CHAPTER IV. Narrative of Captain Cook's second Voyage round the World.
Every thing being ready to put to sea, Captain Cook weighed anchor on the 13th of September, with the purpose of examining the coast of New Caledonia. In pursuing this object, by which he was enabled to add greatly to nautical and geographical knowledge, the Resolution was more than once in danger of being lost, and particularly, in the night of the 28th of the month, she had a narrow escape. Our navigators, on this occasion, were much alarmed; and daylight shewed that their fears had not been ill founded. Indeed, breakers had been continually under their lee, and at a small distance from them; so that they were in the most imminent danger. 'We owed our safety,' says the captain, 'to the interposition of Providence, a good look-out, and the very brisk manner in which the ship was managed.'
Our commander now began to be tired of a coast which he could no longer explore but at the risk of losing the vessel, and ruining the whole voyage. He determined, however, not to leave it, till he knew of what kind some groves of trees were, which, by their uncommon appearance, had occasioned much speculation, and had been mistaken, by several of the gentlemen, for bisaltes. Captain Cook was the more solicitous to ascertain the point, as these trees appeared to be of a sort, which might be useful to shipping, and had not been seen any where, but in the southern parts of New Caledonia. They proved to be a species of spruce pine, very proper for spars, which were then wanted. The discovery was valuable, as, excepting New Zealand, there was not an island known, in the South Pacific Ocean, where the ship could supply herself with a mast or yard, to whatever distress she might be reduced. It was the opinion of the carpenter of the Resolution, who was a mastmaker as well as a shipwright, that very good masts might be made from the trees in question. The wood of them, which is white, close-grained, tough, and light, is well adapted to that purpose. One of the small islands where the trees were found, was called by the captain the Isle of Pines. To another, on account of its affording sufficient employment to the botanists, during the little time they stayed upon it, he gave the name of Botany Isle.
Captain Cook now took into serious consideration what was farther to be done. He had pretty well determined the extent of the south-west coast of New Caledonia, and would gladly have proceeded to a more accurate survey of the whole, had he not been deterred, not only by the dangers he must encounter, but by the time required for the undertaking, and which he could not possibly spare. Indeed, when he considered the vast ocean he had to explore to the south; the state and condition of the ship; the near approach of summer; and that any material accident might detain him in this sea even for another year, he did not think it advisable to make New Caledonia any longer the object of his attention. But though he was thus obliged, by necessity, for the first time, to leave a coast which he had discovered, before it was fully surveyed, he did not quit it till he had ascertained the extent of the country, and proved, that, excepting New Zealand, it was perhaps the largest island in the Southern Pacific Ocean.
As the Resolution pursued her course from New Caledonia, land was discovered, which on a nearer approach, was found to be an island, of good height, and five leagues in circuit. Captain Cook named it Norfolk Isle, in honour of the noble family of Howard. It was uninhabited; and the first persons that ever set foot on it were unquestionably our English navigators. Various trees and plants were observed that are common at New Zealand; and, in particular, the flax plant, which is rather more luxuriant here than in any part of that country. The chief produce of the island is a kind of spruce pine, exceedingly straight and tall, which grows in great abundance. Such is the size of many of the trees, that, breast high, they are as thick as two men can fathom. Among the vegetables of the place, the palm-cabbage afforded both a wholesome and palatable refreshment; and, indeed, proved the most agreeable repast that our people had for a considerable time enjoyed. In addition to this gratification, they had the pleasure of procuring some excellent fish.
From Norfolk Isle, our commander steered for New Zealand, it being his intention to touch at Queen Charlotte's Sound, that he might refresh his crew, and put the ship in a condition to encounter the southern latitudes. On the 18th of October, he anchored before Ship Cove in that sound; and the first thing he did, after landing, was to look for the bottle he had left on the shore, in which was a memorandum. It was taken away; and it soon appeared, from indubitable circumstances, that the Adventure had been in the cove after it was quitted by the Resolution.