||Voyages in the Southern Hemisphere, Vols. II - III
Table of Contents
On this day ...
13 - 16 August 1770
Endeavour Voyage Maps
Endeavour River to the Northern Extremity of the Country
Endeavour River to the Northern Extremity of the Country (continued)
As soon as we were without the reef, we brought to, and having hoisted in the boats, we stood off and on upon a wind all night; for I was not willing to run to leeward till I had a whole day before me. In the morning, at day-break, Lizard Island bore S. 15 E. distant ten leagues; and we then made sail and stood away N.N.W. ½ W. till nine o’clock, when we stood N.W. ½ N. having the advantage of a fresh gale at S.E. At noon, our latitude by observation was 13° 46’ S. and at this time we had no land in sight. At six in the evening we shortened sail and brought the ship to, with her head to the N.E.; and at six in the morning made sail and steered west, in order to get within sight of the land, that I might be sure not to overshoot the passage, if a passage there was, between this land and New Guinea. At noon, our latitude by observation was 13° 2’ S., longitude 216° W.; which was 1° 23’ W. of Lizard Island: at this time we had no land in sight; but a little before one o’clock, we saw high land from the mast-head, bearing W.S.W. At two, we saw more land to the N.W. of that we had seen before: it appeared in hills, like islands; but we judged it to be a continuation of the main land. About three, we discovered breakers between the land and the ship, extending to the southward farther than we could see; but to the north we thought we saw them terminate abreast of us. What we took for the end of them in this direction, however, soon appeared to be only an opening in the reef; for we presently saw them again, extending northward beyond the reach of our sight. Upon this we hauled close upon a wind, which was now at E.S.E. and we had scarcely trimmed our sails before it came to E. by N. which was right upon the reef, and consequently made our clearing it doubtful. At sunset the northermost part of it that was in sight bore from us N. by E. and was two or three leagues distant; this however being the best tack to clear it, we kept standing to the northward with all the sail we could set till midnight; when, being afraid of standing too far in this direction, we tacked and stood to the southward, our run from sunset to this time being six leagues N. and N. by E. When we had stood about two miles S.S.E. it fell calm; we had sounded several times during the night, but had no bottom with one hundred and forty fathom, neither had we any ground now with the same length of line; yet, about four in the morning, we plainly heard the roaring of the surf, and at break of day saw it foaming to a vast height, at not more than a mile’s distance. Our distress now returned upon us with double force; the waves which rolled in upon the reef, carried us towards it very fast; we could reach no ground with an anchor, and had not a breath of wind for the sail. In this dreadful situation, no resource was left us but the boats; and to aggravate our misfortune the pinnace was under repair: the longboat and yawl however were put into the water, and sent ahead to tow, which, by the help of our sweeps abaft, got the ship’s head round to the northward; which, if it could not prevent our destruction, might at least delay it. But it was six o’clock before this was effected, and we were not then a hundred yards from the rock upon which the same billow which washed the side of the ship, broke to a tremendous height the very next time it rose; so that between us and destruction there was only a dreary valley, no wider than the base of one wave, and even now the sea under us was unfathomable, at least no bottom was to be found with a hundred and twenty fathom. During this scene of distress the carpenter had found means to patch up the pinnace; so that she was hoisted out, and sent ahead, in aid of the other boats, to tow; but all our efforts would have been ineffectual, if, just at this crisis of our fate, a light air of wind had not sprung up, so light, that at any other time we should not have observed it, but which was enough to turn the scale in our favour, and, in conjunction with the assistance which was afforded us by the boats, to give the ship a perceptible motion obliquely from the reef. Our hopes now revived; but in less than ten minutes it was again a dead calm, and the ship was again driven towards the breakers, which were not now two hundred yards distant. The same light breeze however returned before we had lost all the ground it had enabled us to gain, and lasted about ten minutes more. During this time we discovered a small opening in the reef, at about the distance of a quarter of a mile: I immediately sent one of the Mates to examine it, who reported that its breadth was not more than the length of the ship, but that within it there was smooth water: this discovery seemed to render our escape possible, and that was all, by pushing the ship through the opening, which was immediately attempted. It was uncertain indeed whether we could reach it; but if we should succeed thus far, we made no doubt of being able to get through: in this however we were disappointed, for having reached it by the joint assistance of our boats and the breeze, we found that in the mean time it had become high water, and to our great surprize we met the tide of ebb rushing out of it like a mill-stream. We gained however some advantage, though in a manner directly contrary to our expectations; we found it impossible to go through the opening, but the stream that prevented us, carried us out about a quarter of a mile: it was too narrow for us to keep in it longer; yet this tide of ebb so much assisted the boats that by noon we had got an offing of near two miles. We had, however, reason to despair of deliverance, even if the breeze, which had now died away, should revive, for we were still embayed in the reef; and the tide of ebb being spent, the tide of flood, notwithstanding our utmost efforts, again drove the ship into the bight. About this time, however, we saw another opening, near a mile to the westward, which I immediately sent the First Lieutenant, Mr. Hicks, in the small boat to examine: in the mean time we struggled hard with the flood, sometimes gaining a little, and sometimes losing; but every man still did his duty, with as much calmness and regularity as if no danger had been near. About two o’clock, Mr. Hicks returned with an account that the opening was narrow and dangerous, but that it might be passed: the possibility of passing it was sufficient encouragement to make the attempt, for all danger was less imminent than that of our present situation. A light breeze now sprung up at E.N.E. with which, by the help of our boats, and the very tide of flood that without an opening would have been our destruction, we entered it, and were hurried through with amazing rapidity, by a torrent that kept us from driving against either side of the channel, which was not more than a quarter of a mile in breadth. While we were shooting this gulph, our soundings were from thirty to seven fathom, very irregular, and the ground at bottom very foul.
© Derived from Vols. II-III of the London 1773 edition: National Library of Australia call no. FERG 7243, pages 603 - 606, 2004
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