Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England

Contents:

Show Summary
Cook’s Voyages of Discovery, pp. 151 sqq.; ed. 1904. World History

364.

Extracts from the Journal of Captain James Cook

As I was now about to quit the eastern coast of New Holland, which I had coasted from latitude 38° to this place, and which I am confident no European had ever seen before, I once more hoisted the English colors, and though I had already taken possession of several particular parts, I now took possession of the whole eastern coast, from latitude 38° to this place, latitude

south, in right of his Majesty King George III, by the name of New South Wales, with all the bays, harbors, rivers, and islands situated upon it: we then fired three volleys of small arms, which were answered by the same number from the ship. Having performed this ceremony upon the island, we called it Possession Island. . . .

New South Wales

New Holland, or, as I have now called the eastern coast, New South Wales, is of a larger extent than any other country in the known world that does not bear the name of a continent; the length of coast along which we sailed, reduced to a straight line, is no less than twenty-seven degrees of latitude, amounting to near 2000 miles, so that its square surface must be much more than equal to all Europe. To the southward of 33° or 34° the land in general is low and level; farther northward it is hilly, but in no part can be called mountainous; and the hills and mountains, taken together, make but a small part of the surface, in comparison with the valleys and plains. It is, upon the whole, rather barren than fertile, yet the rising ground is chequered by woods and lawns, and the plains and valleys are, in many places, covered with herbage: the soil, however, is frequently sandy, and many of the lawns, or savannahs, are rocky and barren, especially to the northward, where, in the best spots, vegetation was less vigorous than in the southern part of the country; the trees were not so tall, nor was the herbage so rich. The grass in general is high, but thin, and the trees, where they are largest, are seldom less than fifty feet asunder; nor is the country inland, as far as we could examine it, better clothed than the sea coast. The banks of the bays are covered with mangroves to a distance of a mile within the beach, under which the soil is a rank mud that is always overflowed by a spring-tide; farther in the country we sometimes met with a bog, upon which the grass was very thick and luxuriant, and sometimes with a valley that was clothed with underwood: the soil in some parts seemed to be capable of improvement, but the far greater part is such as can admit of no cultivation. The coast, at least that part of it which lies to the northward of 25° south, abounds with fine bays and harbors, where vessels may lie in perfect security from all winds.

If we may judge by the appearance of the country while we were there, which was in the very heighth of the dry season, it is well watered: we found innumerable small brooks and springs, but no great rivers; these brooks, however, probably become large in the rainy season. Thirsty Sound was the only place where fresh water was not to be procured for the ship, and even there one or two small pools were found in the woods, though the face of the country was everywhere intersected by salt creeks and mangrove land. . . .

The native Australians

The only tribe with which we had any intercourse we found where the ship was careened: it consisted of one and twenty persons — twelve men, seven women, one boy, and one girl: the women we never saw but at a distance, for when the men came over the river they were always left behind. The men, here and in other places, were of middle size, and in general well made, clean limbed, and remarkably vigorous, active, and nimble; their countenances were not altogether without expression, and their voices were remarkably soft and effeminate.

Their skins were so uniformly covered with dirt that it was very difficult to ascertain their true color: we made several attempts, by wetting our fingers and rubbing it, to remove the incrustations, but with very little effect. With the dirt they appear nearly as black as a negro, and according to our best discoveries, the skin itself is the color of wood soot, or what is commonly called a chocolate color. Their features are far from being disagreeable; their noses are not flat, nor are their lips thick; their teeth are white and even, and their hair naturally long and black; it is, however, universally cropped short; in general it is straight, but sometimes it has a slight curl; we saw none that was not matted and filthy, though without oil or grease, and to our great astonishment free from lice. Their beards were of the same color with their hair, and bushy and thick; they are not, however, suffered to grow long. A man whom we had seen one day with his beard somewhat longer than his companions, we saw the next with it somewhat shorter, and upon examination found the ends of the hairs burnt. From this incident, and our having never seen any sharp instrument among them, we concluded that both the hair and the beard were kept short by singeing them.

Native houses

They appeared to have no fixed habitations, for we saw nothing like a town or village in the whole country. Their houses, if houses they may be called, seemed to be formed with less art and industry than any we had seen, except the wretched hovels at Tierra del Fuego, and in some respects they are inferior even to them. At Botany Bay, where they were best, they were just high enough for a man to sit upright in, but not large enough for him to extend himself in his whole length in any direction. They are built with pliable rods about as thick as a man’s finger, in the form of an oven, by sticking the two ends into the ground, and then covering them with palm leaves and broad pieces of bark. The door is nothing but a large hole at one end, opposite to which the fire is made, as we perceived by the ashes. Under these houses, or sheds, they sleep, coiled up with their heels to their head, and in this position one of them will hold three or four persons.

Contents:

Related Resources

Early Explorers and Navigators

Download Options


Title: Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options


Title: Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: "Extracts from the Journal of Captain James Cook," Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England in Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, ed. Edward Potts Cheyney (1861-1947) (Boston: Ginn, 1935, 1922), 600–603. Original Sources, accessed February 21, 2024, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1LVUY8BYZ1JYZVX.

MLA: . "Extracts from the Journal of Captain James Cook." Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, in Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, edited by Edward Potts Cheyney (1861-1947), Boston, Ginn, 1935, 1922, pp. 600–603. Original Sources. 21 Feb. 2024. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1LVUY8BYZ1JYZVX.

Harvard: , 'Extracts from the Journal of Captain James Cook' in Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England. cited in 1922, Readings in English History Drawn from the Original Sources: Intended to Illustrate a Short History of England, ed. , Ginn, 1935, Boston, pp.600–603. Original Sources, retrieved 21 February 2024, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1LVUY8BYZ1JYZVX.