Page:A Voyage to Terra Australis Volume 1.djvu/43

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North Coast.]
xxi
INTRODUCTION.

Bligh and
Portlock
1792.

Island bearing N. 6o° W., three leagues. Betwixt a sand-bank, called Canoe Key, which bore S. 6o° W., two leagues, and a reef lying in the W. by S., there appeared to be a passage, which the boats were sent to examine.

On the 5th, boats were again sent to sound the passage. Several large sailing canoes were seen; and the cutter making the signal for assistance, the pinnace was sent to her, well manned and armed. On the return of the boats in the afternoon, it appeared, that, of four canoes which used their efforts to get up to the cutter, one succeeded. There were in it fifteen Indians, black, and quite naked; and they made signs which were interpreted to be amicable. These signs the officer imitated; but not thinking it prudent to go so near as to take a green cocoa-nut, which was held up to him, he continued rowing for the ship. A man, who was sitting upon the shed erected in the centre of the canoe, then said something to those below; and immediately they began to string their bows. Two of them had already fitted arrows, when the officer judged it necessary to fire in his own defence. Six muskets were discharged; and the Indians fell flat into the bottom of the canoe, all except the man on the shed: the seventh musket was fired at him, and he fell also. During this time, the canoe dropped astern; and the three others having joined her, they all gave chase to the cutter, trying to cut her off from the ship; in which they would probably have succeeded, had not the pinnace arrived, at that juncture, to her assistance. The Indians then hoisted their sails, and steered for Darnley's Island.

No boats could have been manoeuvred better, in working to windward, than were these long canoes by the naked savages. Had the four been able to reach the cutter, it is difficult to say, whether the superiority of our arms would have been equal to the great difference of numbers; considering the ferocity of these people, and the skill with which they seemed to manage their weapons.

September 6. Two boats were sent a-head; and the vessels

followed them, between Canoe Key and the reef lying from it half a mile