History / 12 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.

“Tuesday, 12th. Fortunately we had little wind, fine weather, and a smooth Sea, all this 24 Hours, which in the P.M. gave us an Opportunity to carry out the 2 Bower Anchors, one on the Starboard Quarter, and the other right a Stern, got Blocks and Tackles upon the Cables, brought the falls in abaft and hove taught.”

By this time it was 5 o’Clock p.m.; the tide we observed now begun to rise, and the leak increased upon us, which obliged us to set the 3rd Pump to work, as we should have done the 4th also, but could not make it work.

At 9 the Ship righted, and the Leak gain’d upon the Pumps considerably.

This was an alarming and, I may say, terrible circumstance, and threatened immediate destruction to us.

However, I resolv’d to risque all, and heave her off in case it was practical, and accordingly turn’d as many hands to the Capstan and Windlass as could be spared from the Pumps; and about 20 Minutes past 10 o’Clock the Ship floated, and we hove her into Deep Water, having at this time 3 feet 9 Inches Water in the hold.

This done I sent the Long boat to take up the Stream Anchor, got the Anchor, but lost the Cable among the Rocks; after this turn’d all hands to the Pumps, the Leak increasing upon us.

A mistake soon after hapned, which for the first time caused fear to approach upon every man in the Ship.

The man that attended the well took the Depth of water above the Ceiling; he, being relieved by another who did not know in what manner the former had sounded, took the Depth of water from the outside plank, the difference being 16 or 18 inches, and made it appear that the leak had gained this upon the pumps in a short time.

This mistake was no sooner cleared up than it acted upon every man like a Charm; they redoubled their vigour, insomuch that before 8 o’clock in the morning they gained considerably upon the leak

[The circumstance related in this paragraph is from the Admiralty copy] 

We now hove up the Best Bower, but found it impossible to save the small Bower, so cut it away at a whole Cable; got up the Fore topmast and Foreyard, warped the Ship to the South-East, and at 11 got under sail, and stood in for the land, with a light breeze at East-South-East. Some hands employ’d sewing Oakham, Wool, etc., into a Lower Steering sail to fother the Ship; others employ’d at the Pumps, which still gain’d upon the Leak.

From Peter Aughton’s ‘Endeavour

Fothering was the method of plugging a hole by passing beneath the affected area a sail billed with wool, dung from any animals aboard and oakum (tar-filled rope fibre). The idea was that the material would be sucked into the opening and stop, or at least slow, the leak.

The work was supervised by midshipman Jonathan Monkhouse whose brother had furthered a ship wrecked off the coast of Virginia.

Banks Journal

About one the water was faln so low that the Pinnace touchd ground as he lay under the ships bows ready to take in an anchor, after this the tide began to rise and as it rose the ship workd violently upon the rocks so that by 2 she began to make water and increasd very fast.

At night the tide almost floated her but she made water so fast that three pumps hard workd could but just keep her clear and the 4th absolutely refusd do deliver a drop of water.

Now in my own opinion I intirely gave up the ship and packing up what I thought I might save prepard myself for the worst.

The most critical part of our distress now aproachd: the ship was almost afloat and every thing ready to get her into deep water but she leakd so fast that with all our pumps we could just keep her free: if (as was probable) she should make more water when hauld off she must sink and we well knew that our boats were not capable of carrying us all ashore, so that some, probably the most of us, must be drownd: a better fate maybe than those would have who should get ashore without arms to defend themselves from the Indians or provide themselves with food, on a countrey where we had not the least reason to hope for subsistance had they even every convenence to take it as netts &c, so barren had we always found it; and had they even met with good usage from the natives and food to support them, debarrd from a hope of ever again seing their native countrey or conversing with any but the most uncivilizd savages perhaps in the world.

Fear of Death now stard us in the face; hopes we had none but of being able to keep the ship afloat till we could run her ashore on some part of the main where out of her materials we might build a vessel large enough to carry us to the East Indies.

At 10 O’Clock she floated and was in a few minutes hawld into deep water where to our great satisfaction she made no more water than she had done.


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