Item of the Day: Cook’s Voyages (1777), continued, part 2.

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.

[Continued from previous post]

Before I sailed from England, I was informed that a Spanish ship had visited this isle in 1769.  Some signs of it were seen among the people now about us; one man had a pretty good broad brimmed European hat on; another had a grego jacket; and another a red silk handkerchief.  They also seemed to know the use of a musquet, and to stand in much awe of it; but this they probably learned from Roggewin, who, if we are to believe the authors of that voyage, left them sufficient tokens.

Near the place where we landed, were some of those statues before mentioned, which I shall describe in another place.  The country appeared barren and without wood; there were, nevertheless, several plantations of potatoes, plantains and sugar-canes; we also saw some fowls, and found a well of brackish water.  As these were articles we were in want of, and as the natives seemed not unwilling to part with them, I resolved to stay a day or two.  With this view, I repaired on board, and brought the ship to an anchor in thirty-two fathoms water; the bottom of a fine dark sand. Our station was about a mile from the nearest shore, the South point of a small bay, in the bottom of which is the sandy beach before mentioned, being E. S. E., distant one mile and a half.  The two rocky islots lying off the South point of the island, were just shut behind a point to the North of them; they bore South 3/4 West, four miles distant; and the other extreme of the island bore N. 25º E., distant about six miles.  But the best mark for this anchoring-place is the beach; because it is the only one on this side of the island. In the afternoon, we got on board a few casks of water, and opened a trade with the natives for such things as they had to dispose of.  Some of the gentlemen also made an excursion into the country to see what it produced; and returned again in the evening, with the loss only of a hat, which one of the natives snatched off the head of one of the party. 

Early next morning, I sent Lieutenants Pickersgill and Edgcumbe with a party of men, accompanied by several of the gentlemen to examine the country.  As I was not sufficiently recovered from my late illness to make one of the party, I was obliged to content myself with remaining at the landing place among the natives.  We had, at one time, a pretty brisk trade with them for potatoes, which we observed they dug up out an adjoing plantation; but this traffic, which was very advantageous to us, was soon put a stop to, by the owner (as we supposed) of the plantation coming down, and driving all the people out of it.  By this we concluded, that he had been robbed of his property, and that they were not less scrupulous of stealing from one another, than from us, on whom they practiced every little fraud they could think on, and generally with success; for we no sooner detected them in on, than they found out another.  About seven o’clock in the evening, the party I had sent into the country returned, after having been over the greatest part of the island. 

They left the beach about nine o’clock in the morning, and took a path which led across to the S. E. side of the island, followed by a great crowd of the natives, who pressed much upon them.  But they had not proceeded far, before a middle-aged man, punctured from head to foot, and his face painted with a sort of white pigment, appeared with a spear in his hand, and walked along-side of them, making signs to his countrymen to keep at a distance, and not to molest our people.  When he had pretty well effected this, he hoisted a piece of white cloth on his spear, placed himself in the front, and led the way, with his ensign of peace, as they understood it to be.  For the greatest part of the distance across, the ground had but a barren appearance, being dry hard clay, and every where covered with stones; but notwithstanding this, there were several large tracks planted with potatoes; and some plantain walks, but they saw no fruit on any of the trees.  Towards the highest part of the South end of the island, the soil, which was a fine red earth, seemed much better; bore a longer grass; and was not covered with stones as in the other parts; but here they saw neither house nor plantation. 

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

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