The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks 1768–1771 [Volume Two]
27. Lay too all last night. In the morn fresh trade and fine clear weather made us hope that our dificulties were drawing to a period: it was now resolvd to hawl up to the Northward in order to make the coast of New Guinea in order to assure ourselves that we had realy got clear of the South Sea which was accordingly done. At dinner time we were alarmd afresh by the usual report of a shoal just ahead: it provd however to be no more than a bank or regular layer of a Brownish colour extending itself upon the sea, which indeed had very much the appearance of a shoal while at a distance. It was formd by innumerable small atoms each scarce ½ a line in lengh yet when lookd at in a microscope consisting of 30 or 40 tubes, each hollow and divided throughout the whole lengh into many cells by small partitions like the tubes of Confervas; to which of the three kingdoms of Nature they belong I am totaly Ignorant, I only guess that they are of a vegetable nature because on burning them I could perceive no animal smell. We have before this during this voyage seen them several times on the coast of Brazil and that of New Holland but never that I recollect at any considerable distance from the Land.1 In the Evening a small bird of the Noddy (sterna) kind hoverd much about the ship and at night settled on the rigging where he was taken, and provd exactly the same bird as Dampier has describd and given a rude figure of under the Name of a Noddy From New Holland; See his voyages Vol III, p. 98, tab. of Birds fig. 5.2
1 Probably Trichodesmium scoboideum Lucas, described in 1919 by A. R. McCulloch, who collected it at the Hope Islands, off Cooktown, as follows: ‘it covered the sea like sawdust everywhere, and formed long streaks or waves across the wind. It was so abundant as to cause smooth patches unbroken by wavelets where it occurred, and was of a light brown colour, the tint apparently varying according to its stage of development. On the Hope Islands it had blown up on the wave-line, and formed felt-like flakes which could be picked up in pieces a foot square and 3–5 mm. thick; the flakes were very dark in colour, and stained the sand-grains settling on them a rich violet. The alga is very buoyant, and causes a muddy appearance in the water as the boat disturbs it. An old hand up that way assured me that its presence was a sign of good weather, and it certainly seems to disappear at the approach of wind and clouds’. McGulloch suggested that this was the alga met with by the Endeavour. I owe this reference to Mr A. B. Cribb.
2 Sterna anaethetus Scopoli, the Brown-winged or Bridled Tern.
29. During the whole night our soundings were as irregular as they had been in the even, but never less than 7 and never so shoal for any time. In the morn the land was seen from the Deck which was uncommonly low but coverd very thick with wood.2 At 8 it was not more than two Lgs from us but the water had gradualy [shoald] since morn to 5 fathm and was at this time as muddy as the River Thames, so it was thought not Prudent to go any nearer at present and accordingly we stood along shore, seeing fires and here and there large Groves of Cocoa nut trees in the neighbourhood of which we supposd the Indian villages to be situated. In the Eve tho we kept the same distance from the Land we got into less than 4 fathm and we got upon a wind, we were very long before we could deepen it; the Bank however which was soft mud provd inimitably regular.
2 The island ‘laid down in the Charts’, says Cook, ‘by the name of St Bartholomeo or Wleermoysen’—Habeeke or Habe Island, about thirty miles cast of Prines Marianne Strait. The New Guinea coast here is still very much unvisited, and is guarded by a wide mud-bank.
31. 5½ fathm and the Land not seen even from the mast head: the regularity of the bank which was soft mud made us very little regard the shoalness of the water which was still as muddy as the Thames at Gravesend. At night we anchord in 4½ fathm the Land being then but just seen from the deck.