The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks 1768–1771 [Volume Two]
1. Being Sunday all hands were ashore on liberty, many animals were seen by them. The Indians had a fire about a league off up the river. O[u]r second Lieutenant found the husk of a Cocoa nut full of Barnacles cast up on the Beach; probably it had come from some Island to windward, From Terra del Espirito Santo7 possibly as we are now in its latitude.
7 Espiritu Santo, one of the islands of the New Hebrides. Banks at first writes ‘New Jerusalem’, which was the name given by Quiros to the city he founded, on paper, on Espiritu Santo.
The ship was now finishd and tomorrow being the highest spring tide it was intended to haul her off, so we began to think how we should get out of this place, where so lately to get only in was our utmost ambition. We had observ'd in coming in innumerable shoals and sands all round us so we went upon a high hill to see what passage to the sea might be open. When we came there the Prospect was indeed melancholy: the sea every where full of innumerable shoals, some above and some under water, and no prospect of any streight passage out. To return as we came was impossible, the trade wind blew directly in our teeth; most dangerous then our navigation must be among unknown dangers. How soon might we again be reducd to the misfortune we had so lately escapd! Escapd indeed we had not till we were again in an open sea.
2. A great dew, which is the first we have had, and a Land breeze in the morn the first likewise. The Wild Plantain trees,1 tho their fruit does not serve for food, are to us a most material benefit; we made Baskets of their stalks (a thing we learnd of the Islanders) in which our plants which would not otherwise keep home remain fresh for 2 or 3 days; indeed in a hot climate it is hardly Practicable to go on without such baskets which we call by the Island name of Papa Mya. Our Plants dry better in Paper Books than in Sand, with this precaution, that one person is intirely employd in attending them who shifts them all once a day, exposes the Quires in which they are to the greatest heat of the sun and at night covers them most carefully up from any damps, always carefull not to bring them out too soon in a morning or leave them out too late in the evening. Tide rose not so high as was expected so the ship would not come off.
1 paepae meia, baskets woven of banana leaves.
2 The Giant Clam, Tridacna gigas, the largest of bivalves.
4. The ship has been a good deal straind by laying so long as she has done with her head aground and her stern afloat; so much so that she has sprung a plank between decks abreast the main chains. At night however she was laid ashore again in order if possible to examine if she had got any damage near that place.
5. Went to the other side of the harbour and walkd along a sandy beach open to the trade wind. Here I found innumerable fruits, many of Plants I had not seen in this countrey; among them were some Cocoa nuts that had been open'd (as Tupia told us) by a kind of Crab, calld by the Dutch Beurs Krabbe (Cancer Latro)3 that feeds upon them. All these fruits were incrusted with sea productions and many of them Coverd with Barnacles, a sure sign that they have come far by sea, and as the trade wind blows almost right on shore they must have come from some other countrey — probably that discoverd by Quiros and calld Terra del Esprito Santo4 as the Latitudes according to his own account agree pretty well.
Tupia, who parted from us and walkd away a shooting, on his return told us that he had seen 2 people who were digging in the ground for some kind of roots; on seeing him they ran away with great precipitation.
1 Probably the Estuarine Crocodile, Crocodilus porosus Schneider.
2 There are numerous species of garfish in Australia, belonging to the genera Belone and Strongylura.
3 The Coconut-opening Crab, Birgus latro.
4 The New Hebrides. It is interesting that Banks, like Cook (or did Cook simply follow Banks in this?) refers to the distribution of coconut by self-sown drift, not by man (cf. Merrill, pp. 266–7 et passim, 1954.)
5 Mahoe, the West Indian Sterculia caribaea; but the name was also used for more than one sort of Hibiscus.
Between the hardness of our beds, the heat of the fire and the stings of these indefatigable insects the night was not spent so agreably but that day was earnestly wishd for by all of us; at last
1 Cf. p. 86, n. 4 above.
2 Presumably one of the flying-foxes, Pteropus sp.
3 Jerboa, Dipus sagitta; it is the size of a rat, but like the kangaroo has short fore legs, very long hind legs, and a long tail, and is a powerful jumper; it inhabits the African deserts. It is a rodent and not a marsupial.
The land about this place was not so fertile as lower down, the hills rose almost immediately from the river and were barren, stony and sandey much like those near the ship. The river near us abounded much in fish who at sun set leapd about in the water much as trouts do in Europe but we had no kind of tackle to take them with.
8. At day light in the Morn the tide serving we set out for the ship. In our passage down met several flocks of Whistling Ducks1 of which we shot some; we saw also an Allegator of about 7 feet long come out of the Mangroves and crawl into the Water.2 By 4 O'Clock we arrivd at the ship where we heard that the Indians had been near them but not come to them; Yesterday they had made a fire about a mile and a half of and this morn 2 had appeard on the beach opposite to the ship. At night the Pinnace which had been sent in search of a Passage to leward returnd, she had been unsuccessfull in her main errand. Shoals innumerable she had met with, upon one of them was lucky enough to see a turtle3 which was pursued and many more were seen, so many that three were taken with only the Boat hook. The promise of such plenty of good provisions made our situation appear much less dreadfull; were we obligd to Wait here for another season of the year when the winds might alter we could do it without fear of wanting Provisions: this thought alone put every body in vast spirits.
1 According to Storr (1953) two kinds of ducks with a shrill whistling call occur here: the Whistling Tree Duck, Dendrocygna arcuata Horsfield, and the Plumed Tree Duck, D. eytoni (Eyton).
2 Cf. p. 88, n. 1 above.
3 Presumably a Green Turtle, Chelonia sp. Cf. p. 94, n. 3 below.
10. Four Indians appeard on the opposite shore; they had with them a Canoe made of wood with an outrigger in which two of them embarkd and came towards the ship but stop'd at the distance of a long Musquet shot, talking much and very loud to us. We hollowd to them and waving made them all the signs we could to come nearer; by degrees they venturd almost insensibly nearer and nearer till they were quite along side, often holding up their Lances as if to shew us that if we usd them ill they had weapons and would return our attack. Cloth, Nails, Paper, &c &c. was given to them all which they took and put into the canoe without shewing the least signs of satisfaction: at last a small fish was by accident thrown to them on which they expressd the greatest joy imaginable, and instantly putting off from the ship made signs that they would bring over their comrades, which they very soon did and all four landed near us, each carrying in his hand 2 Lances and his stick to throw them with. Tupia went towards [them]; they stood all in a row in the attitude of throwing their Lances; he made signs that they should lay them down and come forward without them; this they immediately did and sat down with him upon the ground. We then came up to them and made them presents of Beads, Cloth &c. which they took and soon became very easy, only Jealous if any one attempted to go between them and their arms. At dinner time we made signs to them to come with as and eat but they refusd; we left them and they going into their Canoe padled back to where they came from.
11. Indians came over again today, 2 that were with us yesterday and two new ones who our old acquaintance introduc'd to us by their names, one of which was Yaparico. Tho we did not yesterday Observe it they all had the Septum or inner part of the nose bord through with a very large hole, in which one of them had stuck the bone of a bird as thick as a mans finger and 5 or 6 inches long, an ornament no doubt tho to us it appeard rather an uncouth one. They brought with them a fish which they gave to us in return I suppose for the fish we had given them yesterday. Their stay was but short for some of our gentlemen being rather too curious in examining their canoe they went directly to it and pushing it page 92 off went away without saying a word. At night the boat which had been sent to the reef for turtle came home and brought 3.
1 This refers to a passage in Dampier's New Voyage round the World, which gives an unflattering picture of the Australians: ‘The two Fore-teeth of their Upper jaw are wanting in all of them, Men and Women, Old and Young; whether they draw them out, I know not… .’—Dampier's Voyages, ed. Masefield (1906), I, p. 453. Dampier was eagerly consulted by both Banks and Cook, as the only Englishman who had had contact with the aborigines, while Cook of course was interested also in his geography. It was a very common, though not universal, practice among the aborigines to knock out one or two incisors as part of the ritual of ‘initiation’ into adulthood.
2 i.e. with pipeclay and ochre; the ochre was burnt and mixed with emu-fat.
After having staid with us the greatest part of the morning they went away as they came. While they staid 2 more and a young woman made their appearance upon the Beach; she was to the utmost that we could see with our glasses as naked as the men.
13. Two Indians came in their Canoe to the ship, staid by her a very short time and then went along shore striking fish. Our Boat returnd from the reef with one turtle and one large Sting ray.
1 The material commonly used in this part of the country for such armlets was pandanus fibre. Elsewhere they were often made of kangaroo sinews.
2 A rendering, spelt in various ways by the journal-keepers, of the word yir-ké, an expression of surprise.
3 ‘Stingrays’ deleted.
15. The Beast which was killd yesterday was today Dressd for our dinners and provd excellent meat. In the evening the Boat returnd from the reef bringing 4 Turtles, so we may now be said to swim in Plenty. Our Turtles are certainly far preferable to any I have eat in England, which must proceed from their being eat fresh from the sea before they have either wasted away their fat, or by unatural food which is given them in the tubs where they are kept given themselves a fat of not so delicious a flavour as it is in their wild state. Most of those we have caught have been green turtle from 2 to 300 lb weight: these when killd were always found to be full of Turtle Grass2 (a kind of Conferva I beleive); two only were Loggerheads which were but indifferent meat; in their stomachs were nothing but shells.3
1 This moment of triumph must be annotated: the mysterious animal was of course the kangaroo—‘Kill Kanguru’ is Banks's running head. This animal and the others obtained at the Endeavour River have been discussed with learning by T. C. S. Morrison-Scott and F. C. Sawyer, in The Identity of Captain Cook's Kangaroo (Bull, of B.M. [N.H.], Zoology, I, No. 3, 1950). This one was possibly the young Great Grey Kangaroo, Macropus cangaru (Müller), the skull of which was given by Banks to John Hunter, the eminent surgeon and anatomist; it was preserved in the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons until the destruction of the second World War.—Some Australians still believe that the animal was given its name by mistake: that an aboriginal, asked what it was called, replied in his own tongue, ‘I don't understand’—which expression Banks in turn misunderstood as the name. Such an origin is inherently improbable, whatever the animal was called elsewhere in Australia: no one yet seems to have supplied the Koko-Yimidir form of words which Banks compressed into ‘kanguru’; and see Banks's account of the care taken in collecting his Australian vocabulary, p. 126 below. Ling Roth (cf. p. 127, n. 1) gives ganguru as the local name. See also E. E. Morris, Austral English (London 1898), pp. 230–1.
2 Banks's ‘turtle grass’ may have been any one, or more than one, of three possible genera: Cymodocea isoetifolia, or possibly C. serrulata; or Zostera capricorni, known as ‘Dugong grass’; or Thalassia hemprichii, which F. R. Fosberg says is often referred to as ‘turtle grass’ in the Marshall Islands. Thalassia testudinata is the well known neotropical ‘turtle grass’. Thalassia hemprichii is recorded from Low Island in North Queensland, and it seems likely that this was the marine phanerogam that Banks encountered.
3 Banks's Green Turtles were Chelonia sp. Some herpetologists maintain that there is but a single species of Green Turtle with a world-wide tropical and sub-tropical distribution; on this view the name would be C. mydas (Linn.). There are two drawings by Parkinson of a specimen from Endeavour River (I, pls. 39, 40), which is the turtle described by Solander (p. 125) since he refers to a drawing. Of the two genera of Loggerheads, Lepidochelys and Caretta, the former is usually vegetarian, at least in the Indian Ocean, so that as Banks reports that the stomachs of the Loggerheads examined contained nothing but shells, there is presumptive evidence that they were specimens of Carella. The Caretta of the Indo-Pacific region has been recognized as a subspecies different from that of the Atlantic Ocean, under the name Caretta caretta gigas Deraniyagala.
16. As the ship was now nearly ready for her departure Dr Solander and myself employd ourselves in winding up our Botanical Bottoms,1 examining what we wanted, and making up our complement of specimens of as many species as possible.The Boat brought 3 Turtle again today, one of which was a male which was easily to be distinguishd from the female by the vast size of his tail, which was four times longer and thicker than hers; in every other respect they were exactly alike. One of our people on board the ship who has been a Turtler in the West Indies told me that they never sent male Turtle home to England from thence because they wasted in keeping much more than the females, which we found to be true.
17. Tupia who was over the water by himself saw 3 Indians, who gave him a kind of longish roots about as thick as a mans finger and of a very good taste.2 On his return the Captn Dr Solander and myself went over in hopes to see them and renew our connections; we met with four in a canoe who soon after came ashore and came to us without any signs of fear. After receiving the beads &c that we had given them they went away; we attempted to follow them hoping that they would lead us to their fellows where we might have an opportunity of seeing their Women; they however by signs made us understand that they did not desire our company.
18. Indians were over with us today and seemd to have lost all fear of us and became quite familiar; one of them at our desire threw his Lance which was about 8 feet in Lengh — it flew with a degree of swiftness and steadyness that realy surprizd me, never being above 4 feet from the ground and stuck deep in at the distance of 50 paces. After this they venturd on board the ship and soon became our very good freinds, so the Captn and me left them to the care of those who staid on board and went to a high hill about Six miles from the ship; here we overlookd a great deal of sea to Leward, which afforded a melancholy prospect of the dificulties we were to encounter when we came out of our present harbour: in which ever direction we turnd our eyes shoals innumerable were to be seen and no such thing as any passage to sea but through the winding channels between them, dangerous to the last degree.
1 i.e. in finishing the botanical tasks they had set themselves; cf. I, p. 463, n. 1.
2 . Colocasia esculenta, Taro.
We had great reason to thank our good Fortune that this accident happned so late in our stay, not a week before this our powder which was put ashore when first we came in had been taken on board, and that very morning only the store tent and that in which the sick had livd were got on board. I had little Idea of the fury with which the grass burnt in this hot climate, nor of the dificulty of extinguishing it when once lighted: this accident will however be a sufficient warning for us if ever we should again pitch tents in such a climate to burn Every thing round us before we begin.
1 For the salt so gained.
21. No signs of the Indians to day nor indeed any thing else worthy note.
22. The Turtle which was killd this morn had an Indian turtle peg in it which seemd to have laid there a long time. It was in the breast across the fore finns, having enterd at the soft part near the finns but the wound it had made in going in was intirely grown up; the peg itself was about 8 inches in lengh and as thick as a mans little finger.2 One of our people who had been sent out to gather Indian Kale straying from his party met with three indians, two men and a boy, he came upon them as they sat down among some long grass on a sudden and before he was aware of it. At first he was much afraid and offerd them his knife, the only thing he had which he thought might be acceptable to them; they took it and after handing it from one to another return'd it to him. They kept him about half an hour behaving most civily to him, only satisfying their curiosity in examining his body, which done they made him signs that he might go away which he did very well pleasd. They had hanging on a tree by them, he said, a quarter of the wild animal and a cocatoo; but how they had been clever enough to take these animals is almost beyond my conception, as both of them are most shy especialy the Cocatoos.
1 i.e. to the northward.
2 Cook describes it (p. 363) as ‘a wooden harpoon or turtle peg 15 Inches long bearbed [bearded?] at the end such as we have seen among the natives’.
24. The blowing weather which had hinderd us from getting out several days still lasted, not at all to our satisfaction who had no one wish to remain longer in the place, which we had pretty well exhausted even of its natural history. The Dr and me were obligd to go very far for any thing new; to day we went several miles to a high hill where after sweating and broiling among the woods till night we were obligd to return almost empty. But the most vexatious accident imaginable befel us likewise: traveling in a deep vally, the sides of which were steep almost as a wall but coverd with trees and plenty of Brush wood, we found marking nuts (anacardium orientale)1 laying on the ground, and desirous as we were to find the tree on which they had grown, a thing that I beleive no European Botanist has seen, we were not with all our pains able to find it; so after cutting down 4 or 5 trees and spending much time were obligd to give over our hopes.
25. The Captn who was up the river today found the Canoe belonging to our freinds the Indians, which it seems they had left tied to some mangroves within a mile of the ship: themselves we could see by their fires were 5 or 6 miles off from us directly inland.
1 Marking Nuts are the fruit of the tree Semecarpus sp., in this case S. australiensis Engler; their juice makes an indelible black mark or stain on linen or other cloth.
3 Peter Simon Pallas (1741-1811), born at Berlin and an infant prodigy at languages and natural history. His first two great scientific works, the Elenchus Zoophytorum and the Miscellanea Zoologica (to which Banks refers), both produced in 1766, made his name widely known, and set foreign governments competing for his services. He accepted from Catherine the Great a place in her Academy of St Petersburg, and went with the Russian observers of the transit of Venus in 1769 to Siberia to work on natural history. This led to his famous memoir on the bones and fossils of the great quadrupeds found in that country, and to his travels all over it, and from the Caspian Sea to Lake Baikal and Mongolia, an arduous journey from which he returned white-haired only in 1774. Pallas published a large number of writings on his travels, and on geography, ethnography, zoology and other branches of natural history. As a field-scientist he was one of the most pre-eminent men of his day.
27. This day was dedicated to hunting the wild animal. We saw several and had the good fortune to kill a very large one which weighd 84 lb.2
28. Botanizing with no kind of success. The Plants were now intirely compleated and nothing new to be found, so that sailing is all we wish for if the wind would but allow us. Dind today upon the animal, who eat but ill, he was I suppose too old. His fault however was an uncommon one, the total want of flavour, for he was certainly the most insipid meat I eat.
29. Went out again in search of the animals: our success today was not however quite so good as the last time, we saw few and killd one very small one which weighd no more than 8½ lb.3 My greyhound took him with ease tho the old ones were much too nimble for him.
30. Ever since the ship was hawld off for sailing we have had Blowing weather till today, when it changd to little wind and rain which gave us some hopes; in the evening however the wind returnd to its old Byas.
31. Morning cloudy and Boisterous enough; even clear with less wind which supplyd hopes at least for tomorrow.
1 Banks's opossum was probably the Grey Queensland Ring Tail, Pseudocheirus peregrinus (Boddaert), which was described from a specimen taken at Endeavour River (Elenchus Animalium, 1785, p. 78). It was true, as Pallas said, that the Phalanger was native to the East Indies; but it was also true (to do justice to Buffon) that the didelphid ‘tribe’ was confined to the Americas. As Banks noticed, the two groups are distinguished partly by a difference in the digits of the hind feet.
2 This was shot by Gore. It is thought to have been a Wallaroo, Macropus robustus. A drawing of a skull by Nathaniel Dance, bound up with Parkinson's zoological drawings (I, pl. 5) in the Library of the British Museum (Natural History), may possibly be the last remains of this animal. See again Morrison-Scott and Sawyer, The Identity of Captain Cook's Kangaroo. See Pl. 34.
3 This small kangaroo or wallaby was possibly an immature specimen of a Macropus.