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



[p053]Once the ship was moored safely tents were pitched for the sick men, among whom were Mr. Green, the astronomer, and Tupia, both showing symptoms of scurvy.

Dr. Solander and Mr. Banks had already commenced plant-gathering. On the 18th, whilst roaming in search of specimens in the inland country, the latter saw boughs of trees stuck in the ground by the natives to form the frames of their gunyas, but none of the inhabitants were actually seen.

On the afternoon of the 19th, having given instructions for the sick men to be brought on shore and the stores and ballast landed, Cook made his way to the top of one of the highest hills overlooking the harbour to take a view of his surroundings. Whenever it was possible he made a practice of doing this. The country did not appear to possess many attractions; the low land near the river was overgrown with mangroves and at every tide was covered with salt water; the high land looked stony and barren.

Next morning the guns left on board were mounted on the quarter deck for protection and a forge set up on shore so that the armourers could commence to repair the ship. The powder, as well as most of the coals left in the hold, were landed on the 22nd. Cook then cast loose the “Endeavour’s” moorings and warped her to a spot higher up the harbour which he had fixed upon as suitable for carrying out the work. Her bow was hauled in to the beach, and her stern kept afloat, so that when the tide went out the extent of her injuries could be ascertained.

The leak was found to be “at her floor heads a little before the starboard fore chains.” On the following day Mr. Banks saw it and thus described it: “In the middle was a hole large enough to have sunk a ship with twice our pumps, but here Providence had most visibly worked in our favour, for it was in great measure plugged up by a stone as big as a man’s fist. Round the edges of this stone (which was a piece of coral rock) had all the water come in . . . and here we found the wool and [p054]oakum or fothering which had relieved us in so unexpected a manner.” He continues: “The effect of this coral rock . . . is difficult to describe. . . . It had cut through the plank and deep into one of her timbers, smoothing the gashes . . . so that the whole might easily be imagined to have been cut with an axe.”

Each day the carpenters worked while the tide would permit them, and after he had seen their task begun Cook was able to survey more of the country. He had noticed a number of pigeons flying round the camp, so on the 23rd he sent men across the river to try to kill some, when one of the shooting party caught sight of a strange animal, “something less than a greyhound, it was of a mouse colour, very slender made and swift of foot,” this being the first description of the kangaroo given to Cook, and, indeed, the first information he obtained of its existence, although the animal seen by Pelsart, Dampier, and Vlamingh and one of the smaller species from the Aru Islands which had been made known in 1711 are said to have been the first kangaroos heard of in Europe. Next day Cook saw one for himself, only a little way from the ship, and he says: “I should have taken it for a wild dog, but for its walking and like a hare or deer . . . the length running in which it jumped of the grass prevented my seeing its legs.”

Banks, who spent his time in penetrating inland, heard many different accounts of it, and at once designated it “the animal of the country,” as indeed it was and is, though rather too rapidly decreasing. Later, too, he tells us that it was called by the natives kangaroo, spelling the word thus, and not, as it is spelled in Cook’s journal, “kanguru.” Banks tells of another remarkable animal that had been seen by one of the seamen (an Irishman surely!), who, having seen a flying fox, gave this description of it: “About as large and much like a one-gallon cagg;[*] as black as the devil and had two horns on its head; it went but slowly but I dared not touch it.”

[* Bank’s journal.]

To his dismay, on the 26th Banks found that most of his plants on board which had been stowed in the bread-room were under water. The mischief being done he began at once to try to restore them. Many were saved by his energy, but some he could not revive. In his excursions into the bush he met with nests of ants which he likens to the white ant of the East Indies, but harmless; and he describes their nests as pyramidal in a[p055]shape and varying from a few inches to six feet in height. He thought that they resembled Druid monuments in England, while Solander compared them to runic stones at Upsala in Sweden.

The botanists made baskets to hold their specimens, and the plants remained fresh in these baskets for days. During the stay of the “Endeavour” in the South Seas the men had learned how to weave them by watching the islanders at work. At first specimens were dried by laying them in the sand; later it was found that they would dry better in paper books, although one person was kept entirely employed in attending to them and exposing the quires to the sun’s heat.

The coco palm did not grow at Endeavour River. Mr. Gore picked up, upon the beach, the husk of a coco-nut, which had evidently been swept there by the waves from some island to windward.[*] He also penetrated four or five miles into the country, where he saw marks of men’s feet and tracks of animals, though he met with neither man nor beast. Some others from the ship, in their rambles on the north side of Endeavour River, reached a spot where there were fires burning which the natives had only just left. In these expeditions some wild yams were found growing in a swampy place, and their tops proved so good that on the 29th Cook sent a party to gather a quantity for the ship’s company. He tells how, on the night of this day, “Mr. Green and I observed an emersion of Jupiter’s first satellite, which took place at 2 hours 58 minutes 53 seconds in the a.m.; the same emersion happened at Greenwich . . . on the 30th at 5 hrs 17 minutes 43 seconds a.m.”; and he adds: “The difference is 14 hours 18 minutes 50 seconds equal to 214°42’30” of Long.–which this place is W. of Greenwich.”[**]

[* King says Cook imagined that it came from “Terra del Esperitu.”]

[** The true longitude is 214°45′.]

On Saturday, June 30th, while some midshipmen were making a plan of the harbour, the commander ascended a hill now called Grassy Hill, which stands close to the south point of the inlet, “to take a view of the sea.” Its shores were lined with shoals, and Cook was perplexed and anxious as to what route he should take when he resumed his voyage. The heads of many rocks only just showed above the water. “The only hopes I have of getting clear of them,” he says, ” is to the northward, where there seems to be a passage.”

Fortunately the sailors were greatly refreshed during their [p056] stay in this harbour; and on July 2nd a good catch of fish supplied 2½ lbs. for each man. Next day at low water Cook had a number of empty casks, lashed together, placed under the ship’s bows and the stream anchor laid out in hopes of being able to float her. He was now impatient to put to sea, and when the master, who had been sent out on the previous day in the pinnace to look for a safe route, reported at noon that he had found a passage for the ship, Cook decided to leave at the first opportunity.

During his investigations the master had landed on a dry reef, and finding some very large cockles (Chima gigas) brought back a boatload chiefly of the cockles, “one alone being more than two men could eat.” Mr. Molineux also entered an indentation of the mainland three leagues to the northward of Endeavour River, where he disturbed some natives, as he thought, at supper. They quickly disappeared leaving behind them “some fresh sea eggs” and a fire brightly burning, but there was no hut near. Cook thought at this time that the natives had no boats large enough to convey them out to the shoals, but he found out afterwards that they were in the habit of visiting the islands between the Great Barrier Reef and the mainland.

At high water on Wednesday, 4th, the ship was again floated, and on the 5th was beached on the sandbank on the south side of the river. At this spot a monument was erected in memory of the event by the inhabitants of Cooktown.[*]

[* A column of granite now adorns the principal street of Cooktown and bears the inscription: “In Memoriam Captain Cook who landed here June 17, 1770.–Post cineres gloria venit.

The “Endeavour,” however, still made water and three people went down to examine her. It was found that the main plank was chafed and that she had lost three streaks of sheathing, but the master “was positive that she had received no material damage,” and the carpenter was of the same opinion, so that Cook resolved to spend no more time in trying to repair her where she lay.

She was refloated at high water and moored alongside the beach where her stores were deposited. In the morning these were got in readiness to be taken on board, and eight tons of water were also obtained from springs not far off.

In the meantime further delays kept Cook longer here. Banks went over to the opposite shores of the harbour on several [p057] [occasions. As he was crossing on the 4th shoals of garfish leapt out of the water, and some falling into his small boat were caught. He crossed the river again next day and saw “innumerable fruits” on a sandy beach apparently washed there by the waves. Most curious coco-nuts were among them, all incrusted–many of them covered with barnacles–“a sure sign that they have come far by sea, probably” (Banks adds) “from Terra del Espiritu Santo” (the New Hebrides).

On the 6th what may be called the first inland expedition on the east coast set out from the camp. Lieutenant Gore, Mr. Banks, and three men went in a small boat to survey the country higher up the river intending to be away for some days. After having passed through “groves of mangroves” they came to country similar to that they had left behind, and as they proceeded up the stream, which gradually contracted, only a few mangroves were to be seen and the banks were steep, being covered with trees of a beautiful verdure called in the West Indies mohoe or bark tree (Hibiscus tiliaceus). Farther in the land was low and thickly covered with long grass. In the course of the day Tupia saw an animal like a wolf, which, of course, was a dingo; and three kangaroos and a bat as large as a partridge were also seen, but none was caught.

The party camped at a spot close to the river bank and made their fire. Here mosquitoes spoilt their enjoyment, and, as Banks says, spared no pains to molest them as much as was in their power. “They followed us,” he writes, “into the very smoke, nay! almost into the fire, which, hot as the climate was, we could better bear the heat of than their intolerable stings.” And adds further: “between the hardness of our bed, the heat of the fire, and the stings of these indefatigable insects, the night was not spent so agreeably but day was earnestly wished for by all of us. At last it came, and with its first dawn we set out in search of game.”

On this day four of the “animals of the country” were sighted; two were chased by Banks’s greyhound, though the kangaroos got away owing to the length and thickness of the grass, which stopped the greyhound running, while they bounded over the top of it. Banks then saw that instead of going on all fours they went only on their hind legs as the smaller jerboa does.

The men saw a tree burning, but on reaching the spot no natives could be seen. An old tree of touchwood had evidently been recently fired by them. Their huts were found, and near [p058] them were lying twigs of trees, broken but not yet withered, with which, possibly, children had been playing. Footsteps fresh on the sands below high water proved that natives had gone that way. Their oven showed that food had lately been cooked in it, while some shells of a kind of clam and the roots of a wild yam, which had been baked, were lying close by.

At the close of the day the visitors stopped at a sandbank where under the shade of a bush they hoped to be free from their tormentors of the previous night. They made their beds of plantain leaves, spreading them on the sand, and they proved as soft as a mattress, and with cloaks for bed-clothes and grass for a pillow the men had a good night’s rest, possibly due to the fact that the mosquitoes did not trouble them. On the 8th, at daylight, they returned to the ship. On their passage down the river several flocks of whistling duck flew past, some of which were shot, and once an alligator about seven feet long was seen crawling out from under the mangroves and making its way down into the water.

On the 10th of July four black fellows appeared on the north side of the river opposite the “Endeavour.” They had a canoe (with an outrigger) in which two of them embarked, and, coming to within the distance of long musket shot, stopped and began talking loudly. The British called to them and beckoned them to come closer. They soon did so, and drew in until they were quite alongside the ship, though they often held up their spears as if to show that they were on guard. Cloth, nails, and other articles were given them, which they took without showing the least sign of satisfaction. At last by accident a small fish was thrown into the canoe, when they expressed the utmost joy and instantly made signs that they would fetch their two comrades, which they soon did, and all four landed at the camp, each man carrying two spears and a throwing-stick with him. Tupia, who was on shore, went towards them where they stood in a row as if about to throw their spears, and he made signs that they should come forward without their arms. They then laid them down, and, sitting on the ground beside him, received various presents of beads and cloth given them. They soon became friendly and only grew alarmed when anyone attempted to go between them and their arms. “At dinner we made signs to them to come and eat with us,” says Banks, “but they refused. We left them, and going into their canoe they paddled back to where they had come from.”

[p059]Again on the 11th they visited the British camp and Banks tells us that in addition to two of the visitors of the previous day there now came two new natives, “whom our old acquaintances introduced by their names, one of which was Yaparico.” Although not noticed before, it was now seen that the four natives had the septurm of the nose pierced, having a large hole through it, into which one of them had stuck the bone of a bird as thick as a man’s finger and about four or six inches long. “An ornament no doubt, though to us it appeared rather an uncouth one,” remarks Banks. The black fellows presented their white friends with a fish, but did not stay long, as on perceiving that some of the officers were examining their boat “they went directly to it and pushing it off went away without saying a word.”

On the 12th they came again. On this occasion Tupia received them in his tent, which pleased the early Queenslanders so much that three of them stayed with him while the fourth went with the canoe to fetch two others, and on their return the new-comers were introduced as before to the English by name, “which they always made a point of doing,” says Banks. Although they remained there the best part of the morning not once during that time would they venture farther than twenty yards from their canoe.

When they had paid their first visit they had allowed the sailors to decorate them with medals, which were tied by a ribbon round their necks. These ribbons were now covered with smoke, and, remembering the night of torment he had lately himself endured, Banks remarks, “I suppose they lay much in the smoke to keep off the mosquitoes.”

Cook tells a similar story of his meeting with these natives on the 10th, so that this really was the first visit of the Queensland blacks to the ship’s people. He noticed their small wooden canoe with outriggers at a sandy point on the north side of the harbour, where they were employed in striking fish. Some on board wished to go over to them. “But,” says Cook, “this I would not suffer, and let them alone without seeming to take any notice of them.” In describing them he says: “One of these men was above middle age, the other three were young: none were above 5½ feet high and all had small limbs. They were naked, their skins the colour of wood soot: their hair black, lank and cropt short, and neither woolly nor frizzled, nor did they want any of their fore teeth,” as did those seen by Dampier.[p060] He continues: “Some part of their bodies had been painted with red and, one of them had his upper lip and breast painted with streaks of white called ‘carbanda.’ Their features were far from being disagreeable, their voices were soft and tunable, and they could easily repeat any word after us. But no one, not even Tupia, could understand a word they said.”

Mr. Gore, who seems to have been energetic both on land and sea, on the 14th killed a kangaroo. “To compare it to any European animal,” says Banks, “would be impossible, as it has not the least resemblance to any I have seen.”

The kangaroo was cooked and eaten and its flesh was, as one might suppose, excellent. In his journal Cook writes: “It was a small one, weighing 28 lbs.,” after being cleaned; and he continues: “It was hare lipt and the head and ears were most like a hare’s of any animal I know. . . . The forelegs were 8 inches long and the hind 22 inches”; and he thought the forelegs “only designed for scratching in the ground. The skin is covered with a short, hairy fur of a dark mouse or grey colour.” A much greater delicacy for the men were the turtle there, which were frequently caught, and were in great numbers. Indeed, on the 9th Mr. Molineux caught three on a reef without the harbour which was called Turtle Bank;[*] they weighed 791 lbs., and on that day, says Cook, all hands feasted on turtle for the first time. These were mostly green turtle, and, when killed, were found to be full of turtle grass, which Banks identified as a kind of conferva.

[* Turtle Reef.]

Although her departure was delayed, the ship was ready to leave on the 16th. Up to the time of sailing the botanists remained busily engaged in examining specimens and in completing their collections so as to take away as many different species as possible. Tupia encountered blacks on the north side of Endeavour River on the 17th, who, Banks relates, “gave him a kind of longish root about as thick as a man’s finger and of very good taste.” Probably this was dingowa, or fern root, much eaten by the natives.

Banks also records that at this time the natives soon had become quite familiar and lost all fear of white men. On the 18th one gave an exhibition of his powers in throwing the spear. The weapon shot through the air so steadily and swiftly that Banks was amazed at its flight, “never being above four feet from the ground and stuck deep in at a distance of 50 paces. [p061] After this display the blacks went on board, and, he says, “soon became our very good friends.”

Leaving them, Cook and Banks crossed the river and walked northwards to a high hill about six miles from the ship. On ascending it they viewed the sea coast, and Cook writes: “It afforded us a melancholy prospect of the difficulties we are to encounter.” From here too in every direction the sea looked covered with shoals.

On the morning of the 19th ten or eleven natives came to the “Endeavour” from the opposite side of the river, six or seven of their companions including some women remaining behind. All these blacks were naked. Those who came on board made known by signs that they wanted some of the turtle that were on the deck, several having been placed there for the voyage. On their requests being refused one angry and disappointed man was seen, energetically aided by his companions, trying to haul two turtle to the gangway in order to put them over the side of the vessel. When they were prevented doing this the black fellows revenged themselves by throwing overboard everything within their reach. Bread was offered to them but they rejected it scornfully, and soon afterwards took their departure.

The commander, with Mr. Banks and five or six others, followed them on shore. Immediately the blacks landed, one of the party ran to a patch of dry grass, tore up a handful, and lighted it at a fire that the seamen had made there. He then started to set fire to the grass in several places, making a circle round the camp, with the result that in a few minutes the whole of the surroundings were in a blaze.

Banks, who was setting out to gather plants, suddenly saw one of the tents erected for his use in imminent danger of being burnt, so leaping into a boat he promptly brought some sailors from the ship who hauled it down in time to save it from the flames. The forge was destroyed, however, and one of the litter of pigs was scorched to death. Not content with starting fires at this point the blacks ran to another place where the men had been washing linen, and where the linen with the fishing net lay on the ground to dry. Determined to save the seine if he could, Cook followed the natives, but in spite of his efforts to prevent them they again set fire to the grass and it was soon blazing furiously. Finding persuasion useless, Cook at last fired a musket at one of the ringleaders who was starting [p062] new fires forty yards away; on the shot striking him he ran to his companions and they all disappeared into the woods. The second fire was extinguished, but the first one rapidly increased and burned fiercely. At this time the natives were not far away, for their voices could be heard in the distance, so Cook and Banks with some others went to look for them and soon met several. Seeing that they carried spears the white party picked up a few that they had left behind and closely pursued the black men. But the Australian native is fleet of foot and after Cook had chased them for about half a mile he was compelled to halt at the foot of a tree, whence he called to the natives to stop, and presently they did so, and he writes: “After some little unintelligible conversation had passed, they laid down their darts and came to us in a very friendly manner.” The borrowed spears were then returned to their rightful owners which, he says, reconciled everything.”

There were four strange black fellows now with the natives, who had never been seen before, and each one was introduced by name to the British with the usual ceremony. The man who had been hit had gone away, but it was evident that he had not been badly hurt. When eventually Cook’s party made their way back to the ship the natives accompanied them until they came abreast the “Endeavour.” Here they remained in conversation for a short time. They then went away and set the bush on fire at about two miles distant.

On Friday, 20th, the ship was brought to a new berth and let swing with the tide. The master, who had been sent in the pinnace to inspect the coast higher up, returned during the night, and stated that he could find no safe passage to the northward. However, being ready for sea, Cook went next day and buoyed the bar, but the wind continuing unfavourable he was forced to remain longer at his anchorage.

While thus delayed, his people saw more of the natives. On the 23rd some sailors, sent into the country for a supply of green food, lost one of their party in the bush. This man suddenly came upon four blackfellows seated round a fire. They were engaged in broiling a bird, and he also perceived part of a kangaroo hanging on a tree near. Being unarmed he had the presence of mind not to run away from the blacks, but went and sat down among them. At first being afraid of their numbers he offered them his knife in order to conciliate them. The natives took it, handed it round from one to the other to examine, [p063]then returned it again to him. When they had felt his hands, his body, and the texture of his clothes they allowed him to depart peaceably, and on seeing that he did not know his way directed him back to the “Endeavour.”

On Friday, August 3rd, Cook unmoored and began to warp out of the harbour. Soon a breeze arising he was compelled to remain within the bar for the night. At seven o’clock next morning he put to sea.


On leaving Endeavour River, Cook steered east-by-north and sent the pinnace before him to lead the way. He had ordered the yawl to pick up a net that had been left on the Turtle Bank, but the wind freshening the “Endeavour” got out of the harbour before her. Wishing to view the shoals at low water from the masthead before venturing among them, Cook came to an anchorage shortly after noon. The northernmost point of the mainland then in sight, to which he gave the name of Cape Bedford, bore north-west distant three and a half leagues, while the Turtle Reef lay but a mile to the eastward. He informs us on the 4th that he had not then decided whether to beat back to the southward “round all the shoals” or to seek a passage to the eastward or northward, “all of which appeared to be equally difficult and dangerous.” Nor did he know the extent of the Barrier Reef, which rose to the eastward like a wall of coral rock between him and the South Pacific. On the 5th the boats were ordered to Turtle Reef for turtle and shell-fish, and in their absence Cook surveyed the shoals. Beyond the nearest shoal he saw many more stretching into distance, although to the north-east the sea looked fairly clear and he finally resolved to go in that direction. The fishing boats returned with a turtle, a sting-ray, and a quantity of clams, which afforded each man one and a half pounds of fish, and during the night the sailors caught some sharks.

Fresh gales blew next morning and prevented the vessel sailing until 2 p.m. on August 6th, when the weather had moderated. Leaving Turtle Reef, Cook stood to the north-east, having shoals ahead and on both bows, and at 4.30 the pinnace made the signal for shoal water. After tacking Cook soon anchored as night was approaching and he hoped to proceed at [p064]daylight. But a strong gale from the south-east blew next day and the ship was compelled to strike her yards.

Around her on all sides there were shoals. With his officers, on the 7th, Cook looked in vain from the masthead for a passage between them. Breakers were visible everywhere: “All the way from the south round by east to N.W. extending out to sea as far as we could see,” and he adds: “It did not appear one continued shoal but several detached from each other.”

The surf broke highest on the easternmost side, and after finally reviewing the situation he observes: “I saw that we were surrounded on every side with danger insomuch that I was quite at a loss which way to steer . . . for to beat back to the S.E. the way we came as the Master would have me do would be an endless piece of work.” At last he determined to seek a passage along the (Queensland) coast and to follow it northward. Gales continued to blow, and not until the 10th at 7 a.m. was the “Endeavour” able to weigh her anchor. She then stood in towards the mainland and at nine drew abreast three small islands covered with mangroves (now called the Three Isles), which lie eight miles from Cape Bedford. Cook directed his course between the islands and the mainland and next saw a point in the coast bearing north-north-west at a distance of two leagues. To the north-east of it appeared three more islands,[*] which were high, having small ones near. The ship continued her course between the islands and the shore and at noon was four leagues from the former and two from the latter. Cook thought that he was now clear of danger and that the open sea was before him, but he was soon to find that he had been deceived, so he named this headland Cape Flattery, writing of it: “It is a high promontory making in two hills next the sea and a third behind with low sandy land on each side.”

[* The Direction Islands.]

On the 11th a petty officer at the masthead cried out that there was “land ahead extending round to the islands without,” and that there was a reef between the ship and these islands. On hearing this Cook himself went to the masthead and saw the reef plainly, but he thought that the officer was mistaken in thinking the land was mainland, for to Cook it appeared to be islands. However, as others on board were also of the petty officer’s opinion, he signalled for the boat to come on board, and stood in for the Australian coast and anchored under a point of the mainland about a mile from the shore. He then landed and [p065] went to the highest point he could find where he obtained a view of the coast. This, he could see, trended away north-west-by-west for eight or ten leagues. He also saw nine or ten small low islands . . . and some large shoals between the mainland and the three high islands, without which again were islands which the petty officer had mistaken for the mainland.

Cook called the point of the mainland from which he obtained this good view Point Lookout. He saw there the footsteps of natives in the sand and the smoke of their fires up in the country. The sea coast north of Cape Bedford was low and chequered with white sand and green bushes for ten or twelve miles inland, and there was high land beyond. To the north of Point Lookout the shores appeared shoal and flat, which, he adds, “is no good sign of meeting with a channel as we have hitherto done.” He returned on board the “Endeavour” at evening and decided then to visit one of the high islands next morning. He therefore set out in the pinnace in company with Mr. Banks for the northernmost and largest of the three,[*] and Mr. Molineux at the same time, by his orders, took the yawl to leeward to sound between some low islands and the main.

[* Lizard Island.]

When he had arrived at the island and climbed to the top of the highest hill[*] Cook discovered to his dismay that a reef extended for two or three leagues outside the island and ran north-west and south-east out of sight. This was in fact a portion of the main Barrier Reef. The waves rose high upon it, yet breaks were seen and the water within it looked deep. Cook stayed on the hill until sunset trying to get a better view of the shoals, but the weather continued hazy, and he determined to spend the night there, hoping that the morning would be clear. In this, however, he was disappointed, for next day the atmosphere was even more hazy. At three in the morning he sent one of the mates away in the pinnace to sound the depth of water between the island they were on and the reef, and also to examine one of the breaks in the reef.

[* The summit which is a bare, domed-shaped hill, is 1,179 feet in height and from its height and conspicuous appearance forms a good mark from seaward and from the channels inside–“Admiralty Sailing Directions.”]

Cook named this island, which was about eight miles in circuit, Lizard Island, and he says that he gave it this name because the only land animals that he saw were lizards. It was high, rocky, and barren, excepting on the north side, where [p066] there were sandy bays and low lands covered with thin long grass.

The remains of some old native huts and heaps of old fish shells showed that the Australian natives came over from the mainland. The islands to the southward were both smaller and there seemed a clear passage between them and Cape Flattery. In the afternoon of the 13th Cook left Lizard Island and went back to his ship, touching at a low sandy island on his way, which he named Eagle Island.

Of his visit to Lizard Island Banks writes: “We ascended the hill and from the top saw plainly the grand reef still extending itself parallel with the shore. . . . Through it were several channels exactly similar to those we had seen in the islands. Through one of these we determined to go. To ascertain, however, the practicability of it we resolved to stay upon the island all night. . . . We slept under the shade of a bush that grew upon the beach very comfortably.”

On the following day he continues: “Great part of yesterday and all this morning till the boat returned I employed in searching the island. On it I found some few plants which I had not before seen. . . . There was one small tract of woodland which abounded very much with large lizards, some of which I took. Distant as this isle was from the main, the Indians had been here in their poor embarkations. . . . We saw seven or eight frames of their huts. . . . All the houses were built upon the tops of eminences exposed entirely to the S.E., contrary to those of the main, which are commonly placed under some bushes or hillside to break the wind. The officer who went in the boat returned with an account that the sea broke vastly high upon the reef and the swell was so great in the opening that he could not go into it to sound. [But he found that the depth of water within the reef varied from 15 to 28 fathoms.] On our return we went ashore on a low island, where we shot many birds: on it was the nest of an eagle, the young ones of which we killed, and another, I knew not of what bird, built on the ground of an enormous magnitude; it was in circumference 26 feet and in height 2 feet 8 inches built of sticks. . . .[*] The Indians had been here likewise.” This was the island which had been named Eagle Island by Cook.

[* Tallegalla lathami, Gould, i.e. North Queensland scrub hen. It really was a small nest of the kind. A common height is 5 or 6 feet and 20 yards round the base.]

[p067] On his return on board the commander found that the master had made his examination of the low islands.[*] He had spent the night on one and had found there piles of turtle shells and some of the fins with meat on them left on the trees were so fresh that he and the boat’s crew ate of them, and it was evident that the natives had lately feasted there. He also saw two spots lately dug up about seven feet long and shaped like a grave, which he thought were native tombs. On receiving an unfavourable report from the master with regard to the soundings inside the low islands, and comparing it with his own observations, Cook clearly perceived that it would be courting danger to try to keep any longer near the mainland, and after consulting with his officers he resolved to quit its shores.

[* Turtle Group.]

Accordingly, at daylight on the 13th he weighed anchor and stood to the north-east. By 2 p.m. he had arrived at one of the openings in the main reef, the outermost reef seen from Lizard Island. The master went in the pinnace to examine the channel and soon made the signal to the ship to follow and she passed safely through it. This channel through the Barrier Reef is known as Cook’s Passage.

In giving further information concerning his track Cook says he called the three high islands the Islands of Direction, as “by their means a safe passage may be found even by strangers in within the main reef and quite into the main.” Lizard Island, he adds, “affords snug anchorage under the N.W. side of it, fresh water, and wood for fuel.” Not only on this island, but also on Eagle Island and other places, were found bamboos, coco-nuts, and seeds of various plants-which were not the produce of the country.

After the “Endeavour” had passed through Cook’s Passage she had no ground with one hundred fathoms of line, and a large sea came rolling in from the south-east. The sight pleased Cook greatly, “after having been entangled among islands or shoals more or less ever since May 26th, in which time we have sailed above 360 leagues by the lead without ever having a leadsman out of the chains when the ship was under sail, a circumstance that perhaps never happened to any ship before.”

But the big swell of the South Pacific soon made it apparent to him that his ship had received damage on Endeavour Reef of which he had not been aware, or had not noticed, while sailing in the smooth waters within the Barrier, for “she now made as [p068] much water as one pump kept constantly at work would free.” By noon on the 14th the vessel was out of sight of land, and on the following day orders were given at six in the evening to shorten sail and bring her to for the night. Next morning Cook made sail and steered west in order to make the land, “being fearful of overshooting the passage, supposing there to be one between this land and New Guinea,” which shows that if he had heard of the discoveries of Torres he had forgotten them. As a matter of fact, neither Cook nor Bligh nor any Australian discoverer seems to have reaped any benefit from the experiences of that navigator.

On Thursday, 16th, a little after noon, land was seen from the masthead bearing west-south-west. It was high land, and at 2 p.m. more was seen to the north-west, “making in hills like islands,” which was thought to be part of the coast (of Australia). An hour afterwards a reef, yet another part of the Great Barrier Reef, was discovered lying between the ship and the mainland. It extended to the southward and was thought to terminate to the northward abreast the ship; but the supposed termination was soon proved to be merely an opening, for the reef itself was shortly afterwards observed extending farther to the northward, out of sight. “The ship’s sails had scarcely been trimmed before the wind came to E. by N., which,” writes Cook, “made our weathering the reef very doubtful, the northern point of which still bore N. by W. distant about two leagues.”

The “Endeavour,” however, continued to steer northward in hopes of being able to clear the reef, care being taken that she should not run too far on one course. To prevent this at midnight she tacked and stood to the south-south-east. It then fell calm, and on sounding no bottom could be obtained with 140 fathoms of line. A little after four o’clock a roar of surf was clearly heard, foretelling that danger was near, and at daylight breakers, white with foam, could be distinguished not a mile away, towards which, to the horror of those on board, the heavy sea was fast hurrying the ship. There was not a breath of wind and no possibility of being able to anchor, and Cook says: “In this distressed situation we had nothing but Providence and the. small assistance the boats could give us to trust to.” The pinnace was then under repair; but the yawl was put in the water and the long-boat hoisted out, both being sent ahead to tow, and with the result that at last they got the ship’s head round to the northward.

[p069] By this time it was six o’clock and they were not more than eighty or one hundred yards from the breakers. A big sea now lashed the ship’s side and curved when next it rose in such a lofty breaker that “only a dismal valley, the breadth of one wave, lay between the ‘Endeavour’ and destruction.”

Meanwhile the pinnace had been hastily repaired, and it too was hoisted out and sent ahead to tow, although it seemed then as if nothing could save the ship. Yet all on board remained quite calm and every man did his utmost to avert disaster, and Cook writes: “All the dangers we had escaped were little in comparison of being thrown on this reef where the ship must be dashed to pieces in a moment. A reef,” he adds, “such as . . . is scarcely known in Europe. It is a wall of coral rock rising almost perpendicular out of the unfathomable ocean, always overflown at high water and dry in places at low water.”

And just when, to those on board, all seemed lost, “a small air of wind” sprang up–so small that at any other time it would have scarcely been noticed, and, with its aid and the help of the boats, the “Endeavour” was seen to move slantingly away from the reef. In less than ten minutes the hopes of the men were again dashed down, as a calm set in, while they were still not above 200 yards from the breakers. Yet once more the little breeze returned, and at this time a small opening was perceived in the reef about a quarter of a mile away. One of the mates was sent to examine it and he found that its breadth was not more than the length of the ship, but that within there was smooth water. Through this opening Cook decided to take the “Endeavour,” though it was doubtful whether he would be able to reach it at all. He, however, brought her opposite to it, and to his surprise saw the ebb rushing out through the gap as though it were a mill stream, and this carried the ship back a quarter of a mile away from the breakers. By noon she was one and a half or two miles from them; yet even then she could not have hoped to get clear if a breeze had sprung up. As Cook says: “We were embayed by the reef, the ship in spite of our exertions, driving before the sea into the bight”; and he adds: “The only hopes we had was another opening we saw about a mile to the westward of us which I sent Lieutenant Hicks to examine.”

While Mr. Hicks was inspecting this second opening the ship struggled with the tide, sometimes in her efforts gaining a little and at others losing way. At two o’clock on the afternoon of[p070] the 17th the first lieutenant returned with a favourable report of the opening and it was resolved to try to get through it, as this seemed to be the only means by which the ship could be saved.

A light breeze sprang up from the east-north-east, and with the help of all the boats and a flood tide the “Endeavour” entered the opening. The tide, whose waters ran like a mill-race, hurried her through with a force that kept her straight and prevented her driving to either side of the narrow channel. Once through, she came to an anchorage safely within the reef about eight or nine leagues from the mainland. Cook named the channel Providential Channel, because it had so proved for the ship in the hour of her danger; and in recalling the satisfaction that he had felt but a few days before when he had found himself without the reef, he says: “That joy was nothing compared to what I now felt at being safe at anchor within it.”

For the rest of the day the “Endeavour” remained at this anchorage in full view of the mainland coast. Giving his impressions of the land, Cook writes: “On the mainland within us was a pretty high promontory which I called Cape Weymouth and on the N.W. side of this cape is a bay which I called Weymouth Bay,” this being in honour of Lord Weymouth. On going to the masthead he saw that a great part of the reef was dry and that there was another opening in it to the south-east (possibly that now known as the Hibernia’s Entrance).

Next morning the “Endeavour” got under way and stood to the north-west; it was now deemed advisable to keep within the Barrier Reef, of whose extent and vast length Cook at this time had gained important knowledge. Whilst pursuing his course within the Barrier he perceived that the main or outer reef still extended to the north-east, and he now met with a shoal and with the islands which lie between the reef and the Australian mainland. At half-past six next evening he anchored three miles from the northernmost of some small islands bearing west ½ south, which he named Forbes’s Islands. The coast here formed a moderately high point called by Cook Bolt Head. Beyond it were low and sandy beaches. At 6 a.m., when the ship was got under sail and stood in for an island lying off the coast, her course was interrupted by shoals, but at length she found a channel to it. The mainland here within the islands formed a point which was named Cape Grenville, between which and Bolt Head was a bay which was called Temple Bay. Nine [p071] leagues east ½ north from Cape Grenville were some high islands, and these were named Sir Charles Hardy’s Isles, while those off the cape were called the Cockburn Isles.

Cook now steered a course along the Queensland shores which was afterwards, for a time at least, followed by Bligh, who served under him as master of the “Resolution.” It was nineteen years later that Bligh entered through an opening now called Bligh Boat Entrance in the Great Barrier Reef in the “Bounty’s” boat and ran along the shores that Cook’s ship had coasted, steering a course among the same islands. Writing on August 20th Cook says: “At 4, we discovered some low islands and rocks bearing W.N.W. which we stood directly in for. At half past six we anchored on the north-east side of the northernmost in 16 fms. distant one mile from the island. This island lay N.W. 4 leagues from Cape Grenville. On the isles we saw a good many birds which occasioned my calling them Bird Isles.”Bligh also came to the Bird Islands with his half-starved men, and he tells us that he anchored on “the north-westernmost of four small keys,” naming it Lagoon Island. “Before and at sunset,” continues Cook, “we could see the mainland which appeared very low and sandy . . . and some shoals, keys and low sandy isles away to the N.E. At 6 a.m. we got again under sail and stood N.N.W. for some low islands.” The shoals and keys are now called the Boydong Cays. “After weathering a shoal on our larboard bow, having at the same time others to east of us . . . and having weathered the shoal to leeward and seeing some shoals spit off from them and rocks on the starboard bow,” Cook says that, being afraid to go to windward of the islands, he brought to. He then made signal to the pinnace to rejoin the ship, and sent her to leeward “to keep along the edge of the shoal off the south side of the southernmost island.” As soon as the pinnace had got a proper distance he wore and stood after her.

Writing of this island, which is only a small spot of land with some trees upon it. Cook says: “We saw many huts and habitations of the natives which we supposed come over from the main to these islands (from which they are distant about 5 leagues) to catch turtle at the time when these animals come ashore to lay eggs.” Having taken the yawl in tow, the “Endeavour” stood after the pinnace to “two other low islands having two shoals, and one between us and the main.”[*]

[* Possibly these were Halfway Islets and East Islet.]

[p072]”At noon,” writes Cook, “we were about 4 leagues from the mainland extending N. as far as N.W. by N. all low, flat, and sandy “–the distance covered in the twenty-four hours being forty miles. At 1 p.m. on the 21st, finding that he could not go to windward of the two islands without getting too far from the main, Cook bore up and ran to leeward, where he found a fair open passage. He was now steering parallel with the mainland, “having a small island between us and it and some low sandy isles, and shoals without us.”[*] At four o’clock the “Endeavour” had lost sight of the islands, nor were any more seen before sunset, the farthest part of the mainland then in sight bearing north-north-west ½ west. At this time Cook was almost abreast of Sharp Peak at the southern entrance of Escape River. **2] Soon afterwards he anchored for the night in thirteen fathoms soft ground about five leagues off shore.

[* On this day Cook passed between Cairncross and Sandy Islets. See P. G, King’s comments on Cook’s Log.]

[** So named by King in 1819.]

At daylight once more, with the yawl ahead sounding, the “Endeavour” got under way. She steered north-north-west, and as no danger was visible the yawl was taken in tow and the ship made all sail until eight o’clock, when Cook discovered shoals ahead on the larboard bow. He then came to the conclusion from what he saw that the northernmost land, which he had considered was a part of the continent, was an island or islands between which and the main there appeared to be a good passage. The islands, one of which is remarkable for its flat top, are known to us as Mount Adolphus Islands. Cook now had the satisfaction of finding a good channel between the Mount Adolphus Islands and the coast; he kept the long-boat rigged continually between the ship and the mainland, as he says, “although there appeared nothing in the passage, there was a strong flood.” It may be noted as justifying Cook’s precautions that the Quetta Rock is in this channel. By noon he had got through and the nearest land to the southward lay only three or four miles distant. Soon afterwards he discovered that this was the northernmost point of the continent whose eastern coast he had so thoroughly explored, and he writes in his journal: “The point of the main . . . which is the northern promontory of this country, I have named York Cape in honour of his late Royal Highness the Duke of York. It lies in the long. of [p073] 218°24′ W., the north point in the lat. Of 10°37′ S., and the east point in W10°41’S.”

At this time he caught sight of islands lying a good distance off north-by-west to west-north-west, and behind them yet another chain of islands. The land below the east point of York Cape looked low and flat and seemed barren as far inland as the eye could reach. The land on the northern part of York Cape was rather more hilly and the valleys appeared well clothed with wood.[*] To the southward of the cape the shore was seen to form a large open bay which Cook named Newcastle Bay. (It was “the large and fair inlet” in 11° S. of Bligh.) From Adolphus Channel Cook steered three or four miles to westward round York Cape and discovered some islands which were “detached by several channels from the mainland. He recalled the boats and gave instructions to them to lead through the channel next the main, and soon afterwards the “Endeavour” made sail and followed them. Rocks and shoals were found in this channel, so Cook made the signal to the boats to lead through “the next channel to the northward between the islands which they accordingly did; we following with the ship and had not less than 5 fms. and this in the narrowest part . . . which was about 1 mile and a half broad from island to island.”

[* Cape York, the extreme north point of Eastern Australia, is covered with dense scrub along a series of hills called the Carnegic Range; the hill next the cape being Mount Bremer, 372 feet. The Cape itself is a long, low shelf of rock tapering to the edge of the water.]

At four o’clock the “Endeavour” anchored. The mainland (Cape York Peninsula) then extended south-west (S. 48° W.), while the southernmost point of the island on the north-west side of the passage bore S. 76° W. “Between these two points,”writes Cook, “we could see no land, so we were in great hopes we had at last found out a passage into the Indian seas, but in order to be better informed I landed with a party of men, accompanied by Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander, upon the island which lies at the S.E. point of the passage. Before and after we anchored we saw a number of people upon this island armed in the same manner as all others we have seen except one man who had a bow and bundle of arrows, the first we have seen on this coast.” The man who was differently armed from his companions probably came from one of the islands in Torres Strait, where the inhabitants use bows and arrows.

Cook was to learn later that he was not the first to [p074] discover “a passage into Indian seas,” for in 1606 Torres had “found a great land in 11°30′ S. and sailing on met with a great reef with a channel, many islands and a mainland,” this, of course, being Torres Strait and the Barrier Reef. In the preface to Cook’s second voyage, however, we find that Cook gives due credit to Torres for the discovery of the strait.

The natives seen by Cook’s party at this island-which was afterwards called Possession Island-were not ferocious, although the commander writes: “from the appearance of the people we expected they would have opposed our landing, but as we approached the shore they all made off and left us in peaceable possession of as much of the island as served our purpose.”

After landing, according to his usual custom, Cook went up on the highest hill. Of it he says: “It was of no great height, yet no less than twice or thrice the height of the ship’s masthead, but I could see no land between S.W. and W.S.W. so that I did not doubt there was a passage.” This passage was, as we know, Endeavour Strait, through which Cook passed safely into Torres Strait and thence made his way to Timor.

In his journal he continues: “Having satisfied myself of this great probability of a passage through which I intend going with my ship, and therefore may land no more upon this Eastern coast of New Holland; and on the West [coast] I can make no new discovery, the honour of which belongs to the Dutch navigators. But the Eastern from the latitude of 38° S. down to this place I am confident was never seen or visited by any European before us. And notwithstanding I had in the name of His Majesty taken possession of several places upon this coastInow once more hoisted English colours and in the name of His Majesty King George the III took possession of the whole eastern coast from the above latitude down to this place by the name of New South Wales,[*] together with all the bays, harbours, rivers, and islands situated upon the said coast, after which we fired 3 volleys of small arms which were answered by the like number from the ship.”

[* According to the Admiralty copy of Cook’s journal.]

Possession Island (Coolbee), on which Cook planted the flag of Britain, thus taking possession of the whole of the east coast of Australia from 38° S., is two and three-quarter miles in length by one and a quarter wide. From the top of the cairn of stones upon which Cook planted his flagstaff there is a magnificent view of numberless islands in Torres Strait.

[p075] Taking leave of Cook and the “Endeavour”[*] at the entrance of Endeavour Strait and turning again to the scene of his labours on the east coast we realize the far-reaching effects of his voyage. In these days it is easy to look back and survey the bountiful harvest that has sprung up where he first sowed the seed and to mark how capably his countrymen continued his work of discovery in that southern field of exploration. It is a more difficult task to grasp how the settlement of Australia, tardily undertaken by the British authorities, came successfully to be carried out. Where Cook saw empty bays and harbours fringed with only trees and scrub now rise cities and towns of recognized and growing importance, overlooking waters teeming with busy ships. Arid coasts and barren bushland developed into a fertile soil. A self-supporting colony grew up on the shores of Port Jackson, whence the English colours were carried to lands and islands yet more distant, until at last the whole of Australia became a valuable British possession.

[* The “Endeavour” was sold by the Admiralty for £645 in 1775, and again became a collier, having been originally built as one. Two different accounts are given of her end. One says that she was sold to the French and when England and France were at war, took refuge at Newport, U.S.A., where she eventually was broken up. The other account states that she never left the Thames.]


The publication of the results of the botany of Cook’s first voyage was long retarded, and illustrations of the Australian plants collected by Banks and Solander in H.M.S. “Endeavour” in 1770 were not published until 1905. Then a large work was printed by order of the trustees of the British Museum showing the original collection, “with determinations in accordance with the nomenclature at present adopted.”

In this work are engravings of the collections of those early voyagers, who seem to have gathered an extraordinary number of specimens during their stay on the east coast–the Australian plants alone representing a total of 331. Among them are many beautiful acacias, banksias, goodenias, correas, xanthorrhaeas, and orchids, with which we are now familiar. The Eucalyptus alba and terminalis are included, being the first of their species to be brought home.

Following the landing of the British, the native shrubs, ferns, [p076] and palms which grew around Sydney soon became known and were more sought after in England than even those of the Cape. Writing at that period, Labillardière, the French botanist, states that the old adage semper aliquid novi ex Africa was forgotten in the more striking novelties brought from Australia. These new plants greatly puzzled the botanists who first saw them and imagined that they resembled known species from which they proved to be entirely different. Among the earliest specimens to arrive home were Casuarina torulosa and C. stricta, Eucalyptus obliqua and Leptospermum lanigerum–the genus Eucalyptus being established by L’Heritier, a Frenchman who had visited England in 1786-87 and studied the Kew collections. He founded the genus on Eucalyptus obliqua, a species which had been already named Aromadendrum by Dr. Anderson,[*] who was on board H.M.S. Adventure ” in Tasmania, and the tree was first brought home in that ship in 1774. The earliest illustrations published of these plants were drawn either from garden or dried specimens, but a little later Dr. White’s book appeared containing drawings of birds and animals from life and also of flowers in their wild state.

[* The first writer to call attention to Anderson’s plants (apart from Dryander’s reference to his MSS.) was Robert Brown. Four genera named by Anderson were Aromadendrum, Collema, Euphocarpus, Ramsaia; respectively Eucalyptus, Goodenia, Correa, and Bauera.–Banks.]

This work, as well as the new varieties sent home by Governor Phillip and his successors, particularly those of Hunter, Paterson, and King, brought the knowledge of Australian flora and also of the fauna into very great prominence. Colonel Paterson was a well-known zoologist and botanist and while he was ever seeking fresh plants to despatch to England, his wife, Elizabeth Paterson, besides showing the keenest interest in his work, made collections of beautiful shells gathered when residing in Norfolk Island, Tasmania, and Sydney. In one of his letters (preserved at Kew) her husband wrote “she has made this her hobby”; and Mrs. Macarthur, wife of Captain John Macarthur, also studied both botany and astronomy in those early days.

Specimens of plants and papers of seeds were brought to England by the botanists of the different expeditions which touched at more distant parts of the continent. Among these collectors were David Nelson, botanist on board the ill-fated “Bounty” which visited Tasmania in 1789; Labillardière, who accompanied the French expedition under d’Entrecasteaux in [p077] 1791-93, twice visiting Tasmania; and Archibald Menzies, surgeon of the “Discovery,” Vancouver’s ship, which anchored along with the “Chatham” in King George’s Sound in 1791. In 1795 Cavanilles published descriptions from dried specimens communicated by Don Luis Née and Tadeo Haeneke, botanists accompanying the Spanish expedition under Malaspina, who touched at Sydney in 1793. The first book dealing exclusively with the plants of Australia (here we again quote Labillardière) was Smith’s “Specimens of the Botany of New Holland ” published in 1793, the second being that of Labillardière himself giving a description of the plants of Tasmania (then known as Van Diemen’s Land) and of Western Australia. Labillardière points out that his own work contains descriptions of plants which had been already described by Nelson in 1789.

Among Australian flowers the most notable was the waratah whose vivid carmine colour made it distinguishable upon the most inaccessible mountains. Smith says: “By common consent it is called by that name by both Europeans and natives,” and he adds: “It is a favourite with the latter on account of the rich honeyed juice which they sip from its flowers.”The illustration of the waratah that appears in his book was made from a coloured drawing–transmitted from Sydney–compared with the dried specimens of the flower which had been sent home by Dr. Mite.

Following in the footsteps of Banks, Anderson, Nelson, and Labillardière there voyaged to the southern continent a botanist the results of whose work surpassed those of all who had preceded him there, both in regard to the number of plants despatched home as in novelty of species. This was Robert Brown, who accompanied Captain Matthew Flinders as botanist on board H.M.S. “Investigator.” Brown not only was with Flinders in his exploration of the more distant coasts, but also strove to make himself acquainted with the flora of every known part of New South Wales and Tasmania. The full set of Brown’s collection is in the Natural History Museum at South Kensington; it is perhaps the most important of all Australian collections. Indefatigable as he was, Brown left the continent before its great inland territory had been discovered and while there yet remained a vast region still awaiting the explorer and the botanist.