Daily Archives: January 16, 2008

Item of the Day: Cook’s Voyages (1777)

Full Title: A Voyage Towards the South Pole, and Round the World. Performed in His Majesty’s Ships the Resolution and Adventure, In the Years 1772, 1773, 1774, and 1775.  Written by James Cook, Commander of the Resolution.  In which is included, Captain Furneaux’s Narrative of his Proceedings in the Adventure during the Separation of the Ships.  In Two Volumes.  Illustrated with Maps and Charts, and a Variety of Portraits of Persons and Views of Places, drawn during the Voyage by Mr. Hodges, and engraved by the most eminent Masters.  Vol. I. London: Printed for W. Strahan; and T. Cadell in the Strand.  MDCCLXXVII.

Chap. VII.

Sequel of the Passage from New Zealand to Easter Island, and Transactions there, with an Account of an Expedition to discover the Inland Part of the Country, and a Description of some of the surprising gigantic Statues found in the Island.

At eight o’clock in the morning of the 11th, land was seen, from the mast-head, bearing West; and at noon from the deck, extending from W. 3/4 N. to W. by S., about twelve leagues distant.  I made no doubt that this was Davis’s Land, or Easter Island; as its appearance from this situation, corresponded very well with Wafer’s account; and we expected to have seen the low sandy isle that Davis fell in with, which would have been a confirmation; but in this we were disappointed.  At seven o’clock in the evening, the island bore from N.  62º West to North 87º West, about five leagues distant; in which situation we sounded without finding ground with a line of an hundred and forty fathoms.  Here we spent the night, having alternately light airs and calms, till ten o’clock the next morning, when a breeze sprung up at W. S. W.  With this we stretched in for the land; and by the help of our glass, discovered people, and some of those colossian statues or idols mentioned by the authors of Roggewin’s Voyage.  At four o’clock in the P. M. we were half a league S. S. E. and N. N. W. of the N. E. point of the island; and, on sounding, found thirty-five fathoms, a dark sandy bottom.  I now tacked and endeavoured to get into what appeared to be a bay, on the West side of the point or S. E. side of the island; but before this could be accomplished, night came upon us, and we stood on and off, under the land, till the next morning; having soundings from seventy-five to an hundred and ten fathoms, the same bottom as before.

On the 13th, about eight o’clock in the morning, the wind, which had been variable most part of the night, fixed at S. E. , and blew in squalls, accompanied by rain; but it was not long before the weather became fair.  As the wind now blew right on the S. E. shore, which does not afford that shelter I at first thought, I resolved to look for anchorage on the West and N. W. sides of the island.  With this view I bore up round the South point; off which lie two small islots; the one, nearest the point, high and peaked, and the other low and flattish.  After getting round the point, and coming before a sandy beach, we found soundings thirty and forty fathoms, sandy ground, and about one mile from the shore.  Here a canoe conducted by two men, came off to us.  They brought with them a bunch of plantains, which they sent into the ship by a rope, and then they returned ashore.  This gave us a good opinion of the islanders, and inspired us with hopes of getting some refreshments, which we were in great want of. 

I continued to range along the coast, till we opened the northern point of the isle, without seeing a better anchoring place than the one we had passed. We, therefore, tacked, and plied back to it; and, in the mean time, sent away the master, in a boat to sound the coast.  He returned about five o’clock in the evening; and soon after, we came to an anchor in thirty-six fathoms of water, before the sandy beach above mentioned.  As the master drew near the shore with the boat, one of the natives swam off to her, and insisted on coming aboard the ship, where he remained two nights and a day.  The first thing he did after coming aboard was to measure the length of the ship, by fathoming her from the tafferel to the stern, and, as he counted the fathoms, we observed that he called the numbers by the same names they do at Otaheite; nevertheless his language was, in a manner, wholly unintelligible to all of us. 

Having anchored too near the edge of the bank, a fresh breeze from the land, about three o’clock the next morning, drove us off it; on which the anchor was heaved up, and sail made to regain the bank again.  While the ship was plying in, I went ashore, accompanied by some of the gentlemen, to see what the island was likely to afford us.  We landed at the sandy beach, where some hundreds of the natives were assembled, and who were so impatient to see us, that many of them swam off to meet the boats.  Not one of them had so much as a stick or weapon of any sort in their hands.  After distributing a few trinkets among them, we made signs for something to eat; on which they brought down a few potatoes, plantains, and sugar-canes, and exchanged them for nails, looking-glasses, and pieces of cloth.

We presently learned that they were as expert thieves, and as tricking in their exchanges, as any people we had yet met with.  It was with some difficulty we could keep the hats on our heads; but hardly possible to keep any thing in our pockets, not even what themselves had sold us; for they would watch every opportunity to snatch it from us, so that we sometimes bough the same thing two or three times over, and after all did not get it.     



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Filed under 1770's, Explorations, Posted by Matthew Williams