CHAPTER IV. Narrative of Captain Cook's second Voyage round the World.
By the 29th, it became sufficiently ascertained, from the course our commander had pursued, that the field of ice, along which the ships had sailed, did not join to any land as had been conjectured. At this time, Captain Cook came to a resolution, provided he met with no impediment, to run as far west as the meridian of Cape Circumcision. While he was prosecuting this design, a gale arose, on the 31st, which brought with it such a sea, as rendered it very dangerous for the vessels to remain among the ice; and the danger was increased by discovering an immense field to the north, which extended farther than the eye could reach. As our voyagers were not above two or three miles from this field, and were surrounded by loose ice, there was no time to deliberate. They hauled to the South; and though they happily got clear, it was not till the ships had received several hard knocks from the loose pieces, which were of the largest kind. On Friday, the 1st of January, 1773, the gale abated; and on the next day, in the afternoon, our people had the felicity of enjoying the sight of the moon, the face of which had not been seen by them but once since they had departed from the Cape of Good Hope. Hence a judgment may be formed of the sort of weather they had been exposed to, from the time of their leaving that place. The present opportunity was eagerly seized, for making several observations of the sun and moon.
Captain Cook was now nearly in the same longitude which is assigned to Cape Circumcision, and about ninety-five leagues to the south of the latitude in which it is said to lie. At the same time the weather was so clear, that land might have been seen at the distance of fourteen or fifteen leagues. He concluded it, therefore, to be very probable, that what Bouvet took for land was nothing but mountains of ice, surrounded by loose or field ice. Our present navigators had naturally been led into a similar mistake. The conjecture, that such ice as had lately been seen was joined to land, was a very plausible one, though not founded on fact. Upon the whole, there was good reason to believe, that no land was to be met with, under this meridian, between the latitude of fifty-five and fifty-nine, where some had been supposed to exist.
Amidst the obstructions Captain Cook was exposed to, from the ice islands which perpetually succeeded each other, he derived one advantage from them, and that was, a supply of fresh water. Though the melting and stowing away of the ice takes up some time, and is, indeed, rather tedious, this method of watering is otherwise the most expeditious our commander had ever known. The water produced was perfectly sweet and well tasted. Upon the ice islands, penguins, albatrosses, and other birds were frequently seen. It had hitherto been the received opinion, that such birds never go far from land, and that the sight of them is a sure indication of its vicinity. That this opinion is not well founded, at least where ice islands exist, was now evinced by multiplied experience.
By Sunday the 17th of January, Captain Cook reached the latitude of 67 15' south, when he could advance no farther. At this time the ice was entirely closed to the south, in the whole extent from east to west-south-west, without the least appearance of any opening. The captain, therefore, thought it no longer prudent to persevere in sailing southward; especially as the summer was already half spent, and there was little reason to hope that it would be found practicable get round the ice. Having taken this resolution, he determined to proceed directly in search of the land which had lately been discovered by the French; and as, in pursuing his purpose, the weather was clear at intervals, he spread the ships abreast four miles from each other, in order the better to investigate any thing that might lie in their way. On the 1st of February our voyagers were in the latitude of 48 30' south, and in longitude 58 7' east, nearly in the meridian of the island of St. Mauritius. This was the situation in which the land said to have been discovered by the French was to be expected; but as no signs of it had appeared, our commander bore away to the east. Captain Furneaux, on the same day, informed Captain Cook, that he had just seen a large float of sea, or rock weed, and about it several of the birds called divers. These were certain signs of the vicinity of land, though whether it lay to the east or west could not possibly be known. Our commander, therefore, formed the design of proceeding in his present latitude four or five degrees of longitude to the west of the meridian he was now in, and then to pursue his researches eastward. The west and north-west winds, which had continued for some days, prevented him from carrying this purpose into execution. However, he was convinced from the perpetual high sea he had lately met with, that there could be no great extent of land to the west.
While Captain Cook, on the next day, was steering eastward, Captain Furneaux told him that he thought the land was to the north-west of them; as he had, at one time, observed the sea to be smooth, when the wind blew in that direction. This observation was by no means conformable to the remarks which had been made by our commander himself. Nevertheless, such was his readiness to attend to every suggestion, that he resolved to clear up the point, if the wind would admit of his getting to the west in any reasonable time. The wind, by veering to the north, did admit of his pursuing the search; and the result of it was, his conviction that if any land was near, it could only be an island of no considerable extent.