After visiting Amsterdam and Middelburg, plus two islands that Cook called the Friendly Islands now known as the Tongan group the Resolution and the Discovery were separated and never met again. Both ships returned separately to New Zealand, the Discovery returning to Britain arriving there in July 1774. En-route to New Zealand the Resolution sailed west and explored the islands which Cook called the New Hebrides, now known as Vanuatu. Cook sailed past or visited nearly all the islands in the group, including Malekula, Tanna and Erromango and then sailed on to New Caledonia.
On Monday 10 October 1774 the Resolution was sailing with a gentle breeze and pleasant weather when an island was discovered. At daybreak their distance from the island was about 3 leagues. Coming closer to the island they sounded the bottom and had approximately 22 fathom of water with a sea bed of coral sand mixed with broken shells. They were off the north coast of the island now known as Duncombe Bay.
The following day Cook and some of the officers went ashore to take a view of the Island and its produce, Cook’s journal reads “We found the Island uninhabited and near akin to New Zealand, the Flax plant, many other plants and Trees common to that country was found here but the chief produce of the isle is Spruce Pines which grow here in vast abundance and to a vast size……… Here then is another Isle where Masts for the largest Ships may be had."
The journal entry for 11 October continues with “I took possession of this Isle as I had done of all the others we had discovered, and named it Norfolk Isle, in honour of that noble family. It is situated in the Latitude of 29° 00’s , Longitude of [168° 16’] East, it is about 5 leagues in circuit of a good height and its shores are steep and rocky.”
The approach of night brought them all back on board ship and some hours later the Resolution made for Queen Charlotte Sound in New Zealand. From there Cook hoped to refresh his people and put the ship in a ready condition to cross the great ocean to finally arrive at Portsmouth in July of 1775.
James Cook became a national hero, he was presented to the King and made a member of the Royal Society. Cook’s second voyage of discovery was one of the greatest journeys of this time. He named our beautiful Norfolk Isle and charted many other Pacific islands for the first time. He disproved the idea of the Great Southern Continent and was the first recorded explorer to cross the Antarctic Circle. Of course this did not mean retirement for Cook who then went on to his third and final voyage of discovery the following year.