The Endeavour Journal of Sir Joseph Banks/May 1771

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1771 May 1.

In the Morn at daybreak saw the Island of St Helena about six Leagues ahead; consequently before noon arrivd in the Road where we found his Majesties ship Portland Capt Elliot, sent out to convoy home the India men on account of the likeleyhood of a breach with Spain, also his Majesties sloop Swallow which had the day before brought word of the Pacifick measures adopted by that court, also 12 Sail of Indiamen.

1771 May 2.

As the fleet was to sail immediately and our ship to accompany it, it became necessary to make as much of a short time as possible, so this whole day was employd in riding about the Island, in the course of which we made very nearly the Compleat Circuit of it visiting all the most remarkable places that we had been told of.

1771 May 3.

Spent this day in Botanizing on the Ridge where the Cabbage trees grow, visiting Cuckolds point and Dianas peak, the Highest land in the Island as settled by the Observations of Mr Maskelyne, who was sent out to this Island by the Royal Society for the Purpose of Observing the transit of Venus in the Year [1761]. See Account of St Helena below

1771 May 4. Depart St Helens for England

Saild after dinner in company with 12 Indiamen and his Majesties ship Portland, resolvd to steer homewards with all expedition in Order (if possible) to bring home the first news of our voyage, as we found that many Particulars of it has transpird and particularly that a copy of the Latitudes and Longitudes of most or all the principal places we had been at had been taken by the Captns Clerk from the Captns own Journals and Given or Sold to one of the India Captns. War we had no longer the least suspicion of: the India men being orderd to sail immediately without waiting for the few who were not yet arrivd was a sufficient proof that our freinds at home were not at all apprehensive of it.

1771 May 6.

Pleasant breeze but our ship very far astern; she certainly sails worse than any one of the fleet yet as she keeps up with [them] at least in sight hope they will not get home much before us.

1771 May 7.

Still kept company and today were abreast of the headmost ship. Many flying fish were seen and some few Birds.

1771 May 10.

This day we saw the Island of Ascencion which is tolerably high Land; Our Captn however did not chuse to anchor unwilling to give the fleet so much start of him. Those who have been ashore upon this Island say that it is little more than a heap of Cinders, the remains of a Volcano which burnt even since the discovery of the Indies. Osbeck who was ashore upon it found only 5 species of plants but I am much inclind to beleive that there are others which escapd his notice, as he certainly was not on the side of the Island where the French land, in which place I have been informd is a pretty wide plain coverd with herbage among which grows Cactus Opuntia, a plant not seen by that gentleman.

1771 May 11.

Pleasant weather. Saw Holothuria Physalis which our seamen call Portugese man of war for the first time since we left these seas in going out.

1771 May 12.

Rainy misty weather, the air very damp and unwholesome, the breeze however continues.

1771 May 15.

Our trade begins now to slacken very much. A man of war bird was seen.

1771 May 16.

Caugh[t] a small Shark.

1771 May 17.

Struck one bonito weighing near 20 pounds.

1771 May 18.

Our trade wind gone to day, the winds variable and very light.

1771 May 19.

Squally with frequent calms, such weather as ships never fail to meet with in passing from one trade wind to the other: to make the most however of this disagreable weather we went on Board the Portland and spent the day with Captn Elliot.

1771 May 23.

Calms still continued. Dind on board the Portland with Captn Elliot; while on board her saw a common house martin flying about the Ship.

1771 May 26.

Heavy rain and frequent squalls from the NE gave us great reason to expect the trade very quickly. During the day we were very much ahead of the Fleet, at night however they came up with us fast.

1771 May 27.

In the night the wind settled at NE and in the morn to our great [surprize] we had no sight of the Fleet even from our mast heads so were obligd to jogg on by ourselves. A bird something like a gannet but darker was seen about the ship which settled upon the water and remaind there till out of sight.

1771 May 29.

Fresh trade which quickly releivd every body from the depression of spirits etc. which is the constant companions of the Damp Calms we have now passd through.

1771 May 30.

Trade very fresh indeed with a heavy sea, so that the Ship pitchd and tumbled very disagreably to us whoom a continuance of fine weather has made almost unfit for a Gale.