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Endeavour journal, 3 September 1770 (Series 03.741)

Notes: Page header reads: 'Coast of New Guinea'; 'New Guinea'
Author: Banks, Joseph, Sir, 1743-1820
Date: 3 September 1770
Series title: Series 03: The Endeavour journal of Joseph Banks, 25 August 1768 - 12 July 1771
Frame numbers:
Transcript: 3. After having saild all night along shore with a brisk breeze we found ourselves in the morn not far from it: It appeard as it had done whenever we had seen it before, uncommonly flat and low, not having so much as a slope in any part, the whole one grove of trees very thick and pleasant to all appearance. This was the sixth day we had now coasted along still upon the same bank of mud, which by its shoalness prevented our approaches near enough to make going ashore convenient. This delay and the loss of so many days fair wind when we well knew the SE Monsoon was nearly at an end was irksome to us all: it was therefore resolvd to run the ship in as near the shore as possible and then send off the pinnace, which might go ashore while the ship ply'd off and on and learn whether the produce of the countrey or the usage she might meet with from the inhabitants would be such as might induce us to search farther. We accordingly stood right in shore and at ½ past 8 had less than 3 fathm water 5 or 6 miles from the shore. The Captn Dr Solander and myself with the Boats crew and my servants, consisting in all of 12 men well armd, went in her and rowd directly towards the shore but could not get nearer than about 200 yards on account of the shallowness of the water; we quickly however got out of the boat and waded ashore leaving two in her to take care of her. We had no sooner landed than we saw the prints of naked feet upon the mud below High watermark, which convincd us that the Indians were not far off tho we had seen yet no signs of any. The nature of the countrey made it necessary for us to be very much upon our guard: the close thick wood came down to within less than 100 yards of the water, and therefore so near might the Indians come without our seeing them, and should they by numbers overpower us a retreat to the boat was impossible as she was so far from the shore. We proceeded therefore with much caution, looking carefully about us, myself and the Dr looking for plants at the edge of the wood and the rest walking along the Beach. In about 200 yards from our landing we came to a grove of Cocoa nut trees of a very small growth but well hung with fruit standing upon the banks of a small brook of brackish water. Near them was a small shed hardly half coverd with cocoa nut leaves, in and about which were infinite Cocoa nut shells, some quite fresh. We stayd under these trees some time admiring and wishing for the fruit, but as none of us could climb it was impossible to get even one so we even left them and proceeded in search of any thing else which might occur. We soon found Plantains and a single Bread fruit tree but neither of these had any fruit on them, so we proceeded and had got about a quarter of a mile from the boat when on a sudden 3 Indians rushd out of the woods with a hideous shout, about 100 yards beyond us and running towards us. The formost threw something out of his hand which flew on one side of him and burnd exactly like gunpowder, the other two immediately threw two darts at us on which we fird. The most of our guns were loaded with small shot which at the distance they were from us I suppose they hardly felt, for they movd not at all but immediately threw a third dart on which we loaded and fird again. Our Balls I suppose this time fell near them but none of them were materialy hurt as they ran away with great alacrity. From this specimen of the people we immediately concluded that nothing was to be got here but by force, which would of course be attended with destruction of many of these poor people, whose territories we had certainly no right to invade either as discoverers or people in real want of provisions; we therefore resolvd to go into our boat and leave intirely this coast to some aftercomer who might have either more time or better opportunities to gain the freindship of its inhabitants. Before we had got abreast of her however we saw the two people in her make signals to us that more Indians were coming along shore, and before we had got into the water we saw them come round a point about 500 yards from us. They had met probably the three who first attackd us for on seeing us they halted and seemd to wait till the main body should come up, nor did they come nearer us all the while we waded to her; they continued however with their fire to defy us and shouted very loud. When we were embarked and afloat we rowd towards them and fird some musquets over their heads into the trees, on which they walkd gradualy off continuing to throw abundance of their fires (whatever they migh[t] be designed for). We guessd their numbers to be about 100. After we had lookd at them and their behaviour as long as we chose we returnd to the ship, where our freinds had sufferd much anziety for our sakes imagining that the fires thrown by the Indians were real musquets, so much did they resemble the fire and smoak made by the firing of one.

The place where we landed we judgd to be near Cabo de la Colta de Santa Bonaventura, as it is calld in the French charts, about 9 or 10 lgs to the Southward of Keer Weer. We were not ashore upon the whole more than two hours so can not be expected to have made many observations.

The Soil had all the appearance of the highest fertil[it]y but was coverd with a prodigious quantity of trees which seemd to thrive luxuriantly. Notwithstanding this the cocoa nut trees bore very small Fruit and the Plantains did not seem very thriving; the only breadfruit tree that we saw however was very large and healthy. There was very little variety of plants: we saw only 23 species every one of which was known to us, except perhaps the 1st and 2nd may prove upon comparison to be different from any of the many Species of Cyperus we have still undetermind from New Holland. Had we had axes to cut down the trees or could we have venturd into the woods we should doubtless have found more, but we had only an opportunity of examining the beach and edge of the wood. I am of opinion however that the countrey does not abound in variety of species, as I have been in no one before where I could not on a good soil have gatherd more by far with the same time and opportunity. Here follows the list:

Cyperus ....

Commerlina communis Linn.

Convolvulus Brasiliensis Linn.

Solanum nigrum Linn.

Morinda citrifolia Linn.

Chaitea Tacca Mscr.

Lobelia Plumierii Linn.

Arum macroizum Linn.

Coix Lacryma Jobi Linn.

Guilandina Bonduccela Linn.

Eugenia Butonica Mscr.

Vitex trifolia Linn.

Hibiscus tiliaceus Linn.

Glycine speciosa Mscr.

Dolichos giganteus Mscr.

Abrus precatorius Linn.

Hedysarum umbellatum Linn.

Sitodium altile Mscr.

Casuarina equisetifolia Mscr.

Musa Paradisaica Linn.

Cocos nucifera Linn.

The people as well as we could judge were nearly of the same colour as the New Hollanders, some thought rather lighter, they were certainly stark naked. Their arms that they made use of against us were very light ill made darts of Bamboo cane pinted with hard wood in which were many barbs; they may be shot them with bows but I am of opinion that they threw them with a stick something in the manner of the New Hollanders; they came beyond us about 60 yards, but not in a point blanc direction. Besides these many among them, may be a fifth part of the whole, had in their hands a short peice of stick may be hollow cane, which they swung sideways from them and immediately fire flew from it perfectly resembling the flash and smoak of a musquet and of no longer duration; for what purpose this was done is far above my guessing. They had with them several dogs who ran after them in the same manner as ours do in Europe.

The house or shed that we saw was very mean and poor. It consisted of 4 stakes drove into the ground, 2 being longer than the other two: over these were layd cocoa nut leaves loose and not half enough to cover it. By the cutting of these stakes as well as of the arrows or darts which they threw at us we concluded that they had no Iron among them.

As soon as ever the boat was hoisted in we made sail and steerd away from this land to the No small satisfaction of I beleive thre[e] fourths of our company the sick became well and the melancholy lookd gay. The greatest part of them were now pretty far gone with the longing for home which the Physicians have gone so far as to esteem a disease under the name of Nostalgia; indeed I can find hardly any body in the ship clear of its effects but the Captn Dr Solander and myself, indeed we three have pretty constant employment for our minds which I beleive to be the best if not the only remedy for it.