CAPTAIN COOK'S PREDECESSORS, I
In spite of their losses, the Dutch called this island, in memory of the refreshment they had enjoyed there, Recreation Island. Roggewein gives its situation as below the sixth parallel, but his longitude is so incorrect, that it is impossible to depend upon it.
The question now arises, whether the captain should prosecute his search for the Island Espirito Santo de Quiros in the west, or whether, on the contrary, he should sail northward and reach the East Indies during the favourable season?
The counsel of war, which Roggewein called to the consideration of this question, chose the latter alternative.
|"The counsel chose the latter alternative."|
The third day after this decision, three islands were simultaneously discovered. They received the name of Bauman, after the captain of the Tienhoven, who was the first to catch sight of them. The natives came round the vessels to traffic, whilst an immense crowd of the inhabitants lined the shore, armed with bows and spears. They were white skinned, and only differed from Europeans in appearance, when very much tanned by the sun. Their bodies were not painted. A strip of stuff, artistically arranged and fringed, covered them from the waist to the heels. Hats of the same material protected their heads and necklaces of sweet-smelling flowers, adorned their necks.
"It must be confessed," says Behrens, "that this is the most civilized nation, as well as the most honest, which we have met with in the southern seas. Charmed with our arrival, they received us like gods, and when we showed our intention of leaving, they testified most lively regrets."
From the description, these would appear to have been the inhabitants of the Navigators Islands.
After having encountered the islands which Roggewein believed to be Cocoa and Traitor Islands, already visited by Schouten and Lemaire, and which Fleurieu, imagining them to be a Dutch discovery, named Roggewein Islands; after having caught sight of Tienhoven and Groningue Islands, which were believed by Pingré to be identical with Santa Cruz of Mendana, the expedition finally reached the coast of New Ireland. Here the discoverers perpetrated new massacres. From thence they went to the shores of New Guinea, and after crossing the Moluccas, cast anchor at Batavia.
There their fellow-countrymen, less humane than many of the tribes they had visited, confiscated the two vessels, imprisoned the officers and sailors indiscriminately, and sent them to Europe to take their trial. They had committed the unpardonable crime of having entered countries belonging to the East India Company, whilst they themselves were in the employ of the West India Company.
The result was a trial, and the East India Company was compelled to restore all that it had appropriated, and to pay heavy damages.
We lose all sight of Roggewein after his arrival at Texel upon the 11th July, 1723, and no details are to be obtained of the last years of his life. Grateful thanks are due to Fleurieu for having unravelled this "chaotic" narrative, and for having thrown some light upon an expedition which deserves to be better known.
Upon the 17th of June, 1764, Commodore Byron received instructions signed by the Lord of the Admiralty. They were to the following effect,—"As nothing contributes more to the glory of this nation, in its character of a maritime power, to the dignity of the British crown, and to the progress of its national commerce and navigation, than the discovery of new regions; and as there is every reason for believing in the existence of lands and islands in great numbers, between the Cape of Good Hope and the Straits of Magellan, which have been hitherto unknown to the European powers, and which are situated in latitudes suitable for navigation, and in climates productive of different marketable commodities; and as moreover, his Majesty's islands, called Pepys and Falkland Islands, situated as will be described, have not been sufficiently examined for a just appreciation of their shores and productions, although they were discovered by English navigators; his Majesty, taking all these considerations into account, and conceiving the existing state of profound peace now enjoyed by his subjects especially suitable for such an undertaking, has decided to put it into execution."
Upon what seaman would the choice of the English Government fall?
Commodore John Byron, born on the 8th of November, 1723, was the man selected. From his earliest years, he had shown an enthusiastic love of seafaring life, and at the age of seventeen had offered his services upon one of the vessels that formed Admiral Anson's squadron, when it was sent out for the destruction of Spanish settlements upon the Pacific coast.
We have already given an account of the troubles which befell this expedition before the incredible fortune which was to distinguish its last voyage.