CHAPTER VI. Narrative of Captain Cook's Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, to the Period of his Death.
While our commander was near the Cape de Verde Islands, he had an opportunity of correcting an assertion of Mr. Nicholson with regard to the manner of sailing by those islands, which, if implicitly trusted to, might prove of dangerous consequence. On the 13th, our navigators arrived before Port Praya, in the Island of St. Jago; but as the Discovery was not there, and little water had been expended in the passage from Teneriffe, Captain Cook did not think proper to go in; but stood to the southward.
In the course of the voyage, between the latitudes of 12 and 7 north, the weather was generally dark and gloomy. The rains were frequent, and accompanied with that close and sultry weather, which too often brings on sickness in this passage. At such a time, the worst consequences are to be apprehended: and commanders of ships cannot be too much upon their guard. It is necessary for them to purify the air between decks with fire and smoke, and to oblige their people to dry their clothes at every opportunity. The constant observance of these precautions on board the Resolution was attended with such success, that the captain had now fewer sick men than on either of his former voyages. This was the more remarkable, as, in consequence of the seams of the vessel having opened so wide, as to admit the rain when it fell, there was scarcely a man who could lie dry in his bed; and the officers in the gun-room were all driven out of their cabins by the water that came through the sides. When settled weather returned, the caulkers were employed in repairing these defects, by caulking the decks and inside weather-works of the ship; for the humanity of our commander would not trust the workmen over the sides, while the Resolution was at sea.
On the 1st of September, our navigators crossed the equator. While, on the 8th, Captain Cook was near the eastern coast of Brazil, he was at considerable pains to settle its longitude, which, till some better astronomical observations are made on shore in that country, he concluded to be thirty-five degrees and a half, or thirty-six degrees west, at most.
As our people proceeded on their voyage, they frequently saw, in the night, those luminous marine animals, which have formerly been mentioned and described. Some of them appeared to be considerably larger than any which the captain had met with before; and sometimes they were so numerous, that hundreds of them were visible at the same moment.
On the 18th of October, the Resolution came to an anchor in Table Bay, at the Cape of Good Hope; and the usual compliments having been paid to Baron Plettenberg the governor, Captain Cook immediately applied himself to his customary operations. Nothing remarkable occurred till the evening of the 31st, when a tempest arose from the south-east, which lasted three days, and which was so violent that the Resolution was the only ship in the bay that rode out the gale without dragging her anchors. The effects of the storm were sensibly felt by our people on shore; for their tents and observatory were torn to pieces, and their astronomical quadrant narrowly escaped irreparable damage. On the 3rd of November, the tempest ceased, and the next day the English were enabled to resume their different employments.
It was not till the 10th of the month, that Captain Cook had the satisfaction of seeing the Discovery arrive in the bay, and effect her junction with the Resolution. She had sailed from England on the 1st of August, and would have reached the Cape of Good Hope a week sooner, if she had not been driven from the coast by the late storm. Every assistance was immediately given to put her into a proper condition for proceeding on the voyage.
While the necessary preparations for the future navigation was completing, a disaster happened with regard to the cattle which had been carried out in the Resolution. They had been conveyed on shore for the purpose of grazing. The bull, and two cows, with their calves, had been sent to graze along with some other cattle: but Captain Cook was advised to keep the sheep, which were sixteen in number, close to the tents, where they were penned up every evening. During the night preceding the 14th, some dogs having gotten in among them, forced them out of the pen, killed four, and dispersed the rest. Six of them were recovered the next day; but the two rams and two of the finest ewes in the whole flock, were amongst those which were missing. Baron Plettenberg being at this time in the country, our commander applied to Mr. Hemmy, the lieutenant-governor, and to the fiscal, for redress; and both these gentlemen promised to use their endeavours for the recovery of the lost sheep. It is the boast of the Dutch, that the police at the Cape is so carefully executed, that it is scarcely possible for a slave, with all his cunning and knowledge of the country, to effectuate his escape. Nevertheless, Captain Cook's sheep evaded all the vigilance of the fiscal's officers and people. At length, after much trouble and expense, by employing some of the meanest and lowest scoundrels in the place, he recovered all but the two ewes, of which he never could hear the least tidings. The character given of the fellows to whom the captain was obliged to have recourse, by the person who recommended their being applied to, was, that for a ducatoon they would cut their master's throat, burn the house over his head, and bury him and the whole family in the ashes.