CAPTAIN COOK'S FIRST VOYAGE, I

The observations, according to W. de Tonnelle's article in "Nature," for the 28th of March, 1874, were most fatiguing for the astronomers, for they began at twenty-one minutes after nine in the morning, and only terminated at ten minutes after three in the afternoon, at which moment the heat was stifling. The thermometer registered 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook assures us, and we can readily believe it, that he himself was not certain of the end of his observation. In such thermetrical conditions, the human organism, admirable instrument as it is, loses its powers.

On passing the sun, the rim of Venus was elongated as though attracted. A black point or dark ligament, a little less dark than the body of the star, was formed; the same phenomenon occurred upon the second interior contact.

"The observation," says Cook, "was made with equal success at the fort, and by those I had sent to the east of the island. From the rising to the setting of the sun, not a single cloud obscured the sky, and Mr. Green, Dr. Solander, and myself, observed the entire transit of Venus with the greatest ease. Mr. Green's telescope and mine were of equal power, and that of Dr. Solander still stronger. We noted a luminous atmosphere or fog surrounding the planet, which rendered the actual moment of contact and especially of interior contacts somewhat indistinct. To this fact it is owing that our observations varied somewhat one from the other."

Whilst the officers and savants were engaged in this important observation, some of the crew, forcing an entrance into the storeroom, stole a hundredweight of nails. This was a grave offence, and one which might have had disastrous results for the expedition. The market was at once glutted with that one article of traffic, and as the natives testified an immoderate desire to possess it, there was every reason to anticipate an increase in their demands. One of the thieves was detected, but only seventy nails were found in his possession, and the application of eighty lashes failed to make him betray his accomplices.

Other incidents of this kind constantly occurred, but friendly relations were not seriously disturbed. The officers were free to make incursions into the interior of the island to prosecute scientific investigations, and to inquire into the manners of the inhabitants.

In one of these excursions, Sir Joseph Banks met a band of itinerant musicians and improvisatori. They were somewhat surprised to find that the arrival of the English, and the various incidents of their stay formed the subjects of native songs. Banks followed the river which flows into the sea at Matavai, some distance into the interior, and found traces of a long extinct volcano. He planted, and also distributed among the population a large number of kitchen-garden seeds, such as water-melons, oranges, lemons, &c., and planned a garden near the fort, where he sowed many of the seeds he had selected at Rio Janeiro.

Cook, and his principal assistants, wished to accomplish the circumnavigation of the island, which they estimated at thirty nautical leagues. During this voyage they entered into amicable relations with the chiefs of different districts, and collected a mass of information as to the manners and customs of the natives.

A curious custom was that of allowing the dead to decompose in the open air, and of burying the bones only. The corpse was placed in a hut about fifteen feet in length, and eleven in height, and of proportionate width. One end was closed up, and the three other sides shut in by trellis-work of twigs. The board upon which the corpse rested was five feet above the earth. There the dead body was laid, covered in stuffs, with its club and stone hatchet. Cocoa-nuts, wreathed together, were hung at the open end of the tent; half a cocoa-nut, filled with soft water, was placed outside, and a bag containing some bits of toasted bread, was attached to a post. This species of monument is called Toupapow. Whence could that singular method of raising the dead above the ground until the flesh was decayed by putrefaction have been derived! It is quite impossible to find out. Cook could only ascertain that the cemeteries called Morai, are places where the natives observe certain religious customs, and that they always betrayed some uneasiness when the English approached.

One of their most delicate dishes was dog. Those intended for the table never ate meat, but were fed upon bread-fruits, cocoa-nuts, yams, and other vegetables. The flesh placed in a hole upon hot stones covered with green leaves, was stewed down in four hours. Cook, who partook of it, says it has a delicious flavour.

On the 7th of July, preparations for departure began. In a short time the doors and palings were removed, and the walls demolished. At this moment, one of the natives, who had received the English with cordiality, came on board with a young lad of about thirteen years of age, who acted as his servant. He was named Tupia. Formerly first minister to Queen Oberea, he was afterwards one of the principal priests of Tahiti. He asked to be allowed to go to England. Many reasons combined to decide Cook upon permitting this. Thoroughly acquainted (as a necessary consequence of his high functions) with all the particulars concerning Tahiti, this native would be able to give the most circumstantial details of his compatriots, and at the same time to initiate them into the civilized customs of the Europeans. Finally, he had visited the neighbouring islands and perfectly understood the navigation of those latitudes.