Main content area

Endeavour journal, 25 October 1768 (Series 03.059)

Notes: Page header reads: 'to Brasil'
Author: Banks, Joseph, Sir, 1743-1820
Date: 25 October 1768
Series title: Series 03: The Endeavour journal of Joseph Banks, 25 August 1768 - 12 July 1771
Frame numbers:
Transcript: 25. This morn about 8 O'Clock crossed the AEquinoctial line in about 33 degrees West Longitude from Greenwich, at the rate of four knotts which our seamen said was an uncommonly good breeze, the Thermometer standing at 29. (The Thermometers used in this voyage are two of Mr Birds making after Farenheights scale, which seldom differ above a degree from each other and that not till they are as high as 80, in which case the medium between the two instruments is set down.) This Evening the ceremony of ducking the ships company was performed as always customary on crossing the line, when those who have crossd it before Claim a right of ducking all that have not, the whole of the ceremony I shall describe.

About dinner time a list was brought into the cabbin containing the names of every body and thing aboard the ship, in which the dogs and catts were not forgot; to this was affixd a petition, sign'd 'the ships company,' desiring leave to examine every body in that List that it might be know[n] whether or not they had crossd the line before. This was immediately granted; every body was then calld upon the quarter deck and examind by one of the lieutenants who had crossd, he markd every name either to be duckd or let off according as their qualifications directed. Captn Cooke and Doctor Solander were on the Black list, as were my self my servants and doggs, which I was oblig'd to compound for by giving the Duckers a certain quantity of Brandy for which they willingly excusd us the ceremony.

Many of the Men however chose to be duckd rather than give up 4 days allowance of wine which was the price fixd upon, and as for the boys they are always duckd of course; so that about 21 underwent the ceremony which was performd thus:

A block was made fast to the end of the Main Yard and a long line reved through it, to which three Cross peices of wood were fastned, one of which was put between the leggs of the man who was to be duckd and to this he was tyed very fast, another was for him to hold in his hands and the third was over his head least the rope should be hoisted too near the block and by that means the man be hurt. When he was fas[t]ned upon this machine the Boatswain gave the command by his whistle and the man was hoisted up as high as the cross peice over his head would allow, when another signal was made and immediately the rope was let go and his own weight carried him down, he was then immediately hoisted up again and three times served in this manner which was every mans allowance. Thus ended the diversion of the day, for the ducking lasted till almost night, and sufficiently diverting it certainly was to see the different faces that were made on this occasion, some grinning and exulting in their hardiness whilst others were almost suffocated and came up ready enough to have compounded after the first or second duck, had such proceeding been allowable.

It is now time that I should say something of the climate and degree of heat since crossing the tropick, as we have been for some time within the bounds which were supposd by the ancients to be uninhabitable on account of their heat.

Almost immediately on crossing the tropick the air became sensibly much damper than usual, tho not materialy hotter, the thermometer then in general stood from 80 to 82. The nearer we approachd to the calms still the damper every thing grew, this was perceivable even to the human body and very much so, but more remarkably upon all kinds of furniture: every thing made of Iron rusted so fast that the knives in peoples pockets became almost useless and the razors in cases not free. All kinds of Leather became mouldy, Portfolios and truncks coverd with black leather were almost white, soon after this mould adheerd to almost every thing, all the books in my Library became mouldy so that they were obligd to be wiped to preserve them. About this time we came into the calms which we met with earlier than usual; the thermometer was then at 83 and we sufferd from the heat and damp together. Bathing however kept me in perfect health, tho many of the ship[s] company were ill of bilious complaints which however were but of short duration.

This continued till we got the S.E. trade, when or a little before the glass fell to 88 and soon to 78 and 79, but the dampness continued yet; to that I cheifly attribute the ill success of the Electrical experiments of which I have wrote an account on separate papers that the different experiments may appear at one view.

The air during the whole time sin[c]e we crossed the tropick and indeed sometime before has been nearly of the same temperature throughout the 24 hours, the Thermometer seldom rising above a degree during the time the sun is above the horizon. The windows of the cabbin have been open without once being shut ever since we left Madeira.