Arthur Kitson.

The Life of Captain James Cook online

. (page 7 of 22)
Online LibraryArthur KitsonThe Life of Captain James Cook → online text (page 7 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

deed thought likely to impress the natives with respect for the white
man's weapon. On their road back to camp they were alarmed by a musket
shot, and hurrying on, found that one of the sentries had been pushed
down and his musket stolen, so the midshipman in command had ordered a
shot to be fired at the thief, who was killed, but the musket was not
recovered. All the natives ran away but one, whom Cook calls Awhaa, and
whom the Master, Mr. Molineaux, who had been out with Wallis, recognised
as being a man of some authority. Through Awhaa an attempt was made to
arrange matters, but the natives were very shy when the English landed
the next day. However, the two chiefs who had first made friends, to whom
the names of Lycurgus and Hercules had been given, again came on board,
bringing presents of pigs and bread-fruit; they concluded as Hercules's
present was the larger, he was the richer and therefore the more
important chief. To lessen the chances of disagreements in trading and to
keep some control of prices, Cook ordered that only one person should
conduct the purchasing for the ship, and as Banks had shown aptitude in
dealing with the natives, he was appointed. The natives were to be
treated "with every imaginable humanity."

On the 16th Mr. Buchan, the artist, had another epileptic fit, which was
unfortunately fatal, and he was buried at sea in order to run no risk of
offending against any of the customs or superstitions of the natives.
Cook, in referring to his death, says: "He will be greatly missed in the
course of this voyage."

In the afternoon the ship was brought into such a position as to command
the site of the proposed camp, and as there was to be an eclipse of one
of Jupiter's satellites, Cook and Green stayed ashore to get an
observation, but the weather was unpropitious.


The camp was now got into order; the north and south sides were protected
by a bank 4 feet 6 inches high on the inside, having a ditch 10 feet wide
and 6 feet deep on the outside. The west side, facing the bay, had a 4
foot bank crowned by a palisade, with no ditch; and the east side, on the
bank of the river, was protected by a double row of water casks. The
armament consisted of two carriage guns on the weakest or east side, and
six swivel guns, two on each of the other sides. The garrison was
forty-five men, including civilians, and Cook considered it was
practically impregnable. In the manuscripts department of the British
Museum is a pen and ink sketch and plan of the fort, drawn by Cook, which
agrees much better with the description than the engraving of Parkinson's
drawing published in the History of the Voyage. The natives were
disturbed by these preparations, some even leaving the bay, but when no
dreadful results occurred, they took courage and returned.

The fort completed, the instruments were landed and put into the required
positions to be prepared for their work, and the following morning the
quadrant, which had not been removed from the case in which it was packed
in London, was found to be missing, although a sentry had been stationed
within five yards of it the whole night. Enquiries were made, and it was
elicited that the thief had been seen making off with it. Banks, his
native friend, and one or two of the English at once started, closely
followed by Cook and a party of marines. After a long chase the quadrant
was recovered, but some of the smaller parts were missing. After a time
these also were returned in the case of a horse-pistol which had been
stolen from Banks, and soon after the pistol was recovered, and they were
able to return to camp. On their arrival they found Cook's friend,
Dootahah (Hercules), had been detained as a hostage, so he was at once
released, to the great delight of the natives, who had been much alarmed
to see the armed party go into the woods. In order to show his gratitude
for his release Dootahah sent a present of two hogs to Cook, for which he
refused to take any return; but, afterwards, second thoughts proved best,
and he sent a man to ask for an axe and a shirt, and to say he was going
away, and would not be back for ten days. As the supplies of vegetables
and fruit in the market had been decreasing in quantity, it was thought
better to refuse the present in hopes he would apply for it in person,
and arrangements could then be made for a regular market, but he sent
some one else again, and so word was returned that Cook and Banks would
bring it to him the following day. For fear this promise should be
forgotten, Dootahah again sent his man, and Cook and Banks started off in
the pinnace. On their arrival they were received by a large crowd, which
was kept in order by a man in an immense turban, armed with a long white
stick, "which he applied to the people with great judgment and relish."
The party were conducted to a large tree, and very graciously received by
Dootahah, who immediately asked for his axe, which was given him,
together with a shirt and a piece of broadcloth made into a boat-cloak.
He put on the cloak and gave the shirt to the man with the stick, and
refreshments were served. They were afterwards entertained with dancing
and wrestling, and then Dootahah accompanied them back to the ship,
taking his supplies for dinner; and when it became known he was on board,
trading was resumed.

A day or two after, Banks received an urgent message from his friend
Taburai (Lycurgus), saying he was very ill. He complained of having been
poisoned by one of the sailors. It seems he had noticed the sailors
chewing, and had ask for a quid, had bitten off a piece and swallowed it.
Banks prescribed large draughts of coconut milk, with happy results.


Flies were a terrible pest; they got into everything, and ate off the
artist's colours almost as fast as they were laid on. Tar and molasses
was tried as a trap for them, but the natives stole it and used it as
ointment for sores. The surf-riding struck the visitors with admiration.
Swimming out with a piece of board they would mount it, and come in on
the crests of the waves; and Banks says he does not believe that any
European could have lived amongst the breakers as they did; he especially
admired the manner they timed the waves and dived beneath on their way
out from shore.

A blacksmith's forge had been set up, and in spare time the smith would
fashion old iron into axes or repair old axes for the natives; and it was
noticed that some of these old axes were not of English make, and it
appeared unlikely they were obtained from the Dolphin. At length it was
ascertained that since Wallis's visit in that vessel, two ships had
anchored off the east coast, and it was concluded from the description
given by the natives of the flags that they were Spanish, but on the
arrival of the Endeavour at Batavia they were able to identify them as
the French ships commanded by M. de Bougainville, whose crews were
suffering very severely from scurvy at the time.

Paying a visit to Dootahah to see if a supply of fresh meat, which was
running very short, could be obtained, they were received in a very
friendly manner, but being delayed till it was too late to return to the
ship by daylight, they remained all night, and as a consequence nearly
every one found they had lost some property; Cook's stockings were stolen
from under his pillow, where he had placed them for safety. Perhaps as
consolation for their losses they were entertained during the night to a
concert. Three drums and four flutes, the latter having four holes into
one of which the performer blew with his nostrils, were the orchestra,
and Cook's criticism is hardly complimentary: "The music and singing were
so much of a piece that I was very glad when it was over." They waited
till noon the next day in hopes of meat and the return of the stolen
articles, but in vain, though Dootahah promised he would bring all to the
ship - "a promise we had no reason to expect he would fulfil."


The important day of the observation was now approaching, and everything
was in readiness. In order to diminish the risk of disappointment through
local atmospheric disturbance, Cook sent a party to Eimeo (York Island),
and a second one to the south-east of Otaheite, as far to the east of
Point Venus as possible. The first party consisted of Lieutenant Gore,
Banks, Sporing, and Monkhouse, and the second of Lieutenant Hicks,
Clerke, Pickersgill, and Saunders, Mr. Green providing the necessary
instruments. At Fort Venus everything was in good working order. The
astronomical clock was set up in the large tent, being placed in a strong
frame made for the purpose at Greenwich, and was then planted in the
ground as firmly as possible and fenced round to prevent accidental
disturbance. Twelve feet away the observatory was placed, comprising the
telescopes on their stands, the quadrant securely fixed on the top of a
cask of wet sand firmly set in the ground, and the journeyman clock. The
telescopes used by Cook and Green were two reflecting ones made by Mr. J.

"The 3rd of June proved as favourable to our purposes as we could wish.
Not a cloud to be seen the whole day and the air was perfectly clear, so
that we had every advantage we could desire in observing the whole
passage of the Planet Venus over the Sun's Disk. We very distinctly saw
the atmosphere or Dusky Shade round the body of the planet, which very
much disturbed the time of contact, particularly the two internal ones.
Dr. Solander observed as well as Mr. Green and myself, and we differ'd
from one another in observing the times of contact much more than could
be expected. Mr. Green's telescope and mine were of the same magnifying
power, but that of the Doctor was greater than ours. It was nearly calm
the whole day, and the thermometer exposed to the sun about the middle of
the day rose to a degree of heat we have not before met with."

In the report published in the Philosophical Transactions he also refers
to the heat:

"Every wished-for favourable circumstance attended the whole of the day,
without one single impediment excepting the heat, which was intolerable;
the thermometer which hung by the clock and was exposed to the sun, as we
were, was one time as high as 119 degrees."

This report is accompanied by diagrams illustrating the different
contacts and the effects of the penumbra, which Cook believed was better
seen by Solander than by himself or Green. It was estimated at about
seven-eighths of the diameter of the planet, and was visible to Cook
throughout the whole Transit.

The times taken by Green were:

The first external contact: 9 hours 25 minutes 42 seconds A.M.
The first internal contact: 9 hours 44 minutes 4 seconds A.M.
The second internal contact: 3 hours 14 minutes 8 seconds P.M.
The second external contact: 3 hours 22 minutes 10 seconds P.M.

The other two parties were equally successful, and at times Banks was
able to employ himself in trading with the natives, with whom he soon got
on friendly terms; in fact, he had to decline further purchases as he had
as much as they could take away with them. He was also successful in his
botanical enquiries, obtaining several plants he had not seen in

Whilst the observations were being taken some of the crew broke into the
store and stole a quantity of the large nails that were used as a medium
of trade with the islanders. One man was found with seven in his
possession, and after careful enquiry was sentenced to two dozen lashes,
which seems to have been the severest sentence meted out by Cook during
the voyage. The sentence was carried out, and though it was well known
that more than one was implicated, he refused to name any one else, but
suffered in silence.


The King's Birthday being on 5th June, Cook entertained several of the
chiefs at dinner, and the health of Kilnargo was toasted so many times by
some of them that the result was disastrous. One of the presents received
from a chief was a dog, which they were informed was good to eat. After
some discussion it was handed to a native named Tupia, who had made
himself very useful, and afterwards accompanied them on the voyage; and
he having smothered it with his hands, and drawn it, wrapped it in leaves
and baked it in a native oven. With some hesitation it was tasted, and
met with general approval. Cook says: "Therefore we resolved for the
future never to despise dog flesh"; and in another place he says they put
dog's flesh "next only to English lamb." These dogs were bred for eating,
and lived entirely on vegetable food.

The main object of their stay at Otaheite having been attained, steps
were taken for further prosecution of the voyage; the ship was careened,
her bottom scraped and found free from worm, but the boats had suffered,
particularly the long-boat, which had to have a new bottom. She had been
varnished only; the other boats, painted with white lead, had not
suffered so much. The stores were overhauled, and the ship was fitted for
sea. Whilst these preparations were being made, Cook and Banks made a
circuit of the island in the pinnace to examine the coast. Several good
anchorages were found, with from sixteen to twenty-four fathoms and good
holding ground. The south-east portion was almost cut off from the
mainland by a narrow, marshy isthmus about two miles wide, over which the
natives dragged their canoes with little difficulty. On the south coast
one of the large burying-places was seen; by far the most extensive one
on the island. It is described as:

"a long square of stonework built pyramidically; its base is 267 feet by
87 feet; at the Top it is 250 feet by 8 feet. It is built in the same
manner as we do steps leading up to a sun-dial or fountain erected in the
middle of a square, where there is a flite of steps on each side. In this
building there are 11 of such steps; each step is about 4 feet in height,
and the breadth 4 feet 7 inches, but they decreased both in height and
breadth from the bottom to the Top. On the middle of the Top stood the
image of a Bird carved in wood, near it lay the broken one of a Fish,
carved in stone. There was no hollow or cavity in the inside, the whole
being filled up with stones. The outside was faced partly with hewn
stones, and partly with others, and these were placed in such a manner as
to look very agreeable to the eye. Some of the hewn stones were 4 feet 7
inches by 2 feet 4 inches, and 15 inches thick, and had been squared and
polished with some sort of an edge tool. On the east side was, enclosed
with a stone wall, a piece of ground in form of a square, 360 feet by
354, in this was growing several cypress trees and plantains. Round about
this Morie were several smaller ones, all going to decay, and on the
Beach, between them and the sea, lay scattered up and down, a great
quantity of human bones. Not far from the Great Morie, was 2 or 3 pretty
large altars, where lay the scull bones of some Hogs and Dogs. This
monument stands on the south side of Opooreanoo, upon a low point of land
about 100 yards from the sea. It appeared to have been built many years
and was in a state of decay, as most of their Mories are. "

They were quite unable to gain information as to the history of these
remains, nor of the religious belief of the islander, though they
appeared to have some vague notions of a future life.


When the party returned to Point Venus, they found the refitting nearly
complete, but the anchor stocks all had to be renewed owing to the
ravages of the sea worms, so Banks and Monkhouse made an excursion up the
river on which the camp was situated. In about nine miles the precipitous
banks had completely closed them in, and further advance was blocked by a
cliff, at least 100 feet high, over which the river fell. The natives
with them said they had never been further, so the expedition returned.
Charles Darwin, in 1835, made an attempt to ascend the same river, and
though he penetrated some distance further, he describes the country as
extremely difficult; he saw several places where two or three determined
men could easily hold at bay many times their own number.

Gardens had been laid out during their stay, and European seeds were
planted which were very fairly successful; except some brought out by
Cook in carefully sealed bottles, none of which turned out well.

Some of the sailors were either enticed away, or attempted to desert, so
Cook seized one or two of the chiefs as hostages, and the runaways were
quickly returned. Some of the natives were anxious to go away with them,
and Banks persuaded Cook to let him take Tupia, a man supposed to be of
priestly rank, who had proved himself very useful on several occasions,
and he was allowed to take with him a boy as servant. Cook records, on
leaving, that during the three months' stay they had been on very good
terms with the natives, and the few misunderstandings that did occur rose
either from the difficulty of explaining matters to each other, or else
from the inveterate habits of theft on the part of the natives - iron in
any shape being simply irresistible.

On 13th July the Endeavour sailed for Huaheine, anchoring inside the reef
on the north-west, on the 17th. Banks, Solander, Monkhouse, and Tupia at
once accompanied Cook ashore, where a ceremony, presumed to be a sort of
treaty of peace, was gone through, and then they were permitted to go
where they liked. On this ceremonial Cook says:

"It further appear'd that the things which Tupia gave away, was for the
God of this people, as they gave us a hog and some coconuts for our God,
and thus they have certainly drawn us in to commit sacrilege, for the Hog
hath already received sentence of Death and is to be dissected tomorrow."


A market was organised by Monkhouse, and as soon as the natives
understood that the stay of the ship would be very short, they managed to
produce a fairly good supply of fruits and vegetables. The people were
found to be rather lighter complexioned, and certainly not so addicted to
thieving as the Otaheitans. As a memorial of the visit, Cook gave the
chief a plate with the inscription, "His Britannick Majesty's Ship,
Endeavour, Lieutenant Cook, Commander, 16th July, 1769, Huaheine." He
also added "some medals, or counters of the English coins, struck in
1761, and other presents," and the recipient promised he would never part
with them. From this place they went on to Ulietea (Raiatea), landing on
the 21st; and after another ceremonial the English "Jack" was hoisted,
and possession taken of the whole group in the name of King George. Tupia
proved himself an excellent pilot, with great knowledge of the
localities, and, having sent down a diver at Huaheine to ascertain the
exact draught of the ship, he was very careful she never went into less
than five fathoms of water. He had evidently had great experience in
navigating these seas in canoes, boats of whose construction and sailing
qualities Cook speaks in the highest terms. Banks at this time remarks,
"we have now seen 17 islands in these seas, and have landed on five of
the most important; the language, manners and customs agreed most

Detained by adverse wind off Ataha, and finding the water coming badly
into the fore sail-room and powder-room, Cook put into the west side to
repair and take in ballast, as the ship was getting too light to carry
sail on a wind. He took the opportunity to survey to the north with Banks
and Solander. Putting into one place, they were well received and
entertained with music and dancing, and Cook's verdict was that "neither
their Musick or Dancing were at all calculated to please a European." A
sort of farce was also acted, but they could make nothing of it, except
that it "showed that these people have a notion of Dramatic

During the whole stay in the Society Group they had been very well off
for fresh food, consequently their sea stores had been little called on.

Jarvis, in his History of the Hawaiian or Sandwich Islands, says that
with Cook "a silence in regard to the maritime efforts of his
predecessors is observable throughout his Journals"; and as a proof that
he traded on the knowledge of others, he remarks that at Otaheite he made
enquiries if there were any islands to the north; and afterwards evinced
no surprise when he discovered them. Now Cook in his Journals constantly
shows that he compares his knowledge with that of others, and often
regrets he has not further records to consult. As for his enquiries, he
would have been grossly neglecting his duty had he not made them, for it
was only a commonsense method of procedure, which evidently Mr. Jarvis
could not understand. The result of these enquiries can be seen in the
British Museum in the shape of a map drawn by Cook from information given
by Tupia. On it are some sentences in the Otaheitan language.


Leaving the Society Islands on 9th August, they were off Ohetiroa
(Rurutu), in the Central Group, on the 14th, but the natives were
unfriendly, and they did not land. A canoe came out to meet the pinnace
which had been sent to obtain information. The occupants, on being
presented with gifts, tried to steal the lot, and were fired over, but by
some mischance one of the natives was slightly wounded in the head,
whereupon they hurriedly retreated, and further attempts at communication
were abandoned. From this place the course was laid to the south to
strike the much-talked-of Southern Continent. The weather rapidly got
colder, and the pigs and fowls began to sicken and die. On 26th August
they celebrated the anniversary of leaving England by cutting a Cheshire
cheese and tapping a cask of porter, which proved excellent.

On the 28th an unfortunate death occurred; the boatswain's mate, John
Reading, was given some rum by his chief, and it is supposed drunk it off
at once, for he was shortly afterwards found to be very drunk, and was
taken to his berth, but next morning was past recovery.

On 2nd September, in latitude 40 degrees 22 minutes South, the weather
was very bad, and "having not the least visible signs of land," Cook
again turned northwards, in order to get better weather and then to push
west. The continuous swell convinced him there was no large body of land
to the south for many leagues. Towards the end of September frequent
signs were noted of being near land, floating seaweed, wood, the
difference in the birds, etc., so a gallon of rum was offered to the
first to sight land, and on 7th October the North Island of New Zealand,
never before approached from the east by Europeans, was seen by a boy
named Nicholas Young, the servant of Mr. Perry, surgeon's mate. The boy's
name is omitted from the early muster sheets of the ship, but appears on
18th April 1769, entered as A.B. in the place of Peter Flower, drowned.
Cook named the point seen, the south-west point of Poverty Bay, Young
Nick's Head.

Tasman had discovered the west coast in 1642, and had given it the name
of Staten Land, but he never set foot on shore. He was driven away by the
natives, who killed four of his men, and naming the place Massacre (now
Golden) Bay, he sailed along the north-west coast, giving the headlands
the names they still bear. Dalrymple held that this land discovered by
Tasman was the west coast of the looked-for Terra Australis Incognita,
and his theory was now shattered.


Nearing the coast a bay was discovered into which the ship sailed, and
let go her anchor near the mouth of a small river, not far from where the
town of Guisborne now stands. Plenty of smoke was seen, showing the
country was inhabited, and the pinnace and yawl were manned and armed,
and Cook landed on the east side of the river. Some natives were seen on
the other side, and, to try to open communications, the yawl, pulled by
four boys, entered the river, whilst Cook followed up the natives, who
had retreated towards some huts about 300 yards away. Some Maoris,
thinking the boys would be an easy prey, tried to steal on the yawl, but
the coxswain of the pinnace observing them called the boat back. One of
the Maoris raised his spear to throw, and the coxswain fired over his
head, causing a moment's pause of surprise; but, seeing nothing further,
he again prepared to throw his spear, so the coxswain shot him, and his
friends retreated at once, leaving the body behind. Cook at once ordered
a return to the ship, as it was now getting dark.

The next morning, seeing some men near the same place, Cook again landed

1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryArthur KitsonThe Life of Captain James Cook → online text (page 7 of 22)