23rd August 1770
In the P.M. had little wind and Variable, with which and the Tide of Flood we keept advancing to the West-North-West; depth of Water 8, 7, and 5 fathoms. At 1/2 past 1 the pinnace, which was ahead, made the Signal for Shoal Water, upon which we Tackt and sent away the Yawl to sound also, and then Tack'd again, and stood after them with the Ship; 2 hours after this they both at once made the Signal for having Shoal water. I was afraid to stand on for fear of running aground at that time of the Tide, and therefore came to an Anchor in 1/4 less 7 fathoms, sandy ground. Wallice's Islands bore South by West 1/2 West, distant 5 or 6 Miles, the Islands to the Northward extending from North 73 degrees East to North 10 degrees East, and a small island* (* Booby Island.) just in sight bearing North-West 1/2 West. Here we found the flood Tide set to the Westward and Ebb to the Contrary. After we had come to Anchor I sent away the Master with the Long boat to sound, who, upon his return in the evening, reported that there was a bank stretching North and South, upon which were 3 fathoms Water, and behind it 7 fathoms. We had it Calm all Night and until 9 in the morning, at which time we weigh'd, with a light breeze at South-South-East, and steer'd North-West by West for the Small Island above mentioned, having first sent the Boats ahead to sound; depth of Water 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, and 3 fathoms when upon the Bank,* (* The Endeavour Strait is now little used, on account of this great bank, which nearly bars its western part. There is, however, deeper water than Cook found, a few miles to the southward; but it is just the difficulty of finding this narrow pass, so far from land, and the fact that there is a deep though narrow channel north of Prince of Wales Island, that has caused it to be abandoned. The passage of Torres Strait is, however, still an anxious bit of navigation.) it being now the last Quarter Ebb. At this time the most Northermost Islands we had in sight bore North 9 degrees East; the South-West point of the largest Islands on the North-West side of the Passage, which I named Cape Cornwall, bore East; distant 3 Leagues. This bank, at least so much as we sounded, extends nearly North and South, how far I cannot say; its breadth, however, is not more than 1/4 or at most 1/2 a Mile. Being over the Bank, we deepned our water to a 1/4 less 7 fathoms, which depth we carried all the way to the small Island ahead, which we reached by Noon, at which time it bore South, distant near 1/2 a Mile; depth of Water 5 fathoms.
The most northermost land we had in sight (being part of the same Chain of Islands we have had to the Northward of us since we entered the Passage) bore North 71 degrees East; Latitude in, by Observation, 10 degrees 33 minutes South, Longitude 219 degrees 22 minutes West. In this situation we had no part of the Main land in sight. Being now near the island, and having but little wind, Mr. Banks and I landed upon it, and found it to be mostly a barren rock frequented by Birds, such as Boobies, a few of which we shott, and occasioned my giving it the name of Booby Island.* (* Booby Island is now the great landmark for ships making Torres Strait from the westward. There is a light upon it.) I made but very short stay at this Island before I return'd to the Ship; in the meantime the wind had got to the South-West, and although it blow'd but very faint, yet it was accompanied with a Swell from the same quarter. This, together with other concuring Circumstances, left me no room to doubt but we had got to the Westward of Carpentaria, or the Northern extremity of New Holland, and had now an open Sea to the Westward; which gave me no small satisfaction, not only because the danger and fatigues of the Voyage was drawing near to an end, but by being able to prove that New Holland and New Guinea are 2 separate Lands or Islands, which until this day hath been a doubtful point with Geographers.*
(* Luis Vaez de Torres, commanding a Spanish ship in company with Quiros in 1605, separated from his companion in the New Hebrides. He afterwards passed through the Strait separating New Guinea from Australia, which now bears his name. This fact, however, was little known, as the Spaniards suppressed all account of the voyage; and though it leaked out later, the report was so vague that it was very much doubted whether he had really passed this way. On most charts and maps of the period, New Guinea was shown joined to Australia, and to Cook the establishment of the Strait may fairly be given. Only the year before Bougainville, the French navigator, who preceded Cook across the Pacific, and who was steering across the Coral Sea on a course which would have led him to Lizard Island, abandoned his search in that direction, after falling in with two reefs to the eastward of the Barrier, because he feared falling amongst other shoals, and had no faith whatever in the reports of the existence of Torres Strait. Had he persevered, he would have snatched from Cook the honour of the complete exploration of Eastern Australia, and of the verification of the passage between it and New Guinea. Bougainville paid dearly for his caution, as he found that retracing his steps against the trade wind, in order to pass eastward and northward of New Guinea, occupied such a weary time, that he and his people were nearly starved before they reached a place of refreshment.)
Joseph Banks Journal
In the morn calm: at nine however a small breeze sprang up on which we weighd and saild through a channel which had been found during the calm. At noon we were abreast of an Island which was white with the Dung of Birds; as we had little wind the ship was brought too we went ashore upon it and shot bobies till our ammunition was quite expended. I myself Botanizd and found some plants which I had not before seen. After we came on board the winds were variable and soon after calm and very hot. Water still continued very Shoal but the swell, which ran larger than any we had met with within the reef, gave us great hope.
Sydney Parkinson Journal
On the 23d, we had light breezes from the N. and S.W. with some calms, and were certain of being in a strait, which seemed to be not very remote from the river Van Speult in Carpentaria; the land to the north being made up of a cluster of islands. We found shallow water all through this strait, which we named Endeavour Straits; and went over a bar that had only three fathoms and a half water. About noon, we saw a small island covered with birds-dung of a white colour, and some of our people went off in a boat, and shot a score of birds called Boobies.
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