Story of Captain Cook - John Lang

Cook is Promoted, and Starts on His Second Voyage

The voyage of the Endeavour  was the greatest and the most successful that had ever been carried out. No honour is too great for the man whose energy and perseverance made it possible. In his "Life of Captain Cook," Sir Walter Besant has well said: "He had given to his country Australia and New Zealand—nothing less: he had given to Great Britain, Greater Britain."

Great was the excitement in England over this voyage. The King sent for Cook, and everywhere the people did honour to the brave sailor. From a collier's boy he had risen to be the most-talked-of man in England. And now he was "Captain" Cook, for the Admiralty had promoted him to the rank of commander.

But of all the people who made much of him, there was none more glad to see him than Mary Prowd, Mr. Walker's house-keeper at Whitby. This old lady had been kind to James Cook when he was an apprentice boy, and later, when he was mate of a coal ship, and her pride in him had never failed. Now she was wild with joy when she heard that he was coming to visit Whitby.

But people told her that things were very different now, and that she must not call him "James." She must remember his rank, and what a great man he was. She was told she must call him "Captain." All of which Mary promised to remember. And so she did, till the great Captain Cook came into her room. Then away to the winds went all she had been taught. "Eh! honey James, how glad a's to see thee," she sobbed, and clasped him in her arms.

Captain Cook's stay in England was not a long one. Much as he may have wanted rest and a long stay at home, (where, during his absence, two of his children had died,) there was little chance of rest for him.

He was in England just one year, many months of which were taken up by hard work, either connected with his last, or in getting ready for his next voyage round the world.

The idea of the Great Unknown Land still filled men's thoughts, and it was said that Cook's last voyage had not proved that there was no such land, but only that it was not in the part of the world that he had visited. He was now ordered to go in search of that Unknown Land, farther to the south than he had sailed in the Endeavour.

Bouvet, a French sailor, had said that in 54 south latitude, he had seen a part of this land, and Cook was told to make his way there, and if in the latitude and longitude named by Bouvet he could not find land, then he must go on still farther to the south. Men said that there were Europe and Asia and most of America on the north side of the equator, there must also be a huge unknown land on its south side; otherwise, they thought, the world would not keep its balance. And in this Great Unknown Land, when it should at last be discovered, what vast treasures of gold, and of silver, and of precious stones, might they not expect to find!

On 13th July 1772, Cook sailed in the Resolution, a vessel of 462 tons, and having with him a smaller ship, the Adventure, of 336 tons, commanded by Captain Tobias Furneaux. Both were Whitby ships, built on the same lines as the Endeavour. With Captain Cook sailed several of the officers and men who had been with him in his first voyage round the world.

Touching at Madeira and the Cape of Good Hope, the Resolution  and Adventure, from the last-named port, pushed on south into the stormy Southern Ocean.

Now all day there is the humming of wind in the rigging, and the vessels stagger and plunge in the tumbling grey sea. Albatrosses, petrels, and hosts of sea-birds wheel around the ships, or follow in their wake, looking for food. As the hours and days go by, the noise of the wind comes louder and wilder, till men's voices can scarcely be heard through its wailing. From out of the mist, great seas, like mountains with deep valleys between, rush down on the ships, toss them towards the heavens, and roar away to leeward. Tons of water thunder down on the decks, bursting through the skylight and flooding the cabins.

To those sitting down below by the smoking lamp, when the darkness has fallen, it is a time of trouble, a time not without fear. From the deck they hear a hoarse voice bellow, "Stand by your fore-topsail halyard," followed by the rush of men's feet. A wild yell:—then a hubbub as of Bedlam; a loose sail beating in the wind with the noise of thunder, blocks thumping, wind howling, and sea roaring. And the squall heels the ship over and still over, till it seems almost easier to walk on the bulkheads at the side of the cabin than on the sloping deck.

The weather grows bitter cold, and out from the mist around the ship come the strange sighing noise of a blowing whale, and the melancholy cry of penguins. Sudden squalls of snow whiten the decks and the rigging, and blind the lookout man. From a bank of fog and swirling snow glides a ghostly, flat-topped, blue-grey shadow, against whose sides the sea breaks in fury, sending the flying spray shooting hundreds of feet into the air. An iceberg! And all round are huge cakes of floating ice, which crash against the sides of the ship.

From early in December till the middle of March Captain Cook pushed on through the ice and bitter weather, looking for land, but finding none. Though it was the middle of the Antarctic summer, the rigging and tails of the Resolution  were often covered with ice, and the men suffered from the cold and the constant dampness of everything on board. Scurvy broke out, though no one died of it. Every case was treated as Captain Cook directed, and all recovered.

On 8th February 1773, in a thick fog, the Adventure  parted company with the Resolution, and was not again seen. Till the end of her voyage in these seas the Resolution  was now alone.

On 16th March, the summer season being now near an end, the ship was headed for New Zealand, where Cook hoped to find the Adventure  waiting for him. On 26th March she anchored in Dusky Bay, one of the sounds on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand, which he had named on his first visit to that country. Here she lay for more than a month, snugly moored in deep water, so close to the land that the men could go ashore by a tree which overhung the deck.

How beautiful the green leaves and the ferns and the flowering plants and shrubs must have looked to those men, fresh from the ice of the Antarctic; how quiet and peaceful the life, to those who for so long had seen little but fog and bad weather and mountainous seas.

The Resolution  had arrived in Dusky Sound with only one sick man on board; but Cook was not satisfied to let well alone is that respect. He made a kind of spruce beer from some of the trees and shrubs, which was said to be "very refreshing and medicinal," and it was served out to the crew daily. He was always sending boats ashore to collect all kinds of plants—scurvy-grass, wild celery, and others—which he thought might be useful in preventing scurvy, and these plants were boiled with the men's food. In this way he kept the ship almost clear of that dreaded disease, and he did not lose one single man from scurvy during the whole voyage. Very different was the case of the Adventure, amongst whose crew the disease broke out over and over again, and carried off several of the men. Captain Furneaux was not so careful as Captain Cook in making his men eat the wild vegetables when they could be got.

But if the men on the Resolution  were in good health, the sheep and the goats on board were not. These poor beasts, as well as a great many pigs, had been brought by Cook for the purpose of being put ashore in New Zealand and other places, in the hope that they might increase and in time spread all over the islands. But the cold and wet and the want of fresh food during the voyage in the Antarctic seas had killed many, and those that still lived were ill of scurvy. When put ashore at Dusky Sound the poor brutes could not eat, their teeth had become so loose. Whilst the Resolution  lay in Dusky Sound, a few natives were seen, all of whom were very friendly, but they disappeared before the vessel sailed. On 29th April she left the sound by a new channel, but this was so winding and difficult that it was not until 11th May that she reached the open sea.

At Queen Charlotte Sound the Adventure  was found lying at anchor after losing the Resolution  in the fog she had cruised near the spot for some days, when, still seeing no signs of her, she had steered to the east, but in a latitude much farther to the north than the track of the Resolution. Afterwards she headed for Van Diemen's Land, part of the coast of which she explored, without seeing any natives. The Adventure  discovered. some islands to the east of Van Diemen's Land, which were named Furneaux Islands, and she sighted the coast of Australia, but when she came away from that coast, Captain Furneaux still believed that Van Diemen's Land was part of New Holland.

Leaving Queen Charlotte Sound, the two vessels sailed to the south-east till 27th July without falling in with any land, and then they headed to the north for Otaheite, sighting on the way many islands. But at Otaheite the end of their voyage had nearly come. On 16th August, as the ships crept slowly in towards the reef, the wind failed them, and they lay rolling helplessly in the heavy swell. The boats could not tow them off, and quickly the ships drifted nearer and nearer to destruction. As a last chance, the Resolution's  anchor was let go. But the water was too deep; still she drifted closer to the thundering breakers. At last, in three fathoms water (18 feet) the anchor held. But it was too late, Already she was in the foam of the breaking rollers, and as each sea left her she bumped heavily on the coral reef. The Adventure, being smaller, was held by her anchor before she touched ground.

It was now the hour for the sea breeze to spring up, as at that season it does daily in this part of the world. If it had blown that day as usual, nothing could have saved the two vessels; they must have been dashed to pieces on the reef. But the hours went by, and still the dead calm continued. At last the tide turned; a light breeze off the land began to blow, slowly growing stronger, till both ships were able to raise their anchors and sail into safety.

At Otaheite the natives were again friendly, and many were the inquiries for Tupia. Many, too, were the thefts, as on the visit of the Endeavour. One chief this time went so far as to gather together the empty cocoa-nuts which had been thrown overboard from the ships after the milk had been taken out of them. These he then tied in bundles, as if they were fresh, and sold them over again to the men.

At Huaheine also (where King Oree still called himself "Cookee"), there was the same thieving. Once, when Dr. Sparrmann, a Swedish naturalist who had joined the Resolution  at the Cape of Good Hope, went ashore by himself to collect plants, he was set upon by two men, who stripped him, took away all his clothes, and then beat him with the flat of his own sword.

On 7th September the two ships sailed, the Adventure  taking with her a man whose name was Omai, a native of Ulietea, and on the Resolution  went a native of Bora Bora, named Oedidee.

On 23rd September, about a week after leaving Ulietea, Hervey's Island was discovered, a beautiful island covered with cocoa-nut palms, but, so far as could be seen from the ships, without any people. The vessels then sailed through the Friendly Islands group, which Tasman had discovered in 1643. At Middleburg, one of the islands, Cook was the only man bold enough to taste a bowl of "ava," which was offered by a chief. And indeed it is no great wonder that the others did not care to take any. As Dr. Young says in his "Life of Captain Cook," it "was brewed, as in other South Sea Islands, by the natives chewing the root; spitting out the juice into a bowl, and then diluting it with water." It does not sound very nice—even though the water happened to be the water (or milk) from the inside of a cocoa-nut. At Tongataboo, another island of the same group, more "ava" was offered, but one does not know that Cook's courage was equal to a second dose.