15 April 1771
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15 April 1771

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Joseph Banks



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15 April 1771

Monday 15th None of the Ships in the Offing are yet arrived. Diserous as we must be of hearing news from England I determine'd not to wait the arrival of these Ships, but took the advantage of a breeze of wind from the WSW, wiegh'd and stood out of the Bay - Saluted with 13 Guns which compliment was returnd both by the Castle and Dutch Commodore, the Europa saluted us as we pass'd her, which we returnd, this Ship was to have saild with or before us, but not likeing the oppertunity she lay fast At 5 in the Evening Anchor'd under Penguin or Robin Island in 10 fathom water, this ^Island Extending from WNW to SSW, distant 11/2 or 2 Miles —

In the Morning saw a Ship Standing into Table Bay under English Colours which we took to be an Indiaman- At Noon Latitude Observed 33°..49', Cape Town So 20° East distant 7 Miles. As we could not sail in the Morning for want of wind I sent a boat to the Island for a few trifling articles we had forgot to take in at the Cape, but the people ashore would not permit her to land so that she return'd as she went and I gave my self no farther trouble about it,  Mr Banks who was in the Boat was of opinion that it was owing to a mistake made respecting the rank of the officer commanding the boat, be this as it may it seems probable that the Dutch do not admit of strangers landing upon this Island least they should carry off some of those people which for certain crimes they banish here for life as we were told was done by a Dainish Ship a few years ago. but they might have a better reason for refuseing our boat to land, for it is not improbable but what there might be some English Seamen upon this Island whome they had sent from the Cape while we lay there well knowing that if they came in my way I should take them on board, and this I am told is frequently done when any of His Majestys Ships are in the Bay, for it is well known that the Dutch East India Ships are mostly man'd by foreigners —

The Cape of Good Hope hath been so often discrib'd by Authors and is so well known to Europeans that any discriptions I can give of it may appear unnecessary. however I cannot help observing that most Authors, particularly the Author of Mr Byrons Voyage, have heighten'd the picture to a very great degree above what it will bear, so that a stranger is at once struck with surprise and disapointment for no Country we have seen this Voyage affords so barren a prospect as this, and not only so in appearence but in reallity. The land over the Cape which constitutes the Peninsula form'd by Table Bay and on the north and False Bay on the South, consists of high barren hills Mountains, behind these to the East or what may be call'd the Isthmus is a vast extensive Plain, not one thousand part of which either is or can be cultivated, the soil consists mostly of a light kind of Sea Sand and produceth produceing hardly any thing but heath, every Inch of ground that will bear cultivation is taken up in small Plantation consisting ^of Vineyards, Orchards, Kitchen Gardens &Ca hardly any two lay together, but are despers'd at some distance one from another. If we may Judge from circumstances the Interior parts of this Country is not more fertile that is the fertile land bears a very small proportion to the whole, we were told that they have settlements 28 days Journey inland which is computed at 900 English Miles, and thus far they bring provisions to the Cape ^by land Carriage   it is also said that the Dutch farmers are so despers'd about the Country that some have no neighbours with^in four or five days Journey of them; admiting these to be facts and it will at once appear that the Country in general cannot be very fertile for it would be absurd to suppose that they would raise provisions at such an emence distance, where the trouble and expence of bringing them to market must increase in proportion, could it be done nearer     The Dutch assign another reason for being oblige'd to extend their scater'd settlements so far inland, which is that they never disturb the original Natives but always leave them in peaceable posession of whatever lands they may have approbated to their own use      which in some places is pretty extensive and that probably none of the worst, by which good policy the new settlers very seldom if ever meet with any disturbance from the natives    on the Contraory they ma^ny of them become their servants and mix among them and are usefull members to Society. Notwithstanding the many disadvantages this Country labours under such is the Industry, Oconomy and good management of the Dutch that not only the necessarys but all the luxuries of life are ^rais'd here in as great abundance and ^are sold as cheape if not cheaper then in any part of Europe some few articles excepted-   Naval Stores however do not want for in Price any more here than they do at Batavia, these are only sold by the Company who have a certain fix'd exorbitant price from which the[y] never deviate

The Inhabitants of the Cape Town are in general well bred and extremely civile and polite to all strangers, indeed it is their Intrest so to do for the whole Town may be consider'd as one great Inn fited up for the reception of all comers and goers — Upon the whole there is perhaps not a place in the known World that can equal this in affording refreshments of all kinds to Shipping — The Bay ^is Capacious pretty safe and commodious, it lies open to the NW winds, which winds we are told very Seldom blow strong, but some times sends in a great sea for which reason Ships moor NE and SW and in such a manner as to have an open hawse with NW winds - the SE winds blows frequently with great Volience but as this is right out of the Bay it is attended, with no danger   near the Town is a Warfe built of Wood run out a proper distance into the Sea for the Conveniency of landing and Shipping off goods    to this warfe the water is convey'd in pipes and by means of Cocks several boats may fill water at one and the same time; the company keep several large strong Boats or Hoys, to carry goods Provisions, Water &Ca to and from Shipping as well strangers as their own. Fuel is one of the scarcest articles in this they have and is brought a long way out of the Country and consi[s]ts of Roots of Trees Shrubs &Ca Indeed ^except a few English Oaks which they have planted this Country is wholy distitute of Wood, except at too great a distance to be brought to the Cape. In the Article of Timber Boa^rds &Ca they are chiefly supply['d] from Batavia    Three of the Winter Months, / viz / from the Middle of May to the Middle of August the Dutch oblige all their ships to go do not allow any of their Ships to lay in Table Bay, but oblige them to go into false Bay where there is a very safe harbour, and every other conveniency both for their own shipping and strangers and where every produce of the Country can be had as cheape as at the Cape Town. The Dutch I am told never diveate from this custom of sending their Ships to False Bay at this season of the Year notwithstand[ing] there has not a gale of wind happen'd for many Years that would have put them in the least danger in Table Bay —

Table Bay is defended by a Square ^Fort situated on the East side of the Town close to the Sea beach together with several other out works and Battries along the Shore of the Bay on each side of the Town. they are so situated as to be Cannonaded by Shipping and are in a manner defenceless againest a Superior land force    The Garrison at present consists of 800 Regulars besides the Militia of the Country which comprehends every man able to bear arms —

They can, by means of Signals, alarm the whole country in a very short time and then every man is emmidiately to repair to the Cape Town. The French at Mauritius are supply'd with large quantitys of Provisions from the Cape / viz / Salted Beef, Biscuit, Flour and wine  While we lay in the Bay two store Ships belonging to the King of the burthen of 50 or 60 Gun Ships and a snow, sail'd for that Island Load[ed] with Provisions besides a ^Large Kings Frigate we left in the Bay takeing in her Cargo. The Provisions contracted for by the French this year were Salt Beef 500,000 lbs Flour 400,000 lbs Biscuit 400,000 lbs and Wine 1200 Leagers

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