20th August 1770

[Nearing Cape York, Queensland]
Fresh breezes at East-South-East. About one P.M. the pinnace having got ahead, and the Yawl we took in Tow, we fill'd and Steer'd North by West, for some small Islands we had in that direction. After approaching them a little nearer we found them join'd or connected together by a large Reef; upon this we Edged away North-West, and left them on our Starboard hand, steering between them and the Island laying off the Main, having a fair and Clear Passage; Depth of Water from 15 to 23 fathoms. At 4 we discover'd some low Islands and Rocks bearing West-North-West, which we stood directly for. At half Past 6 we Anchor'd on the North-East side of the Northermost, in 16 fathoms, distant from the Island one Mile. This Isle lay North-West 4 Leagues from Cape Grenville. On the Isles we saw a good many Birds, which occasioned my calling them Bird Isles. Before and at Sunset we could see the Main land, which appear'd all very low and sandy, Extends as far to the Northward as North-West by North, and some Shoals, Keys, and low sandy Isles away to the North-East of us.

At 6 A.M. we got again under sail, with a fresh breeze at East, and stood away North-North-West for some low Islands* (* Boydong Keys.) we saw in that direction; but we had not stood long upon this Course before we were obliged to haul close upon a wind in Order to weather a Shoal which we discover'd on our Larboard bow, having at the same time others to the Eastward of us. By such time as we had weathered the Shoal to Leeward we had brought the Islands well upon our Leebow; but seeing some Shoals spit off from them, and some rocks on our Starboard bow, which we did not discover until we were very near them, made me afraid to go to windward of the Islands; wherefore we brought too, and made the signal for the pinnace, which was a head, to come on board, which done, I sent her to Leeward of the Islands, with Orders to keep along the Edge off the Shoal, which spitted off from the South side of the Southermost Island. The Yawl I sent to run over the Shoals to look for Turtle, and appointed them a Signal to make in case they saw many; if not, she was to meet us on the other side of the Island. As soon as the pinnace had got a proper distance from us we wore, and stood After her, and run to Leeward of the Islands, where we took the Yawl in Tow, she having seen only one small Turtle, and therefore made no Stay upon the Shoal. Upon this Island, which is only a Small Spott of Land, with some Trees upon it, we saw many Hutts and habitations of the Natives, which we supposed come over from the Main to these Islands (from which they are distant about 5 Leagues) to Catch Turtle at the time these Animals come ashore to lay their Eggs. Having got the Yawl in Tow, we stood away after the pinnace North-North-East and North by East to 2 other low Islands, having 2 Shoals, which we could see without and one between us and the Main.

At Noon we were about 4 Leagues from the Main land, which we could see Extending to the Northward as far as North-West by North, all low, flat, and Sandy. Our Latitude by observation was 11 degrees 23 minutes South, Longitude in 217 degrees 46 minutes West, and Course and distance sail'd since Yesterday at Noon North 22 degrees West, 40 Miles; soundings from 14 to 23 fathoms. But these are best seen upon the Chart, as likewise the Islands, Shoals, etc., which are too Numerous to be Mentioned singly.* (* It is very difficult to follow Cook's track after entering Providential Channel to this place. The shoals and islands were so confusing that their positions are very vaguely laid down on Cook's chart. It is easy to imagine how slow was his progress and tortuous his course, with a boat ahead all the time constantly signalling shallow water. Nothing is more trying to officers and men.)

Joseph Banks Journal
Steering along shore as usual among many shoals, Luffing up for some and bearing away for others. We are now pretty well experiencd in their appearances so as seldom to be deceivd and easily to know asunder a bottom colourd by white sand from a coral rock, the former of which, tho generaly in 12 or 14 fathom water, some time ago gave us much trouble. The reef was still supposd to be without us from the smoothness of our water. The mainland appeard very low and sandy and had many fires upon it, more than we had usualy observd. We passd during the day many low sandy Islands every one of which stood upon a large shoal; we have constantly found the best passage to lie near the main, and the farther from that you go near the reef the more numerous are the shoals. In the evening we observd the shoals to decrease in number but we still were in smooth water.

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