A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 14
by Robert Kerr
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It must be allowed, that these prodigious ice mountains must add such additional weight to the ice fields which inclose them, as cannot but make a great difference between the navigating this icy sea and that of Greenland.

I will not say it was impossible any where to get farther to the south; but the attempting it would have been a dangerous and rash enterprise, and what, I believe, no man in my situation would have thought of. It was, indeed, my opinion, as well as the opinion of most on board, that this ice extended quite to the pole, or perhaps joined on some land, to which it had been fixed from the earliest time; and that it is here, that is to the south of this parallel, where all the ice we find scattered up and down to the north, is first formed, and afterwards broken off by gales of wind, or other causes, and brought to the north by the currents, which we always found to set in that direction in the high latitudes. As we drew near this ice some penguins were heard, but none seen; and but few other birds or any other thing that could induce us to think any land was near. And yet I think, there must be some to the south behind this ice; but if there is, it can afford no better retreat for birds, or any other animals, than the ice itself, with which it must be wholly covered. I, who had ambition not only to go farther than any one had been before, but as far as it was possible for man to go, was not sorry at meeting with this interruption, as it in some measure relieved us, at least shortened the dangers and hardships inseparable from the navigation of the southern polar regions. Since, therefore, we could not proceed one inch farther to the south, no other reason need be assigned for my tacking and standing back to the north; being at this time in the latitude of 71 deg. 10' S., longitude 106 deg. 54' W.[12]

It was happy for us that the weather was clear when we fell in with this ice, and that we discovered it so soon as we did; for we had no sooner tacked than we were involved in a thick fog. The wind was at east, and blew a fresh breeze, so that we were enabled to return back over that space we had already made ourselves acquainted with. At noon, the mercury in the thermometer stood at 32-1/2, and we found the air exceedingly cold. The thick fog continuing with showers of snow, gave a coat of ice to our rigging of near an inch thick. In the afternoon of the next day the fog cleared away at intervals; but the weather was cloudy and gloomy, and the air excessively cold; however, the sea within our horizon was clear of ice.

We continued to stand to the north, with the wind easterly, till the afternoon on the first of February, when falling in with some loose ice which had been broken from an island to windward we hoisted out two boats, and having taken some on board, resumed our course to the N. and N.E., with gentle breezes from S.E., attended sometimes with fair weather, and at other times with snow and sleet. On the 4th we were in the latitude of 65 deg. 42' S., longitude 99 deg. 44'. The next day the wind was very unsettled both in strength and position, and attended with snow and sleet. At length, on the 6th, after a few hours calm, we got a breeze at south, which soon after freshened, fixed at W.S.W., and was attended with snow and sleet.

I now came to the resolution to proceed to the north, and to spend the ensuing winter within the tropic, if I met with no employment before I came there. I was now well satisfied no continent was to be found in this ocean, but what must lie so far to the south, as to be wholly inaccessible on account of ice; and that if one should be found in the southern Atlantic Ocean, it would be necessary to have the whole summer before us to explore it. On the other hand, upon a supposition that there is no land there, we undoubtedly might have reached the Cape of Good Hope by April, and so have put an end to the expedition, so far as it related to the finding a continent; which indeed was the first object of the voyage. But for me at this time to have quitted the southern Pacific Ocean, with a good ship expressly sent out on discoveries, a healthy crew, and not in want either of stores or of provisions, would have been betraying not only a want of perseverance, but of judgment, in supposing the south Pacific Ocean to have been so well explored, that nothing remained to be done in it. This, however, was not my opinion; for though I had proved that there was no continent but what must lie far to the south, there remained nevertheless room for very large islands in places wholly unexamined; and many of those which were formerly discovered, are but imperfectly explored, and their situations as imperfectly known. I was besides of opinion, that my remaining in this sea some time longer, would be productive of improvements in navigation and geography, as well as in other sciences. I had several times communicated my thoughts on this subject to Captain Furneaux; but as it then wholly depended on what we might meet with to the south, I could not give it in orders, without running a risk of drawing us from the main object. Since now nothing had happened to prevent me from, carrying these views into execution, my intention was first to go in search of the land said to have been discovered by Juan Fernandez, above a century ago, in about the latitude of 38 deg.; if I should fail in finding this land, then to go in search of Easter Island or Davis's Land, whose situation was known with so little certainty, that the attempts lately made to find it had miscarried. I next intended to get within the tropic, and then proceed to the west, touching at, and settling the situations of such islands as we might meet with till we arrived at Otaheite, where it was necessary I should stop to look for the Adventure. I had also thoughts of running as far west as the Tierra Austral del Espiritu Santo, discovered by Quiros, and which M. de Bougainville calls the Great Cyclades. Quiros speaks of this land as being large, or lying in the neighbourhood of large lands; and as this was a point which M. de Bougainville had neither confirmed nor refuted, I thought it was worth clearing up. From this land my design was to steer to the south, and so back to the east, between the latitudes of 50 deg. and 60 deg.; intending, if possible, to be the length of Cape Horn in November next, when we should have the best part of the summer before us to explore the southern part of the Atlantic Ocean. Great as this design appeared to be, I however thought it possible to be executed; and when I came to communicate it to the officers, I had the satisfaction to find, that they all heartily concurred in it. I should not do these gentlemen justice, if I did not take some opportunity to declare, that they always shewed the utmost readiness to carry into execution, in the most effectual manner, every measure I thought proper to take. Under such circumstances, it is hardly necessary to say, that the seamen were always obedient and alert; and, on this occasion, they were so far from wishing the voyage at an end, that they, rejoiced at the prospect of its being prolonged another year, and of soon enjoying the benefits of a milder climate.

I now steered north, inclining to the east, and in the evening we were overtaken with a furious storm at W.S.W., attended with snow and sleet. It came so suddenly upon us, that before we could take in our sails, two old top-sails, which we had bent to the yards, were blown to pieces, and the other sails much damaged. The gale lasted, without the least intermission, till the next morning, when it began to abate; it continued, however, to blow very fresh till noon on the 12th, when it ended in a calm.

At this time we were in the latitude of 50 deg. 14' S., longitude 95 deg. 18' W. Some birds being about the ship, we took the advantage of the calm to put a boat in the water, and shot several birds, on which we feasted the next day. One of these birds was of that sort which has been so often mentioned in this journal under the name of Port Egmont hens. They are of the gull kind, about the size of a raven, with a dark-brown plumage, except the under-side of each wing, where there are some white feathers. The rest of the birds were albatrosses and sheer-waters.

After a few hours calm, having got a breeze at N.W., we made a stretch to the S.W. for twenty-four hours; in which route we saw a piece of wood, a bunch of weed, and a diving peterel. The wind having veered more to the west, made us tack and stretch to the north till noon on the 14th, at which time we were in the latitude of 49 deg. 32' S., longitude 95 deg. 11' W. We had now calms and light breezes, succeeding each other, till the next morning, when the wind freshened at W.N.W., and was attended with a thick fog and drizzling rain the three following days, during which time we stretched to the north, inclining to the east, and crossed my track to Otaheite in 1769. I did intend to have kept more to the west, but the strong winds from that direction put it out of my power.

On the 18th, the wind veered to S.W., and blew very fresh, but was attended with clear weather, which gave us an opportunity to ascertain our longitude by several lunar observations made by Messrs Wales, Clarke, Gilbert, and Smith. The mean result of all, was 94 deg. 19' 30" W.; Mr Kendal's watch, at the same time, gave 94 deg. 46' W.; our latitude was 43 deg. 53' S. The wind continued not long at S.W. before it veered back to the west and W.N.W.

As we advanced to the north, we felt a most sensible change in the weather. The 20th, at noon, we were in the latitude of 39 deg. 58' S., longitude 94 deg. 37' W. The day was clear and pleasant, and I may say, the only summer's day we had had since we left New Zealand. The mercury in the thermometer rose to 66.

We still continued to steer to the north, as the wind remained in the old quarter; and the next day, at noon, we were in the latitude 37 deg. 54' S.; which was the same that Juan Fernandez's discovery is said to lie in. We, however, had not the least signs of any land lying in our neighbourhood.

The next day at noon, we were in latitude 36 deg. 10' S., longitude 94 deg. 56' W. Soon after, the wind veered to S.S.E., and enabled us to steer W.S.W., which I thought the most probable direction to find the land of which we were in search; and yet I had no hopes of succeeding, as we had a large hollow swell from the same point. We however continued this course till the 25th, when the wind having veered again round to the westward, I gave it up, and stood away to the north, in order to get into the latitude of Easter Island: our latitude, at this time, was 37 deg. 52', longitude 101 deg. 10' W.

I was now well assured that the discovery of Juan Fernandez, if any such was ever made, can be nothing but a small island; there being hardly room for a large land, as will fully appear by the tracks of Captain Wallis, Bougainville, of the Endeavour, and this of the Resolution. Whoever wants to see an account of the discovery in question, will meet with it in Mr Dalrymple's collection of voyages to the south seas. This gentleman places it under the meridian of 90 deg., where I think it cannot be; for M. de Bougainville seems to have run down under that meridian; and we had now examined the latitude in which it is said to lie, from the meridian of 94 deg. to 101 deg.. It is not probable it can lie to the east of 90 deg.; because if it did, it must have been seen, at one time or other, by ships bound from the northern to the southern parts of America. Mr Pengre, in a little treatise concerning the transit of Venus, published in 1768, gives some account of land having been discovered by the Spaniards in 1714, in the latitude of 38 deg., and 550 leagues from the coast of Chili, which is in the longitude of 110 deg. or 111 deg. west, and within a degree or two of my track in the Endeavour; so that this can hardly be its situation. In short, the only probable situation it can have must be about the meridian of 106 deg. or 108 deg. west; and then it can only be a small isle, as I have already observed.

I was now taken ill of the bilious cholic, which was so violent as to confine me to my bed, so that the management of the ship was left to Mr Cooper the first officer, who conducted her very much to my satisfaction. It was several days before the most dangerous symptoms of my disorder were removed; during which time, Mr Patten the surgeon was to me, not only a skilful physician, but an affectionate nurse; and I should ill deserve the care he bestowed on me, if I did not make this public acknowledgment. When I began to recover, a favourite dog belonging to Mr Forster fell a sacrifice to my tender stomach. We had no other fresh meat on board, and I could eat of this flesh, as well as broth made of it, when I could taste nothing else. Thus I received nourishment and strength from food which would have made most people in Europe sick: So true it is, that necessity is governed by no law.[13]

On the 28th, in the latitude of 33 deg. 7' S., longitude 102 deg. 33' W., we began to see flying-fish, egg-birds, and nodies, which are said not to go above sixty or eighty leagues from land; but of this we have no certainty. No one yet knows to what distance any of the oceanic birds go to sea; for my own part, I do not believe there is one in the whole tribe that can be relied on, in pointing out the vicinity of land.

In the latitude of 30 deg. 30' S., longitude 101 deg. 45' W., we began to see men- of-war birds. In the latitude of 29 deg. 44', longitude 100 deg. 45' W., we had a calm for nearly two days together, during which time the heat was intolerable; but what ought to be remarked, there was a great swell from the S.W.

On the 6th of March, the calm was succeeded by an easterly wind, with which we steered N.W. till noon the 8th, when being in the latitude of 27 deg. 4' S., longitude 103 deg. 58' W., we steered west; meeting every day with great numbers of birds, such as men-of-war, tropic, and egg-birds, podies, sheer-waters, &c. and once we passed several pieces of sponge, and a small dried leaf not unlike a bay one. Soon after, we saw a sea-snake, in every respect like those we had before seen at the tropical islands. We also saw plenty of fish, but we were such bad fishers that we caught only four albacores, which were very acceptable, to me especially, who was just recovering from my late illness.

[1] "The remembrance of domestic felicity, and of the sweets of society, called forth a sigh from every heart which felt the tender ties of filial or parental affection. We are the first Europeans, and, I believe, I may add, the first human beings who have reached this point, where it is probable none will come after us. A common report prevails, indeed, in England, concerning Sir Francis Drake, who is said to have visited the antipodes, which the legend expresses by "his having passed under the middle arch of London bridge:" but this is a mistake, as his track lay along the coast of America, and probably originates from his having passed the periaeci, or the point in 180 deg. longitude on the same circle of north latitude, on the coast of California."—G.F.

To the vanity of Englishmen, not always accompanied, it is to be feared, by political honesty, the expedition of Drake afforded the highest gratification. Swarms of wits, accordingly, who are never wanting in any reign, either to eulogize what the government has sanctioned, or to infuse something of literary immortality into popular enthusiasm, were in requisition on this extraordinary occasion, and, as usual, vied with each other in bombast and the fervour of exaggeration. If one might credit the legends, Sir Francis accomplished much more than a visit to the antipodes, much more indeed, than ever man did before or since. Witness an epigram on him preserved in the Censura Literaria. vol. iii, p. 217:—

Sir Drake, whom well the world's end knew, Which thou didst compasse round, And whom both poles of heaven once saw Which north and south do bound: The stars above would make thee known, If men were silent here; The Sun himselfe cannot forget His fellow-traveller.

This is evidently a quaint version of the quaint lines said, by Camden, to have been made by the scholars of Winchester College:—

Drace, pererrati quem novit terminus orbis, Quemque simul mundi vidit uterque Polus; Si taceant homines, facient te sidera notum. Sol nescit comitis non memor esse sui.

Abraham Cowley seems to have availed himself of the chief thought here embodied, in his pointed epigram on the chair formed from the planks of Drake's vessel, and presented to the university of Oxford. His metaphysical genius, however, has refined the point with no small dexterity—the four last lines, more especially, displaying no small elegance. The reader will not despise them:—

To this great ship, which round the world has run, And matcht in race the chariot of the sun; This Pythagorean ship (for it may claim Without presumption, so deserved a name), By knowledge once, and transformation now, In her new shape, this sacred port allow. Drake and his ship could not have wish'd from fate An happier station, or more blest estate; For lo! a seat of endless rest is given To her in Oxford, and to him in Heaven.

It would be unpardonable to omit, now we are on the subject of Drake's praises, the verses given in the Biog. Brit. and said to have been unpublished before:—

Thy glory, Drake, extensive as thy mind, No time shall tarnish, and no limits bind: What greater praise! than thus to match the Sun, Running that race which cannot be outrun. Wide as the world then compass'd spreads thy fame, And, with that world, an equal date shall claim.

The reader, it may be presumed, has enough of this subject.—E.

[2] "At noon, on the 10th December, we had reached the latitude of 59 deg. S., without having met with any ice, though we fell in with it the preceding year on the 10th December, between the 50th and 51st degree of south latitude. It is difficult to account for this difference; perhaps a severe winter preceding our first course from the Cape of Good Hope, might accumulate more ice that year than the next, which is the more probable, as we learnt at the Cape that the winter had been sharper there than usual; perhaps a violent storm might break the polar ice, and drive it so far to the northward as we found it; and, perhaps, both these causes might concur with others, to produce this effect."—G.F.

"It is remarkable, that in different years, seasons, and places of the sea, we found the ice differently situated. In the year 1772, December 10th, we saw the ice between 50 deg. and 51 deg. of southern latitude. In 1773, on December 12th, we found the first ice in 62 deg. S. In 1775, on January 27th, we saw the ice in about 60 deg. S. On February 24th, we came to the same place, where, about twenty-six months before, we had met with such an impenetrable body of ice, as had obliged us to run to the east, but where, at this last time, no vestige of it appeared, no more than at the place where Bouvet had placed his Cape Circumcision, we having sailed over the whole tract which he suspected to be land; nor could we be mistaken in its situation, as we had been on the same parallel for a considerable time; so that it is impossible to have missed the land, if any had existed, as we had frequent opportunities to ascertain our latitude."—F.

It is well known, that considerable masses of ice have been met with as low down as 46 deg. of south latitude; but hitherto no very satisfactory solution has been given of the phenomenon.—E.

[3] "Our friend Mahine had already expressed his surprise at several little snow and hail showers on the preceding days, this phenomenon being utterly unknown in his country. The appearances of "white stones," which melted in his hand, was altogether miraculous in his eyes, and though we endeavoured to explain to him that cold was the cause of their formation, yet I believe his ideas on that subject were never very clear. A heavy fall of snow surprised him more than what he had seen before, and after a long consideration of its singular qualities, he told us he would call it the white rain when be came back to his country. He did not see the first ice, on account of the early hour in the morning; but two days after, in about 65 deg. S., he was struck with astonishment upon seeing one of the largest pieces, and the day following presented him with an extensive field of ice, which blocked up our farther progress to the south, and gave him great pleasure, supposing it to be land, We told him that so far from being land, it was nothing but fresh water, which we found some difficulty to convince him of at first, till we shewed him the ice which was formed in the scuttled cask on the deck. He assured us, however, that he would, at all events, call this the white land, by way of distinguishing it from all the rest."—G.F.

[4] "About one o'clock, whilst the people were at dinner, we were alarmed by the sudden appearance of a large island of ice just a-head of us. It was absolutely impossible either to wear or tack the ship, on account of its proximity, and our only resource was to keep as near the wind as possible, and to try to weather the danger. We were in the most dreadful suspension for a few minutes, and though we fortunately succeeded, yet the ship passed within her own length to windward of it,"—G.F.

[5] On a moderate calculation, one may reckon the bulk of immersed ice to be ten times greater than that which appears above the surface. This will afford the reader some notion of the prodigious magnitude of these floating islands; and he will readily comprehend the hazard of sailing amongst them, when he considers the mischief occasioned by the collision of a large ship and a small boat.—E.

[6] "About this time many persons were afflicted with violent rheumatic pains, headaches, swelled glands, and catarrhal fevers, which some attributed to the use of ice-water."—G.F.

Without any way calling in question, what is so often said of the injurious effects of sea-water, when long used, it is evidently more rational, in the present instance, to ascribe these complaints to the inclemency of the weather.—E.

[7] There is something very peculiarly affecting in the following observations of Mr. G.F.—"This being Christmas day, the captain, according to custom, invited the officers and mates to dinner, and one of the lieutenants entertained the petty officers. The sailors feasted on a double portion of pudding, regaling themselves with the brandy of their allowance, which they had saved for this occasion some months beforehand, being solicitous to get very drunk, though they are commonly solicitous about nothing else. The sight of an immense number of icy masses, amongst which we drifted at the mercy of the current, every moment in danger of being dashed in pieces against them, could not deter the sailors from indulging in their favourite amusement. As long as they had brandy left, they would persist to keep Christmas "like Christians," though the elements had combined together for their destruction. Their long acquaintance with a sea-faring life had inured them to all kinds of perils, and their heavy labour, with the inclemencies of weather, and other hardships, making their muscles rigid and their nerves obtuse, had communicated insensibility to the mind. It will easily be conceived, that as they do not feel for themselves sufficiently to provide for their own safety, they must be incapable of feeling for others. Subjected to a very strict command, they also exercise a tyrannical sway over those whom fortune places in their power. Accustomed to face an enemy, they breathe nothing but war. By force of habit, even killing is become so much their passion, that we have seen many instances during our voyage, where they have expressed a horrid eagerness to fire upon the natives on the slightest pretences. Their way of life in general, prevents their enjoying domestic comforts; and gross animal appetites fill the place of purer affections.

At last, extinct each social feeling, fell And joyless inhumanity pervades And petrifies the heart.—


Though they are members of a civilized society, they may, in some measure, be looked on as a body of uncivilized men, rough, passionate, revengeful, but likewise brave, sincere, and true to each other."

In place of inveighing against the illiberality of this statement, or attempting to dispute its truth, as many persons, from an affectation of enthusiastic regard for the honour of our tars, or positive ignorance or contempt of the most incontrovertible obligations of morality and religion, would incline, it will be vastly more philosophical to investigate what are the principles of human nature and the circumstances in their situation, which give rise to such a character, that if possible some adequate remedy, or check at least, may be discovered. This is certainly not the place for such a discussion, as the importance of the subject demands; and the writer can by no means imagine himself called on to enter upon it. But he hazards a remark. He would consider British sailors as made up of precisely the same elements as the rest of men, and that the obvious peculiarities in which they differ from others, are the result of the circumstances of their professional situation. It follows, that his censure falls on the profession itself, rather than on those who are members of it. But in fact, he conceives that there has been a culpable neglect on the part of those who at different periods acquire authority, to the moral condition of this class of men. It is obvious indeed, that governments in general are little careful about the characters of their subordinate agents, unless in so far as is essential to the purposes for which they are employed; and accordingly, where the base and savage principles of mankind can be converted into so powerful an instrument, as we know they are in the present case, we shall find, that scarcely any pains have been taken to superinduce refinement, or even to favour the salutary operation of those causes, by which, in the ordinary course of things, society is gradually emancipated from barbarism. The rough virtues of the seaman are in their estimation of sufficient excellence, without the enhancement of moral attainments; and it is questionable, indeed, if a sort of prejudice may not lurk in the minds of many, that the latter would be the destruction of the former. Clearly, however, it seems to be conceived, that there is no adequate inducement to run the risk of the experiment; and, therefore, some gross immoralities are connived at, under the plausible title of necessary evils, provided they do not interfere with the technical duties of the profession. Though it be admitted, that the reformation of men's manners forms no part of the office of a politician, yet it may be fairly pleaded, on the other hand, as vice is in its own nature a debilitating power, independent altogether of reference to a Supreme Being, that to eradicate it, or to apply a restraint to its influence, may be no injudicious labour of his vocation. This, it is presumed, may be attempted in three ways, (in addition to certain indulgences, which there appears to be an imperious necessity to admit, with a view of preventing greater evils,) viz. the improvement of discipline, the increase of knowledge, and the application of a higher tone of public sentiment. There cannot be room for a moment's controversy, that to the efficacy of these three causes, is to be ascribed, the superiority in the appearance, at least, of the morals and conduct of the present day, above that of even the preceding half century. Who can deny, e.g, that the odious vice of drunkenness is much more disreputable now than formerly, throughout the whole of Europe? It may be said to be almost unknown in genteel circles; and there seems not the least reason to doubt, that as improvements in arts and sciences advance, and as education extends to the lower classes, so as to supply sources of mental enjoyment and exercise, it will be almost altogether extirpated from society. Let this and other vices be held as positively dishonourable, because unfitting for professional duty, and inconsistent with professional dignity—let them be visited by certain punishment—give free scope to the emulation of intellect and to the cultivation of proper self- interest—and vindicate to popular opinion, the claims of this most useful class, to the character of moral and rational beings, so that no flattering but injurious unction may be applied to film over the real turpitude of their offences—then, and then only, may it be safely asserted, that such descriptions as we have been considering, are the offspring of prudery or inflamed imagination, and have no prototype in nature.—E.

[8] "We had scarcely any night during our stay in the frigid zone, so that I find several articles in my father's journal, written by the light of the sun, within a few minutes before the hour of midnight. The sun's stay below the horizon was so short, that we had a very strong twilight all the time. Mahine was struck with great astonishment at this phenomenon, and would scarcely believe his senses. All our endeavours to explain it to him miscarried, and he assured us he despaired of finding belief among his countrymen, when he should come back to recount the wonders of petrified rain, and of perpetual day."—G.F.

[9] "To-day, while we were observing the meridian altitude of the sun, a shower of snow came from the west, and passed a-head of the ship; during which, a large island of ice, considerably within the visible horizon, and directly under the sun, was entirely hid by it; yet the horizon appeared as distinct, and much the same as it usually does in dark hazy weather. When the shower was over, I found that it required the sun to be dipped something more than his whole diameter to bring his lower limb to the nearest edge of the ice island, which must have been farther off than the visible horizon, during the shower; and yet this would have been taken as the real horizon, without any suspicion, if it had been every where equally obscure. Hence may be inferred the uncertainty of altitudes taken in foggy, or what seamen, in general, call hazy weather.—W.

[10] A few days before, according to Mr G.F.'s relation, his father and twelve other persons were confined to bed with rheumatism; and though the scurvy had not appeared in any dangerous form, yet a general languor and sickly look were manifested in almost every face, and Captain Cook himself was pale and lean, and had lost all appetite.—E.

[11] "Our situation at present was indeed very dismal, even to those who preserved the blessing of health; to the sick, whose crippled limbs were tortured with excessive pain, it was insupportable. The ocean about us had a furious aspect, and seemed incensed at the presumption of a few intruding mortals. A gloomy melancholy air loured on the brows of our shipmates, and a dreadful silence reigned amongst us. Salt meat, our constant diet, was become loathsome to all, and even to those who had been bred to a nautical life from their tender years: The hour of dinner was hateful to us, for the well known smell of the victuals had no sooner reached our nose, than we found it impossible to partake of them with a hearty appetite. In short, we rather vegetated than lived; we withered, and became indifferent to all that animates the soul at other times. We sacrificed our health, our feelings, our enjoyments, to the honour of pursuing a track unattempted before. The crew were as much distressed as the officers, from another cause. Their biscuit, which had been sorted at New Zealand, baked over again, and then packed up, was now in the same decayed state as before. This was owing partly to the revisal, which had been so rigorous, that many bad biscuit was preserved among those that were eatable; and partly to the neglect of the casks, which had not been sufficiently fumigated and dried. Of this rotten bread the people only received two-thirds of their usual allowance, from economical principles; but as that portion is hardly sufficient, supposing it to be all eatable, it was far from being so when nearly one half of it was rotten. However, they continued in that distressful situation till this day, when the first mate came to the capstern and complained most bitterly that he and the people had not wherewith to satisfy the cravings of the stomach, producing, at the same time, the rotten and stinking remains of his biscuit. Upon this, the crew were put to full allowance. The captain seemed to recover again as we advanced to the southward, but all those who were afflicted with rheumatisms, continued as much indisposed as ever."—G.F.

[12] "The thermometer here was 32 deg., and a great many penguins were heard croaking around us, but could not be seen, on account of the foggy weather which immediately succeeded. As often as we had hitherto penetrated to the southward, we had met with no land, but been stopped sooner or later by a solid ice-field, which extended before us as far as we could see: At the same time we had always found the winds moderate and frequently easterly in these high latitudes, in the same manner as they are said to be in the northern frozen zone. From these circumstances, my father had been led to suppose, that all the south pole, to the distance of 20 degrees, more or less, is covered with solid ice, of which only the extremities are annually broken off by storms, consumed by the action of the sun, and regenerated in winter. This opinion is the less exceptionable, since there seems to be no absolute necessity for the existence of land towards the formation of ice, and because we have little reason to suppose that there actually is any land of considerable extent in the frigid zone."—G.F.

"Mr F. has most amply and ably discussed the point in his observations, controverting unanswerably, as the writer thinks, the opinion of Buffon and others, as to the existence of southern lands being necessary for the production of such large masses of ice. The limits of the present note preclude the insertion, in any satisfactory shape, of the opposing arguments; but there is ground for anticipating an opportunity of considering the subject, and some others of an interesting nature, in a manner more suitable to their importance, than a mere notice implies. We go on then with the narrative.—E.

[13] Captain Cook, from an excess of delicacy, rarely specifies his personal sufferings; but one really requires to know something of them, in order to make a proper estimate of his magnanimous resolution in fulfilling his instructions, and to entertain a just conception of the self-denial which such an expedition demanded. We shall be aided by the following particulars, which, besides, imply the very extensive distress of the whole crew: "A great number of our people were afflicted with very severe rheumatic pains, which deprived them of the use of their limbs; but their spirits were so low, that they had no fever. Though the use of that excellent prophylactic, the sour krout, prevented the appearance of the scurvy during all the cold weather, yet, being made of cabbage, it is not so nutritive that we could live upon it, without the assistance of biscuit and salt-beef. But the former of these being rotten, and the other almost consumed by the salt, it is obvious that no wholesome juices could be secreted from thence, which might have kept the body strong and vigorous. Under these difficulties all our patients recovered very slowly, having nothing to restore their strength; and my father, who had been in exquisite torments during the greatest part of our southern cruise, was afflicted with toothaches, swelled cheeks, sore throat, and universal pain, till the middle of February, when he went on deck perfectly emaciated. The warm weather, which was beneficial to him, proved fatal to Captain Cook's constitution. The disappearance of his bilious complaint during our last push to the south, had not been so sincere, as to make him recover his appetite. The return to the north, therefore, brought on a dangerous obstruction, which the captain very unfortunately slighted, and concealed from every person in the ship, at the same time endeavouring to get the better of it by taking hardly any subsistence. This proceeding, instead of removing, increased the evil, his stomach being already weak enough before. He was afflicted with violent pains, which in the space of a few days confined him to his bed, and forced him to have recourse to medicines. He took a purge, but instead of producing the desired effect, it caused a violent vomiting, which was assisted immediately by proper emetics. All attempts, however, to procure a passage through his bowels were ineffectual; his food and medicines were thrown up, and in a few days a most dreadful hiccough appeared, which lasted for upwards of twenty four hours, with such astonishing violence, that his life was entirely despaired of. Opiates and glysters had no effect, till repeated hot baths, and plasters of theriaca applied on his stomach, had relieved his body and intestines. This, however, was not effected till he had been above a week in the most imminent danger. Next to providence it was chiefly owing to the skill of our surgeon, Mr Patten, that he recovered to prosecute the remaining part of our voyage, with the same spirit with which it had hitherto been carried on. The care and assiduity with which that worthy man watched him during his whole illness, cannot be sufficiently extolled, as all our hopes of future discoveries, as well as union in the ship, depended solely on the preservation of the captain. The surgeon's extreme attention, however, had nearly cost him his own life. Having taken no rest for many nights together, and seldom venturing to sleep an hour by day, he was so much exhausted, that we trembled for his life, upon which that of almost every man in the ship, in a great measure, depended. He was taken ill with a bilious disorder, which was dangerous on account of the extreme weakness of his stomach, and it is more than probable, that if we had not speedily fallen in with land, from whence we collected some slight refreshments, he must have fallen a sacrifice to that rigorous perseverance and extreme punctuality with which he discharged the several duties of his profession."—G.F.


Sequel of the Passage from New Zealand to Easter Island, and Transactions there, with an Account of an Expedition to discover the Inland Part of the Country, and a Description of some of the surprising gigantic Statues found in the Island.

At eight o'clock in the morning, on the 11th, land was seen, from the mast- head, bearing west, and at noon from the deck, extending from W. 3/4 N. to W. by S., about twelve leagues distant.[1] I made no doubt that this was Davis's Land, or Easter Island; as its appearance from this situation, corresponded very well with Wafer's account; and we expected to have seen the low sandy isle that Davis fell in with, which would have been a confirmation; but in this we were disappointed. At seven o'clock in the evening, the island bore from north 62 deg. W., to north 87 deg. W., about five leagues distant; in which situation, we sounded without finding ground with a line of an hundred and forty fathoms. Here we spent the night, having alternately light airs and calms, till ten o'clock the next morning, when a breeze sprung up at W.S.W. With this we stretched in for the land; and by the help of our glass, discovered people, and some of those Colossean statues or idols mentioned in the account of Roggewein's voyage.[2] At four o'clock p.m. we were half a league S.S.E. and N.N.W. of the N.E. point of the island; and, on sounding, found thirty-five fathoms, a dark sandy bottom. I now tacked, and endeavoured to get into what appeared to be a bay, on the west side of the point or S.E. side of the island; but before this could be accomplished, night came upon us, and we stood on and off, under the land, till the next morning; having sounding from seventy-five to an hundred and ten fathoms, the same bottom as before.

On the 13th, about eight o'clock in the morning, the wind, which had been variable most part of the night, fixed at S.E., and blew in squalls, accompanied with rain; but it was not long before the weather became fair. As the wind now blew right to the S.E. shore, which does not afford that shelter I at first thought, I resolved to look for anchorage on the west and N.W. sides of the island. With this view I bore up round the south point, off which lie two small islets, the one nearest the point high and peaked, and the other low and flattish. After getting round the point, and coming before a sandy beach, we found soundings thirty and forty fathoms, sandy ground, and about one mile from the shore. Here a canoe, conducted by two men, came off to us. They brought with them a bunch of plantains, which they sent into the ship by a rope, and then they returned ashore. This gave us a good opinion of the islanders, and inspired us with hopes of getting some refreshments, which we were in great want of.

I continued to range along the coast, till we opened the northern point of the isle, without seeing a better anchoring-place than the one we had passed. We therefore tacked, and plied back to it; and, in the mean time, sent away the master in a boat to sound the coast. He returned about five o'clock in the evening; and soon after we came to an anchor in thirty-six fathoms water, before the sandy beach above mentioned. As the master drew near the shore with the boat, one of the natives swam off to her, and insisted on coming a-board the ship, where he remained two nights and a day. The first thing he did after coming a-board, was to measure the length of the ship, by fathoming her from the tafferel to the stern, and as he counted the fathoms, we observed that he called the numbers by the same names that they do at Otaheite; nevertheless his language was in a manner wholly unintelligible to all of us.[3]

Having anchored too near the edge of a bank, a fresh breeze from the land, about three o'clock the next morning, drove us off it; on which the anchor was heaved up, and sail made to regain the bank again. While the ship was plying in, I went ashore, accompanied by some of the gentlemen, to see what the island was likely to afford us. We landed at the sandy beach, where some hundreds of the natives were assembled, and who were so impatient to see us, that many of them swam off to meet the boats. Not one of them had so much as a stick or weapon of any sort in their hands. After distributing a few trinkets amongst them, we made signs for something to eat, on which they brought down a few potatoes, plantains, and sugar canes, and exchanged them for nails, looking-glasses, and pieces of cloth.[4]

We presently discovered that they were as expert thieves and as tricking in their exchanges, as any people we had yet met with. It was with some difficulty we could keep the hats on our heads; but hardly possible to keep any thing in our pockets, not even what themselves had sold us; for they would watch every opportunity to snatch it from us, so that we sometimes bought the same thing two or three times over, and after all did not get it.

Before I sailed from England, I was informed that a Spanish ship had visited this isle in 1769. Some signs of it were seen among the people now about us; one man had a pretty good broad-brimmed European hat on, another had a grego jacket, and another a red silk handkerchief. They also seemed to know the use of a musquet, and to stand in much awe of it; but this they probably learnt from Roggewein, who, if we are to believe the authors of that voyage, left them sufficient tokens.

Near the place where we landed, were some of those statues before mentioned, which I shall describe in another place. The country appeared barren and without wood; there were, nevertheless, several plantations of potatoes, plantains, and sugar-canes; we also saw some fowls, and found a well of brackish water. As these were articles we were in want of, and as the natives seemed not unwilling to part with them, I resolved to stay a day or two. With this view I repaired on board, and brought the ship to an anchor in thirty-two fathoms water; the bottom a fine dark sand. Our station was about a mile from the nearest shore, the south point of a small bay, in the bottom of which is the sandy beach before mentioned, being E.S.E., distant one mile and a-half. The two rocky islets lying off the south point of the island, were just shut behind a point to the north of them; they bore south 3/4 west, four miles distant; and the other extreme of the island bore north 25 deg. E., distant about six miles. But the best mark for this anchoring-place is the beach, because it is the only one on this side of the island. In the afternoon, we got on board a few casks of water, and opened a trade with the natives for such things as they had to dispose of. Some of the gentlemen also made an excursion into the country to see what it produced; and returned again in the evening, with the loss only of a hat, which one of the natives snatched off the head of one of the party.[5]

Early next morning, I sent Lieutenants Pickersgill and Edgecumbe with a party of men, accompanied by several of the gentlemen, to examine the country. As I was not sufficiently recovered from my late illness to make one of the party, I was obliged to content myself with remaining at the landing-place among the natives. We had, at one time, a pretty brisk trade with them for potatoes, which we observed they dug up out of an adjoining plantation; but this traffic, which was very advantageous to us, was soon put a stop to by the owner (as we supposed) of the plantation coming down, and driving all the people out of it. By this we concluded, that he had been robbed of his property, and that they were not less scrupulous of stealing from one another, than from us, on whom they practised every little fraud they could think of, and generally with success; for we no sooner detected them in one, than they found out another. About seven o'clock in the evening, the party I had sent into the country returned, after having been over the greatest part of the island.

They left the beach about nine o'clock in the morning, and took a path which led across to the S.E. side of the island, followed by a great crowd of the natives, who pressed much upon them. But they had not proceeded far, before a middle-aged man, punctured from head to foot, and his face painted with a sort of white pigment, appeared with a spear in his hand, and walked along-side of them, making signs to his countrymen to keep at a distance, and not to molest our people. When he had pretty well effected this, he hoisted a piece of white cloth on his spear, placed himself in the front, and led the way, with his ensign of peace, as they understood it to be. For the greatest part of the distance across, the ground had but a barren appearance, being a dry hard clay, and every where covered with stones; but notwithstanding this, there were several large tracts planted with potatoes; and some plantain walks, but they saw no fruit on any of the trees. Towards the highest part of the south end of the island, the soil, which was a fine red earth, seemed much better, bore a longer grass, and was not covered with stones as in the other parts; but here they saw neither house nor plantation.

On the east side, near the sea, they met with three platforms of stone- work, or rather the ruins of them. On each had stood four of those large statues, but they were all fallen down from two of them, and also one from the third; all except one were broken by the fall, or in some measure defaced. Mr Wales measured this one, and found it to be fifteen feet in length, and six feet broad over the shoulders, Each statue had on its head a large cylindric stone of a red colour, wrought perfectly round. The one they measured, which was not by far the largest, was fifty-two inches high, and sixty-six in diameter. In some, the upper corner of the cylinder was taken off in a sort of concave quarter-round, but in others the cylinder was entire.

From this place they followed the direction of the coast to the N.E., the man with the flag still leading the way. For about three miles they found the country very barren, and in some places stript of the soil to the bare rock, which seemed to be a poor sort of iron ore. Beyond this, they came to the most fertile part of the island they saw, it being interspersed with plantations of potatoes, sugar-canes, and plantain trees, and these not so much encumbered with stones as those which they had seen before; but they could find no water except what the natives twice or thrice brought them, which, though brackish and stinking, was rendered acceptable, by the extremity of their thirst. They also passed some huts, the owners of which met them with roasted potatoes and sugar-canes, and, placing themselves a- head of the foremost party (for they marched in a line in order to have the benefit of the path), gave one to each man as he passed by. They observed the same method in distributing the water which they brought; and were particularly careful that the foremost did not drink too much, lest none should be left for the hindmost. But at the very time these were relieving the thirsty and hungry, there were not wanting others who endeavoured to steal from them the very things which had been given them. At last, to prevent worse consequences, they were obliged to fire a load of small shot at one who was so audacious as to snatch from one of the men the bag which contained every thing they carried with them. The shot hit him on the back, on which he dropped the bag, ran a little way, and then fell; but he afterwards got up and walked, and what became of him they knew not, nor whether he was much wounded. As this affair occasioned some delay, and drew the natives together, they presently saw the man who had hitherto led the way and one or two more, coming running towards them; but instead of stopping when they came up, they continued to run round them, repeating, in a kind manner, a few words, until our people set forwards again. Then their old guide hoisted his flag, leading the way as before, and none ever attempted to steal from them the whole day afterwards. As they passed along, they observed on a hill a number of people collected together, some of whom had spears in their hands; but on their being called to by their countrymen, they dispersed, except a few, amongst whom was one seemingly of some note. He was a stout well-made man, with a fine open countenance, his face was painted, his body punctured, and he wore a better Ha hou, or cloth, than the rest. He saluted them as he came up, by stretching out his arms, with both hands clenched, lifting them over his head, opening them wide, and then letting them fall gradually down to his sides. To this man, whom they understood to be chief of the island, their other friend gave his white flag, and he gave him another, who carried it before them the remainder of the day.

Towards the eastern end of the island, they met with a well whose water was perfectly fresh, being considerably above the level of the sea; but it was dirty, owing to the filthiness or cleanliness (call it which you will) of the natives, who never go to drink without washing themselves all over as soon as they have done; and if ever so many of them are together, the first leaps right into the middle of the hole, drinks, and washes himself without the least ceremony; after which another takes his place and does the same.

They observed that this side of the island was full of those gigantic statues so often mentioned; some placed in groupes on platforms of masonry, others single, fixed only in the earth, and that not deep; and these latter are, in general, much larger than the others. Having measured one, which had fallen down, they found it very near twenty-seven feet long, and upwards of eight feet over the breast or shoulders; and yet this appeared considerably short of the size of one they saw standing; its shade, a little past two o'clock, being sufficient to shelter all the party, consisting of near thirty persons, from the rays of the sun. Here they stopped to dine; after which they repaired to a hill, from whence they saw all the east and north shores of the isle, on which they could not see either bay or creek fit even for a boat to land in; nor the least signs of fresh water. What the natives brought them here was real salt water; but they observed that some of them drank pretty plentifully of it, so far will necessity and custom get the better of nature! On this account they were obliged to return to the last-mentioned well, where, after having quenched their thirst, they directed their route across the island towards the ship, as it was now four o'clock.

In a small hollow, on the highest part of the island, they met with several such cylinders as are placed on the heads of the statues. Some of these appeared larger than any they had seen before; but it was now too late to stop to measure any of them. Mr Wales, from whom I had this information, is of opinion that there had been a quarry here, whence these stones had formerly been dug; and that it would have been no difficult matter to roll them down the hill after they were formed. I think this a very reasonable conjecture, and have no doubt that it has been so.

On the declivity of the mountain towards the west, they met with another well, but the water was a very strong mineral, had a thick green scum on the top, and stunk intolerably. Necessity, however, obliged some to drink of it; but it soon made them so sick, that they threw it up the same way that it went down.

In all this excursion, as well as the one made the preceding day, only two or three shrubs were seen. The leaf and seed of one (called by the natives Torromedo) were not much unlike those of the common vetch; but the pod was more like that of a tamarind in its size and shape. The seeds have a disagreeable bitter taste; and the natives, when they saw our people chew them, made signs to spit them out; from whence it was concluded that they think them poisonous. The wood is of a reddish colour, and pretty hard and heavy, but very crooked, small, and short, not exceeding six or seven feet in height. At the S.W. corner of the island, they found another small shrub, whose wood was white and brittle, and in some measure, as also its leaf, resembling the ash. They also saw in several places the Otaheitean cloth plant, but it was poor and weak, and not above two and a half feet high at most.

They saw not an animal of any sort, and but very few birds; nor indeed any thing which can induce ships that are not in the utmost distress, to touch at this island.

This account of the excursion I had from Mr Pickersgill and Mr Wales, men on whose veracity I could depend; and therefore I determined to leave the island the next morning, since nothing was to be obtained that could make it worth my while to stay longer; for the water which we had sent on board, was not much better than if it had been taken up out of the sea.[6]

We had a calm till ten o'clock in the morning of the 16th, when a breeze sprung up at west, accompanied with heavy showers of rain, which lasted about an hour. The weather then clearing up, we got under sail, stood to sea, and kept plying to and fro, while an officer was sent on shore with two boats, to purchase such refreshments as the natives might have brought down; for I judged this would be the case, as they knew nothing of our sailing. The event proved that I was not mistaken; for the boats made two trips before night, when we hoisted them in, and made sail to the N.W., with a light breeze at N.N.E.

[1] "The joy which this fortunate event spread on every countenance, is scarcely to be described. We had been one hundred and three days out of sight of land; and the rigorous weather to the south, the fatigues of continual attendance during storms, or amidst dangerous masses of ice, the sudden changes of climate, and the long continuance of a noxious diet, all together had emaciated and worn out our crew. The expectation of a speedy end to their sufferings, and the hope of finding the land stocked with abundance of fowls and planted with fruits, according to the accounts of the Dutch navigator, now filled them with uncommon alacrity and cheerfulness."—G.F.

Captain Cook was much indebted for now falling in with this island, to the superior means he possessed of ascertaining his longitude. Byron, Carteret, and Bouganville, all missed it, although they took their departure from no greater a distance than the islands of Juan Fernandez. Most of the writers who mention Easter Island, agree pretty well together as to its latitude, but the Spanish accounts are not less than thirty leagues erroneous as to its longitude.—E.

[2] See this in vol. XI. p. 95 of this collection; but the description afterwards given is much more satisfactory.—E.

[3] "He was of the middle size, about five feet eight inches high, and remarkably hairy on the breast, and all over the body. His colour was a chesnut brown, his beard strong, but clipped short, and of a black colour, as was also the hair of his head, which was likewise cut short. His ears were very long, almost hanging on his shoulders, and his legs punctured in compartments after a taste which we had observed no where else. He had only a belt round his middle, from whence a kind of net-work descended before, too thin to conceal any thing from the sight. A string was tied about his neck, and a flat bone, something shaped like a tongue, and about four inches long, was fastened to it, and hung down on the breast. This he told us, was a porpoise's bone (eavee toharra) expressing it exactly by the same words which an Otaheitean would have made use of. Mahine, who had already expressed his impatience to go ashore, was much pleased to find that the inhabitants spoke a language so similar to his own, and attempted to converse with our new visitor several times, but was interrupted by the questions which many other persons in the ship put to him."—G.F.

[4] "Almost all of them were naked, some having only a belt round the middle, from whence a small bit of cloth, six or eight inches long, or a little net, hang down before. A very few of them had a cloak which reached to the knees, made of cloth, resembling that of Otaheite in the texture, and stitched or quilted with thread to make it the more lasting. Most of these cloaks were painted yellow with the turmeric root."—G.F.

[5] "After staying among the natives for some time on the beach, we began to walk into the country. The whole ground was covered with roots and stones of all sizes, which seemed to have been exposed to a great fire, where they had acquired a black colour and porous appearance. Two or three shrivelled species of grasses grew up among these stones, and in a slight degree softened the desolate appearance of the country. About fifteen yards from the landing place, we saw a perpendicular wall of square hewn stones, about a foot and a half or two feet long, and one foot broad. Its greatest height was about seven or eight feet, but it gradually sloped on both sides, and its length might be about twenty yards. A remarkable circumstance was the junction of these stones, which were laid after the most excellent rules of art, fitting in such a manner as to make a durable piece of architecture. The stone itself, of which they are cut, is not of great hardness, being a blackish brown cavernous and brittle stony lava. The ground rose from the water side upwards; so that another wall, parallel to the first, about twelve yards from it, and facing the country, was not above two or three feet high. The whole area between the two walls was filled up with soil and covered over with grass. About fifty yards farther to the south, there was another elevated area, of which the surface was paved with square stones exactly similar to those which formed the walls. In the midst of this area, there was a pillar consisting of a single stone, which represented a human figure to the waist, about twenty feet high, and upwards of five feet wide. The workmanship of this figure was rude, and spoke the arts in their infancy. The eyes, nose, and mouth, were scarcely marked on a lumpish ill-shaped head; and the ears, which were excessively long, quite in the fashion of the country, were better executed than any other part, though a European artist would have been ashamed of them. The neck was clumsy and short, and the shoulders and arms very slightly represented. On the top of the head a huge round cylinder of stone was placed upright, being above five feet in diameter and in height. This cap, which resembled the head-dress of some Egyptian divinity, consisted of a different stone from the rest of the pillar, being of a more reddish colour; and had a hole on each side, as if it had been made round by turning. The cap, together with the head, made one half of the whole pillar which appeared above ground. We did not observe that the natives paid any worship to these pillars, yet they seemed to hold them in some kind of veneration, as they sometimes expressed a dislike when we walked over the paved area or pedestals, or examined the stones of which it consisted. A few of the natives accompanied us farther on into the country, where we had seen some bushes at a distance, which we hoped would afford us something new. Our road was intolerably rugged, over heaps of volcanic stones, which rolled away under our feet, and against which we continually hurt ourselves. The natives who were accustomed to this desolate ground, skipped nimbly from stone to stone without the least difficulty. In our way we saw several black rats running about, which it seems are common to every island in the South Sea. Being arrived at the shrubbery which we had in view, we found it was nothing but a small plantation of the paper mulberry, of which here, as well as at Otaheite, they make their cloth. Its stems were from two to four feet high, and planted in rows, among very large rocks, where the rains had washed a little soil together. In the neighbourhood of these we saw some bushes of the hibiscus populneus, Linn, which is common also in the Society Isles, where it is one of the numerous plants made use of to dye yellow; and likewise a mimosa, which is the only shrub that affords the natives sticks for their clubs and patoo-patoos, and wood sufficient to patch up a canoe. We found the face of the country more barren and ruinous the farther we advanced. The small number of inhabitants, who met us at the landing-place, seemed to have been the bulk of the nation, since we met no other people on our walk; and yet for these few we did not see above ten or twelve huts, though the view commanded a great part of the island. One of the sightliest of these was situated on a little hillock, about half a mile from the sea, which we ascended. Its construction was such as evinced the poverty and wretched condition of its owners. The natives told us they passed the night in these huts; and we easily conceived their situation to be uncomfortable, especially as we saw so very few of them, that they must be crammed full, unless the generality of the people lie in the open air, and leave these wretched dwellings to their chiefs, or make use of them only in bad weather. Besides these huts, we observed some heaps of stones piled up into little hillocks, which had one steep perpendicular side, where a hole went under ground. The space within could be but very small, and yet it is very probable that these cavities served to give shelter to the people during night. They may, however, communicate with natural caverns, which are very common in the lava currents of volcanic countries. We should have been glad to have ascertained this circumstance, but the natives always denied us admittance into these places."—G.F.

[6] "Captain Cook had not been very fortunate in trading with the people. They seemed indeed to be so destitute as to have no provisions to spare. A few matted baskets full of sweet potatoes, some sugar- canes, bunches of bananas, and two or three small fowls ready dressed, were the whole purchase which he had made for a few iron tools, and some Otaheite cloth. He had presented the people with beads, but they always threw them away with contempt, as far as ever they could. Whatever else they saw about us, they were desirous of possessing, though they had nothing to give in return.—G.F.


A Description of the Island, and its Produce, Situation, and Inhabitants; their Manners and Customs; Conjectures concerning their Government, Religion, and other Subjects; with a more particular Account of the gigantic Statues.

I shall now give some farther account of this island, which is undoubtedly the same that Admiral Roggewein touched at in April 1722; although the description given of it by the authors of that voyage does by no means agree with it now. It may also be the same that was seen by Captain Davis in 1686; for, when seen from the east, it answers very well to Wafer's description, as I have before observed. In short, if this is not the land, his discovery cannot lie far from the coast of America, as this latitude has been well explored from the meridian of 80 deg. to 110 deg.. Captain Carteret carried it much farther; but his track seems to have been a little too far south. Had I found fresh water, I intended spending some days in looking for the low sandy isle Davis fell in with, which would have determined the point. But as I did not find water, and had a long run to make before I was assured of getting any, and being in want of refreshments, I declined the search; as a small delay might have been attended with bad consequences to the crew, many of them beginning to be more or less affected with the scurvy.

No nation need contend for the honour of the discovery of this island, as there can be few places which afford less convenience for shipping than it does. Here is no safe anchorage, no wood for fuel, nor any fresh water worth taking on board. Nature has been exceedingly sparing of her favours to this spot. As every thing must be raised by dint of labour, it cannot be supposed that the inhabitants plant much more than is sufficient for themselves; and as they are but few in number, they cannot have much to spare to supply the wants of visitant strangers. The produce is sweet potatoes, yams, tara or eddy root, plantains, and sugar-canes, all pretty good, the potatoes especially, which are the best of the kind I ever tasted. Gourds they have also, but so very few, that a cocoa-nut shell was the most valuable thing we could give them. They have a few tame fowls, such as cocks and hens, small but well tasted. They have also rats, which it seems they eat; for I saw a man with some dead ones in his hand, and he seemed unwilling to part with them, giving me to understand they were for food. Of land-birds there were hardly any, and sea-birds but few; these were men-of-war, tropic, and egg-birds, noddies, tern, &c. The coast seemed not to abound with fish, at least we could catch none with hook and line, and it was but very little we saw among the natives.

Such is the produce of Easter Island, or Davis's Land, which is situated in latitude 27 deg. 5' 30" S., longitude 109 deg. 46' 20" W. It is about ten or twelve leagues in circuit, hath a hilly and stony surface, and an iron-bound shore. The hills are of such a height as to be seen fifteen or sixteen leagues. Off the south end, are two rocky islets, lying near the shore. The north and east points of the island rise directly from the sea to a considerable height; between them and the S.E. side, the shore forms an open bay, in which I believe the Dutch anchored. We anchored, as hath been already mentioned, on the west side of the island, three miles to the north of the south point, with the sandy beach bearing E.S.S. This is a very good road with easterly winds, but a dangerous one with westerly; as the other on the S.E. side must be with easterly winds.

For this, and other bad accommodations already mentioned, nothing but necessity will induce any one to touch at this isle, unless it can be done without going much out of the way; in which case, touching here may be advantageous, as the people willingly and readily part with such refreshments as they have, and at an easy rate. We certainly received great benefit from the little we got; but few ships can come here without being in want of water, and this want cannot be here supplied. The little we took on board, could not be made use of, it being only salt water which had filtered through a stony beach into a stone well; this the natives had made for the purpose, a little to the southward of the sandy beach so often mentioned, and the water ebbed and flowed into it with the tide.

The inhabitants of this island do not seem to exceed six or seven hundred souls, and above two-thirds of those we saw were males. They either have but few females amongst them, or else many were restrained from making their appearance during our stay, for though we saw nothing to induce us to believe the men were of a jealous disposition, or the women afraid to appear in public, something of this kind was probably the case.[1]

In colour, features, and language, they bear such an affinity to the people of the more western isles, that no one will doubt they have had the same origin. It is extraordinary that the same nation should have spread themselves over all the isles in this vast ocean, from New Zealand to this island, which is almost one-fourth part of the circumference of the globe. Many of them have now no other knowledge of each other, than what is preserved by antiquated tradition; and they have, by length of time, become, as it were, different nations, each having adopted some peculiar custom or habit, &c. Nevertheless, a careful observer will soon see the affinity each has to the other. In general, the people of this isle are a slender race. I did not see a man that would measure six feet; so far are they from being giants, as one of the authors of Roggewein's voyage asserts. They are brisk and active, have good features, and not disagreeable countenances; are friendly and hospitable to strangers, but as much addicted to pilfering as any of their neighbours.

Tattowing, or puncturing the skin, is much used here. The men are marked from head to foot, with figures all nearly alike; only some give them one direction, and some another, as fancy leads. The women are but little punctured; red and white paint is an ornament with them, as also with the men; the former is made of turmeric, but what composes the latter I know not.

Their clothing is a piece or two of quilted cloth, about six feet by four, or a mat. One piece wrapped round their loins, and another over their shoulders, make a complete dress. But the men, for the most part, are in a manner naked, wearing nothing but a slip of cloth betwixt their legs, each end of which is fastened to a cord or belt they wear round the waist. Their cloth is made of the same materials as at Otaheite, viz. of the bark of the cloth-plant; but, as they have but little of it, our Otaheitean cloth, or indeed any sort of it, came here to a good market.

Their hair in general is black; the women wear it long, and sometimes tied up on the crown of the head; but the men wear it, and their beards, cropped short. Their headdress is a round fillet adorned with feathers, and a straw bonnet something like a Scotch one; the former, I believe, being chiefly worn by the men, and the latter by the women. Both men and women have very large holes, or rather slits, in their ears, extending to near three inches in length. They sometimes turn this slit over the upper part, and then the ear looks as if the flap was cut off. The chief ear-ornaments are the white down of feathers, and rings, which they wear in the inside of the hole, made of some elastic substance, rolled up like a watch-spring. I judged this was to keep the hole at its utmost extension. I do not remember seeing them wear any other ornaments, excepting amulets made of bone or shells.[2]

As harmless and friendly as these people seemed to be, they are not without offensive weapons, such as short wooden clubs and spears; the latter of which are crooked sticks about six feet long, armed at one end with pieces of flint. They have also a weapon made of wood, like the Patoo patoo of New Zealand.

Their houses are low miserable huts, constructed by setting sticks upright in the ground, at six or eight feet distance, then bending them towards each other, and tying them together at the top, forming thereby a kind of Gothic arch. The longest sticks are placed in the middle, and shorter ones each way, and a less distance asunder, by which means the building is highest and broadest in the middle, and lower and narrower towards each end. To these are tied others horizontally, and the whole is thatched over with leaves of sugar-cane. The door-way is in the middle of one side, formed like a porch, and so low and narrow, as just to admit a man to enter upon all fours. The largest house I saw was about sixty feet long, eight or nine feet high in the middle, and three or four at each end; its breadth, at these parts, was nearly equal to its height. Some have a kind of vaulted houses built with stone, and partly under ground; but I never was in one of these.

I saw no household utensils among them, except gourds, and of these but very few. They were extravagantly fond of cocoa-nut shells, more so than of any thing we could give them. They dress their victuals in the same manner as at Otaheite; that is, with hot stones in an oven or hole in the ground. The straw or tops of sugar-cane, plantain heads, &c. serve them for fuel to heat the stones. Plantains, which require but little dressing, they roast under fires of straw, dried grass, &c. and whole races of them are ripened or roasted in this manner. We frequently saw ten or a dozen, or more, such fires in one place, and most commonly in the mornings and evenings.

Not more than three or four canoes were seen on the whole island, and these very mean, and built of many pieces sewed together with small line. They are about eighteen or twenty feet long, head and stem carved or raised a little, are very narrow, and fitted with out-riggers. They do not seem capable of carrying above four persons, and are by no means fit for any distant navigation. As small and mean as these canoes were, it was a matter of wonder to us, where they got the wood to build them with; for in one of them was a board six or eight feet long, fourteen inches broad at one end, and eight at the other; whereas we did not see a stick on the island that would have made a board half this size, nor, indeed, was there another piece in the whole canoe half so big.

There are two ways by which it is possible they may have got this large wood; it might have been left here by the Spaniards, or it might have been driven on the shore of the island from some distant land. It is even possible that there may be some land in the neighbourhood, from whence they might have got it. We, however, saw no signs of any, nor could we get the least information on this head from the natives, although we tried every method we could think of to obtain it. We were almost as unfortunate in our enquiries for the proper or native name of the island; for, on comparing notes, I found we had got three different names for it, viz. Tamareki, Whyhu, and Teapy. Without pretending to say which, or whether any of them is right, I shall only observe, that the last was obtained by Oedidee, who understood their language much better than any of us, though even he understood it but very imperfectly.

It appears by the account of Roggewein's voyage, that these people had no better vessels than when he first visited them. The want of materials, and not of genius, seems to be the reason why they have made no improvement in this art. Some pieces of carving were found amongst them, both well designed and executed.[3] Their plantations are prettily laid out by line, but not inclosed by any fence; indeed they have nothing for this purpose but stones.

I have no doubt that all these plantations are private property, and that there are here, as at Otaheite, chiefs (which they call Areekes) to whom these plantations belong. But of the power or authority of these chiefs, or of the government of these people, I confess myself quite ignorant.

Nor are we better acquainted with their religion. The gigantic statues, so often mentioned, are not, in my opinion, looked upon as idols by the present inhabitants, whatever they might have been in the days of the Dutch; at least I saw nothing that could induce me to think so. On the contrary, I rather suppose that they are burying-places for certain tribes or families. I, as well as some others, saw a human skeleton lying in one of the platforms, just covered with stones. Some of these platforms of masonry are thirty or forty feet long, twelve or sixteen broad, and from three to twelve in height; which last in some measure depends on the nature of the ground; for they are generally at the brink of the bank facing the sea, so that this face may be ten or twelve feet or more high, and the other may not be above three or four. They are built, or rather faced, with hewn stones, of a very large size; and the workmanship is not inferior to the best plain piece of masonry we have in England. They use no sort of cement, yet the joints are exceedingly close, and the stones morticed and tenanted one into another, in a very artful manner. The side-walls are not perpendicular, but inclining a little inwards, in the same manner that breast-works, &c. are built in Europe; yet had not all this care, pains, and sagacity, been able to preserve these curious structures from the ravages of all-devouring time.

The statues, or at least many of them, are erected on these platforms, which serve as foundations. They are, as near as we could judge, about half length, ending in a sort of stump at the bottom, on which they stand. The workmanship is rude, but not bad; nor are the features of the face ill formed, the nose and chin in particular; but the ears are long beyond proportion; and, as to the bodies, there is hardly any thing like a human figure about them.

I had an opportunity of examining only two or three of these statues, which are near the landing-place; and they were of a grey stone, seemingly of the same sort as that with which the platforms were built. But some of the gentlemen, who travelled over the island, and examined many of them, were of opinion that the stone of which they were made, was different from any they saw on the island, and had much the appearance of being factitious. We could hardly conceive how these islanders, wholly unacquainted with any mechanical power, could raise such stupendous figures, and afterwards place the large cylindric stones before mentioned upon their heads. The only method I can conceive, is by raising the upper end by little and little, supporting it by stones as it is raised, and building about it till they got it erect; thus a sort of mount or scaffolding would be made, upon which they might roll the cylinder, and place it upon the head of the statue, and then the stones might be removed from about it. But if the stones are factitious, the statues might have been put together on the place, in their present position, and the cylinder put on by building a mount round them, as above mentioned. But, let them have been made and set up by this or any other method, they must have been a work of immense time, and sufficiently shew the ingenuity and perseverance of these islanders in the age in which they were built; for the present inhabitants have most certainly had no hand in them, as they do not even repair the foundations of those which are going to decay. They give different names to them, such as Gotomoara, Marapate, Kanaro, Goway-too-goo, Matta Matta, &c. &c. to which they sometimes prefix the word Moi, and sometimes annex Areeke. The latter signifies chief, and the former burying, or sleeping-place, as well as we could understand.[4]

Besides the monuments of antiquity, which were pretty numerous, and no where but on or near the sea-coast, there were many little heaps of stones, piled up in different places along the coast. Two or three of the uppermost stones in each pile were generally white, perhaps always so, when the pile is complete. It will hardly be doubted that these piles of stone had a meaning; probably they might mark the place where people had been buried, and serve instead of the large statues.

The working-tools of these people are but very mean, and, like those of all the other islanders we have visited in this ocean, made of stone, bone, shells, &c. They set but little value on iron or iron tools, which is the more extraordinary, as they know their use; but the reason may be, their having but little occasion for them.

[1] "It was impossible for us to guess at the cause of this disproportion in the number of the different sexes; but as all the women we saw were very liberal of their favours, I conjectured at that time, that the married and the modest, who might be supposed to form the greater part, did not care to come near us, or were forced by the men to stay at their dwellings in the remote parts of the island. These few who appeared were the most lascivious of their sex, that perhaps have ever been noticed in any country, and shame seemed to be entirely unknown to them."—G.F.

[2] "They were inferior in stature to the natives of the Society and Friendly Isles, and to those of New Zealand, there being not a single person amongst them, who might be reckoned tall. Their body was likewise lean, and their face much thinner than that of any people we had hitherto seen in the South Sea. Both sexes had thin, but not savage features, though the little shelter which their barren country offers against the sunbeams, had contracted their brows sometimes, and drawn the muscles of their face up towards the eye. Their noses were not very broad, but rather flat between the eyes; their lips strong, though not so thick as those of negroes; and their hair black and curling, but always cut short, so as not to exceed three inches. Their eyes were dark-brown, and rather small, the white being less clear than in other nations of the South Seas."—G.F.

[3] "These were human figures made of narrow pieces of wood about eighteen inches or two feet long, and wrought in a much neater and more proportionate manner than we could have expected, after seeing the rude sculpture of the statues. They were made to represent persons of both sexes; the features were not very pleasing, and the whole figure was much too long to be natural; however, there was something characteristic in them, which shewed a taste for the arts. The wood of which they were made was finely polished, close grained, and of a dark-brown, like that of the casuarina. Mahine was most pleased with these carved human figures, the workmanship of which much excelled those of the e tees in his country, and he purchased several of them, assuring us they would be greatly valued at Otaheite. As he took great pains to collect these curiosities, he once met with a figure of a woman's hand, carved of a yellowish wood, nearly of the natural size. Upon examination, its fingers were all bent upwards, as they are in the action of dancing at Otaheite, and its nails were represented very long, extending at least three-fourths of an inch beyond the fingers end. The wood of which it was made was the rare perfume wood of Otaheite, with the chips of which they communicate fragrance to their oils. We had neither seen this wood growing, nor observed the custom of wearing long nails at this island, and therefore were at a loss to conceive how this piece of well-executed carving could be met with there. Mahine afterwards presented this piece to my father, who in his turn made a present of it to the British Museum."—G.F.

[4] "The most diligent enquiries on our part, have not been sufficient to throw clear light on the surprising objects which struck our eyes in this island. We may, however, attempt to account for these gigantic monuments, of which great numbers exist in every part; for as they are so disproportionate to the present strength of the nation, it is most reasonable to look upon them as the remains of better times. The nearest calculation we could make, never brought the number of inhabitants in this island beyond seven hundred, who, destitute of tools, of shelter and clothing, are obliged to spend all their time in providing food to support their precarious existence. It is obvious that they are too much occupied with their wants, to think of forming statues, which would cost them ages to finish, and require their united strength to erect. Accordingly, we did not see a single instrument among them in all our excursions, which could have been of the least use in masonry or sculpture. We neither met with any quarries, where they had recently dug the materials, nor with unfinished statues, which we might have considered as the work of the present race. It is therefore probable, that these people were formerly more numerous, more opulent and happy, when they could spare sufficient time, to flatter the vanity of their princes, by perpetuating their names by lasting monuments. The remains of plantations found on the summits of the hub, give strength and support to this conjecture. It is not in our power to determine by what various accidents a nation so flourishing, could be reduced in number, and degraded to its present indigence. But we are well convinced that many causes may produce this effect, and that the devastation which a volcano might make, is alone sufficient to heap a load of miseries on a people confined to so small a space. In fact, this island, which may perhaps, in remote ages, have been produced by a volcano, since all its minerals are merely volcanic, has at least in all likelihood been destroyed by its fire. All kinds of trees and plants, all-domestic animals, nay a great part of the nation itself, may have perished in the dreadful convulsion of nature: Hunger and misery must have been but too powerful enemies to those who escaped the fire. We cannot well account for these little carved images which we saw among the natives, and the representation of a dancing woman's hand, which are made of a kind of wood at present not to be met with upon the island. The only idea which offers itself is, that they were made long ago, and have been saved by accident or predilection, at the general catastrophe which seems to have happened. In numberless circumstances the people agree with the tribes who inhabit New Zealand, the Friendly and the Society Islands, and who seem to have had one common origin with them. Their features are very similar, so that the general character may easily be distinguished. Their colour a yellowish brown, most like the hue of the New Zealanders; their art of puncturing, the use of the mulberry-bark for clothing, the predilection for red paint and red dresses, the shape and workmanship of their clubs, the mode of dressing their victuals, all form a strong resemblance to the natives of these islands. We may add, the simplicity of their languages, that of Easter Island being a dialect, which, in many respects, resembles that of New Zealand, especially in the harshness of pronunciation and the use of gutturals, and yet, in other instances, partakes of that of Otaheite. The monarchical government likewise strengthens the affinity between the Easter Islanders and the tropical tribes, its prerogatives being only varied according to the different degrees of fertility of the islands, and the opulence or luxury of the people. The statues, which are erected in honour of their kings, have a great affinity to the wooden figures called Tea, on the chief's marais or burying- places, at Otaheite; but we could not possibly consider them as idols. The disposition of these people is far from being warlike; their numbers are too inconsiderable and their poverty too general, to create civil disturbances amongst them. It is equally improbable that they have foreign wars, since hitherto we know of no island near enough to admit of an interview between the inhabitants; neither could we obtain any intelligence from those of Easter Island upon the subject. This being premised, it is extraordinary that they should have different kinds of offensive weapons, and especially such as resemble those of the New Zealanders; and we must add this circumstance to several others which are inexplicable to us. Upon the whole, supposing Easter Island to have undergone a late misfortune from volcanic fires, its inhabitants are more to be pitied than any less civilized society, being acquainted with a number of conveniences, comforts, and luxuries of life, which they formerly possessed, and of which the remembrance must embitter the loss."—G.P.

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