History / 7 June post from Lieutenant James Cook’s Journal 250 years ago

jospeh banks


Our appreciation to Pam Willis Burden, Gail Cockburn and Douglas Shire Historical Society for sharing this content with us daily.

“Thursday, 7th. Light Airs between the South and East, with which we steer’d West-North-West, keeping the Main land on board, the outermost part of which at sun set bore from us West by North; but without this lay high land, which we took to be Islands.”

At daylight A.M. we were the Length of the Eastern part of this Land, which we found to Consist of a Group of Islands [Palm Islands] laying about 5 Leagues from the Main. We being at this time between the 2, we continued advancing Slowly to the North-West until noon, at which time we were by observation in the Latitude of 18 degrees 49 minutes, and about 5 Leagues from the Main land, the North-West part of which bore from us North by West 1/2 West, the Island extending from North to East; distance of the nearest 2 Miles. Cape Cleveland bore South 50 degrees East, distant 18 Leagues. Our Soundings in the Course of this day’s Sail were from 14 to 11 fathoms.

Peter Aughton in “Endeavour” writes

Joseph Banks and his Suite of 7 together with their luggage, requested to join the voyage, recommended by the Royal Society of which he was a Fellow.

Owner of a large fortune, he was a gentleman adventurer belonging to the English Aristocracy. He was 25 and had inherited a sizeable part of Lincolnshire and an income of £6,000 per year. He had already crossed the Atlantic to Newfoundland on a scientific expedition. He was a collector of flora and fauna of all known species.

The Swedish botanist Count Carolus Linneaus had published a system of classification which bears his name. The Linnean system was introduced to England about 1760 by one of his pupils, Dr Daniel Carl Solander. One of his earliest converts was Joseph Banks. The Swedish doctor joined Banks’s party which also included two artists, a secretary, four servants and two hunting dogs.

The artists were Sydney Parkinson, son of a Quaker brewer from Edinburgh, and Alexander Buchan. Parkinson was a fine draughtsman whose job was to draw the specimen which Banks and Solander were going to collect. He made 1,332 drawings and his journal was published posthumously.


From Banks’ Journal

Sailing between the main and Islands the main rose steep from the Water rocky and barren. Just about sun rise a shoal of fish about the size of and much like flounders but perfectly white went by the ship. At noon the Islands had mended their appearance and people were seen upon them; the Main as barren as ever with several fires upon it, one vastly large. After dinner an appearance very much like Cocoa nut trees tempted us to hoist out a boat and go ashore, where we found our supposd Cocoanut trees to be no more than bad Cabbage trees. The Countrey about them was very stoney and barren and it was almost dark when we got ashsore; we made a shift however to gather 14 or 15 new plants after which we repaird to our boats, but scarce were they put off from the shore when an Indian came very near it and shouted to us very loud; it was so dark that we could not see him, we however turnd towards the shore by way of seeing what he wanted with us, but he I suppose ran away or hid himself immediately for we could not get a sight of him.

Banks kept his Journal in normal time, ie a day began and ended at midnight. This explains why his dates are different from Cook’s, who kept ship’s time from noon to noon.

Portrait of botanist Joseph Banks by Joshua Reynolds

 From Cook’s Endeavour Journal – the inside story NLA

By the time the Endeavour returned to England, its hold was filled with 30,382 plant specimens that Banks and Solander had collected. The two would collect more than 1400 new species, increasing the number of known plant species by 10 percent. Banks’ legacy was so large that Carl Linnaeus later proposed the new land be called Banksia.

Throughout the voyage Banks and Solander would press and dry their plant specimens between a large supply of remaindered sheets of Milton’s Paradise Lots.

 Buchan was also a skilled artist but his talents were of the landscape artist.

Since the growth of the African slave trade it was essential for fashionable gentlemen of Banks’ fortune to have at least one black amongst their retinue, so he had two black servants, and their names, conferred by himself, were Thomas Richmond and George Dorlton. The other two, James Roberts and Peter Briscoe were from his Lincolnshire estates at Revesby.

Banks and Cook were from opposite ends of the rigid English social spectrum. It was to the credit of both and no small factor in the success of the voyage that they formed an immediate liking for each other. Banks’ journal always refereed to Cook in the highest terms as ‘the captain’ and Cook referred to his aristocratic passenger as ‘Mr Banks’.

On 14 August Cook was almost ready to sail: “Despatched an express to London for Mr Banks and Dr Solander to join the ship, their servants and baggage being already on board’.

Joseph Banks was enjoying a night at the opera with a lady friend Miss Harriet Blosset. He was very taken with her. ‘she possessed extraordinary beauty and every accomplishment with a fortune of ten thousand pounds’.  She was blissfully ignorant that her wealthy escort was leaving on the morrow for the Terra Australis Incognita and only discovered it the following morning. Unreliable sources said they were engaged and that he left a ring with her guardian to claim her on his return.

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