On the 1st of January, 1778, I sent boats to bring on board all our parties from the land, and the turtles they had caught. Before this was completed it was late in the afternoon, so that I did not think proper to sail till next morning. We got at this island, to both ships, about three hundred turtles, weighing, one with another, about ninety or a hundred pounds. They were all of the green kind, and perhaps as good as any in the world. We also caught, with hook and line, as much fish as we could consume during our stay. They consisted principally of cavallies of different sizes, large and small snappers, and a few of two sorts of rock-fish, one with numerous spots of blue, and the other with whitish streaks scattered about.
The soil of this island, in some places, is light and black, evidently composed of decayed vegetables, the dung of birds, and sand. There are other places again, where nothing but marine productions, such as broken coral stones and shells are to be seen. These are deposited in long narrow ridges, lying in a parallel direction with the sea-coast, not unlike a ploughed field, and must have been thrown up by the waves, though, at this time, they do not reach within a mile of some of these places. This seems to furnish an incontestible proof that the island has been produced by accessions from the sea, and is in a state of increase; for not only the broken pieces of coral, but many of the shells, are too heavy and large to have been brought by any birds, from the beach, to the places where they now lie. Not a drop of fresh water was any where found, though frequently dug for. We met with several ponds of salt water, which had no visible communication with the sea, and must, therefore, in all probability, be filled by the water filtrating through the sand in high tides. One of the lost men found some salt on the S.E. part of the island. But though this was an article of which we were in want, a man who could lose himself, as he did, and not know whether he was travelling east, west, north, or south, was not to be depended upon as a fit guide to conduct us to the place.
There were not the smallest traces of any human being having ever been here before us; and, indeed, should any one be so unfortunate as to be accidentally driven upon the island, or left there, it is hard to say, that he could be able to prolong existence. There is, indeed, abundance of birds and fish, but no visible means of allaying thirst, nor any vegetable that could supply the place of bread, or correct the bad effects of an animal diet, which, in all probability, would soon prove fatal alone. On the few cocoa-trees upon the island, the number of which did not exceed thirty, very little fruit was found; and, in general, what was found, was either not fully grown, or had the juice salt, or brackish. So that a ship touching here, must expect nothing but fish and turtles, and of these an abundant supply may be depended upon.