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Title: Captain Furneaux's Narrative, with some
Account of Van Diemen's Land [excerpt].
Author: Tobias Furneaux.
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1306441h.html
Language: English
Date first posted: November 2013
Date most recently November 2013

Produced by: Ned Overton.

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Production Notes:

This excerpt covers the only Australian landfall in Cook's second voyage around the world. Furneaux followed about a year after Marion Dufresne and Crozet.

Captain Furneaux's Narrative,
with some Account of Van Diemen's Land.

By Tobias Furneaux.

Identical with: CHAPTER VII. (pp. 105-120.), entitled:

Captain Furneaux's Narrative, from the Time the two Ships were separated, to their joining again in Queen Charlotte's Sound, with some Account of Van Diemen's Land. The map is from National Library of Australia.

In: Cook, James: "A voyage towards the South Pole, and round the world: performed in His Majesty's ships the Resolution and Adventure, in the years 1772, 1773, 1774, and 1775."

London: Printed for W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1779.

On the 7th of February, 1773[1773. February.
Sunday 7.]
, in the morning, the Resolution being then about two miles a-head, the wind shifting then to the westward, brought on a very thick fog; so that we lost sight of her. We soon after heard a gun, the report of which we imagined to be on the larboard beam; we then hauled up S.E., and kept firing a four-pounder every half hour, but had no answer, nor further sight of her; then we kept the course we steered on before the fog came on. In the evening it began to blow hard, and was at intervals more clear, but could see nothing of her, which gave us much uneasiness. We then tacked and stood to the westward, to cruise in the place where we last saw her, according to agreement, in case of separation; but next day came on a very heavy gale of wind and thick [Monday 8.]weather, that obliged us to bring to, and thereby prevented us reaching the intended spot. However, the wind coming more moderate, and the fog in some measure clearing away, we cruised as near the place as we could get, for three days; when giving over all hopes of joining company again, we bore away for winter quarters, distant fourteen hundred leagues, through a sea entirely unknown and reduced the allowance of water to one quart per day.

We kept between the latitude of 52 and 53 South, had much westerly wind, hard gales, with squalls, snow and sleet, with a long hollow sea from the S.W., so that we judged there is no land in that quarter. After we reached the longitude of 95 East, we found the variation decrease very fast.

[Friday 26.]On the 26th, at night, we saw a meteor of uncommon brightness in the N.N.W. It directed its course to the S.W., with a very great light in the southern sky, such as is known to the northward by the name of Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. We saw the light for several nights running; and, what is remarkable, we saw but one ice island after we parted company with the Resolution, till our making land, though we were most of the time two or three degrees to the southward of the latitude we first saw it in. We were daily attended by great numbers of sea birds, and frequently saw porpoises curiously spotted white and black.

Monday 1.]
On the 1st of March we were alarmed with the cry of land by the man at the mast-head, on the larboard beam; which gave us great joy. We immediately hauled our wind and stood for it, but to our mortification were disappointed in a few hours; for, what we took to be land, proved no more than clouds, which disappeared as we sailed towards them. We then bore away, and directed our course towards the land laid down in the charts by the name of Van Diemen's Land, discovered by Tasman in 1642, and laid down in the latitude 44 South, and longitude 140 East, and supposed to join to New Holland.

On the 9th of March [Tuesday 9.], having little wind and pleasant weather, about nine A. M. being then in the latitude of 43 37' South longitude, by lunar observation, 145 36' East, and by account 143 10' East from Greenwich, we saw the land bearing N.N.E., about eight or nine leagues distance. It appeared moderately high, and uneven near the sea; the hills farther back formed a double land, and much higher. There seemed to be several islands, or broken land, to the N.W., as the shore trenched; but by reason of clouds that hung over them, we could not be certain whether they did not join to the main. We hauled immediately up for it, and by noon were within three or four leagues of it. A point much like the Ramhead off Plymouth, which I take to be the same that Tasman calls South Cape, bore north four leagues off us. The land from this cape runs directly to the eastward; about four leagues along shore are three islands about two miles long, and several rocks, resembling the Mewstone, (particularly one which we so named,) about four or five leagues E.S.E E. off the above cape, which Tasman has not mentioned, or laid down in his draughts. After you pass these islands, the land lies E. by N., and W. by S., by the compass nearly. It is a bold shore, and seems to afford several bays or anchoring-places, but believe deep water. From the S.W. cape, which is in the latitude of 43 39' South, and longitude 145 50' East to the S.E. cape, in the latitude 43 36' South, longitude 147 East, is nearly sixteen leagues, and sounding from forty-eight to seventy fathoms, sand and broken shells three or four leagues off shore. Here the country is hilly and full of trees, the shore rocky and difficult landing, occasioned by the wind blowing here continually from the westward, which occasions such a surf that the sand cannot lie on the shore. We saw no inhabitants here.

The morning, on the 10th of March[Wednes.
, being calm, the ship then about four miles from the land, sent the great cutter on shore with the second lieutenant, to find if there was any harbour or good bay. Soon after, it beginning to blow very hard, made the signal for the boat to return several times, but they did not see or hear any thing of it; the ship then three or four leagues off, that we could not see any thing of the boat, which gave us great uneasiness, as there was a very great sea. At half-past one P. M. to our great satisfaction, the boat returned on board safe. They landed, but with much difficulty, and saw several places where the Indians had been, and one they lately had left, where they had a fire, with a great number of pearl escallop shells round it, which shells they brought on board, with, some burnt sticks and green boughs. There was a path from this place, through the woods, which in all probability leads to their habitations; but, by reason of the weather, had not time to pursue it. The soil seems to be very rich; the country well clothed with wood, particularly on the lee side of the hills; plenty of water which falls from the rocks in beautiful cascades, for two or three hundred feet perpendicular into the sea; but they did not see the least sign of any place to anchor in with safety. Hoisted in the boat, and made sail for Frederick Henry Bay. From noon to three P. M. running along shore E. by N., at which time we were abreast of the westernmost point of a very deep bay, called by Tasman, Stormy Bay. From the west to the east point of this bay there are several small islands, and black rocks, which we called the Friars. While crossing this bay we had very heavy squalls and thick weather; at times, when it cleared up, I saw several fires in the bottom of the bay, which is near two or three leagues deep, and has, I doubt not, good places for anchoring, but the weather being so bad, did not think it safe to stand into it. From the Friars the land trenches away about N. by E. four leagues: We had smooth water, and kept in shore, having regular soundings from twenty to fifteen fathoms water. At half-past six we hauled round a high bluff point, the rocks whereof were like so many fluted pillars, and had ten fathoms water, fine sand, within half a mile of the shore. At seven, being abreast of a fine bay, and having little wind, we came-to, with the small bower, in twenty-four fathoms, sandy bottom. Just after we anchored, being a fine clear evening, had a good observation of the star Antares and the moon, which gave the longitude of 147 34' East, being in the latitude of 43 20' South. We first took this bay to be that which Tasman called Frederick Henry Bay; but afterwards found that his is laid down five leagues to the northward of this.

[Thursday 11.]At day-break the next morning, I sent the master in shore to sound the bay, and to find out a watering-place; at eight he returned, having found a most excellent harbour, clear ground from side to side, from eighteen to five fathom water all over the bay, gradually decreasing as you go in shore. We weighed and turned up into the bay; the wind being westerly, and very little of it, which baffled us much in getting in. At seven o'clock in the evening, we anchored in seven fathoms water, with a small bower, and moored with the coasting anchor to the westward, the north point of the bay N.N.E. E. (which we take to be Tasman's Head[Tuesday 20.]), and the Eastermost point (which we named Penguin Island, from a curious one we caught there) N.E. by E E.; the watering-place W. N.; about one mile from the shore on each side; Maria's Island, which is about five or six leagues off, shut in with both points; so that you are quite land-locked in a most spacious harbour.

We lay here five days, which time was employed in wooding and watering (which is easily got), and over-hauling the rigging. We found the country very pleasant; the soil a black, rich, though thin one; the sides of the hills covered with large trees, and very thick, growing to a great height before they branch off. They are all of the evergreen kind, different from any I ever saw; the wood is very brittle, and easily split; there is a very little variety of sorts, having seen but two. The leaves of one are long and narrow; and the seed (of which I got a few) is in the shape of a button, and has a very agreeable smell. The leaves of the other are like the bay, and it has a seed like the white thorn, with an agreeable spicy taste and smell. Out of the trees we cut down for fire-wood, there issued some gum, which the surgeon called gum-lac. The trees are mostly burnt or scorched, near the ground, occasioned by the natives setting fire to the under-wood, in the most frequented places; and by these means they have rendered it easy walking. The land birds we saw, are a bird like a raven; some of the crow kind, black, with the tips of the feathers of the tail and wings white, their bill long and very sharp; some paroquets; and several kinds of small birds. The sea-fowl are ducks, teal, and the sheldrake. I forgot to mention a large white bird, that one of the gentlemen shot, about the size of a large kite of the eagle kind. [Monday 15.]As for beasts, we saw but one, which was an opossom; but we observed the dung of some, which we judged to be of the deer kind. The fish in the bay are scarce; those we caught were mostly sharks, dog-fish, and a fish called by the seamen nurses, like the dog-fish, only full of small white spots; and some small fish not unlike sprats. The lagoons (which are brackish) abound with trout, and several other sorts of fish, of which we caught a few with lines, but being much encumbered with stumps of trees, we could not haul the seine.

While we lay here, we saw several smokes and large fires, about eight or ten miles in shore to the northward, but did not see any of the natives; though they frequently come into this bay, as there were several wigwams or huts, where we found some bags and nets made of grass, in which I imagine they carry their provisions and other necessaries. In one of them there was the stone they strike fire with, and tinder made of bark, but of what tree could not be distinguished. We found in one of their huts, one of their spears, which was made sharp at one end, I suppose, with a shell or stone. Those things we brought away, leaving in the room of them medals, gun-flints, a few nails, and an old empty barrel with the iron hoops on it. They seem to be quite ignorant of every sort of metal. The boughs, of which their huts are made, are either broken or split, and tied together with grass in a circular form, the largest end stuck in the ground, and the smaller parts meeting in a point at the top, and covered with fern and bark, so poorly done, that they will hardly keep out a shower of rain. In the middle is the fire-place, surrounded with heaps of muscle, pearl, scallop, and cray-fish shells, which I believe[Monday 15] to be their chief food, though we could not find any of them. They lie on the ground, on dried grass, round the fire; and I believe they have no settled place of habitation (as their houses seemed built only for a few days), but wander about in small parties from place to place in search of food, and are actuated by no other motive. We never found more than three or four huts in a place, capable of containing three or four persons each only; and what is remarkable, we never saw the least marks either of canoe or boat, and it is generally thought they have none; being altogether, from what we could judge, a very ignorant and wretched set of people, though natives of a country capable of producing every necessary of life, and a climate the finest in the world. We found not the least signs of any minerals or metals.

Having completed our wood and water, we sailed from Adventure Bay, intending to coast it up along shore, till we should fall in with the land seen by Captain Cook, and discover whether Van Diemen's Land joins with New Holland[Tuesday 16.]. On the 16th, we passed Maria's Islands, so named by Tassman; they appear to be the same as the main land. On the 17th[Wednes.
, having passed Shouten's Islands, we hauled in for the main land, and stood along shore at the distance of two or three leagues off. The country here appears to be very thickly inhabited, as there was a continual fire along shore as we sailed. The land hereabouts is much pleasanter, low, and even; but no signs of a harbour or bay, where a ship might anchor with safety. The weather being bad, and blowing hard at S.S.E., we could not send a boat on shore to have any intercourse with the inhabitants. In the latitude of 40 50' South, the land trenches away to the westward, which I believe forms a deep bay, as we saw from the deck several smokes arising a-back of the islands that lay before it, when we could not see the least signs of land from the mast head.

Sketch of Van Diemen's Land,
Explored by Captain Furneaux.
From National Library of Australia Map nk-2456-50

Click on the map to enlarge it.

From the latitude of 40 50' South, to the latitude of 39 50' South, is nothing but islands and shoals; the land high, rocky, and barren. On the 19th[Friday 19.], in the latitude of 40 30' South, observing breakers about half a mile within shore of us, we sounded, and finding but eight fathoms, immediately hauled off, deepened our water to fifteen fathoms, then bore away and kept along shore again. From the latitude of 39 50' to 39 S., we saw no land, but had regular soundings from fifteen to thirty fathoms. As we stood on to the northward, we made land again in about 39; after which we discontinued our northerly course, as we found the ground very uneven, and shoal-water some distance off. I think it a very dangerous shore to fall in with.

The Coast, from Adventure Bay to the place where we stood away for New Zealand, lies in the direction S. W., and N. E., about seventy-five leagues; and it is my opinion that there are no straits between New Holland and Van Diemen's Land, but a very deep bay.--I should have stood farther to the northward, but the wind blowing strong at S.S.E., and looking likely to haul round to the eastward, which would have blown right on the land, I therefore thought it more proper to leave the coast and steer for New Zealand.

After we left Van Diemen's Land, we had very uncertain weather, with rain and very heavy gusts of wind. On the 24th[Wednes.
, we were surprised with a very severe squall, that reduced us from top-gallant sails to reefed courses, in the space of an hour. The sea rising equally quick, we shipped many waves, one of which stove the large cutter, and drove the small one from her lashing in the waist; and with much difficulty we saved her from being washed overboard. This gale lasted twelve hours, after which we had more moderate weather, intermixed with calms. We frequently hoisted out the boats to try the currents, and in general found a small drift to the W.S.W. We shot many birds; and had, upon the whole, good weather; but as we got near to the land, it came on thick and dirty for several days, till we made the coast of New Zealand in 40 30' South, having made twenty-four degrees of longitude, from Adventure Bay, after a passage of fifteen days.

We had the winds much southerly in this passage, and I was under some apprehensions of not being able to fetch the straits, which would have obliged us to steer away for George's Island; I would therefore advise any who sail to this part, to keep to the southward, particularly in the fall of the year, when the S. and S.E. winds prevail.

The land, when we first made it, appeared high, and formed a confused jumble of hills and mountains. We steered along shore to the northward, but were much retarded in our course by reason of the swell from the N.E. At noon, on the 3rd of April[April.
Saturday 3.]
, Cape Farewell, which is the south point of the entrance of the west side of the straits, bore E. by N. N. by the compass, three or four leagues distant. About eight o'clock we entered the straits, and steered N.E. till midnight; then brought-to till day-light, and had soundings from forty-five to fifty-eight fathoms, sand and broken shells. [Sunday 4.]At day-light, made sail and steered S.E. by E.; had light airs; Mount Egmont N.N.E. eleven or twelve leagues, and Point Stephens S.E. E. seven leagues. At noon, Mount Egmont N. by E. twelve leagues; Stephens Island S.E. five leagues. In the afternoon we put the dredge over-board in sixty-five fathoms; but caught nothing except a few small scallops, two or three oysters, and broken shells.

Standing to the eastward for Charlotte's Sound, with a light breeze at N.W., in the morning on the 5th[Monday 5.], Stephens Island bearing S.W. by W. four leagues, we were taken a-back with a strong easterly gale, which obliged us to haul our wind to the S.E. and work to windward up under Port Jackson. The course from Stephens Island to Point Jackson, is nearly S.E. by the compass, eleven leagues distant, depth of water from forty to thirty-two fathoms, sandy ground. As we stood off and on, we fired several guns, but saw no signs of any inhabitants. In the afternoon, at half-past two, o'clock, finding the tide set the ship to the westward, we anchored with the coasting anchor in thirty-nine fathoms water, muddy ground; Point Jackson S.E. E. three leagues; the east point of an inlet (about four leagues to the westward of Point Jackson, and which appears to be a good harbour) S.W. by W. W. At eight P. M. the tide slackening, we weighed and made sail (having while at anchor caught several fish with hook and line), and found the tide to run to the westward, at the rate of two and a half knots per hour. Standing to the east, we found no ground at seventy fathoms, off Point Jackson N.N.W., two leagues. At eight the next morning[Tuesday 6.], had the sound open; but the wind being down, it obliged us to work up under the western shore, as the tide sets up strong there, when it runs down in mid channel. At ten, the tide being done, was obliged to come-to with the best bower in thirty-eight fathoms, close to some white rocks, Point Jackson bearing N.W. N.; the northernmost of the Brothers E. by S.; and the middle of Entry Island (which lies on the north side of the straits) N.E. We made 15 30' East, variation in the straits. As we sailed up the sound we saw the tops of high mountains covered with snow, which remains all the year. When the tide slackened, we weighed and sailed up the sound; and about five o'clock on the 7th[Wednes.
, anchored in Ship Cove, in ten fathoms water, muddy ground, and moored the best bower to the N.N.E., and small to S.S.W. In the night, we heard the howling of dogs, and people hallooing on the east shore.

The two following days were employed in clearing a place on Motuara Island for erecting our tents for the sick (having then several on board much afflicted with the scurvy), the sail-makers and coopers. On the top of the island was a post erected, by the Endeavour's people, with her name and time of departure on it.

On the 9th[Friday 9.], we were visited by three canoes with about sixteen of the natives; and to induce them to bring us fish and other provisions, we gave them several things, with which they seemed highly pleased. One of our young gentlemen seeing something wrapt up in a better manner than common, had the curiosity to examine what it was; and to his great surprise found it to be the head of a man lately killed. They were very apprehensive of its being forced from them; and particularly the man who seemed most interested in it, whose very flesh crept on his bones, for fear of being punished by us, as Captain Cook had expressed his great abhorrence of this unnatural act. They used every method to conceal the head, by shifting it from one to another; and by signs endeavouring to convince us, that there was no such thing amongst them, though we had seen it but a few minutes before. They then took their leave of us, and went on shore.

They frequently mentioned Tupia, which was the name of the native of George's Island (or Otaheite), brought here by the Endeavour, and who died at Batavia; and when we told them he was dead, some of them seemed to be very much concerned, and, as well as we could understand them, wanted to know whether we killed him, or if he died a natural death. By these questions, they are the same tribe Captain Cook saw. In the afternoon, they returned again with fish and fern roots, which they sold for nails and other trifles; though the nails are what they set the most value on. The man and woman who had the head, did not come off again. Having a catalogue of words in their language, we called several things by name, which surprised them greatly. They wanted it much, and offered a great quantity of fish for it.

Next morning[Saturday 10.], they returned again, to the number of fifty or sixty, with their chief at their head (as we supposed), in five double canoes. They gave us their implements of war, stone hatchets, and clothes, &c. for nails and old bottles, which they put a great value on. A number of the head men came on board us, and it was with some difficulty we got them out of the ship by fair means; but on the appearance of a musket with a fixed bayonet, they all went into their canoes very quickly. We were daily visited by more or less, who brought us fish in great plenty for nails, beads, and other trifles, and behaved very peaceably.

We settled the astronomer with his instruments, and a sufficient guard, on a small island, that is joined to Motuara at low water, called the Hippa, where there was an old fortified town that the natives had forsaken. Their houses served our people to live in; and, by sinking them about a foot inside, we made them very comfortable. Having done this, we struck our tents on the Motuara, and having removed the ship farther into the cove on the west shore, moored her for the winter. We then erected our tents near the river or watering-place, and sent ashore all the spars and lumber off the decks, that they might be caulked; and gave her a winter coat to preserve the hull and rigging. On the 11th of May[May.
Tuesday 11.]
, we felt two severe shocks of an earthquake, but received no kind of damage. On the 17th, we were surprised by the people firing guns on the Hippa, and having sent the boat, as soon as she opened the sound, had the pleasure of seeing the Resolution off the mouth of it. We immediately sent out the boats to tow her in, it being calm. In the evening she anchored about a mile without us; and next morning weighed and warped within us. Both ships felt uncommon joy at our meeting, after an absence of fourteen weeks.


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