[The following is a copy of a letter sent by Joseph Coleman, Armourer of the Bounty, to a Rev. J. Hampson from the Cape of Good Hope, which was passed on to Sir Joseph Banks.]
Our Islands in the West Indies are frequently visited with such dreadful Storms, or Hurricans (as they are commonly call'd,) as to destroy, not only their trading Effects & Merchandize, but also their Ground Provisions particularly Plantains, on which the Slaves chiefly subsist and before any Provisions for their Relief can arrive from America on which is their chief Dependance, they often lose thousands of Negroes by Famine; to prevent as much as possible these dreadful Consequences, Government have lately turn'd their Thoughts to the procuring something which might serve as a Succedaneum [substitute] for Bread. The Tree known by the Name of the Bread Fruit which flourishes in many of the Islands in the South Seas has been proposed by Sir Joseph Banks, President to the Royal Society, as most elegible for that purpose, as it thrives amazingly in almost any Culture; as I have not yet seen any of this Fruit, I cannot from my own Knowledge speak of its Properties, but for Particulars beg leave to refer you to Capt. Cookes Voyages. To carry a proper Number of the Suckers of this Tree from Otaheite to some of our West India Islands, is the Intent of the Voyage in Question, and it is presum'd that they will come to perfection there, particularly at St. Vincents & Jamaica, as their Situation on the North side of the Equanoctial Line is nearly analogous to that of Otaheite on the South Side of it. I believe we shall return to England about June 1790. So much by way of Digression; I now return to our Proceedings.
Dec'r. 23./87 we sailed from Spithead and on the 28th. were saluted with a most tremendous Gale of Wind which however, we weather'd without sustaining any very considerable Damage, and arriv'd at Teneriffe one of the Canary Islands on the 6th. of Jan'y. 1788; this is a Spanish Port and is chiefly famous for a high Mountain call'd the Pic or Peak, whose Altitude is calculated by [Ditteberden?] to be more than 15000 feet Perpendicular. There we took in a quanity of Wine & sailed again on the 10th.; being bless'd with good Winds & favourable Weather, we cross'd the Equator, or Equinoctial Line on the 6th. of February with the usual Ceremonies of a Shaving and Ablution perform'd on every body in the Ship who had never cross'd it before; from hence we had a prodigious Run, insomuch that on the 23d of March we saw the dreary Inhospitable Coast of Terra del Fuego and Staten Land, whose Summit is cover'd with everlasting Snow; Hitherto we had flatter'd ourselves that although we had left England by far too late in the Season to attempt doubling Cape Horn, yet as we had had such an Extraordinary Passage, and to Weather still continued pretty good, we should be able to effect it; with this View we stood to the Westward with all the Sail we could carry, but were soon convinc'd to our Sorrow that our Passage by this Rout was impracticable. In short after beating about for five Weeks amidst incessant heavy Gales attended with Hail & Snow, and the most enormous Seas I have ever seen, we on the 23d. of April bore away for the Cape of Good Hope. From this Sample you may easily suppose that due Credit is to be given to the Author of Anson's Voyage, though I often doubted it till it was confirmed by our own useful Experience.
We arrived here on the 22d of May after a most extraordinary Passage, and after taking in our Water and other Necessaries, shall proceed to Van Diemens Land or the South Parish of New Holland, from thence to New Zealand, & thence to Otaheite, w[h]ere we expect to arrive some time in November next, which we shall propbably [sic] leave again in March 1789 and proceed to the West Indies, touching at Mauritius & St. Helena by the Way. At Jamaica we expect to continue till April or May 1790 as we shall bring from thence sundry Plants which would perish in cold Weather. Such are the Outlines of our Voyage, of which I wrote you an imperfect Sketch, previous to our sailing from Spithead, but as it might perhaps miscarry, and could not inform you of Particulars, I now send you this Account. Such part of it as relates to our Disappointment in proceeding by the Way of Cape Horn, and safe Arrival here, I am very desirous to have publish'd and beg you will cause it to be inserted in the Public Papers as soon as possible.
NB. The above is transcribed from a Leter from the Master at Arms[*] of the Bounty armed Ship to the Rev'd. J. Hampson Tunbridge Wells, and is now sent to the Author of so benevolent a Scheme upon supposition that so early and particular an account of the Bounty would be acceptable. It came by the French Packet to [?] & here by last Sunday's Post.
[* Joseph Coleman was actually the Armourer, rather than the Master-at-Arms.]