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July 1787

July 2d.. The wind continuing southerly, in latitude 6°36'N. and being still so far to the eastward as 20°23'W. longitude, the Sirius made the signal for the convoy to tack, and stood to the westward. This day we saw some remarkable flights of flying fish; they were so very numerous as to resemble flights of small birds. The poor creatures were so closely pursued, on all sides, by their common enemy, bonitoes, albacores, and skip-jacks, that their wings availed them little. The succeeding night was a continuation of heavy rain. Every evening, while we continued between nine and six degrees of north latitude, we were baffled


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with calms, and adverse winds. For seven days together I observed that each day generally closed with heavy rains and some squalls of wind, which were always remarked to be from the northward.

5th. The wind south-west by south, the fleet tacked by signal and stood to the eastward. In the evening, a more numerous shoal of porpoises than ever remembered to be seen by the oldest seaman on board, presented themselves to our view. They were, as we conjectured, in pursuit of some wounded fish; and so very intent were they on the object of their chase that they passed through the fleet, and close to some of the ships, without showing any disposition to avoid them. The sailors and mariners compared them to a numerous pack of hounds, scouring through watery ground; and, indeed, when the rays of the sun beamed upon them I know not what they resembled more. The weather being moderate, I went round the ships, and was really surprised, considering the damp and unfavourable weather we had had, to find the people look so well, and to be in so good a state of health.

6th. In lat. 5°38'N. long. 21°39'W. the wind S.S.W. we tacked by signal, and in the course of the day spoke


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a sloop bound to the coast of Africa, belonging to the house of Mether in London; had been out four months, and was then standing to the westward.

The wind continuing adverse, and the fleet making little progress in their voyage, Captain Phillip put the officers, seamen, marines, and convicts to an allowance of three pints of water per day (not including a quart allowed each man a day for boiling pease and oatmeal); a quantity scarcely sufficient to supply that waste of animal spirits the body must necessarily undergo, in the torrid zone, from a constant and violent perspiration, and a diet consisting of salt provisions. Necessity, however, has no law in this instance as well as in every other; and I am fully persuaded the commander acted upon this occasion from the best of motives, and for the good of the whole. Were it by any means possible, people subject to long voyages should never be put to a short allowance of water; for I am satisfied that a liberal use of it (when freed from the foul air, and made sweet by a machine now in use on board his Majesty's navy) will tend to prevent a scorbutic habit, as much, if not more, than any thing we are acquainted with. My own experience in the navy has convinced me that when scorbutic


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patients are restrained in the use of water (which I believe is never the case but through absolute necessity), and they have nothing to live on but the ship's provision, the surgeon's necessaries being ill-chosen and very inadequate to the wise and salutary purposes for which government intended them, all the antiseptics and antiscorbutics we know of will avail very little in a disease so much to be guarded against, and dreaded, by seamen. In one of his Majesty's ships, I was liberally supplied with that powerful antiscorbutic, essence of malt; we had also sour krout; and, besides these, every remedy that could be comprised in the small compass of a medicine chest; yet when necessity forced us to a short allowance of water, although aware of the consequence, I freely administered the essence, &c. as a preservative, the scurvy made its appearance with such hasty and rapid strides, that all attempts to check it proved fruitless, until good fortune threw a ship in our way, who spared us a sufficient quantity of water to serve the sick with as much as they could use, and to increase the ship's allowance to the seamen. This fortunate and very seasonable supply, added to the free use of the essence of malt, &c. which I had before


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strictly adhered to, made in a few days so sudden a change for the better in the poor fellows, who had been covered with ulcers and livid blotches, that every person on board was surprised at it: and in a fortnight after, when we got into port, there was not a man in the ship, though, at the time we received the water, the gums of some of them were formed into such a fungus as nearly to envelope the teeth, but what had every appearance of health.

7th. Dark, cloudy, unpleasant, sultry weather; the wind south by east. We saw many fish, and caught two bonitoes. The boat-swain struck, with a pair of grains, out of the cabin window, a most beautiful fish, about ten pounds weight. In shape it a good deal resembled a salmon, with this difference, that its tail was more forked. It was in colour of a lovely yellow; and when first taken out of the water, it had two beautiful stripes of green on each side, which, some minutes after, changed to a delightful blue, and so continued. In the internal formation of this fish I observed nothing particular, except that its heart was larger, and its respirations contracted and dilated longer, than I had ever seen before in any aquatic animal, a tortoise not excepted. As we were at a loss


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what appellation to give it, having never met with a fish of this species, and it being a non-descript, the sailors gave it the name of the Yellow Tail.

8th. The wind still S. by E. in lat. 4°36'N. long. 23°W. we saw a large vessel standing to the northward under a press of sail. Her colours, though at a considerable distance, were judged to be Imperial. Again saw fish of various kinds in chase of the flying fish, whose enemies seem to be innumerable. In order to avoid being devoured by their pursuers, they frequently sought for shelter in the ships, but much oftener flew with such force against their sides as to drop lifeless into the water. We caught three fine bonitoes, and thereby rid the poor flying fish, whose wings seemed to excite the enmity of all the larger finny race, of three formidable enemies.

9th and 10th. Caught a great number of fish, as did the Alexander, who was near us. At night, in the wake of the ship the sea appeared quite luminous; a phænomenon we attributed to the spawn of the fish which surrounded us on all sides.

14th.. About five in the evening we crossed the equator, without any wish or inclination being shewn by the seamen


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to observe the ceremony usually practised in passing under it. The longitude was 26°37'W. the wind at east, the weather moderate and clear. In lat. 1°24'S. long. 26°22'W. the boatswain caught sixteen fine bonitoes, which proved a very seasonable and acceptable supply. At night the sea, all around the ship, exhibited a most delightful sight. This appearance was occasioned by the gambols of an incredible number of various kinds of fish, who sported about us, and whose sudden turnings caused an emanation which resembled flashes of lightning darting in quick succession. What I before spoke of as the spawn, I am now fully convinced were rather the fish themselves, turning up their white bellies at some little distance below the surface of the water, and these sudden evolutions were what gave the sea the luminous appearance observed on it before. I can the more readily affirm this to be the cause, as, one evening, when we had immense quantities about us, I carefully attended to them till it became dark, and was fully satisfied, from the observations I was then able to make, that it was the fish, and not the spawn, which occasioned the appearance; for there was not an officer or person on board but what was able very plainly to perceive their frolicsome turnings


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and windings. Indeed, some of them came so near the surface that we frequently attempted to strike them with a pair of grains.

18th. Being informed that several of the mariners and convicts on board the Alexander were suddenly taken ill, I immediately visited that ship, and found that the illness complained of was wholly occasioned by the bilge water, which had by some means or other risen to so great a height that the pannels of the cabin, and the buttons on the clothes of the officers, were turned nearly black by the noxious effluvia. When the hatches were taken off, the stench was so powerful that it was scarcely possible to stand over them. How it could have got to this height is very strange; for I well know that Captain Phillip gave strict orders (which orders I myself delivered) to the masters of the transports to pump the ships out daily, in order to keep them sweet and wholesome; and it was added that if the ships did not make water enough for that purpose they were to employ the convicts in throwing water into the well, and pumping it out again, until it become clear and untinged. The people's health, however, being endangered by the circumstance, I found a representation upon the subject to Captain


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Phillip needful, and accordingly went on board the Sirius for that purpose. Captain Phillip, who upon every occasion showed great humanity and attention to the people, with the most obliging readiness sent Mr. King, one of his lieutenants, on board the Alexander with me, in order to examine into the state of the ship, charging him, at the same time, with the most positive and pointed instructions to the master of the ship instantly to set about sweetening and purifying her. This commission Mr. King executed with great propriety and expedition; and, by the directions he gave, such effectual means were made use of, that the evil was soon corrected: and not long after all the people, who, suffering from the effects of it, were under Mr. Balmain, my assistant's care, got quite rid of the complaint. I now returned to the Sirius and solicited an increase of water, which Captain Phillip with equal readiness complied with; and as we had by this time got into a regular south-east trade wind our allowance served tolerably well, every man having three quarts a day.

22d. The weather moderate and cloudy, in lat. 9°6'S. long. 26°4'W. we saw a noddy and two pintado birds. At night, the commanding officer of marines having re


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ceived information that three men had made their way, through the hole cut for the admission of the windsail, into the apartment of the female convicts, against an express order issued for that purpose, he apprehended them, and put them in confinement for trial.

23d. The weather being dark and cloudy, with heavy rain and strong breezes, the Sirius carried away her main-topsail-yard, in the slings, which, however, in a little time she got replaced. In the evening we saw some grampuses sporting about.

26th. In latitude 15°18' south, the Sirius made the signal for the longitude by lunar observation, which was found to be 29°34'W. Strong breezes and cloudy weather. The Borrowdale victualler carried away her foretop-gallant-mast. This evening we observed some flying fish, very different from those we had before seen. They had wings on both the head and tail, and when in the act of flying were said by our people to resemble a double-headed shot. About six o'clock the Alexander brought to, and hoisted out a boat in order to pick up a man who had fallen overboard from the spanker boom; but, as he sunk before the boat could reach him, the attempt proved ineffectual.




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27th. The Sirius made the signal to close and keep nearer the commanding officer. The weather rainy and unsettled, with strong breezes and a heavy swell from the eastward.

28th. Fresh breezes and cloudy weather. At ten in the morning the Sirius made the Supply's signal to come within hail, and desired the commanding officer to acquaint the different transports that in the track we then were, lat. 18°9'S. long. 28°2'W., there were some sunken rocks, for which we were directed to keep a good look-out. This signal was followed by one for the ships to take their proper stations in the order of sailing, and for the Lady Penrhyn, who was considerably to windward, and astern withal, to come into the wake of the Sirius. After these orders were complied with, we bore away, steering S. by W., the wind E.S.E.

30th. The Supply hailed us, and acquainted me that a female convict, on board the Prince of Wales, had met with an accident which endangered her life. It being then nearly dark, and the ships making quick way through the water, it was judged imprudent to hoist a boat out. Lieutenant Ball, of the Supply, therefore promised to send a boat early


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in the morning, in order that I might go and see her: but it was then too late, as she died in the night. Her death was occasioned by a boat, which rolled from the booms, and jammed her in a most shocking manner against the side of the ship.

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