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Voyages in the Southern Hemisphere, Vols. II - IIIVoyaging Accounts
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On this day ...
16 January 1769

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James Cook
Joseph Banks

Searching for Plants


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Searching for Plants (continued)

The cold was now become more severe, and the snow-blasts more frequent; the day also was so far spent, that it was found impossible to get back to the ship before the next morning: to pass the night upon such a mountain, in such a climate, was not only comfortless, but dreadful; it was impossible however to be avoided, and they were to provide for it as well as they could.

Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander, while they were improving an opportunity which they had, with so much danger and difficulty, procured, by gathering the plants which they found upon the mountain, sent Mr. Green and Mr. Monkhouse back to Mr. Buchan and the people that were with him, with directions to bring them to a hill, which they thought lay in a better rout for returning to the wood, and which was therefore appointed as a general rendezvous. It was proposed, that from this hill they should push through the swamp, which seemed by the new rout not to be more than half a mile over, into the shelter of the wood, and there build their wigwam, and make a fire: this, as their way was all down hill, it seemed easy to accomplish. Their whole company assembled at the rendezvous, and, though pinched with the cold, were in health and spirits, Mr. Buchan himself having recovered his strength in a much greater degree than could have been expected. It was now near eight o’clock in the evening, but still good day-light, and they set forward for the nearest valley, Mr. Banks himself undertaking to bring up the rear, and see that no straggler was left behind: this may perhaps be thought a superfluous caution, but it will soon appear to be otherwise. Dr. Solander, who had more than once crossed the mountains which divide Sweden from Norway, well knew that extreme cold, especially when joined with fatigue, produces a torpor and sleepiness that are almost irresistible: he therefore conjured the company to keep moving, whatever pain it might cost them, and whatever relief they might be promised by an inclination to rest: Whoever sits down, says he, will sleep; and whoever sleeps, will wake no more. Thus, at once admonished and alarmed, they set forward; but while they were still upon the naked rock, and before they had got among the bushes, the cold became suddenly so intense, as to produce the effects that had been most dreaded. Dr. Solander himself was the first who found the inclination, against which he had warned others, irresistible; and insisted upon being suffered to lie down. Mr. Banks intreated and remonstrated in vain, down he lay upon the ground, though it was covered with snow; and it was with great difficulty that his friend kept him from sleeping. Richmond also, one of the black servants, began to linger, having suffered from the cold in the same manner as the Doctor. Mr. Banks, therefore, sent five of the company, among whom was Mr. Buchan, forward to get a fire ready at the first convenient place they could find; and himself, with four others, remained with the Doctor and Richmond, whom partly by persuasion and entreaty, and partly by force, they brought on; but when they had got through the greatest part of the birch and swamp, they both declared they could go no farther. Mr. Banks had recourse again to entreaty and expostulation, but they produced no effect: when Richmond was told, that if he did not go on he would in a short time be frozen to death; he answered, That he desired nothing but to lie down and die: the Doctor did not so explicitly renounce his life; he said he was willing to go on, but that he must first take some sleep, though he had before told the company that to sleep was to perish. Mr. Banks and the rest found it impossible to carry them, and there being no remedy they were both suffered to sit down, being partly supported by the bushes, and in a few minutes they fell into a profound sleep: soon after, some of the people who had been sent forward returned, with the welcome news that a fire was kindled about a quarter of a mile farther on the way. Mr. Banks then endeavoured to wake Dr. Solander and happily succeeded: but, though he had not slept five minutes, he had almost lost the use of his limbs, and the muscles were so shrunk that his shoes fell from his feet; he consented to go forward with such assistance as could be given him, but no attempts to relieve poor Richmond were successful. It being found impossible to make him stir, after some time had been lost in the attempt, Mr. Banks left his other black servant and a seaman, who seemed to have suffered least by the cold, to look after him; promising, that as soon as two others should be sufficiently warmed, they should be relieved. Mr. Banks, with much difficulty, at length got the Doctor to the fire; and soon after sent two of the people who had been refreshed, in hopes that, with the assistance of those who had been left behind they would be able to bring Richmond, even though it should still be found impossible to wake him. In about half an hour, however, they had the mortification to see these two men return alone; they said, that they had been all round the place to which they had been directed, but could neither find Richmond nor those who had been left with him; and that though they had shouted many times, no voice had replied. This was matter of equal surprise and concern, particularly to Mr. Banks, who, while he was wondering how it could happen, missed a bottle of rum, the company’s whole stock, which they now concluded to be in the knapsack of one of the absentees. It was conjectured, that with this Richmond had been rouzed by the two persons who had been left with him, and that, having perhaps drank too freely of it themselves, they had all rambled from the place where they had been left, in search of the fire, instead of waiting for those who should have been their assistants and guides. Another fall of snow now came on, and continued incessantly for two hours, so that all hope of seeing them again, at least alive, were given up; but about twelve o’clock, to the great joy of those at the fire, a shouting was heard at some distance. Mr. Banks, with four more, immediately went out, and found the seaman with just strength enough left to stagger along, and call out for assistance: Mr. Banks sent him immediately to the fire, and, by his direction, proceeded in search of the other two, whom he soon after found. Richmond was upon his legs, but not able to put one before the other; his companion was lying upon the ground, as insensible as a stone. All hands were now called from the fire, and an attempt was made to carry them to it; but this, notwithstanding the united efforts of the whole company, was found to be impossible. The night was extremely dark, the snow was now very deep, and, under these additional disadvantages, they found it very difficult to make way through the bushes and the bog for themselves, all of them getting many falls in the attempt. The only alternative was to make a fire upon the spot; but the snow which had fallen, and was still falling, besides what was every moment shaken in flakes from the trees, rendered it equally impracticable, to kindle one there, and to bring any part of that which had been kindled in the wood thither: they were, therefore, reduced to the sad necessity of leaving the unhappy wretches to their fate; having first made them a bed of boughs from the trees, and spread a covering of the same kind over them to a considerable height.

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© Derived from Vols. II-III of the London 1773 edition: National Library of Australia call no. FERG 7243, pages 47 - 51, 2004
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