The night of Friday 20 April was spent off Gabo Island, and the following day Saturday 21 April at 5 or 6 Leagues from shore (27.5 to 30 Kms) in cloudy unsettled weather, the men were called on deck. Joseph Banks’ journal tells us, “We witnessed three water spouts, which at the same time made their appearance in different places but all between the ship and land.

One spout which was about a League (5.5 Kms) from the ship lasted fully a quarter of an hour.

It was a column which appeared to be of about the thickness of a mast or a middling tree, and reached down from a smoke coloured cloud about two thirds of the way to the surface of the sea; under it the sea appeared to be much troubled for a considerable space and from the whole of that space arose a dark coloured thick mist which reached to the bottom of the pipe.

When it was at its greatest distance from the water the pipe itself was perfectly transparent and much resembled a tube of glass or a Column of water, if such a thing could be supposed to be suspended in the air; it very frequently contracted and dilated, lengthened and shortened itself and that by very quick motions; it very seldom remained in a perpendicular direction but generally inclined either one way or the other in a curve as a light body acted upon by wind is observed to do.

During the whole time that it lasted smaller ones seemed to attempt to form in its neighbourhood; at last one did about as thick as a rope close by it and became longer than the old one which at that time was in its shortest state; upon this they joined together in an instant and gradually contracting into the Cloud disappeared.”


By the afternoon of that Saturday they had been at sea for 604 Days as they passed Permagua, the first people’s pronunciation of Bermaguey, Bermaguee, or later Bermagui of the white man. Again Banks records, “The country rose in gentle sloping hills which had the appearance of the highest fertility, every hill seemed to be clothed with trees of no mean size.

Smoke from fires was seen a little way inland and in the evening several more.”

From Cooks log we can read, “By 6 o’clock we were abreast of a pretty high mountain laying near the shore, which on account of its figure I named Mount Dromedary”, (A one humped camel). Solander also claims to have named it in his journal. Cook continues, “The shore under the foot of this Mountain forms a point which I have named Cape Dromedary over which is a peaked hillick”. (The mountain was Gulaga and the peaked hillick Najanuga, later called Mount Little Dromedary.)

As can be seen from Cooks map compared to today’s satellite image, they mistook Baranguba (Later Montague Island) as part of Cape Dromedary, something never resolved on later maps as the “Cape” remains.

Cooks journey

On Sunday 22nd April they sailed close enough to shore as to distinguish several people upon the sea beach. (Off Pigeon House, north of Batemans Bay).

Solander wrote, “They appeared to be of a very dark or black Colour but whether this was the real colour of their skins or the clothes they might have on, we knew not. The coast made a good view, being flat, level, and covered with verdure. We discovered five men through our glasses, who were quite naked.

It is probable they live upon the produce of the earth, as we did not see any canoes, and the coast seems to be unfavourable for fishing.” (Clearly an incorrect presumption on his part)

Contact with First People was eventually made at Botany Bay seven days later.

Cook was pleasantly impressed by the east coast of New Holland – it was not a barren and dismal country as reported by Dutch explorers who visited predominantly the western coast. He described

the land around Botany Bay in very positive terms as well-watered, fertile meadows. His reports influenced the British government decision to later establish a penal colony.

He sailed northward another four months and on 22 August 1770 at tiny Possession Island near the tip of the Cape York Peninsula, claimed the east coast of New Holland for Britain, naming it New South Wales.

In less than seven and a half years, the first fleet would arrive, thwarting the French who had also been making journeys similar to Cook’s in the South Pacific and New Holland.

David Cotton

Bermagui Historical Society.

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