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Endeavour journal, 16 January 1769 (Series 03.141)

Notes: Page header reads: 'Streights [sic] of La Maire'
Author: Banks, Joseph, Sir, 1743-1820
Date: 16 January 1769
Series title: Series 03: The Endeavour journal of Joseph Banks, 25 August 1768 - 12 July 1771
Frame numbers:
Transcript: 16. This morn very early Dr Solander and myself with our servants and two Seamen to assist in carrying baggage, accompanied by Msrs Monkhouse and Green, set out from the ship to try to penetrate into the countrey as far as we could, and if possible gain the tops of the hills where alone we saw places not overgrown with trees. We began to enter the woods at a small sandy beach a little to the westward of the watering place and continued pressing through pathless thickets, always going up hill, till 3 o'Clock

before we gaind even a near view of the places we intended to go to. The weather had all this time been vastly fine much like a sunshiny day in May, so that neither heat nor cold was troublesome to us nor were there any insects to molest us, which made me think the traveling much better than what I had before met with in Newfoundland.

Soon after we saw the plains we arrivd at them, but found to our great disapointment that what we took for swathe was no better than low bushes of birch about reaching a mans middle; these were so stubborn that they could not be bent out of the way, but at every step the leg must be lifted over them and on being plac'd again on the ground was almost sure to sink above the anckles in bog. No traveling could possibly be worse than this which seemd to last about a mile, beyond which we expected to meet with bare rock, for such we had seen from the tops of lower hills as we came: this I particularly was infinitely eager to arrive at expecting there to find the alpine plants of a countrey so curious. Our people tho rather fatigued were yet in good spirits so we pushd on intending to rest ourselves as soon as we should arrive at plain ground.

We proceeded two thirds of the way without the least difficulty and I confess I thought for my own part that all difficulties were surmounted when Mr Buchan fell into a fit. A fire was immediately lit for him and with him all those who were most tird remaind behind, while Dr Solander Mr Green Mr Monkhouse and myself advancd for the alp which we reachd almost immediately, and found according to expectation plants which answerd to those we had found before as alpine ones in Europe do to those which we find in the plains.

The air was here very cold and we had frequent snow blasts. I had now intirely given over all thoughts of reaching the ship that night and though[t] of nothing but getting into the thick of the wood and making a fire, which as our road lay all down hill seemd very easy to accomplish, so Msrs Green and Monkhouse returnd to the people and appointed a hill for our general rendevous from whence we should proceed and build our wigwam. The cold now increased apace, it might be near 8 O'Clock tho yet exceedingly good daylight so we proceeded for the nearest valley, where the short Birch, the only thing we now dreaded, could not be ½ a mile over. Our people seemd well tho cold and Mr Buchan was stronger than we could have expected. I undertook to bring up the rear and se[e] that no one was left behind. We passd about half way very well when the cold seemd to have at once an effect infinitely beyond what I have ever experienced. Dr Solander was the first who felt it, he said he could not go any fa[r]ther but must lay down, tho the ground was coverd with snow, and down he laid notwisthstanding all I could say to the contrary. Richmond a black Servant now began also to lag and was much in the same way as the dr: at this Juncture I dispatchd 5 forwards of whom Mr Buchan was one to make ready a fire at the very first convenient place they could find, while myself with 4 more staid behind to persuade if possible the dr and Richmond to come on. With much persuasion and intreaty we got through much the largest part of the Birch when they both gave out; Richmond said that he could not go any further and when told that if he did not he must be Froze to death only answerd that there he would lay and dye; the Dr on the contrary said that he must sleep a little before he could go on and actualy did full a quarter of an hour, at which time we had the welcome news of a fire being lit about a quarter of a mile ahead. I then undertook to make the Dr Proceed to it; finding it impossible to make Richmond stir left two hands with him who seemd the least affected with Cold, promising to send two to releive them as soon as I should reach the fire. With much difficulty I got the Dr to it and as soon as two people were sufficiently warmd sent them out in hopes that they would bring Richmond and the rest; after staying about half an hour they returnd bringing word that they had been all round the place shouting and hallowing but could not get any answer. We now guess'd the cause of the mischeif, a bottle of rum the whole of our stock was missing, and we soon concluded that it was in one of their Knapsacks and that the two who were left in health had drank immoderately of it and had slept like the other.

For two hours now it had snowd almost incessantly so we had little hopes of seeing any of the three alive: about 12 however to our great Joy we heard a shouting, on which myself and 4 more went out immediately and found it to be the Seaman who had wakd almost starvd to death and come a little way from where he lay. Him I sent back to the fire and proceeded by his direction to find the other two, Richmond was upon his leggs but not able to walk the other lay on the ground as insensible as a stone. We immediately calld all hands from the fire and attempted by all the means we could contrive to bring them down but finding it absolutely impossible, the road was so bad and the night so dark that we could scarcely ourselves get on nor did we without many Falls. We would then have lit a fire upon the spot but the snow on the ground as well as that which continualy fell renderd that as impracticable as the other, and to bring fire from the other place was also impossible from the quantity of snow which fell every moment from the branches of the trees; so we were forc'd to content ourselves with laying out our unfortunate companions upon a bed of boughs and covering them over with boughs also as thick as we were able, and thus we left them hopeless of ever seeing them again alive which indeed we never did.

In these employments we had spent an hour and a half expos'd to the most penetrating cold I ever felt as well as continual snow. Peter Briscoe, another servant of mine, began now to complain and before we came to the fire became very ill but got there at last almost dead with cold.

Now might our situation truely be calld terrible: of twelve our original number 2 were already past all hopes, one more was so ill that tho he was with us I had little hopes of his being able to walk in the morning, and another very likely to relapse into his fitts either before we set out or in the course of our journey: we were distant from the ship we did not know how far, we knew only that we had been the greatest past of a day in walking it through pathless woods: provision we had none but one vulture which had been shot while we were out,

and at the shortest allowance could not furnish half a meal: and to compleat our misfortunes we were caught in a snow storm in a climate we were utterly unaquainted with but which we had reason to beleive was as inhospitable as any in the world, not only from all the accounts we had heard or read but from the Quantity of snow which we saw falling, tho it was very little after midsummer: a circumstance unheard of in Europe for even in Norway or Lapland snow is never known to fall in the summer.