CHAPTER 17. 1777 TO 1779. THIRD VOYAGE CONTINUED.
In case of separation, Clerke was ordered to cruise for five days near where his consort had been last seen, and then to steer for New Albion (so-called by Sir Francis Drake), endeavouring to fall in with it about latitude 45 degrees North, and there cruise for ten days; then, if his consort was not picked up, to proceed north to the first suitable port and recruit his men, keeping a good look-out for his companion. Then he was to sail on 1st April to 56 degrees North, and again cruise about fifteen leagues from the coast till 10th May, when he was to proceed north and endeavour to find a passage to the Atlantic, according to the Admiralty instructions already in his hands. If unsuccessful he was to winter in some suitable port of Kamtschatka, leaving word with the commandant of St. Peter and St. Paul Harbour, where he was to be found, and to be at the last-named place not later than 10th May of the following year. Then, if he had no news of the Resolution, he was to follow out the Admiralty instructions to the best of his ability.
The two ships left for Bolabola on 7th December to get an anchor left by De Bougainville, in order to make hatchets for exchange, as the demand had been so great their stock was running short. They had no difficulty in purchasing it, and it was good enough for their purpose, though not so heavy as they expected.
They crossed the line on the 23rd in longitude 203 degrees 15 minutes East without having seen land since leaving Bolabola. Two days after they picked up a low island and managed to get some turtle, and also a rather unsatisfactory observation of an eclipse of the sun, the clouds interfering with the view of the commencement. Their position had been settled by other observations, so the ill-luck was unimportant. About three hundred turtle were obtained, averaging from 90 to 100 pounds each, and as much fish as they could consume during their stay was caught. Coconuts, yams, and melons were planted, and the island received the name of Christmas Island.
Leaving on 2nd January they did not sight land till the Sandwich Islands were reached, in latitude 21 degrees 12 minutes 30 seconds North. At the second one seen, called Atoui by the natives, they were quickly surrounded by canoes; the occupants, very like the Otaheitans in appearance and language, were armed with stones, which they threw overboard as soon as they found they were not likely to be wanted, and though none could be persuaded to come on board the ships, they freely parted with fish for anything they could get in exchange. As the ships sailed on, more canoes came out bringing further supplies, and Cook rejoiced at arriving at a land of plenty, for his stock of turtle was just finished, and he was anxious to save his sea stores. At length some were tempted on board, and were greatly astonished at what they saw, but their wonder did not last long, and stealing soon broke out as usual. When they came to an anchor Cook landed and found a favourable place for watering, so a party was set to work the next day, and found no difficulty in getting assistance from the islanders, whilst at the same time a brisk trade was carried on in pigs and potatoes. Cook says: "No people could trade with more honesty than these people, never once attempting to cheat us, either ashore or alongside the ship." They seem to have dropped their thieving very quickly. At night a nasty sea got up, and as Cook did not like the position of his ship he weighed to run a little further out, but the wind suddenly dropping round to the east, he had to set all sail to clear the shore. For a day or two no very satisfactory anchorage could be found, and the weather was rather unsettled, so, making one of the chiefs a present of an English sow and boar, and a male and two female goats, the ship bore away to the northwards.
According to Baron von Humboldt these islands were discovered by a Spaniard, Gaetano, sailing from Manilla to Acapulco in 1542, and it was one of the few discoveries made by the Spaniards during this passage, for they were strictly forbidden to deviate from the track laid down on their charts. The name La Mesa (the table) down on the chart Cook had with him, describes the island, says Burney, but the longitude is several degrees out. It is undoubtedly a fact that Europeans had been at the islands previously to Cook's visit, for at least two pieces of iron were found, one being a portion of a broad-sword and the other a piece of hoop-iron.