HM Bark Endeavour, April 19, 1770.
We sail on to the Great Ocean whose surface is as glass a pacific ocean indeed it could be a mirror of the Heavens. Mr Banks has been inspired in these days of unnatural calm to bring forth his guitar from one of the many trunks which were lugged on board at the outset and whose transport and storage, not to mention the alterations necessary to accommodate the ‘equipment’, cost £20,000. Mr Banks occupies the finest space aboard and to this he is welcome. A navigator crawling across vast distance does not wish to rattle around like a pea in a barrel but rather appreciates the hugger mugger of close quarters. It transpires that Banks is a player of some proficiency even if one were to deplore the Spanish influence of his playing. No musical man I am reminded that Mr Banks is a mere whelp at 25 while I will not see 40 again. All the same everything that Banks undertakes seems directed to shew his own greatness.
Not the least of the explorer’s responsibilities is the weighty task of naming. Mr Dalrymple whose conviction of an undiscovered southern land mass we are sent secretly to investigate favours native names. Does a prominence only come into existence once it is named? Is the namer then the possessor of the place he has named? One thing is certain. A name will fix a place to a map as surely as the insects and other small creatures gathered by our Scientific Gentlemen are mounted on a pin.
I am reminded of the Earl of Moreton’s Hints a copy of whose meditations on the subject were thoughtfully included along with my larger instructions.
Thus regarding the Natives: They are all human creatures, the work of the same omnipotent Author.
(No doubt, no doubt, I thought as I read these words but would the truth of them be tested here in the middle of Utopia which Mr Banks would be sure to remind me is No Place in the Latin?)
Further: They are the natural and in the strictest sense of the word the legal possessors of the Regions they inhabit.
I thought it sensible to remind Mr Banks of Moreton’s dictum since our Gentleman is known to eye remote populations more as a human menagerie than anything.
‘Perhaps,’ was his singular rejoinder.
If these be regions strange then Banks himself is taking full advantage of the dispensation being offered him. I watch him scribbling away in his journal with a smug air as if he were penning the very Gospels. In the forenoon with Banks on deck inspecting the albatross he had lately shot, I stole a glance at his journal. The name of Tupia who I had been prevailed upon to take on at Otaheite as an expert navigator of these regions immediately arrested my eye. I do not know why I may not keep him as a curiosity [Banks had writ] as well as some of my neighbours do lions and tygers at a larger expence than he will probably ever put me to.
I wonder whether Mr Banks intends to have Tupia stuffed once he has reached the limit of his usefulness. My meditations on the subject were immediately shattered by a cry I had convinced myself I would never hear in these latitudes. Land! With that first shout from Mr Hicks and his subsequent report of ‘Smokes!’ we each began to envision what we might encounter. It were a subject that occupied us over the dinner table, excitement at the prospect suppressing all other appetite.
‘We might each of us tell a tale,’ suggested Mr Parkinson who I am reminded is a devotee of Chaucer.
‘Excellent,’ Banks declared and I saw immediately how our scientific quest was being taken over by something that were best described as speculation. Was Banks in possession of his own secret instructions? Was the new land we had lately sighted to be a product of the imagination? I baulked at the very notion.
‘Perhaps I might be permitted the first tale,’ Dr Solander smiled and said. ‘If our recent experience is any indication, we are due to be entering a new Eden one which has not yet been corrupted by the presence of the Serpent. It will be our sacred duty to order the chaos, as the Creator once separated light from dark, according to the dictates of the Divine Mind.’
‘Thus revealing the Divine Plan?’ Mr Molyneux bristled. ‘Dr Solander, sir, you trespass upon the Misteries with your blasphemy.’
Never would I have taken Molyneux for a believer but yet I felt it necessary to support him in his objections.
‘Forgive us sea folk our superstitions,’ I said challenging Banks with a direct gaze.
‘I have ever thought Botany to be the Sacred Science,’ Banks smirked. ‘But I will contribute my own tale if I may.’
Like a player upon the stage, Banks first gauged the mood of his audience before proceeding. In the interim we heard the ship groaning in its extremity.
‘My tale dovetails with that of Dr Solander. I see in the mind’s eye a new Eden, yes, as yet unpeopled by God’s chosen. For this will be our chance as Britons to make a new beginning, to cast off the old habiliments, the past miscalculations and mistakes. I see cattle grazing on vast plains, the ripening crops swaying with the genteel breezes before the harvest. I see townships ordered by justice which requires no statutes or laws for the inhabitants of the new world are imbued with an unerring moral sense.’
‘Then, sir,’ Mr Gore first looked at me before addressing the grandee, ‘you have scant understanding of the race of men.’
‘I must agree with Mr Gore,’ Monkhouse the surgeon intervened. ‘I am no theologian but I believe I understand Original Sin not to be a stain on the soul so much as a recognition of the essential fact of existence. Not a sin, then, but a condition. We are all going to die.’
‘And you, Captain?’ Banks now turned his gaze upon me and suddenly the room began to spin.
Next week: Land again.