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Endeavour journal, 16 August 1770 (Series 03.722)

Notes: Page header reads: 'Becalm'd off the Reef'; 'Saild into the Opening'; 'Going into the opening'; 'at anchor within the Reef'
Author: Banks, Joseph, Sir, 1743-1820
Date: 16 August 1770
Series title: Series 03: The Endeavour journal of Joseph Banks, 25 August 1768 - 12 July 1771
Frame numbers:
Transcript: 16. At three O'Clock this morn it dropd calm on a sudden which did not at all better our situation: we judgd ourselves not more than 4 or 5 l'gs from the reef, maybe much less, and the swell of the sea which drove right in upon it carried the ship towards it fast. We tried the lead often in hopes to find ground that we might anchor but in vain; before 5 the roaring of the Surf was plainly heard and as day broke the vast foaming billows were plainly enough to be seen scarce a mile from us and towards which we found the ship carried by the waves surprizingly fast, so that by 6 o'clock we were within a Cables lengh of them, driving on as fast as ever and still no ground with 100 fathm of line. Every method had been taken since we first saw our danger to get the boats out in hopes that they might tow us off but it was not yet acomplishd; the Pinnace had had a Plank strippd off her for repair and the longboat under the Booms was lashd and fastned so well from our supposd security that she was not yet got out. Two large Oars or sweeps were got out at the stern ports to pull the ships head round the other way in hopes that might delay till the boats were out. All this while we were approaching and came I beleive before this could be effected within 40 yards of the breaker; the same sea that washd the side of the ship rose in a breaker enormously high the very next time is did rise, so between us and it was only a dismal valley the breadth of one wave; even now the lead was hove 3 or 4 lines fastned together but no ground could be felt with above 150 fathm. Now was our case truly desperate, no man I beleive but who gave himself intirely over, a speedy death was all we had to hope for and that from the vastness of the Breakers which must quickly dash the ship all to peices was scarce to be doubted. Other hopes we had none: the boats were in the ship and must be dashd in peices with her and the nearest dry land was 8 or 10 Leagues distant. We did not however cease our endeavours to get out the long boat which was by this time almost accomplishd. At this critical juncture, at this I must say terrible moment, when all asistance seemd too little to save even our miserable lives, a small air of wind sprang up, so small that at any other time in a calm we should not have observd it. We however plainly saw that it instantly checkd our progress; every sail was therefore put in a proper direction to catch it and we just obse[r]vd the ship to move in a slaunting direction off from the breakers. This at least gave us time and redoubling our efforts we at last got out the long boat and manning her sent her a head. The ship still movd a little off but in less than 10 minutes our little Breeze died away into as flat a calm as ever. Now was our anziety again renewd: innumerable small peices of paper &c were thrown over the ships side to find whither the boats realy movd her ahead or not and so little did she move that it remaind almost every other time a matter of dispute. Our little freindly Breeze now visited us again and lasted about as long as before, thrusting us possibly 100 yards farther from the breakers: we were still however in the very jaws of destruction. A small opening had been seen in the reef about a furlong from us, its breadth was scarce the lengh of the ship, into this however it was resolvd to push her if posible. Within was no surf, therefore we might save our lives: the doubt was only whether we could get the ship so far: our little breeze however a third time visited us and pushd us almost there. The fear of Death is Bitter: the prospect we now had before us of saving our lives tho at the expence of every thing we had made my heart set much lighter on its throne, and I suppose there were none but what felt the same sensations. At lengh we arrivd off the mouth of the wishd for opening and found to our surprize what had with the little breeze been the real cause of our Escape, a thing that we had not before dreamt of. The tide of flood it was that had hurried us so unacountably fast towards the reef, in the near neighbourhood of which we arrivd just at high water, consequently its ceasing to drive us any farther gave us the opportunity we had of getting off. Now however the tide of Ebb made strong and gushd out of our little opening like a mill stream, so that it was impossible to get in; of this stream however we took the advantage as much as possible and it Carried us out near a quarter of a mile from the reef. We well knew that we were to take all the advantage possible of the Ebb so continued towing with all our might and with all our boats, the Pinnance being now repaird, till we had gott an offing of 1½ or 2 miles. By this time the tide began to turn and our suspence began again: as we had gaind so little while the ebb was in our favour we had some reason to imagine that the flood would hurry us back upon the reef in spite of our utmost endeavours. It was still as calm as ever so no likely hood of any wind today; indeed had wind sprung up we could only have searchd for another opening, for we were so embayd by the reef that with the general trade wind it was impossible to get out. Another opning was however seen ahead and the 1st Lieutenant went away in the small boat to examine it. In the mean time we strugled hard with the flood, sometimes gaining a little then holding only our own and at others loosing a little, so that our situation was almost as bad as ever, as the flood had not yet come to its strengh. At 2 however the Lieutentant arrivd with news that the opening was very narrow: in it was good anchorage and a passage quite in free from shoals. The ships head was immediately put towards it and with the tide she towd fast so that by three we enterd and were hurried in by a stream almost like a mill race, which kept us from even a fear of the sides tho it was not above ¼ of mile in breadth. By 4 we came to an anchor happy once more to encounter those shoals which but two days before we thought ourselves supreamly happy to have escap'd from. How little do men know what is for their real advantage: two days [ago?] our utmost wishes were crownd by getting without the reef and today we were made again happy by getting within it.