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Voyages in the Southern Hemisphere, Vol. IVoyaging Accounts
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From Mindanao to the Island of Celebes


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CHAP. IX. The Passage from Mindanao to the Island of Celebes, with a particular Account of the Streight of Macassar, in which many Errors are corrected.

AFTER leaving Mindanao, I stood to the westward for the passage between the islands of Borneo and Celebes, called the Streight of Macassar, and made it on Saturday the fourteenth. I observed, that during the whole of this run we had a strong north westerly current; but that while we were nearer to Mindanao than Celebes, it ran rather towards the north than the west; and that when we came nearer to Celebes than we were to Mindanao, it ran rather towards the west than the north. The land of Celebes on the north end runs along to the entrance of the passage, is very lofty, and seems to trend away about W. by S. to a remarkable point in the passage, which makes in a hummock, and which at first we took for an island. I believe it to be the same which in the French charts is called Stroomen Point, but I gave it the name of HUMMOCK POINT. Its latitude according to my account is I° 20'N., longitude 121° 39 E.; and it is a good mark for those to know the passage that fall in with the land coming from the eastward, who, if possible, should always make this side of the passage. From Hummock Point the land trends more away to the southward, about S.W. by W. and to the southward of it there is a deep bay, full of islands and rocks, which appeared to me to be very dangerous. Just off the Point there are two rocks, which, though they are above water, cannot be seen from a ship till she is close to the land. To the eastward of this Point, close to the shore, are two islands, one of, them very flat, long, and even, and the other swelling into a hill: both these islands, as well as the adjacent country, are well covered with trees: I stood close in a little to the eastward of them, and had no ground with an hundred fathom, within half a mile of the shore, which seemed to be rocky. A little to the westward of these islands, we saw no less than sixty boats, which were fishing on some shoals that lie between them and Hummock Point. This part of the shore appeared to be foul, and I think should not be approached without great caution. In this place I found the currents various and uncertain, sometimes setting to the southward, and sometimes to the northward, and sometimes there was no current at all; the weather also was very unsettled, and so was the wind; it blew, however, chiefly to the south and south west quarter, but we had sometimes sudden and violent gusts, and tornadoes from the N.W. with thunder, lightning, and rain: these generally lasted about an hour, when they were succeeded by a dead calm, and the wind would afterwards spring up fresh from the S.W. or S.S.W which was right against us, and blow strong. From these appearances I conjectured that the shifting season had commenced and that the west monsoon would soon set in. The ship sailed so ill that we made very little way; we frequently sounded in this passage, but could get no ground, on the 2ist of November, as we were standing towards Borneo, we made two small islands, which I judged to be the same that in the French chart are called Taba Islands: they are very small, and covered with trees. By my account, they lie in latitude 1° 44' N., longitude 7° 32 W. of the south end of Mindanao, and are distant from Hummock, or Stoomen Point, about fifty-eight leagues. The weather was now hazy, but happening suddenly to clear up, we saw a shoal, with breakers, at the distance of about five or six miles, from the south to the north west. Off the north end of this shoal we saw four hummocks close together, which we took for small islands, and seven more from the S. ½ W. to the W. ½ S.: whether these are really islands, or some hills on the island of Borneo, I could not determine. This shoal is certainly very dangerous, but may be avoided by going to the westward of Taba Islands, where the passage is clear and broad. In the French chart of Monsieur D'Apres de Mandevillette, published in 1745, two shoals are laid down, to the eastward, and a little to the north of these islands: one of them is called Vanloorif, and the other, on which are placed two islands, Harigs; but these shoals and islands have certainly no existence, as I turned through this part of the passage from side to side, and sailed over the very spot where they are supposed to lie. In the same chart seven small islands are also laid down within half a degree to the northward of the line, and exactly in the middle of the narrowest part of this passage; but neither have these islands any existence, except upon paper, though I believe there may be some small islands close to the main land of Borneo: we thought we had seen two, which we took to be those that are laid down in the charts off Porto Tubo, but of this I am not certain. The southermost and narrowest part of this passage is about eighteen or twenty leagues broad, with high lands on each side. We continued labouring in it till the 27th, before we crossed the line, so that we were a fortnight in sailing eight and twenty leagues, the distance from the north entrance of the streight, which we made on the 14th. After we got to the southward of the line, we found a slight current setting against us to the northward, which daily increased: the weather was still unsettled, with much wet: the winds were chiefly S.W. and W.S.W. and very seldom farther to the northward than W.N.W. except in the tornadoes, which grew more frequent and violent; and by them we got nothing but hard labour, as they obliged us to hand all our sails, which indeed with our utmost effort we were scarcely able to do, our debility daily increasing by the falling sick of the few that were well, or the death of some among the many that were sick. Under these circumstances we used our utmost endeavours to get hold of the land on the Borneo side, but were not able, and continued to struggle with our misfortunes till the 3d of December, when we fell in with the small islands and shoals called the Little Paternosters, the southermost of which, according to my account, lies in latitude 2° 31 S. and the northermost in 2° 15 S. the longitude of the northermost I made 117° 12 E.: they bear about S.E. ¼ S. and N.W. ¼ N. of each other, distant eight leagues, and between them are the others; the number of the whole is eight. They lie very near the Celebes side of the streight, and being unable either to weather them, or get to the westward of them, we were obliged to go between them and the island. We had here tempestuous weather and contrary winds, with sudden and impetuous gusts, which, as we had not a number of hands sufficient to bend the sails, often endangered our masts and yards, and did great damage to our sails and rigging, especially at this time, as we were obliged to carry all the sail we could to prevent our falling into a deep bight, on the Celebes shore. The ravages of the scurvy were now universal, there not being one individual among us that was free, and the winds and currents being so hard against us, that we could neither get westing nor southing to reach any place of refreshment; the mind participated in the sufferings of the body, and a universal despondency was reflected from one countenance to another, especially among those who were not able to come upon the deck. In this deplorable situation we continued till the 10th and it is not perhaps very easy for the most fertile imagination, to conceive by what our danger and distress could possibly be increased; yet debilitated, sick, and dying as we were, in sight of land that we could not reach, and exposed to tempests which we could not resist, we had the additional misfortune to be attacked by a pirate: that this unexpected mischief might lose none of its force, it happened at midnight, when the darkness that might almost be felt could not fail to co-operate with whatever tended to produce confusion and terror. This sudden attack, however, rather rouzed than depressed us, and though our enemy attempted to board us, before we could have the least apprehension that an enemy was near, we defeated his purpose: he then plied us with what we supposed to be swivel-guns, and small arms, very briskly; but though he had the start of us, we soon returned his salute with such effect, that shortly after he sunk, and all the unhappy wretches on board perished. It was a small vessel, but of what country, or how manned, it was impossible for us to know. The Lieutenant, and one of the men, were wounded, though not dangerously; part of our running rigging was cut, and we received some other slight damage. We knew this pirate to be a vessel which we had seen in the dusk of the evening, and we afterwards learnt that she belonged to a freebooter, who had more than thirty such vessels under his command. The smallness of our vessel encouraged the attack, and her strength being so much more than in proportion to her size, supposing her a merchantman, rendered it fatal.

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© Derived from Volume I of the London 1773 Edition: National Library of Australia call no. FERG 7243, pages 622 - 626, 2004
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