CHAPTER III: REMARKS ON THE VARIATION OF THE NEEDLE.
On the 6th of November, I was in 49 degrees 4 minutes south latitude, and in the longitude of 114 degrees 56 minutes; the variation was at this time 26 degrees westward; and, as the weather was foggy, with hard gales, and a rolling sea from the south-west and from the south, I concluded from thence that it was not at all probable there should be any land between those two points. On November 15th I was in the latitude of 44 degrees 33 minutes south, and in the longitude of 140 degrees 32 minutes. The variation was then 18 degrees 30 minutes west, which variation decreased every day, in such a manner, that, on the 21st of the same month, being in the longitude of 158 degrees, I observed the variation to be no more than 4 degrees. On the 22nd of that month, the needle was in continual agitation, without resting in any of the eight points; which led me to conjecture that we were near some mine of loadstone.
This may, at first sight, seem to contradict what has been before laid down, as to the variation, and the causes of it: but, when strictly considered, they will be found to agree very well; for when it is asserted that veins of loadstone have nothing to do with the variation of the compass, it is to be understood of the constant variation of a few degrees to the east, or to the west: but in cases of this nature, where the variation is absolutely irregular, and the needle plays quite round the compass, our author’s conjecture may very well find place: yet it must be owned that it is a point far enough from being clear, that mines of loadstone affect the compass at a distance; which, however, might be very easily determined, since there are large mines of loadstone in the island of Elba, on the coast of Tuscany.
On the 24th of the same month, being in the latitude of 42 degrees 25 minutes south, and in the longitude of 163 degrees 50 minutes, I discovered land, which lay east-south-east at the distance of ten miles, which I called Van Diemen’s Land. The compass pointed right towards this land. The weather being bad, I steered south and by east along the coast, to the height of 44 degrees south, where the land runs away east, and afterwards north-east and by north. In the latitude of 43 degrees 10 minutes south, and in the longitude of 167 degrees 55 minutes, I anchored on the 1st of December, in a bay, which I called the Bay of Frederic Henry. I heard, or at least fancied I heard, the sound of people upon the shore; but I saw nobody. All I met with worth observing was two trees, which were two fathoms or two fathoms and a half in girth, and sixty or sixty-five feet high from the root to the branches: they had cut with a flint a kind of steps in the bark, in order to climb up to the birds’ nests: these steps were the distance of five feet from each other; so that we must conclude that either these people are of a prodigious size, or that they have some way of climbing trees that we are not used to; in one of the trees the steps were so fresh, that we judged they could not have been cut above four days.