[Footnote 1: See Dalrymple’s Collection, vol. i. p. 45.]
In the night, between the 22d and 23d, we crossed the Line in the longitude of 203 deg. 15’ E. Here the variation of the compass was 6 deg. 30’ E. nearly.
On the 24th, about half an hour after day-break, land was discovered bearing N.E. by E. 1/2 E. Upon a nearer approach, it was found to be one of those low islands so common in this ocean, that is, a narrow bank of land inclosing the sea within. A few cocoa-nut trees were seen in two or three places; but, in general, the land had a very barren appearance. At noon, it extended from N.E. by E. to S. by E. 1/2 E., about four miles distant. The wind was at E.S.E., so that we were under a necessity of making a few boards, to get up to the lee or west side, where we found from forty to twenty and fourteen fathoms water, over a bottom of fine sand, the least depth about half a mile from, the breakers, and the greatest about one mile. The meeting with soundings determined me to anchor, with a view to try to get some turtles, for the island seemed to be a likely place to meet with them, and to be without inhabitants. Accordingly we dropped anchor in thirty fathoms; and then a boat was dispatched to examine whether it was practicable to land, of which I had some doubt, as the sea broke in a dreadful surf all along the shore. When the boat returned, the officer, whom I had entrusted with this examination, reported to me that he could see no place where a boat could land, but that there was great abundance of fish in the shoal water, without the breakers.
At day-break, the next morning, I sent two boats, one from each ship, to search more accurately for a landing-place; and, at the same time, two others to fish at a grappling near the shore. These last returned about eight o’clock, with upward of two hundred weight of fish. Encouraged by this success, they were dispatched again after breakfast; and I then went in another boat, to take a view of the coast and attempt landing, but this I found to be wholly impracticable. Toward noon, the two boats, sent on the same search, returned. The master, who was in that belonging to the Resolution, reported to me, that about a league and a half to the N., was a break in the land, and a channel into the lagoon, consequently, that there was a fit place for landing; and that he had found the same soundings off this entrance, as we had where we now lay. In consequence of this report the ships weighed anchor, and, after two or three trips, came to again in twenty fathoms water, over a bottom of fine dark sand, before a small island that lies at the entrance of the lagoon, and on each side of which there is a channel leading into it, but only fit for boats. The water in the lagoon itself is all very shallow.