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Voyages in the Southern Hemisphere, Vols. II - IIIVoyaging Accounts
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On this day ...
23 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)

The north east entrance of this passage, or streight, lies in the latitude of 10° 39’ S. and in the longitude of 218° 36’ W. It is formed by the main, or the northern extremity of New Holland, on the S.E. and by a congeries of islands, which I called the PRINCE OF WALES’S ISLANDS, to the N.W. and it is probable that these islands extend quite to New Guinea. They differ very much both in height and circuit, and many of them seemed to be well clothed with herbage and wood: upon most, if not all of them, we saw smoke, and therefore there can be no doubt of their being inhabited: it is also probable, that among them there are at least as good passages as that we came through, perhaps better, though better would not need to be desired, if the access to it, from the eastward, were less dangerous: that a less dangerous access may be discovered, I think there is little reason to doubt, and to find it little more seems to be necessary, than to determine how far the principal, or outer reef, which bounds the shoals to the eastward, extends towards the north, which I would not have left to future navigators if I had been less harassed by danger and fatigue, and had had a ship in better condition for the purpose.

To this channel, or passage, I have given the name of the ship, and called it ENDEAVOUR STREIGHTS. Its length from N.E. to S.W. is ten leagues, and it is about five leagues broad, except at the north east entrance, where it is somewhat less than two miles, being contracted by the islands which lie there. That which I called Possession Island is of a moderate height and circuit, and this we left between us and the main, passing between it and two small round islands, which lie about two miles to the N.W. of it. The two small islands, which I called Wallis’s Islands, lie in the middle of the south west entrance, and these we left to the southward. Our depth of water in the streight, was from four to nine fathom, with every where good anchorage, except upon the bank, which lies two leagues to the northward of Wallis’s Islands, where, at low water, there are but three fathom: for a more particular knowlege of this streight, and of the situations of the several islands and shoals on the eastern coast of New Wales, I refer to the chart, where they are delineated with all the accuracy that circumstances would admit; yet, with respect to the shoals, I cannot pretend that one half of them are laid down, nor can it be supposed possible that one half of them should be discovered in the course of a single navigation: many islands also must have escaped my pencil, especially between latitude 20° and 22°, where we saw islands out at sea as far as an island could be distinguished; it must not therefore be supposed, by future navigators, that where no shoal or island is laid down in my chart, no shoal or island will be found in these seas: it is enough that the situation of those that appear in the chart is faithfully ascertained, and, in general, I have the greatest reason to hope that it will be found as free from error as any that has not been corrected by subsequent and successive observations. The latitudes and longitudes of all, or most of the principal head lands and bays, may be confided in, for we seldom failed of getting an observation once at least every day, by which to correct the latitude of our reckoning, and observations for settling the longitude were equally numerous, no opportunity that was offered by the sun and moon being suffered to escape. It would be injurious to the memory of Mr. Green, not to take this opportunity of attesting that he was indefatigable both in making observations and calculating upon them; and that, by his instructions and assistance, many of the petty officers were enabled both to observe and calculate with great exactness. This method of finding the longitude at sea, may be put into universal practice, and may always be depended upon within half a degree, which is sufficient for all nautical purposes. If, therefore, observing and calculating were considered as necessary qualifications for every sea officer, the labours of the speculative theorist to solve this problem might be remitted, without much injury to mankind: neither will it be so difficult to acquire this qualification, or put it in practice, as may at first appear; for, with the assistance of the nautical almanack, and astronomical ephemeris, the calculations for finding the longitude will take up little more time than the calculation of an azimuth for finding the variation of the compass.

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© Derived from Vols. II-III of the London 1773 edition: National Library of Australia call no. FERG 7243, pages 619 - 621, 2004
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