Unchartered waters

13th May 2005 at 01:00
The Voyages of Discovery, in which intrepid explorers visited previously uncharted seas and foreign coastlines, have been extensively documented in print. The Journals of Captain Cook (Penguin Classics) have been in the public domain for many years, and his original handwritten logs are preserved at the National Archives, where it is preferred that researchers consult microfilm copies. Fortunately, other logs kept by Cook's shipmates can be more readily accessed and make just as fascinating reading.

Endeavour's first voyage (1768-71) took a team of scientists to the Pacific on a mission to observe the transit of Venus from Tahiti, before proceeding to search for a fabled southern continent. During the three-year trip, Cook also surveyed much of New Zealand and New Holland (as Australia was then known), claiming territory in the King's name. Here are extracts from a log maintained by the expedition's astronomer, Charles Green.

Uncharted island. Sunday, January 14, 1770: "Hauled around an island on which was an Indian (Maori) town and a great no. of inhabitants."

Uncharted island. Monday, January 15: "Drought of water ... 68 Indians in several canoes came off to the ship and after some talk with Tupaia (our Tahitian) several came on board and had presents made them. At 6, the Captain co went ashore in the pinnace to examine the watering place... At 8, the boats returned with 300 of fish of different kinds and abundance of shags and other fowl. The watering place is very good. A no. of Indians came off and some behaved so insolent that the Captain wounded the knee of one with small shot."

Moored in Cannibal Harbour. Tuesday, January 30, 1770: "Fine pleasant weather. The Captain took possession of all this land for His Gracious Majesty King George the Third, His Heirs and Successors, and left a post on an high island with an inscription cut mentioning ship's name. The name given to this place is Queen Charlotte's Sound."

Charles Green was never to see England again. He died one year later from dysentery just outside Jakarta on the return leg of the voyage.

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