Every thing being ready on the following day, at twelve o'clock, we embarked in our little squadron, each boat having been previously supplied with the latitude and longitude of the island of Timor, eleven hundred miles from this place.
Our order of sailing was as follows.
In the Pinnace:
In the Red Yaul:
In the Launch:
In the Blue Yaul:
As soon as embarked, we laid the oars upon the thwarts, which formed a platform, by which means we stowed two tier of men. A pair of wooden scales was made in each boat, and a musket-ball weight of bread served to each man. At meridian we saw a key, bounded with large craggy rocks. As the principal part of our subsistence was in the launch, it was necessary to keep together, both for our defence and support. We towed each other during the night, and at day-break cast off the tow-line.
At eight in the morning, the red and blue yauls were sent ahead, to sound and investigate the coast of New South Wales, and to search for a watering-place. The country had been described as very destitute of the article of water; but on entering a very fine bay, we found most excellent water rushing from a spring at the very edge of the beach. Here we filled our bellies, a tea-kettle, and two quart bottles. The pinnace and launch had gone too far ahead to observe any signal of our success; and immediately we made sail after them. The coast has a very barren aspect; and, from the appearance of the soil and land, looks like a country abounding with minerals.
As we passed round the bay, two canoes, with three black men in each, put off, and paddled very hard to get near us. They stood up in the canoes, waved, and made many signs for us to come to them. But as they were perfectly naked, had a very savage aspect, and having heard an indifferent account of the natives of that country, we judged it prudent to avoid them.
In two hours we joined the pinnace and launch, who were lying to for us. At ten at night we were alarmed with the dreadful cry of breakers ahead. We had got amongst a reef of rocks; and in our present state, being worn out and fatigued, it is difficult to say how we got out of them, as the place was fraught with danger all round; for in standing clear of Scylla, we might fall foul of Charybdis; the horror of which, considering our present situation, may be better understood than expressed. After running along, we came to an inhabited island, from which we promised ourselves a supply of water. On our approach, the natives flocked down to the beach in crowds. They were jet black, and neither sex had either covering or girdle. We made signals of distress to them for something to drink, which they understood; and on receiving some trifling presents of knives, and some buttons cut off our coats, they brought us a cag of good water, which we emptied in a minute, and then sent it back to be filled again. They, however, would not bring it the second time, but put it down on the beach, and made signs to us to come on shore for it. This we declined, as we observed the women and children running, and supplying the men with bows and arrows. In a few minutes, they let fly a shower of arrows amongst the thick of us. Luckily we had not a man wounded; but an arrow fell between the Captain and Third Lieutenant, and went through the boats thwart, and stuck in it. It was an oak-plank inch thick. We immediately discharged a volley of muskets at them, which put them to flight. There were, however, none of them killed. We now abandoned all hopes of refreshment here. This island lies contiguous to Mountainous Island.
It may be observed, that the channel throughout the reef is better than any hitherto known. We ascertained the latitudes with the greatest accuracy and exactness; and should government be inclined to plant trees on those sandy keys, particularly the outermost one, it would be a good distinguishing mark; and many difficulties which Capt. Cook experienced to the southward would also be avoided. The cocoa-nut tree, on account of its hardy nature, and the Norfolk and common pines, might be preferred, from their height rendering the place more conspicuous. The tides or currents are strong and irregular here, as may be expected, from the extending reefs, shoals, and keys, and its vicinity to Endeavour Straits.
We steered from these hostile savages to other islands in sight, and sent some armed men on shore, with orders to keep pretty near us, and to run close along shore in the boats. But they returned without success. This island we called Plumb Island, from its bearing an austere, astringent kind of fruit, resembling plumbs, but not fit to eat.
In the evening, we steered for those islands which we supposed were called the Prince of Wales's Islands; and about two o'clock in the morning, came to an anchor with a grappling, along side of an island, which we called Laforey's Island. As the night was very dark, and this was the last land that could afford us relief, all hands went to sleep, to refresh our woe-worn spirits.
The morning was ushered in with the howling of wolves, who had smelt us in the night, when prowling for food. Lieut. Corner and a party were sent at day-light, to search again for water; and, as we approached, the wild beasts retired, and filled the woods with their hideous growling. As soon as we landed, we discovered a foot-path which led down into a hollow, where we were led to suspect that water might be found; and on digging four or five feet, we had the ecstatic pleasure to see a spring rush out. A glad messenger was immediately dispatched to the beach, to make a signal to the boats of our success. On traversing the shore, we discovered a morai, or rather a heap of bones. There were amongst them two human skulls, the bones of some large animals, and some turtle-bones. They were heaped together in the form of a grave, and a very long paddle, supported at each end by a bifurcated branch of a tree, was laid horizontally alongst it.
Near to this, there were marks of a fire having been recently made. The ground about was much footed and wore; whence it may be presumed feasts or sacrifices had been frequently held, as there were several foot-paths which led to this spot. After having gorged our parched bodies with water, till we were perfectly water-logged, we began to feel the cravings of hunger; a new sensation of misery we had hitherto been strangers to, from the excess of thirst predominating. Some of our stragglers were lucky enough to find a few small oysters on the shore. A harsh, austere, astringent kind of fruit, resembling a plumb, was found in some places. As I discovered some to be pecked at by the birds, we permitted the men to fill their bellies with them. There was a small berry, of a similar taste to the plumb, which was found by some of the party. On observing the dung of some of the larger animals, many of them were found in it, in an undigested state; we therefore concluded we might venture upon them with safety. We carefully avoided shooting at any bird, lest the report of the muskets should alarm the natives, whom we had every reason to suspect were at no great distance, from the number of foot paths that led over the hill, and the noise we heard at intervals. Centinels were placed to prevent stragglers of our party from exceeding the proper bounds; and when every other thing was filled with water, the carpenter's boots were also filled. The water in them was first served out, on account of leakage.
There is a large sound formed here, to which we gave the name of Sandwich's Sound, and commodious anchorage for shipping in the bay, to which we gave the name of Wolf's Bay, in which there is from five to seven fathom water all round. This is extremely well situated for a rendezvous in surveying Endeavour Straits; and were a little colony settled here, a concatenation of Christian settlements would enchain the world, and be useful to any unfortunate ship of whatever nation, that might be wrecked in these seas; or, should a rupture take place in South America, a great vein of commerce might find its way through this channel.
Hammond's Island lies north west and by west, Parker's Island from north and by west to north and by east, and an island seen to the north entrance north west. We supposed it to be an island called by Captain Bligh Mountainous Island, laid down in latitude 10.16 South.
Sandwich's Sound is formed by Hammond's, Parker's, and a cluster of small islands on the starboard hand, at its eastern entrance. We also called a back land behind Hammond's Island, and the other islands to the southward of it, Cornwallis's Land. The uppermost part of the mountain was separated from the main by a large gap. Under the gap, low land was seen; but whether that was a continuation of the main or not, we could not determine. Near the centre of the sound is a small dark-coloured, rocky island.
This afternoon, at three o'clock, being the 2d of September, our little squadron sailed again, and in the evening saw a high peaked island lying north west, which we called Hawkesbury's Island. The passage through the north entrance is about two miles wide. After passing through it, saw a reef. As we approached it, we shallowed our water to three fathom; but on hauling up more to the south west, we deepened it again to six fathom. Saw several very large turtle, but could not catch any of them. After clearing the reef, stood to the westward. Mountainous Island bore N. half E.; Capt. Bligh's west island, which appears in Three Hummocks, N.N.W.; a rock N.W. at the S.W. extreme of the main land, S. and by E.; and the northernmost cape of New South Wales, S.S.E.; and to the extreme of the land in sight, the eastward E. half N. a small distance from the nearest of the Prince of Wales's Islands, we discovered another island, and which we called Christian's Island. Saw Two Hummock between Hawkesbury's Island and Mountainous Island; but could not be certain whether it was one or two islands.
We now entered the great Indian ocean, and had a voyage of a thousand miles to undertake in our open boats. As soon as we cleared the land, we found a very heavy swell running, which threatened destruction to our little fleet; for should we have separated, we must inevitably perish for want of water, as we had not utensils to divide our slender stock. For our mutual preservation, we took each other in tow again; but the sea was so rough, and the swell running so high, we towed very hard, and broke a new tow-line. This put us in the utmost confusion, being afraid of dashing to pieces upon each other, as it was a very dark night. We again made fast to each other; but the tow-line breaking a second time, we were obliged to trust ourselves to the mercy of the waves. At five in the morning, the pinnace lay to, as the other boats had passed her under a dark cloud; but on the signal Sep 4, 1791 being made for the boats to join, we again met at day-light. At meridian, we passed some remarkable black and yellow striped sea snakes. On the afternoon of the 4th of September, gave out the exact latitude of our rendezvous in writing; also the longitude by the time-keeper at this present time, in case of unavoidable separation.
On the night between the 5th and 6th, the sea running very cross and high, the tow-line broke several times; the boats strained, and made much water; and we were obliged to leave off towing the rest of the voyage, or it would have dragged the boats asunder. On the 7th, the Captain's boat caught a booby. They sucked his blood, and divided him into twenty-four shares.
The men who were employed steering the boats, were often subject to a coup de soleil, as every one else were continually wetting their shirts overboard, and putting it upon their head, which alleviated the scorching heat of the sun, to which we were entirely exposed, most of us having lost our hats while swimming at the time the ship was wrecked. It may be observed, that this method of wetting our bodies with salt water is not advisable, if the misery is protracted beyond three or four days, as, after that time, the great absorption from the skin that takes place from the increased heat and fever, makes the fluids become tainted with the bittern of the salt water; so much so, that the saliva became intolerable in the mouth. It may likewise be worthy of remark, that those who drank their own urine died in the sequel of the voyage.
We now neglected weighing our slender allowance of bread, our mouths becoming so parched, that few attempted to eat; and what was not claimed was thrown into the general stock. We found old people suffer much more than those that were young. A particular instance of that we observed in one young boy, a midshipman, who sold his allowance of water two days for one allowance of bread. As their sufferings continued, they became very cross and savage in their temper. In the Captain's boat, one of the prisoners took to praying, and Sep 9, 1791 they gathered round him with much attention and seeming devotion. But the Captain suspecting the purity of his doctrines, and unwilling he should make a monopoly of the business, gave prayers himself. On the 9th, we passed a great many of the Nautilus fish, the shell of which served us to put our glass of water into; by which means we had more time granted to dip our finger in it, and wet our mouths by slow degrees. There were several flocks of birds seen flying in a direction for the land.
On the 13th, in the morning, we saw the land, and the discoverer was immediately rewarded with a glass of water; but, as if our cup of misery was not completely full, it fell a dead calm. The boats now all separated, every one pushing to make the land. Next day we got pretty near it; but there was a prodigious surf running. Two of our men slung a bottle about their necks, jumped overboard, and swam through the surf. They traversed over a good many miles, till a creek intercepted them; when they came down to the beach, and made signs to us of their not having succeeded. We then brought the boat as near the surf as we durst venture, and picked them up. In running along the coast, about twelve o'clock, we had the pleasure to see the red yaul get into a creek. She had hoisted an English jack at her mast-head, that we might observe her in running down the coast. There was a prodigious surf, and many dangerous shoals, between us and the mouth of the creek; we, however, began to share the remains of our water, and about half a bottle came to each man's share, which we dispatched in an instant.
We now gained fresh spirits, and hazarded every thing in gaining our so much wished for haven. It is but justice here to acknowledge how much we were indebted to the intrepidity, courage, and seaman-like behaviour of Mr. Reynolds the master's mate, who fairly beat her over all the reefs, and brought us safe on shore. The crew of the blue yaul, who had been two or three hours landed, assisted in landing our party. A fine spring of water near to the creek afforded us immediate relief. As soon as we had filled our belly, a guard was placed over the prisoners, and we went to sleep for a few hours on the grass.
In the afternoon, a Chinese chief came down the creek in a canoe, attended by some of the natives, to wait upon us. He was a venerable looking old man; we endeavoured to walk down to the water-side, to receive him, and acquaint him with the nature of our distress.
We addressed him in French and in English, neither of which he understood; but misery was so strongly depicted in our countenances, that language was superfluous. The tears trickling down his venerable cheeks convinced us he saw and felt our misfortunes; and silence was eloquence on the subject.
He made us understand by signs, that without fee or reward we should be supplied with horses, and conducted to Coupang, a Dutch East-India settlement, about seventy miles distant, the place of our rendezvous. This we politely declined, as the nature of our duty in the charge of the prisoners would not admit of it. We took leave of him for the present, after receiving promises of refreshment.
Soon after, crowds of the natives came down with fowls, pigs, milk, and bread. Mr. Innes, the surgeon's mate, happened luckily to have some silver in his pocket, to which they applied the touchstone, but would not give us any thing for guineas. However, anchor-buttons answered the purpose, as they gave us provision for a few buttons, which they refused the same number of guineas for; till a hungry dog, one of the carpenter's crew, happening to pick up an officer's jacket, spoiled the market, by giving it, buttons and all, for a pair of fowls, which a few buttons might have purchased.
All hands were busied in roasting the fowls, and boiling the pork; in the evening we made a very hearty supper. While we were regaling ourselves round a large fire, some wild beast gave a roar in the bushes. Some who had been in India before, declared it was the jackall; we therefore, concluded the lion could not be far off. Some were jocularly observing what a glorious supper the lord of the forest would make of us; but others were rather troubled with the dismaloes. This gave a gloomy turn to the conversation; and our minds having been previously much engaged with savages and wild beasts, and our bodies worn out through famine and watching, I believe the contagious effects of fear became pretty general. From Bligh's narrative, and others, we had been warned of the danger of landing in any other part of the island of Timor but Coupang, the Dutch settlement, as they were represented hostile and savage.
It is customary with those people, as we afterwards learnt, to do their hard work, such as beating out their rice at night, to avoid the scorching heat of the sun; and the whole village, which was about two miles off, joined in the general song, which every where chears and accompanies labour. As they had made us great offers for some cartridges of powder, which our duty could not suffer us to part with, we immediately in this song into the war-hoop, and concluded, that they were going to take by force what they could not gain by entreaty. Nature, however, at last worn out, inclined to rest. The First Lieutenant and Master went on board of the boats, which were at anchor in the middle of the river, for the better security of the prisoners; and, ranging ourselves round, with our feet to the fire, went to sleep.
At dawn of day, the master gave the huntsman's hollow, which some, from being suddenly awaked, thought they were attacked by the Indians. We were all panic struck, and could not get thoroughly awaked, being so exhausted, and overpowered with sleep. Most of us were scrambling upon all fours down to the river, and crying for Christ's sake to have mercy upon them, till those who were foremost in the scramble, in crawling into the creek, got recovered from their plight by their hands being immersed in water; yet those who were foremost in running away, were not last in upbraiding the rest with cowardice, notwithstanding there were pretty evident marks upon some of them, of the cold water having produced its usual effects of micturition.
Next day we went up the creek, in one of the boats, about four miles, to one of their towns, with an intention of purchasing provisions for our sea-store. As we entered the town, the king was riding out, attended by twenty carabineers or body-guards, well mounted, and respectably armed. He passed us with all the sang froid imaginable, scarce deigning to glance at us.
In purchasing a pig, the man finding a good price for it, offered to traffic with us for the charms of his daughter, a very pretty young girl. But none of us seemed inclined that way, as there were many good things we stood much more in need of.
At one o'clock, being high water, we embarked again in our boats for Coupang. We sailed along the coast all day till it was dark; and, fearful lest we should over-shoot our port in the night, put into a bay. After laying some time, we observed a light; and after hallooing and making a noise, the natives came down with torches in their hands, waded up alongside of us, and offered their assistance, which we accepted of, in lighting fires, and dressing the victuals we had brought with us, that no time might be lost in landing or cooking the next day.
At day break, we again proceeded on our voyage, and at five in the afternoon we landed at Coupang. Map The Governor, Mynheer Vanion, received us with the utmost politeness, kindness, and hospitality. The Lieutenant-Governor, Mynheer Fry, was likewise extremely kind and attentive, in rendering every assistance possible, and in giving the necessary orders for our support and relief in our present distressed state.
Next morning being Sunday, as we supposed, the 17th of September, we were preparing for Church, to return thanks to Almighty God, for his divine interposition in our miraculous preservation; but were disappointed in our pious intentions; for we found it was Monday, the 18th, having lost a day by performing a circuit of the globe to the westward.