CAPTAIN COOK'S PREDECESSORS, I

Next day, the fleet neared two islands, which presented an attractive appearance.

Large bushy trees, shrubs and groves were seen, and a number of natives who hastened to the shore and lighted fires.

Byron sent a boat in search of anchorage. It returned without having found the requisite depth at a cable's length from shore.

The unfortunate victims of scurvy who had crawled on to the forecastle, cast looks of sorrowful longing at the fertile islands, which held the remedy for their sufferings and which Nature placed beyond their reach!

The narrative says,—

"They saw the cocoa-trees in abundance, laden with fruit, the milk of which is probably the most powerful anti-scorbutic in the world. They had reason for supposing that limes, bananas, and other tropical fruits abounded, and to add to their torments they saw the shells of tortoises floating on the shore."

All these delights, which would have restored them to vigour, were no more attainable than if they had been separated by half the globe, but the sight of them increased the misery of their privations.

Byron was anxious to curtail the tantalizing misery of his unfortunate crew, and giving the name of Disappointment Islands to the group, he set sail once more on the 8th of June.

The very next day he found a new land, long, flat, covered with cocoa-nut trees. In its midst was a lake with a little islet. This feature alone was indicative of the madreporic formation of the soil, simple deposit, which was not yet, but which in time would become, an island. The boat sent to sound met in every direction with a coast as steep as a wall.

Meanwhile the natives made hostile demonstrations. Two men entered the boat. One stole a sailor's waistcoat, another put out his hand for the quarter-master's cocked hat, but not knowing how to deal with it, pulled it towards him, instead of lifting it up, which gave the quarter-master an opportunity of interfering with his intention. Two large pirogues, each manned by thirty paddlers, showed an intention of attacking the vessels, but the latter immediately chased them. Just as they were running ashore a struggle ensued, and the English, all but overwhelmed by numbers, were forced to use their arms. Three or four natives were killed.

Next day, the sailors and such of the sick as could leave their hammocks landed.

The natives, intimidated by the lesson they had received in the evening, remained in concealment, whilst the English picked cocoa-nuts, and gathered anti-scorbutic plants. These timely refreshments were so useful that in a few days there was not a sick man on board.

Parrots, rarely beautiful, and tame doves, and several kinds of unknown birds composed the fauna of the island, which received the name of King George—that which was discovered afterwards was called Prince of Wales' Island. All these lands belonged to the Pomotou group, which is also known as the Low Islands, a very suitable name for this archipelago.

On the 21st again a new chain of islands surrounded by breakers was sighted. Byron did not attempt a thorough investigation of these, as to do so he would have incurred risks out of proportion to the benefit to be gained. He called them the Dangerous Islands.

Six days later, Duke of York Island was discovered. The English found no inhabitants, but carried off two hundred cocoa-nuts, which appeared to them of inestimable value.

A little farther, in latitude 1° 18' south, longitude 173° 46' west, a desert island received the name of Byron; it was situated eastward of the Gilbert group.

The heat was overwhelming, and the sailors, weakened, by their long voyage and want of proper food, in addition to the putrid water they had been forced to drink, were almost all attacked by dysentery.

At length, on the 28th of July, Byron joyfully recognized Saypan and Tinian Islands, which form part of the Marianne or Ladrone Islands, and he prepared to anchor in the very spot where Lord Anson had cast anchor with the Centurion. Tents were immediately prepared for the sufferers from scurvy. Almost all the sailors had been attacked by this terrible disease, many even had been at the point of death. The captain undertook to explore the dense wood which extended to the very edge of the shore, in search of the lovely country so enthusiastically described in the account written by Lord Anson's chaplain. How far were these enchanting descriptions from the truth! Impenetrable forests met him on every side, overgrown plants, briars, and tangled shrubs, at every step caught and tore his clothes. At the same time the explorers were attacked and stung by clouds of mosquitoes. Game was scarce and wild, the water detestable, the roadstead was never more dangerous than at this season.

The halt was made, therefore, under unfortunate auspices. Still, in the end limes, bitter oranges, cocoa-nuts, bread-fruits, guavas, and others were found. But although these productions were beneficial to the invalids, who were shortly restored to vigour, the malarious atmosphere caused such violent fever that two sailors succumbed to it. In addition, the rain fell unceasingly and the heat was overpowering. Byron says that he never experienced such terrific heat, even in his visits to the coast of Guinea, the East Indies, or St. Thomas Island, which is immediately below the equator.

Fowls and wild pigs which weighed about 2 cwt. each, were easily procurable, but had to be eaten immediately, as in less than a hour decomposition took place. Lastly, the fish caught upon this shore was so unwholesome, that even those who ate it in moderation became dangerously ill, and risked their lives.