CHAPTER IV. Narrative of Captain Cook's second Voyage round the World.
On the 22d of November, our commander sailed from the Cape of Good Hope, and proceeded on his voyage, in search of a southern continent. Having gotten clear of the land, he directed his course for Cape Circumcision; and, judging that cold weather would soon approach, he ordered slops to be served to such of the people as were in want of them, and gave to each man the fear-nought jacket and trowsers allowed by the admiralty. On the 29th, the wind, which was west-north-west, increased to a storm, that continued, with some few intervals of moderate weather, till the 6th of December. By this gale, which was attended with hail and rain, and which blew at times with such violence that the ships could carry no sails, our voyagers were driven far to the eastward of their intended course, and no hopes were left to the captain of reaching Cape Circumcision. A still greater misfortune was the loss of the principal part of the live stock on board, consisting of sheep, hogs, and geese. At the same time, the sudden transition from warm mild weather, to weather which was extremely cold and wet, was so severely felt by our people, that it was necessary to make some addition to their allowance of spirits, by giving each of them a dram on particular occasions.
Our navigators, on the 10th of December, began to meet with islands of ice. One of these islands was so much concealed from them by the haziness of the weather, accompanied with snow and sleet, that they were steering directly towards it, and did not see it till it was at a less distance than that of a mile. Captain Cook judged it to be about fifty feet high, and half a mile in circuit. It was flat at the top, and its sides rose in a perpendicular direction, against which the sea broke to a great height. The weather continuing to be hazy, the captain, on account of the ice islands, was obliged to proceed with the utmost caution. Six of them were passed on the 12th, some of which were nearly two miles in circuit, and sixty feet high; nevertheless, such were the force and height of the waves, that the sea broke quite over them. Hence was exhibited a view, that for a few moments was pleasing to the eye; but the pleasure was soon swallowed up in the horror which seized upon the mind, from the prospect of danger. For if a ship should be so unfortunate as to get on the weather side of one of these islands, she would be dashed to pieces in a moment.
The vessels, on the 14th, were stopped by an immense field of low ice, to which no end could be seen, either to the east, west, or south. In different parts of this field were islands or hills of ice, like those which our voyagers had found floating in the sea, and twenty of which had presented themselves to view the day before. Some of the people on board imagined that they saw land over the ice, and Captain Cook himself at first entertained the same sentiment. But upon more narrowly examining these ice hills, and the various appearances they made when seen through the haze, he was induced to change his opinion. On the 18th, though in the morning our navigators had been quite imbayed, they were, notwithstanding, at length enabled to get clear of the field of ice. They were, however, at the same time, carried in among the ice islands, which perpetually succeeded one another; which were almost equally dangerous; and the avoiding of which was a matter of the greatest difficulty. But perilous as it is to sail in a thick fog, among these floating rocks, as our commander properly called them; this is preferable to the being entangled with immense fields of ice under the same circumstances. In this latter case the great danger to be apprehended, is the getting fast in the ice; a situation which would be alarming in the highest degree.
It had been a generally received opinion, that such ice as hath now been described, is formed in bays and rivers. Agreeably to this supposition, our voyagers were led to believe that land was not far distant, and that it lay to the southward behind the ice. As, therefore, they had sailed above thirty leagues along the edge of the ice, without finding a passage to the south, Captain Cook determined to run thirty or forty leagues to the east, and afterward to endeavour to get to the southward. If, in this attempt, he met with no land or other impediment, his design was to stretch behind the ice, and thus to bring the matter to a decision. The weather, at this time, affected the senses with a feeling of cold much greater than that which was pointed out by the thermometer, so that the whole crew complained. In order the better to enable them to sustain the severity of the cold, the Captain directed the sleeves of their jackets to be lengthened with baize; and had a cap made for each man of the same stuff, strengthened with canvass. These precautions greatly contributed to their comfort and advantage. It is worthy of observation, that although the weather was as sharp, on the 25th of December, as might have been expected, in the same month of the year, in any part of England, this was the middle of summer with our navigators. Some of the people now appearing to have symptoms of the scurvy, fresh wort was given them every day, prepared under the direction of the surgeons, from the malt which had been provided for the purpose.