HM Bark Endeavour, May 17, 1770.
I have noted before the change that comes over men in these latitudes. Crossing the Line an invisible curtain parts to admit us into a mirror world reflecting back on us. Be it the isolation or the odour of possibility that attaches to these parts, the men seek every opportunity to throw off the habiliments of civilisation to stand naked in their raw state. I speak here of their inner nature. If a man is a violent oaf then out here on the ocean his disposition becomes most plain. It is the same for the drunkard, the thief and the traitor. An incident in recent days served to demonstrate the reduction in the men to their base nature.
After a bout of drinking, my clerk Mr Orton, a man of unobjectionable character, had his clothes cut from his sleeping form and a part of both his ears cut off by Mr Magra, a man that can be well spared, or to speak more plainer, good for nothing. If this tendency to revert to the savage state is not entirely surprising, it concerns me that such behaviour is the greatest Insult that could be offered to my authority.
No sooner had I been required to quell the animal tendencies in the men than another episode, more unfortunate, presented itself. As has been noted, Mr Buchan, one of the artists, suffered an alarming metamorphosis in the region of Otaheite. The appearance of fish gills on his person were the first indication and soon, as recommended by the excellent Molyneux, it became necessary to fashion a tank for the poor man whose transformation was now complete. It being a trait of the species, the men were soon drawn to the spectacle. Several sat by the tank which had been fashioned from a sea chest and conversed with Buchan, now more fish than man, in a manner wholly familiar. Others could not resist the temptation to taunt Buchan and his predicament. Magra it was, and this should surprise no one, who was discovered this day dangling a fish-hook in his vicinity and with a smack of his lips declaring to any who might listen that our artist would make a fine table offering dressed with caper sauce and condiments.
We continue to run along shore sounding as we go. Smokes may be descried inland and appear to track our progress. Mr Banks, Mr Solander and I venture from time to time to make connection with the authors of the Smokes but their fires more often than not are abandoned and the only evidence of the presence of the Natives are the shells of Mussels and suchlike which is all they appear to eat. They might be ghosts. From Port Stephens we came upon the place I named Moreton Bay while inland rose a singular feature which I have called Glasshouse Mountains for their resemblance to these structures. It occasioned some comment from our Gentlemen who seemed unaware that their conversation were not as private as they might wish.
‘It is possible that our Navigator believes himself the Creator of all he beholdeth,’ the unmistakable sneer in the voice alerted me to Banks expanding upon a theme. ‘Not until he names a thing does it come into being.’
‘His own Book of Genesis, sir?’ This was Solander.
‘The Creator might be trusted to name a thing—there is an aptness to elephant or rhinoceros—but Glasshouse Mountains?! Might we expect Outhouse Mountains to be soon summoned into existence?’
I judged it opportune at this juncture to call for Hicks and when I entered the Great Cabin was presented with the sight of Banks and Solander in apparent thrall to a specimen of the plant which is everywhere evident along the coast.
‘Ah, Lieutenant,’ quoth the mountebank in oily tones, ‘What do you think? Mr Solander and Mr Sporing have done me the singular honour of naming this bottlebrush in my name. Banksia!’ announced the dandy.
My name is legion, my lips itched to articulate the words, for we are many.
The man is a devil.
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