° 18' W., and eleven leagues to the east of Cape North. A few miles to the west of Possession Bay, between it and Cape Buller, lies the Bay of Isles, so named on account of several small isles lying in and before it.
As soon as the boat was hoisted in, we made sail along the coast to the east, with a fine breeze at W.S.W. From Cape Buller the direction of the coast is S. 72° 30' E., for the space of eleven or twelve leagues, to a projecting point, which obtained the name of Cape Saunders. Beyond this cape is a pretty large bay, which I named Cumberland Bay. In several parts in the bottom of it, as also in some others of less extent, lying between Cape Saunders and Possession Bay, were vast tracks of frozen snow, or ice, not yet broken loose. At eight o'clock, being just past Cumberland Bay, and falling little wind, we hauled off the coast, from which we were distant about four miles, and found one hundred and ten fathoms water.
We had variable light airs and calms till six o'clock the next morning, when the wind fixed at north, and blew a gentle breeze; but it lasted no longer than ten o'clock, when it fell almost to a calm. At noon, observed in latitude 54° 30' S., being then about two or three leagues from the coast, which extended from N. 59° W. to S. 13° W. The land in this last direction was an isle, which seemed to be the extremity of the coast to the east. The nearest land to us being a projecting point which terminated in a round hillock, was, on account of the day, named Cape Charlotte. On the west side of Cape Charlotte lies a bay which obtained the name of Royal Bay, and the west point of it was named Cape George. It is the east point of Cumberland Bay, and lies in the direction of S.E. by E. from Cape Saunders, distant seven leagues. Cape George and Cape Charlotte lie in the direction of S. 37° E. and N. 37° W., distant six leagues from each other. The isle above-mentioned, which was called Cooper's Isle, after my first lieutenant, lies in the direction of S. by E., distant eight leagues from Cape Charlotte. The coast between them forms a large bay, to which I gave the name of Sandwich. The wind being variable all the afternoon we advanced but little; in the night it fixed at S. and S.S.W., and blew a gentle gale, attended with showers of snow.
The 19th was wholly spent in plying, the wind continuing at S. and S.S.W., clear pleasant weather, but cold. At sunrise a new land was seen, bearing S.E. 1/2 E. It first appeared in a single hill, like a sugar-loaf; some time after other detached pieces appeared above the horizon near the hill. At noon, observed in the latitude 54° 42' 30" S., Cape Charlotte bearing N. 38° W., distant four leagues; and Cooper's Isle S. 31° W. In this situation a lurking rock, which lies off Sandwich Bay, five miles from the land, bore W. 1/2 N., distant one mile, and near this rock were several breakers. In the afternoon we had a prospect of a ridge of mountains behind Sandwich Bay, whose lofty and icy summits were elevated high above the clouds. The wind continued at S.S.W. till six o'clock, when it fell to a calm. At this time Cape Charlotte bore N. 31° W., and Cooper's Island W.S.W. In this situation we found the variation, by the azimuths, to be 11° 39', and by the amplitude, 11° 12' E. At ten o'clock, a light breeze springing up at north, we steered to the south till twelve, and then brought-to for the night.
At two o'clock in the morning of the 20th we made sail to S.W. round Cooper's Island. It is a rock of considerable height, about five miles in circuit, and one mile from the main. At this isle the main coast takes a S.W. direction for the space of four or five leagues to a point, which I called Cape Disappointment. Off that are three small isles, the southernmost of which is green, low, and flat, and lies one league from the cape.
As we advanced to S.W. land opened, off this point, in the direction of N. 60° W., and nine leagues beyond it. It proved an island quite detached from the main, and obtained the name of Pickersgill Island, after my third officer. Soon after a point of the main, beyond this island, came in sight, in the direction of N. 55° W., which exactly united the coast at the very point we had seen, and taken the bearing of, the day we first came in with it, and proved to a demonstration that this land, which we had taken for part of a great continent, was no more than an island of seventy leagues in circuit.
Who would have thought that an island of no greater extent than this, situated between the latitude of 54° and 55°, should, in the very height of summer, be in a manner wholly covered, many fathoms deep, with frozen snow, but more especially the S.W. coast? The very sides and craggy summits of the lofty mountains were cased with snow and ice; but the quantity which lay in the valleys is incredible; and at the bottom of the bays the coast was terminated by a wall of ice of considerable height. It can hardly be doubted that a great deal of ice is formed here in the water, which in the spring is broken off, and dispersed over the sea; but this island cannot produce the ten-thousandth part of what we saw; so that either there must be more land, or the ice is formed without it. These reflections led me to think that the land we had seen the preceding day might belong to an extensive track, and I still had hopes of discovering a continent. I must confess the disappointment I now met with did not affect me much; for, to judge of the bulk by the sample, it would not be worth the discovery.
I called this island the isle of Georgia, in honour of his majesty. It is situated, between the latitudes of 53° 57' and 54° 57' S.; and between 38° 13' and 35° 34' west longitude. It extends S.E. by E. and N.W. by W., and is thirty-one leagues long in that direction; and its greatest breadth is about ten leagues. It seems to abound with bays and harbours, the N.E. coast especially; but the vast quantity of ice must render them inaccessible the greatest part of the year; or, at least, it must be dangerous lying in them, on account of the breaking up of the ice cliffs.
It is remarkable that we did not see a river, or stream of fresh water, on the whole coast. I think it highly probable that there are no perennial springs in the country; and that the interior parts, as being much elevated, never enjoy heat enough to melt the snow in such quantities as to produce a river, or stream, of water. The coast alone receives warmth sufficient to melt the snow, and this only on the N.E. side; for the other, besides being exposed to the cold south winds, is, in a great degree, deprived of the sun's rays, by the uncommon height of the mountains.
It was from a persuasion that the sea-coast of a land situated in the latitude of 54°, could not, in the very height of summer, be wholly covered with snow, that I supposed Bouvet's discovery to be large islands of ice. But after I had seen this land, I no longer hesitated about the existence of Cape Circumcision; nor did I doubt that I should find more land than I should have time to explore. With these ideas I quitted this coast, and directed my course to the E.S.E. for the land we had seen the preceding day.
The wind was very variable till noon, when it fixed at N.N.E., and blew a gentle gale; but it increased in such a manner, that, before three o'clock, we were reduced to our two courses, and obliged to strike top-gallant yards. We were very fortunate in getting clear of the land, before this gale overtook us; it being hard to say what might have been the consequence had it come on while we were on the north coast. This storm was of short duration; for, at eight o'clock it began to abate; and at midnight it was little wind. We then took the opportunity to sound, but found no bottom with a line of an hundred and eighty fathoms.
Next day the storm was succeeded by a thick fog, attended with rain; the wind veered to N.W., and, at five in the morning, it fell calm, which continued till eight; and then we got a breeze southerly, with which we stood to the east till three in the afternoon. The weather then coming somewhat clear, we made sail, and steered north in search of land; but, at half-past six, we were again involved in a thick mist, which made it necessary to haul the wind, and spend the night in making short boards.
We had variable light airs next to a calm, and thick foggy weather, till half-past seven o'clock in the evening of the 22d, when we got a fine breeze at north, and the weather was so clear that we could see two or three leagues round us. We seized the opportunity, and steered to west; judging we were to the east of the land. After running ten miles to the west, the weather again became foggy, and we hauled the wind, and spent the night under top-sails.
Next morning at six o'clock, the fog clearing away, so that we could see three or four miles, I took the opportunity to steer again to the west, with the wind at east, a fresh breeze; but two hours after, a thick fog once more obliged us to haul the wind to the south. At eleven o'clock, a short interval of clear weather gave us view of three or four rocky islets extending from S.E. to E.N.E., two or three miles distant; but we did not see the Sugar-Loaf Peak beforementioned. Indeed, two or three miles was the extent of our horizon.
We were well assured that this was the land we had seen before, which we had now been quite round; and therefore it could be no more than a few detached rocks, receptacles for birds, of which we now saw vast numbers, especially shags, who gave us notice of the vicinity of land before we saw it. These rocks lie in the latitude of 55° S., and S. 75° E., distant twelve leagues from Cooper's Isle.
The interval of clear weather was of very short duration, before we had as thick a fog as ever, attended with rain, on which we tacked in sixty fathoms water, and stood to the north. Thus we spent our time, involved in a continual thick mist; and, for aught we knew, surrounded by dangerous rocks. The shags and soundings were our best pilots; for after we had stood a few miles to the north, we got out of soundings, and saw no more shags. The succeeding day and night we spent in making short boards; and at eight o'clock on the 24th, judging ourselves not far from the rocks by some straggling shags which came about us, we sounded in sixty fathoms water, the bottom stones and broken shells. Soon after, we saw the rocks bearing S.S.W. 1/2 W., four miles distant, but still we did not see the peak. It was, no doubt, beyond our horizon, which was limited to a short distance; and, indeed, we had but a transient sight of the other rocks, before they were again lost in the fog.
With a light air of wind at north, and a great swell from N.E., we were able to clear the rocks to the west; and, at four in the p.m., judging ourselves to be three or four leagues east and west of them, I steered south, being quite tired with cruizing about them in a thick fog; nor was it worth my while to spend any more time in waiting for clear weather, only for the sake of having a good sight of a few straggling rocks. At seven o'clock, we had at intervals a clear sky to the west, which gave us a sight of the mountains of the isle of Georgia, bearing W.N.W., about eight leagues distant. At eight o'clock we steered S.E. by S., and at ten S.E. by E., with a fresh breeze at north, attended with a very thick fog; but we were, in some measure, acquainted with the sea over which we were running. The rocks above-mentioned obtained the name of Clerke's Rocks, after my second officer, he being the first who saw them.
with an Account of the Discovery of Sandwich Land;
with some Reasons for there being Land about the South Pole_.
On the 25th, we steered E.S.E., with a fresh gale at N.N.E., attended with foggy weather, till towards the evening, when the sky becoming clear, we found the variation to be 9° 26' E., being at this time in the latitude of 56° 16' S., longitude 32° 9' W.
Having continued to steer E.S.E., with a fine gale at N.N.W., till day-light next morning, on seeing no land to the east, I gave orders to steer south, being at this time in the latitude of 56° 33' S., longitude 31° 10' W. The weather continued clear, and gave us an opportunity to observe several distances of the sun and moon for the correcting our longitude, which at noon was 31° 4' W., the latitude observed 57° 38' S. We continued to steer to the south till the 27th, at noon, at which time we were in the latitude of 59° 46' S., and had so thick a fog that we could not see a ship's length. It being no longer safe to sail before the wind, as we were to expect soon to fall in with ice, I therefore hauled to the east, having a gentle breeze at N.N.E. Soon after the fog clearing away, we resumed our course to the south till four o'clock, when it returned again as thick as ever, and made it necessary for us to haul upon a wind.
I now reckoned we were in latitude 60° S., and farther I did not intend to go, unless I observed some certain signs of soon meeting with land. For it would not have been prudent in me to have spent my time in penetrating to the south, when it was at least as probable that a large tract of land might be found near Cape Circumcision. Besides, I was tired of these high southern latitudes, where nothing was to be found but ice and thick fogs. We had now a long hollow swell from the west, a strong indication that there was no land in that direction; so that I think I may venture to assert that the extensive coast, laid down in Mr Dalrymple's chart of the ocean between Africa and America, and the Gulph of St Sebastian, do not exist.
At seven o'clock in the evening, the fog receding from us a little, gave us a sight of an ice island, several penguins and some snow peterels; we sounded, but found no ground at one hundred and forty fathoms. The fog soon returning, we spent the night in making boards over that space which we had, in some degree, made ourselves acquainted with in the day.
At eight in the morning of the 28th, we stood to the east, with a gentle gale at north; the weather began to clear up; and we found the sea strewed with large and small ice; several penguins, snow peterels, and other birds were seen, and some whales. Soon after we had sun-shine, but the air was cold; the mercury in the thermometer stood generally at thirty-five, but at noon it was 37°; the latitude by observation was 60° 4' S., longitude 29° 23' W.
We continued to stand to the east till half-past two o'clock, p.m., when we fell in, all at once, with a vast number of large ice-islands, and a sea strewed with loose ice. The weather too was become thick and hazy, attended with drizzling rain and sleet, which made it the more dangerous to stand in among the ice. For this reason we tacked and stood back to the west, with the wind at north. The ice-islands, which at this time surrounded us, were nearly all of equal height, and shewed a flat even surface; but they were of various extent, some being two or three miles in circuit. The loose ice was what had broken from these isles.
Next morning, the wind falling and veering to S.W., we steered N.E.; but this coarse was soon intercepted by numerous ice-islands; and, having but very little wind, we were obliged to steer such courses as carried us the clearest of them; so that we hardly made any advance, one way or other, during the whole day. Abundance of whales and penguins were about us all the time; and the weather fair, but dark and gloomy.
At midnight the wind began to freshen at N.N.E., with which we stood to the N.W., till six in the morning of the 30th, when the wind veering to N.N.W., we tacked and stood to N.E., and soon after sailed through a good deal of loose ice, and passed two large islands. Except a short interval of clear weather about nine o'clock, it was continually foggy, with either sleet or snow. At noon we were, by our reckoning, in the latitude of 59° 3O' S., longitude 29° 24' W.
Continuing to stand to N.E. with a fresh breeze at N.N.W., at two o'clock, we passed one of the largest ice-islands we had seen in the voyage, and some time after passed two others, which were much smaller; Weather still foggy, with sleet: And the wind continued at N. by W., with which we stood to N.E., over a sea strewed with ice.
At half an hour past six next morning, as we were standing N.N.E. with the wind at west, the fog very fortunately clearing away a little, we discovered land ahead, three or four miles distant. On this we hauled the wind to the north; but finding we could not weather the land on this tack, we soon after tacked in one hundred and seventy-five fathoms water, three miles from the shore, and about half a league from some breakers. The weather then cleared up a little more, and gave us a tolerably good sight of the land. That which we had fallen in with proved three rocky islets of considerable height. The outermost terminated in a lofty peak like a sugar-loaf, and obtained the name of Freezeland Peak, after the man who first discovered it. Latitude 59° S., longitude 27° W. Behind this peak, that is to the east of it, appeared an elevated coast, whose lofty snow-clad summits were seen above the clouds. It extended from N. by E. to E.S.E., and I called it Cape Bristol, in honour of the noble family of Hervey. At the same time another elevated coast appeared in sight, bearing S.W. by S., and at noon it extended from S.E. to S.S.W., from four to eight leagues distant; at this time the observed latitude was 59° 13' 30" S., longitude 27° 45' W. I called this land Southern Thule, because it is the most southern land that has ever yet been discovered. It shews a surface of vast height, and is every where covered with snow. Some thought they saw land in the space between Thule and Cape Bristol. It is more than probable that these two lands are connected, and that this space is a deep bay, which I called Forster's Bay.
At one o'clock, finding that we could not weather Thule, we tacked and stood to the north, and at four, Freezeland Peak bore east, distant three or four leagues. Soon after, it fell little wind, and we were left to the mercy of a great westerly swell, which set right upon the shore. We sounded, but a line of two hundred fathoms found no bottom.
At eight o'clock, the weather, which had been very hazy, clearing up, we saw Cape Bristol bearing E.S.E., and terminating in a point to the north, beyond which we could see no land. This discovery relieved us from the fear of being carried by the swell on the most horrible coast in the world, and we continued to stand to the north all night, with a light breeze at west.
On the 1st of February, at four o'clock in the morning, we got sight of a new coast, which at six o'clock bore N. 60° east. It proved a high promontory, which I named Cape Montagu, situated in latitude 58° 27' S., longitude 26° 44' west, and seven or eight leagues to the north of Cape Bristol. We saw land from space to space between them, which made me conclude that the whole was connected. I was sorry I could not determine this with greater certainty; but prudence would not permit me to venture near a coast, subject to thick fogs, on which there was no anchorage; where every port was blocked or filled up with ice; and the whole country, from the summits of the mountains, down to the very brink of the cliffs which terminate the coast, covered, many fathoms thick, with everlasting snow. The cliffs alone was all which was to be seen like land.
Several large ice-islands lay upon the coast; one of which attracted my notice. It had a flat surface, was of considerable extent both in height and circuit, and had perpendicular sides, on which the waves of the sea had made no impression; by which I judged that it had not been long from land, and that it might lately have come out of some bay on the coast, where it had been formed.
At noon we were east and west of the northern part of Cape Montagu, distant about five leagues, and Freezeland Peak bore S. 16° east, distant twelve leagues; latitude observed 58° 25' S. In the morning the variation was 10° 11' east. At two in the afternoon, as we were standing to the north, with a light breeze at S.W., we saw land bearing N. 25' east, distant fourteen leagues. Cape Montagu bore at this time, S. 66° east; at eight it bore S. 40° east; Cape Bristol, S. by E.; the new land extending from N. 40° to 52° east; and we thought we saw land still more to the east, and beyond it.
Continuing to steer to the north all night, at six o'clock the next morning a new land was seen bearing N. 12° east, about ten leagues distant. It appeared in two hummocks just peeping above the horizon; but we soon after lost sight of them; and having got the wind at N.N.E. a fresh breeze, we stood for the northernmost land we had seen the day before, which at this time bore E.S.E. We fetched in with it by ten o'clock, but could not weather it, and were obliged to tack three miles from the coast, which extended from E. by S. to S.E., and had much the appearance of being an island of about eight or ten leagues circuit. It shews a surface of considerable height, whose summit was lost in the clouds, and, like all the neighbouring lands, covered with a sheet of snow and ice, except in a projecting point on the north side, and two hills seen over this point, which probably might be two islands. These only were clear of snow, and seemed covered with a green turf. Some large ice islands lay to the N.E., and some others to the south.
We stood off till noon, and then tacked for the land again, in order to see whether it was an island or no. The weather was now become very hazy, which soon turning to a thick fog, put a stop to discovery, and made it unsafe to stand for the shore; so that after having run the same distance in, as we had run off, we tacked and stood to N.W., for the land we had seen in the morning, which was yet at a considerable distance. Thus we were obliged to leave the other, under the supposition of its being an island, which I named Saunders, after my honourable friend Sir Charles. It is situated in the latitude of 57° 49' south longitude, 26° 44' west; and north, distant thirteen leagues, from Cape Montagu.
At six o'clock in the evening, the wind shifting to the west, we tacked, and stood to the north; and at eight the fog clearing away, gave us a sight of Saunders's Isle, extending from S.E. by S. to E.S.E. We were still in doubt if it was an island; for, at this time, land was seen bearing E. by S., which might or might not be connected with it; it might also be the same that we had seen the preceding evening. But, be this as it may, it was now necessary to take a view of the land to the north, before we proceeded any farther to the east. With this intention, we stood to the north, having a light breeze at W. by S., which at two o'clock in the morning of the 3d, was succeeded by a calm that continued till eight, when we got the wind at E. by S. attended by hazy weather. At this time we saw the land we were looking for, and which proved to be two isles. The day on which they were discovered, was the occasion of calling them Candlemas Isles; latitude 57° 11' S., longitude 27° 6' W. They were of no great extent, but of considerable height, and were covered with snow. A small rock was seen between them, and perhaps there may be more; for the weather was so hazy that we soon lost sight of the islands, and did not see them again till noon, at which time they bore west, distant three or four leagues.
As the wind kept veering to the south, we were obliged to stand to the N.E., in which route we met with several large ice islands, loose ice, and many penguins; and at midnight, came at once into water uncommonly white, which alarmed the officer of the watch so much, that he tacked the ship instantly. Some thought it was a float of ice; others that it was shallow water; but, as it proved neither, probably it was a shoal of fish.
We stood to the south till two o'clock next morning, when we resumed our course to the east with a faint breeze at S.S.E. which having ended in a calm, at six, I took the opportunity of putting a boat in the water to try if there were any current; and the trial proved there was none. Some whales were playing about us, and abundance of penguins: a few of the latter were shot, and they proved to be of the same sort that we had seen among the ice before, and different both from those on Staten Land, and from those at the isle of Georgia. It is remarkable, that we had not seen a seal since we left that coast. At noon we were in latitude of 56° 44' S., longitude 25° 33' W. At this time we got a breeze at east, with which we stood to the south, with a view of gaining the coast we had left; but at eight o'clock the wind shifted to the south, and made it necessary to tack and stand to the east; in which course we met with several ice-islands and some loose ice; the weather continuing hazy with snow and rain.
No penguins were seen on the 5th, which made me conjecture that we were leaving the land behind us, and that we had already seen its northern extremity. At noon we were in the latitude of 57° 8' S., longitude 23° 34' west, which was 3° of longitude to the east of Saunders's Isle. In the afternoon the wind shifted to the west; this enabled us to stretch to the south, and to get into the latitude of the land, that, if it took an east direction, we might again fall in with it.
We continued to steer to the south and S.E. till next day at noon, at which time we were in the latitude of 58° 15' S., longitude 21° 34' west, and seeing neither land nor signs of any, I concluded that what we had seen, which I named Sandwich Land, was either a group of islands, or else a point of the continent. For I firmly believe that there is a tract of land near the Pole which is the source of most of the ice that is spread over this vast southern ocean. I also think it probable that it extends farthest to the north opposite the southern Atlantic and Indian oceans; because ice was always found by us farther to the north in these oceans than any where else, which I judge could not be, if there were not land to the south; I mean a land of considerable extent. For if we suppose that no such land exists, and that ice may be formed without it, it will follow of course that the cold ought to be every where nearly equal round the Pole, as far as 70° or 60' of latitude, or so far as to be beyond the influence of any of the known continents; consequently we ought to see ice every where under the same parallel, or near it; and yet the contrary has been, found. Very few ships have met with ice going round Cape Horn: And we saw but little below the sixtieth degree of latitude, in the Southern Pacific Ocean. Whereas in this ocean, between the meridian of 40° west and 50° or 60° east, we found ice as far north as 51°. Bouvet met with, some in 48°, and others have seen it in a much lower latitude. It is true, however, that the greatest part of this southern continent (supposing there is one), must lie within the polar circle, where the sea is so pestered with ice, that the land is thereby inaccessible. The risque one runs in exploring a coast, in these unknown and icy seas, is so very great, that I can be bold enough to say that no man will ever venture farther than I have done; and that the lands which may lie to the south will never be explored. Thick fogs, snow storms, intense cold, and every other thing that can render navigation dangerous, must be encountered, and these difficulties are greatly heightened by the inexpressibly horrid aspect of the country; a country doomed by nature never once to feel the warmth of the sun's rays, but to lie buried in everlasting snow and ice. The ports which may be on the coast, are, in a manner, wholly filled up with frozen snow of vast thickness; but if any should be so far open as to invite a ship into it, she would run a risque of being fixed there for ever, or of coming out in an ice island. The islands and floats on the coast, the great falls from the ice-cliffs in the port, or a heavy snow-storm attended with a sharp frost, would be equally fatal.
After such an explanation as this, the reader must not expect to find me much farther to the south. It was, however, not for want of inclination, but for other reasons. It would have been rashness in me to have risqued all that had been done during the voyage, in discovering and exploring a coast, which, when discovered and explored, would have answered no end whatever, or have been of the least use, either to navigation or geography, or indeed to any other science. Bouvet's discovery was yet before us, the existence of which was to be cleared up; and, besides all this, we were not now in a condition to undertake great things; nor indeed was there time, had we been ever so well provided.
|This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.|