Chris Scott Wilson Writer
spume to leave a latticework of foam across the heaving surface. Squalls can suddenly darken the sky and fire raindrops horizontally like musket balls, clattering against soaked canvas drawn iron hard. While the bowsprit cuts a feather through oncoming seas, a ship can rise to the crests and then plunge into the troughs, her bows smashing into the seas, deluging the head and sending cascades of green water scouring the length of the decking back to the stern rail. Aloft, the lookouts would cling to the mast cross-trees, the groans of the rigging about them drowned by the shrieking wind.
Giving chase on the 5th November in a gale, Cook records, “half past noon the fore topmast sprung about two foot above the caps. Got fore topgallant yard and mast down and handed the top foresail. Employed in unrigging the topmast and getting to hand and fitting the spare one.” All in a day’s work, but this was in a heaving, inhospitable sea.
At one point Eagle held 200 prisoners-of-war taken from prize ships, and she witnessed the end of Esperance, a French 74 gunner which had ferried troop reinforcements for the fort at Louisbourg on Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. On her return crossing of the Atlantic, she had been harried by storms and the thunder of British naval guns under an attack led by HMS Orford. While Admiral Byng observed, “she was in the most distressed condition I ever saw a ship,” Cook recorded in his log: “Esperance on fire there being no Posabillity of keeping her above water”. Almost within sight of France, the sea claimed her.
Eagle made sail and set a course for Plymouth where she anchored on 23rd November, handed over her prisoners to the authorities ashore, then transferred her stores to Panther, in preparation for remedial work in dock again.
On 22nd January 1756 James Cook was promoted to bos’n (boatswain), his monthly wages more than trebled to £4. After a refit, Eagle was back at sea in March, bound for France where Cook was given command of a 40 foot sloop which along with other smaller vessels, assisted HMS Eagle in her blockade patrol which extended from the southern Brittany coast up the German Ocean (The North Sea). During May in the Bay of Biscay Eagle, along with HMS St. Albans, took two vessels. Cook was sent as prize master to command Triton and take her into Plymouth and then on to London before rejoining Eagle back in Plymouth 1 July
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