Progress of the Voyage, after leaving the Society Islands.—Christmas Island discovered, and Station of the Ships there.—Boats sent ashore.—Great Success in catching Turtle.—An Eclipse of the Sun observed.—Distress of two Seamen who had lost their Way.—Inscription left in a Bottle.—Account of the Island.—Its Soil.—Trees and Plants.—Birds.—Its Size.—Form.—Situation.—Anchoring Ground.
After leaving Bolabola, I steered to the northward, close-hauled, with the wind between N.E. and E., hardly ever having it to the southward of E., till after we had crossed the Line, and had got into N. latitudes. So that our course, made good, was always to the W. of N., and sometimes no better than N.W.
Though seventeen months had now elapsed since our departure from England, during which, we had not, upon the whole, been unprofitably employed, I was sensible, that with regard to the principal object of my instructions, our voyage was, at this time, only beginning; and, therefore, my attention to every circumstance that might contribute toward our safety and our ultimate success, was now to be called forth anew. With this view I had examined into the state of our provisions at the last islands; and, as soon as I had left them, and got beyond the extent of my former discoveries, I ordered a survey to be taken of all the boatswain’s and carpenter’s stores that were in the ships, that I might be fully informed of the quantity, state, and condition of every article; and, by that means, know how to use them to the greatest advantage.
Before I sailed from the Society Islands, I lost no opportunity of enquiring of the inhabitants, if there were any islands in a N. or N.W. direction from them; but I did not find that they knew of any. Nor did we meet with any thing that indicated the vicinity of land, till we came to about the latitude of 8 deg. S., where we began to see birds, such as boobies, tropic, and men-of-war birds, tern, and some other sorts. At this time our longitude was 205 deg. E. Mendana, in his first voyage in 1568, discovered an island which he named Isla de Jesus, in latitude 6 deg. 45’ S., and 1450 leagues from Callao, which is 200 deg. E. longitude from Greenwich. We crossed this latitude near a hundred leagues to the eastward of this longitude, and saw there many of the above-mentioned birds, which are seldom known to go very far from land.