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Voyages in the Southern Hemisphere, Vols. II - IIIVoyaging Accounts
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On this day ...
4 - 10 August 1770

Endeavour Voyage Maps
James Cook
Joseph Banks

Endeavour River to the Northern Extremity of the Country


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Endeavour River to the Northern Extremity of the Country (continued)

In the afternoon of the 4th, we had a gentle breeze at S.E. and clear weather, but as I did not intend to sail till the morning, I sent all the boats to the reef, to get what turtle and shell fish they could. At low water, I went up to the mast-head, and took a view of the shoals, which made a very threatening appearance: I could see several at a remote distance, and part of many of them was above water. The sea appeared most open to the north east of the turtle reef, and I came to a resolution to stretch out that way close upon a wind, because if we should find no passage, we could always return the way we went. In the evening, the boats brought in a turtle, a sting-ray, and as many large cockles as came to about a pound and a half a man, for in each of them there was not less than two pounds of meat: in the night also we caught several sharks, which, though not a dainty, were an acceptable increase of our fresh provision.

In the morning, I waited till half ebb before I weighed, because at that time the shoals begin to appear, but the wind then blew so hard that I was obliged to remain at anchor: in the afternoon, however, the gale becoming more moderate, we got under sail, and stood out upon a wind N.E. by E. leaving the turtle reef to windward, and having the pinnace sounding ahead: we had not kept this course long, before we discovered shoals before us, and upon both the bows; and at half an hour after four, having run about eight miles, the pinnace made the signal for shoal water, where we little expected it: upon this we tacked, and stood on and off, while the pinnace stretched farther to the eastward, and night approaching, I came to an anchor in twenty fathom water, with a muddy bottom. Endeavour River then bore S. 52 W. Cape Bedford W. by N. ½ N. distant five leagues, the northermost land in sight, which had the appearance of an island, N.; and a shoal, a small sandy part of which appeared above water, bore N.E. distant between two and three miles: in standing off from turtle reef to this place, we had from fourteen to twenty fathom water, but when the pinnace was about a mile farther to the E.N.E. there was no more than four or five feet water, with rocky ground; and yet this did not appear to us in the ship. In the morning of the 6th, we had a strong gale, so that instead of weighing, we were obliged to veer away more cable, and strike our top-gallant yards. At low water, myself, with several of the officers, kept a look-out at the mast-head, to see if any passage could be discovered between the shoals, but nothing was in view except breakers, extending from the S. round by the E. as far as N.W. and out to sea beyond the reach of our sight; these breakers, however, did not appear to be caused by one continued shoal, but by several, which lay detached from each other: on that which lay farthest to the eastward, the sea broke very high, which made me think it was the outermost, for upon many of these within, the breakers were inconsiderable, and from about half ebb to half flood, they were not to be seen at all, which makes sailing among them still more dangerous, especially as the shoals here consist principally of coral rocks, which are as steep as a wall; upon some of them however, and generally at the north end, there are patches of sand, which are covered only at high water, and which are to be discerned at some distance. Being now convinced that there was no passage to sea, but through the labyrinth formed by these shoals, I was altogether at a loss which way to steer, when the weather should permit us to get under sail. It was the Master’s opinion, that we should beat back the way we came, but this would have been an endless labour, as the wind blew strongly from that quarter, almost without intermission; on the other hand, if no passage could be found to the northward, we should be compelled to take that measure at last. These anxious deliberations engaged us till eleven o’clock at night, when the ship drove, and obliged us to veer away to a cable and one third, which brought her up; but in the morning, the gale increasing, she drove again, and we therefore let go the small bower, and veered away to a whole cable upon it, and two cables on the other anchors, yet she still drove, though not so fast; we then got down top-gallant malts, and struck the yards and top-masts close down, and at last had the satisfaction to find that she rode. Cape Bedford now bore W.S.W. distant three leagues and an half, and in this situation we had shoals to the eastward, extending from the S.E. by S. to the N.N.W. the nearest of which was about two miles distant. As the gale continued, with little remission, we rode till seven o’clock in the morning of the 10th, when, it being more moderate, we weighed, and stood in for the land, having at length determined to seek a passage along the shore to the northward, still keeping the boat ahead: during our run in we had from nineteen to twelve fathom: after standing in about an hour, we edged away for three small islands that lay N.N.E. ½ E. three leagues from Cape Bedford, which the Master had visited while we were in port. At nine o’clock, we were abreast of them, and between them and the main: between us and the main there was another low island, which lies N.N.W. four miles from the three islands; and in this channel we had fourteen fathom water. The northermost point of land in sight now bore N.N.W. ½ W. distant about two leagues. Four or five leagues to the north of this head land, we saw three islands, near which lay some that were still smaller, and we could see the shoals and reefs without us, extending to the northward, as far as these islands: between these reefs and the head land, we directed our course, leaving to the eastward a small island, which lies N. by E. distant four miles from the three islands. At noon, we were got between the head land and the three islands: from the head land we were distant two leagues, and from the islands four; our latitude, by observation, was 14° 51’. We now thought we saw a clear opening before us, and hoped that we were once more out of danger; in this hope, however, we soon found ourselves disappointed, and for that reason I called the head land CAPE FLATTERY. It lies in latitude 14° 56’ S. longitude 214° 43’ W. and is a lofty promontory, making next the sea in two hills, which have a third behind them, with low sandy ground on each side: it may however be still better known by the three islands out at sea: the northermost and largest lies about five leagues from the Cape, in the direction of N.N.E. From Cape Flattery the land trends away N.W. and N.W. by W. We steered along the shore N.W. by W. till one o’clock, for what we thought the open channel, when the petty officer at the mast-head cried out that he saw land ahead, extending quite round to the islands that lay without us, and a large reef between us and them: upon this I ran up to the mast-head myself, from whence I very plainly saw the reef, which was now so far to windward, that we could not weather it, but the land ahead, which lie had supposed to be the main, appeared to me to be only a cluster of small islands. As soon as I got down from the mast-head, the Master, and some others went up, who all insisted that the land ahead was not islands, but the main, and to make their report still more alarming, they said that they saw breakers all round us. In this dilemma, we hauled upon a wind in for the land, and made the signal for the boat that was sounding ahead to come on board, but as she was far to leeward, we were obliged to edge away to take her up, and soon after we came to an anchor, under a point of the main, in somewhat less than five fathom, and at about the distance of a mile from the shore. Cape Flattery now bore S.E. distant three leagues and an half. As soon as the ship was at anchor, I went ashore upon the point, which is high, and afforded me a good view of the sea coast, trending away N.W. by W. eight or ten leagues, which, the weather not being very clear, was as far as I could see. Nine or ten small low islands, and some shoals, appeared off the coast; I saw also some large shoals between the main and the three high islands, without which, I was clearly of opinion there were more islands, and not any part of the main. Except the point I was now upon, which I called POINT LOOKOUT, and Cape Flattery, the main land, to the northward of Cape Bedford, is low, and chequered with white sand and green bushes, for ten or twelve miles inland, beyond which it rises to a considerable height. To the northward of Point Look-out, the coast appeared to be shoal and flat, for a considerable distance, which did not encourage the hope that the channel we had hitherto found in with the land would continue. Upon this point, which was narrow, and consisted of the finest white sand we had ever seen, we discovered the footsteps of people, and we saw also smoke and fire at a distance up the country.

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© Derived from Vols. II-III of the London 1773 edition: National Library of Australia call no. FERG 7243, pages 592 - 596, 2004
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