On the 13th, they had a most violent gale from the northward. In the morning of the 13th, the wind, shifting to the north-west, brought with it fair weather; but, though they were, at that time, nearly in the situation given to the island of San Juan, they saw no appearance of land. They continued to pass much pumice-stone; indeed the prodigious quantities of that substance which floated in the sea, between Japan and the Bashee Islands, seemed to indicate that some great volcanic convulsion must have happened in that part of the Pacific Ocean.
On the 14th, they discovered two islands, and on the next day a third; but Captain Gore, finding that a boat could not land without some danger, from the great surf that broke on the shore, kept on his course to the westward. The middle island is about five miles long; the south point is a high barren hill, presenting an evident volcanic crater. The earth, rock, or sand, for it was not easy to distinguish of which its surface was composed, exhibited various colours, and a considerable part was conjectured to be sulphur, and some of the officers on board the Resolution thought they saw steams rising from the top of the hill. From these circumstances, Captain Gore gave it the name of Sulphur Island. A long narrow neck of land connects the hill with the south end of the island, which spreads out into a circumference of three or four leagues, and is of moderate height. The north and south islands appeared to be single mountains of a considerable height. Sulphur Island is in the latitude 24 48', longitude 141 12'. The north island in latitude 25 14', longitude 141 10', and the south island in latitude 24 22', and longitude 141 20'.
Hence our navigators proceeded for the Bashee Islands, hoping to procure at them such a supply of refreshment as would help to shorten their stay at Macao; but Captain Gore, being guided by the opinions of Commodore and Captain Wallis, as to the situation of these islands, which differ materially from Dampier's, they were foiled in their endeavours to find them, although, in the day time, the ships spread two or three leagues from each other, and in the night, when under an easy sail.
On the 27th, being in longitude 118 30', and having got to the westward of the Bashees, according to Mr. Byron's account, our navigators hauled their wind to the north west, hoping to weather the Prata shoals but at four in the morning of the 28th, the breakers were close under their lee; at daylight they saw the island of Prata, and finding they could not weather the shoal, ran to leeward of it. As they passed the south side, they saw two remarkable patches on the edge of the breakers, that looked like wrecks. On the south-west side of the reef, and near the south end of the island, they thought they saw openings in the reefs which promised safe anchorage.
In the forenoon of the 29th, they passed several Chinese fishing boats; and the sea was covered with wrecks of boats that had been lost, as they conjectured, in the late boisterous weather. They were in latitude 22 1', having run 110 miles since the preceding noon.
On the 30th, they ran along the Lema Islands, and got a Chinese pilot on board. In obedience to the instruction given to Captain Cook by the Admiralty, the captains now required of the officers and men of both ships to give up their journals, and what other papers they had to their possession relative to the voyage, which was cheerfully complied with; and at nine o'clock in the evening of the following day, they anchored three leagues from Macao.
Here, upon sending on shore to negotiate for supplies of provisions, &c. they first received intelligence of the occurrences in Europe, during the protracted period of their absence. On the 4th of December, they stood into the Typa, and moored with the stream-anchor and cable to the westward.
Captain King was sent up to Canton to expedite the supplies that were wanted, and experienced every possible assistance from the supercargoes and gentlemen of the Company's factory there. The purchase of the provisions and store wanted was completed on the 26th, and the whole stock was sent down on the following day by a vessel which Captain Gore had engaged for the purpose. Twenty sea-otter skins were sold at Canton, by Captain King, for eight hundred dollars. At the ships a brisk trade was carried on in the same article, by both officers and seamen. The sea-otter skins every day rose in value, and a few prime skins, which were clean and well preserved, were sold for one hundred and twenty dollars each. The whole amount of the value, in specie and goods, that was got for the furs in both ships, did not fall short of two thousand pounds sterling, and it was generally supposed, that at least two-thirds of the quantity originally obtained from the Americans were spoiled or worn out, or had been given away or sold at Kamtschatka. In consequence hereof, the rage with which the seamen were possessed to return to Cook' River, and by another cargo of skins to make their fortunes, was, at one time, not far short of mutiny. The numerous voyages that have since been undertaken for the prosecution of the trade here suggested, have rendered it familiar to the merchants both of Britain and of America; and, though it has not latterly been productive of advantages equal to those which were realized by the first adventurers, is still a branch of commerce that is successfully pursued.