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Captain Cook's Voyages of Discovery

Young Navigators

November, 1769

New Zealand Canoe

Cook's crew learns something about trading the Indian way and sees the Indians' courage

. . . and on Wednesday morning [Nov.1] saw forty or fifty canoes along shore, several of which came off to us apparently with hostile intentions, although they were not above an hundred in number, and but indifferently armed. One of their chiefs in the largest of the canoes, made several long speeches; and by the menacing flourishes of his hepatoo spear, seemed to bid us defiance; but seeing us continue inviting them to trade, they at length came close along side, and he who had been their orator, taking up a stone, after pronouncing a few words, gently threw it against the side of the ship, which apparently was a formal declaration of war, as they all immediately took up their arms: but Tabia threatened them with immediate destruction if they began to attack us, and assured them of our pacific intentions, and that we only wanted to purchase their fish, at the same time showing them some pieces of fine Otahitee cloth, which had more influence upon them than all his menaces, for they had no apprehensions of danger from our resentment. They had a large quantity of cray fish and muscles, which we purchased; but with more economy than we had before practised, as a piece of cloth which we had usually given for a parcel of fish, was on this occasion divided into seven or eight pieces, And exchanged for so many times the quantity we had formerly received; and yet they thought themselves sufficiently paid. The cloth which they received from us, they cut into bits two or three inches square, which they placed in their ears. While they were trading with us, one of them had the boldness to lay hold of some cloaths which had been fastened to a rope, and thrown into the water to soak. These he untied, and put into his own canoe, and though every man in the ship had seen the transaction, and though a party of marines threatened him with their musquets, yet he obstinately persisted in detaining them; and, without any attempt to escape towards the shore, or remove from along side of the ship. Two balls were then fired through the bottom of his canoe, but without any effect, except that he began with great deliberation to stop the leaks which they had made; and though a charge of small shot was soon after fired into his back, he continued repairing his leaks; occasionally putting up one of his hands to rub the flesh where the shot had penetrated. When their canoe was sufficiently repaired, they precipitately removed some distance from us with their booty, and there began to laugh, greatly pleased with their acquisition and their dexterity. A four-pounder was then fired towards them, upon which they retired to the shore. In the evening a double canoe, built after the model of those at Otahitee, but carved and decorated according to their own peculiar manner, followed us a long time, the Indians appearing in good humour, and frequently dancing and singing; at length one of them made a long harangue, which being finished, they al began to pelt us with stones; but seeing us continue regardless of their behaviour, they retired.

Hostile Indians, friendly Indians, soundings and mapping

The next morning [Nov. 2], however, the same canoe pursued and overtook us about nine o'clock; she carried a sail of an odd construction, which was made from a kind of matting, and of a triangular figure; the hypotheneuse, or broadest part, being placed at the top of the mast, and ending in a point at the bottom. One of its angles was marled to the mast, and another to a spar with which they altered its position according too the direction of the wind, but changing it from side to side. The people in this canoe followed us several hours, but finding we pursued our course, they laughed heartily at our supposed cowardice, and approaching nearer, threw several stones on board, some of which were near doing us mischief; we then fired a musquet at them, but it producing no effect, a great gun was levelled, which made them retire, though by some accident it missed fire.

Friday, Nov. 4, three canoes came along side, and an Indian in one of them threw a spear on board at one of our crew; but they all fled at the discharge of a musquet. In the afternoon we sailed towards an opening, which we discovered in the land, and the same evening came to anchor in seven fathom with good ground; and were soon after surrounded by several armed canoes, which waited until dark, and then retired, threatening to return the next morning; however, about eleven o'clock the same night, we were again surrounded by them; but finding us on the watch, they soon retired.

But in the morning [Nov. 5] about one hundred and fifty men, in sixteen canoes, all armed with spears and stones, again came off apparently with a fixed determination to begin hostilities: they seemed desirous of boarding the ship, but could not agree on the place, frequently removing from one situation to another, and approaching the sides, bows and quarters successively. These movements kept us on our guard in the rain for some time, in which we employed every expedient we could imagine to pacify them; but these served only to increase their temerity. We then fired several muskets, on which they took to their arms, and attempted to come on board, but the discharge of a four-pounder suddenly dispersed them.

Shortly after our boats were sent to sound the bay and discover a more convenient anchorage, which they executed, and returned at three in the afternoon, when we weighed and sailed nearer in towards the southern shore, anchoring in five fathom, with a soft sandy bottom.

The next morning [Nov.6} we were visited by many of the natives, who came in a peaceable manner, bringing large quantities of fish, cloth, spears, &c.which they sold us at very moderate prices. In this bay we procured a large supply of wood, and of excellent water, and also heeled our ship and scrubbed her bottom, which had become very foul; the natives treating us with great hospitality on shore at their own habitations.

An officer kills an Indian, Cook regrets it, and the Indians leave the expedition alone

Thursday, the 9th of November, being an uncommon clear day, the astronomers landed to observe the Transit of Mercury; and during the observation a large canoe loaded with various commodities for traffick came along-side, and an officer, who then had the command, willing to encourage them to expose their goods, lowered down a very large piece of Otahitee cloth, more valuable than any they had ever seen; whereupon the Indians in the canoe, perhaps mistaking his intention, but more probably desirous of robbing him of his property, called upon a young active Indian who stood nearest the cloth, to seize upon it, which he at first declined; but afterwards taking it in his hands as if for examination, he suddenly disengaged it from the rope, and was immediately shot dead by the officer to whom it belonged, and who having always conducted himself with the strictest probity, was the more irritated by this deviation from it. But had we punished every dishonest attempt with equal severity, we must have extirpated the greatest part of the Indians with whom we have had any commerce; for never were people more ignorant or regardless of the principles of natural justice. Immediately after this unhappy misconduct, the Indians all fled, and several days elapsed before we could allure them to renew their commerce with us.

Small boats explore and river and life goes on

On Saturday [Nov. 10] the boats were dispatched to examine a large river, which they performed, and returned again in the evening. During our stay here we found great plenty of oysters and cellery.

Thursday morning, the 15th, we sailed from Mercury Bay, steering N.E. towards a group of islands which we passed, with many others, continuing our course until Sunday the 19th, when we entered a fine streight, and came to anchor in twenty-three fathom the same evening; and on Monday we coasted along the north side of the streight, about three miles from the shore, in twenty-one fathom of water. But our soundings having afterwards regularly decreased to six fathom and a half, we anchored in mid-channel and dispatched our boats to sound a river running from S.W. and at seven o'clock the next morning [Nov. 20] we moored our ship, and were soon after visited by three trading canoes., Wednesday the 22d we weighed, and stood up the streight, having regular soundings from seven to fifteen fathom, with blue clay at bottom.

On Friday [11/24] we had a fresh gale at N.W. with thunder and lightning; but the wind changing to S.W. we left the bay, and on Saturday [11/25] coasted to the northward between several high islands and the main, in twenty-six fathom water, and in the evening anchored in fourteen fathom, and caught near one hundred bream with our hooks.

The Indians grow more aggressive, trying to force the Endeavour into the rocks. Cook lands.

The following day [11/26] many canoes, filled with Indians, came along side, whom we treated in the best manner, and made them several presents; but they afterwards, as a return for our hospitality, began to assail us with stones; we then fired several charges of small shot among the aggressors, and a musket-ball over them; upon which retiring to a little distance, and thinking themselves without our reach, they stopped and defied us to battle; but several great shot being fired near them, they fled towards the shore.

The next day [11/27] several canoes with Indians visited us, but they behaving in a hostile manner were dispersed by the usual methods. The wind continuing north-westerly until Wednesday the 29thy, and finding we lost way by turning against it, we bore away for a place which had the appearance of a bay: and the next morning [11/30] at eleven' o'clock we anchored therein, between an island and the main, having four fathom and a half of water, and a fine sandy bottom. Our boats were then sent to sound, but the pinnace being surrounded by a party of the natives, who resolutely attempted to go on board, the seamen were compelled to fire upon them, buy which they were dispersed. At the return of our boats, finding we had brought to on a bank we weighed, and dropping over it, anchored again in ten fathom and a half: immediately after we were surrounded by thirty-three large canoes, containing above three hundred of the natives, all well armed. They traded peaceably with us for a little time; but on a signal given by one of their chiefs according to a preconcerted plan, they all immediately quitted the ship, and removing to the buoy attempted to raise our anchor; expecting, as we supposed, that the ship would afterwards drift on shore. When they were pulling at our buoy, we fired two or three shot a little beside them; but persisting in their attempt, we wounded one of their most active leaders in the arm and side, and also fired a four-pound ball a little above their heads, on which they not only dispersed, but several returned and traded with us peaceably.

In the afternoon Captain Cook, with several gentlemen, attended by a party of marines, landed on one of the islands, and incautiously suffered themselves to be surrounded by a great body of Indians, a party of them at the same time marching down to the boat to cut off their retreat. These motions being immediately seen on board the ship, a spring was put on her cables, and a broadside brought to bear on the island and several great shot fired a little over them: our people on the island were, at this time, separated in small parties, none consisting of more than three or four, and so closely beset that they found it impossible to use their arms; and the number of their enemies was so unequal, that they every minute expected death.

In the consternation and disorder occasioned by their dangerous situation, several musquets were confusedly discharged, but fortunately they did no mischief. The natives were, however, greatly terrified by the passing of our cannon balls a little above their heads, and immediately dispersed, at a time when they might with the greatest facility have destroyed every one of our people on shore. Soon after escaping this danger we were visited by several canoes with Indians, who traded in a peaceable manner.