by Ida Lee
F.R.G.S and Hon. F.R.A.H.S

From the Log-Books and Journals
with maps and illustrations

First Published 1925 by
Methuen & Co Ltd
36 Essex Street WC London
Transcribed to eText by
Permission to use eText given by
Col Choat of Project Gutenburg Australia 2003
Converted to Web Enhanced eText by
J&DChallenor of The Allan Cunningham Project 2009




On the “Cygnet’s” arrival off Cape Lévêque, Dampier recorded his first impressions of the country. “This part,” he writes, “is all a low, even land with sandy banks against the sea . . . the points rocky and so are some of the islands in the bay. . . . The soil is dry and sandy, destitute of water, except you make wells, yet producing divers sort of trees.” He at once noticed a species of eucalyptus which grew most abundantly, calling them dragon trees, and describing them as “the largest of any there. They are about the bigness of our large apple trees . . . the rind is blackish. . . . The leaves are of a dark colour. The gum distils out of the knots or cracks that are in the bodies of the trees. We compared it with some Gum-dragon or Dragon’s Blood that was aboard and it was of the same.”

On January 5, 1688, after the “Cygnet” had anchored, some natives were seen walking on the shore. A boat was sent off from the ship in the hope of being able to get water and provisions, but on seeing it approaching them the blacks quickly disappeared. For three days the buccaneers searched for their houses, but found none; then, anxious to be on friendly terms with the inhabitants, left toys in different places which it was thought they would visit. A little later, while searching for water among the islands, Dampier and his shipmates came upon a great many natives.

He describes these people as being “tall and thin, with long limbs . . . great heads, round foreheads, and great brows. Their eyelids always half closed to keep the flies out of their eyes, they were being so troublesome, no fanning will keep them from coming to one’s face. They have great bottle noses, full lips, and wide mouths, and the two fore teeth of the upper jaw are wanting in all of them.” He thought the colour of their skin[p018] was coal black and that “they have no sort of clothes. They have no houses but lie in the open air. Earth being their bed and Heaven their canopy.” On looking around to see what they lived upon, he says: “Their only food is a small sort of fish which they get by making wares of stone across little coves,”[*] and adds: “Their chiefest dependence is what the sea leaves in their wares . . . be it night or day, rain or shine, they must attend to them or else they must fast, for the earth affords them no food at all.” Some of them “had wooden swords; others a sort of lance; the sword is a piece of wood shaped somewhat like a cutlass.” From which it appears that they carried boomerangs, of which Dampier has left us this impression. He imagined that the natives used stone hatchets as he saw no iron or other metal, and believed that they obtained their fire “by rubbing or twirling a hard piece of wood between the palms of their hands” against a softer piece “until it smokes and at last takes fire.”

[* These stone weirs were afterwards seen by King on the north-west coast in 1818, by Roe at Oyster Harbour, West Australia, and by Oxley on the Lachlan River, New South Wales; and King remarks that by their being found on the south-east, south-west,and north-west coasts, he concluded “this expedient was a native practice throughout the continent.”]

On one island (to the eastward of Cape Lévêque) the buccaneers discovered about forty inhabitants–men, women, and children–who, on seeing white men landing there were at first “much disordered” and “made a great noise,” but when they saw no harm was intended they became more subdued. For a dwelling-place they possessed “only a fire with a few boughs before it–set up on the side the wind was.” When they grew friendly the sailors tried to make them help to water the ship. They put clothes on some of them and led them to the wells (where water had been found) and placed a barrel of water on each man’s shoulders to be taken to the boat, which was only waste of time, for the natives “stood like statues and grinned like so many monkeys”; and Dampier relates, “We were forced to carry the water ourselves but they very fairly put the clothes off and laid them down,” no doubt highly pleased to be rid of them.

While one of the boats was seeking food in these islands (to which the name of Buccaneers’ Archipelago has since been given) a number of natives were seen swimming from one island to another, and consequently it was believed that they had “no boats, canoes, or bark logs.” The way in which these tribes[p019] propelled themselves through the water is described, however, by Allan Cunningham in a later chapter of this volume. Four natives were brought on board the “Cygnet,” when they greedily devoured rice boiled with turtle and dugong which the English set before them.

On one occasion some of the blacks who lived on the mainland came close to the ship, and standing on a high bank began to threaten the sailors by calling to them from their high position and wildly flourishing their spears and boomerangs; nor would t leave off until Captain Read ordered the drum to be beaten. Then they hastily took their departure, “crying ‘Gurry, Gurry’ deep in the throat.” At spring tide the “Cygnet” was hauled into a small sandy cove as far as she could float. When the tide turned, the dry sand extended around the ship for nearly half a mile, and in his diary Dampier says: “All the neap tides we lay wholly aground for the sea did not come within 100 yards of where she lay”; which gave the men time to clean the bottom of the ship. Meanwhile, most of the sailors lived ashore in a tent and mended their sails, their constant food being manatee (dugong)[*] and turtle. On March 12th the “Cygnet” left the shores of New Holland, directing her course to the northward.

[* A full-sized dugong–popularly known as the sea-cow–ordinarily furnishes about a ton of good meat. Part of the flesh resembles beef and other portions would easily be mistaken for pork. Dugong feed on the seaweed growing in shallow waters round the coast.]

When he visited Australia for the second time as captain of the “Roebuck”–some eleven years afterwards–Dampier spent about three weeks on the west and north-west coasts discovering harbours, meeting natives, and sometimes landing upon its shores. It is said that he was “well acquainted with botany,” and he thus describes the natural features of the coast at Shark Bay, which he entered on August 7, 1699, and anchored within it, at three different places: “The land is of indifferent height. . . . There are many gentle risings neither steep nor high . . . but in this bay or sound . . . the land is low by the seaside, the mould is sand . . . producing a sort of sampier [samphire] which bears a white flower. Farther in, the mould is reddish . . . producing some grass, plants, and shrubs. The grass grows in great tufts as big as a bushel, here and there tufts being inter-mixed with heath . . . much of the kind . . . growing on our commons in England.”

There were curious trees of different sorts, and the visitors[p020] thought the foliage of some even more curious; many grew to a height of five or six feet “before one comes to their branches, which are bushy”; the colour of their leaves was white on one side and green on the other. There was long grass growing there, but it was very thin. Some of the trees were sweet–scented and turned “reddish within the bark like Sassafras but redder. . . . Most of these and the shrubs had either blossoms or berries on them. The blossoms . . . were of several colours as red, white, and yellow, but mostly blue, and these generally smelt very sweet and fragrant, as did also some of the rest; there were beside . . . plants, herbs and tall flowers and some very small flowers growing on the ground that were sweet and beautiful, for the most part unlike any I had seen elsewhere.”

“Of large land fowl,” Dampier saw “none but eagles, and five or six sorts of small birds . . . not bigger than larks, some no bigger than wrens, all singing with great variety of fine shrill notes,” and the sailors caught sight of some of their young ones in their nests. There was an abundance of water-fowl in Shark Bay, among them duck–these also had young ones–gulls, and pelicans, and others of a kind never seen before. The land animals were “only a sort of raccoon . . . with very short fore legs,” and he says they “go jumping” and were good meat, which would show that he met with a small species of kangaroo.

The lizards resembled other lizards excepting in three remarkable particulars: they had “a larger and uglier head and had no tail . . . instead . . . they had the stump of a tail which appeared like another head.”[*] They were very slow in motion, and when “a man comes nigh them they will stand and hiss,” and so hideous did they appear to him that he observes: “I did never see such ugly creatures anywhere.” There were plenty of sea-fish and shell-fish: among the latter, oysters both of the pearl and the edible variety, and the shore was “lined thick with many sorts of very strange and beautiful shells, for variety of colour and shape most finely spotted with red, black, and yellow,” such as he had not seen anywhere “but at this place,” and he brought away what he could.

[* The stump-tailed lizard, Trachysaurus rugosus.]

There were a great many sharks in this bay, and these, he says, our men “eat very favourily.” Inside a huge one that the sailors cut open was found part of a dugong. Being ignorant of the Malayan name of this herb-eating mammal, Dampier called[p021] it a “hippopotamus,” and because the sharks were so numerous he named the indentation Shark Bay.

When his ship left there on August 14th he proceeded to follow the coast round to the north-east and passed through many islands of a pretty height, which, he thought, must stretch back “as far as to those of Shark Bay.” He had a strong suspicion that these constituted an archipelago of islands.[*] and that possibly there was “a passage to the south of New Holland and New Guinea into the Great South Sea eastward.”

[* The French Commander, L. de Freycinet called it Archipel de Dampier in 1803.]


He therefore determined to examine the islands, the largest of which were “mostly rocky and barren,” the rocks being of a rusty yellow colour, and the “Roebuck” anchored on August 22nd on the inner side of an island the outside of which he describes as “a bluff point.”[*] Here he landed with some of his men, who took shovels to dig for water, but none was found. He found that two or three sorts of shrubs grew there, “one just like rosemary and therefore I called this Rosemary Island.” The rosemary shrub grew plentifully but “had no smell. . . . Some other shrubs had blue and yellow flowers,” and there were two sorts of grain like beans: “the one grew on bushes, the other on a sort of creeping vine that ran along the ground.” Dampier says that this vine had thick, broad leaves, and the blossom resembled “a bean blossom but much larger and of a deep red colour looking very beautiful.” It appears likely, although the description of the leaf is hardly a true one, that this last was Dampier’s Glory Pea (Clianthus Dampieri, Cunn.), a specimen of which is contained in Dampier’s Herbarium. His collection.[**] is still preserved at Oxford, and besides the Glory Pea there are in it the following plants that he brought from New Holland: Casuarina equisetifoliaMelalcuca gibbosaSolanum orbiculatumTripolona DampieriDammara alba, and Trachymene pusilla.

[* Writing of Dampier, Captain P. P. King says: “I take Malus Island to be that on which he landed and the bluff . . . is no other than our Courtenay Head.” From the south-east “in the bearing Dampier saw it, Rosemary Island would appear to be joined to Malus Island, and hence his opinion that it was an island five or six leagues in length and one in breadth.”]

[** Also called Sturt’s Desert Pea. Drawings of seven plants seen by Dampier were engraved in Plukenet’s “Almatheurn,” 1769, while about eleven appear in the “History of Dampier’s Voyage.”]

Among the land birds the most noticeable were “white parrots, which flew a great many together,” besides numberless sea-fowl. The “white parrots” were the slender-billed species [p022] of white cockatoo (Licmetis pastinator, Gould), now known as Dampier’s Cockatoo. In August and September these birds still fly “a great many together” from the mainland over to Rosemary Island and the other islands of Dampier’s Archipelago, where they breed in the holes of the rocks.


The anchorage at Rosemary Island proving unsatisfactory, and as he could find no water, Dampier stood away on August 23rd and steered to the north-east. In fine weather, with a clear sky, “there being not one cloud to be seen,” the “Roebuck” coasted along the shores of the mainland, looking for an opening during the day but “edging away from it at night” for fear of shoals. At night when it was calm the sailors fished with hook and line and they then took many kinds of fish, including snapper, bream, and dog-fish, and also caught a monkfish, of which Dampier brought home a drawing. This appears in the story of his voyage.

On the 28th the “Roebuck” lost sight of the land and a great many water snakes now appeared in the water, and birds, chiefly boobies and noddies, hovered about the ship’s track. At night a noddy was caught: the top of its head was coal black, the breast and under part of the wings white, and the back and upper parts faint black or smoke colour. It had feet just like a duck’s feet and a deeply forked tail and very long wings.

On the 30th land was seen again and the ship anchored in the afternoon three and a half leagues off shore, coming into a bay which has since been named Roebuck Bay.[*] In the earlier part of the evening an eclipse of the moon was witnessed but not very clearly, for the horizon was hazy. The moon had been “half an hour above the horizon and at 2 hours 22 minutes after sunset the eclipse was quite gone.”

[* The space between Cape and Point Gantheaume was named Roebuck Bay by Captain P. P. King, as “here Dampier had anchored in the ‘Roebuck’s voyage.”]

Next day Dampier landed with a well-armed watering party, who “carried shovels and pickaxes to make wells. When they came near the shore they saw three tall, naked black men in a sandy bay who as the men rowed in disappeared.” The boat, in charge of two seamen, was then sent off shore to wait while the rest of the party went in search of the natives, who at length were seen with eight or nine more standing on the top of a small hill a quarter of a mile away. On catching sight of the strangers coming their way they quickly dispersed. From this hill Dampier[p023] saw a low, open plain half a mile off with “several things like haycocks” dotted over it. He thought these objects were houses at first, but “found them to be so many rocks.” He returned to the landing-place, where the men had begun to dig a well, when nine or ten natives made their appearance at a little distance away and began to threaten them. Dampier says, “At last one came towards us and . . . I went out to meet him making . . . signs of peace and friendship, but he ran away. I took two men in the afternoon along by the seaside purposely to catch one . . . of whom I might learn where they got their fresh water. There were 10 or 12 natives a little way off, who seeing us going away from the rest of our men followed us at a distance. . . . There being a sand bank between us and them, we made a halt and hid ourselves in a bending of the sand bank. They . . . thought to seize us. So they dispersed themselves some going to the sea shore, and others beating about the sand hills. . . . So a nimble young man that was with me . . . ran towards them . . . soon overtaking them, they faced about and fought him. He had a cutlass and they had wooden lances . . . being so many . . . they were too hard for him. . . . I chased two more that were by the sea shore, but fearing how it might be with my young man I turned back quickly . . . to the top of a sand hill whenceIsaw him near me closely engaged with them. Upon seeing me one threw a lance at me that narrowly missed me.Idischarged my gun . . . but avoided shooting any of them till finding the young man in great danger . . . and myself in some, and that though the gun had a little frightened them at first they . . . soon learnt to despise it . . . crying ‘pooh pooh pooh’ and coming on afresh, I thought it high time to charge again and shoot one of them which I did. The rest seeing him fall made a stand again and my young man took the opportunity to disengage himself and come off to me. My other man also was with me . . . and I returned back with my men being very sorry for what had happened. They took up their wounded companion . . . and my young man who . . . had been struck through the cheek by one of their lances . . . was afraid it had been poisoned . . . but he soon recovered.”

Among the New Hollanders there was one who by his appear-ance seemed the chief of them all and a kind of prince or captain among them. He was a young, brisk man, not very tall nor so “personable” as some of the others, but much more active and courageous, painted–as none of the rest were–with a circle of[p024] white paste or pigment about his eyes, a white streak down his nose from the forehead to the tip, and his breast and part of his arms white with the same paint, not for beauty or for ornament but to make himself look more terrible, his painting adding very much to his natural deformity. All these savages had “the same black skins and frizzled hair,” the same blinking eyes, and had the same kind of flies teasing them as those seen by Dampier in his former voyage, when he came to the north-west coast and touched at a part which was “not above 40 or 50 leagues to the north-east of this.”


Here too were many native fire-places with three or four boughs “stuck up to windward of them.” Round these fire-places there were nearly always found heaps of shells, and consequently he surmised that these people lived on shell-fish, as did those met with in his first voyage. Their spears also were similar, but the natives seen in the “Cygnet’s” voyage were on an island in the company of women and children, and it was imagined that for that reason they did not attempt to attack the white men, as these on the continent had done, where only men were congregated.

Although the watering party had dug down eight or nine feet they found no water, so on September 1st Dampier sent the boatswain of the “Roebuck” ashore to dig deeper. Next morning the men returned with “a rundlet of brackish water” which they had got at another place, but it was not fit to drink. However, he decided that “it would serve to boil oatmeal for burgoo, and the sailors subsequently brought aboard four hogs-heads of it.” It was perceived that the tides ran very swiftly here, and at low water the shore was rocky; but at high water a boat could pass over the rocks.

No more was seen of the natives, though the smoke of their fires was observed two or three miles away. The land resembled the shores of Cygnet Bay. Dampier describes it as being “barri-caded with a chain of sandhills to the sea.” The soil by the sea was dry and sandy, bearing shrubs and bushes. Some of these had “yellow flowers or blossoms, some blue and some white: most of them with a very fragrant smell. Some had fruit like peapods, in each of which there were just ten small peas . . . no more nor less.” There were also here some of that sort of bean that Dampier had found at Rosemary Island and another “of red, hard pulse growing in cods also with little black eyes.”[*]

[* Abrus precatorius.]

[p025] He says: “I know not their names but have seen them used in the East Indies for weighing gold and . . . at Guinea as I have heard the women make bracelets with them to wear about their arms. These grow on bushes; but here are also a fruit like beans growing on a creeping sort of shrublike vine.”

The land farther in . . . was very plain and even, “partly savannah and partly woodland. . . .” Here there were a great many rocks five or six feet high and “round at the top like a haycock,” beyond them again, farther inland, small trees . . . twelve or fourteen feet high “with a head of small . . . boughs”; while by the sides of the creeks, and more especially near the sea, were a few small black mangroves. Dampier saw few animals, although his men described “two or three beasts like hungry wolves, lean like so many skeletons,” which doubtless were dingoes, and some lizards were noticed as well as a “raccoon or two” and one small speckled snake. Among the birds there were crows or birds “closely resembling the English crow”; also plenty of turtle-doves” that were plump and fat and very good meat.” A great many green turtle were seen, but none were caught, there being no place there to set a turtle net and no channel for them.

He here added to the collection of shells that he had gathered at Shark Bay, obtaining some that were strange to him, “chiefly a sort not large, and thick set all about with rays and spikes . . . in rows.” But of his collection he afterwards “lost allexcept a few, and those not of the best.” It is probable that some of these shells reached England as well as his herbarium although his ship sprung a leak on the homeward voyage and foundered at the Isle of Ascension in 1701.[*]

[* Ten weeks later three English men-of-war called there, and on board these ships Dampier and his men returned to England.]

After Dampier had finished writing the story of the “Roebuck’s “voyage” he added some further particulars respecting the South Land which show us that he no longer believed in the existence of a great southern or Antarctic continent. He was satisfied that in his travels he had found a number of islands spread over the waters where the land of Terra Australis Incognita had been supposed to extend, and he observes, “’tis probably the same with New Holland.”

On maps of the world the portions of New Holland discovered by the Dutch were now being methodically laid down and the vast imaginary continent left out. Gradually, in its true place[p026] in the eastern hemisphere, a vague outline of Australia appeared, but of so curious a shape (as for example in the world maps of Le Rouge and Robert Vaugondy) that it bore only a deformed likeness to the real island-continent. The east coast had never been seen, so an imaginary coast-line was given to it which, starting at the New Hebrides in the north, ran south-westerly without a break until it joined the southern extremity of Tasmania.


The day was now approaching when all doubt was to be dispelled and Australia was to take her place as a known continent.

In 1770 a little English ship, not at all majestic–like other British men-of-war–and bearing a name as humble and unpre-tentious as herself, discovered the east coast and gave to it its real form on the map of the world. A little bark[*] Of 370 tons, she flew the white ensign and bore herself steadily through heavy seas and stormy weather; yet it still seems wonderful that so small a ship should carry out a misson of which it has been said it was “to the English nation the most momentous voyage of discovery that has ever taken place.”[**]

[* As the word was then written.]

[** Preface to Cook’s Journal by Admiral Wharton. The Admiralty instruc-tions ordered Cook, who had received a lieutenant’s commission, to proceed to Tahiti, and after the completion of the astronomical observations at that island, to continue the discoveries in the Pacific in which Byron and Wallis had been engaged. Tahiti had been recommended by Wallis, who had returned just before Cook sailed, as the point from which the transit of Venus should be observed.]


The seaman who commanded her was James Cook. Some-times we hear that Captain Cook has not been fully appreciated in his native land, but if this is so, at least let it be said that among his countrymen who travel farthest, more especially among those whose paths lie on the sea, there has been reserved for him within the great Empire of Britain a true measure of his worth. In the lands visited by him in the South Pacific his name and his doings live as those of no other navigator of any age or race. We will endeavour to re-state briefly how he discovered the east coast.[

Lieutenant James Cook, as he then ranked in the Royal[p027] Navy, “saw land” with “the first daylight” of Thursday, April 19, 1770. On seeing it Cook at once looked towards the south, where, according to his longitude compared with that of Tasman, he should have been able to see Tasmania. But all was clear in that quarter. He then perceived that the strange land trended north-east and south-west, which convinced him that he had reached the east coast of New Holland. And he began to doubt whether Australia and Tasmania were one country, as was then generally supposed.[

To those on board the “Endeavour” the face of the country appeared “green and woody” and its shore “a white sand.” It would seem as though Nature herself had prepared a reception for the coming of the voyagers, as at noon all were called on deck “to see three waterspouts which made their appearance at the same time, in different places between us and the land. . . . Two soon disappeared, but the third . . . lasted fully a quarter of an hour. It was a column which appeared of the thickness of a mast or . . . tree and reached down from a smoke-coloured cloud . . . to the surface of the sea; smaller ones seemed to attempt to form in its neighbourhood, one . . . close by it and became longer than the old one. . . . They Joined together in an instant and gradually contracting into the cloud disappeared.”[*]

[* “Journal of Sir J. Banks,” edited by Sir J. Hooker.]

Immediately Cook saw the land he began to make a chart of its coast-line–a chart which may be called the foundation of Australia’s charts, which the navigators who followed him have built upon and added to. He placed on it the first land seen, under the name of Point Hicks to honour the “Endeavour’s “first lieutenant,” who,” he says, “discovered this land.” Although Cook gave the name as Point Hicks there is no headland, but only an elevation in the coast-line at this place. The land, however, slopes away south-westward from where he saw it. and so no doubt was regarded by him to form a “point.”[

Two headlands were next seen farther northward. The first rises to a round hillock like “the Ram Head” (Rame Head) going into Plymouth Sound, and was given that name; the second remarkable for the way in which the coast trends there, being north on the one side and south-west on the other, was called Cape Home. A small island lying off it is known as Gabo Island.[*]

[* Gabo is said to be the native rendering of Cape Howe.]

From Cape Home, Cook followed the coast northwards, and[p028] as he went along gave a quaint variety of names to its different features. On the 21st a fairly high mountain near the shore was called Mount Dromedary on account of its peculiar shape, and on the 22nd–a day on which the “Endeavour” stood closer in with the land–a remarkable peaked hill inland for a like reason received the name of the Pigeon House.[

The air was wonderfully clear. When they had passed Bateman Bay and Point Upright, with its perpendicular cliffs, those on board could plainly see five natives upon the beach, smoke from their fires having already been noticed. From the ship these people looked “enormously black,” and the commander would have sent a boat ashore, but a large hollow sea “from the S.E. beating high upon the beach,” prevented him. The land continued to form “alternately rocky points and sandy beaches,” and “inland between Mount Dromedary and the Pigeon House are several pretty high mountains,” writes Cook in his journal.[*] Of these hills all excepting two were covered with trees, and the trees had “all the appearance of being stout and lofty,” he remarks, possibly imagining they would prove suitable for ship-spars. On April 23rd a cape was discovered and named in honour of St. George; and two leagues beyond it, on the 25th, Cook observed that a part of the shore seemed to form a bay.[**] To the north point, because of its curious shape, he gave the name of Long Nose; and eight leagues farther along the coast he called a headland Red Point, as it appeared to him to be of that colour. A little way inland north-west of this point was a round hill whose top “looked like the crown of a hatt.”

[* Cook’s journal, edited by Sir W. Wharton.]

[** Jervis Bay, afterwards so named by Lieutenant Bowen in honour of Earl St. Vincent.]

Before dark, smoke was constantly seen on shore and two or three native fires. On this night the “Endeavour” lay becalmed, drifting in before the sea until one o’clock a.m., when she got a land breeze. On the morning of the 26th, in clear, pleasant weather, she steered past some white cliffs which rose perpendicularly from the water.[

At noon the wind fell and Cook had to tack several times and stand on and off shore. This he continued to do until daylight on the 27th, after which he stood in for the land. Owing to the variable winds the ship lost much ground, so that at noon Red Point bore from here only three leagues to the southward.[

[p029] On the afternoon of this day[*] the pinnace and yawl were hoisted out to attempt a landing, but the pinnace leaked and had to be hoisted in again. Several natives were moving about the beach, and four were seen carrying a boat which it was thought they meant to launch and come off in to the vessel. As they did not come, Cook with Banks, Solander, and Tupia the Tahitian put off in the yawl and pulled towards the shore to where they could still see four or five natives. They, however, soon took to the woods. Three or four of their canoes lay on the beach and from the yawl looked like the small ones of the New Zealanders. Trees were seen here, but no underwood, the trees being a species of palm.[**] The surf was beating high upon the shore,[***] and as Cook saw that a landing could not be effected the yawl returned on board.

[* By civil reckoning this would be on the afternoon of the 27th, as Cook’s journal was kept by ship time, i.e. the day begins at noon before the civil reckoning, in which the day commences at midnight. Cook, however, at this time had made no allowance for the loss of a day in sailing westward on his voyage from England.]

[** Livision a australis.]

[*** This was near Bulli.]

“At daylight in the morning,” writes the commander on April 28th, “we discovered a bay,[*] which appeared to be tolerably well-sheltered from all winds.” The “Endeavour” stood directly towards it. Smoke was rising on shore, and through the glasses ten natives could be distinguished at a barren spot, where they had gathered round a fire. When they saw the ship they left the fire and retired to a little eminence to watch her coming. A little later two canoes were seen to draw into the land with two men in each, who, after hauling up the boats, joined their fellows on the hill. Meanwhile, Mr. Robert Molineux, the master, had been sent in the pinnace to sound the entrance, and he now came alongshore beneath where they stood. They then retired higher up the hill, excepting at least one man, who hid among the rocks and was not seen to leave the beach.

[* Botany Bay.]



The boat from the “Endeavour” continued to skirt the shore, and some of the natives followed her as she turned into a cove a little within the harbour. There the natives came down to the water’s edge and by signs and words, which were not understood, invited Molineux and his men to land.[*] These natives were armed with spears and boomerangs. During this time a few others who had not followed the pinnace, but had remained on the shore opposite the ship, began to call in a threatening way and to brandish their weapons menacingly. The blades of the[p030] wooden ones, “in shape resembling a scimitar” (familiar to us as the boomerang), gleamed in the clear light, so that some on board the ship thought they “looked whitish” and “some thought shining,” possibly because the wood had been so highly polished.[**]

[* Banks’s journal.]

[** Banks’s journal.]

Two natives painted with white pigment are described by Banks as being particularly noticeable: their faces only dusted over with it, their bodies adorned with broad stroke drawn over their breasts and backs, resembling soldiers’ cross belts, while their legs and thighs also had broad white stroke drawn round them. The two black men talked very earnestly together, when they were not shouting defiance and brandishing their crooked weapons.[*]

[* Banks’s journal.]

The ship reached the entrance of the bay at noon, the beginning of a new day–April 29th–by ship time. Under the south head[*] of the bay four canoes were seen, each containing a man who held in his hand a fishgig with which he struck at the fish The natives in these canoes ventured to the very edge of the surf, and so intently were they occupied that they scarcely lifted their eyes to glance at the “Endeavour” sailing past. Standing in with a southerly wind and clear weather, shortly afterwards Cook came to an anchorage under the south shore of the bay–about two miles within the entrance–opposite a small native village consisting of six or eight houses.

[* The outer heads of the bay are Cape Solander (south-west) and Cape Bank (north-east)]

Presently an old woman came out of a wood, followed by three young children; she carried an armful of firewood and each child also had gathered a little bundle. As she went towards one of the houses the woman often looked at the ship, but her face showed neither fear nor surprise at what she saw. She began to kindle a fire, and then four canoes came in from fishing. The men landed, and, hauling in their canoes, prepared their meal to all appearance quite unmoved at the presence of the strangers who were now little more than half a mile from them.

In the afternoon Cook manned the ship’s boat, and at 3 p.m., with Mr. Banks, Dr. Solander, and Tupia, proceeded to the south shore of the bay, where, abreast the ship, men, women, and children were seen standing. When the boats approached the shore, the natives all made off, excepting two men, who seemed determined to oppose the landing. These men were each armed[p031] with a bundle of spears and carried wommeras[*] (throwing sticks), and they called out loudly to the British in harsh, strident voices something which even Tupia failed to understand. The commander ordered the boats’ crews to lie on their oars so that he might speak to the natives, and some beads and nails were thrown to them. But all to no purpose. As they saw the boats pull inshore again they began to shout and wave their spears, as though resolved to defend their coasts to the uttermost. Seeing that the two men were determined to resist him, Cook ordered a shot to be fired between them. At this the younger of the two dropped his bundle of spears, which he immediately snatched up again, and they retired to a spot where some more spears were lying.

[** The throwing stick was first observed at this time.]


Then the elder man picked up a stone and threw it at the boats, which caused the commander to fire a second time. The native was struck on the legs with the shot, yet the only effect it had was to make him go and fetch a shield which he brought from a house a hundred yards off. At this time the British stepped upon a rock. They had no sooner done so than the natives, Cook says, “throwed two darts at us; this obliged me to fire a third shot, soon after which they both made off.”

Thus the British first landed on the East Coast!

The present name of the locality where Cook landed is Kurnell. It was known to the natives as Kundel. Cook himself at first christened the bay in which he anchored Stingray Bay. But before he left there he saw fit to change its name. In his journal Cook writes:

“During our stay in this harbour I caused the English colours to be displayed ashore every day, and an inscription to be cut upon one of the trees near the watering place, setting forth the ship’s name, date, etc.”

Yet another link was to connect the “Endeavour” with this new land, for on the night of April 30th–by civil reckoning–Cook lost one of his ship’s company. A seaman named Forby Sutherland died, whom they buried next morning on shore at a spot near the watering-place. Then for the first time an Englishman was laid to rest in Australian soil. This, Cook tells us, “occasioned my calling the south point of the bay Point Sutherland.” It was also the place where he first landed, which is now marked by a memorial, the point being known as Inscription Point.

[p032] The Philosophical Society, a hundred years ago, placed a brass plate at Kurnell to commemorate the discovery of Australia’s eastern shores; and Barron Field, the friend of Charles Lamb, wrote these lines in honour of the occasion:

Here fix the tablet. This must be the place
Where our Columbus of the South did land;
He saw the Indian village on the sand,
And on this rock first met the simple race
Of Austral Indians, who presum’d to face
With lance and spear his musket. Close at hand
Is the clear stream, from whence his vent’rous band
Refresh’d their ship, and thence a little space
Lies Sutherland, their shipmate; for the sound
Of Christian burial better did proclaim
Possession than the flag of England’s name.
These were the Commelinae[*] Banks first found;
But where’s the tree with the ship’s wood-carv’d frame?
Fix, then, the Ephesian brass; ’tis classic ground.”

Transcription of Tablet Placed at Kurnell in 1822

[* A genus of herbaceous plants called in honour of Commelin, a Dutch botanist.]


When Cook and his party had disembarked at this point they found a few small huts made of bark in which four or five little children were hiding, to whom beads and other presents were given. A number of spears lay about the huts and these the visitors took away. The spears varied in length from six to fifteen feet. One sort had four prongs, which were headed with very sharp fish bones besmeared with a green-coloured gum. These were regarded as poisonous. The canoes, lying upon the beach, Cook thought were “the worst” he had ever seen. They were from twelve to fourteen feet long, made of one piece of bark drawn or tied up at each end and kept open by means of pieces of stick-by way of thwarts.”

After the first sharp encounter with the natives the visitors frequently saw them while the ship remained in the bay. They appeared to possess darker skins than any previously met with on the voyage. “Their beards were thick and bushy,” and the hair of their heads as well, yet “by no means woolly.” To Banks these men looked “of a common size, lean and seemed active and nimble; their voices coarse and strong.” On the first night from the “Endeavour” many moving lights were noticed at different parts of the bay, and Banks conjectured that the natives were spearing fish in the darkness, after the manner[p033] of many other South Sea Islanders. He had already seen seaweed stuck in the prongs of some of the fishgigs found in the huts.

The country within the vicinity of the harbour was explored thoroughly by the British seamen. On the 30th a watering party had been sent to the south point to dig holes in the sand; from these, and with water obtained from a small stream afterwards discovered, the ship was sufficiently supplied, and the wooding parties found there an abundance of wood.

Cook made an excursion into the inland country on May 1st, and says that it was “diversified with woods, lawns, and marshes. The woods free from underwood . . . and the trees at such a distance from one another that the whole country, or at least great part of it, might be cultivated without being obliged to cut down a single tree.” He perceived “the soil everywhere, except in the marshes, to be a light white sand,” producing “a quantity of good grass which grows in little tufts about as big as one can hold in one’s hand and pretty close together.”

He came upon native huts and impressions in the grass where the blacks had been sleeping, and a glimpse was caught of a single native-the others having apparently fled. Just before starting on this expedition Cook had visited some native habitations near the watering-place and had placed several articles in them, such as cloth, looking glasses, combs, beads, and nails, as presents for their owners, and some were now left in these newly discovered.

Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander, who went with Cook’s party, collected specimens of flowering and other plants growing there. Every one of these seemed new and most of them were in full bloom. The leaves of the trees turned edgeways towards the branches and resembled those described by Dampier. Some of the plants were of uncommon shades of colour and resembled heaths; others of strange form grew wild; with many species of long, graceful rushes and grasses, green moss and ferns–chiefly of the kind known as maidenhair–flourishing in such profusion that a few days later Cook changed the name of Stingray Bay, which he had given to this portion of the Australian coast, and wrote in his journal: “The great quantity of plants Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander found in this place occasioned my giving it the name of Botany Bay.”

Curious animals ran about the woods. Between the trees Dr. Solander had a glimpse of a small one “something like a rabbit; Mr. Banks’s greyhound “just got sight of him,” and[p034] lamed himself on a tree stump trying to chase it, while traces were found of a larger one which was certainly the kangaroo. There were also “footprints of an animal clawed like a dog or wolf” and of another whose feet were like those of a polecat.[*] Here and there trees had been cut down with a blunt instrument, others were barked, and in many of the palms steps three or four feet apart (not five as Tasman had seen farther southward) were cut to enable the natives to climb them.

[* Banks’s Journal.]

Of two sorts of gum found in this excursion “one sort,” says Cook, “is like Gum Dragon, and is the same, I suppose, Tasman took for Gum Lac; it is extracted from the largest tree in the woods.” In mentioning the timber trees Banks refers to one species which he saw–possibly the identical tree that Cook describes–yielding gum much like Sanguis draconis; these descriptions being apparently the first references to the Eucalyptus or gum tree of this part of Australia. Other trees bearing a fruit of the Jambosa[*] kind, in colour and shape resembling cherries, of which the men ate plentifully, are mentioned later by Banks as growing on the shores of the harbour. At a later date Cook again refers to the timber trees. He says: “Although wood is here in great plenty yet there is very little variety: the biggest trees are as large or larger than our oaks in England, grow a good deal like them and yield a reddish gum,” in which description we recognize yet another species of our old friend the Eucalyptus. He continues: “The wood itself is heavy, hard, and black, like Lignum Vitae. Another sort grows tall and straight something like pines–the wood of this is hard and ponderous . . . something of the nature of America live oak.” He also remarks: “There are a few sorts of shrubs and several palm trees and mangroves about the head of the harbour.” Of the country at this part he says it is “woody, low, and flat,” and he thought the soil “in general sandy.”

[* The Malay apple.]

In the woods he saw a variety of very beautiful birds, such as cockatoos, loriquets, parrots, etc., and crows which he thought “exactly like those we have in England.” Like every English explorer in every age, Cook found a resemblance in something in the new land to one of its kind “at home.” “As in England” and “like those we have in England” are phrases that seem to ring through the stories of British discoverers, as if they had found pleasure in making the comparison.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, May 2nd, Cook went on[p035] shore to the watering-place and caught sight of seventeen or eighteen natives. In the forenoon Mr. Gore, the second lieutenant, had been dredging for oysters and had met some of them, who followed him and his companion at a distance of ten or twenty yards. Whenever Mr. Gore turned and faced them, they stood still; but though they were all armed they never offered to attack him. A short time afterwards the same natives were met by Dr. Monkhouse and his companions, who made a “sham retreat.” They had no sooner done so than the natives threw their spears after them. Cook wished to speak with the blacks, and he, Solander, and Tupia tried to come up with them, but he could not by words or by signs prevail upon them to wait for him to approach them.

On the 3rd, accompanied by Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander, Cook made a short excursion along the sea coast to the southward. On entering the bush they met three natives, who ran away, as did some others seen later, much to Cook’s disappointment. Next morning he went in the pinnace with Solander and Monkhouse to the head of Botany Bay, and on the way they caught sight of ten or twelve natives fishing, each in his own small canoe, who, on seeing them, at once drew into shoal water. At the first place at which they landed some others took to their canoes before the Englishmen could get near them. After this Cook continued his journey by boat and went almost to the head of the bay, where he landed and travelled inland for some distance.

The country looked much like that near the coast but the soil was better, a deep black mould replacing the sand in many places and it was thought capable of producing grain.[*] Besides timber there was “as fine meadow as ever was seen,” and Cook also notes that the stone there was of sandstone character, “and very proper for building “–a suggestion of its future usefulness which time has verified.

[* Don Luis Née (botanist to the Spanish expedition under Malaspina), who visited Sydney in 1793, wrote of this part of the country much as Cook did, although many have wondered whether “meadows” ever existed there. Née says of his excursion.. “I saw a few places suitable for agriculture: among them some patches of black earth . . . and a plain of half a league whichIthink would yield wheat or barley because . . . it bears Melaleuca and rushes, which show there is some humidity in the soil. It was composed of vegetable mould.”]

On this morning Banks, who did not accompany Cook, devoted his time to drying and preparing his botanical specimens[p036] on shore, spreading them in the sun, turning them, and sometimes turning the paper in which the plants were placed inside out. By this means all the specimens were brought on board in good condition at night. While he was thus engaged eleven canoes with a black fellow in each came towards him, who, however, paid no attention to him but proceeded to fish. Opposite to their fishing ground some of the “Endeavour’s” people were occupied in shooting. One black fellow, prompted perhaps by curiosity, hauled up his canoe and went towards them. He stayed about a quarter of an hour, then went off in his boat. Banks believed that he had been stealthily watching the strangers from behind the trees, although when questioned no one appeared to have seen him. When the evening grew too damp for him to continue his work any longer, Banks sent his plants and books on board and went on a shooting excursion, intending to get some specimens of birds for his collection. He put up a large number of quail much resembling English ones, of which he could have shot a great many more had he not wanted birds of different varieties.

On the 4th Mr. Gore determined to try his hand at spearing fish.[*] He had observed quantities of large sting-ray following the flowing tide into the shallows and met with instant success, striking several when they were in not more than two or three feet of water. One, after it was cleaned, weighed 239 lbs. On disturbing the natives at their fires the British often found fresh mussels broiling upon the coals, and at one place heaps of very large oyster shells lay scattered around. The seine was hauled at different parts of the bay; and in a cove on the north side on April 30th the catch weighed about 300 lbs. On May 5th on the north shore the sailors took a number of leather-jackets, a fish with a tough skin, in which the scales are embedded.

[* Banks’s journal.]

Numbers of water-fowl sought their food in the sand and mud. Most of these were unknown to the visitors. Especially noticeable was one sort, black and white and as large as a goose but most like a pelican. This, according to a note of Admiral Wharton, was probably the black and white, or palmated, goose, now extinct there.

On the flats and mudbanks there were many kinds of shellfish, apparently the chief support of the natives, since, so far as could be observed, they did not eat the sting-ray. At the same time, says Cook, “they catch other sorts of fish, which we[p037] found roasting on their fires, some of which they strike with their gigs.” Possibly he was referring to snapper.

At first the commander had intended to leave the harbour on Friday, May 4th, but as the wind would not permit him to sail, he gave orders for parties to go out in different directions to try to find the natives and speak with them. A midshipman succeeded in meeting with two very old Australians, man and woman, both grey headed, with whom were two small children, all being naked. They were sitting under a tree close to the water side watching some other natives gathering shellfish into their canoes. The midshipman went up to the old people and gave them a parrot that he had just shot, but they would not touch it. Neither would they say one word, and appeared to be too frightened to speak. Being alone the midshipman was afraid to stay long with them lest the other natives should discover him. The man had bushy hair and his beard was long and rough. The woman’s hair was cropped short. On this day Dr. Monklhouse narrowly escaped a spear thrown by a native from a tree.

On Sunday, May 6th, Cook took his departure from the bay. Of his going he writes: “Having seen everything this place afforded, we at daylight weighed with a light breeze at N.W. and put to sea, and the wind soon after coming to the southward we steered alongshore N.N.E., and at noon we were by observation in the latitude Of 33°50′ S., about two or three miles from the land and abreast of a bay, wherein there appeared to be safe anchorage, which I called Port Jackson.”[*] This entry tells us that as Cook’s ship drew level with the heads of Port Jackson lie had a glimpse of the harbour within. Had he looked farther into this “bay” he would have seen how widely it extended and at the same time would have robbed Captain Phillip of the credit of discovering it eighteen years later.

[* In honour of Mr. George Jackson, afterwards Sir George Duckett.]

But Cook did not enter there. And this Mother of Harbours, whose waters gleam in a hundred coves, was destined to remain unseen. Her rocky, moss-grown points, her miniature islands, and her sandy beaches all lay undisturbed as the great seaman passed on his way. Yet the name of Port Jackson still is linked with that of Cook, for in after years from there, through the heads which he had seen, came Flinders and King in the discovery ships “Norfolk” (1799), “Investigator” and “Lady Nelson” (1802), “Mermaid” (1819-20), and “Bathurst” (1821) to[p038] finish his work–the immense work which Cook had already begun–the charting of the East Coast.

That others on board the “Endeavour” could see something more than a plain coast-line at this time is apparent from thee remarks in Banks’s journal. He writes: “The land we sailed past during the whole forenoon appeared broken and likely for harbours.” The “Endeavour” continued on her way northward, keeping near the coast, and at sunset passed more broken land that formed a bay which Cook named Broken Bay.[*] All night he steered at a distance of about three leagues off shore, and next day saw high land projecting in three bluff points which he called Cape Three Points. The wind now dropped, and on the 8th at noon “our situation,” he tells us, “was nearly the same as yesterday, having not advanced one step farther to the northward.”

[* It is said that this “broken land like a bay” was that in the vicinity of Narrabeen Lagoon. “Historical Records of New South Wales.”]

While standing off shore on the evening of the 9th a charming sea scene was witnessed by those in the “Endeavour” of which Parkinson has left a description. “We saw two of the most beautiful rainbows my eyes ever beheld; the colours were strong, clear, and lively. Those of the inner one were so bright as to reflect its shadow on the water.” At midnight Cook stood in for the land again until eight next morning and had so little wind that the vessel could hardly fetch Cape Three Points. At noon on the 10th “a small round rock or island lying close under the land” was noticed bearing south-west three or four leagues. This was Nobby Head at the entrance to the port which came to be known afterwards as Newcastle on account of the abundance of coal in its vicinity.

On the 11th, at 4 p.m., the “Endeavour” passed a low rocky point only a mile distant, “with an inlet on its north side that appeared to me from the mast-head to be sheltered from all winds,” remarks Cook, who named the headland and the inlet Point and Port Stephens respectively. The next morning at eight he saw “a high point . . . which made in two hillocks” and called it Cape Hawke in honour of Admiral Hawke, then First Lord of the Admiralty.

On the afternoon of the 12th the “Endeavour” ran along the shore and those on board could see the smoke of native fires a little way inland. Several had been seen the day before, but on this day Cook noticed one upon the top of a hill, and writes:

[p039] “It was the first we have seen upon elevated ground since we have been upon the coast.” On this day “three remarkable hills,” large and high and ” contiguous to each other,” bore north-north-west, and because they were so alike they were named The Three Brothers.[*] On Sunday, May 13th, while standing northward after having tacked several times, Cook observed “a point or headland on which were fires that caused a great quantity of smoke, which occasioned my giving it the name of Smoky Cape.”

[* At the back of Kempsey.]

Of the aspect of the country he says: “The land hath increased in height insomuch that . . . it may be called a hilly country; it is diversified with an agreeable variety of hills, ridges, and valleys and large plains all clothed with wood. Near the shore the land is in general low and sandy except the points which are rocky, while over many are pretty high hills which at first rising out of the water appear like an island.”

Fresh gales with rain and hail swept over the ship as she passed outside some small rocky islands that were first seen on the 15th, and called the Solitary Islands. On that morning as they steered close in to the land again, natives could be seen on shore through the glasses. According to one historian,[*] each of these natives was loaded with a bundle which looked like palm leaves. A high point bearing north-west-by-west was named Cape Byron after the ” Dolphin’s ” captain (in her first voyage to the Pacific), while to the north-west of it again “a remarkable sharp-peaked mountain” was sighted.

[* Pinkerton: “Cook’s First Voyage.” See also Cunningham’s journal.]

At sunset breakers were discovered on the larboard bow, only five miles from the land. The commander therefore hauled the ship off it, and brought her to. She lay with her head eastward till ten o’clock, when, the soundings having increased, he wore ship and “lay her with her head in shore” until 5 a.m. on the 16th, when he made sail. By daylight breakers were again seen between the ship and the shore and were stretching from a point–under which lay a small island–“eastward for a distance of two leagues.”[*] The point off which these shoals lay was called by Cook Point Danger[**] and the curious mountain seen the day before was then given the name of Mount Warning.

[* Danger Reefs, three rocky patches which extend three miles east from Cook Island.]

[** Point Danger is the north head of the Tweed River.]


[p040] On Thursday, May 17th, another point of land was discovered and christened Point Lookout. On the north side of it there was a wide, open bay, which Cook named Morton’s Bay, in honour of James Earl of Morton, who was then President of the Royal Society. The name, however, is now spelled Moreton Bay.[*]

[* King says: “At first Moreton Bay was called Glass House Bay, but as Cook had bestowed the name of Moreton Bay upon the strait [Rous Channel] to the south of Moreton Island, this name became generally accepted.” Oxley made the discovery that Point Lookout was situated on Stradbroke Island.]

The land at the head of the bay appeared so low that he writes: “I could but just see it from the topmast-head.” Nor could he see the river which fell into the bay on its western side, on whose banks now stands the town of Brisbane–the capital of Queensland.

Nevertheless, Cook gives us the information that some on board were of the opinion that there was a river in the vicinity as the water looked so pale. Banks clearly was one of these, for he Writes on that day: “The sea here suddenly changed from its usual transparency to a dirty clay colour as if charged with freshes, from whence I was led to conclude that the bottom of the bay might open into a large river.”

In marking the situation of Moreton Bay, Cook observes:[*] “This place may always be found by Three Hills which lay to the northward of it. These hills were not far apart and were a little island and their singular form of elevation . . . which resembles a glass-house occasioned my giving them that name. The northernmost of the three is the highest and largest.”

[* Matthew Flinders examined Moreton Bay in 1799, but Oxley discovered that Moreton Bay extended as far south as 28°, where it communicated with the sea.]

At noon a low bluff point which formed the southern point of an open sandy bay from here bore north-west,[*] distant three leagues. Cook steered alongshore and saw at daylight on the 18th a point which bore south-west of him. He had seen it before but now named it Double Island Point, on account of its figure, because “it looks like two small islands lying under the land.” The shores of the mainland within it were moderately high, but appeared more barren than any yet seen and more sandy. Banks saw the sand lying there in great patches of[p041] many acres which had only lately moved, for “trees in the middle of them were quite green.”[**] Here the coast trended to the north-west and formed a large open bay, which was named Wide Bay.

[* “The Bay is Laguna Bay, and the point is called Low Bluff.”–Wharton.]

[** Probably a species of Acacia. Cunningham saw one variety growing in “glittering red sand” in Exmouth Gulf.]

On Sunday, 20th, a number of natives assembled on a black bluff or point of land, and it was evident that they had come to watch the ship go past, which to them must have been indeed a strange sight. Cook accordingly called the point Indian Head. Curiously enough, nearly thirty-two years later twenty-five natives gathered on the same spot to watch Flinders sail by in command of the two ships “Investigator” and “Lady Nelson.” The blacks who watched the “Endeavour” had possibly in some way warned their neighbours of the ship’s approach, as natives were now observed in other places on shore, and Cook records that there were “smokes in the day and fires in the night.”

At daylight the northernmost land loomed high and ended in a point, from which a reef was discovered running northward as far as eye could see. Breakers were plainly seen soon afterwards “a long way upon our lee bow, which seemed to stretch quite home to the land.” The point of land, on account of its having two very large patches of sand upon it, was named Sandy Cape.[*] Cook now fell in with one of the dangerous shoals that surround the reef here, and possibly this is the reason why Flinders, who followed him in 1802, found the trend of the land different from that laid down in Cook’s chart. Or perhaps Cook’s ship may have claimed his whole attention. On the 21st the “Endeavour” crept along the east side of the shoal until, judging that there was enough water to allow her to get across it, the commander ordered a boat to be lowered, and sent it ahead to sound; a passage over the shoal was thus found, and eventually the ship passed over the tail. Cook named the shoal Weak Sea Spit, because there was smooth water within it, whereas upon te whole coast to the southward he had always had a high sea or swell from the south-east.

[* Sandy Cape is the northern point of Great Sandy Island. . . a channel called Great Sandy Strait separates the latter from the mainland and opens at its northern end into Hervey Bay; within its entrance is Wide Bay Harbour–“Admiralty Sailing Directions.”]

“For these few days past we have seen at times a sort of sea sea-fowl which we have nowhere seen before,” Cook writes; “they are of the sort called boobies. . . . Last night a small [p042] flock of these birds passed the ship and went away to the N.W. and this morning from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after, flights of them were continually coming from N.N.W. and flying to S.S.E., and not one was seen to fly in any other direction. From this, we did suppose there was a river or inlet of shallow water to the southward of us, and that, not very far to the northward, lay some islands where they retired to at night.” Captain Flinders thought that probably the birds Cook saw retired for the night to Bunker Group in 23°54′ S. and 152°25′ E. and that they went to Hervey Bay during the day.

On the 22nd the shore inland appeared thickly clothed with wood, and through the glasses trees were seen resembling palm-nut trees, Pandanus tectorius according to Banks, who in giving their botanical name states that the species had not been met with since the “Endeavour” left the islands within the tropics. In the evening Cook anchored about thirty miles south-east from the south head of Bustard Bay. On this night he saw a watersnake; and two or three evenings previously one had lain under the ship’s stern for some time. Banks also saw two swim past the ship, “beautifully spotted and in all respects like land-snakes except that they had broad, flat tails, which probably serve them instead of fins in swimming.”[*]

[* Evidently the deadly species known as the yellow-bellied sea-snake, which has a broad, flat, spotted tail, and is blackish-brown on the back and yellow beneath. “It is unique in that its keeled tail does the dual work of propeller and rudder.” It is the commonest Australian sea-snake and very venomous, “Outdoor Australia,” “Sydney Mail.”]

The “Endeavour” now came abreast of a large open bay where Cook anchored on May 23rd at 8 p.m., and next morning went ashore accompanied by Banks and several officers. The party landed on the south point of the bay, where there was a channel which led to a lagoon. The commander sounded and surveyed the channel, and, after the boat had gone about a mile, met with a little shoal which he was able to pass over. A small stream of fresh water was discovered, and then he made an excursion into the woods; he also wished to row up the lagoon, but was stopped everywhere by the shallows.

However, he was able to inspect a native camping ground on the west side of this lagoon and found ten small fires close together with cockle shells lying around them, and saw (as Dampier had seen in the north-west) at the side of the fire a piece of bark about a foot and a half high propped up to keep the wind off; some other pieces lay strewn around which Cook[p043] concluded were coverings used by the natives at night and that many of them slept in the open. There were trees here of the same kind as had been seen in Botany Harbour; one grew like birch but he found its bark entirely different from birch bark. Unfortunately he was unable to see what the wood of this tree was like, having brought no axe with him. Around the outskirts of the lagoon he noticed the true mangrove, such as grew in the West Indies and which had already been met with on this voyage; and there was a sort of palm, similar to those noticed in low sandy places in the South Sea Islands. “All or most of the land and water fowl seen at Botany Harbour,” he says, “were found here, besides bustards such as we have in England, which occasioned my giving the place the name of Bustard Bay.” Some black and white duck were here also and plenty of small oysters, sticking to the rocks, stones, and mangroves; and on the mudbanks under the mangrove trees Banks observed a large proportion of small pearl oysters, and he wondered whether the sea might abound with full-grown ones, for if so, he thought, a pearl fishery must turn out to immense advantage.”

In the branches of mangroves on the sides of the lagoon they found a number of nests of ants, of which one species was quite green. The ants when disturbed came out in large numbers and “revenged themselves upon their disturbers, biting more sharply than any I have felt in Europe,” according to Banks, who describes them in his journal. “The mangroves had another trap. . . . This was a small kind of caterpillar, green and beset with many hairs . . . which sat together upon the leaves . . . like soldiers drawn up, 20 or 30 perhaps on one leaf. If these wrathful militia were touched . . . they did not fail to make the person offending sensible of their anger, every hair . . . stinging as much as nettles do, with a more acute though less lasting smart.” Banks saw upon the sides of the hills many trees yielding gum. They differed from those seen on May 1st in having longer leaves, like those of the weeping willow; these trees were of a different species of Eucalyptus from the trees seen farther to the southward, and he also for the first time saw “the plant (Xanthorrhcea) yielding the yellow gum,” of which there were vast numbers.

While engaged in fishing, two days later, he relates how some crabs took our baits and sometimes suffered themselves to be hauled into the ship.” One sort (Cancer pelagicus?, Linn.) was ornamented “with the finest ultramarine blue conceivable,[p044] with which all his claws and every joint were deeply tinged. The under part was of a lovely white, shining as if glazed and perfectly resembling the white of old china.”

On Thursday, 24th, at 4 a.m., the “Endeavour ” weighed with a gentle breeze and made sail out of Bustard Bay. She soon met with breakers, while land “making like islands” bore north-west-by-north. At nine on the morning of the 25th the ship drew level with the northernmost point of the mainland, which looked white and barren; and as it lay directly under the Tropic of Capricorn was named Cape Capricorn.[*] On the west side of the cape there appeared to be a lagoon, and ” on the two spits that form the entrance ” were a great number of pelicans, at least so I call them,” adds Cook, fearless of all criticism.

[* The eastern point of Curtis Island.]

He believed that the northernmost land he then saw formed an island, and was correct in this conjecture. It was afterwards named Hummocky Island by Matthew Flinders, who learned its true dimensions. Next morning the ship passed what looked like the mouth of a river, and shortly afterwards a similar indentation was noticed. Far away inland the smoke of native fires could be seen rising; and again, in the afternoon, Cook was convinced that there was either a river, lagoon, or inlet close at hand.[*]

[* The Fitzroy River empties itself into the south-western part of Keppel Bay. Keppel Bay is situated between Cape Capricorn and Keppel Isles.]

The “Endeavour” now was steering directly between the coast and the Great Barrier Reef. Her course was becoming more and more dangerous. Cook did not even know that this great reef existed, but he saw the increasing number of shoals and was warned that he must exercise great care. Over and over again his fine seamanship extricated his ship from the perils lining her path. Besides the shoals, spurs of rock and numbers of islands lie off the coast, and on Sunday, 27th, while the “Endeavour” was standing through the channel between Great Keppel Island and the mainland, the master, who was sounding with two boats, found in many places only two and a half fathoms of water. When he brought back his report the ship had already anchored, and the wind veering, she sailed back three or four miles, but again had to come to an anchorage, where she remained until a passage for her could be found by the boats. At length she passed out between Great Keppel and North Keppel Islands.

[p045] Having left the Keppel Islands behind Cook next saw Cape Manifold, and he says he so named it because of the number of high hills over it. It lies north-west distant seventeen leagues from Cape Capricorn, and “between them the shore forms a large bay which I called Keppel’s Bay.”

On the 28th he came close in with Cape Townshend, which he named and which he describes as being “more barren than woody.” The “Endeavour” then met with the many islands which lie scattered up and down the coast to the northward, forming a part of the Northumberland Islands. A large inlet–known to us as Shoalwater Bay–was seen to trend to the south-east.[*] A little later the ship ran into shoal water. With a boat taking soundings ahead, the “Endeavour” followed west-by-north, leaving many islets, rocks, and shoals between her and the mainland. Just before noon the boat made the signal for meeting with another shoal, upon which Cook immediately let go an anchor and brought the ship up “with all sails standing.” A strong tide was running, and he thought that this tide “carried us so quickly upon the shoal.”

[* The entrance to Shoalwater Bay lies between Cape Townshend and Pier Head. The bay itself extends thirty-five miles to the south-east in the direction of Cape Manifold and divides into several branches.]

The ship was then on what is known as “the Donovan Shoal” in Broad Sound Channel. Fortunately no harm came to her and at three o’clock she made sail again, but at six o’clock on the same day (the 29th) anchored once more two miles off the mainland and still in sight of a number of islands. At five next morning the master was sent with two boats to sound the entrance of an inlet, which bore west, about one league distant. He soon made a signal for an anchorage and the vessel stood within the inlet, which was believed to be the mouth of a river, but which in reality was a strait leading into Broad Sound, which Cook was to name later. A search for water was made, and because he found none Cook named the place Thirsty Sound.[*] Here on May 30th he went on shore with a party, and immediately proceeded to mount “a pretty high hill before sunrise in order to get a view of the coast and the islands.” Cook called the hill, which is situated at the north-west entrance of Thirsty Sound, the Pier Head. He then started to survey the inlet and got about eight leagues up it when he discovered that it formed a large lake which communicated with the sea. He saw two[p046] natives, but of these he only had a glimpse at some distance. The party got no fresh water or refreshment of any kind, and although they saw turtle, “caught none nor no sort of fish or wild fowl only a few landbirds.”

[* Thirsty ound is the narrow strait separating Quail and Long Islands from the mainland–“Admiralty Sailing Directions.”]

The earth here looked a hard red clay; the trees were of different kinds and all the uplands clear of underwood; the lowlands were overrun with mangroves. Oysters were to be had, but Cook thought they were so small as not to be worth picking off the rocks.

For Banks, however, the place seems to have had attractions, in spite of a troublesome grass which it was impossible to avoid, and which he thus describes: “Its sharp seeds were bearded backwards, and whenever they stuck into our clothes were by these beards pushed forward till they got into the flesh. . . . This grass, with the mosquitoes that were likewise innumerable, made walking almost intolerable.” He continues: “We were not, however, to be repulsed, but proceeded into the country. The gum trees were like those in the last bay, both in leaf and in producing a very small proportion of gum; on the branches of them and of other trees were large ants’ nests made of clay as big as a bushel. The ants . . . were small . . . . In another species of tree (Xanthoxyloides mite) a small . . . black ant had bored all the twigs and lived in quantities in the hollow part where the pith should be: the tree nevertheless flourishing and bearing leaves upon those branches as freely and well as upon others that were sound. Insects in general were plentiful, butterflies especially. . . . On the leaves of the gum tree we found a pupa or chrysalis which shone as brightly as if it had been silvered over with the most burnished silver. . . . It was brought on board and the next day came out into a butterfly of a velvet black changeable to blue.”

On the 31st the “Endeavour’s” course took her between the Duke Islands (the largest group of the Northumberland Islands) and the reefs and islands lying north-west of Thirsty Sound. Here once more she got into shoal water, and, on June 1st, the anchor had to be let go. The boats having sounded about the shoal again the vessel set sail and finally came to an anchorage under the lee of three islands lying off the northern approach to an inlet which Cook named Broad Sound.[*] A bluff, rocky headland forming its north-west entrance he called Cape Palmerston, and a pretty high promontory seen at noon on

[* These were the Bedwell Islands–Wharton.]

[p047] Saturday, June 2nd, Cape Hillsborough. The shores of the mainland were clothed with wood, and as the ship steered between the mainland and another group of islands, mountains and hills, plains and valleys came into view. The islands belonged to the straggling group stretching for sixty miles along the Queensland coast which Cook named the Cumberland Islands in honour of Henry Frederick Duke of Cumberland.

On Sunday, June 3rd, Cook discovered a passage thirty miles long between the mainland and some islands lying off the coast.[*] In passing through it Cook writes: “This passage I have named Whit Sunday’s Passage as it was discovered on the day the Church commemorates that Festival.” He thought the whole of it was “one continued safe harbour” with small bays and coves on each side “where ships might lay as it were in a basin,” but he did not wait to examine it as he was unwilling to lose the benefit of the moonlight. The land on both sides formed hills and valleys, “diversified with woods and lawns that looked green and pleasant.” A small island in the passage is called Pentecost Island. On a sandy beach upon one of the islands two natives were seen and “a canoe with an outrigger larger and differently built to any we have seen upon the coast.”

[* The east side of this channel is formed by the northern portion of the Cumberland Islands from Shaw Island to Hayman Island.]

As the “Endeavour”–under easy sail, and having gentle breezes and clear weather–skirted this portion of Queensland’s shores, numberless capes and bays received their names. Each day saw new designations selected by Cook as most suitable take their places on his chart, among which were Cape Conway and Repulse Bay (so named because he was forced to haul the ship away from it) on June 3rd; Cape Gloucester and Edgecumbe Bay on the 4th; Cape Upstart and Cleveland Bay on the 5th and 6th respectively; while on the 7th a group of islands named the Palm Islands was charted. On one of the islets of this group next day a quantity of smoke on shore made it apparent that large native fires were burning; and men, women, and children gathered together upon the small islet could be made out through the glasses, gazing at the ship. Thinking that he could see coco-nut trees, the fruit of which, he says, would have been very acceptable, the commander sent Lieutenant Hicks to try and obtain some, and Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander went with the party. They were disappointed, and Cook wrote in his journal: “They met with nothing worth observing.” Natives[p048] were heard there, but not seen, and the trees turned out to be not coco-nut but cabbage palms.

A point now received the name of Point Hillock on account of its shape.[*] Between it and a cape to the southward which had been called Cape Cleveland, the shore formed a large bay, that was christened Halifax Bay. It was sheltered from all winds by the islands lying close to it. Having passed Point Hillock in following the land, the vessel met with another point which Cook named Cape Sandwich. From it the coast ran first west and then north and formed a fine large bay to which was given the name of Rockingham Bay. Cook thought this bay well sheltered and affording good anchorage, but he says that having met with so little encouragement by going ashore, he would not wait to land, and, instead, he continued to range along the coast until he fell in with what he calls “a parcel of small islands” known to us as the Family Islands. Through these he found a channel a mile wide, between the three outermost and those nearer the shore, and went through it.

[* It is near the southern extremity of Hinchinbrook Island which Cook regarded as part of the main.]

On one of the islands nearest to the ship a group of natives had collected who watched the vessel very attentively. They were very dark in colour, quite naked, and had short hair. This day’s sail brought the “Endeavour” to that part of the coast where the Great Barrier Reef draws in closer to the mainland and consequently the dangers in her track were multiplied.

On the 9th she came abreast of some tolerably high land, the point of which was named Cape Grafton, and on the 10th Cook anchored in a bay lying three miles to the westward of it, a low, green, woody isle in the offing being called by him Green Island. Here he went on shore to look for water, accompanied by Banks and Solander. The bottom of the bay being low mangrove land, they rowed out towards the head of the cape and found two small streams, but on account of the surf and the rocks it was thought that it would be an unsuitable place to water the ship. The country round was steep and rocky and was left unexplored.

At midnight on June 10th, with showers of rain falling, but having little wind, Cook weighed once more, and stood to the north-west. A little later, in order to pass outside a low island lying about two leagues from the mainland, he hauled off to the northward; it was one of the Low Isles, being partly under water.[p049] Another island,[*] seven miles distant, was seen at noon, and at this time Cape Grafton bore S. 29° E. distant forty miles. Between it and the northernmost land in sight a large but not very deep bay indented the shore; Cook called it Trinity Bay, in honour of the day on which it was discovered, and to the north point of it he gave the name of Cape Tribulation, “because,” he says, “here began all our troubles.”

[* Called Snapper Island by Lieutenant Jeffreys in 1815.]

The following evening (June 11th) there being a fine breeze and clear moonlight the ship, while standing off the land, suddenly shoaled her water from twelve, ten, and eight fathoms with great rapidity. Cook gave orders to anchor, and then, as the lead before ten o’clock gave twenty fathoms, he imagined there could be no danger in standing on once more. But again the water suddenly shoaled, and a few minutes before eleven the Endeavour” struck a reef and stuck fast.

Sails were hurriedly taken in and the boats were hoisted out in order to sound the depth of water round the ship and if possible to ascertain her position. A little later it was found that she had been carried over a ledge of the rock upon which she had struck and lay in a hollow within it.

The coral rock was situated in lat. 15°47′ S., long. 145°35′ E., being only six or seven leagues from the shores of the mainland. It is now known as Endeavour Reef.[*] Cook’s coolness and promptitude at this period kept his men together. There was no excitement; every order was quickly carried out. The pumps were set to work to keep the leak in check, and heavy articles, chiefly guns, and all kinds of ballast were thrown overboard.

[* Endeavour Reef is 41 miles long, E. and W., and half a mile broad. A fringe of sunken coral extends right round the reef.–“Admiralty Sailing Directions.”]

The water being deepest astern Cook had the stream anchor carried out from the starboard quarter and hove a great strain upon it to try to get the vessel off the rock at high water, but without success, and she beat so violently against it that the men could scarcely keep their feet. Their position grew more and more perilous. By the light of the moon they could see the ship’s sheathing boards floating thickly around her. About midnight part of her false keel came away, and as she settled down at ebb tide, a rock under her starboard was plainly heard grating against her timbers, so that it was expected that at any moment she might go to pieces. The best chance of saving her[p050] lay in continuing to lighten the ship. Stores, guns, casks, iron and stone ballast and other things were therefore thrown overboard after the rest. Fortunately the sea was smooth and the weather fine, and on the 12th the sailors carried out two bower anchors, one on the starboard quarter, the other right astern, and “got blocks and tackles upon the cable and hove taut.” It was seen that as the tide rose the leak let in water fast, and three pumps hard at work could only just keep the “Endeavour” clear.

At night the ship righted, but as she did so the water gained more and more on the pumps, and as Cook expresses it, “threatened immediate destruction.” However, he resolved “to risk all and heave her off,” and about twenty minutes past ten o’clock, after having been twenty-three hours on the reef, she floated and was hove into deep water, having at this time three feet nine inches of water in the hold.

In this hazardous situation all hands turned resolutely to the pumps, although for some time every one believed the task to be hopeless. Then it was discovered that a mistake had been made by a seaman in taking the depth of water which had greatly exaggerated the rapidity with which the leak had gained on the pumps. When this became known it acted on the men like a charm. They redoubled their vigour, so much so that next morning the pumps had actually gained on the leak. The commander bestowed great praise on the men for their conduct at this time, and he writes: “In justice to the ship’s company, I must say that no men ever behaved better.”

Cook now stood in for the land, and he writes: “The leak decreaseth, but for fear it should break out again we got the sail ready for fothering.”The plan of fothering the ship was executed by Mr. Monkhouse, one of the midshipmen who had once seen a ship brought by this means from Virginia to London. He took an old studding-sail and “mixed some oakum and wool, chopping it small, and placing it in handfuls on the sail, where it was stitched down firmly. After being thus prepared the sail was hauled under the ship and kept extended till the suction carried the oakum and wool into the leak.” This plan succeeded so well that soon afterwards one pump sufficed to keep the water under.

At six in the evening the “Endeavour” anchored about five leagues distant from the Australian coast and one from the shoal. The leak was still making about fifteen inches of water an hour. [p051] Early next morning (the 14th) Cook weighed and edged in for the land. At this time he says that he passed close outside two small low islands and named them Hope Islands, for he remarks, “We were always in hopes of being able to reach these islands.” They are, however, merely sand cays, very low and covered with bushes that lie midway between Cape Tribulation and Endeavour River. The spirit shown by the officers and crew throughout this trying period was worthy of the highest traditions of the Royal Navy, but one realizes that all the care and responsibility rested upon the shoulders of the commander, and his troubles do not seem to have been nearly over. Shortly after noon he sent the master with two boats to sound ahead of the ship and to look out for harbour within the mainland, as it was now very necessary to find a place where the “Endeavour” in her disabled condition might take refuge and have her defects repaired. At three o’clock in the afternoon an opening was seen that had the appearance of leading into a harbour. The ship stood off and on while the boats examined it, but it was found that there was not sufficient depth of water for her to anchor.

On Cook’s chart the name of Weary Bay was given to this opening. By that time the sun was setting, and as there were many shoals around her the “Endeavour” again anchored, being then about two miles from the Queensland coast, which now trended from north-east to south-by-east. At eight o’clock at night, to Cook’s relief, one of the mates returned in the pinnace and reported that he had found a good harbour two leagues away. This indentation is now known to us as Cooktown, being so called in remembrance of Cook’s sojourn there. The great seaman himself bestowed upon the river at whose entrance it lies the name of Endeavour River.

At six o’clock next morning Cook weighed and stood in towards this harbour, but to avoid shoals that were visible he sent two boats ahead to lead the way, and after they had passed the shoals the boats were ordered to examine the channel leading into the inlet. However, the wind rose and it was thought safest to anchor, the ship then being one mile from the shore. Signalling to the boats to come on board, Cook went himself and buoyed the channel, which was found to be narrow. The harbour itself though small appeared to be a most convenient one.

It continued to blow fresh this day and the “Endeavour” was forced to remain at anchor on the 15th and 16th, but an[p052] attempt to run into the inlet was made on the 17th which nearly proved unsuccessful, as twice she ran ashore. On Monday, the 18th, she was floated and warped in, being finally moored alongside a steep beach on the south side of the river, where, on the same morning a stage was erected from the ship to the shore.