A Voyage to the South Sea/Chapter 4

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Passage towards Van Diemen's Land. Make the Island of St. Paul. Arrival in Adventure Bay. Natives seen. Sail from Van Diemen's Land.

1788. July.
We lost sight of the land the day after leaving False Bay and steered towards the east-south-east, having variable winds the first week with much thunder, lightning and rain. The remainder of this passage the winds were mostly between the south and west blowing strong. There were almost every day great numbers of pintada, albatrosses, blue petrels, and other oceanic birds about us; but it was observed that if the wind came from the northward, only for a few hours, the birds generally left us, and their presence again was the forerunner of a southerly wind.
Sunday 13.
The variation of the compass was 30 degrees 34 minutes west which was the greatest variation we found in this track. Our latitude 36 degrees 28 minutes south and longitude 39 degrees 0 minutes east.
Sunday 20.
The latitude at noon was 40 degrees 30 minutes south and longitude 60 degrees 7 minutes east. We were at this time scudding under the fore-sail and close-reefed main-top-sail, the wind blowing strong from the west. An hour after noon the gale increased and blew with so much violence that the ship was almost driven forecastle under before we could get the sails clewed up. As soon as the sails were taken in we brought the ship to the wind, lowered the lower yards, and got the top-gallant-masts upon deck, which eased the ship very much.
Monday 21.
We remained lying to till eight the next morning when we bore away under a reefed fore-sail. In the afternoon the sea ran so high that it became very unsafe to stand on: we therefore brought to the wind again, and remained lying to all night without accident excepting that the man at the steerage was thrown over the wheel and much bruised.
Tuesday 22.
Towards noon the violence of the storm abated and we again bore away under the reefed fore-sail. Our latitude at noon 38 degrees 49 minutes south: in the afternoon saw some whales.
We continued running to the eastward in this parallel, it being my intention to make the island St. Paul.
Monday 28.
On Monday the 28th at six in the morning we saw the island bearing east by north 12 leagues distant: between 10 and 11 o'clock we ran along the south side at about a league distant from the shore. There was a verdure that covered the higher parts of the land, but I believe it was nothing more than moss which is commonly found on the tops of most rocky islands in these latitudes. We saw several whales near the shore. The extent of this island is five miles from east to west; and about two or three from north to south. As we passed the east end we saw a remarkable high sugarloaf rock, abreast of which I have been informed is good anchorage in 23 fathoms, the east point bearing south-west by south by true compass. I had this information from the captain of a Dutch packet in which I returned to Europe. He likewise said there was good fresh water on the island and a hot spring which boiled fish in as great perfection as on a fire. By his account the latitude which he observed in the road is 38 degrees 39 minutes south; and from the anchoring place the island of Amsterdam was in sight to the northward. We had fair weather all the forenoon, but just at noon a squall came on which was unfavourable for our observation. I had however two sets of double altitudes and a good altitude exactly at noon according to the timekeeper. The result of these gave for the latitude of the centre of St. Paul 38 degrees 47 minutes south. The longitude I make 77 degrees 39 minutes east. The variation of the compass, taking the mean of what it was observed to be the day before we saw the island and the day after, is 19 degrees 30 minutes west.
At noon we were three leagues past the island. We kept on towards the east-south-east, and for several days continued to see rock-weed, which is remarked to be generally the case after ships pass St. Paul's; but to the westward of it very seldom any is seen.
August. Wednesday 13.
In latitude 44 degrees 16 minutes south, longitude 122 degrees 7 minutes east, I observed the variation of the compass to be 6 degrees 23 minutes west. I had no opportunity to observe it again till in the latitude of 43 degrees 56 minutes south, longitude 133 degrees 16 minutes east, when it was 1 degree 38 minutes east; so that we had passed the line of no variation. In 1780, on board the Resolution in latitude 44 degrees 23 minutes south, longitude 131 degrees 28 minutes east, the variation was observed 6 degrees 0 minutes west, which is a remarkable difference. We had much bad weather with snow and hail, and in our approach to Van Diemen's Land nothing was seen to indicate the nearness of the coast, except a seal, when we were within the distance of 20 leagues.
Tuesday 19.
At ten o'clock this afternoon we saw the rock named the Mewstone, that lies near the south-west cape of Van Diemen's Land, bearing north-east about six leagues. The wind blew strong from the north-west. As soon as we had passed the Mewstone we were sheltered from a very heavy sea which ran from the westward. At eight o'clock at night we were abreast of the south cape when the wind became light and variable. Saw several fires inland.
The Mewstone is a high bold rock that lies five leagues to the south-east of the south-west cape and is the part that all ships bound this way should endeavour to make. Its latitude is 43 degrees 46 or 47 minutes. Several islands lie to the northward between that and the main, among which, bearing north by west from the Mewstone, is a high rock much resembling it; and north-north-east from the Mewstone, on the mainland, is a remarkable high mountain, which in this direction appears notched like a cock's comb; but as viewed from the eastward seems round.
Wednesday 20.
All the 20th we were endeavouring to get into Adventure Bay but were prevented by variable winds. The next morning at five o'clock we anchored in the outer part, and at sunrise weighed again: at noon we anchored well in the bay and moored the ship, Penguin Island bearing north 57 1/2 degrees east, about two miles distant; Cape Frederic Henry north 23 degrees east; and the mouth of the Lagoon south 16 degrees east.
In our passage from the Cape of Good Hope the winds were mostly from the westward with very boisterous weather: but one great advantage that this season of the year has over the summer months is in being free from fogs. I have already remarked that the approach of strong southerly winds is announced by many kinds of birds of the albatross or petrel tribe, and the abatement of the gale, or a shift of wind to the northward, by their keeping away. The thermometer also very quickly shows when a change of these winds may be expected by varying sometimes six and seven degrees in its height. I have reason to believe that, after we passed the island St. Paul, there was a westerly current; the ship being every day to the westward of the reckoning, which in the whole, from St. Paul to Van Diemen's land, made a difference of four degrees between the longitude by the reckoning and the true longitude.
Thursday 21.
The ship being moored I went in a boat to look out for the most convenient place to wood and water at, which I found to be at the west end of the beach: for the surf, though considerable, was less there than at any other part of the bay. The water was in a gully about sixty yards from the beach; it was perfectly good but, being only a collection from the rains, the place is always dry in the summer months; for we found no water in it when I was here with Captain Cook in January 1777. We had very little success in hauling the seine; about twenty small flounders, and flat-headed fish called foxes were all that were taken.
I found no signs of the natives having lately frequented this bay or of any European vessels having been here since the Resolution and Discovery in 1777. From some of the old trunks of trees then cut down I saw shoots about twenty-five feet high and fourteen inches in circumference.
In the evening I returned on board.
Friday 22.
The next morning, the 22nd, at daylight, a party was sent on shore for wooding and watering under the command of Mr. Christian and the gunner; and I directed that one man should be constantly employed in washing the people's clothes. There was so much surf that the wood was obliged to be rafted off in bundles to the boat. Mr. Nelson informed me that in his walks today he saw a tree in a very healthy state which he measured and found to be thirty-three feet and a half in girt; its height was proportioned to its bulk.
Saturday 23.
The surf was rather greater than yesterday which very much interrupted our wooding and watering. Nelson today picked up a male opossum that had been recently killed, or had died, for we could not perceive any wound unless it had received a blow on the back where there was a bare place about the size of a shilling. It measured fourteen inches from the ears to the beginning of the tail which was exactly the same length.
Most of the forest trees were at this time shedding their bark. There are three kinds, which are distinguished from each other by their leaves, though the wood appears to be the same. Many of them are full one hundred and fifty feet high; but most of those that we cut down were decayed at the heart. There are, besides the forest trees, several other kinds that are firm good wood and may be cut for most purposes except masts; neither are the forest trees good for masts, on account of their weight, and the difficulty of finding them thoroughly sound. Mr. Nelson asserted that they shed their bark every year, and that they increase more from the seed than by suckers.
I found the tide made a difference of full two feet in the height of the water in the lake at the back of the beach. At high water it was very brackish, but at low tide it was perfectly fresh to the taste, and soap showed no sign of its being the least impregnated. We had better success in fishing on board the ship than by hauling the seine on shore; for with hooks and lines a number of fine rock-cod were caught. I saw today several eagles, some beautiful blue-plumaged herons, and a great variety of parakeets. A few oyster-catchers and gulls were generally about the beach, and in the lake a few wild ducks.
Monday 25.
Being in want of plank I directed a saw-pit to be dug and employed some of the people to saw trees into plank. The greater part of this week the winds were moderate with unsettled weather.
Friday 29.
On Friday it blew strong from the south-west with rain, thunder, and lightning. We continued to catch fish in sufficient quantities for everybody and had better success with the seine. We were fortunate also in angling in the lake where we caught some very fine tench. Some of the people felt a sickness from eating mussels that were gathered from the rocks; but I believe it was occasioned by eating too many. We found some spider-crabs, most of them not good, being the female sort and out of season. The males were tolerably good and were known by the smallness of their two fore-claws or feeders. We saw the trunk of a dead tree on which had been cut A.D. 1773. The figures were very distinct; even the slips made with the knife were discernible. This must have been done by some of captain Furneaux's people in March 1773, fifteen years before. The marks of the knife remaining so unaltered, I imagine the tree must have been dead when it was cut; but it serves to show the durability of the wood for it was perfectly sound at this time. I shot two gannets: these birds were of the same size as those in England; their colour is a beautiful white, with the wings and tail tipped with jet black and the top and back of the head of a very fine yellow. Their feet were black with four claws, on each of which was a yellow line the whole length of the foot. The bill was four inches long, without nostrils, and very taper and sharp-pointed.
The east side of the bay being not so thick of wood as the other parts, and the soil being good, I fixed on it, at Nelson's recommendation, as the most proper situation for planting some of the fruit-trees which I had brought from the Cape of Good Hope. A circumstance much against anything succeeding here is that in the dry season the fires made by the natives are apt to communicate to the dried grass and underwood, and to spread in such a manner as to endanger everything that cannot bear a severe scorching. We however chose what we thought the safest situations, and planted three fine young apple-trees, nine vines, six plantain-trees, a number of orange and lemon-seed, cherry-stones, plum, peach, and apricot-stones, pumpkins, also two sorts of Indian corn, and apple and pear kernels. The ground is well adapted for the trees, being of a rich loamy nature. The spot where we made our plantation was clear of underwood; and we marked the trees that stood nearest to the different things which were planted. Nelson followed the circuit of the bay, planting in such places as appeared most eligible. I have great hopes that some of these articles will succeed. The particular situations I had described in my survey of this place, but I was unfortunately prevented from bringing it home. Near the watering place likewise we planted on a flat, which appeared a favourable situation, some onions, cabbage-roots, and potatoes.
For some days past a number of whales were seen in the bay. They were of the same kind as those we had generally met with before, having two blow-holes on the back of the head.
September. Monday 1.
On the night of the 1st of September we observed for the first time signs of the natives being in the neighbourhood. Fires were seen on the low land near Cape Frederick Henry, and at daylight we saw the natives with our glasses. As I expected they would come round to us I remained all the forenoon near the wooding and watering parties, making observations, the morning being very favourable for that purpose. I was however disappointed in my conjecture for the natives did not appear, and there was too great a surf for a boat to land on the part where we had seen them.
Tuesday 2.
The natives not coming near us, I determined to go after them, and we set out in a boat towards Cape Frederick Henry, where we arrived about eleven o'clock. I found landing impracticable and therefore came to a grapnel, in hopes of their coming to us, for we had passed several fires. After waiting near an hour I was surprised to see Nelson's assistant come out of the wood: he had wandered thus far in search of plants and told me that he had met with some of the natives. Soon after we heard their voices like the cackling of geese, and twenty persons came out of the wood, twelve of whom went round to some rocks where the boat could get nearer to the shore than we then were. Those who remained behind were women.
We approached within twenty yards of them, but there was no possibility of landing and I could only throw to the shore, tied up in paper, the presents which I intended for them. I showed the different articles as I tied them up, but they would not untie the paper till I made an appearance of leaving them. They then opened the parcels and, as they took the articles out, placed them on their heads. On seeing this I returned towards them when they instantly put everything out of their hands and would not appear to take notice of anything that we had given them. After throwing a few more beads and nails on shore I made signs for them to go to the ship, and they likewise made signs for me to land, but as this could not be effected I left them, in hopes of a nearer interview at the watering-place.
When they first came in sight they made a prodigious clattering in their speech and held their arms over their heads. They spoke so quick that I could not catch one single word they uttered. We recollected one man whom we had formerly seen among the party of the natives that came to us in 1777, and who is particularised in the account of Captain Cook's last voyage for his humour and deformity. Some of them had a small stick, two or three feet long, in their hands, but no other weapon.
Their colour, as Captain Cook remarks, is a dull black: their skin is scarified about their shoulders and breast. They were of a middle stature, or rather below it. One of them was distinguished by his body being coloured with red ochre, but all the others were painted black with a kind of soot which was laid on so thick over their faces and shoulders that it is difficult to say what they were like.
They ran very nimbly over the rocks, had a very quick sight, and caught the small beads and nails which I threw to them with great dexterity. They talked to us sitting on their heels with their knees close into their armpits and were perfectly naked.
In my return towards the ship I landed at the point of the harbour near Penguin Island, and from the hills saw the water on the other side of the low isthmus of Cape Frederick Henry, which forms the bay of that name. It is very extensive and in, or near, the middle of the bay there is a low island. From this spot it has the appearance of being a very good and convenient harbour.
The account which I had from Brown, the botanist's assistant, was that in his search for plants he had met an old man, a young woman, and two or three children. The old man at first appeared alarmed, but became familiar on being presented with a knife. He nevertheless sent away the young woman who went very reluctantly. He saw some miserable wigwams, in which were nothing but a few kangaroo skins spread on the ground, and a basket made of rushes.
Among the wood that we cut here we found many scorpions and centipedes, with numerous black ants that were an inch long. We saw no mosquitoes, though in the summer months they are very troublesome.
What is called the New Zealand tea plant grew here in great abundance; so that it was not only gathered and dried to use as tea but made excellent brooms. It bears a small pointed leaf of a pleasant smell, and its seed is contained in a berry, about the size of a pea, notched into five equal parts on the top. The soil on the west and south sides of the bay is black mould with a mixture of fine white sand and is very rich. The trees are lofty and large, and the underwood grows so close together that in many places it is impassable. The east side of the bay is a rich loamy soil; but near the tops of the hills is very much encumbered with stones and rocks: the underwood thinly placed and small. The trees on the south, south-east, and south-west sides of the hills grow to a larger size than those that are exposed to the opposite points; for the sides of the trees open or exposed to the north winds are naked with few branches; while the other sides are in a flourishing state. From this I do not infer that the equatorial are more hurtful than the polar winds; but that the trees by their situation were more sheltered from the one for from the other.
Wednesday 3.
A calm prevented our sailing today. The friendly interview which we had had with the natives made me expect that they would have paid us a visit; but we saw nothing more of them except fires in the night upon the low land to the northward.
The result of the observations which I made here, reduced to Penguin Island, place it in 43 degrees 21 minutes 11 seconds south latitude and in longitude 147 degrees 33 minutes 29 seconds east, which scarcely differs from the observations made in 1777. The variation of the compass observed on shore was 8 degrees 38 minutes east; and on board the ship 8 degrees 29 minutes east. It was high-water at the change of the moon at 49 minutes past six in the morning. The rise was two feet eight inches. Southerly winds, if of any continuance, make a considerable difference in the height of the tides.
Thursday 4.
This forenoon, having a pleasant breeze at north-west, we weighed anchor and sailed out of Adventure Bay. At noon the southernmost part of Maria's Isles bore north 52 degrees east, about five leagues distant; Penguin Island south 86 degrees west; and Cape Frederick Henry north 65 degrees west. In this position we had soundings at 57 fathoms, a sandy bottom. Latitude observed 43 degrees 22 minutes south.
The southern part of Maria's Islands lie in latitude 43 degrees 16 minutes south. The country is not in general woody, but in some of the interior parts there appeared great abundance. Among these islands I have no doubt of there being many convenient places for shipping. On the east side in latitude 42 degrees 42 minutes south and longitude 148 degrees 24 minutes east in July, 1789, Captain Cox of the Mercury found a convenient and secure harbour from all winds which he named Oyster Bay. Here he found wood, water, and fish in great abundance. It has two outlets and lies north, a little easterly, distant 34 miles from the south-easternmost island, or point, seen from Adventure Bay.
Adventure Bay is a convenient and safe place for any number of ships to take in wood and water during the summer months: but in the winter, when the southerly winds are strong, the surf, on all parts of the shore, makes the landing exceedingly troublesome. The bay of Frederick Henry may perhaps be found preferable, as it appears to be equally easy of access. The soundings in Adventure Bay are very regular: near the west shore are some patches of weed but no shoal or danger, the depth on them being from five to nine fathoms.