England to New Zealand
The first spot of large importance in Cook's plan was the Cape. It was to be more than three months before he arrived there, after a passage generally agreeable; and that passage, a sort of prologue to the great story that was about to unfold, itself contains not merely minor incident, but indications sufficient of the administrative control and scientific detail of the voyage. Cook's journal at once fills with observation. Sighting the Spanish coast on 20 July, he picked up the north-east trade wind unusually early off Cape Finisterre. Two days later the ships were stopped by a Spanish squadron, a scene which Forster found ‘humiliating to the masters of the sea’, though to Cook it was quite unimportant, and the Spaniards, having identified them, merely wished them a good voyage. In the interval, in a calm, Wales had been across to the Adventure to compare the chronometers' rates of going. On the 29th they were at Madeira, anchored in Funchal Road. Here they were well received: Cook got his wine, water, fresh beef and fruit, and a thousand bunches of onions to distribute among his people for a sea store—‘a Custom I observed last Voyage and had reason to think that they received great benifit therefrom.’1 He also, for whatever reason, collected statistics of the island. From Madeira he reported on the behaviour of his ship:
…the Resolution answers in every respect as well, nay even better than we could expect, she steers, works, sails well and is remarkably stiff and seems to promise to be a dry and very easy ship in the Sea; In our passage from Plymouth we were once under our Courses but it was not wind that obliged the Resolution to take in her Topsails tho' it blow'd hard, but because the Adventure could not carry hers, in point of sailing the two Sloops are well match'd what difference there is is in favour of the Resolution.2
In the same letter he reported on a person who had been waiting three months at the island for Mr Banks's arrival, and left three
days before Cook's. The person, who had spent much time botanising, had arrived as a gentleman who was to join the ship, but no one entertained a doubt that his sex was wrongly defined. It is fairly clear that the thoughtful young philosopher, in providing so many amenities for himself, before the explosion over the Resolution
, had provided also for the companionship of a lady. Cook was amused; there is amusement still in the vision of Banks trying to persuade the captain to accept this new addition to the scientific staff.1
With the new month Cook steered for Porto Praya, in San Tiago, one of the Cape Verde islands, to take in more water; for he did not want his people to be on an allowance. We find in the logs and journals—not Cook's only—evidence of the regimen he applied—the bilge pumped out regularly with fresh sea-water, the ship cleaned, aired, and dried with charcoal fires; the brewing of Pelham's ‘experimental beer’; the men compelled to air their bedding, to wash and dry their clothes properly and frequently. This in the Resolution: there is no sign that Furneaux imposed such rules in his ship. The two vessels were tried against each other deliberately in sailing qualities: this first time the Resolution was the better, but more trials and experience made it hard to award a preference. At Porto Praya, 12–14 August, the water was tolerable, though not good, bullocks were unobtainable, hogs, goats, fowls, fruit were in plenty, the Forsters did some useful botanical collecting, Cook and Wales made a useful survey of the bay, the sailors bought monkeys. These poor animals dirtied the ship, and before long Cook had to have them thrown overboard.2
Five days after the departure from Porto Praya a carpenter's mate, Henry Smock, who was working over the side fitting a scuttle, fell into the sea and sank almost before he was seen. His loss might be regarded as a normal accident in the sailor's life, and Cook was not startled; but when a week later he learnt from Furneaux that one of the Adventure
's midshipmen was dead he might well have felt some alarm—and even more, less than three weeks after that, when another died. They both, said Furneaux, died of a fever ‘caught at St
Iago by bathing and making too free with the water in the heat of the day’. Neither Dr James's Powders nor Dr Norris's Drops availed to save.3
Others who had fallen sick had recovered; nevertheless, one may ask, why should men fall sick so soon after leaving
England? The Resolution
had no sick, even from drenching in tropical rain. On 8 September the ships crossed the equator, with appropriate horseplay in the Resolution
, none in the Adventure
—for Furneaux thought it dangerous. Cook continued to experiment in one way or another, hoisting out a boat to try the current, trying the temperature of the sea with his submersible thermometer seventy fathoms below—Furneaux refused to allow Bayly a boat for the same purpose; trying the effect of his patent still in converting salt water to fresh, and getting a much better result, with no expenditure of fuel, from collecting rain-water; trying the effect of his experimental beer on his sailors, conservative men some of whom declared they would rather drink water. On 30 October the ships were anchored in Table Bay. The first thing noted, not only by Cook but by his officers, was the absence of sickness in the Resolution
: to quote Clerke, ‘Our people all in perfect Health and spirits, owing I believe in a great measure to the strict attention of Captain Cook to their cleanliness and every other article that respects their Welfare.’1
too was doing well at this time, her only invalid being Lieutenant Shank, who for some weeks had been suffering badly from gout. This was in marked contrast to two outward bound Dutch Indiamen arriving a few days later, where the ravages of scurvy had been frightful; between them they had lost almost two hundred men.
Cook liked the Cape as a port of call, except for its inevitable delays. The acting-governor, the Baron van Plettenburg, and one of the leading merchants, Mr Brand, made themselves very agreeable and helpful. There was delay over the baking of bread and the making up of the quantity of spirits deemed necessary: it did not matter, however, very much, as the men got every day all the fresh bread, meat and greens they could eat, and shore leave in batches for air and exercise. Wales and Bayly took their instruments on, shore, for ordinary astronomical observations and to check the chronometers. Of these, the Kendall one in the Resolution
had been behaving remarkably well, the Arnold one not at all well. The latter suffered when Wales was bringing it off from the shore; jarred to a stop as the long-boat struck the ship's side, it was started again, but continued to go badly for the rest of its life. The first Arnold instrument in the Adventure
—that which had been tested at Greenwich—was ‘not to be complained on’, though it lost at an increasing rate; the second, having gone most imperfectly on the passage to the Cape, there stopped entirely. Cook had not yet begun to regard his Kendall
chronometer with affection, but as early as the beginning of September, in noting a noon longitude by lunar, and contrasting this with the result by log, or dead reckoning, he had remarked, ‘Such is the effect the Currants must have had on the Sloop, and which Mr
Kendalls Watch tought us to expect.’1
While the astronomers worked, Hodges painted an excellent picture of Capetown and its harbour, and Cook acquired information about two French voyages that interested him. The information was not very precise. The first voyage was one of two ships which had anticipated him in the south, discovering land in latitude 48° and losing a boat and its crew (this last item was not in fact true, though it could well have been so from the commander's behaviour). It was the first voyage of Kerguelen, in early 1772, which resulted in that nobleman's extravagant announcements of ‘La France Australe’ and its annexation. The second was the expedition of Marion du Fresne, to return Bougainville's ‘Aotourou’ to his native Tahiti, as well as to embark on more extended exploration. Cook learnt neither commander's name, though, he did hear that poor Ahutoru had died of smallpox. Travel, it seemed, was dangerous for Tahitians.
There were a few changes in the ships' companies. In the Adventure
the unfortunate Shank felt obliged to relinquish the voyage; his second, Arthur Kempe, was promoted in his place, and James Burney
, in compliance with Sandwich's promise to his father of early advancement, was sent across from the Resolution
to be second lieutenant. When Forster was on shore he met a young Swedish doctor, Anders Sparrman
, who was studying the natural history of the place; nothing would content him but that, at his charge, Sparrman should join the expedition as his assistant. He persuaded Cook that there was room for one more. Sparrman was a sedate, discreet young man, a late student of Linnaeus, a good ethnographical collector as well as natural historian, destined for his own distinction—‘endowed with a heart capable of the warmest feelings, and worthy of a philosopher’.2
Cook never quite learned to spell his name. There was little more for the captain to do than to write letters, to report to the Admiralty on the experimental beer and on happenings at the Cape; to be conciliatory towards Banks; to bid farewell to Walker. These last two letters cast some light on his own character. ‘Dear Sir’, he wrote to Banks, ‘Some Cross circumstances which happened at the latter part of the equipment of the Resolution created, I have reason to think, a coolness betwixt you and I, but I can by no means think it was sufficient to me to break off all
corrispondance with a Man I am under many obligations too’. He tells him of a collection Brand has got together for him and of the two French expeditions: he thinks of Banks's own talk of a South Sea voyage, as one explorer considers a fellow in the trade.
I am in your debt for the Pickled and dryed Salmon which you left on board, which a little time ago was most excellant, but the eight Casks of Pickled salted fish I kept for my self proved so bad that even the Hoggs would not eat it; these hints may be of use to you in providg for your intinded expeditation, in which I wish you all the Success you can wish your self… .1
In this there may have been some deliberate generosity—he certainly did not refer to Mr, or Mrs, or Miss Burnett; in the letter to Walker there is certainly real warmth and regard for the Quaker mind.
Having nothing new to communicate I should hardly have troubled you with a letter was it not customary for Men to take leave of their friends before they go out of the World, for I can hardly think my self in it so long as I am deprived from having any Connections with the civilized part of it, and this will soon be my case for two years at least. When I think of the Inhospitable parts I am going to, I think the Voyage dangerous, I however enter upon it with great cheerfullness, providence has been very kind to me on many occasions, and I trust in the continuation of the divine protection; I have two good Ships well provided and well Man'd. You must have heard of the Clamour raised against the Resolution before I left England, I can assure you I never set foot in a finer Ship. Please to make my best respects to all Friends at Whitby….
Thus one ‘Most affectionate Friend’ to another.2 After which, on the afternoon of 22 November, Cook weighed anchor, and having got clear of the land directed his course for Cape Circumcision—for ‘new and awful scenes’.3
He was three weeks late, in terms of his instructions. It did not matter: it was even probably an advantage, because it gave the packice a chance to break up, and though this might provide dangers of a particular sort, it also provided an opportunity to penetrate farther south than would otherwise have been given. Cook could not take full enough advantage of this; for knowledge of the antarctic ice had to be built up over a long period, and he was the pioneer—a pioneer, furthermore, with no previous experience of ice-navigation. Certainly
he had experience enough of fogs, in the North Sea, off the coasts of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia; he had seen ice, even been entrapped in it for a day, on a passage from Halifax to the St Lawrence; but what was that? Nor were his men more deeply acquainted: two had served in the Greenland whale-fishery, Wales had had a summer month or two in Hudson Bay. There were certain dogmas to unlearn: that ice, for example, was a fresh-water phenomenon, and hence argued the neighbourhood of land, that some sorts of bird did not go far from land—hence the careful noting and description of birds in more than one journal; there was the discovery that in the higher latitudes, beyond 60° S, the prevailing wind is not westerly but easterly, so that the grand strategy of the west to east voyage was not necessarily, all the time, the best. There were problems set up by the currents that were consequent on those winds, the ‘west wind drift’ and the ‘east wind drift,’ to which Cook could give only very tentative answers. On the other hand, if he could have accounted for his fogs through knowledge of the Antarctic Convergence—the converging of layers of cold water from the south and the less cold of lower latitudes—he might have felt scientific satisfaction, but it would not have reduced his practical difficulties in navigation. He simply, for four months, had to keep a good lookout, and his men prepared to act instantly. This was the first, and the longest, of what have been called his three ice-edge cruises. How long he would be out of sight of land he could not guess: he began by announcing limits, not ungenerous but strict, on the use of fresh water.
Cape Circumcision was said in the English documents to lie approximately in latitude 540 south and longitude 11°20' east of Greenwich. Cook had his chart of the Southern Ocean published by Dalrymple in 1769, which showed Bouvet's track.1
Bouvet's point of departure, when he struck south, was Santa Catarina, an island on the coast of Brazil, and for a start his longitude for this island was 4°20' too far east. The ice was unusually far north in the summer of 1738–9, so that when on 1 January, the Feast of the Circumcision, Bouvet descried out of the fog his high, rocky, desolate cape, flanked by glaciers, surmounted by a massive ice-cap, with ice stretching away to the east, he might be forgiven for thinking that he was on the edge of a considerable extent of land. Ice, seaweed, seals, penguins, all testified. His chief pilot was convinced that the cape,
though indubitably cape, was part of only a very small island, and he was right: it is an island only five miles long and less across, the most remote spot in the world, if one measures distance from other land, and it was only by a most remarkable chance that Bouvet sighted it.1
He could not get ashore; after making south to 57° he coasted the ice-edge eastwards for four hundred leagues, turned north-east to about 38°, and thence steered for home. The latitude he gave for his cape was 54°10'-15'S—which, considering the difficulty of accurate observation, was not badly astray from the correct one, 54°26'S. His longitude was between 27° and 28° east of Tenerife—that is, close to the Admiralty's 11°20'. Even with the correction for the Santa Gatarina error it would have worked out at 5°17' east of Greenwich—still nearly two degrees from the truth of 3°24' E. Cook had no correction. He was well aware of the unreliability of any figure for a longitude, but he was bound to begin by going as near as he could to a position given to him; was bound to begin, that is, by searching for Bouvet's discovery where he was certain not to find it. Bouvet's ice-field retreated; his fogs, in the midst of them his hard crumb of rock, remained.
Cook plunged straight south, a course he maintained, inclining a little east, for the next three weeks. On the second day out he issued to each man a jacket and trousers of the thick warm material called fearnought; later on he had the skimped sleeves of these lengthened and red baize caps provided in addition. Without this extra clothing it is difficult to fancy the ships' companies surviving at all as they went farther south, as the cold pinched, sleet and snow fell, ice stuck to the sails and rigging. November went out; December came in with hard westerly gales, rain and hail, the ships hove to, Wales put Dr Lind's wind-gauge to trial: ‘the Adventure’, noted Clerke, ‘we find to be the most weatherly Ship in a Gale tho’ this is as good a Sea Boat as can possibly swim.'2
Oakum worked out of the seams and the ship began to leak, the men got colds, Cook lost hope under the succession of westerlies of reaching Cape Circumcision, the stock brought from the Cape died fast, and was eaten. On 10 December—latitude almost 51°—an ‘Island of Ice’ was sighted, twice as high as the topgallant masthead, at first mistaken for land; then ice islands
came thick. Pickersgill registered some excitement: ‘We being Now across M. Bouvets track to ye
of Cape Circumcision, expect to find land hourerly, tho’ sailing here is render'd very Dangerous … such is the dispossion of ye
Crew that every Man seems to try who shall be foremost in ye
readest performance of his duty which calls for ye
under such rigorous circumstances.'1
Cook was not yet ready for such enthusiasm. The thermometer went below freezing point, he counted the icebergs—brought up, one must think, from the ice shelf of the Weddell Sea—many of them two hundred feet high; remarked on 13 December that he was in latitude 54°, but 118 leagues east of Bouvet's cape; and next morning was stopped by the pack ice, in 54°55'. This was a good deal farther north than the mean for December, though even then not so far as Bouvet's pack—‘an immence field of Ice to which we could see no end, over it to the Swbs
we thought we saw high land, but can by no means assert it.’2
He bore away south-east close along the ice-edge, noting the whales, the penguins and other ice-haunting birds; had Furneaux on board to arrange rendezvous in case of separation; and trying some pieces of ice found that, rather surprisingly—though why surprising if it came from a river?—it yielded fresh water.
On 14 December the ships turned a point of the ice-field and hauled Ssw
, as there appeared to be clear water in that direction. Soon embayed, however, they were forced away to the north and east to clear the ice. Fog was so thick next morning that it was impossible to see the length of the ship; the jolly boat, out with the master, Wales and Forster to try the current and the temperature of the sea, was for two hours uncomfortably lost. They recorded a surface temperature of 30° F. The ship could do nothing but tack briefly one way and the other, because of the fog and snow; the rigging and sails, hung with icicles, grew difficult to handle; whales played about the ship. On the 17th Cook, once more steering south, was once more stopped by heavy pack ice. The pack had begun to break up, and the process would be fast. Many bergs and much loose ice were found to seaward of the main body—very hampering obstacles to navigation they were; but the main body of ice to the south was still impenetrable, and how could Cook foretell its behaviour? If he had had the experience that no one had, he could have expected this main body to break effectively by the end of December, giving him three months of clear water. He considered the two evils, bergs and ‘field ice’; he preferred the bergs. ‘Dangerous as it is
sailing a mongest the floating Rocks in a thick Fog and unknown Sea,’ he says, ‘yet it is preferable to being intangled with Field Ice under the same circumstances.’ He had heard of a Greenland ship lying a whole nine weeks caught in that sort of ice. He could not risk it. He still watched for land, where in bays and rivers ice might form. By 18 December the ships had sailed some ninety miles eastward along the great edge, which lay nearly east and west except for its own bays—and they provided no way south. Cook, like Bouvet under the same circumstances, thought it reasonable ‘to suppose that this Ice either joins to or that there is land behind it and the appearence we had of land the day we fell in with it serves to increase the probabillity, we however could see nothing like land either last night or this Morn, altho’ the Weather was clearer than it has been for many days past.'1
He would not abandon his general plan: after getting a few miles farther north, he would ‘run 30 or 40 Leagues to the East before I haul again to the South, for here nothing can be done.’2
He did, however, modify it: from no farther north than 54°, he at once made south as well as east. At this time there were a few signs of scurvy, and wort was made from malt for those affected. In a calm the current was tried; the boat found none, but Forster was able to shoot a few prions or ‘whale birds’. Next day Cook sent the master to see if fresh water could be collected in the Greenland fashion, as it ran from an iceberg; there was not a drop. The day after that was 25 December. The captain knew when to humour his crew. They had been hoarding their liquor. ‘At Noon seeing that the People were inclinable to celebrate Christmas Day in their own way, I brought the Sloops under a very snug sail least I should be surprised with a gale of wind with a drunken crew’—and ne added somewhat to the rum. He filled the great cabin at dinner with all the officers and petty officers who could get in, entertained the others in the gunroom; ‘mirth and good humor reigned throughout the whole Ship; the Crew of our consort seem'd to have kept Christmas day with the same festivity, for in the evening they rainged alongside of us and gave us three Cheers.'3
There were those who were disdainful, or shocked: the ‘savage noise and drunkenness’ were not to Forster's taste, any more than to Sparrman's the passionate barbarities of English shipboard boxing. Indeed bloody noses and oaths may have consorted ill with the silent dignity of ice islands.
The ships were passing through fields of loose ice, rotten, honey-combed
lumps sculptured into every variety of fantastic animal shape, or pieces heaped one upon another, the ‘rafted ice’ of modern terminology. On 27 December they were 240 miles almost due south of their position a week before. There seems little doubt that Cook had worked them round the end of a wide tongue or belt of pack ice, that in the early summer of most years stretches out in an unbroken mass far to the east from the Weddell Sea. His longitude was about 17° E. Not improbably—if again he could have known—he could then have pushed his way south through the loose ice to clear water in about latitude 60°; indeed he might have gone far enough to have sighted, perhaps even to have reached, the antarctic continent. He decided, as he had a clear sea and a favourable wind, to run as far west as the meridian of Cape Circumcision. This was on 29 December, a day when he tried unsuccessfully to pick up ice for water, but was instead regaled by the military behaviour of penguins on an iceberg: to quote Pickersgill, ‘they Seemd to perform their Evolutions so well that they only wanted the use of Arms to cut a figure on Whimbleton Common.’1
Two days later, steering ‘direct’ for Cape Circumcision, he had to haul a few points to the north to avoid loose ice, only to discover an immense field to the north; and the wind turning to a south-east gale, with a dangerous sea, he had to stand back to the south—in retreat, that is, from the southern edge of the tongue of ice around which he had worked his way. He resumed his western course till 3 January 1773. At that moment, in latitude 59°18' and longitude 11°9', he had a well defined conviction. He was now west and south of the position assigned to the cape; the weather had been clear for a few hours and the horizon empty.
In short, I am of opinion that what M. Bouvet took for Land and named Cape Circumcision was nothing but Mountains of Ice surrounded by field Ice. We our selves were undoubtedly deceived by the Ice Hills the Day we first fell in with the field Ice and many were of opinion that the Ice we run along join'd to land to the Southward, indeed this was a very probable supposission, the probabillity is however now very much lessened if not intirely set a side for the Distance betwixt the Northern edge of that Ice and our Track to the West, South of it, hath no where exceeded 100 Leagues and in some places not Sixty, from this it is plain that if there is land it can have no great extent North and South, but I am so fully of opinion that there is none that I shall not go in search of it, being now
determined to make the best of my way to the East in the Latitude of 60° or upwards, and am only sorry that in searching after those imaginary Lands, I have spent so much time, which will become the more valuable as the season advanceth. It is a general recieved opinion that Ice is formed near land, if so than there must be land in the Neighbourhood of this Ice, that is either to the Southward or Westward. I think it most probable that it lies to the West and the Ice is brought from it by the prevailing Westerly Winds and Sea. I however have no inclination to go any farther West in search of it, having a greater desire to proceed to the East in Search of the land said to have been lately discovered by the French in the Latitude of 48 1/2° South and in about the Longitude of 57° or 58° East.1
This is a passage of interest, because it shows us the reasoning Cook. He had been attentive to the ice, its appearance and movement, since he first encountered it. He was still prepared to admit—wrongly, though in accord with the philosophers—that sea ice invariably implied land. He was right in thinking that the pack moves in an easterly direction, though it comes with the current rather than with the wind. (It is true that the current—the west wind drift—is itself engendered by the wind.) The course he had sailed quite certainly disposed of the cape as a projection of any large extent of land. The effect of the great bergs upon his mind, and of the pack, is evident from his conclusion that Bouvet, with the best will in the world, had been deceived by the ice. What is curious is that he does not weigh the possibility of an island, not of ice but of earth and rock—unless it is weighing a possibility to say that ‘if there is land it can have no great extent North and South, but I am so fully of opinion that there is none that I shall not go in search of it.’ It is all the more curious in that his instructions raise the possibility, and he had virtually written the instructions. The only person who talks in terms of an island is Lieutenant Kempe of the Adventure
: ‘Standing now to the Eastward having given up our Searches after Cape Circumcision concluding if any such place, a small spot extending it self near East and West may be supposed from the Track we run down.’2
This was an accurate supposition. It may be that at this time Cook was not prepared to class such a phenomenon as land, especially against the other supposition that in the east he might find something more validly reported, also by the French, Kerguelen's land; and sailing eastwards he would be resuming his own fundamental strategy. As he changed course, in most unpleasant weather,
strong gales, thick fog, sleet and snow, with ice-covered rigging, he may even have felt a sense of relief. The crew were standing up to the conditions ‘tolerable well’, with their warm clothing and an extra glass of brandy every morning.
On 4 January 1773 the ships were running to the east, some eighteen miles north of the position where there had been an impenetrable field of ice four days earlier. Cook infers correctly that such a large body of ice could not have melted in four days, that it must have drifted northward; once more, not for the last time, his journal-page receives his reflections on the current, as he makes east and somewhat south. It was the 9th that saw an important and triumphant experiment, the taking in of loose ice from round a berg for water—arduous and freezing, as well as picturesque, work (Hodges's drawing struck every fancy); but, with the coppers melting down the stuff and the boats on deck stacked high with it, the ships after another day's effort had more, and sweeter, water than when they left Cape Town. A few days later, while trying the current, Cook sank a thermometer to 100 fathoms, finding the temperature there 32°. That stimulated further cogitations, wherein the accepted physical and geographical principles are questioned. ‘Some curious and interesting experiments are wanting to know what effect cold has on Sea Water in some of the following instances: does it freeze or does it not, if it does, what degree of cold is necessary and what becomes of the Salt brine? for all the Ice we meet with yeilds Water perfectly sweet and fresh.’1
By this time he had abandoned his predominantly easterly course, with some southing in it, to steer sharp south, and a few days later, on 17 January, shortly before noon, he crossed the Antarctic Circle for the first time in history. His position for that day was latitude 660°36 1/2'—four and a half miles south of the circle—and longitude 39°35' E. Icebergs had become scarce; he was hoping that he had reached a clear sea. There were too many antarctic petrels and snow petrels about, lovers of the pack; in the afternoon tills appeared, loose pieces so strewn about it ‘that we were obliged to loof for one and bear up for another’—a constant process of dodging; right across the bows stretched a long line of bergs. In latitude 67°15' he was to tack and stand away. Apart from the bergs and ‘smaller pieces packed close together’, to the southeast could be seen an endless mass, sixteen or eighteen feet high, of
what the Greenland men called ‘field ice’. Cook did not trunk it prudent to try to get round this ice field. He was wise. He thought of his ships and remembered that the summer was half spent; but if he had known that he was then only 75 miles from the continent he might have hesitated a little longer.
He stood north-east for the rest of the month, spreading the sloops four miles apart on favourable occasions to widen the field of vision. Only on one day were no icebergs seen—the only day since they were first met with, and Cook amused himself calculating how many square miles of ocean would be occupied altogether by the islands of ice. A great deal of the weather was disagreeable. At the beginning of February the ships were in the reported latitude of the land they were searching for, prevented by the wind from being as far west as Cook had planned to be. Furneaux reported seeing rock weed and diving petrels, ‘a great sign of the vicinity of land’: was it to the west or the east? If to the west that was bad luck, because with the wind where it was the only direction to go was east. He was, in reality, about ten degrees west of the land, though east of the meridian of Mauritius, on which it was supposed to lie. He tried east for a day or two; then the wind changed and he tried west. On 6 February the wind went round again. ‘Indeed’, says Cook, ‘I had no sort of incouragement to proceed farther to the West as we have had continualy a long heavy Swell from that quarter which made it very improbable that any large land lay to the West.’1 He bore away east and south, all sails set. Clerke summed up the facts: ‘We've been for these 6 or 7 days past cruizing for the Land the Frenchman gave intelligence of at the Cape of Good Hope—if my friend Monsieur found any Land, he's been confoundedly out in the Latitude & Longitude of it, for we've search'd the spot he represented it in and its Environs too pretty narrowly and the devil an Inch of Land is there.'3 So the nearest Cook came to Monsieur's discovery, as he steered his new course, was to have the land on his larboard quarter, about five degrees off. Then, on 8 February, the ships parted company.
It was in the morning, in a thick fog, in latitude 49°53' S, longitude 63°39' E. Penguins and diving petrels made men think that land might not be far away, and in the fog Cook made short tacks rather than carry blindly on his course; this, he later concluded, must have led to the separation, because the Adventure
not answer his signal guns, so far as he could hear. He cruised about the position where he had last seen her, or lay hove to, for two days out of the three stipulated for such happenings; after which he judged that she, like his own ship, had been driven to leeward, and could not regain position. If that was so, he would do no good waiting a third day, and he resumed the course that he had broken off. He had no fear for his consort's safety, and a rendezvous had long been arranged at Queen Charlotte Sound. Three days later penguins about the ship in increased numbers made him consider again the question of land, and ‘various were the oppinions among the officers of its situation.’
Some said we should find it to East others to the North, but it was remarkable that not one gave it as his opinion that any was to be found to the South which served to convince me that they had no inclination to proceed any farther that way. I however was resolved to get as far to the South as I conveniently could without looseing too much easting altho I must confess I had little hopes of meeting with land, for the high swell or Sea which we have had for some time from the West came now gradually round to Sse so that it was not probable any land was near between these two points and it is less probable that land of any extent can lie to the North….1
Why not? Because to the north lay Tasman's track of 1642, and Tasman had met with no land till he altered course even more to the north and discovered Van Diemen's land. The intervening space, Cook rightly guessed, would be traversed by Furneaux, who was more of a free agent than his own officers, with their eyes fixed in the wrong direction. But these officers were somewhat justified. Only about forty miles to the north-east, on that 13 February, lay Heard Island, a great breeding-ground of penguins—not very great in extent, true, but still land; and the ship must have passed closer than Cook would have chosen, if he had had the choice, to the two small rocky islets lying off Heard Island to the west, the McDonald islands. The captain had another, allied, meditation: ‘it is now impossible for us to look upon Penguins to be certain signs of the vicinity of land or in short any other Aquatick birds which frequent high latitudes.’ This is true of penguins, though not of all ‘Aquatick birds’. Still, another dogma had gone.
Two days after Cook's determination to go on further south, we come on another characteristic episode. There had been in the Resolution
an outbreak of petty pilfering. Justice demanded, and was granted, some flogging—after which (we learn from the
midshipman Bowles Mitchel) ‘examin'd the peoples hands—those who had dirty where punish'd by stopping their daily allowance of Grog'.1
We have the same scrutiny recorded a fortnight later, and (says Mr Mitchel) ‘the usual punishment’—which may have been regarded as a heavy one by the dirty-handed. And here we have Clerke testifying to the régime: ‘Captain Cook having Observ'd many of the People in rather a ragged condition, this forenoon he gave them some Needles thread and Buttons, that they may have no excuse for their tatter'd [condition]—they also have every Saturday to themselves to wash &c—that they may likewise have no excuse for a dirty, or improper appearance.'2
This was in addition to drying and airing the bedding, with anything else that could be dried and aired, in fine weather. Some of the tars may have felt put upon. No matter: the captain was going to see that they survived. It was as important for him as the sight of the Aurora Australis, now seen flooding the heavens, as trials of the electricity of the air, were important to Wales; almost as important, perhaps, as the constant replenishment of water from the broken pieces of icebergs. The voyage may sometimes seem to us to have been a mixture of trivialities and terrors. As the ship pushed south the number of icebergs increased—in a space of twenty-four hours more than a hundred were seen. Against one she just escaped being carried violently by a sort of indraught; another, three or four hundred feet high, toppled almost bottom up while she was close to it and the boats were picking up ice; another burst silently in pieces as she passed by—at least no noise could be heard above that of the waves and the wind. The gales, their heavy squalls and high seas, haze, snow and sleet, fell off only to return furiously; there was constant reefing of sails—in that cold!—and striking of topgallant yards; yet there were less unpleasant intervals, even gentle breezes. On 24 February, having gone as far as 61°52'S, about longitude 95°15'E, Cook decided he must go no farther. The weather was as bad as it could be, except that it did not blow quite a tempest. The captain's journal must be quoted again, both for the reasons he gives and for the glimpse we are allowed, among the trivialities and terrors, of a strange beauty. The night had been unpleasant.
Under these circumstances and surrounded on every side with huge pieces of Ice equally as dangerous as so many rocks, it was natural for us to wish for day-light which when it came was so far from lessening the danger that
it served to increase our apprehensions thereof by exhibiting to our view those mountains of ice which in the night would have passed unseen. These obstacles together with dark nights and the advanced season of the year, discouraged me from carrying into execution a resolution I had taken of crossing the Antarctick Circle once more, according at 4 oClock in the Am we Tacked and Stood to the North under our two Courses and double reefed Topsails, stormy Weather still continuing which together with a great Sea from the East, made great destruction among the Islands of Ice. This was so far from being of any advantage to us that it served only to increase the number of pieces we had to avoide, for the pieces which break from the large Islands are more dangerous then the Islands themselves, the latter are generally seen at a sufficient distance to give time to steer clear of them, whereas the others cannot be seen in the night or thick weather till they are under the Bows: great as these dangers are, they are now become so very familiar to us that the apprehensions they cause are never of long duration and are in some measure compencated by the very curious and romantick Views many of these Islands exhibit and which are greatly heightned by the foaming and dashing of the waves against them and into the several holes and caverns which are formed in the most of them, in short the whole exhibits a View which can only be discribed by the pencle of an able painter and at once fills the mind with admiration and horror, the first is occasioned by the beautifullniss of the Picture and the latter by the danger attending it, for was a ship to fall aboard one of these large pieces of ice she would be dashed to pieces in a moment.1
The pencil of Hodges was able enough, and there is hardly a journal of the voyage that does not attempt somehow to render the romantic fantasy. It may be added that if Cook had managed to cross the Antarctic Circle once more he would probably have found himself ashore, perhaps some miles inland on that part of the continent that is now the Australian Antarctic Territory; for in his longitude of 95°15', and for about fifty degrees to the east, the circle runs either a very short distance from the coast or within it.
Although he stood to the north, he did so very half-heartedly. On 6 March he was still in latitude 60°4' S, and it was not till the next day that he got to 59°59'. He sailed east in 58° or 59° another ten days, for the most part in gales, on one day covering 155 miles, on another 163, though generally only half or a third of those distances. The Resolution
shipped no water to speak of, he observed: ‘Upon the whole she goes as dry over the Sea as any ship I ever met with.’1
Poor Mr Forster, however, thought he was always getting wet. At first the icebergs still abounded; at the end of February there were few—probably, Cook thought, broken up by ‘the late
gale’, but more probably because the main body had been moved away quick Jaily to the north-east by wind and current. He saw the last of them on 8 March. As late as the 14th of that month, having had some milder weather, he was hankering after a higher latitude. He soon changed his mind: next day the decks and rigging were covered with snow and ice, and he had to admit that the time was approaching ‘when these Seas were not to be navigated without induring intense cold, which however’—even then he must not overstate—‘by the by we were pretty well used to’.1
The Southern Lights could not make it any warmer. On 17 March he gave way to prudence; and from latitude 59°7' S, longitude 146°53', some nine hundred miles south of Van Diemen's Land or Tasmania, bore away northeast and north inclining to east, resolving to make the best of his way either to New Holland or New Zealand. New Holland was something new in his plan, but he might find out whether or no Van Diemen's Land formed part of it. In the same journal-entry in which he declares this motive he records his pleasure (‘I was not a little pleased’) at determining the point of no variation of the compass.2
And he thinks fit to offer his potential reader a sort of apology for thus breaking off his antarctic cruise, to lessen, perhaps, any sense of shock that might be felt:
If the reader of this Journal desires to know my reasons for taking the resolution just mentioned I desire he will only consider that after crusing four months in these high Latitudes it must be natural for me to wish to injoy some short repose in a harbour where I can procure some refreshments for my people of which they begin to stand in need of, to this point too great attention could not be paid as the Voyage is but in its infancy.3
The reader is more likely to be baffled by the conscience that thinks explanation necessary.
The wind was between north and west, and he put New Holland aside. Penguins and rock weed, those ministers of deceit, were passed: he did not know that Macquarie Island lay not far to his east. The air grew agreeably warmer. There were seals, Port Egmont hens or skuas, terns, weed which did say something, floating wood. At 10 in the morning of 25 March the masthead lookout sighted the coast of New Zealand. Cook intended to put into the Dusky Bay
of his first voyage, or any other convenient port in the neighbourhood,
because he had earlier examined none of it thoroughly. When in the afternoon he was before the mouth of a bay he mistakenly took for Dusky—the coast hereabouts is very deceptive, and this was probably Chalky Inlet—the weather turned thick and he stood out to sea. Coming in with the land again next day he recognised Dusky Bay
and entered it about noon; there was a great swell rolling in from the south-west, and the soundings rapidly deepened beyond his line, ‘we were however too far advancd
to return and therefore pushed on not doubting but what we should find anchorage, for in this Bay we were all strangers….’
Dusky Sound is one of the most remote and wildly magnificent spots in New Zealand. The great sheet of water, screened within its entrance from the ocean by an irregular line of islands, and extending into a number of long arms and a vast number of smaller indentations, lies over a bottom anciently gouged in the land by stupendous glaciers, so that its shores tend to stand up immediately from the sea. The water is almost uniformly deep; only at the head of subordinate stretches have shoals been built up by the quick detritus-laden streams. There is little flat land; the eye is ever carried to immense heights, whether close around or in far misty recession. Except where a prodigious cliff-face falls vertically to the depths, the steep slopes are covered from high water mark up to the limit of growth by forest dense, unbroken, sombre. The scale is so deceptive, as well as so vast, that a full-grown tree, taken as the measure of some less regarded height, becomes insignificant and lost; a tremendous white cataract seems to descend only a few yards, not hundreds of feet, before it plunges hidden under the dark green covering and changes its direction. Low islets are tree-clothed; a rock perhaps will jut out quite bare of earth. Rain falls heavily for days, thick cloud makes invisible the whole landscape; then the sun of an occasional clear day will render the scene sharp as well as heroic. Into this large frame entered the Resolution, no larger than she would have seemed amid the waste of the southern ocean. But now nature, however wild, was friendly. There was more than the immensities, there was a superabundance of refreshment, as Cook was soon to find.
He ran about two leagues up the bay and inside the island he called Anchor Island let go his anchor for the first time in four months.1
He had one man sick with scurvy, two or three others with
a boat was immediately put to fishing, and returned with supper for all hands. Meanwhile, not liking his anchorage, he sent Pickersgill to the southern side of the sound to look for better, going himself in the opposite direction. He was not as successful as his lieutenant, so that in the morning the ship was taken through a narrow passage between an island and the shore to the entrancing Pickersgill Harbour, ‘full as safe and convenient as he had reported’. There she was moored head and stern to the trees—so close indeed that one tree growing out horizontally formed a natural bridge from shore to ship. Not far astern was a liberal stream of fresh water, above her stem rose a small bluff about fifty feet high which could be cleared for Wales's observations, and was called Observatory Point. The moss- and fern-covered stumps of a number of the largest trees then felled still stand amid the growth of two hundred years; the totara does not soon decay, even in that wet forest, and if the tangled cap of greenery be lifted, underneath in places can still be seen the straight cut of the seaman's axe.2
Tents were pitched near the stream for the waterers, coopers, sailmakers, the forge was set up for the repair of iron-work; the fishermen were out every day; Cook began to brew ‘spruce beer’ on the Newfoundland model with the leaves and small branches of a tree which, he thought, ‘resembles the Americo black Spruce’—the New Zealand rimu—together with those of the less astringent ‘tea shrub’ or manuka, his ‘Inspissated Juce of Wort’ and molasses. The majority of the crew took to it very well, and indeed they had to; for when the beer was started the spirits were stopped. Cook thought it was healthful, and a fair substitute for the green vegetables of which he could here find none; Sparrman, a connoisseur, liked mixing rum and brown sugar with it. The naturalists were busily employed, Forster at last removed from the reach of the waves and, if he cared to go far enough, other men's bad language; though the most devoted of naturalists found it hard to shoot a bird whose innocency led it to perch on the end of the gun-barrel. It was Forster who made his way up beside the stream, over the sodden foot-betraying ground, and found the enchanting small lake, a mirror of light and air, whence it flowed.
Fresh provision was not confined to the daily catch of fish—‘all large, firm, and exceedingly well tasted’, says Clerke, with love enumerating them—‘likewise great abundance of very large and very good Crawfish’. Seals found at Seal island or rock, not far within the entrance to the sound, were killed for food and lamp oil, ‘whose Haslets are exceeding good, and some part of the Body properly manag'd make steaks very little inferior (some of our Gentry sware, far superior) to Beefsteak'. Cook is as rapturous as anyone over the wild fowl—‘To day we had an excellent dinner on fish, seal, and wild fowl’—ducks of various sorts, wood hens or weka, oystercatchers. There were sporting expeditions; the survey which was faithfully carried on (Pickersgill produced an admirable chart) might well finish for the day with a burst of firing. Some of the names inscribed upon the chart registered pleasant occasions of sport or its aftermath—Duck Cove, Luncheon Cove, Supper Cove. Goose Cove, however, was named not for slaughter, but because here Cook chose to leave the last of his Cape of Good Hope geese, rather than consume them, entertaining no doubt ‘but what they will breed and may in time spread over the whole Country, which will answer the intent of the founder’.1 Alas, it did not answer thus.
Were there people? If so, Cook was anxious to make their acquaintance. The morning after the ship was settled in harbour some of the officers took a boat on a shooting party into the next arm of the bay, the arm that Cook was soon to call Cascade Cove. Seeing inhabitants, they returned to inform the captain, thinking it unsafe to go on when the rain would make their fire-arms useless in case of need. The interested natives just appeared within sight of the ship, then retired behind a point of land in the heavy rain. When the rain lifted one canoe came again, closer, and those in it stared for half an hour before they retreated, untouched by demonstrations of friendship. After dinner Cook went to the cove in search of them; he found two poor huts, a canoe, fishing nets and a few fish, but no people; leaving a few medals, therefore, looking-glasses, beads and a hatchet, he himself retired in patience. Three days later these articles were still undisturbed. It was not until the evening of 6 April that Cook, on his way back with Hodges and the Forsters from exploring the north side of the bay, met on a rock at the north-east point of a small island with an ‘Indian’ and two women who did not retreat when the boat drew near. Cook's approach is described by George Forster
: he went to the head of the boat, called to the man in a friendly way, ‘and threw him his own and some other handkerchiefs,
which he would not pick up. The captain then taking some sheets of white paper in his hand, landed on the rock unarmed, and held the paper out to the native. The man now trembled very visibly, and having exhibited strong marks of fear in his countenance took the paper: upon which captain Cook coming up to him, took hold of his hand, and embraced him, touching the man's nose with his own, which is their mode of salutation.’1
Half an hour was spent in ‘chitchat’, uncomprehended on either side, the younger of the two women being the most voluble, ‘which occasion'd one of the Seamen to say, that weomen did not want tongue in no part of the world'.2
Next day Cook went twice to ‘Indian Island’, met the man and his whole family of seven, saw their huts and small double canoe, and exchanged gifts with them. Hodges drew them. It was then the turn of the natives to pay a visit, though nothing—not even bagpipes or fife and drum—would induce them to come on board the ship. They stayed three days nearby and after four more came back, when at last the man and the girl were tempted on board, to indulge a large curiosity and take the lead themselves in the exchange of presents with a valuable greenstone adze and feather cloak. The hatchets and spike nails the man got were a very considerable return in his eyes. The young lady was not ‘kind’. Cook this time was anxious to be rid of them, because he was about to set off on a surveying expedition to the head of the most southerly arm of the sound. His early duck shooting roused more of the people, with two of whom, putting away his gun and advancing singly, he managed to get on friendly terms:
they retired but waited when I advanced alone and beckoned with their hands for the others to keep back as they had seen me do. At length one of them laid down his spear, pulled up a grass plant and came to me with it in his hand giving me hold of one end while he held the other, standing in this manner he made a speach not one word of which I understood, in it were some long pauses waiting as I thought for me to make answer, for when I spoke he proceeded; as soon as this ceremony was over, which was but short we saluted each other, he then took his hahou or coat from off his back and put it upon mine after which peace seemed firmly established….3
It is typical; and one would give much to have heard the voices and the words of those two men in that place. Cook could not stay to visit the habitations in the bush, up a tidal river. He arrived at the ship, with a good deal added to his chart, after two nights out, to find that his other friends had disappeared. The glimpses of these few men and women he gives us, the defeated and scattered remnant of the Mamoe people, driven from easier lands farther north, are the only glimpses we have; for even here their enemies pursued them and slew. Cook was at a loss to know why they lived apart.
Returning from this expedition he lacked the time to explore an arm of the sound that ran north. April was moving on, by the 25th there had been a week without rain, in which the ship had been put in a condition for sea, and he now determined to investigate this unexplored inlet. It was more than an inlet, it proved to supply a northern passage to the outer sea. Cook resolved to use it. He got everything on board and only waited for a wind to leave, spending a last few hours in digging a garden and sowing seeds, not with much hope of a successful outcome. On 29 April he weighed and stood up the sound with a light south-west breeze. It was 11 May before he was clear of the northern entrance and out at sea again. At first calms, then bad weather, then a baffling mixture of both delayed his progress; at times the boats towed, but this was slow work, and most of these days were spent at anchor, while the winter gales began to blow in from the Tasman Sea, and morning after a storm showed the heights covered with snow. It was still possible to manage shooting and exploring trips. Wales, the conscientious astronomer, went on one—‘This is the first Days Amusement I have been able to take since I came to this Place.—I might with great Truth have said since I left England’; and added, ‘About 9 0 Clock we returned on board the Ship with not a dry thread about us. I am right served for repining in the Morning.’1
Happily the sport among the wild fowl had been good. Pickersgill, who had been sent with the Forsters in the pinnace to look into an arm which ran off east from the main passage, had a worse experience, being out for thirty-six hours in a most violent storm of snow, hail, thunder and lightning, with no fire—the wood being too thoroughly soaked to burn—and no food except a few mussels: it seemed ‘as if all nature was hastening to a general catastrophe’, runs the Forster record, and doubtful whether the ships would survive.2
Cook, less dramatic, called this inlet
Wetjacket Arm. He could not go on the little expedition himself because, he explains, he was ‘confined on board by a Cold’. It is not surprising that he had a cold, after the previous five weeks' experiences; but balancing Forster's possible over-statement against Cook's under-statement, it is likely that he had more than a cold. The Forster version is ‘a fever and violent pain in the groin, which terminated in a rheumatic swelling of the right foot, contracted probably by wading too frequently in the water, and sitting too long in the boat after it, without changing his cloaths’.1
Cook, one is to remember, was now in his mid-forties, and may well have been fighting off, by denial, some rheumatic fever. It was one thing, on the day when he admits his cold, a day of fair weather, to get up the cables and everything else from between decks, clean the space and air it with fires; it was another to exert a scrupulous care over himself. He had done a good deal of forcing his way ‘through the wet Woods up to the back side in Water’.
Nevertheless, no sooner did he have Pickersgill back on board than he was out himself, exploring another arm that ran eastwards, nearer the entrance, and was out for twelve hours, returning wet through, though with plenty of wild fowl. Meanwhile Gilbert the master had examined the passage to the sea. Next day Cook and all the officers were shooting again, ‘for a Sea Stock’; then it was another strong westerly gale with heavy rain which kept the ship at anchor; as soon as this moderated he went to the rocks which lay off the entrance to gather in a supply of seals. At last, on the morning of 11 May, a breeze came from the south-east, and the Resolution got to sea in a ‘prodigious’ south-west swell. She left her name behind her attached to the lofty-peaked and much-indented island that forms a large part of the north shore of Dusky Sound, separated from the other heights by the passage up which Cook had just made his rain-soaked way.
He gives an appreciative account of the place, both for the ‘curious reader’ and for future navigators, ‘for we can by no means till what use future ages may make of the discoveries made in the present’; and no port in New Zealand that he had been in, far remote as it was from the trading parts of the world, afforded such plenty of refreshments; a port of safe and easy access, with anchorages for fleets, with timber to mast them. As Mr Hodges has drawn the country very accurately, Cook will describe it only in general terms.
We get more of its natural history than we should have done had this been his first voyage. His interests have widened since Banks hung over strange plants at Thetis Bay, just outside the Strait of Le Maire, almost five years gone. He may, contemplating John Reinhold Forster
, have regretted a little the absence of Banks; for here was the part of the country where the young man whom he had had to rebuff was so anxious to land. Well: there is nothing to complain about apart from the rain and the constant plague of sandflies; nor has the rain done his people harm, they are all strong and vigorous. But perhaps the climate was less noxious to Englishmen than to any other nation, because it is analogous to their own, says Forster sourly. We may consult some of our other voyagers. Pickersgill and Gilbert climbed one of the heights above Cascade Cove, and reported that inland nothing could be seen but barren mountains with huge craggy precipices frightful to behold; Clerke talks of his gratitude to this ‘good Bay’, and its many good qualities, though frequent and heavy rains rendered it very disagreeable at times, but ‘I do think that Dusky Bay
, for a Set of Hungry fellows after a long passage at Sea is as good as any place I've ever yet met with'.1
Wales, who was extremely busy the whole time with his professional observations, yet gives us a natural history résumé rivalling the Forsters'. He cannot help being a little testy by 10 May, he had not liked the weather: ‘We are now (thank God) leaving this dirty, and, on that Account, disagreeable Place; after a stay of near Six Weeks, during the greater part of which I was continually troubled with severe Colds, attended with a fever owing to my being almost always wet, and sometimes so bad that it was with the utmost difficulty that I attended my bussiness.’ Yet it was Wales who, after seeing a rainbow above a waterfall, ‘one of Nature's most romantic Scenes’, burst into quotation from The Seasons
, adding a line or two of his own to adapt the bard to the New Zealand ambience.2
We return to Cook, the master of these able, so divergent men, and his journal, as he turns up the coast from his Dusky Bay
; we find little romance, no poetry, he does not seem to have had any really disagreeable experience; we do find him going thoroughly into the manufacture of spruce beer, a discussion of the chronometers, and sailing directions—diet, science, seamanship.
There was a mixture of weather as he made up the west coast, but nothing remarkable until 17 May. That morning the ship had
rounded Cape Farewell and was sailing towards Cook Strait
; in the afternoon, in dark cloudy weather with the wind all round the compass, half a dozen waterspouts rose up about her, one whirling fifty yards or less from her stern. There was some perturbation in the ship as well as the sea. Cook wrote as minute an account of the phenomenon as he could. There was no casualty, the weather cleared, as he sailed on he was able to identify the bay where Tasman had had his fatal encounter with the New Zealanders; on the 18th in the morning they saw the flashes of signal guns from the Adventure
in Ship Cove, by evening they were anchored, and next day moved further in and moored with a hawser to the shore.