« ForrigeFortsett »
his discoveries, although it is probably the land which Gerritz had descried a century before.
His discoveries on the north-west coast of America were still more important and more extensive. In one voyage he effected more than the Spanish navigators had been able to accomplish in the course of two centuries. In sailing through Behring's Strait, he determined the proximity of Asia and America, which Behring himself had failed to perceive; and he assigned the coast of the Tshuktzki to its true place; which, in many maps of his time, was placed some degrees too far to the westward.
It is needless to recapitulate here the large additions which he made to our knowledge of the groups of islands scattered through the Pacific Ocean. Some of the Society and Friendly Islands were known before his time; but he carefully surveyed those archipelagoes, and fixed the positions of the chief islands, such as Otaheite and Tongataboo, with an accuracy equal to that of a European observatory. He prided himself especially on having discovered the Sandwich Islands; and there is no good reason to refuse him that honour; for, even if it be true that a Spanish navigator, named Gali, discovered those isl. ands in 1576, and that he gave to Owhyhee the name of Mesa or-Table Mountain, which is marked in old Spanish charts twenty-two degrees to the west of the Sandwich Islands, but in the same latitude with them; yet no stress can be laid on a discovery from which mankind derived no knowledge. The Spaniards seem soon to have totally forgot the Sandwich Islands, if they ever knew them, notwithstanding the advantages which they might have derived from those islands in their frequent voyages from New Spain to Manilla. Anson and many other navigators might have been spared infinite distress and suffering in their voyages across the Pacific, had any thing certain been known of the existence and situation of the Sandwich Islands.
But Cook's merit is not more conspicuous in the extent of his discoveries, than in the correctness with which he laid down the position of every coast of which he caught a glimpse. His surveys afford the materials of accurate geography. He adopted in practice every improvement suggested by the progress of science; and, instead of committing errors amounting to two or three degrees of longitude, like most of his predecessors, his determinations were such as to be considered accurate even at the present day; nor was this the merit of the astronomers who accompanied him on his expeditions. He was himself a skilful observer, and at the same time so vigilant and indefatigable, that no opportunity ever escaped him of ascertaining his true place. He possessed in an eminent degree the sagacity peculiar to seamen; and in his conjectures respecting the configurations of coasts he very rarely. erred. La Perouse, who was a highly accomplished seaman, always mentions the name of Cook with the warmest admiration, and frequently alludes to the remarkable correctness of his surveys. Crozet, also, who wrote the narrative of Marion's voyage, speaking of Cook's survey of the shores of New Zealand, says—“ That its exactness and minuteness of detail astonished him beyond expression;" but Cook's skill as a marine surveyor may be still better estimated from the chart which, at the commencement of his career, he constructed of the coasts of Newfoundland; and of that chart, ,captain Frederick Bullock, the able officer who has recently completed the survey of Newfoundland, speaks in those terms of warm commendation which a man of ability naturally bestows on whatever is excellent.
From the second expedition of Cook may be dated the art of preserving the health of the seamen in long voyages: before that time, navigators who crossed the Pacific, hurried precipitately by the shortest course to the Ladrones, or the Philippine Islands; and yet they rarely reached home without the loss of a large proportion of their crew. Cook, on the other hand, felt himself perfectly at home on the ocean; he did not care to limit his voyages, either in space of time or of distance; he sailed through every climate, crossing both the arctic and antarctic circles; and proved that a voyage of four years duration does not necessarily affect the health of seamen. This was a discovery of far greater importance than that of a new continent could have been: by his banishing the terror that arose from the frightful mortality that previously attended on long voyages, he has mainly contributed to the boldness of navigation which distinguishes the present day.
Among the immediate effects of captain Cook's voyages, the most important was the establishment of a colony at Botany Bay. That great navigator seems to have contracted a partiality towards the New Zealanders; he admired their generosity, their manly carriage, and their intelligence. Their country appeared to him fertile; abounding in commodities which might become valuable in commerce; and he hints, though with diffidence, to the possibility of a trade being carried on between Europe and New Zealand. His observations on this subject had influence, no doubt, on the minds of the English ministers, and they resolved on establishing a colony at New Holland; and the result has justified Cook's sanguine anticipations. The fur trade also, which soon caused such a concourse of European shipping in the Pacific Ocean, originated with his third voyage; but his familiarity with the South Sea islanders, the trade which he established with them, and the practice which he commenced of purchasing sea stores from them, have had, perhaps, a still stronger influence on navigation in the Pacific.
Finally, to complete the eulogium on this great navigator, it will be sufficient to enumerate some of the distinguished seamen who served under him, such as Vancouver, Broughton, Bligh, Burney, Colnett, Portlock, Dixon, &c.: these men learned under Cook the arduous duties of their professio.., and they always spoke of him with unqualified admiration and respect.
VOYAGE OF LA PEROUSE, ETC.
Emulation of the French.-La Perouse appointed to command an Expedition.
His Instructions.-Visit to Easter Island.-Account of the Statues.--Arts of the People.-Sandwich Islands.-American Coast.-Port des Francois.--AN Island purchased by the French.-Calamitous Occurrence there.- Voyage to Macao. Japanese Seas.-Coast of Tatary.-Baie de Ternai.-Sagaleen.Information derived from the People.-Staits of La Perouse.- Arrivid at Kamtschatka.-Monument to Captain Clerke.--M. Lesseps despatcheu over Land to Europe.-Navigators' Islands.-Massacre of the French by the Natives.- Voyage to Botany.-Letter of La Perouse.-Mystery respecting his Fate.--His Merits.-Decree of the National Assembly.--D'Entrecasteaux sails in search of him.--Fate of his Expedition.-Adventure at the Feejee Islands.--Information obtained by Captain Dillon at Tucopia.-He returns to seek Vestiges of the French.–Visits Malicolo.--Account of the Shipwreck given by the Natives.—Relics collected.—Results.
GREAT BRITAIN now stood pre-eminently distinguished, and was looked up to with gratitude by all civilized nations, for the bold and successful expeditions which she had fitted out in pursuit of geographical discoveries.' As soon as the war, commencing in 1778, was brought to a close, in 1783, France, emulous of the glory of a rival nation, hastened to equip a squadron destined to solve those geographical difficulties which Cook had left untouched. The officer chosen to command this expedition was Francis Galaup de la Perouse, an officer of great experience and talents, and who had shown himself particularly fitted to conduct an enterprise of this nature, by his skill in combating the difficulties which thwart navigation in Hudson's Bay, whither in the late war he had been despatched with a squadron to destroy the British settlements. In this affair he had also displayed a generosity in his treatment of the unfortunate colonists, which won him the applause and esteem of the English nation.
The directions given to La Perouse for his voyage were remarkably luminous and instructive; but the plan was too comprehensive to fall within the capabilities of a single expedition. It aimed at little less than the filling up of every chasm, and dispelling every obscurity, that still remained in maritime geography. He was ordered, in his passage to Cape Horn, to exan.
ine the southern coasts of Sandwich Land and New Georgia, so as to complete the survey made of these desolate countries by captain Cook. He was then to run in a high latitude to the west, in search of Drake's Land. On approaching the tropics, he was instructed to ascertain correctly the position of Pitcairn's Island, by which means the track of Čarteret across the Pacific Ocean, and his various discoveries, "might be more accurately fixed. After visiting Quiros's Island of the Handsome Nation, the Santa Cruz of Mendana, and the Salomon Islands, of which Bougainville had visited a portion ; after completing the survey of New Caledonia, which Cook had traced only on the eastern side; Perouse was to explore the great Gulf of Carpentaria, on the north of New Holland, and then to return to the Marquesas to rest after his first campaign. The complete execution of what is here prescribed would alone have conferred honour upon any expedition.
The French ships were next to proceed to examine narrowly the north-western coast of America, particularly with a view to discover whether there was any communication with the east. The Aleutian Isles were next to be surveyed; and then the ships, having touched at Kamtschatka, were to proceed by way of the Kuriles and Japan to Manilla and China. Here they were to refresh, and prepare themselves for the most difficult and novel part of their task: this was to explore the eastern coast of Tatary, with which European geographers had as yet but little acquaintance. The island of Yedzo being surveyed, the expedition was to touch a second time at Kamtschatka, and then to return homeward through the Ladrones, the New Carolinas, and the Moluccas, surveying accurately and fixing the position of every coast at which they arrived. Nor were they to abandon, on their homeward voyage, all further search for the Cape Circumcision of Bouvet, though the fruitless efforts of Cook to find that apocryphal land might have been deemed sufficient proof that it had no existence.
The preparations for this expedition were as complete as its plan was extensive. Two fine frigates, the Boussole and the Astrolabe, were selected for it, and several men of the first eminence in every department of science were prevailed on to accompany it. In the number of these was Monge, who has since risen to distinction as one of the great triumvirate of French mathematicians. But his health was so seriously deranged by sea-sickness, that he quitted the expedition at Teneriffe, and thus saved a life which was destined to contribute so much to the advancement of science. The boldness of design and the extensive geographical knowledge which marked the plan of this expedition, the liberality and care with which it was equipped, and the undoubted ability of all who were engaged
in it, might have been deemed sufficient guarantees of its success, and gave rise to the most sanguine expectations; yet it was pursued throughout by a train of bitter misfortunes, and terminated in a lamentable catastrophe, hardly paralleled in the annals of navigation.
The commencement of the voyage was fortunate. The ships having taken refreshment at the island of St. Catharine, on the coast of Brazil, doubled Cape Horn with comparative ease; but nevertheless the voyage round the southern point of the American continent, even under favourable circumstances, was found so tedious and distressing, as to render it inexpedient to launch at once across the Pacific Ocean in pursuit of discoveries. La Perouse steered, therefore, for Easter Island, of whose inhabitants the French naturalists were enabled to form a juster idea than those who had accompanied captain Cook. The colossal statues which chiefly attract the attention of visitors to this singular island, and which were supposed by the English to be moulded of a composition, were found to be formed of that light volcanic substance called lapillo. The ground, in some places, was cultivated with great care and skill; and the islanders, though fully as ingenious as described by the English, seemed to the French neither so miserable nor so few in number. They lived in villages, and in some instances the inhabitants of a whole district were lodged under the same roof. The great houses which were thus occupied in common were above 300 feet in length, constructed with great care, and resembled in appearance an inverted canoe. If the arts and social improvement of these islanders, rude as they are, be compared with the scanty means with which nature has provided them, they may, perhaps, be reckoned amongst the most extraordinary people in the world.
From Easter Island the French proceeded to the Sandwich Islands to obtain a stock of fresh provisions, and stayed a short time at Mowee, an island which Cook had not surveyed. But nothing occurred of any interest while they remained here, nor were they able to add any thing of importance to the ample information respecting those islands which had already been published by the English navigators.
Perouse now entered on the arduous portion of his labours, in the examination of the north-west coast of America, which he reached in June, 1786, in lat. 59o. Only two or three months now remained to him to examine this coast, as he was bound by his instructions to reach China by February, that he might commence the examination of the Tatarian coast in the ensuing spring. He arrived on the coast of America near Mount St. Elias, from which point, towards the north, the coast had been carefully examined by captain Cook, for whose memory