History / 8 June post from Lieutenant James Cook’s Journal 250 years ago


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

“Friday, 8th. Winds at South-South-East and South; first part light Airs, the remainder a Gentle breeze.”

In the P.M. we saw several large smokes upon the Main, some people, Canoes, and, as we thought, Cocoa Nut Trees upon one of the Islands; and, as a few of these Nutts would have been very acceptable to us at this Time, I sent Lieutenant Hicks ashore, with whom went Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander, to see what was to be got.

In the Meantime we keept Standing in for the Island with the Ship. At 7 they returned on board, having met with Nothing worth Observing. The Trees we saw were a small kind of Cabbage Palms.

They heard some of the Natives as they were putting off from the Shore, but saw none. After the Boat was hoisted in we stood away North by West for the Northermost land we had in sight, which we were abreast of at 3 o’Clock in the Morning, having passed all the Islands 3 or 4 hours before.

This point I have named Point Hillock [Point Hillock is the east point of Hinchinbrook Island, which is separated from the main by a narrow and tortuous channel] on account of its Figure. The Land of this point is Tolerable high, and may be known by a round Hillock or rock that appears to be detached from the point, but I believe it joins to it.

Between this Cape and Cape Cleveland the shore forms a Large bay, which I named Hallifax bay [The Earl of Halifax was Secretary of State 1763 to 1765]; before it lay the Groups of Islands before mentioned, and some others nearer the Shore. These Islands shelter the Bay in a manner from all Winds, in which is good Anchorage. The land near the Shore in the bottom of the bay is very low and Woody; but a little way back in the Country is a continued ridge of high land, which appear’d to be barren and rocky. Having passed Point Hillock, we continued standing to the North-North-West as the land Trended, having the Advantage of a light Moon.

At 6 a.m. we were abreast of a point of Land which lies North by West 1/2 West, 11 Miles from Point Hillick; the Land between them is very high, and of a craggy, barren surface. This point I named Cape Sandwich [Earl of Sandwich was First Lord of the Admiralty 1763]; it may not only be known by the high, craggy land over it, but by a small Island which lies East one Mile from it, and some others about 2 Leagues to the Northward of it.

From Cape Sandwich the Land trends West, and afterwards North, and forms a fine, Large Bay, which I called Rockingham Bay [The Marquis of Rockingham was Prime Minister 1765 to 1766] ; it is well Shelter’d, and affords good Anchorage; at least, so it appear’d to me, for having met with so little encouragement by going ashore that I would not wait to land or examine it farther, but continued to range along Shore to the Northward for a parcel of Small Islands [The Family Islands] laying off the Northern point of the Bay, and, finding a Channel of a Mile broad between the 3 Outermost and those nearer the Shore, we pushed thro’.

While we did this we saw on one of the nearest Islands a Number of the Natives collected together, who seem’d to look very attentively upon the Ship; they were quite naked, and of a very Dark Colour, with short hair.

At noon we were by observation in the Latitude of 17 degrees 59 minutes, and abreast of the North point of Rockingham Bay, which bore from us West 2 Miles. This boundry of the Bay is form’d by a Tolerable high Island, known in the Chart by the Name of Dunk Isle; it lays so near the Shore as not to be distinguished from it unless you are well in with the Land.

Our depth of Water in the Course of this day’s Sail was not more than 16, nor less than 7, fathoms .

[About here the Great Barrier Reefs begin to close in on the land. Cook kept so close to the latter that he was unconscious as yet of their existence; but he was soon to find them].


From Banks’ Journal

8. Still sailing between the Main and Islands; the former rocky and high lookd rather less barren than usual and by the number of fires seemd to be better peopled. In the morn we passd within _ of a mile of a small Islet or rock on which we saw with our glasses about 30 men women and children standing all together and looking attentively at us, the first people we have seen shew any signs of curiosity at the sight of the ship.

From Wikipedia

Cook named Dunk Island after George Montague-Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax (a former First Lord of the Admiralty).

John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (13 November 1718 – 30 April 1792) was a British statesman who succeeded his grandfather as the Earl of Sandwich in 1729, at the age of ten. During his life, he held various military and political offices, including Postmaster General, First Lord of the Admiralty, and Secretary of State for the Northern Department. He is also known for the claim that he was the eponymous inventor of the sandwich.

From Cook’s Endeavour Journal – NLA

The crew would haul, pull, furl and set the sails, clambering up and down the riggings to make necessary adjustments and carry out repairs. Daily they would scrub the deck with sand and a holy stone (soft sandstone) before washing away the slurry and swabbing the timber dry. Clean the bright-work (varnished wood) guns and carriages and refill the water tanks.

Below decks the atmosphere was thick and putrid even though Cook had his men rig special sails to direct the wind into the living spaces and combat the ever-present dampness. The livestock, much to the crew’s relief, were penned on the upper deck.

On Tuesdays the crew cleaned their hammocks and aired their bedding. On Thursdays they washed their clothes. Owing to a lack of fresh water, clothing was often towed behind the ship. Men usually bathed once a week although they would have washed without soap.

The Royal Navy did not introduce soap until 1796. The toilets were by and large self-cleaning. The two ‘seats of ease’ as they were called, were at the bow of the ship, positioned over the sea and exposed to every wave.

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3 years ago

That portrait is not of lieutenant Cook as you may have guessed.