Sunday, 1 February 2009

Discovery of Norfolk Island, 1774

The Voyages of Captain James Cook

We continued to stretch to W.S.W. till the 10th, when, at daybreak, we discovered land bearing S.W., which on a nearer approach we found to be an island of good height, and five leagues in circuit. I named it Norfolk Isle, in honour of the noble family of Howard. It is situated in the latitude of 29° 2' 30" S., and longitude 168° 16' E. The latter was determined by lunar observations made on this, the preceding, and following days ; and the former, by a good observation at noon, when we were about three miles from the isle. Soon after we discovered the isle, we sounded in twenty-two fathoms on a bank of coral sand ; after this we continued to sound, and found not less than twenty-two, or more than twenty-four fathoms (except near the shore), and the same bottom mixed with broken shells. After dinner, a party of us embarked in two boats, and landed on the island, without any difficulty, behind some large rocks which lined part of the coast on the N.E. side. We found it uninhabited, and were undoubtedly the first that ever set foot on it. We observed many trees and plants common at New Zealand ; and in particular, the flax-plant, [Phoprmium] which is rather more luxuriant here than in any part of that country : but the chief produce is a sort of spruce pine, which grows in great abundance, and to a large size, many of the trees being as thick, breast-high, as two men could fathom, and exceedingly straight and tall. This pine is of a sort between that which grows in New Zealand and that in New Caledonia ; the foliage differing something from both ; and the wood not so heavy as the former, nor so light and close-grained as the latter. It is a good deal like the Quebec pine. For about two hundred yards from the shore the ground is covered so thick with shrubs and plants, as hardly to be penetrated farther inland. The woods were perfectly clear and free from underwood, and the soil seemed rich and deep.

We found the same kind of pigeons, parrots, and parroquets as in New Zealand, rails, and some small birds. The sea-fowl are, white boobies, gulls, tern, &c. which breed undisturbed on the shores, and in the cliffs of the rocks. On the isle is fresh water ; and cabbage-palm, wood-sorrel, sow-thistle, and samphire abounding in some places on the shores : we brought on board as much of each sort as the time we had to gather them would admit. These cabbage-trees, or palms, [Rhopalostylis baueri] were not thicker than a man's leg, and from ten to twenty feet high. They are of the same genus with the cocoa-nut tree ; like it, they have large pinnated leaves, and are the same as the second sort found in the northern parts of New South Wales. The cabbage is, properly speaking, the bud of the tree ; each tree producing but one cabbage, which is at the crown, where the leaves spring out, and is inclosed in the stem. The cutting off the cabbage effectually destroys the tree ; so that no more than one can be had from the same stem. The cocoa-nut tree, and some others of the palm kind, produce cabbage as well as these. This vegetable is not only wholesome, but exceedingly palatable, and proved the most agreeable repast we had for some time.

Cook, James, The Voyages of Captain James Cook: Illustrated with Maps and Numerous Engravings on Wood : with an Appendix, Giving an Account of the Present Condition of the South Sea Islands, &c 1842, p. 542

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