CAPTAIN COOK'S FIRST VOYAGE, II

Reconnoitring the Eastern Coast of Australia—Remarks on the natives and productions of the country—The Endeavour stranded—Perpetual dangers of navigation—Crossing Torres Straits—The natives of New Guinea—Return to England.

On the 31st of March, Cook left Cape Farewell and New Zealand, steering westward. On the 19th of April, he perceived land which extended from north-east to west, in 37° 58' S. Lat. and 210° 39' W. Long.

In his opinion, judging by Tasman's chart, this was the country called Van Diemen's Land. In any case, he was unable to ascertain whether the portion of the coast before him belonged to Tasmania. He named all the points on his northern voyage, Hick's Point, Ram Head, Cape Howe, Dromedary Mount, Upright Point, Pigeon House, &c.

This part of Australia is mountainous, and covered with various kinds of trees.

Map of Australia

Smoke announced it to be inhabited, but the sparse population ran away as soon as the English prepared to land.

The first natives seen were armed with long lances and a piece of wood shaped like a scimitar. This was the famous "boomerang," so effective a weapon in the hands of the natives, so useless in that of Europeans.

The faces of the natives were covered with white powder, their bodies were striped with lines of the same colour, which, passing obliquely across the chest, resembled the shoulder-belts of soldiers. On their thighs and legs they had circles of the same kind, which would have appeared like gaiters had not the natives been entirely naked.

A little further on the English once more attempted to land. But two natives whom they had previously endeavoured to propitiate by throwing them nails, glassware, and other trifles, made such menacing demonstrations, that they were obliged to fire over their heads. At first they seemed stunned by the detonation, but as they found that they were not wounded, they commenced hostilities by throwing stones and javelins. A volley of bullets struck the oldest in his legs. The unfortunate native rushed at once to one of the cabins, but returned with a shield to continue the fight, which was shortly ended, when he was convinced of his powerlessness.

The English seized the opportunity to land, and reach the houses, where they found several spears. In the same bay, they landed some casks for water, but communication with the natives was hopeless; they fled immediately on the advance of the English.

During an excursion on land, Cook, Banks, and Solander found traces of various animals. The birds were plentiful, and remarkably beautiful. The great number of plants discovered by the naturalists in this part, induced Cook to give it the name of Botany Bay. "This bay is," he says, "large, safe, and convenient; it is situated in 34° S. Lat., and 208° 37' W. Long." Wood and water were easily procurable there.

"The trees," according to Cook, "were at least as large as the oaks of England, and I saw one which somewhat resembled them. It is that one which distils a red gum like 'Dragon's blood.'"

No doubt this was a species of Eucalyptus. Among the various kinds of fishes which abound in these latitudes is the thorn-back skate, one of which, even after cleaning, weighed three hundred and thirty-six pounds.

On the 6th of May, Cook left Botany Bay, and continued to coast to the north at two or three miles distance from the shore. The navigation along this coast was sufficiently monotonous. The only incidents which imparted a slight animation, were the sudden and unexpected differences in the depth of the sea, caused by the line of breakers which it was necessary to avoid.

Map of the east coast of New Holland
Gravé par E. Morieu.

Landing a little further on, the navigators ascertained that the country was inferior to that surrounding Botany Bay.

The soil was dry and sandy, the sides of the hills were sparsely covered with isolated trees and free from brush-wood. The sailors killed a bustard, which was pronounced to be the best game eaten since leaving England. Hence, this point was named Bustard Bay. Numbers of bivalves were found there, especially small pearl oysters.

On the 25th of May, the Endeavour being a mile from land, was opposite a point which exactly crossed the Tropic of Capricorn. The following day, it was ascertained that the sea rose and fell seven feet. The flow was westward, and the ebb eastward, just the reverse of the case in Botany Bay. In this spot islands were numerous, the channel narrow and very shallow.

On the 29th, Cook landed with Banks and Solander in a large bay, in search of a spot where he could have the keel and bottom of his vessel repaired, but they were scarcely on terra firma, when they found their progress impeded by a thick shrub, prickly and studded with sharp seeds, no doubt a species of "spinifex," which clung to the clothes, pierced them, and penetrated the flesh. At the same time, myriads of gnats and mosquitoes attacked them, and covered them with painful bites.