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A Voyage to Terra Australis Volume 2 by Matthew Flinders

Part 3 out of 10

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Latitude observed to the north and south, 21 deg. 2' S.
Longitude by time keeper, 150 11 E.
Pine Peak, S. 6 30 E.
Northumberland I., marked 'i', S. 60 40 W.
Cumberland I., marked 'k', N. 89 deg. to N. 85 30 W.
Cumberland I., six others, S. 75 to N. 54 30 W.

The nearest of these isles was little better than a sand bank surrounded
with rocks, and was distant two leagues in the direction of N. 54 deg. W. We
tacked ship at one, and at four o'clock; and anchored at dusk, in 27
fathoms fine sand, about five miles to the N. N. W. of our noon's


The wind was at S. by E. in the morning, and we steered northward after
the brig, in order to fall in with the reefs and prosecute our search for
an opening; in an hour they were visible, and we passed along their west
side at the distance of a mile. Before nine o'clock the brig made signal
for having only 17 fathoms, other reefs were discovered in the
north-west, and the course was altered to pass within them. At eleven we
rounded their west end; and at noon were in latitude 20 deg. 38' 58", and
from the bearing of the Cumberland Isle _k_, in longitude 150 deg. 1' east.
We were now obliged to steer westward again, having reefs at the distance
of two miles, from N. E. by E., to N. W. by W.; and seeing that they
extended onward, and the breeze was fresh, I hauled up for the Cumberland
Island marked _l_, the largest yet seen, with the intention of anchoring
there for the night. The tide carried us too far to leeward, but we
fetched a lesser island, _l2_, seven miles to the north; and came to, in
17 fathoms grey sand, one mile from a beach on its north-west side, and
half a mile from the reef which surrounds the island.


Early in the morning I landed with a party of the gentlemen, and
scrambled through a thick brush and over lumps of rock, to the highest
part near the north end of the island. Hazy weather much contracted my
view; but several new Cumberland Islands were visible, making up the
number to fifteen, of which the greater part had not been seen by captain
Cook. Amongst the bearings taken with a theodolite, were those of 'k' and
'k2', which had been set from No. 4 of the Percy Isles.

'k', the extremes, bore S. 48 deg. 30' to 46 deg. 40' E.
'k2', S. 36 50 to 33 40 E.
Ship at anchor, dist. one mile, N. 64 0 W.

From these bearings and the several latitudes, I ascertained the
difference of longitude made from Upper Head to the ship, to be 12' 37"

This little island _l2_ is of a triangular shape, and each side of it is
a mile long; it is surrounded by a coral reef which, as usual, presented
a beautiful piece of marine scenery. The stone which forms the basis of
the island, and is scattered loosely over the surface, is a kind of
porphyry; a small piece of it, applied to the theodolite, did not affect
the needle, although, on moving the instrument a few yards southward, the
east variation was increased 2 deg. 23'. Not much vegetable earth was
contained amongst the stones on the surface, yet the island was thickly
covered with trees and brush wood, whose foliage was not devoid of
luxuriance. Pines grow here, but they were more abundant, and seemingly
larger, upon some other of the islands, particularly on _l3_, to the
westward. There did not appear to be any fixed inhabitants; but proofs of
the island having been visited some months before, were numerous; and
upon the larger island _l_, there was a smoke. The time of high water
coincided with the swinging of the ship, and took place one hour before
the moon's passage, as it had done amongst the barrier reefs; from ten to
fifteen feet seemed to be the rise by the shore, and the flood came from
the northward.

We returned on board the ship at noon; but I deferred getting under way
till next morning, on account of the wind blowing fresh, and some
business to be executed which could not be attended to whilst among the
reefs. This gave an opportunity of making further observations by the
time keepers, from which it appeared that they gave only 8' 36.3" of
longitude west from Upper Head, with the rates there found; whereas by
the survey, we had made 12' 37". The time keeper No. 520, taken alone,
gave 11' 35.8"; and when the correction, afterwards found necessary in
the Gulph of Carpentaria, is applied, the difference becomes 12' 41",
almost exactly as by survey. The previous positions of the ship amongst
the reefs, and wherever I had not any bearings of fixed points, have
therefore been deduced from this time keeper.

The _latitude_ of the anchorage, from observations to the north and
south., was 20 deg. 45' 28' S.

_Longitude_ from a chain of bearings, connected with the fixed station in
Broad Sound, 149 deg. 34' 12" E.

_Variation_ of the theodolite, observed on the north-west beach of _l2_,
7 deg. 39' east; but it differed on the north head of the island, from 7 deg. to
9 deg. 23' east, in the space of a few yards.

The variation amongst the Barrier Reefs has not been mentioned; but five
azimuths and amplitudes were taken between the 6th, p.m. and the 15th
a.m. When corrected to the meridian, the extremes were 7 deg. 53' and 7 deg. 11';
and the mean, in latitude 20 deg. 44', longitude 150 deg. 32', will be 7 deg. 30'


At daylight on the 17th, the breeze was moderate at E. by N., with fine
weather; and in steering northward, close to the wind, we passed three
miles to leeward of a dry bank of rocks and sand. Several of the
Cumberland Islands were in sight at noon, when our situation and the most
essential bearings were as under.

Latitude, observed to the north and south, 20 deg. 23' 56"
Longitude from bearings, 149 331/4
Island l2, station on the north end, S. 5 E.
Other isles, large and small, from thence to N. 671/2 W.
Pentecost I. (of capt. Cook), resembling a tower, S. 89 W.

No reefs were in sight, nor in steering N. N. E. and N. E. by N., could
any be distinguished from the mast head all the afternoon. At half past
five we tacked and bore down to the brig; and then anchored in 31
fathoms, speckled sand and small stones, and sent a boat to lieutenant
Murray with orders.

Our latitude here, by an observation of the moon, was 20 deg. 10' south; and
now hoping we should not meet with any more interruption from the reefs,
I resolved to send the brig back to Port Jackson. The Lady Nelson sailed
so ill, and had become so leewardly since the loss of the main, and part
of the after keel, that she not only caused us delay, but ran great risk
of being lost; and instead of saving the crew of the Investigator, in
case of accident, which was one of the principal objects of her
attendance, it was too probable we might be called upon to render her
that assistance. A good vessel of the same size I should have considered
the greatest acquisition in Torres' Strait and the Gulph of Carpentaria;
but circumstanced as was the Lady Nelson, and in want of anchors and
cables which could not be spared without endangering our own safety, she
was become, and would be more so every day, a burthen rather than an
assistant to me. Lieutenant Murray was not much acquainted with the kind
of service in which we were engaged; but the zeal he had shown to make
himself and his vessel of use to the voyage, made me sorry to deprive him
of the advantage of continuing with us; and increased my regret at the
necessity of parting from our little consort.

The stores and provisions already supplied to the brig, were returned;
and Mr. Murray spared us his old launch, to replace, in some sort, the
cutter we had lost in Strong-tide Passage. _Nanbarre_, one of the two
natives, having expressed a wish to go back to Port Jackson, was sent to
the Lady Nelson in the morning [MONDAY 18 OCTOBER 1802], with two seamen
exchanged for the same number of that vessel's crew; and Mr. Denis Lacy,
who had been lent, returned back to the Investigator. I wrote to His
Excellency governor King, an account of our proceedings and discoveries
upon the East Coast; and requested a new boat might be built against our
return to Port Jackson, and that the brig should be repaired and equipped
ready to accompany me in the following year.

At nine o'clock we got under way, and showed our colours to bid farewell
to the Lady Nelson; she steered southward for the Cumberland Islands,
whilst our course was directed north-east, close to the wind. The brig
was not out of sight when more reefs were discovered, extending from east
to N. N. W.; and in pursuance of my plan to avoid small openings, we bore
away to run along their inner side. At noon, the latitude was 19 deg. 58'
20", and longitude by time keeper, 149 deg. 37' east. Reefs extended from E.
1/2 N. to S. 1/2 E., at the distance of one to three miles; and there were
separate patches somewhat further, bearing W. by N. 1/2 N. and N. N. E.
Between the first and last bearing was an opening of a good appearance,
and we hauled up for it; but the water having shoaled to 12 fathoms,
though no breakers were seen ahead, we kept away again; and from that
time till evening, passed a variety of reefs, hauling up between them to
look into the openings, and bearing away when repulsed. None of these
banks were dry, nor was there much breaking water upon them; which made
it probable that they were far within the outer line of the barrier.

The breeze was fresh at south-east, and by sunset we had run eleven
leagues upon various courses to the north-westward, with soundings from
14 to 33 fathoms; the bottom being rocky in the shallow, and sandy in the
deeper parts. We were steering north-west, at the rate of six knots, when
new reefs were discovered, from ahead to abaft the larbord beam; upon
which we clapped upon a wind to the southward, and just weathered them,
passing through rippling water in 30 fathoms. Upon this occasion I felt
very happy that the Lady Nelson was gone, for in all probability she
could not have escaped this danger. Being now dark, it was too hazardous
to stand on; and therefore, on finding a bottom of grey sand in 34
fathoms, we came to with the best bower, veered to a whole cable, and
sent down the top-gallant yards. The latitude here, from a meridian
altitude of the moon, was 19 deg. 48 1/3', and the longitude 149 deg. 131/2'; there
was a small drain of ebb tide from the S. by W., until eleven o'clock,
but no run was perceptible afterwards.


In the morning, we saw the reef from N. 1/2 E. to W. 1/2 N., not further
distant than two miles, and the northernmost of captain Cook's Cumberland
Islands bore S. 56 deg. W., about eight leagues. The wind was at E. S. E,
blowing fresh; and our course was pursued along the south side of the
reef till nine o'clock; when it terminated, and we steered northward
twelve miles, with no soundings at 30 fathoms. Another reef was then
seen, bearing from N. 1/2 E. to W. N. W., and obliged us to steer westward

The latitude at noon was 19 deg. 35' 15", and longitude by time keeper 148 deg.
471/2'; four reefs then extended from E. by S. to N. W. by W., at the
distance of two to five miles; the northern Cumberland Island bore S. 9 deg.
E, and the outer of two hills which I judged to be upon Cape Gloucester,
S. 391/2 deg. W. This bearing, and captain Cook's latitude of the cape, would
make its longitude to be 148 deg. 261/2', or 151/2' east of what that great
navigator lays it down; and it is to be observed, that from the time of
passing Sandy Cape, my longitude had gradually become more eastward as we
advanced along the coast. It has before been said, that captain Cook had
no time keeper in his first voyage; nor did he possess many of our
advantages in fixing the positions of places; it cannot therefore be
thought presumptuous, that I should consider the Investigator's longitude
to be preferable.

We ran from noon, five leagues W. 3/4 N. along the south side of the reefs;
and seeing their termination at two o'clock, steered N. N. W., Holborne
Isle then bearing S. 53 deg. W., about four leagues. At half past four we had
a small reef two or three miles to the W. S. W., and a larger four miles
to the N. E.; and behind this last was one more extensive, with high
breakers on the outside, reaching from N. E. by N. to E.1/2 S. I hauled up
with the intention of anchoring under the lee of these reefs, till
morning; but not finding sufficient shelter against the sea, we tacked
and stretched southward for the clear water between the reefs and the
land. At sunset, the variation from amplitude was 5 deg. 39' east; Holborne
Isle bore S. by W. from the mast head, and no breakers were in sight.
This tack was prolonged, under treble-reefed top sails, till ten o'clock;
when a light was seen bearing S. by E. 1/2 E., probably upon the isle, and
we stood to the northward.

The wind blew fresh from the eastward all night, and raised a short swell
which tried the ship more than any thing we had encountered from the time
of leaving Port Jackson; and I was sorry to find, brought on her former
leakiness, to the amount of five inches of water per hour. We tacked to
the south, soon after mid-night, and to the northward at three in the
morning [WEDNESDAY 20 OCTOBER 1802]. Holborne Isle was seen bearing S. 6 deg.
W., four or five leagues, at daylight; and at seven we passed between
three small reefs, of which the easternmost had been set at W. S. W. on
the preceding afternoon. In half an hour, when the latitude from the moon
was 19 deg. 14', and longitude by time keeper 148 deg. 211/2', distant high
breakers were seen to the north and eastward; the nearest small reef bore
S. W. 1/2 W., two miles, and a much larger one extended from N. 1/2 E. to W.
by N. The passage between these two being three miles wide, we bore away
through it; and in following the south side of the great reef, left
another, five or six miles long, on the larbord hand, the passage being
equally wide with the former, and the least depth 21 fathoms. Soon after
ten o'clock, we steered northward, round the west end of the great reef.

At noon, the latitude from observations to the north and south was 19 deg. 8'
15", and longitude by time keeper, 147 deg. 59' east. No land was in sight,
and the high breakers were lost in the eastern quarter; but we had
detached reefs in the N. E., the N. E. by N., and W. N. W., distant from
two to five miles. Towards the north there was six points of clear water,
and I steered onward till near three o'clock; when, besides two new reefs
already passed, one on each side, we had five others: two in the E. by N.
at the distances of one and five miles. one E. S. E. four miles, another
N. W. by W. six miles, and a fifth N. W. by N. three miles. Whether to
steer onward amongst these, and trust to finding shelter for the night,
or to run south-westward towards the land, and get within all the reefs
before night came on, was an important, but difficult point to decide.
The reefs in sight were small, and could not afford shelter against the
sea which was breaking high upon them; but these breakers excited a hope
that we might, even then, be near an opening in the barrier; and although
caution inclined to steering back towards the land, this prospect of an
outlet determined me to proceed, at least until four o'clock, at the
chance of finding either larger reefs for shelter, or a clear sea. We
were successful. At four, the depth was 43 fathoms, and no reefs in
sight; and at six, a heavy swell from the eastward and a depth of 66
fathoms were strong assurances that we had at length gained the open sea.

The topsails were then treble reefed, and we hauled to the wind, which
blew strong at E. S. E., with squally weather. At eight, hove to and
sounded: no ground with 75 fathoms; and at twelve, none with 115. But the
wind unfortunately headed two points; and the probability of meeting
unknown reefs being thereby much increased, I tacked to the southward at
one in the morning [THURSDAY 21 OCTOBER 1802]; preferring, if we must of
necessity be again driven amongst them, to come in where we knew of an
opening, rather than where their formation was totally unknown.

At four, tacked ship to the northward, and sounded with 100 fathoms, no
bottom. At daylight, no reefs could be seen from the mast head, the wind
had moderated its strength, and we made all possible sail to the N. by
E.; keeping two points free, to make the ship go through the water. We
now considered ourselves entirely clear of the reefs; but at noon high
breakers were seen extending from West to N. N. W., at the distance of
six or seven miles, and we hauled up a point more to the eastward. Our
latitude was 17 deg. 54', longitude 148 deg. 37', and at the depth of 100 fathoms
there was no ground; the variation observed in the morning, with three
azimuth compasses, was 6 deg. 8' east, corrected to the meridian. Another
reef was discovered at two o'clock, lying nearly three leagues to the
northward of the former; but although there were many boobies, and tropic
and man-of-war birds about, no more dangers had been descried at dusk;
nor did we see any more until approaching Torres' Strait.

I shall conclude this chapter with some general remarks on the reefs,
which form so extraordinary a barrier to this part of New South Wales;
and amongst which we sought fourteen days, and sailed more than five
hundred miles, before a passage could be found through them, out to sea.

The easternmost parts of the barrier seen in the Investigator, lie nearly
in 21 deg. south and 151 deg. 10' east; but there can be no doubt that they are
connected with the reefs lying to the southward, discovered in 1797 by
captain Campbell of the brig Deptford; and probably also with those
further distant, which captain Swain of the Eliza fell in with in the
following year. If so, the Barrier Reefs will commence as far
south-eastward as the latitude 22 deg. 50' and longitude about 152 deg. 40', and
possibly still further; Break-sea Spit is a coral reef, and a connexion
under water, between it and the barrier, seems not improbable. The
opening by which we passed out, is in 18 deg. 52', and 148 deg. 2'; so that, did
the Barrier Reefs terminate here, their extent would be near 350 miles in
a straight line; and in all this space, there seems to be no large
opening. Mr. Swain did, indeed, get out at the latitude 22 deg.; but it was
by a long, and very tortuous channel.

Of what extent our opening may be, is uncertain; but since captain Cook
had smooth water in running to the west and northward to Cape
Tribulation, where he first saw the reefs, it should seem to be not very
great; certainly, as I think, not exceeding twenty, and perhaps not five
leagues. I therefore assume it as a great probability, that with the
exception of this, and perhaps several small openings, our Barrier Reefs
are connected with the Labyrinth of captain Cook; and that they reach to
Torres' Strait and to New Guinea, in 9 deg. south; or through 14 deg. of latitude
and 9 deg. of longitude; which is not to be equalled in any other known part
of the world.

The breadth of the barrier seems to be about fifteen leagues in its
southern part, but diminishes to the northward; for at the Northumberland
Islands it is twelve, and near our opening the breadth is not more than
seven or eight leagues. The reefs seen in latitude 173/4 deg., after we got
through, being forty leagues from the coast, I consider to be distinct
banks out at sea; as I do those discovered by Mons. de Bougainville in
151/2 deg., which lie still further off. So far northward as I explored the
Barrier Reefs, they are unconnected with the land; and continue so to
latitude 16 deg.; for, as before said, captain Cook saw none until he had
passed Cape Tribulation.

An arm of the sea is inclosed between the barrier and the coast, which is
at first twenty-five or thirty leagues wide; but is contracted to twenty,
abreast of Broad Sound, and to nine leagues at Cape Gloucester; from
whence it seems to go on diminishing, till, a little beyond Cape
Tribulation, reefs are found close to the shore. Numerous islands lie
scattered in this inclosed space; but so far as we are acquainted, there
are no other coral banks in it than those by which some of the islands
are surrounded; so that being sheltered from the deep waves of the ocean,
it is particularly well adapted to the purposes of a coasting trade. The
reader will be struck with the analogy which this arm of the sea presents
to one in nearly the same latitude of the northern hemisphere. The Gulph
of Florida is formed by the coast of America on the west, and by a great
mass of islands and shoals on the east; which shoals are also of coral.

On the outside of the barrier, the sea appears to be generally
unfathomable; but within, and amongst the reefs, there are soundings
every where. Nor is the depth very unequal, where the bottom is sandy;
but like the breadth of the reefs and the arm they inclose, it diminishes
as we advance northward, from 60 to 48, to 35, and to 30 fathoms near our
opening; and to 20 at Cape Tribulation. The further to leeward, the
shallower the water, seems to be a law amongst coral reefs.

There is some variation in the tide in different parts of the barrier,
but the most general rise is about two fathoms; abreast of the
Northumberland Islands, however, where the flood from the south-east seems
to meet that from the northward, it is three fathoms, and perhaps more.
The time of high water there, and also at the eastern Cumberland Islands,
is _eleven hours after_ the moon's passage; but it probably accelerates
north-westward, to the opening, and then retards further on: at Endeavour
River, captain Cook found it to be high water an hour and a half earlier
than is above given.

It has been said, that the width of the opening by which we got out to
sea, is uncertain; it is undoubtedly four, and possibly more leagues, but
there are many small, unconnected banks in it. To a ship desiring access
to any part of the coast, south of Endeavour River, I should certainly
recommend her to enter the inclosed sea by the way of Break-sea Spit, if
able to choose her own route; but the question is, whether a ship driven
by stress of weather, or by accident, to seek the coast, might steer for
the opening with a fair prospect of passing through in safety? I
certainly think she might; with the precaution of not attempting the
passage late in the day. The marks to be given for it, are, the latitude
18 deg. 52', longitude 148 deg. 2', variation 6 deg. east with the ship's head north
or south, and the soundings. When right off the opening, bottom will be
found at from 70 to 40 fathoms before any reefs come in sight; whereas,
if breakers be seen and no soundings can be obtained, it may be certainly
concluded that the ship is not in the fair way for this opening, and
probably, that no large opening exists in that part of the barrier. On
getting soundings and afterwards making the reefs near the situation
above given, a ship should push through the first opening of two miles
wide that presents itself, and steer south-westward amongst the inner
reefs for the land; and it will not be many hours, perhaps minutes,
before she will find smooth water and anchoring ground. The commander who
proposes to make the experiment, must not, however, be one who throws his
ship's head round in a hurry, so soon as breakers are announced from
aloft; if he do not feel his nerves strong enough to thread the needle,
as it is called, amongst the reefs, whilst he directs the steerage from
the mast head, I would strongly recommend him not to approach this part
of New South Wales.


Passage from the Barrier Reefs to Torres' Strait.
Reefs named Eastern Fields.
Pandora's Entrance to the Strait.
Anchorage at Murray's Islands.
Communication with the inhabitants.
Half-way Island.
Notions on the formation of coral islands in general.
Prince of Wales's Islands, with remarks on them.
Wallis' Isles.
Entrance into the Gulph of Carpentaria.
Review of the passage through Torres' Strait.



The last reefs were out of sight in the evening of Oct. 21, and our
course was continued for Torres' Strait; but the barrier was yet at too
little distance, not to cause apprehension of straggling reefs; and I
thought it too hazardous to run in the night, during this passage.

At noon of the 22d [FRIDAY 22 OCTOBER 1802], our latitude was 16 deg. 39',
longitude 148 deg. 43', and there was no bottom at 150 fathoms (Atlas, Plate
XII.); nor was any thing unusual to be seen, unless it were tropic and
man-of-war birds, and gannets. The _Bature de Diane_ of Mons. de
Bougainville should lie about thirty-eight leagues to the N. E. by E.,
and his western reefs about twenty-eight leagues to the N. N. W. 1/2 W., of
this situation; and to them, or perhaps some nearer banks, the birds
might probably belong.* A piece of land is marked to the south-west of
the first reefs, but its existence is very doubtful; for all that M. de
Bougainville says of it (II, 163) is, that "some even thought they saw
low land to the south-west of the breakers."

[* Bougainville's longitude of the north end of Aurora Island, one of his
_Archipel de Grandes Cyclades_ (the New Hebrides of Cook), differed 54'
of longitude to the east of captain Cook's position; and it seems very
probable that it was as much too great when the above dangers were
discovered. Admitting this to be the case, the situations extracted from
his voyage (II, 161, 164) will be as under:
Bature de Diane 15 deg. 41' south 150 deg. 25' east of Greenwich.
Reef 15 341/2 148 6
Second reef, 15 17 147 57 ]


Next day at noon, we were in 15 deg. 12' south, and 149 deg. 2' east; the current
had set half a knot to the N. N. W., and many of the former kinds of
birds, as also boobies and petrels, were seen. Hitherto we had kept up
nearly to the wind, in order to gain an offing from the coast and Barrier
Reefs; but next morning [SUNDAY 24 OCTOBER 1802] the course was directed
N. W. At noon, latitude 13 deg. 47', longitude 148 deg. 39': many boobies seen,
and some petrels and tropic birds. On the 25th [MONDAY 25 OCTOBER 1802],
a shag flew round the ship, and a large flock of petrels was seen:
latitude at noon, 12 deg. 55', longitude 147 deg. 23', and the current setting
more than a mile an hour to the west (Atlas, Plate XIII.). At eight in
the evening, when we hauled to the wind, there was no bottom at 130


In the morning of the 27th, a small land bird, resembling a linnet, was
seen; at noon we were in 10 deg. 28' south and 146 deg. 7' east, and the current
had set W. N. W., three quarters of a mile an hour, since the 25th. The
wind, which had been at south-east, then shifted suddenly to north, and
blew fresh with squally weather; but at midnight it veered to south-east
again. These changes were accompanied with thunder, lightning and rain;
indications, as I feared, of the approaching north-west monsoon. We lay
to, during a part of the night; and at day-break [THURSDAY 28 OCTOBER
1802] bore away again upon our north western course. At eight o'clock,
breakers were seen extending from S. W. by W. to N. by. E., distant from
two to six miles; there was a small gap in them, bearing N. by W.1/2 W.,
but we hauled up north-east, to windward of the whole, and made more
sail. I ventured to bear away at ten; and at noon our latitude was 9 deg. 51'
36", and longitude 145 deg. 451/2' by time keeper. No reefs were then in sight;
but in steering west, we passed through a rippling of tide or current,
and a single breaker was seen from the mast head, at three o'clock,
bearing S. W. four or five miles.

These reefs lie nearly a degree to the eastward of those first seen by
the captains Edwards and Bligh, when entering Torres' Strait; for the
north-eastern extreme lies in 10 deg. 2' south, and 145 deg. 45' east. From this
position, the eastern line of the breakers extended ten or twelve miles
to the S. S. W., and the single breaker afterwards seen, lies about six
leagues to the W. N. W.; but how far they may be connected, or what the
extent of the reefs may be to the south-west, could not be seen. In the
belief that this was the first discovery of these coral banks, I called
them the _Eastern Fields_; intending thereby to designate their position
with respect to the other reefs of Torres' Strait.

Our latitude at noon was exactly that of the opening by which captain
Edwards of the Pandora had entered the Strait in 1791; and which I call
the _Pandora's Entrance_. This opening appeared to be preferable to that
further northward, by which captain Bligh and Mr. Bampton had got within
the reefs; more especially as it led directly for Murray's Islands,
where, if possible, I intended to anchor. Our course was therefore
steered west; and seeing no more reefs, it was continued until eight in
the evening, at which time we hauled to the wind, having no bottom at 105


At daylight, after sounding ineffectually with 100 fathoms, we bore away
on our western course. Two reefs were seen at six o'clock; the one
bearing N. by W.1/2 W. three, and the other W. by N. 1/2 N. four miles. They
seemed to be small, and unconnected; but in all probability were parts of
those which form the north side of the Pandora's Entrance, and which
captain Bligh, who saw them more to the northward, named collectively,
Portlock's Reef. The situation of the southernmost part, deduced from the
preceding and following noons, will be 9 deg. 48' south, and 144 deg. 45' east.


After passing these reefs, our course was west, by compass; and nothing
further was descried till eleven o'clock; breakers then came in sight
ahead, and we hauled up north-east, till noon; when the observed latitude
from both sides was 9 deg. 36' 55", longitude 144 deg. 13', and the depth 50
fathoms on a bottom of fine, white sand. The reef was distant one mile
and a half in the nearest part, and three miles at the extremes, which
bore N. 15 deg. E. and S. 60 deg. W.; a sand bank or key upon it bore W. 3/4 S.,
and is probably dry at all times, for it was then near high water.

Finding by the latitude that we had been set considerably to the north,
and were out of the parallel of Murray's Islands, I tacked to the S. S.
W.; and at two o'clock, the largest island was seen bearing S. 38 deg. W.
about five leagues. Soon afterward, a reef came in sight to the
south-east, extending in patches toward the islands; and presently
another was distinguished to the westward, from the mast head, which took
nearly a parallel direction, the passage between them being about four
miles wide. We steered along the lee side of the eastern reef, at the
distance of a mile, with soundings from 29 to 24 fathoms, coral sand,
until four o'clock; the reef then trended more southward, and we edged
away for the islands, of which Mr. Westall sketched the appearance (Atlas
Plate XVIII. View 10). At half past five, the largest island bore S. 36 deg.
E. to 28 deg. W., one mile and a half; and there being more reefs coming in
sight to the westward, the anchor was immediately let go in 20 fathoms,
coarse sand and shells. The north and east sides of the island are
surrounded by a reef, which may probably include the two smaller isles on
its southwest side; but it is totally unconnected with the reefs to the
north-east. These appear to be a northern continuation of the vast bank,
on the outside of which the Pandora sailed as far as 111/2 deg. south, and in
the chart of captain Edwards' track, published by Mr. Dalrymple, it is
marked as surrounding the islands; whereas it is at least four miles
distant from the reef which probably does surround them.

A number of poles standing up in various places, more especially between
the islands, appeared at a distance like the masts of canoes, and made me
apprehend that the inhabitants of the Strait had collected a fleet here;
but on approaching nearer, the poles were found to be upon the reefs, and
were probably set up for some purpose connected with fishing. We had
scarcely anchored when between forty and fifty Indians came off, in three
canoes. They would not come along-side of the ship, but lay off at a
little distance, holding up cocoa nuts, joints of bamboo filled with
water, plantains, bows and arrows, and vociferating _tooree! tooree!_ and
_mammoosee!_ A barter soon commenced, and was carried on in this manner:
a hatchet, or other piece of iron (tooree) being held up, they offered a
bunch of green plantains, a bow and quiver of arrows, or what they judged
would be received in exchange; signs of acceptance being made, the Indian
leaped overboard with his barter, and handed it to a man who went down
the side to him; and receiving his hatchet, swam back to the canoe. Some
delivered their articles without any distrust of the exchange, but this
was not always the case. Their eagerness to get tooree was great, and at
first, any thing of that same metal was received; but afterwards, if a
nail were held up to an Indian, he shook his head, striking the edge of
his right hand upon the left arm, in the attitude of chopping; and he was
well enough understood.

At sunset, two of the canoes returned to Murray's Island, paddling to
windward with more velocity than one of our boats could have rowed; the
third set a narrow, upright sail, between two masts in the fore part of
the canoe, and steered north-westward, as I judged, for the Darnley's
Island of captain Bligh.

I did not forget that the inhabitants of these islands had made an attack
upon the Providence and Assistant in 1792 (Vol I, Introduction*); nor
that Mr. Bampton had some people cut off at Darnley's Island in 1793 (Vol
I, Introduction**). The marines were therefore kept under arms, the guns
clear, and matches lighted; and officers were stationed to watch every
motion, one to each canoe, so long as they remained near the ship. Bows
and arrows were contained in all the canoes; but no intention of
hostility was manifested by the Indians, unless those who steered for
Darnley's Island might be supposed to go for assistance.

[* "On the 5th, boats were again sent to sound the passage. Several large
sailing canoes were seen; and the cutter making the signal for
assistance, the pinnace was sent to her, well manned and armed. On the
return of the boats in the afternoon, it appeared, that, of four canoes
which used their efforts to get up to the cutter, one succeeded. . . ."]

[** "After having gone entirely round the island, and seen nothing of the
object of his research, Mr. Dell returned to the first cove; where a
great concourse of natives, armed with bows, arrows, clubs, and lances,
were assembled at the outskirt of the wood. . . ."]


We did not get under way in the morning, until the sun was high enough
for altitudes to be taken for the time keepers. Soon after daylight, the
natives were with us again, in seven canoes; some of them came under the
stern, and fifteen or twenty of the people ascended on board, bringing in
their hands pearl-oyster shells and necklaces of cowries; with which, and
some bows and arrows, they obtained more of the precious _tooree_.
Wishing to secure the friendship and confidence of these islanders to
such vessels as might hereafter pass through Torres' Strait, and not
being able to distinguish any chief amongst them, I selected the oldest
man, and presented him with a hand-saw, a hammer and nails, and some
other trifles; of all which we attempted to show him the use, but I
believe without success; for the poor old man became frightened, on
finding himself to be so particularly noticed.

At this time we began to heave short for weighing, and made signs to the
Indians to go down into their canoes, which they seemed unwilling to
comprehend; but on the seamen going aloft to loose the sails, they went
hastily down the stern ladder and ship's sides, and shoved off; and
before the anchor was up they paddled back to the shore, without our good
understanding having suffered any interruption.

The colour of these Indians is a dark chocolate; they are active,
muscular men, about the middle size, and their countenances expressive of
a quick apprehension. Their features and hair appeared to be similar to
those of the natives of New South Wales, and they also go quite naked;
but some of them had ornaments of shell work, and of plaited hair or
fibres of bark, about their waists, necks, and ancles. Our friend
Bongaree could not understand any thing of their language, nor did they
pay much attention to him; he seemed, indeed, to feel his own
inferiority, and made but a poor figure amongst them. The arms of these
people have been described in the voyage of captain Bligh (Vol I,
Introduction*); as also the canoes., of which the annexed plate, from a
drawing by Mr. Westall, gives a correct representation. The two masts,
when not wanted, are laid along the gunwales; when set up, they stand
abreast of each other in the fore part of the canoe, and seemed to be
secured by one set of shrouds, with a stay from one mast head to the
other. The sail is extended between them; but when going with a side
wind, the lee mast is brought aft by a back stay, and the sail then
stands obliquely. In other words, they brace up by setting in the head of
the lee mast, and perhaps the foot also; and can then lie within seven
points of the wind, and possibly nearer. This was their mode, so far as a
distant view would admit of judging; but how these long canoes keep to
the wind, and make such way as they do, without any after sail, I am at a
loss to know.

[* "Their arms were bows, arrows, and clubs, which they bartered for
every kind of iron work with eagerness; but appeared to set little value
on any thing else. The bows are made of split bamboo; and so strong, that
no man in the ship could bend one of them. The string is a broad slip of
cane, fixed to one end of the bow; and fitted with a noose, to go over
the other end, when strung. The arrow is a cane of about four feet long,
into which a pointed piece of the hard, heavy, _casuarina_ wood, is
firmly and neatly fitted; and some of them were barbed. Their clubs are
made of the _casuarina_, and are powerful weapons. The hand part is
indented, and has a small knob, by which the firmness of the grasp is
much assisted; and the heavy end is usually carved with some device: One
had the form of a parrot's head, with a ruff round the neck; and was not
ill done."]

Murray's largest island is nearly two miles long, by something more than
one in breadth; it is rather high land, and the hill at its western end
may be seen from a ship's deck at the distance of eight or nine leagues,
in a clear day. The two smaller isles seemed to be single hills, rising
abruptly from the sea, and to be scarcely accessible; nor did we see upon
them any fires, or other marks of inhabitants. On the shores of the large
island were many huts, surrounded by palisades, apparently of bamboo;
cocoa-nut trees were abundant, both on the low grounds and the sides of
the hills, and plantains, with some other fruits, had been brought to us.
There were many Indians sitting in groups upon the shore, and the seven
canoes which came off to the ship in the morning, contained from ten to
twenty men each, or together, about a hundred. If we suppose these
hundred men to have been one half of what belonged to the islands, and to
the two hundred men add as many women and three hundred children, the
population of Murray's Isles will amount to seven hundred; of which
nearly the whole must belong to the larger island.

The _latitude_ of the highest hill, deduced from that of the ship at the
following noon, is 9 deg. 54' south, and _longitude_ by the time keeper
corrected, 144 deg. 2' east; being 3' north, and 20' east of its position by
captain Edwards. A regular tide of about one knot an hour set E. by S.
and W. by N., past the ship; and by her swinging, it was high water at
half an hour after midnight, or about _ten hours and a half after_ the
moon had passed over the meridian. The bottom seemed to be loose at our
anchorage; but were these islands examined, it is probable that better
ground and shelter would be found on their western sides. I distinguished
from the mast head the north end of a reef, three miles distant to the W.
N. W.; but could not see whether it joined the reef surrounding the large
island. At N. N. W. 3/4 W. four miles, was the south-west end of another
reef; and when we got under way at half past eight in the morning, our
course was directed between the two.

Ripplings of a suspicious appearance caused the whale boat to be kept
ahead for some time; but finding no ground upon them with 30 fathoms, and
the breeze becoming fresh, the boat was called on board. At 9h 40' the
following bearings were taken:

Darnley's Island, highest part, N. 39 deg. W.
Murray's Islands, the largest, S. 58 deg. to 40 E.
Murray's Islands, two smaller, nearly touching, S. 36 to 27 E.
Rippling off the N. end of a reef, dist. 1/2 mile, S. W. 1/2 W.
East end of a reef, distant 11/2 miles, N. 6 E.

Mr. Westall's second view of Murray's Isles was taken from this position.
(Atlas Pl. XVIII. View 11.)

Knowing the difficulties experienced by captain Bligh and Mr. Bampton in
the northern part of the strait, I kept as much up to the southward, for
Cape York, as the direction of the reefs would admit. On the windward
side, we had a long chain of them extending W. S. W. to a great distance;
but its breadth was not great, as the blue water was seen beyond it, from
the mast head. On the north side there was no regular chain, and but one
reef of much extent; small patches were indeed announced every now and
then, from aloft, but these did not cause us much impediment; the
greatest was from two right in our track; but being a mile apart, we
passed between them at eleven o'clock.


Until noon, we had no soundings with from 25 to 30 fathoms of line, but
then found broken coral and shells at the latter depth; the great reefs
to windward were two or three miles distant, stretching south-west, and
our situation and bearings were as under:

Latitude observed, 9 deg. 531/2' S.
Longitude from time keeper, 143 42 E.
Murray's Isles, the largest, highest part, S. 881/2 E.
Murray's Isles, the westernmost, highest part, S. 811/2 E.
Darnley's I., highest part, obscure, N. 10 E.
A small, low isle, To the westward.
Nearest reef, distant two miles, S. 67 deg. to N. 43 W.

Having a fresh breeze at S. E. by E, we ran at the rate of six knots,
following the chain of reefs lying to windward. On the other side, there
were still very few reefs; but several low isles were distinguished,
similar to that seen at noon; these were small, but seemingly well
covered with wood, and appertain, as I judge, to the group called by Mr.
Bampton, Cornwallis' Range. At half past two, we passed between reefs one
mile and a half asunder, having no ground at 25 fathoms; and then the
chain which had been followed from Murray's Isles, either terminated or
took a more southern direction. Another small, woody isle was then in
sight, nearly in our track, at four it bore N. 67 deg. W., two-and-half
miles; and not seeing any other island ahead to afford shelter for the
night, we bore away round the south end of its reef, and came to an
anchor in 17 fathoms, coral sand.

Cent. of the island, dist. 11/4 miles, bore, S. 83 deg. E.
The surrounding reef, N. 78 deg. to S. 12 E.
A woody isle, westmost of five seen this p. m., N. 9 W.
A dry sand, set from the mast head, S. W.3/4 S.

A boat was lowered down, and I went on shore with the botanical
gentlemen, to look about the island. It is little better than a bank of
sand, upon a basis of coral rock; yet it was covered with shrubs and
trees so thickly, that in many places they were impenetrable. The
north-western part is entirely sand, but there grew upon it numbers of
_pandanus_ trees, similar to those of the east coast of New South Wales;
and around many of them was placed a circle of shells of the _chama
gigas_, or gigantic cockle, the intention of which excited my curiosity.

It appeared that this little island was visited occasionally by the
Indians, who obtained from it the fruit of the pandanus, and probably
turtle, for the marks of them were seen; and the reef furnishes them with
cockles, which are of a superior size here to those we had found upon the
reefs of the East Coast. There being no water upon the island, they seem
to have hit upon the following expedient to obtain it: Long slips of bark
are tied round the smooth stems of the pandanus, and the loose ends are
led into the shells of the cockle, placed underneath. By these slips, the
rain which runs down the branches and stem of the tree, is conducted into
the shells, and fills them at every considerable shower; and as each
shell will contain two or three pints, forty or fifty thus placed under
different trees will supply a good number of men. A pair of these cockle
shells, bleached in the sun, weighed a hundred and one pounds; but still
they were much inferior in size to some I have since seen.

The fruit of the pandanus, as it is used by these Indians and by the
natives of Terra Australis, affords very little nourishment. They suck
the bottom part of the drupes, or separated nuts, as we do the leaves of
the artichoke; but the quantity of pulp thus obtained, is very small, and
to my taste, too astringent to be agreeable. In the third volume of the
Asiatic Researches, the fruit of the pandanus is described as furnishing,
under the name of _Mellori_, an important article of food to the
inhabitants of the Nicobar Islands; and in Mauritius, one of these
species is planted for its long and fibrous leaves, of which sacks, mats,
and bags for coffee and cotton are in a made.

This little island, or rather the surrounding reef, which is three or
four miles long, affords shelter from the south-east winds; and being at
a moderate day's run from Murray's Isles, it forms a convenient anchorage
for the night to a ship passing through Torres' Strait: I named it
_Half-way Island_. It is scarcely more than a mile in circumference, but
appears to be increasing both in elevation and extent. At no very distant
period of time, it was one of those banks produced by the washing up of
sand and broken coral, of which most reefs afford instances, and those of
Torres' Strait a great many. These banks are in different stages of
progress: some, like this, are become islands, but not yet habitable;
some are above high-water mark, but destitute of vegetation; whilst
others are overflowed with every returning tide.

It seems to me, that when the animalcules which form the corals at the
bottom of the ocean, cease to live, their structures adhere to each
other, by virtue either of the glutinous remains within, or of some
property in salt water; and the interstices being gradually filled up
with sand and broken pieces of coral washed by the sea, which also
adhere, a mass of rock is at length formed. Future races of these
animalcules erect their habitations upon the rising bank, and die in
their turn to increase, but principally to elevate, this monument of
their wonderful labours. The care taken to work perpendicularly in the
early stages, would mark a surprising instinct in these diminutive
creatures. Their wall of coral, for the most part in situations where the
winds are constant, being arrived at the surface, affords a shelter, to
leeward of which their infant colonies may be safely sent forth; and to
this their instinctive foresight it seems to be owing, that the windward
side of a reef exposed to the open sea, is generally, if not always the
highest part, and rises almost perpendicular, sometimes from the depth of
200, and perhaps many more fathoms. To be constantly covered with water,
seems necessary to the existence of the animalcules, for they do not
work, except in holes upon the reef, beyond low-water mark; but the coral
sand and other broken remnants thrown up by the sea, adhere to the rock,
and form a solid mass with it, as high as the common tides reach. That
elevation surpassed, the future remnants, being rarely covered, lose
their adhesive property; and remaining in a loose state, form what is
usually called a _key_, upon the top of the reef. The new bank is not
long in being visited by sea birds; salt plants take root upon it, and a
soil begins to be formed; a cocoa nut, or the drupe of a pandanus is
thrown on shore; land birds visit it and deposit the seeds of shrubs and
trees; every high tide, and still more every gale, adds something to the
bank; the form of an island is gradually assumed; and last of all comes
man to take possession.

Half-way Island is well advanced in the above progressive state; having
been many years, probably some ages, above the reach of the highest
spring tides, or the wash of the surf in the heaviest gales. I
distinguished, however, in the rock which forms its basis, the sand,
coral, and shells formerly thrown up, in a more or less perfect state of
cohesion; small pieces of wood, pumice stone, and other extraneous bodies
which chance had mixed with the calcareous substances when the cohesion
began, were inclosed in the rock; and in some cases were still separable
from it without much force. The upper part of the island is a mixture of
the same substances in a loose state, with a little vegetable soil; and
is covered with the _casuarina_ and a variety of other trees and shrubs,
which give food to paroquets, pigeons, and some other birds; to whose
ancestors it is probable, the island was originally indebted for this

The latitude of Half-way Island, deduced from that of the preceding and
following noons, is 10 deg. 8' south, and longitude by time keeper corrected,
143 deg. 18' east. From the time of anchoring, to nine at night, there was a
set past the ship to the north-east, of half a knot; it ceased for three
hours, then recommencing at a slower rate, ran to the same point. Thus
far in the strait, the current had been found to run at the rate of
fourteen miles a day to the westward; and the above set might have been
an eddy under the lee of the reef, for it seemed too irregular to be a


At daylight in the morning the south-east trade blew fresh with squally
weather. We steered south-westward, passing at seven o'clock between two
dry sands, three or four miles apart, with a depth of 15 fathoms; at
eight, another dry bank was left two miles to the southward, and a small,
low island set at N. by W., two or three leagues. From this time, and
running at the rate of seven knots, nothing was seen until ten; a dry
sand then bore N. 78 deg. W., two miles and a half, and two more low isles
were seen to the northward; the soundings had become regular, between 10
and 9 fathoms, and the bottom was of mixed sand and shells, fit for
anchorage. Our latitude at noon was 10 deg. 26' 45", and longitude 142 deg. 391/2';
and we had high land bearing S. 3 deg. E. ten or twelve miles, which I
supposed might be the easternmost of the York Isles, although captain
Cook's longitude of it was 38' more westward. The weather being hazy, no
other land was seen, nor any reefs; but at one o'clock, I set these

York Isle, high flat top, S. 35 deg. E.
A more northern, double isle, S. 84 W.
A high peaked hill (Mt. Ernest of Bligh), N. 16 W.


At two o'clock, when we passed on the north side of the double isle, it
was seen to be surrounded with a coral reef, and there were rocks on its
west and south sides. We then hauled tip S. W. by S. for some rocky
islets lying, as I supposed, off Cape York; but finding no shelter there,
bore away round the north end of an island, of which Mr. Westall took a
view (Atlas, Plate XVIII. View 12), and anchored in 7 fathoms, gravel and
shells, one mile and a half from the land, and two or three cables length
from a shoal to the southward, which became dry at low water. Our
latitude here was 10 deg. 30' from bearings, and longitude by time-keeper
142(? illegible in book) 181/2' east; but I was altogether at a loss to
know what islands these were, under which we had anchored. Supposing the
flat-topped island to have been the easternmost York Isle, the land we
had in sight to the southward should have been Cape York; but no such
isles as those around us were laid down by captain Cook, to the north of
that cape. On consulting the sketch made by captain Bligh in the Bounty's
launch (Voyage to the South Seas, p. 220), it appeared that the first
land was not the easternmost isle, but one much nearer to Cape York; and
that our anchorage was under the southern group of the Prince of Wales'
Islands, the longitude of which, by captain Cook, is 1 deg. 12' west of what
I make it.* The north-eastern isle of this group, under which we more
immediately lay, is that named Wednesday Island by captain Bligh; to the
other isles he gave no name; but the one westward of the ship seems to
have been the Hammond's Island of captain Edwards, when passing here with
the Pandora's boats. So soon as the weather cleared a little, the
subjoined bearings were taken.

[* Mr. Wales deduces from captain Cook's observations in the Endeavour,
that the error of his chart here, is 35' west (_Astron. Observations_, p.

Wednesday I., distant 11/2 to 3 miles, S. 89 deg. E. to 21 deg. W.
Hammond's Isle, dist. 4 or 5 miles, S. 52 W. to 71 W.
Hawkesbury I. (of Edwards), highest part, N. 52 W.
Mount Augustus (of Bligh), N. 2 W.
A small isle, distant three leagues, N. 24 E.
Mount Ernest, peak, N. 36 E.
Double Isle, passed at 2 p.m., N. 701/2 E.
Breakers on a reef, distant 31/2 miles, N. 64 to 30 W.


This evening and all the next day, the wind blew so strong that it was
impossible to land; nor did I think it prudent to quit the anchorage,
though anxious to commence the survey of the Gulph of Carpentaria. Upon
Hammond's Island some fires were seen; but Wednesday Island showed no
signs of being inhabited, unless some whitish, conical figures like
sentry boxes, were huts; there were bushes and small trees scattered over
both islands, but their general appearance was rocky and barren.

The tide here ran nine hours to the westward, at the strongest
two-and-half knots; and three hours north-eastward, but scarcely
perceptible; which deviation from the regular order was probably caused
by the current setting westward. So far as the soundings taken every hour
could ascertain the rise, it was at least two fathoms, and high water
took place _four or five hours after_ the moon's passage over and under
the meridian, and was completed by the three hours tide. According to
this, it would be high water here, and low water at Murray's Islands at
the same time, which would present a remarkable analogy between this
strait and that of Bass to the southward; this however is certain, that
the tide set E. by S. one knot and a quarter, at Murray's Islands, at
four in the morning; and that two days afterward, at Wednesday Island, it
set from one-and-half to two-and-half knots W. by S., from one till seven
in the morning. I will not venture to say that the latter part of the
flood comes from southwest at the Prince of Wales' Islands, though
appearances bespoke it; because captain Cook, who had better opportunity
for observation, found it setting from the east, in Endeavour's Strait.
He also gives the time of high water at one or two hours after the moon,
which comes nearer to what I observed at Murray's Islands.

From azimuths with the surveying compass when the head was S. E. by E.,
the variation was 3 deg. 32', or corrected to the meridian, 4 deg. 52' east.


In the morning of Nov. 2, the wind being more moderate and at E. S. E.,
we steered between Hammond's Island and the north-western reef, with
soundings from 6 to 9 fathoms. Another island appeared beyond Hammond's,
to the south-west, which, as it had no name, I called _Good's Island_,
after Mr. Good, the botanical gardener; and we hauled up for it, passing
a rock and a small reef between the two. On seeing an extensive shoal
ahead, which would have carried us off the land to go round it, we
anchored in 7 fathoms, dead coral and shells, with the north end of
Hammond's Island bearing N. 64 deg. E., four or five miles. The botanical
gentlemen landed on Good's Island; and in the afternoon I took these
bearings amongst others, from a hill near its south-west end.

The ship, distant 11/4 miles, N. 58 deg. 0' W.
Wallis' Isles, over the Shoal Cape of Bligh, S. 23 5 W.
Booby Isle, centre, S. 80 0 W.
Northern isles, the westernmost visible, N. 28 deg. 10' to 24 5 W.
Hawkesbury Island, N. 9 15 to 4 0 W.
North-west reef, its apparent termination, N. 38 50 W.

The shoal which stopped our progress did not run off from Shoal Cape, as
captain Bligh had supposed, but from a smaller and nearer island, two
miles from my station. Within the large island, of which Shoal Cape forms
the north-western point, I saw water like an inclosed port, probably the
Wolf's Bay of captain Edwards; and it seemed possible that the land may
be there divided; but the best information I can give of the forms and
extent of all these islands, will be seen in the particular chart.

It was now ascertained, that the figures resembling sentry boxes were ant
hills, of eight or more feet high; Pelsert found similar hills on the
West Coast, and says they might have been taken for the houses of
Indians, as in fact we did take them at a distant view. They were also
seen by Dampier on the North-west Coast, who mistook them in the same
way; but says he found them to be so many rocks, probably from not making
the examination with his usual care. The insects which inhabit, and I
suppose erect these structures, are small, reddish, with black heads, and
seemed to be a sluggish and feeble race. We found the common black flies
excessively numerous here; and almost as troublesome as Dampier describes
them to be on the North-west Coast.

Good's Island is between one and two miles long, and resembles the rest
of the cluster in being hilly, woody, and rocky, with small beaches on
the leeward side. The stone is granitic and brittle; but there is also
porphyry, and in one place I found streaks of verdegrease, as if the
cliffs above had contained copper ore. A log of wood, resembling the
cedar of Port Jackson, was thrown up on the beach, but none of the trees
were seen; those scattered over the island, though of various kinds, were
small and fit for little else than the fire. A species of silk-cotton
plant was plentiful; the fibres in the pod are strong, and have a fine
gloss, and might perhaps be advantageously employed in manufacture.

From two supplements of the sun's meridian altitude to the north, the
_latitude_ of our anchorage would be 10 deg. 34' 12"; but the supplements
observed on the 31st having given 1' 14" too far south, the correct
latitude is taken to be 10 deg. 32' 58". The _longitude_ from nine sets of
distances of the sun west of the moon, was 142 deg. 23'; but by the corrected
time keeper, which I prefer, it was 142 deg. 101/2' east. To compare this
longitude with that of captain Cook, it must be reduced to some point
distinctly laid down by him, and I take Booby Island, which was in sight.
According to that navigator, Booby Isle is in 140 deg. 38' east (Hawkesworth,
III, 214); whereas I made it to lie in 141 deg. 57', or 1 deg. 19' further east,
a difference which certainly appears very extraordinary; but it is still
more so, that the island should be laid down 63' of longitude to the west
of the high, flat-topped York Isle, instead Of 43' or 44'. To show that
the longitude by my time keeper was not much, if any thing too great, I
have to observe, that in captain Bligh's manuscript chart of 1792, Mount
Augustus is laid down from his time keepers in 142 deg. 14'; and the mean of
his lunar observations, taken eight days before and six days afterward,
was 16' _more east_. My time keeper now placed Mount Augustus in 142 deg.
18', or only 4' more east than captain Bligh's chart, consequently in 12'
less than by his lunar observations; by which quantity it was also less
than the nine sets of distances now taken by lieutenant Flinders.

No run of tide was perceptible at the anchorage, from eight in the
morning to two p.m.; but it then set westward, and continued so to do
until four next morning, and was then running one knot and a half. The
time of high water appeared by the soundings, to be nearly as they gave
it at Wednesday Island.


In the morning of the 3rd, the wind was moderate at E. S. E., and we made
sail to get in with the main land to the south of the Prince of Wales'
Islands. In hauling round the dry part of the shoal, we fell into 3
fathoms, and were obliged to steer round off; nor was it until after many
attempts, and running four or five miles further to the south-westward,
that the shoal would allow us to steer a southern course. At 8h 45',
being then in 5 fathoms,

Booby Isle bore, N. 56 deg. W.
Cape Cornwall, S. 58 E.
Station on Good's Island, dist. 11 miles N. 541/2 E.

From hence we carried 6 to 7 fathoms until past ten, and afterwards
irregular soundings between 3 and 9 fathoms, to noon; the latitude from a
supplement to the north, with the same correction as applied on the 2nd,
was then 10 deg. 50' 44", and the bearings of the land were these;

Station on Good's Island, N. 291/2 deg. E.
Cape Cornwall, N. 68 E.
Wallis' Isles, the highest, distant 21/2 miles, N. 84 E.
Wallis' Isles, a lower and broader, dist. 3 or 4 miles, S. 71 deg. to 64 E.
Main land, low sandy point, dist. 8 miles, S. 43 E.
Main land, furthest extreme near a smoke, S. 77 E.

Between Cape Cornwall and the low main land above set, is the opening
called in the old Dutch chart, Speult's River; but which captain Cook,
who sailed through it, named Endeavour's Strait. Wallis' Isles are small,
low, and rocky, and the northernmost seemed destitute of vegetation; they
are surrounded with sandy shoals, which appeared to connect with the main
land and leave no ship passage between them. On the north side of the
isles there are several banks at the outlet of Endeavour's Strait; and
the passage this way into the Indian Ocean is thereby rendered much
inferior to that between Wednesday Island and the north-west reef, in
which there are no difficulties.


We passed Wallis' Isles, steering southward to get in with the main
coast; but the shoals forced us to run seven or eight miles to the west,
out of sight of land, before regular soundings could be obtained and a
southern course steered into the Gulph of Carpentaria. At dusk, the
anchor was dropped in 8 fathoms, soft mud, in latitude 11 deg. 5', as
observed from the moon to the north and south, and longitude 141 deg. 51' by
time keeper. The variation from amplitude at sunset, was 2 deg. 33', with the
ship's head S. S. E., or 3 deg. 10' east when reduced to the meridian; which
is 1 deg. 42' less than was obtained from azimuths under Wednesday Island.

I now considered all the difficulties of Torres' Strait to be surmounted,
since we had got a fair entry into the Gulph of Carpentaria; and to have
accomplished this, before the north-west monsoon had made any strong
indications, was a source of much satisfaction, after the unexpected
delay amongst the Barrier Reefs on the East Coast. It was this
apprehension of the north-west monsoon that prevented me from making any
further examination of the Strait, than what could be done in passing
through it; but even this was not without its advantage to navigation,
since it demonstrated that this most direct passage, from the southern
Pacific, or Great Ocean to the Indian Seas, may be accomplished _in three
days_. It may be remembered, that the reefs on the north side of the
Pandora's Entrance were passed at six in the morning of Oct. 29; and
that, after lying two nights at anchor, we reached the Prince of Wales's
Islands at three in the afternoon of the 31st; and nothing then prevented
us from passing Booby Isle, had I wished it, and clearing Torres' Strait
before dusk. Our route was almost wholly to seek, and another ship which
shall have that route laid down to her, may surely accomplish the passage
in the same time; it must however be acknowledged, that this navigation
is not without difficulties and dangers; but I had great hope of
obviating many of them, and even of finding a more direct passage by the
south of Murray's Islands in the following year, when I should have the
assistance of the Lady Nelson in making a survey of the Strait.


Examination of the coast on the east side of the Gulph of Carpentaria.
Landing at Coen River.
Head of the Gulph.
Anchorage at Sweers' Island.
Interview with Indians at Horse-shoe Island.
Investigator's Road.
The ship found to be in a state of decay.
General remarks on the islands at the Head of the Gulph,
and their inhabitants.
Astronomical and nautical observations.



In the morning of Nov. 4, the wind was at south-east, and we steered
southward, close to it, with soundings from 8 to 11 fathoms. Several land
birds of the size of a pigeon, but more slender, came off to the ship;
when taken they fought desperately, being armed for war with a strong
claw upon each wing. This bird had been seen at Port Philip on the South
Coast, and belongs to the genus _Tringa_, being very nearly allied to the
_Tringa Goensis_. At noon, the latitude was 11 deg. 241/2', longitude 141 deg.
461/2'; and at three, a sea breeze which set in from south-west, enabled us
to steer in for the coast of Carpentaria on the east side of the Gulph;
and it came in sight from the mast head soon afterwards. At five, the
nearest part was six or eight miles distant, and the extremes bore N. E.
to S. S. E.; the depth of water was 10 fathoms, which decreased to 71/2 at
dusk, when we anchored on a bottom of gravel and shells; the shore being
then distant four miles, and the extremes bearing N. 38 deg. to S. 8 deg. E. It
was sandy and low, like that on the south side of Endeavour's Strait,
with which it is no doubt connected; although, in a space of five or six
leagues, our distance was too great for the land to be seen; behind the
shore it was indifferently covered with shrubs and small trees, but
totally destitute of any thing like a hill: fires bespoke it to be
inhabited. There was no set of tide past the ship in the night, but the
depth of water diminished from 71/2 to 61/4 fathoms.


When we got under way in the morning to proceed along shore, the wind was
light, off the land, and soon after nine it fell calm; a drain of tide
setting to the north-east, induced me to drop a stream anchor, four or
five miles from a part of the beach where some natives were collected
round a fire. At eleven the sea breeze came in from W. by N., with dark
cloudy weather, and we steered onward, passing a small opening at one
o'clock, four or five miles south of the natives. A much larger opening
came in sight at two, into which I hoped to get the ship; but the water
was so shallow at five or six miles off, that we were obliged to tack;
and after making a second ineffectual attempt, it became dusk, and we
anchored in 61/2 fathoms, fine dark sand, the centre of the opening bearing
S. 37 deg. E. three leagues.

The coast was low, as before, but the trees upon it were taller. The
largest opening is about two miles wide, leading in south-east; but
turning afterwards more east, and apparently contracting its width. Near
the south-west point of the entrance, which projects a little from the
general line of the shore, was a clump of trees, higher than usual,
presenting the first mark I had yet found for bearings. The latitude of
this opening is 11 deg. 55', and agrees nearly with that of Batavia River in
the old Dutch chart; but the shoal which runs six miles out, seemed to
render it inaccessible to a ship.


In the morning we had a breeze off the land; and the fear of the
north-west monsoon preventing me from taking time to beat up, we passed
Batavia River at the distance of six miles, with soundings from 5 to 8
fathoms. Several flocks of ducks were seen coming from the westward,
where they had probably been to pass the night upon some island not
inhabited. Our latitude at noon, from double altitudes, was 11 deg. 56', and
longitude by time keeper 141 deg. 50'; the clump of trees near the entrance
of Batavia River bore E. 1 deg. S., the furthest extreme of the land, S. 11 deg.
W., and the nearest part was distant four miles.

The land wind continued to blow all day, but permitted us to lie along
the shore. On its falling calm toward sunset, we anchored in 10 fathoms,
soft mud, three or four miles from the coast; the extremes bearing N. 49 deg.
E. and S. 2 deg. W. A light air came off the land at four in the morning
[SUNDAY 7 NOVEMBER 1802], and at daylight we again steered southward; but
in two hours the wind died off, and an anchor was dropped in 9 fathoms.
There was a small opening at E. 5 deg. S., about three miles; and the
botanical gentlemen being desirous of seeing the productions of this part
of the country, the whale boat was lowered down, and we went to examine
the inlet.

On approaching the entrance, a canoe, or something like one, passed and
repassed from the north to the south side, the rower using both hands to
the paddle like the natives of Murray's Islands. We had a good deal of
difficulty to get in, on account of the shoals; the channel amongst them
being narrow and winding, and not more than nine to twelve feet deep. On
the north side was a party of natives, and Bongaree went on shore to
them, naked and unarmed; but although provided with spears, they
retreated from him, and all our endeavours to bring about an interview
were unsuccessful. It was not safe for the gentlemen to botanise in
presence of these suspicious people; and therefore we rowed a mile higher
up, to a green looking point on the same side, and landed about noon. The
depth thus far, was 2 fathoms; and I could see two-and-half miles further
up the inlet to the E. S. E., where it turned more southward, round a
woody point; and from the strength of the tide, probably extended some
miles into the country.

Whilst the botanists where making their examination and I walked along
the shore to shoot some birds, several voices were heard in the wood, as
of people advancing towards us; and there being too much opportunity here
to creep on secretly, we assembled and retired into the boat, to wait
their approach. A sea breeze had then set in; and the Indians not
appearing, we rowed back to the first place, where the country was open;
and the gentlemen botanised whilst centinels kept watch on the sandy

In the upper parts of the port the country was well covered with wood,
mostly _eucalyptus_; but near the entrance it was little better than bare
sand, with some scattered trees of the _casuarina_ and _pandanus:_ a
stone of imperfectly concreted coral sand and shells formed the basis.
Foot marks of the kangaroo were imprinted on the sand, and a dog was
seen; drupes of the pandanus, which had been sucked, lay in every
direction, and small cockle shells were scattered on the beaches. I
sought in vain for the canoe which had landed here, nor did I find any
huts of the natives.

Before quitting the shore, a hatchet was made fast to the branch of a
tree, and set up conspicuously near the water side. We had scarcely
shoved off, when the party of Indians, sixteen in number, made their
appearance and called to us; but when the boat's head was turned toward
them, they ran away. On the south side of the entrance were four other
natives, who also ran at our approach; we therefore set up another
hatchet for them on the beach, and returned back to the ship.

These people were all naked; and in colour, as in every thing else,
seemed to have a perfect resemblance to the inhabitants of the east and
south coasts of Terra Australis. In Torres' Strait bows and arrows are
the offensive weapons; but here we saw spears only: each man had several
in his hand, and something which was supposed to be a throwing stick.

This small opening appears to be the _Coen River_ of the Dutch chart; but
the entrance is too small and shallow to admit any thing larger than
boats: its latitude is 12 deg. 13' south, and longitude 141 deg. 47' east; and
the variation of the compass, observed with the ship's head in the
magnetic meridian, was 4 deg. 36' east. The tide was running from south-west,
at ten in in the morning, and on entering the inlet it was found to be
setting in with considerable strength; at two in the afternoon the flood
was still running; and admitting that it would be high water an hour
afterwards, as seemed probable, the time would be _five hours and a half
after_ the moon passed the lower meridian; or an hour later than it had
_appeared_ to be at the Prince of Wales' Islands.

Lieutenant Fowler had got the ship under way, on the sea breeze setting
in, and stood off and on the entrance to Coen River, until our return at
three o'clock. We then steered south-westward along the shore; and soon
after sunset, anchored in 10 fathoms, nearly four miles from the land,
which extended from N. 38 deg. to S. 6 deg. E. and was still low and woody, and
fronted with a sandy beach.

A breeze came off the land at night, as usual, and the weather was dark
and squally. Early in the morning [MONDAY 8 NOVEMBER 1802] we steered
along the coast, with good soundings between 10 and 9 fathoms, muddy
bottom. A sandy point with two hillocks on it, which had been the extreme
of the preceding evening, was passed at ten o'clock; and seeing a large
bight round it, we tacked to work up. At noon, the point bore from N. 44 deg.
E., one mile and a half, to the southern extreme at east, three miles.
This point is one of the very few remarkable projections to be found on
this low coast, but it is not noticed in the Dutch chart; there is little
doubt, however, that it was seen in 1606, in the yacht Duyfhen, the first
vessel which discovered any part of Carpentaria; and that the remembrance
may not be lost, I gave the name of the vessel to the point. Our
observations placed the south extreme of _Duyfhen Point_ in 12 deg. 35'
south, and 141 deg. 42' east; and the variation from amplitude, with the
ships head W. N. W., was 5 deg. 24', or reduced to the meridian, 3 deg. 43' east.

On the sea breeze setting in at two o'clock, we steered into the bight
until past five; when having no more than 21/2 fathoms, we tacked and
stretched out. The bight extends eleven or twelve miles back from the
line of the coast, and there are three small openings in it; but the
shore being very low, and in many places over-run with mangroves, and the
water shallow four or five miles off, these openings are probably no more
than drains out of salt swamps or lagoons. The bearings when we tacked in
21/2 fathoms, were,

Duyfhen Point, south extreme, dist. 6 or 7 miles, N. 63 deg. W.
Small opening behind it, distant 5 or 6 miles, N. 23 W.
A second opening, distant four miles, N. 64 E.
A third, distant three miles, S. 78 E.

At eight in the evening, having reached out of the bight, and a breeze
coming off the land, we steered southward until half past ten; and then
anchored in 8 fathoms, muddy bottom. In the morning [TUESDAY 9 NOVEMBER
1802], I set the west extreme of Duyfhen Point at N. 9 deg. E.; and the
furthest land in the opposite direction, at S. 9 deg. E. This land forms the
south side of the large bight; and besides projecting beyond the coast
line, and being a little higher than usual, is remarkable for having some
reddish cliffs in it, and deep water near the shore. It is not noticed in
the Dutch chart; but I called it _Pera Head_, to preserve the name of the
second vessel which, in 1623, sailed along this coast.

(Atlas, Plate XIV.)

Pera Head was passed at the distance of one mile and a half, at noon,
with 9 fathoms water; and the most projecting part of the cliffs found to
be in 12 deg. 581/2' south, and 141 deg. 40' east. The sea breeze had then set in,
and we steered southward till past four o'clock; when a decrease in the
soundings to 3 fathoms, obliged us to tack at a league from the land; and
the wind being at S. W., we worked along shore till ten in the evening,
and then anchored in 6 fathoms, oozy bottom. At daylight [WEDNESDAY 10
NOVEMBER 1802], the land was seen to be five miles distant, equally low
and sandy as before; and a small opening in it, perhaps not accessible to
boats, bore S. 79 deg. E. On getting under way again, we closed in with the
shore and steered along it at the distance of two or three miles, in
soundings from 3 to 7 fathoms until noon; our latitude was then 13 deg. 42'
35", longitude 141 deg. 32', being nearly the position of _Cape Keer-Weer_,
at which the yacht Duyfhen gave up her examination. I could see nothing
like a cape here; but the southern extreme of the land, seen from the
mast head, projects a little; and from respect to antiquity, the Dutch
name is there preserved.

At four o'clock we passed the southern extremity of Cape Keer-Weer, round
which the coast falls back somewhat; the water then became more shallow,
and did not admit of being safely approached nearer than four miles. An
opening is laid down here in the Dutch chart, called Vereenigde River,
which certainly has no existence. All this afternoon the sea breeze was
fresh and favourable; and by eight o'clock, when we anchored in 5
fathoms, the distance run from noon exceeded forty miles. A fire was seen
on the land about four miles off, and some smokes had been passed in the
day; so that the country should seem to be at least as well peopled in
this part of Carpentaria as further northward. The coast was, if
possible, still lower than before; not a single hill had yet been seen;
and the tops of the trees on the highest land, had scarcely exceeded the
height of the ship's mast head.


The land wind came from N. N. E.; and in the morning our course was
pursued along the shore at the usual distance. At eight o'clock the depth
decreased to 21/2 fathoms, and obliged us to steer off, though five miles
from the land; and when fair soundings were obtained, the tops of the
trees only were visible from the deck. At noon we had closed in again,
the shore being distant five or six miles, and the depth 6 fathoms on a
gravelly bottom; our latitude was 14 deg. 51' 5", longitude 141 deg. 33', the
extremes seen from the deck bore N. 29 deg. to S. 66 deg. E., and a smoke was
seen rising at S. 28 deg. E. The sea breeze came in from the south-westward;
but the trending of the coast being nearly S. S. E., we lay along it
until past four o'clock, and then tacked off, in 3 fathoms; the nearest
part of the land being distant two or three miles, and the extremes
bearing N. 3 deg. and S. 7 deg. W. At eight in the evening the breeze died away,
and a stream anchor was dropped in 5 fathoms, mud and shells, five or six
miles off shore; where the latitude from an observation of the moon was
15 deg. 5' south.


At sunrise, next morning, the ship was steering southward with a land
wind at east; and at seven o'clock we passed an opening near which
several natives were collected. The entrance seemed to be a full mile in
width; but a spit from the south side runs so far across, that there is
probably no access to it, unless for rowing boats: its latitude is 15 deg.
12' south, corresponding with a bight in the Dutch chart to the south of
the second _Water Plaets_; and the variation, with the ship's head in the
meridian, was 4 deg. 43' east. Our course southward was continued at two or
three miles from the shore, in 3 to 4 fathoms; but at eleven o'clock, the
sea breeze having then set in, the depth diminished suddenly to 2
fathoms; and in tacking, the ship stirred up the mud.

The latitude at noon was 15 deg. 25' 20", and longitude 141 deg. 32'; at one
o'clock we steered S. S. W., with the whale boat ahead, and carried from
4 to 6 fathoms until seven in the evening, when the stream anchor was
dropped about four miles from the shore, in 5 fathoms, muddy bottom. This
depth had diminished at daylight [SATURDAY 13 NOVEMBER 1802] to 33/4
fathoms, after a tide had been setting nine hours to the N. by E.; and
for the first time upon this coast it had run with some strength, the
rate being one mile an hour.

We were again under way soon after five o'clock; and at six, being then
four miles from the land, and steering S. S. W., a lagoon was seen from
the mast head, over the front beach. It has doubtless some communication
with the sea, either by a constant, or a temporary opening, but none such
could be perceived. The latitude 15 deg. 53' corresponds with that of _Nassau
River_ in the old chart; and from the examples already had of the Dutch
rivers here, it seems probable that this lagoon was meant. A few miles
further south, the shoal water obliged me to run westward, out of sight
of land from the deck; and even at the mast head, the tops of the trees
were only partially distinguished; yet the depth was no more than from 4
to 6 fathoms. At noon, when our latitude was 16 deg. 24' 29" and longitude
141 deg. 141/2', trees were visible from the deck at N. 70 deg. E., and from thence
to S. 50 deg. E; the nearest part, whence a smoke arose, being distant seven
or eight miles, and the depth of water 4 fathoms. The slight projection
here is probably one of those marked in the old chart on each side of
Staten River; but where that river can be found I know not.

The nearest approach made to the land in the afternoon, was five or six
miles, with 3 fathoms water; at dusk we anchored in 6 fathoms, mud, at
six or seven miles from the shore, having been forced off a little by the
sea breeze veering southward. A tide here ran gently to the S. S. W.,
till near ten o'clock, and then set northward till daylight [SUNDAY 14
NOVEMBER 1802]; at which time the water had fallen nine feet by the lead
line. We got under way with a land wind from the north-east, which
afterwards veered to north-west, and steered a course nearly due south;
which, as the coast then trended south-westward, brought us in with it.
At noon, the latitude was 17 deg. 3' 15", longitude 141 deg. 0'; a projecting
part bore N. 59 deg. E. three or four miles, and the depth was 31/2 fathoms.
There appeared to be a small opening on the south side of this little
projection, which corresponds in latitude to _Van Diemen's River_ in the
old chart; but across the entrance was an extensive flat, nearly dry, and
would probably prevent even boats from getting in. If this place had any
title to be called a river in 1644, the coast must have undergone a great
alteration since that time.

In the afternoon our course along shore was more westward; and this, with
the increasing shallowness of the water, made me apprehend that the Gulph
would be found to terminate nearly as represented in the old charts, and
disappoint the hopes formed of a strait or passage leading out at some
other part of Terra Australis. At four o'clock, after running more than
an hour in 31/2 fathoms, or less than 3 at low water, our distance from the
shore was five miles; and a small opening then bore S. 14 deg. E, which seems
to be the _Caron River_, marked at the south-east extremity of the Gulph
in the Dutch chart; but whatever it might have been in Tasman's time, no
navigator would now think of attempting to enter it with a ship: the
latitude is 17 deg. 26', and longitude 140 deg. 52' east. From four till seven
our course was W. by S., close to the wind, the depth being mostly 3
fathoms, and the land barely within sight from the mast head. We then
stood off; and the water being smooth, anchored on muddy ground, in 41/2
fathoms, which became 31/2 at low water. The flood tide here set S. S. W.,
till midnight; and the ebb N. by E., till we got under way in the


On the 15th, we ran before a north-east wind towards the furthest land
seen from the mast head. The soundings were 31/2, 3, and soon after seven
o'clock, 21/2 fathoms; which made it necessary to steer further off, though
the land was distant six or eight miles, and scarcely visible from the
deck. We kept in 3 fathoms, steering various westward courses, until
noon; when the latitude was 17' 30' 9", and longitude 140 deg. 23'. The land
was distant seven or eight miles to the southward, and the furthest part
distinguished from the mast head was at S. by W. 1/2 W.; it was low and
sandy as ever, and with less wood upon it than any part before seen. A
sea breeze at N. N. W. scarcely permitted us to lie along the shore in
the afternoon; but the ground being soft, and soundings regular, though
shallow, we kept on until five o'clock; and then tacked in 21/2 fathoms,
having reached within three miles of the land. At eight o'clock, the
anchor was let go in 4 fathoms, on a bottom of mud and shells.

The coast to which we approached nearest this evening, was sandy and very
barren; but there were some natives collected upon the hillocks, to look
at the ship; so that even here, and at the end of the dry season, fresh
water may be had. These people were black and naked, and made many wild
gestures. Between this part and the land set at S. by W. 1/2 W. at noon,
there was a bight falling back as far as the latitude 17 deg. 42', or perhaps
further, which appeared to be the southern extremity of the Gulph of
Carpentaria; for the coast from thence took a direction to the northward
of west. Shoals extended a great way out from the bight; and were almost
dry to a considerable distance.


In the morning our route was pursued along the shore, at the distance of
six to nine or ten miles; the course being N. W., close to a N. N. E.
wind, and the soundings remarkably regular, between 3 and 31/2 fathoms. Two
leagues from the place where the natives had been seen, was a projecting
part where the country again became woody; but the coast there, and
onward, was as low as before. At noon, the observed latitude was 17 deg. 21'
15", and the longitude by time keeper 139 deg. 54' east; the furthest
continuation of the land seen from the mast head, bore W. 1/2 S., but there
was a small lump bearing N. 35 deg. W., towards which we kept up as much as
possible. At two o'clock the wind headed, and on coming into 21/2 fathoms,
we tacked; being then five miles from the low southern land, and three or
four leagues from the northern hill, which bore N. 18 deg. W. Not much was
gained in working to windward from that time till dusk; and the anchor
was then dropped in 41/2 fathoms, blue mud, no other land than the small
hill being in sight.

There being no island marked in the Dutch chart so near to the head of
the Gulph as this hill, made me conclude that it was upon the main land;
and to hope that the space of four leagues, between it and the southern
coast, was an opening of some importance. In the morning [WEDNESDAY 17
NOVEMBER 1802], a fresh land wind at south-east favoured our course, the
water deepened to 10 fathoms, and at eight o'clock to no ground with 13,
near the south end of a reef extending out from the hill. On coming into
5 fathoms behind the reef, the anchor was dropped on a muddy bottom, with
the hill bearing N. 15 deg. E., one mile and a quarter, and the dry extremity
of the reef S. E. 1/2 E. The coast to the southward was scarcely visible
from the mast head, but land was seen to extend westward from the hill,
as far as nine or ten miles; and in order to gain a better knowledge of
what this land might be, I went on shore, taking instruments with me to
observe for the rates of the time keepers.

The hill proved to be a mass of calcareous rock, whose surface was cut
and honeycombed as if it had been exposed to the washing of a surf. It
was the highest land we had seen in Carpentaria, after having followed
one hundred and seventy-five leagues of coast; nor was any land to be
distinguished from the top of the hill which had an equal degree of
elevation; yet it did not much exceed the height of the ship's mast head!
The land round it proved to be an island of five miles long; separated
from other land to the west by a channel of nearly two miles in width.
The wide opening between this land and the low coast to the southward, I
take to have been what is called Maatsuyker's River in the old chart; and
that the island, which Tasman, or whoever made the examination, did not
distinguish well from being too far off, is the projecting point marked
on the west side of that river. Maatsuyker was one of the counsellors at
Batavia, who signed Tasman's instructions in 1644; but as there is no
river here, his name, as it stands applied in the old chart, cannot
remain. I would have followed in the intention of doing him honour, by
transferring his name to the island, but Maatsuyker's Isles already exist
on the south coast of Van Diemen's Land; I therefore adopt the name of
Sweers, another member of the same Batavia council; and call the island
at the entrance of the supposed river, _Sweers' Island_. The hill
obtained the name of _Inspection Hill_; and after taking bearings from
it, I rowed into the channel which separates Sweers' Island from the
western land; and finding the shelter to be good, the bottom soft, and
soundings regular between 3 and 6 fathoms, the shores on each side were
searched for fresh water, with a view to filling up the holds there and
caulking the ship, before proceeding further in the examination of the
Gulph: the search, however, was unsuccessful.

In Torres' Strait, when running with a fresh side wind, the ship had
leaked to the amount of ten inches of water per hour. and in some hours
the carpenters had reported as much as fourteen; but no anchorage,
adapted to the purpose of caulking the bends, had presented itself until
our arrival here. Before going on shore, I had left orders for the ship
to be put on a careen, and the carpenters began upon the larbord side. In
the course of their work two planks were found to be rotten, and the
timber underneath was in no better state; it was therefore desirable to
find a place where the holds could be completed with water, and the
botanists and myself find useful employment for a few days, whilst the
deficiencies were repairing. Such a place, it was reasonable to expect,
the opening to the westward would afford; and the carpenters having
patched up the bad part by the evening of the 18th [THURSDAY 18 NOVEMBER
1802], and another set of observations for the time keepers being
obtained, we were then ready to proceed in the examination.



Next morning at sunrise, we steered up the opening with a land wind at S.
S. E.; and until ten o'clock, when we had reached the furthest part of
the western land seen from Inspection Hill, the soundings were between 6
and 3 fathoms, reduced to low water. This land proved to be an island of
ten or eleven miles long, and I have given it the name of Bentinck, in
honour of the Right Hon. LORD WILLIAM BENTINCK; of whose obliging
attention, when governor of Madras, I shall hereafter have to speak in
praise. To the north-west of Bentinck's Island, several small isles came
in sight; but a northern sea breeze having set in, we kept on our western
course for the low main land, which trended here north-westward. At one
o'clock the diminution of depth to 21/2 fathoms, obliged us to tack; the
main being four miles distant, and the eastern extreme of the nearest
island bearing N. 3 deg. W., two leagues: this was named _Allen's Isle_,
after the practical miner of the expedition. In working to windward, the
water was found to be shallow in almost every direction; and the deepest
being at three or four miles from the south-west point of Bentinck's
Island, the anchor was there dropped in 41/2 fathoms, muddy bottom.


In the morning we steered towards Allen's Isle, with the whale boat
ahead; and anchored one mile and a half from its south-east end, in 31/2
fathoms, mud. Our latitude here was 17 deg. 5', longitude 139 deg. 26'; and
azimuths taken with the surveying compass, when the head was N. by E.,
gave variation 2 deg. 49', or 3 deg. 15' east, corrected. I went on shore with
the botanical gentlemen, in order to take bearings, and explore further
up the opening.

Allen's Isle is between four and five miles in length, and though
generally barren, there are bushes and small trees upon it, and some
tolerable grass. It is altogether low land; but the south-east end is
cliffy, and within two cables length of it there is 4 fathoms; no fresh
water was found near the shore, nor any place where casks could be
conveniently landed. After taking a set of bearings I left the gentlemen
to follow their pursuits, and rowed north-westward, intending to go round
the island; but an impassable reef extended so far out, that the project
was given up; and after taking angles from one of the rocks, I went
eastward to a smaller island two miles off, where several Indians where
perceived. The water was too shallow for the boat to get near them; but
we landed at a little distance, and walked after three men who were
dragging six small rafts toward the extreme northern rocks, where three
other natives were sitting.

These men not choosing to abandon their rafts, an interview was
unavoidable, and they came on shore with their spears to wait our
approach. One of us advanced towards them, unarmed; and signs being made
to lay down their spears, which were understood to mean that they should
sit down, they complied; and by degrees, a friendly intercourse was
established. They accepted some red worsted caps and fillets, as also a
hatchet and an adze, the use of which being explained, was immediately
comprehended. In return, they gave us two very rude spears, and a
_womerah_, or throwing stick, of nearly the same form as those used by
the natives of Port Jackson.

The rafts consisted of several straight branches of mangrove, very much
dried, and lashed together in two places with the largest ends one way,
so as to form a broad part, and the smaller ends closing to a point. Near
the broad end was a bunch of grass, where the man sits to paddle; but the
raft, with his weight alone, must swim very deep; and indeed I should
scarcely have supposed it could float a man at all. Upon one of the rafts
was a short net, which, from the size of the meshes, was probably
intended to catch turtle; upon another was a young shark; and these, with
their paddles and spears, seemed to constitute the whole of their earthly

Two of the three men were advanced in years, and from the resemblance of
feature were probably brothers. With the exception of two chiefs at
Taheity, these were the tallest Indians I had ever seen; the two brothers
being from three to four inches higher than my coxswain, who measured
five feet eleven. They were not remarkable for being either stout or
slender; though like most of the Australians, their legs did not bear the
European proportion to the size of their heads and bodies. The third
native was not so tall as the other two; and he was, according to our
notions, better proportioned. Their features did not much differ from
those of their countrymen on the South and East Coasts; but they had each
of them lost two front teeth from the upper jaw. Their hair was short,
though not curly; and a fillet of net work, which the youngest man had
wrapped round his head, was the sole ornament or clothing seen amongst
them. The two old men appeared, to my surprise, to have undergone
circumcision; but the posture of the youngest, who remained sitting down,
did not allow of observation being made upon him.

After being five minutes with them, the old men proposed to go to our
boat; and this being agreed to, we proceeded together, hand in hand. But
they stopped half way, and retreating a little, the eldest made a short
harangue which concluded with the word _jahree!_ pronounced with
emphasis: they then returned to the rafts, and dragged them towards their
three companions who were sitting on the furthest rocks. These I judged
to be women, and that the proposal of the men to go to our boat was a
feint to get us further from them; it did not seem, however, that the
women were so much afraid of us, as the men appeared to be on their
account; for although we walked back, past the rafts, much nearer than
before, they remained very quietly picking oysters. It was not my desire
to annoy these poor people; and therefore, leaving them to their own way,
we took an opposite direction to examine the island.

This low piece of land is between one and two miles long, and from its
form received the name of _Horse-shoe Island_; there is very little soil
mixed with the sand on its surface, and except the mangrove trees upon
the shore, it bears nothing larger than bushes. We did not find any huts;
but the dried grass spread round two or three neighbouring fire places,
marked the last residence of the Indians. Near it were lying several
large spiral shells, probably the vessels in which they had brought water
from the main land; for none was found on the island, nor was there any
appearance that it could be procured. Shells and bones of turtle, some of
them fresh, were plentifully scattered around; upon the beach also there
were turtle tracks, and several of these animals were seen in the water
during the day; but it was not our fortune to take one of them.

In returning to the ship in the evening, I steered from Horse-shoe, to
the south-east end of Allen's Isle, and sounded the channel between them;
but had only once so much as 3 fathoms. There was consequently no fit
passage this way for the ship, and the several low islets to the
north-east, precluded the expectation of finding one any where to the
west of Bentinck's Island; I therefore judged it most advisable to
return, and place the ship between Bentinck's and Sweers' Islands, until
the necessary caulking was finished. Natives had been seen on both those
islands; and this gave a hope that water might still be found to complete
the holds previously to encountering the bad weather of the north-west
monsoon, which I had been expecting to set in every day.


At daylight next morning the anchor was weighed; and having to work
against foul winds, the breadth of the ship passage between Bentinck's
Island and the southern main, was ascertained and sounded; and at dusk in
the evening we anchored half a mile from the west sandy point of Sweers'
Island, in 5 fathoms, small stones and shells. This anchorage between the
two islands, though it may not be called a port, is yet almost equally
well sheltered, and I named it _Investigator's Road_; it has the
appearance of being exposed between N. N. W. and N. E. 1/2 N.; but the
rocks from each shore occupy nearly one half of the space, and the water
is too shallow in the remaining part to admit any surge to endanger a


Next day, a boat was sent to fish with the seine upon Sweers' Island, and
an officer went to the opposite shore to dig for water; the botanists
divided themselves into two parties, to visit both islands, and the
carpenters began caulking the starbord side of the ship. I repeated the
observations under Inspection Hill, for the rates of the time keepers;
and being informed on my return, that the midshipman of the seining boat
had discovered a small hole containing a little muddy water, with a shell
lying near it, I had the place dug out, through the sand and a stratum of
whitish clay, to the depth of ten or eleven feet. Under the clay we found
a bottom of stone and gravel, and the water then flowed in clear, and
tolerably fast. This was a great acquisition; more especially as the
spring was not far from the beach at the west point of Sweers' Island,
where the casks could be conveniently landed, and where we had had great
success in fishing.

The gentlemen who visited Bentinck's Island, found a small lake of fresh
water at no great distance from the sea side; and it appeared that the
interior part of Sweers' Island, towards the northern end, was occupied
by swamps. This comparative abundance of water upon such low islands, and
at the end of the dry season, seemed very remarkable; it may perhaps be
attributed to the clayey consistence of the stratum immediately under the
sand, and to the gravelly rock upon which that stratum rests; the one
preventing the evaporation of the rains, and the other obstructing their
further infiltration.


Early next morning the ship was removed to within two cables length of
the west point, nearer to the spring; and lieutenant Fowler was
established on shore with a party of seamen and marines, taking tents, a
seine, and other necessaries for watering the ship and supplying us with
fish. The carpenters proceeded in their work of caulking; but as they
advanced, report after report was brought to me of rotten places found in
different parts of the ship--in the planks, bends, timbers, tree-nails,
etc., until it became quite alarming [WEDNESDAY 24 NOVEMBER 1802]. I
therefore directed the master and carpenter to make a regular examination
into all such essential parts, as could be done without delaying the
service; and to give me an official report thereon, with answers to
certain queries put to them. After two days examination, their report was
made in the following terms [FRIDAY 26 NOVEMBER 1802].


In obedience to your directions we have taken with us the oldest
carpenter's mate of the Investigator, and made as thorough an examination
into the state of the ship as circumstances will permit, and which we
find to be as under:

Out of ten top timbers on the larbord side, near the fore channel, four
are sound, one partly rotten, and five entirely rotten.

We have seen but one timber on the larbord quarter, which is entirely

On the starbord bow, close to the stem, we have seen three timbers which
are all rotten. Under the starbord fore chains we find one of the
chain-plate bolts started, in consequence of the timber and inside plank
being rotten; and also a preventer eyebolt, from the same cause.

On boring into the second futtock timbers from the main hold, close under
the beams of the lower deck on the larbord side, we find one sound and
two rotten; and on the other side, one sound and one rotten.

On boring into one of the second futtock timbers in the cockpit, on each
side, we find it to be sound on the starbord, but on the other side
rotten: the inside plank on both sides is rotten. On boring into one
timber of a side in the after hold, we find them to be sound.

On boring into one timber of a side from the bread room, one is sound;
but on the larbord side it is rotten.

The stem appears to be good; but the stemson is mostly decayed.

The lower breast hook is decayed within side.

The transoms, sleepers, stern post, and postson are all sound.

The ends of the beams we find to be universally in a decaying state.

The tree-nails are in general rotten.

From the specimens we have seen of the top-sides and bends, we expect
that the insides of them are rotten, fore and aft; but that about one
inch of the outside of the greater part is yet quite sound.

After the above report, and upon due consideration, we give the following
answers to the four questions put to us.

1st. The ship having before made ten inches of water an hour, in a common
fresh breeze, we judge from that, and what we have now seen, that a
little labouring would employ two pumps; and that in a strong gale, with
much sea running, the ship would hardly escape foundering; so that we
think she is totally unfit to encounter much bad weather.

2nd. We have no doubt but that, if the ship should get on shore under any
unfavourable circumstances, she would immediately go to pieces; but with
a soft bottom and smooth water, she might touch for a short time without
any worse consequences than to another ship, if she did not heel much;
but altogether, we judge it to be much more dangerous for her to get
aground in her present state, than if she were sound.

3rd. It is our opinion that the ship could not bear heaving down on any
account; and that laying her on shore might so far strain her as to start
the copper and butt ends, which would make her unable to swim without
vast repair.

4th. Mr. Aken has known several ships of the same kind, and built at the
same place as the Investigator; and has always found that when they began
to rot they went on very fast. From the state to which the ship seems now
to be advanced, it is our joint opinion, that in twelve months there will
scarcely be a sound timber in her; but that if she remain in fine weather
and happen no accident, she may run six months longer without much risk.

We are, Sir,
To Matthew Flinders, Esq. your obedient servants,
Commander of His Majesty's John Aken, master,
sloop the Investigator. Russel Mart, carpenter.

I cannot express the surprise and sorrow which this statement gave me.
According to it, a return to Port Jackson was almost immediately
necessary; as well to secure the journals and charts of the examinations
already made, as to preserve the lives of the ship's company; and my
hopes of ascertaining completely the exterior form of this immense, and
in many points interesting country, if not destroyed, would at least be
deferred to an uncertain period. My leading object had hitherto been, to
make so accurate an investigation of the shores of Terra Australis that
no future voyage to this country should be necessary; and with this
always in view, I had ever endeavoured to follow the land so closely,
that the washing of the surf upon it should be visible, and no opening,
nor any thing of interest escape notice. Such a degree of proximity is
what navigators have usually thought neither necessary nor safe to
pursue, nor was it always persevered in by us; sometimes because the
direction of the wind or shallowness of the water made it impracticable,
and at other times because the loss of the ship would have been the
probable consequence of approaching so near to a lee shore. But when
circumstances were favourable, such was the plan I pursued; and with the
blessing of GOD, nothing of importance should have been left for future
discoverers, upon any part of these extensive coasts; but with a ship
incapable of encountering bad weather--which could not be repaired if
sustaining injury from any of the numerous shoals or rocks upon the
coast--which, if constant fine weather could be ensured and all accidents
avoided, could not run more than six months--with such a ship, I knew not
how to accomplish the task.

A passage to Port Jackson at this time, presented no common difficulties.
In proceeding by the west, the unfavourable monsoon was likely to prove
an obstacle not to be surmounted; and in returning by the east, stormy
weather was to be expected in Torres' Strait, a place where the
multiplied dangers caused such an addition to be peculiarly dreaded.
These considerations, with a strong desire to finish, if possible, the
examination of the Gulph of Carpentaria, fixed my resolution to proceed
as before in the survey, during the continuance of the north-west
monsoon; and when the fair wind should come, to proceed by the west to
Port Jackson, if the ship should prove capable of a winter's passage
along the South Coast, and if not, to make for the nearest port in the
East Indies.


By the 28th, the watering and wooding of the ship were completed, the
gunner had dried all his powder in the sun, and the tents and people were
brought on board. All that the carpenters could do at the ship was to
secure the hooding ends to the stem--shift some of the worst parts in the
rotten planking--and caulk all the bends; and this they had finished. The
wind being south-east on the morning of the 29th [MONDAY 29 NOVEMBER
1802], I attempted to quit the Investigator's Road by steering out to the
northward; but this being found impracticable, from the shallowness of
the water, we were obliged to beat out to the south; and so contrary did
the wind remain, that not being able to weather the reef at the
south-east end of Sweers' Island, we anchored within it on the evening of
the 30th [TUESDAY 30 NOVEMBER 1802].

I shall now sum up into one view, the principal remarks made during our
stay amongst these islands. The stone most commonly seen on the shores is
an iron ore, in some places so strongly impregnated, that I conceive it
would be a great acquisition to a colony fixed in the neighbourhood.
Above this is a concreted mass of coral, shells, coral sand, and grains
of iron ore, which sometimes appears at the surface, but is usually
covered either with sand or vegetable earth, or a mixture of both. Such
appeared most generally to be the consistence of all the islands; but
there are many local varieties.

The soil, even in the best parts, is far behind fertility; but the small
trees and bushes which grow there, and the grass in some of the less
covered places, save the larger islands from the reproach of being
absolutely sterile. The principal woods are _eucalyptus_ and _casuarina_,
of a size too small in general, to be fit for other purposes than the
fire; the _pandanus_ grows almost every where, but most abundantly in the
sandy parts; and the botanists made out a long list of plants, several of
which were quite new to them.

We saw neither quadruped nor reptile upon the islands. Birds were rather
numerous the most useful of them were ducks of several species, and
bustards and one of these last, shot by Mr. Bauer, weighed between ten
and twelve pounds, and made us an excellent dinner. The flesh of this
bird is distributed in a manner directly contrary to that of the domestic
turkey, the white meat being upon the legs, and the black upon the
breast. In the woody parts of the islands were seen crows and white
cockatoos; as also cuckoo-pheasants, pigeons, and small birds peculiar to
this part of the country. On the shores were pelicans, gulls, sea-pies,
ox-birds, and sand-larks; but except the gulls, none of these tribes were
numerous. The sea afforded a variety of fish; and in such abundance, that
it was rare not to give a meal to all the ship's company from one or two
hauls of the seine. Turtle abound amongst the islands; but it seemed to
be a fatality that we could neither peg any from the boat, nor yet catch
them on shore.

Indians were repeatedly seen upon both Bentinck's and Sweers' Islands;
but they always avoided us, and sometimes disappeared in a manner which
seemed extraordinary. It is probable that they hid themselves in caves
dug in the ground; for we discovered in one instance a large hole,
containing two apartments (so to call them), in each of which a man might
lie down. Fire places under the shade of the trees, with dried grass
spread around, were often met with; and these I apprehend to be their
fine-weather, and the caves their foul-weather residences. The fern or
some similar root, appears to form a part of their subsistence; for there
were some places in the sand and in the dry swamps, where the ground had
been so dug up with pointed sticks that it resembled the work of a herd
of swine.

Whether these people reside constantly upon the islands, or come over at
certain seasons from the main, was uncertain; canoes, they seemed to have
none, but to make their voyages upon rafts similar to those seen at
Horse-shoe Island, and of which some were found on the shore in other
places. I had been taught by the Dutch accounts to expect that the
inhabitants of Carpentaria were ferocious, and armed with bows and arrows
as well as spears. I found them to be timid; and so desirous to avoid
intercourse with strangers, that it was by surprise alone that our sole
interview, that at Horse-shoe Island, was brought about; and certainly
there was then nothing ferocious in their conduct. Of bows and arrows not
the least indication was perceived, either at these islands or at Coen
River; and the spears were too heavy and clumsily made, to be dangerous
as offensive weapons: in the defensive, they might have some importance.

It is worthy of remark, that the three natives seen at Horse-shoe Island
had lost the two upper front teeth; and Dampier, in speaking of the
inhabitants of the Northwest Coast, says, "the two front teeth of the
upper jaw are wanting in all of them, men and women, old and young."
Nothing of the kind was observed in the natives of the islands in Torres'
Strait, nor at Keppel, Hervey's, or Glass-house Bays, on the East Coast;
yet at Port Jackson, further south, it is the custom for the boys, on
arriving at the age of puberty, to have _one_ of the upper front teeth
knocked out, but no more; nor are the girls subjected to the same
operation. At Twofold Bay, still further south, no such custom prevails,
nor did I observe it at Port Phillip or King George's Sound, on the South
Coast; but at Van Diemen's Land it seems to be used partially, for M.
Labillardiere says (p. 320 of the London translation), "we observed some,
in whom one of the middle teeth of the upper jaw was wanting, and others
in whom both were gone. We could not learn the object of this custom; but
it is not general, for the greater part of the people had all their
teeth." The rite of circumcision, which seemed to have been practised
upon two of the three natives at Horse-shoe Island, and of which better
proofs were found in other parts of the Gulph of Carpentaria, is, I
believe, novel in the history of Terra Australis.

On Sweers' Island, seven human skulls and many bones were found lying
together, near three extinguished fires; and a square piece of timber,
seven feet long, which was of teak wood, and according to the judgment of
the carpenter had been a quarter-deck carling of a ship, was thrown up on
the western beach. On Bentinck's Island I saw the stumps of at least
twenty trees, which had been felled with an axe, or some sharp instrument
of iron; and not far from the same place were scattered the broken
remains of an earthen jar. Putting these circumstances together, it
seemed probable that some ship from the East Indies had been wrecked
here, two or three years back--that part of the crew had been killed by
the Indians--and that the others had gone away, perhaps to the main land,
upon rafts constructed after the manner of the natives. This could be no
more than conjecture; but it seemed to be so supported by the facts, that
I felt anxious to trace the route of the unfortunate people, and to
relieve them from the distress and danger to which they must be exposed.

The advantages to be obtained here by a ship are briefly these: shelter
against all winds in the Investigator's Road, wood for fuel, fresh water,
and a tolerable abundance of fish and turtle; for to anticipate a little
on the voyage, there are islands lying within reach of a boat from the
Road, where the turtle are not disturbed by the Indians. Should it ever
enter into the plan of an expedition, to penetrate into the interior of
Terra Australis from the head of the Gulph of Carpentaria, the
Investigator's Road is particularly well adapted for a ship during the
absence of the travellers: the season most favourable to their operations
would be in May, June, and July; but not so for the vessel, as the crew
would probably be unable to procure turtle at that time. For a similar
expedition from the opposite part of the South Coast, September, October,
and November would seem to be most proper.

From the time of first arriving, to that of quitting Sweers' Island, the
range of the thermometer on board the ship was between 81 deg. and 90 deg., and
on shore it might be 5 deg. to 10 deg. higher in the day time; the weather was
consequently warm; but being alleviated by almost constant breezes either
from sea or land, it was seldom oppressive; and the insects were not very
troublesome. The mercury in the barometer ranged between 30.06 and 29.70
It stood highest with the winds from the sea, between north-east and
north-west; and lowest when they blew gently off the land, between
south-east and south-west, but most so from the latter direction. On the
South Coast the winds from these points had produced a contrary effect:
the mercury there stood lowest when the northern winds blew, and highest
when they came from the southward; they coincided, however, so far, in
that the sea winds raised, and the land winds depressed the mercury, the
same as was observed at Port Jackson on the East Coast.

The _latitude_ of Inspection Hill, from several single and two double
observations, was 17 deg. 8' 15" S.

_Longitude_ from forty-two sets of lunar distances taken by lieutenant
Flinders, the particulars of which are given in Table III. of the
Appendix No. I. to this volume, 139 deg. 44' 52" E.

The rates of the time keepers were deduced from morning's altitudes,
taken with a sextant and artificial horizon at the shore under Inspection
Hill, from Nov. 16 to 29; and the mean rates during this period, with the
errors from mean Greenwich time at noon there on the 30th, were as under:

Earnshaw's No. 543, slow 2h 16' 29.51" and losing 14.74" per day.
Earnshaw's No. 520, slow 3h 52' 19.70" and losing 20.01" per day.

Book of the day: