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A Voyage to Terra Australis Volume 2 by Matthew Flinders

Part 7 out of 10

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at daylight [MONDAY 29 AUGUST 1803] the tops of the hills were seen in
the west, at the same distance as before. Our latitude at noon was 26 deg.
22', and a high hummock upon the land, somewhere between Double-island
Point and Glass-house Bay, bore W. 3/4 N.

(Atlas, Plate IX.)

Our favourable breeze died away in the afternoon, and we took to the
oars; it however sprung up again from the northward, and brought us
within sight of Cape Moreton at sunset. Towards midnight the weather
became squally with heavy rain, and gave us all a thorough drenching; but
the wind not being very strong in these squalls, our course was still
pursued to the southward. After the rain ceased the wind came at S. S.
W.; and the weather remaining unsettled, we tacked at daylight [TUESDAY
30 AUGUST 1803] to get close in with the land, and at noon anchored under
Point Look-out. This was only the fourth day of our departure from Wreck
Reef, and I considered the voyage to be half accomplished, since we had
got firm hold of the main coast; for the probability of being lost is
greater in making three hundred miles in an open boat at sea, than in
running even six hundred along shore. It would have added much to our
satisfaction, could we have conveyed the intelligence of this fortunate
progress to our shipmates on the bank.

The necessity for a supply of fresh water was becoming urgent, for our
remaining half hogshead was much reduced. There were about twenty Indians
upon the side of a hill near the shore, who seemed to be peaceably
disposed, amusing us with dances in imitation of the kangaroo; we made
signs of wanting water, which they understood, and pointed to a small
rill falling into the sea. Two of the sailors leaped over-board, with
some trifles for the natives and one end of the lead line; with the other
end we slung the empty cask, which they hauled on shore and filled
without molestation. A shark had followed them to the beach; and fearing
they might be attacked in returning, we got up the anchor and went to a
place where the surf, though too much to allow of the boat landing,
permitted us to lie closer. The cask of water, a bundle of wood, and the
two men were received on board without accident; the natives keeping
aloof during the whole time, and even retiring when our people
approached, though they were without arms and naked. It is probable that
the Indians were astonished at the comparison between the moderately
white skins of the sailors and their own, and perhaps had heard of my
expedition to Glass-house Bay in 1799, in which I had been provoked to
make one of them feel the effect of our arms; and had they attempted any
thing against my two men, we were prepared to have given them a volley
from the boat which would probably have been a fearful confirmation of
the truth of the report; but happily for both parties, we were not
reduced to the necessity.

On rowing to Point Look-out, to continue the voyage, I found the wind so
fresh from the southward that the greatest fatigue at the oars could
advance us little; we therefore ran to leeward of two rocks, lying a mile
and a half north-west from the extremity of the point; and having
anchored there, arranged the boat so as that every person might take a
better night's rest than we had hitherto been able to enjoy.


At daylight, the wind being light and variable, we proceeded along the
coast by using both sails and oars. The weather was dull, and prevented
an observation at noon for the latitude; but a sight of Mount Warning at
dusk showed that our progress was equal to expectation. We then had a
gentle breeze from the north-eastward; and at ten o'clock, passed close
to a projection of land which I supposed to be Point Danger, without
seeing any breakers; it is therefore probable, that the reef laid down by
captain Cook does not join to the land, for we kept a good look out, and
the night was tolerably fine.


At five on the following morning we passed Cape Byron, with a breeze at
north-west, and at noon had made a hundred miles by our reckoning from
Point Look-out; the observed latitude was then 29 deg. 16', and the land near
Shoal Bay was three leagues distant. We continued steering to the
southward, in high spirits at being so favoured by the northern winds,
which there was so little reason to expect; and at eight in the evening
reached abreast of the Solitary Isles. Smoky Cape was in sight next
morning [FRIDAY 2 SEPTEMBER 1803]; but the wind coming round to south,
and blowing fresh with thick weather, we tacked towards the shore; and at
noon landed behind a small ledge of rocks, about three leagues short of
the Cape. The distance run these twenty-four hours was eighty five miles,
and the southwardly current had moreover given its assistance.

This ledge of rocks lies on the north side of a point upon which there
are some hummocks; and on ascending the highest, I saw a lagoon into
which the tide flowed by a narrow passage on the inner side of the point.
The _pandanus_ grows here; and as it was a tree unknown to Bongaree, this
latitude (about 30 deg. 45') is probably near its southern limit. We took in
a supply of fuel and gathered some fine oysters, and the wind dying away
to a calm in the afternoon, rowed out for Smoky Cape; but on reaching
abreast of it the wind again rose ahead; and at one in the morning we
anchored in a small bight at the extremity of the Cape, and remained
until daylight.


The wind was still contrary on the 3rd, nevertheless we stood out and
beat to the southward until four in the afternoon; when the sea having
become too high for the boat, we anchored under the lee of a small
projecting point, eight or ten leagues to the south of Smoky Cape; which
distance had been gained in about ten hours, principally by means of the


On the 4th, we again attempted to beat to the southward; but the wind
being light as well as foul, and the sea running high, not much was
gained; at noon the weather threatened so much, that it became necessary
to look out for a place of shelter, and we steered into a bight with
rocks in it, which I judge to have been on the north side of Tacking
Point. At the head of the bight is a lagoon; but the entrance proving to
be very shallow, and finding no security, we continued on our voyage;
trusting that some place of shelter would present itself, if obliged to
seek it by necessity. Towards evening the wind and weather became more
favourable; in the morning [MONDAY 5 SEPTEMBER 1803] the Three Brothers
were in sight; and at noon I observed the latitude 31 deg. 57', when the
middlemost of these hills bore N. N. W. and our distance off shore was
two or three leagues.

(Atlas, Plate VIII.)

At this time the wind blew a moderate sea breeze at E. S. E, Cape Hawke
was seen soon afterward, and at eight in the evening we steered between
Sugar-loaf Point and the two rocks lying from it three or four miles to
the south-east. At four next morning [TUESDAY 6 SEPTEMBER 1803], passed
the islands at the entrance of Port Stephens, and at noon the Coal Island
in the mouth of Port Hunter bore N. W. by N.; the wind then shifted more
to the southward, with squally weather, and both prevented the boat from
lying along the coast and made it unsafe to be at sea. After struggling
till four in the afternoon, with little advantage, we bore up to look for
shelter behind some of the small projecting points; and almost
immediately found it in a shallow cove, exposed only to the
north-eastward. This was the eleventh day of our departure from Wreck
Reef, and the distance of Port Jackson did not now exceed fifty miles.

At this place we slept on shore for the first time; but the weather being
squally, rainy, and cold, and the boat's sails our best shelter, it was
not with any great share of comfort; a good watch was kept during the
night, but no molestation was received from the natives. Notwithstanding
our cramped-up position in the boat, and exposure to all kinds of
weather, we enjoyed excellent health; one man excepted, upon whom the
dysentery, which had made such ravages in the Investigator, now returned
with some violence.



A cask of water was filled on the morning of the 7th, and our biscuit
being all expended or spoiled, some cakes were baked in the ashes for our
future subsistence. At eleven o'clock, the rain having cleared away, we
stood out to the offing with light baffling winds, and towards evening
were enabled to lie along the coast; but the breeze at south-east not
giving much assistance, we took to the oars and laboured hard all the
following night, being animated with the prospect of a speedy termination
to our voyage. The north head of Broken Bay was in sight next morning
[THURSDAY 8 SEPTEMBER 1803], and at noon the south head was abreast of
the boat; a sea breeze then setting in at E. N. E., we crowded all sail
for Port Jackson, and soon after two o'clock had the happiness to enter
between the heads.

The reader has perhaps never gone 250 leagues at sea in an open boat, or
along a strange coast inhabited by savages; but if he recollect the
eighty officers and men upon Wreck-Reef Bank, and how important was our
arrival to their safety, and to the saving of the charts, journals, and
papers of the Investigator's voyage, he may have some idea of the
pleasure we felt, but particularly myself, at entering our destined port.

I proceeded immediately to the town of Sydney, and went with captain Park
to wait upon His Excellency governor King, whom we found at dinner with
his family. A razor had not passed over our faces from the time of the
shipwreck, and the surprise of the governor was not little at seeing two
persons thus appear whom he supposed to be many hundred leagues on their
way to England; but so soon as he was convinced of the truth of the
vision before him, and learned the melancholy cause, an involuntary tear
started from the eye of friendship and compassion, and we were received
in the most affectionate manner.

His Excellency lost no time in engaging the ship Rolla, then lying in
port, bound to China, to go to the rescue of the officers and crews of
the Porpoise and Cato; I accompanied the governor on board the Rolla a
day or two afterwards, and articles were signed by which the commander,
Mr. Robert Cumming, engaged to call at Wreck Reef, take every person on
board and carry them to Canton, upon terms which showed him to take the
interest in our misfortune which might be expected from a British seaman.
The governor ordered two colonial schooners to accompany the Rolla, to
bring back those who preferred returning to Port Jackson, with such
stores of the Porpoise as could be procured; and every thing was done
that an anxious desire to forward His Majesty's service and alleviate
misfortune could devise; even private individuals put wine, live stock,
and vegetables, unasked, on board the Rolla for the officers upon the

My anxiety to get back to Wreck Reef, and from thence to England with the
greatest despatch, induced the governor to offer me one of the schooners
to go through Torres' Strait and by the most expeditious passage to
Europe; rather than take the long route by China in the Rolla. This
schooner was something less than a Gravesend passage boat, being only of
twenty-nine tons burthen; and therefore it required some consideration
before acceding to the proposal. Her small size, when compared with the
distance from Port Jackson to England, was not my greatest objection to
the little Cumberland; it was the quickness of her motion and the want of
convenience, which would prevent the charts and journal of my voyage from
being prepared on the passage, and render the whole so much time lost to
this important object. On the other hand, the advantage of again passing
through, and collecting more information of Torres' Strait, and of
arriving in England three or four months sooner to commence the outfit of
another ship, were important considerations; and joined to some ambition
of being the first to undertake so long a voyage in such a small vessel,
and a desire to put an early stop to the account which captain Palmer
would probably give of our total loss, they proved sufficient inducements
to accept the governor's offer, on finding his vessel had the character
of being a strong, good little sea boat.

The Cumberland was at that time absent up the river Hawkesbury, and the
Francis, the other schooner, was lying on shore and could not be got off
before the following spring tides; on these accounts, and from the Rolla
not being quite fitted, it was thirteen days after my arrival in the boat
before the whole could be ready to sail. This delay caused me much
uneasiness, under the apprehension that we might not arrive before our
friends at the reef, despairing of assistance, should have made some
unsuccessful attempt to save themselves; and this idea pursued me so
much, that every day seemed to be a week until I got out of the harbour
with the three vessels.

Governor King's answer to my communication respecting the shipwreck of
the Porpoise and Cato, and the orders under which I acted in embarking in
the Cumberland, are contained in the following letter.

Sydney, New South Wales., Sept. 17, 1803.


In acknowledging the receipt of yours with its inclosure of the 9th
instant, whilst I lament the misfortune that has befallen the Porpoise
and Cato, I am thankful that no more lives have been lost than the three
you mention. I have every reason to be assured that no precaution was
omitted by lieutenant Fowler and yourself to avoid the accident, and I am
equally satisfied with your account of the exertions of the officers and
men after the loss of the ships, both for the preservation of the stores
and maintaining order in their present situation; nor can I sufficiently
commend your voluntary services and those who came with you, in
undertaking a voyage of 700 miles in an open boat, to procure relief for
our friends now on the bank; and I hope for the honour of humanity, that
if the Bridgewater be safe, the commander may be able to give some
possible reason for his not ascertaining whether any had survived the
shipwreck, as there appears too much reason to believe he has persuaded
himself all perished.

No time has been lost in prevailing upon the master of the Rolla, bound
to China, to take on board the officers and seamen now on the reef,
belonging to the Porpoise and Investigator, and carrying them to Canton
whither he is bound; on the conditions expressed in the agreement entered
into with him by me, and which you have witnessed. For that purpose I
have caused a proportion of all species of provisions to be put on board
at full allowance, for seventy men for ten weeks from the reef; I shall
also give to lieutenant Fowler the instructions for his conduct which I
have communicated to you, and direct him to consult with you on the
measures to be adopted by him for executing those instructions, as far as
situation and events may render them practicable.

And as you agree with me that the Cumberland, colonial schooner of
twenty-nine tons, built here, is capable of performing the voyage to
England by way of Torres' Strait, and it being essential to the
furthering His Majesty's service that you should reach England by the
most prompt conveyance with your charts and journals, I have directed the
commissary to make that vessel over to you, with her present furniture,
sails, etc; and to complete her from the stores of the Investigator with
such other articles as you may require, together with a proportion of
provisions for six months, for ten officers and men. And on your arrival
at Wreck Reef you will select such officers and men as you may judge
necessary, lieutenant Fowler having my orders on that head.

After having given every assistance to get the people and as many stores
as can be taken on board the Rolla, and given the commander of the
Francis schooner such orders as circumstances may require, for bringing
those who may choose to be discharged from the service and as many stores
as she can bring, you will then proceed to England by the route you may
judge most advisable and beneficial for His Majesty's service. On your
arrival in London you will deliver my letters to the Admiralty and the
principal secretary of state for the colonies.

In case any unforeseen circumstances should prevent the accomplishment of
the voyage in the Cumberland, you will take such measures as may appear
most conducive to the interest of His Majesty's service, either by
selling the vessel, or letting her for freight at the Cape or elsewhere,
if any merchants choose to send proper officers and men to conduct her
back; and in the event of your being obliged to dispose of her, you will
account with His Majesty's principal secretary of state for the colonies
for the proceeds.

I am, etc.,

(Signed) Philip Gidley King.


The small size of the Cumberland made it necessary to stop at every
convenient place on the way to England, for water and refreshment; and I
proposed Coepang Bay in Timor, Mauritius, the Cape of Good Hope, St.
Helena, and some one of the Western Isles; but governor King objected to
Mauritius, from not wishing to encourage any communication between the
French colonies and Port Jackson; and also because he had understood that
hurricanes often prevailed in the neighbourhood of that island, about the
time of year when I should be passing; he left this matter, however, to
be decided by necessity and my judgment, and gave me two letters for the
governor of Mauritius, to be forwarded from the Cape, or by the best
opportunity. At those places in the Indian Seas where I might stop, he
requested me to make inquires into the facility of obtaining cattle for
his colony, with the price and the traffic with which they might be best
procured; and to send this information by any ship bound to Port Jackson.


Every thing being prepared for our departure, I sailed out of the harbour
in the Cumberland on the 21st at daylight, with the Rolla and Francis in
company. Mr. Inman, the astronomer, had taken a passage in the Rolla with
his instruments; and of the thirteen persons who came with me in the
boat, captain Park and his second mate were on board that ship, and the
boatswain of the Investigator with the ten seamen composed my crew in the
schooner. We had a fresh breeze at south-east, and the Cumberland
appeared to sail as well as could be expected; but the wind becoming
stronger towards night, she lay over so much upon the broad side that
little sail could be carried; and instead of being tight, as had been
represented, her upper works then admitted a great deal of water. Next
morning [THURSDAY 22 SEPTEMBER 1803], the wind having rather increased
than diminished, I found we should soon be obliged to lie to altogether,
and that if we passed Port Stephens there was no place of shelter for a
long distance where the schooner could be saved from drifting on shore;
the signal was therefore made to tack, and at dusk the Rolla and Francis
ran into Port Stephens. Not being able to reach so far, I anchored in a
small bight under Point Stephens, in very bad plight; the pumps proving
to be so nearly useless, that we could not prevent the water from half
filling the hold; and two hours longer would have reduced us to baling
with buckets, and perhaps have been fatal. This essay did not lead me to
think favourably of the vessel, in which I had undertaken a voyage half
round the globe.


Next morning I joined the Rolla and Francis; and it being then calm, we
did not quit Port Stephens until the afternoon. At night the wind again
blew strong from the south-east; but the desire to arrive at Wreck Reef
overcoming my apprehensions, the schooner was made snug and we
persevered. Our inability to carry sail was so much the more provoking,
that this wind was as fair as could be wished; but whilst the Cumberland
could scarcely bear a close-reefed main sail and jib without danger of
oversetting, the Rolla went along under double-reefed top sails in great
tranquillity; and to avoid parting company was obliged to keep her
courses up, and to back a top sail from time to time.


(Atlas, Plate X.)

The wind moderated next day, and allowed us to make better progress. It
afterwards veered round to the north-east, and prevented us from fetching
more than ten miles to the east of the reef by Mr. Inman's time keeper,
when we came into the proper latitude. We bore away for it, however, on
Oct. 1 [SATURDAY 1 OCTOBER 1803], and ran more than a degree to the west;
when finding no reef or bank, it appeared that we must have been
something to the west of Wreck Reef when the time keeper showed ten miles
to the eastward. This obliged us to work back again, and it was not till
the 7th [FRIDAY 7 OCTOBER 1803] that we got sight of the ensign upon the
top of the bank.*

[* The want of my journal has prevented me from stating any particulars
of this passage very correctly; but I have lately obtained a sight of Mr.
Inman's observations, and it appears from them that his time keeper
(Kendal's No. 45) erred 31' to the east on Oct. 1, and that on the 2nd
a.m. our corrected longitude was 153 deg. 52'. We ran westward till that
evening, and must therefore have gone to about 153 deg. 25', or 1 deg. 54' west
of Wreck-Reef Bank; and as no dangers were seen, this shows how
completely the Reef is separated from the great Barrier of the coast; a
point which it is of some importance to have ascertained.]


It was six weeks on this day that I had quitted the reef in the boat, for
the purpose of seeking the means to relieve my officers and people. The
bank was first seen from the Rolla's mast head, and soon afterward two
boats were perceived under sail; and advancing nearer, we saw one boat
make for the Rolla and the other returning to the bank. The Porpoise had
not yet gone to pieces; but was still lying on her beam ends, high up on
the reef, a frail, but impressive monument of our misfortune.

In the afternoon I anchored under the lee of the bank, in 18 fathoms
coral sand, and a salute of eleven guns from it was immediately fired,
the carronades of the Porpoise having been transported from the wreck. On
landing, I was greeted with three hearty cheers, and the utmost joy by my
officers and people; and the pleasure of rejoining my companions so amply
provided with the means of relieving their distress, made this one of the
happiest moments of my life.

The two boats we had seen, were the Porpoise's remaining cutter and a new
boat constructed during my absence; it was just completed, and lieutenant
Fowler had this morning gone out to try its sailing against the cutter.
My safe arrival at Port Jackson became a subject of much doubt after the
first month; and they had begun to reconcile their minds to making the
best use of the means they possessed to reach some frequented port. The
Rolla's top-gallant sail was first seen in the horizon by a man in the
new boat, and was taken for a bird; but regarding it more steadfastly, he
started up and exclaimed, d--n my bl--d what's that! It was soon
recognised to be a sail, and caused a general acclamation of joy, for
they doubted not it was a ship coming to their succour. Lieutenant
Flinders, then commanding officer on the bank, was in his tent
calculating some lunar distances, when one of the young gentlemen ran to
him, calling, "Sir, Sir! A ship and two schooners in sight!" After a
little consideration, Mr. Flinders said he supposed it was his brother
come back, and asked if the vessels were near? He was answered, not yet;
upon which he desired to be informed when they should reach the
anchorage, and very calmly resumed his calculations: such are the varied
effects produced by the same circumstance upon different minds. When the
desired report was made, he ordered the salute to be fired, and took part
in the general satisfaction.

My plan of proceeding at the reef having been arranged on the passage, I
immediately began to put it in execution. The people were assembled on
the bank, and informed that such as chose to be discharged from the
service might return to Port Jackson in the Francis schooner; and that
the rest would be taken on board the Rolla and carried to China, with the
exception of ten officers and men whom I named, to go to England with me
in the Cumberland, if they would risk themselves in so small a vessel;
for notwithstanding what had been discovered of the bad qualities of the
schooner, I determined to proceed, at least so far as to reach some port
where a passage might be procured in a better vessel without losing time.
The determinations of all were required to be given on the following day;
and in the mean time we began to take on board the few stores necessary
to complete the Cumberland for our voyage, and especially to fill the
holds with water, of which there was yet a good quantity remaining on the


On the 10th, three days after our arrival, the Rolla had received the
people destined for her, with part of the provisions and stores; and the
Cumberland was ready to sail. All those whom I had named, with the
exception of my clerk, volunteered to go in the schooner; viz., Mr. John
Aken, master, and Mr. Edward Charrington, boatswain of the Investigator,
my servant, and seven chosen seamen. A cask containing what had been
saved of my specimens of mineralogy and conchology was taken on board, as
also the charts, books, and papers of every kind, with the instruments
received from the Navy Board and the sole time keeper which had not

Mr. Denis Lacy, master's mate of the Investigator, desiring to return to
Port Jackson, he was charged with my letter to His Excellency governor
King; and I gave him an order to command the new boat. It was about the
size of the Cumberland, had a deck, and was called the _Resource_; and we
manned her with a part of those people whose choice led them back to Port
Jackson. I ordered Mr. James Aikin, commander of the Francis, and Mr.
Lacy, to take on board for the colony as much of the stores as they
should be able; and on their arrival, to make a statement to the governor
of the condition in which they might leave the Porpoise, and what
remained on the bank.

The officers journals, which were to be sent to the Admiralty at the
conclusion of the voyage, had not been demanded at the time of our
shipwreck; lieutenant Fowler was therefore directed to take all that were
saved belonging to the officers embarked with him in the Rolla; and lest
any accident should happen to the Cumberland, I committed to his charge a
copy of four charts, being all of the East and North Coasts which there
had been time to get ready; with these he took a short letter to the
secretary of the Admiralty, and one to the Victualling Board inclosing
such vouchers as had been saved from the wreck. To Mr. Inman I gave the
remaining instruments belonging to the Board of Longitude, reserving only
a time keeper and a telescope; the large and most valuable instruments
had very fortunately been delivered to him before we had sailed from Port
Jackson in the Porpoise.

These matters being arranged, I pressed captain Cumming to depart,
fearing that a change of wind might expose the Rolla to danger; but
finding him desirous to take off more provisions and stores, I made sail
for a bank or rather islet seven miles distant at the eastern extremity
of Wreck Reef, for the purpose of collecting seabirds eggs, and if
possible taking a turtle. The Rolla joined on the following day [TUESDAY
11 OCTOBER 1803], and I went on board to take leave of Messrs. Fowler and
Flinders and the other officers and gentlemen; at noon we parted company
with three cheers, the Rolla steering north-eastward for China, whilst my
course was directed for Torres' Strait.

With the time keeper, Earnshaw's No. 520, I had received from lieutenant
Flinders an account of its error from mean Greenwich time at noon there
Oct. 6, and its rate of going during the fourteen preceding days, which
were as under.

No. 520, slow 0h 9' 49.35" and losing 34.13" per day.

The _latitude_ of Wreck-Reef Bank was ascertained from eight meridian
observations from the sea, and four from an artificial horizon: the mean
of the latter, which are considered the best, is 22 deg. 11' 23" S.

_Longitude_ from sixty sets of lunar distances, of which the individual
results are given in Table VIII. of the Appendix No. I. to this volume,
155 deg. 18' 50.5" E.

The longitude of the bank, as given by Earnshaw's No. 520 on Aug. 28,
eleven days after the shipwreck, was 155 deg. 4' 14.6" with the Port Jackson
rate, or 14' 35.9" less than the lunar observations. In laying down the
Porpoise's track on the chart, this error has been corrected by an equal
proportion, according to the time of each observation for the longitude.

Mr. Flinders deduced the _variation_ of the compass from observing the
sun's magnetic azimuth a. m. and p. m., when equal altitudes were taken,
and comparing the mean azimuth at corresponding altitudes with the true
meridian; this method is probably not the best, and the results from two
compasses differed considerably; Walker's compass, marked No. 1, giving
9 deg. 17' east from ten observations, and that marked No. 2, 13 deg. 54' from
five observations. The first is undoubtedly the best, though possibly not
very correct.

There are here two regular _tides_ daily, and it was high water on the
day of full moon at 8h 50' in the morning; the rise was six feet two
inches, but the night tide will probably reach to eight, or perhaps nine
feet at the height of the springs.

Some account was given of Wreck-Reef Bank before quitting it in the boat,
but I had not then acquired a knowledge of the whole extent of the reef.
It is about twenty miles long, and from a quarter, to one mile and a half
in breadth; and consists of many distinct patches of different
magnitudes, the six principal of which are from four to eight or ten
miles in circuit. They are separated by channels of one mile to near a
league in width; and in the two easternmost I found from 8 to 10 fathoms,
and nothing to prevent a ship passing through in a case of necessity.
Four of the six larger patches have each a sand bank near the middle,
which do not appear to have been lately covered by the tide; and they are
now more or less frequented by sea birds, such as noddies, boobies,
tropic, and man-of-war birds, gannets, and perhaps some others. Of these
four banks, two lie to the west and one to the east of that near which
our ships struck; but the eastern bank is the most considerable, and most
frequented by birds; turtle also land there occasionally, and this bank
was not improperly called _Bird Islet_, being now covered with coarse
grass, some shrubs, and a soil to which the birds are every day making an

Bird Islet being to windward of, and only seven miles distant from our
bank, it was frequently visited by the gentlemen during my absence.
Besides sea birds of the species already mentioned, they procured many
thousand eggs; and also four turtle, of which one weighed 459 pounds, and
contained so many eggs, that lieutenant Fowler's journal says no less
than 1940, large and small, were counted. These supplies, with shell fish
gathered from the reef, and fish, were a great resource, and admitted of
a saving in the salt provisions; as the occasional rains, from which
several casks were filled, did of their fresh water. The _trepang_ was
found on Wreck Reef, and soup was attempted to be made of it; but whether
our cooks had not the method of stewing it down, or that the trepang is
suited only to the vitiated taste of the Chinese, nothing good was

Oats, maize, and pumpkin seeds were planted upon Wreck-Reef Bank, as also
upon Bird Islet; and the young plants had come up, and were in a
tolerably flourishing state; some of these may possibly succeed upon the
islet, but upon the bank it is scarcely to be hoped. The cocoa nut is
capable of resisting the light sprays of the sea which frequently pass
over these banks, and it is to be regretted that we had none to plant
upon them. A cluster of these majestic and useful palms would have been
an excellent beacon to warn mariners of their danger; and in the case
where darkness might render them unavailing in this respect, their fruit
would at least afford some salutary nourishment to the shipwrecked
seamen. The navigator who should distribute ten thousand cocoa nuts
amongst the numerous sand banks of the Great Ocean and Indian Sea, would
be entitled to the gratitude of all maritime nations, and of every friend
to humanity. I may be thought to attribute too much importance to this
object in saying, that such a distribution ought to be a leading article
in the instructions for any succeeding voyage of discovery or
investigation to these parts; but it is from having suffered ourselves
that we learn to appreciate the misfortunes and wants of others. and
become doubly interested in preventing or relieving them. "The human
heart," as an elegant author observes, "resembles certain medicinal
trees. which yield not their healing balm until they have themselves been

[* Le coeur est comme ces sortes d'arbres, qui ne donnent leur baume pour
les blessures des hommes que lorsque le fer les a blesses eux-memes.
Chateaubriant's _Genie de Christianisme, Episode d' Attala_.]


Passage in the Cumberland to Torres' Strait.
Eastern Fields and Pandora's Entrance.
New channels amongst the reefs.
Anchorage at Half-way Island, and under the York Isles.
Prince of Wales's Islands further examined.
Booby Isle.
Passage across the Gulph of Carpentaria.
Anchorage at Wessel's Islands.
Passage to Coepang Bay, in Timor; and to Mauritius,
where the leakiness of the Cumberland makes it necessary to stop.
Anchorage at the Baye du Cap, and departure for Port Louis.



(Atlas, Plate I.)

On parting from the Rolla, at noon Oct. 11, off Bird Islet, our course
was steered N. N. W. by compass for Torres' Strait. At eight in the
evening we had run thirteen leagues from Wreck Reef, without seeing any
danger; but I thought it advisable to lie to in the night, until the
distance was further increased. We made sail again at five in the morning
[WEDNESDAY 12 OCTOBER 1803], and at noon were in 20 deg. 46' south and 155 deg.
2' east. During the two following days and nights, our course by compass
was N. W. by N., and afterwards N. W.; and on the 15th [SATURDAY 15
OCTOBER 1803] at noon we had reached the latitude 15 deg. 29' and longitude
151 deg. 24', the current having set, upon the average of four days, 3/4 of a
mile an hour to the W. N. W. This situation was a little to the north,
and about one degree to the east of Bougainville's Bank of Diana, and the
tropic birds, petrels, and boobies seen every day were this evening more
numerous, especially the boobies; they most probably belonged to Diana's
Bank, but lest some other might lie in our way, we hauled to the wind at
eight o'clock. The little Cumberland was still very leaky at such times
as the wind came more on the side and caused her to lie over; and the
pumps were so bad that a fourth part of the day was frequently required
at them to keep her free, and they were becoming worse from such constant


Our north-west course was resumed at five in the morning, and continued
without interruption, or sight of any danger, to the 19th [WEDNESDAY 19
OCTOBER 1803] at noon, when the latitude was 10 deg. 53' south, and longitude
by time keeper 147 deg. 6' east; the current had set above 3/4 of a mile an
hour to the N. 60 deg. W., and we had every day seen boobies, noddies, tropic
birds, and some gulls. At four in the afternoon the course was altered
one point more west, in order to make the Eastern Fields (Atlas, Plate
XIII), whose extent to the southward, not having been seen in the
Investigator, I wished now to ascertain. The breakers came in sight at
eight next morning [THURSDAY 20 OCTOBER 1803], and we hauled up to pass
round their south end; but the wind being scant for going to windward of
all, and the small gap before seen in the middle appearing to be passable
for the Cumberland, we bore up for it. The depth at less than a quarter
of a mile off was 40 fathoms, then 6, 7, 4 in the centre of the opening,
8, and no ground with the hand line; this front reef seeming to be a mere
ledge of coral, which extended N. N. E. and S. S. W.; and that part of
the opening in it where the sea did not break, is about one mile wide.
Immediately on getting through, altitudes were taken for the time keeper;
and the longitude, reduced to the north-east extremity of the Eastern
Fields, was 145 deg. 441/2' east, or about 1' less than what had been found in
the Investigator from Broad Sound. In steering W. N. W., two small
patches of reef were left to the south and one to the north, about five
miles from the opening; other reefs then came in sight ahead and on each
bow; and after sounding in 34 fathoms coral sand, and observing the
latitude 10 deg. 2 1/3', we passed through a narrow channel between them,
having no ground at 7 fathoms. At one o'clock, the western extremity of
these reefs bore S. 16 deg. E. two miles, and others were seen in the horizon
extending from N. W. to W. S. W.; we passed close round the north end of
these; but the single breaker laid down the year before, and which should
lie about five miles to the N. N. E., was not perceived. At three
o'clock, in steering westward, the last reefs were out of sight astern;
and nothing more had been seen at seven, when we hauled to the wind for
the night. An amplitude observed at sunset, with the schooner's head W.
by S., gave 6 deg. 2' east variation.


We tacked every two or three hours, until daylight; and then bore away W.
S. W. by compass, to make the south side of the Pandora's Entrance, which
I had not seen in the Investigator. Soon after eight o'clock, breakers
came in sight; and we stood off and on till noon, to fix their latitude
and longitude, and ascertain our position with respect to Murray's
Islands before entering the Strait. The sun was vertical and therefore
difficult to be observed; but in taking Mr. Aken's observation on one
side and mine on the other, which differed only 31/2', the mean latitude
10 deg. 01/2', could not be far wrong. The reef in sight was shown by this
observation to be on the south side of the Pandora's Entrance, as I
wished; and its north end will lie in 10 deg. 59' south, and longitude by the
time keeper 144 deg. 40' east. We bore away so soon as the observation was
obtained, and in passing close round the north end, got soundings at two
casts, in 7 and 5 fathoms.

This reef lies N. N. E. and S. S. W., and is about seven miles long with
a breadth from one to three miles; its form is nearly that of a boot, and
the outer edges are probably dry at low tide; but there was a
considerable space within, where the water looked blue, as if very deep.
The origin of that class of islands which abound in the Great Ocean,
under the names of Bow, Lagoon, etc., may here be traced. The exterior
bank of coral will, in the course of years, become land, as in them;
whilst the interior water will preserve its depth to a longer period, and
form a lagoon, with no other outlet than perhaps one or two little
openings for canoes or boats. In Mr. Dalrymple's chart of the Pandora's
track, there is a dry bank marked on the north-west part of the reef; but
this commencement of the metamorphosis was not visible to us, probably
from its being covered by the tide, for it was then near high water. In
some future age, when Boot Island shall be visited, this little remark,
it it live so long, may be of some interest to the geographer.


I hauled up under the lee side of the reef, intending to anchor and go in
a boat to sound the deep water within; but not finding any ground with 70
fathoms at a mile off, we bore away at two o'clock to make Murray's
Islands. At three, breakers were seen four or five miles to the
southward, and others, perhaps on the same reef, about three miles W. S.
W. from them; in half an hour the largest of Murray's Islands came in
sight to the W. by N.; and our course being continued to six o'clock, the
centre then bore N. 78 deg. W. nearly four leagues, but the front reefs,
which could not be more than half that distance in the same direction,
were not visible. We then hauled to the wind, and stood off and on till
daylight [SATURDAY 22 OCTOBER 1803], when the largest island bore W. by

Murray's Islands may be considered as the key to the best passage yet
known through Torres' Strait, and my route to them in the Investigator
being circuitous, I wished to ascertain whether a more direct track might
not be found; we therefore steered to make the north-eastern reefs, and
on coming in with the breakers, ran along their south side at the
distance of one or two miles. At half past seven, the termination of
these reefs bore N. N. W.; but another reef, which extended far to the
south, had for some time been in sight, and a dry sand on its north end
now bore S. W. by W. one mile. In the opening between them was a small
patch of coral, and several green spots in the water round it; but there
appearing to be room for the Cumberland to pass on the north side, I
ventured through, sounding in 20 and 23 fathoms without finding bottom.

This opening is a mile wide, and lies five or six miles, nearly E. N. E.,
from the largest of Murray's Islands; it would consequently be more
direct to pass through it than to follow the Investigator's track round
the north-eastern reefs; but from the narrowness of the opening and the
many green spots where the depth is unknown to me, I dare not recommend
it to a ship, though very practicable for small vessels in fine weather.
The dry bank on the south side of the opening will probably be covered at
three-quarters flood.

After clearing the passage, I steered W. N. W. to avoid going near
Murray's Islands, lest the small size of the Cumberland should tempt the
Indians to make an attack; this they were likely to do if the opportunity
offered, and many were standing on the shore with their canoes seemingly
in readiness. At 8h 50' the large island bore S. 6 deg. E. to 13 deg. W., three
or four miles; and our position in longitude being very nearly the same
with that of my former anchorage, altitudes were taken for the time
keeper. The result, when corrected, was 144 deg. 2' 0" east, and in the
Investigator it had been 144 deg. 2' 58", being a difference scarcely worth
notice. When it is considered that Wreck Reef, whence the Cumberland's
departure was taken, and Coepang in Timor, by which the longitude is
corrected, are laid down from observations wholly distinct from those at
Upper Head and Sweers' Island, which regulated the Investigator's
longitude, this near coincidence will be thought remarkable; and it must
also be allowed to show, that an equally accelerated rate and
supplemental correction are improvements on the ordinary management of
time keepers.

At this time, the large reef to the north of Murray's Islands was distant
one or two miles, and we steered westward along it, to get into my former
track; but the man at the mast head saying that the water was
discoloured, and that he did not think there was any passage in the
direction we steered, I thought myself deceived in the distance of the
island; and the schooner was hauled up two points to the southward, where
the appearance was better. It became evident, however, that the
discoloured water was in the same ripplings of tide through which the
Investigator had passed without finding bottom at 30 fathoms; and no
doubt it was from these ripplings that the discolouring arose.

At ten o'clock, the top of the largest island bore S. 74 deg. E. five or six
miles, we had reefs at the distance of half a mile to a mile on each
beam, and I then found that we were to the south of the Investigator's
track; but the channel being clear ahead, and taking a direction nearly
straight for Cape York, I steered onward, being rather pleased than sorry
at having thus got by accident into a new route. Darnley's Island was
seen from the mast head before eleven; and when the top of Murray's
Island bore E. 1 deg. S. it was set at N. N. W., the depth being then 52
fathoms on a bottom of small stones, coral, and shells. The great line of
reefs which had been kept on the larbord beam of the Investigator, was
now on the starbord beam of the schooner; but we had also a great mass of
reefs on the other side, forming between them a kind of channel from two
to four miles broad, leading south-westward. We ran on at the rate of
five knots until noon, when the depth was 25 fathoms, soft sand, and our
situation as under,

Latitude observed to the south, 9 deg. 581/2'
Longitude brought on, 143 45
Murray's I., top of the largest, N. 78 E.
Murray's I., south-westernmost, N. 82 E.

The channel was now five or six miles wide, and no interruption yet
appeared; but breakers were seen a-head before two o'clock, and seemed to
connect the reefs to leeward with those on the weather side; and there
being a small opening on the starbord beam, we bore away north-west
through it, towards the Investigator's track. Other reefs, however,
obstructed the way, upon one of which was a dry bank; and seeing a sort
of middle channel within them, we hauled up W. by S. into it, and
afterwards S. W. The sea did not break upon these reefs, and the sun
being on the starbord bow, prevented us from knowing how they lay to
leeward. At four, the coral bottom was seen under the schooner, and the
depth was no more than 2 fathoms; we tacked immediately, and in ten
minutes were able to weather the end of the reef at the outlet of the
middle channel, where no obstruction appeared; but a bank, probably not
of coral, was found to run across, and in passing over it we had 3, 11/2,
2, 3, 8 fathoms, and in five minutes 22 on a soft bottom. A swell was
then perceived coming from E. S. E., which showed that the weather reefs
also there terminated; it even implied that the waves had no obstruction
for many miles, probably as far as the great outer reef seen by the

Half-way Island came in sight as soon as the middle channel was cleared,
and we steered west, carrying all sail to reach it before dark. In
passing round the north end of its reef at sunset, we had 18 fathoms, and
presently anchored in 20, with the centre of the island bearing S. by E.
1/2 E. one mile, and the reef from E. 1/2 S. to S. W. by S. Next morning at
daylight [SUNDAY 23 OCTOBER 1803], Mr. Aken went on shore to bring off
some shells of the large cockle (_chama gigas_), which the Indians place
under the pandanus trees to catch water, and on his return at eight
o'clock, we resumed our course to the south-westward, passing between
some dry sands before seen in the Investigator. I then kept up more
southward to fetch the York Isles, and this took us between two other
sands surrounded with small reefs. There were many birds, and a pole was
standing up on the northern bank; and the wind becoming very light, an
anchor was dropped in 14 fathoms under the west side, and I went on

This bank or key was very little above high water; but a young pandanus
had been planted on the top and surrounded with a circle of stones,
apparently to protect it from the turtle, whose tracks were fresh on the
sand. It appeared from thence, that the Indians come here at times; and
this tree had been planted with a view, most probably, to obtain fresh
water by the same means as at Half-way Island. The latitude of the bank,
according to Mr. Aken's meridian observation, is 10 deg. 18' south, longitude
by the time keeper 143 deg. 6' east, and there is a similar bank lying two or
three miles to the southward.

On my return the south-east trade had freshened up, and we steered S. W.
by compass, in soundings from 13 to 11 fathoms, soft ground. Some of the
small woody isles before laid down, were seen to the north-westward, but
nothing else till four o'clock; the high flat-topped York Isle then came
in sight, and at six the following bearings were set.

Mount Adolphus, the flat top, S. 33 deg. W.
Two rocks on its south side, S. 17 W.
Western York Isle, the north end, S. 69 W.
A low distant isle (from the mast head), S 1/2 E.

I purposed anchoring between the flat-topped island and the western isle;
but several rocks being seen there, and the night coming on, we bore away
to leeward of the rocks and came to in 13 fathoms, soon after seven
o'clock. The tide was setting to the westward, and so continued till
half past nine, when it turned to the east, and ran till half past
three in the morning [MONDAY 24 OCTOBER 1803]; if the rise by the
shore corresponded with the stream, it was high water _three hours
and a half after_ the moon's passage; which would be five hours later
than at Murray's Islands, and one hour earlier than it had appeared to be
at those of the Prince of Wales (see Ch. V, 1 November). A fresh breeze
from south-east raised a swell here, but the anchor held all night; and
before getting under way next morning, I set the following bearings of
the land.

Flat-topped I., distant three miles S. 42 deg. to 2 deg. E.
Flat-topped I., centre of Mount Adolphus, S. 32 E.
C. York, outer of three islets near the E. extreme, S. 2 E.
Western York I., distant 11/2 miles S. 18 to 88 W.
Northern double I., imperfectly from aloft, N. W. by W.1/2 W.

On passing the north end of the western isle at seven o'clock, I took
altitudes for the time keeper, and from thence deduced the longitude of
Mount Adolphus to be 142 deg. 40' east; we then hauled up for Cape York, with
soundings between 14 and 10 fathoms, leaving on the starbord hand a rock
which lies S. 78 deg. W. five miles from the north end of the western isle.
At half past eight, two rocks close to the northern extremity of the Cape
were distant four or five miles, the Prince of Wales's Islands were
coming in sight, and the following bearings were taken.

Western York Isle, north end, N. 70 deg. E.
C. York, north extreme, S. 58 E.
C. York, hill at the north-west extreme, S. 11 W.
Possession Isle, apparently, of capt. Cook, S. 26 deg. to 33 W.
Northern double Isle, centre, North.

On the largest of the Prince of Wales' Islands was a hill forming
something like two horns at the top; we steered a direct course for this
hill, and perceived a bight or opening two miles to the south of it, by
which the sea may probably have a communication with the water before
observed within the great island. From abreast of Horned Hill we followed
the line of the shore northward, in soundings from 4 to 7 fathoms at one
or two miles off; and soon after ten o'clock hauled west into the opening
between this land and Wednesday Island, to pass through the middle of the
group. Our soundings were variable between 5 and 3 fathoms, until
approaching Hammond's Island; when there not appearing to be depth enough
on its south side, I steered out northward, leaving a rock on the
starbord hand within which there was only 2 fathoms.

This rock seems to be the small, dark-coloured island described by Mr.
Hamilton as being near the centre of Sandwich Sound (see Introduction);
and if so, Wolf's Bay, in which he says there is from 5 to 7 fathoms and
commodious anchorage for shipping, should be that inclosed piece of water
seen from the top of Good's Island; but to me at this time, there did not
appear to be any ship passage into it from the northward. An island lies
at the entrance, and on its west side the depth may probably be more

On getting out from between Wednesday and Hammond's Islands, we steered
along the south side of the great north-western reef; and at noon our
observation and bearings were as under.

Latitude observed to the north, 10 deg. 31'
Hammond's I., the north rock dist. 2 miles, N. 73 E.
Good's I., former station on the S. W. hill, S. 23 W.
Hawkesbury I., the highest part, N. 14 W.

Booby Isle was in sight from the mast head at one o'clock, bearing nearly
W. S. W.; and soon after three we anchored one mile to leeward of it, in
7 fathoms, soft sand. A boat was sent on shore, which presently came back
loaded with boobies; and fresh turtle tracks having been perceived, the
crew returned to watch, and at midnight we received five turtle. These
appeared to be of the species called hawkes-bill; the shells and skins,
as also their fat, were of a red tinge, and they had longer necks than
the turtle procured at Wellesley's Islands, to which they were much
inferior, both in size and quality.

When entering the Gulph of Carpentaria in the Investigator, I had
remarked what appeared to be a considerable error in the relative
positions of Booby Isle and the flat-topped York Island, as they are laid
down by captain Cook; and to obtain more certainty, the longitude of the
flat top had been observed this morning from the time keeper, and I
anchored here this afternoon to do the same by Booby Isle. The result
showed the difference of longitude between them to be 431/2', differing
less than 1' from what had been deduced in the Investigator, whereas, by
captain Cook, they are placed 63' asunder. The high respect to which the
labours of that great man are entitled, had caused me to entertain some
doubt of the reality of this error until the present verification. It is
to be wholly ascribed to the circumstance of his not having had a time
keeper in his _first_ voyage; and a more eminent proof of the utility of
this valuable instrument cannot be given, than that so able a navigator
could not always avoid making errors so considerable as this, when
deprived of its assistance.

A meridian altitude of the moon placed Booby Isle in latitude 10 deg. 36'
south; and the longitude from a medium of the Investigator's and
Cumberland's time keepers, was 141 deg. 561/2' east. A morning's amplitude
taken after quitting the isle when the schooner's head was W. by S., gave
the uncorrected variation 5 deg. 38' east.


At daybreak next morning, having a fresh trade wind, we steered W. by S.
by compass, the soundings increasing gradually from 7 fathoms to 13 at
noon, when our latitude was 10 deg. 38' and longitude 141 deg. 17'. No reefs or
other dangers had been seen to the west of Booby Isle; nor were any met
with in steering across the Gulph of Carpentaria towards Cape Wilberforce
(Atlas, Plate XIV), though many birds, principally boobies, were seen
every day. We ran in the night, with the precaution of heaving to every
four hours, to sound; the depth was from 30 to 36 fathoms on a muddy
bottom, nearly all across the Gulph.


(Atlas, Plate XV.)

On 28th at two in the morning, Cape Wilberforce being seen directly
ahead, we hove to in 18 fathoms till daylight; the south-east extreme of
the cape then bore S. 54 deg. W, and the largest of Bromby's Isles was two
miles distant to the northward. After making some short tacks, we passed
through between the two outer isles, with soundings from 6 to 11 fathoms;
and at ten o'clock, when clear of the passage, the bearings of the
nearest lands were as under:

Bromby's I., the largest, cliffy S. E. end, S. 34 deg. W.
Bromby's I., outermost, highest part, dist. 11/4 m., S. 50 E.
Truant Isle, centre, N. 37 E.
Two islets, dist. 5 miles, centres, N. 24 deg. and 32 W.
Wigram's Island, extremes, N. 55 to S. 87 W.

The longitude of our situation according to the positions laid down in
the Investigator, would be 136 deg. 41' 10", and the time keeper now gave
136 deg. 42' 12". It was principally for the sake of comparing the two
longitudes, that I made the land near Cape Wilberforce.


We steered northward for the two islets, and at noon, when the latitude
from an observation to the south was 11 deg. 43', but from bearings 11 deg. 42',
they were distant three quarters of a mile to the W. by S.; these islets
had been set from the south-east head of Cotton's Island at N. 42 deg. 35' to
45 deg. 5' E., and that head was now seen bearing S. 451/4 deg. W. At one o'clock
the Wessel's Islands came in sight, and I hauled more up, wishing to
ascertain their extent to the northward; but the wind being at E. N. E,
we could not pass to windward before dark, and therefore steered for an
opening between the two outer islands. There were strong ripplings and
whirlpools of tide at the entrance of the opening, with very variable
soundings between 5 and 16 fathoms; and finding we could not get through
in time, the sun being then near the horizon, an anchor was dropped near
a small beach on the north side, in 4 fathoms, out of the set of the


Next morning I landed on the northern island, to take bearings and search
for water, and the boat's crew had axes to cut some fire wood. Four or
five Indians made their appearance, but as we advanced they retired; and
I therefore left them to themselves, having usually found that to bring
on an interview with the Australians, it was best to seem careless about
it. A Malay prow had been thrown on the beach, and whilst the boat's crew
was busied in cutting up the wreck for fuel, the Indians approached
gradually, and a friendly intercourse took place; but as no water could
be found, and time was more precious than the company of these people,
they were presented with our axes after the work was done, and we got
under way soon after ten o'clock.

This island appears to be the outermost of the chain called Wessel's
Islands, which extend thirteen leagues in a north-east direction from the
main land near Point Dale. It seemed to be eight or nine miles in length,
by about five in breadth; the southern part is sandy and sterile, but
some trees are produced; and I saw kangaroos of a small kind, too lean to
be worth the pursuit their shyness required. The natives are of the same
colour and appearance as in other parts of Terra Australis, and go
equally naked; their presence here showed the south end of the island to
be not wholly destitute of fresh water; but in the limited search we had
time to make, none could be found, though traces of torrents denoted the
falling of heavy rains in some part of the year. The island to the
south-west, which is of somewhat greater extent, though less in
elevation, had much the same appearance.

A distance of two miles between the islands seems to present a fair
opening; but there is a reef of low rocks on the west side, and the
ripplings and whirlpools caused by the meeting of the tides take away the
command of a vessel in light winds; so that, although I went through
safely in the Cumberland, the passage can be recommended to a _ship_ only
in a case of necessity. The latitude of our anchorage under the northern
island, from a supplement of the moon's meridian altitude, was 11 deg. 24
2/3' south; and the longitude by time keeper, from altitudes of the star
_Altair_, 136 deg. 281/2' east, but it is placed in 1' less, conformably to the
positions fixed in the Investigator. A head land seen in latitude 11 deg.
18', was probably the northern extremity of this island, and of the whole
chain; at least nothing beyond it could be perceived.


In steering out of the channel we were carried near the western rocks by
the tide; but the water was deep, and a breeze soon took the schooner out
of its influence. At noon our observed latitude was 11 deg. 21', the northern
island bore N. 67 deg. to S. 48 deg. E, and the furthest part of the southern
land S. 5 deg. W.; the wind was light at north-east, and until midnight we
steered north-west to get off the coast; our course was then more
westward towards Timor, where I proposed to stop for a supply of water
and provisions. (Atlas, Plate I.)


A moderate trade wind, coming generally from S. E. in the first part, and
E. N. E. in the latter part of the day, carried us to the longitude of
the northern Cape Van Diemen; beyond that, the winds were light and
variable, and frequently at south-west, which alarmed me lest the
unfavourable monsoon should set in before we could get far enough to be
out of its influence. Nov. 6 at noon [SUNDAY 6 NOVEMBER 1803], our
latitude was 9 deg. 28' south, longitude 127 deg. 12' east (Atlas, Plate XVI),
and I was surprised to see already the high land of Timor extending from
N. 1/2 W. to W. N. W.; the first was probably the north-east extremity of
the island, and distant about twenty-three leagues, but the high land in
the latter bearing could scarcely be nearer than thirty-five leagues.
This distance, with ten feet elevation of the eye on the schooner's deck,
would give the height to be more than 9000 feet, had it been seen in the
horizon, but it was perceptibly above, and this land is therefore
probably not much inferior to the peak of Teneriffe. I did not measure
its altitude above the horizon with a sextant, or the elevation might
have been more nearly ascertained.

The westward current had hitherto not exceeded half a mile an hour; but
the next day it was one mile, and on the day following [TUESDAY 8
NOVEMBER 1803] one and a quarter to the W. S. W. We had then regained the
trade wind, and our situation at noon was 10 deg. 31/2' south and 125 deg. 15'
east; the northern part of Timor was obscured by haze, the nearest land
visible bore N. 75 deg. W. about eight leagues, and the southern extreme W.
5 deg. S. On the 9th [WEDNESDAY 9 NOVEMBER 1803], the round hill upon Rottee
came in sight, and bore S. 78 deg. W. at noon, when our latitude was 10 deg. 321/4'
south and longitude 124 deg. 0' east. We carried all sail to gain Samow
Strait before dark; but it was eight o'clock when we hauled round the low
south-west point of Timor, in soundings from 6 to 14 fathoms, within a
quarter of a mile of the reef. There were lights on both shores, which
were useful in directing our course up the strait; but having
unfavourable winds, the northern outlet was not quite reached at noon
next day [THURSDAY 10 NOVEMBER 1803]; and it was near five in the evening
before we anchored abreast of Fort Concordia. This was the thirtieth day
of our departure from Wreck Reef, and two days might be deducted from
them for the deviations and stoppages made for surveying; the indifferent
sailing of the schooner was also against making a quick passage, for with
all the sail we could set, so much as six knots was not marked on the log
board; yet notwithstanding these hindrances, and the much greater of my
six-weeks voyage in the boat to Port Jackson and twelve days stay at
Wreck Reef, the Bridgewater had arrived at Batavia only four days before
we anchored in Coepang Bay. Had not the unfortunate accident happened to
the Porpoise, I have little doubt that we could, with the superior
sailing of that ship, have reached the longitude of Java Head on the
fortieth, perhaps on the thirty-fifth day of our departure from Port


Mynheer Geisler, the former governor of Coepang, died a month before our
arrival, and Mr. Viertzen at this time commanded. He supplied us with
almost every thing our situation required, and endeavoured to make my
time pass as pleasantly as was in his power, furnishing me with a house
near the fort to which I took the time keeper and instruments to
ascertain a new rate and error; but my anxious desire to reach England,
and the apprehension of being met by the north-west monsoon before
passing Java, induced me to leave him as soon as we could be ready to
sail, which was on the fourth day. The schooner had continued to be very
leaky whenever the wind caused her to lie over on the side, and one of
the pumps had nearly become useless; I should have risked staying two or
three days longer, had Coepang furnished the means of fresh boring and
fitting the pumps, or if pitch could have been procured to pay the seams
in the upper works after they were caulked; but no assistance in this way
could be obtained; we however got a leak stopped in the bow, and the
vessel was afterwards tight so long as she remained at anchor.

Mr. Viertzen informed me that captain Baudin had arrived at Coepang near
a month after I had left it in the Investigator, and had sailed early in
June for the Gulph of Carpentaria; and I afterwards learned, that being
delayed by calms and opposed by south-east winds, he had not reached Cape
Arnhem when his people and himself began to be sickly; and fearing that
the north-west monsoon might return before his examination was finished,
and keep him in the Gulph beyond the extent of his provisions, he
abandoned the voyage and steered for Mauritius in his way to Europe.

The situation of Fort Concordia is considered to be 10 deg. 91/4' south and
123' 35' 46" east, according to the observations made in the Investigator
(see Ch. IX). I took altitudes with a sextant and artificial horizon on
the 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th, for the rate of the time keeper, which,
with its error from mean Greenwich time at noon there on the last day of
observation, was found to be as under:

Earnshaw's No. 520, slow 0h 32' 59.91" and losing 36.74" per day.

From the first observation on the 11th p.m., the longitude given with
the rate from Wreck Reef, was 123 deg. 48' 34", or 12' 48" too far east; but
on using a rate equally accelerated from that found at Wreck Reef to this
at Coepang, the time keeper will differ only 0' 40" to the east, which is
the presumable amount of its irregularities between Oct. 6 at noon and
Nov. 11 p.m., or in 36.2 days. The longitudes of my track from Wreck Reef
to Timor have been corrected agreeably to the accelerated rate, with the
further allowance of a part of the supplemental error 0' 40",
proportionate to the time of each observation; but in Torres' Strait, the
situations are fixed from a medium of the longitudes so obtained and of
those of the Investigator with the corrections specified in Ch. VI.,
preceding; the difference between them no where exceeding 11/2' of



On the evening of the 14th we sailed from Coepang, and having passed
round the north end of Pulo Samow, steered south-westward with a fair
breeze; but the wind being light, and afterwards veering to S. S. W., our
progress was slow. At sunset on the 16th [WEDNESDAY 16 NOVEMBER 1803],
the island Savu was seen to the N. W. by N., and next morning [THURSDAY
17 NOVEMBER 1803] at six o'clock, the following bearings were taken.

Savu., the highest part, N. 39 deg. E.
Benjoar, a round hill on it, N. 22 E.
A rocky islet, distant 3 leagues, N. 48 W.

At noon, the rocky islet bore N. 63 deg. E., and its position was ascertained
to be 10 deg. 491/2' south and 122 deg. 49' east. A small low island is laid down
by admiral D'Entrecasteaux, about three leagues to the north-west of this
position, and had been previously seen by captain Cook in 1770; it seems
possible that these may be one and the same island, for the situation in
D'Entrecasteaux's chart is marked _doubtful_; but they are both laid down
in Plate XVI., and such additions made to what little could be
distinguished of Savu and Benjoar, as D'Entrecasteaux, Cook, Bligh. and
Dalrymple could furnish.

It was my intention on quitting Timor, if the leaky condition of the
schooner and the north-west monsoon did not oppose it, to pass southward
of all the Sunda Islands and direct for the Cape of Good Hope; but if
impeded, to run through some one of the eastern straits, get into the
north-east monsoon, and make for Batavia, or any port where the vessel
could be repaired. The veering of the wind to the westward of south,
accompanied by a swell and the occasional appearance of lightning in the
north-western quarter, made me apprehensive of being forced to this
latter plan; and we prepared a boarding netting to defend us against the
Malay pirates, with which the straits between Java and Timor were said to
be infested; the wind however came back to the eastward, although the
south-west swell continued, and we had frequent rain with sometimes
thunder and lightning.


On the 25th, our latitude was 12 deg. 48' and longitude 103 deg. 6', which was
past the meridian of Java Head, and beyond the ordinary limits of the
north-west monsoon. The schooner was leaky, more so than before, and the
pumps were getting worse; but hoping to reach the Cape of Good Hope, I
had wholly given up the idea of Batavia as lying too far out of the
track; Mauritius besides was in the way, should the vessel become
incapable of doubling the Cape without repairs.

Our course by compass was W. by S. for three days, and afterwards W. S.
W., with fresh south-eastern breezes and cloudy weather; but in the upper
regions of the atmosphere the wind was unsettled, showers of rain were
frequent, and it appeared that we were only just in time to save our
passage. On the 4th of December, in 19 deg. 2' south and 83 deg. 50' east, we had
a good deal of following sea from the eastward, whilst the ground swell
came from the south-west; and the jumble caused by these different
movements in the water made the vessel labour exceedingly. I varied the
course a point on either side, to keep the wind in the easiest direction;
but during this and the following day the leaks augmented so much, that
the starbord pump, which was alone effective, was obliged to be worked
almost continually, day and night; and had the wind been on the starbord
side, it is doubtful whether the schooner could have been kept above

This state of things made it necessary to take into serious consideration
the propriety of attempting the passage round the Cape of Good Hope,
without first having the vessel caulked and the pumps fresh bored and
fitted. Should a western wind meet the current setting round the Cape,
and it was to be expected, there would be much more sea running than we
had yet encountered; and with a fresh wind on the starbord side, which
might probably occur, the remaining pump would not touch the water until
the hold was half full; there was moreover cause to fear, that it also
would soon become ineffective from constant use. After turning these
circumstances over in my mind for a day or two, and considering what else
might be urged both for and against the measure, I determined to put in
at Mauritius; and on the 6th in the evening [TUESDAY 6 DECEMBER 1803],
altered the course half a point for that island, to the satisfaction of
the people.


In the orders from governor King, the ports to be touched at on the way
to England were left to my own choice; but when Mauritius had been
mentioned amongst others in conversation, the governor had objected to
it, both on account of the hurricanes in that neighbourhood, and from not
wishing to encourage a communication between a French colony and a
settlement composed as is that of Port Jackson. It was these
considerations which had made me hesitate to take the step, though the
necessity for it was pressing; and as, in the case of accident happening
to the schooner, I might be called to answer before a court martial for
going in opposition to the wish of a superior officer, it seemed proper
to state in my journal all the reasons which had any influence on my
decision. This journal is not in my possession; but notes of the
statement were made whilst the recollection of it was strong, and the
following was the substance and not far from the words.

1. The necessity of caulking the schooner and refitting the pumps before
attempting to double the Cape, were stated nearly as above; to which was
added a hope of obtaining a passage in a ship where my defaced charts and
journals, which remained untouched from the time of the shipwreck, might
be put into a state to be laid before the Admiralty on arriving in
England. In the case of meeting with such a passage, I intended to let
the Cumberland for freight back to Port Jackson, or to sell her,
agreeably to the authority given me in governor King's orders.

2. Considering the proximity of Mauritius to the western coasts of Terra
Australis, which remained to be examined, I was desirous to see in what
state it had been left by the revolution, and to gain a practical
knowledge of the port and periodical winds; with a view to its being used
in the future part of my voyage as a place of refitting and refreshment,
for which Port Jackson was at an inconvenient distance. It was also
desirable to know how far Mauritius, and its dependencies in Madagascar
which I knew to abound in cattle, could be useful to Port Jackson in
supplying it with breeding stock; an object concerning which the governor
had expressed anxiety for information from any place on the east side of
the Cape of Good Hope.

3. The two letters from governor King to general Magallon, governor of
Mauritius, instead of being forwarded from the Cape might be delivered in

4. I was a stranger to what had passed in Europe for nearly twelve
months, and there was consequently a possibility that war might again
have broken out; my passport from the French government would be good at
Mauritius, but in going to the Cape, it was uncertain what attention the
Dutch governor might pay to the orders of the first consul of France; and
as promoters and encouragers of science, the character of the nation was
not so high as to give me great expectation on that head. Mauritius was
therefore much more certain than the Cape, since the necessary succour
would be there obtained even in case of war; whereas at the Cape there
might be a risk of losing my charts and journals and of being made a

These reasons for stopping at Mauritius as we passed by it, in addition
to the necessity arising from the state of the schooner, were written in
my rough journal for reference, without any idea of their being
criticised, or even seen by any other than myself; and I have been
particular in detailing them, on account of the unexpected occurrences
with which they became connected.


On the evening of the 9th, a ship was seen to the northward, and we
sought to speak her for information; but night coming on the sight of her
was lost, and we resumed our western course. I had no chart of Mauritius,
nor other description than what is contained in the third edition of the
Encyclopedia Britannica; this informed me that Port Louis was on the
north-west side of the island, but not of the route usually taken to
reach it; and the prevailing wind being south-east, it seemed to be a
matter of indifference; I therefore steered to make the middle of the
island, intending to go by the north or south sides as the wind might
happen to favour most. On the 15th [THURSDAY 15 DECEMBER 1803] before
daylight, the land was seen, and the wind being E. by S. we hauled to the
northward. When the day broke the island was seven or eight miles off,
and bore from S. 42 deg. to N. 51 deg. W.; but there was a distant round lump,
whether connected with it did not appear, which bore N. by W.; and
finding the schooner could not clear it, from the sea running high and
current setting to leeward, we veered round and steered southward along
the edge of a reef which extends four or five miles from this part of the
island. Soon after eight o'clock we passed three flat rocks within the
reef, lying, as I now suppose, at the entrance of Port Bourbon; the
extremes of the island then bore N. 1 deg. to S. 69 deg. W., and a steep point N.
39 deg. W. five or six miles.

In steering westward along the shore, looking out for boats or vessels to
gain information, a flag was seen upon one of the hills; our colours were
then hoisted, and afterwards a French jack at the fore-top-mast head, as
a signal for a pilot. At noon, the observed latitude was 20 deg. 34' south,
and the extremes of the island bore N. 54 deg. E. to 61 deg. W. There was a small
town bearing N. by E. two or three miles, from whence a schooner had come
out, and being ahead we made sail to speak her; but she hauled in towards
the shore until we had passed, and then stood after us. On our heaving
to, the schooner again steered for a place where some vessels were seen
at anchor, and I began to take her movements as an intimation that we
should go in there for a pilot; accordingly we followed her through a
narrow pass in the reefs, and anchored in 21/2 fathoms, in a small reef
harbour which I afterwards understood was called the _Baye du Cap_.

If the schooner's actions were strange before, those of the people were
now more so; for no sooner was their anchor dropped, than without furling
the sails they went hastily on shore in a canoe, and made the best of
their way up a steep hill, one of them with a trunk on his shoulder. They
were met by a person who, from the plume in his hat, appeared to be an
officer, and presently we saw several men with muskets on the top of the
hill; this gave another view of the schooner's movements, and caused me
to apprehend that England and France were either at war or very near it.
To induce some person to come on board, I held up the letters for general
Magallon, the governor; but this being to no purpose, Mr. Aken went on
shore in our little boat, taking with him the letters and French
passport; in a short time he returned with the officer and two others,
and I learned to my great regret that war was actually declared.

The officer, whose name was _Dunienville_, spoke a little English; he
asked if I were the captain Flinders mentioned in the passport, whether
we had been shipwrecked, and to see my commission. Having perused it, he
politely offered his services, inquired what were our immediate wants,
and invited me to go on shore and dine with him, it being then near three
o'clock. I explained my wish to have a pilot for Port North-West (the
name at that time for Port Louis), since it appeared no reparations could
be done in the little bay, and requested to have a cask or two of water.
The pilot was promised for the next day, and Mons. Dunienville sent a
canoe for our empty casks and the master of the French schooner to moor
the Cumberland in a secure place.

My passport was in French, and being a stranger to the language, I had
had its general purport explained on first receiving it from the
Admiralty; but from that time, and more especially after the
preliminaries of peace had reached Port Jackson, the passport had
scarcely been looked at, and my knowledge of its contents was very
imperfect. When the officer was gone, I set myself to consider it
attentively; and so far as I could make out, it seemed to be solely for
the Investigator, and without provision for any other vessel in which the
loss of the ship, or her incapacity to pursue the voyage might oblige me
to embark. The intention, no doubt, was to protect the voyage generally,
and not the Investigator in particular; but it appeared that if the
governor of Mauritius should adhere to the letter of the passport and
disregard the intention, he might seize the Cumberland as a prize; and
the idea of being detained even a week more than necessary was
intolerable. I inquired of the pilot whether the Cape of Good Hope
belonged to the Dutch or English; almost determining, should it not have
been given up before the war commenced, to attempt the passage at all
risks, rather than incur the hazard of being stopped; but the Cape was in
the hands of the Dutch.

An hour after M. Dunienville had been gone, we saw him returning with
another officer who proved to be his superior in rank; and they had with
them a gentleman who spoke English intelligibly. My passport and
commission were demanded in a rough manner, and after the officer had
examined them with the assistance of his interpreter, he observed that
the passport was not for the Cumberland, and required an explanation;
having received it, he said it was necessary that both commission and
passport should be sent to the governor, and that I should remain with
the vessel till an answer was returned. To this arrangement I objected,
alleging that since war was declared, these papers were my sole
protection and could not be given up; but if copies would do they might
be taken. It was at length settled, that I should go over land to Port
Louis with the passport and commission, and that Mr. Aken should be
furnished with a pilot and bring the schooner round after me.

I was conducted to the house of M. Dunienville, about a mile distant, to
be ready to set off on horseback early next morning. The gentleman who
interpreted informed me on the way, that general Magallon was at Bourbon,
having been lately superseded by general De Caen, an officer of the
French revolution. M. Dunienville had been a lieutenant of the navy and
knight of St. Louis under the old government, and was then major of the
district of _La Savanne_; but the other officer, M. Etienne Bolger, had
lately been appointed commandant over his head, by the new governor.

My reception at the major's house was polite and hospitable; and at dawn
of day [FRIDAY 16 DECEMBER 1803] I rose to set off with my host for Port
Louis, according to the plan settled over night. It appeared, however,
that he first expected some orders from the commandant; and at ten
o'clock becoming impatient of the delay, I requested to know whether it
were, or were not intended to go overland? Major Dunienville seemed to be
hurt that the agreement had not been kept; but the direction was taken
out of his hands, and not having received final orders he could do
nothing. I then returned to the Cumberland, with the intention of sailing
either with or without a pilot; but a wind favourable for quitting the
bay being not expected before four o'clock it induced me to accept the
major's pressing invitation to dine at his house, where four or five
strangers were assembled. Before dinner was over, an order came to him
from the commandant _to permit the departure of the schooner he had
stopped_; and at five o'clock the pilot being on board, we stood out from
the reefs in one of those squalls which come off the land at that hour in
the summer season.

This little Baye du Cap lies about four miles east from Cape Brabant, a
headland at the south-west extremity of the island. The shelter is formed
by coral reefs, through which a small river falling into the bay has kept
open a passage of about a cable's length wide, with a depth of 3 fathoms
close to the eastern breakers; within side there appeared to be anchorage
for six or eight small vessels, in from 2 to 3 fathoms; but on account of
the flurries of wind which come down the gullies and off the precipices,
it is necessary to moor head and stern. Mr. Aken found the latitude from
an indifferent observation to be 20 deg. 291/2' south.

At seven in the evening we passed round Cape Brabant, and the pilot then
kept north-eastward, close along the reefs under the high land; although
by so doing we were frequently becalmed, and sometimes had strong
flurries which made it necessary to take in all sail; but it appeared
that he was afraid of being driven off the island. At eight in the
morning [SATURDAY 17 DECEMBER 1803], the mast heads of the vessels in
Port Louis were in sight, and there was a large ship lying without side
which I hoped might be _Le Geographe_. Major Dunienville had informed me
that this ship had been some time at Mauritius, and so far as he knew,
was still at the port, though upon the eve of sailing for Europe. Captain
Baudin died soon after his arrival, and Mons. Melius, who had been first
lieutenant of Le Naturaliste when at Port Jackson, then commanded.

During this passage to Port Louis, my mind was occupied in turning over
all the circumstances of my situation, and the mode of proceeding likely
to be adopted by the new governor. The breaking out of the war, the
neglect of providing in the passport for any such case as that in which I
stood, and the ungracious conduct of the commandant at the Baye du Cap,
gave me some apprehensions; but on the other hand, the intention of the
passport to protect the persons employed in the expedition, with their
charts and journals, must be evident; and the conduct of a governor
appointed by the first consul Bonaparte, who was a professed patron of
science, would hardly be less liberal than that of two preceding French
governments to captain Cook in the American, and captain Vancouver in the
last war; for both of whom protection and assistance had been ordered,
though neither carried passports or had suffered shipwreck. These
circumstances, with the testimony which the commanders of the Geographe
and Naturaliste had doubtless given of their treatment at Port Jackson,
seemed to insure for me the kindest reception; and I determined to rest
confident in this assurance, and to banish all apprehension as derogatory
to the governor of Mauritius and to the character of the French nation.


Arrival at Port Louis (or North-West) in Mauritius.
Interview with the French governor.
Seizure of the Cumberland, with the charts and journals of the
Investigator's voyage; and imprisonment of the commander and people.
Letters to the governor, with his answer.
Restitution of some books and charts.
Friendly act of the English interpreter.
Propositions made to the governor.
Humane conduct of captain Bergeret.
Reflections on a voyage of discovery.
Removal to the Maison Despeaux or Garden Prison.



At four in the afternoon of Dec. 17, we got to an anchor at the entrance
of Port Louis, near the ship which I had hoped might be Le Geographe; but
captain Melius had sailed for France on the preceding day, and this
proved to be L'Atalante frigate.

The peculiarity of my situation, arising from the renewal of war and
neglect in the passport to provide for any accident happening to the
Investigator, rendered great precaution necessary in my proceedings; and
to remove as much possible, any doubts or misconceptions, I determined to
go immediately with my passport and commission to the French governor,
and request his leave to get the necessary reparations made to the
schooner; but learning from the pilot that it was a regulation of the
port for no person to land before the vessel had been visited by the
officer of health, it was complied with. At five the boat came
along-side; and having answered some general questions proposed in good
English, I went into the boat in my frock uniform, and was conducted to
the government house by an officer of the port and an interpreter. These
gentlemen, after speaking with an aide-de-camp, told me that the
captain-general was at dinner, and we must return in an hour or two; and
they took me to a shady place which seemed to be the common lounge for
the officers connected with the port. There were some who spoke English,
and by way of passing the time, they asked if I had really come from
Botany Bay in that little vessel; whether a corvette, sent out the night
before to observe my motions, had been seen; and if I had not sent a boat
on shore in the night? Others asked questions of monsieur Baudin's
conduct at Port Jackson, and of the English colony there; and also
concerning the voyage of monsieur Flinedare, of which, to their surprise,
I knew nothing, but afterwards found it to be my own name which they so

In two hours we again went to the government house, and the officers
entered to render their account, leaving me at the door for half an hour
longer. At length the interpreter desired me to follow him, and I was
shown into a room where two officers were standing at a table; the one a
shortish thick man in a laced round jacket, the other a genteel-looking
man whose blood seemed to circulate more tranquilly. The first, which was
the captain-general De Caen, fixed his eyes sternly upon me, and without
salutation or preface demanded my passport, my commission! Having glanced
over them, he asked in an impetuous manner, the reason for coming to the
Isle of France in a small-schooner with a passport for the Investigator?
I answered in a few words, that the Investigator having become rotten,
the governor of New South Wales had given me the schooner to return to
England; and that I had stopped at the island to repair my vessel and
procure water and refreshments. He then demanded the order for embarking
in the schooner and coming to the Isle of France; to which my answer was,
that for coming to the island I had no order, necessity had obliged me to
stop in passing--my order for embarking in the Cumberland was on board.
At this answer, the general lost the small share of patience of which he
seemed to be possessed, and said with much gesture and an elevated
voice--"You are imposing on me, sir! (_Vous m'en imposez, monsieur!_)
It is not probable that the governor of New South Wales should send away
the commander of an expedition on discovery in so small a vessel!--" He
then gave back my passport and commission, and I made a motion to follow
the interpreter out, but was desired to stop a little. In a few minutes
the interpreter returned with a military officer, to whom some orders not
explained to me were given, and I was desired to follow them; when going
out the captain-general said in a softer tone something about my being
well treated, which I could not comprehend.

In the way to the wharf, I inquired of the interpreter where they were
taking me? He said, on board the schooner, and that they had orders to
bring my books and papers on shore; in effect, they took all the charts,
papers, and journals relating to my voyage, as also the Port-Jackson
letters and packets, both public and private; and having put them into a
trunk which was sealed by me at their desire, they made out a report
(_proces verbal_) of their proceedings, and requested me to sign it with
them. The preamble of this report set forth something upon the suspicions
excited by my appearance at the Isle of France, with the
captain-general's opinion thereon; I therefore refused to sign it, but
certified at the bottom, that all the charts, journals, and papers of the
voyage, together with all the letters on board the schooner had been

The conduct of these gentlemen being polite, I expressed to them my
sentiments of general De Caen's manner of receiving me, and the injustice
of taking away the papers of a voyage protected by a passport from the
French government; and added, that the captain-general's conduct must
alter very much before I should pay him a second visit, or even set my
foot on shore again. The interpreter hoped I would go on shore with them,
for the general had ordered a lodging to be provided for me; and that, in
fact, they had orders to take me there. I looked at him and at the
officer, who was one of the aides-de-camp--What! I exclaimed in the first
transports of surprise and indignation--I am then a prisoner! They
acknowledged it to be true; but said they hoped it would last only a few
days, until my papers were examined; and that in the mean time,
directions had been given that I should want for nothing.

Mr. Aken was also to go on shore; and whilst we put a few clothes
together in a trunk, several black men, under the direction of another
pilot, were warping the schooner up into the port. At one in the morning
[SUNDAY 18 DECEMBER 1803] the officers took us into their boat, leaving
the Cumberland, with Mr. Charrington and the crew, under a guard of

We were conducted to a large house in the middle of the town, and through
a long dark entry, up a dirty stair case, into the room destined for us;
the aide-de-camp and interpreter then wished us a good night, and we
afterwards heard nothing save the measured steps of a sentinel, walking
in the gallery before our door. The chamber contained two truckle beds, a
small table and two rush-bottomed chairs; and from the dirty appearance
of the room I judged the lodging provided for us by the general to be one
of the better apartments of a common prison; there were, however, no iron
bars behind the lattice windows, and the frame of a looking-glass in the
room had formerly been gilt. It seemed to me a wiser plan to leave the
circumstances to develop themselves, rather than to fatigue ourselves
with uncertain conjectures; therefore, telling Mr. Aken we should
probably know the truth soon enough, I stripped and got into bed; but
between the musketoes above and bugs below, and the novelty of our
situation, it was near daybreak before either of us dropped asleep.

At six o'clock, I was awakened by two armed grenadiers entering the room.
The one said some words to the other, pointing to us at the same time,
and then went out; and he that remained began walking backward and
forward between our beds, as a sentinel on his post, without seeming to
pay great attention to us. Had there been curtains, I should have tried
to regain my slumber; but not being able to sleep in such company, I rose
and awoke my companion, who seeing the grenadier and not at first
recollecting our situation, answered in a manner that would have diverted
me at any other time. The sentinel did not prevent us speaking together;
and on looking out at the window, we found that it was in reality a
tavern where they had placed us, though a very dirty one; it bore the
name of _Cafe Marengo_. A breakfast was brought at eight, and dinner at
twelve, and we eat heartily; good bread, fresh meat, fruit, and
vegetables being great rarities.

At one o'clock, the aide-de-camp, whom I learned to be lieut. colonel
Monistrol, came to the tavern and desired me to accompany him to the
general; and being shown into an office, a German secretary, who spoke
some English, put various questions to me from a paper, in substance
nearly as follows. How it was that I appeared at the Isle of France in so
small a vessel, when my passport was for the Investigator? What was
become of the officers and men of science who made part of the
expedition? Whether I had any knowledge of the war before arriving? Why
cartel colours had been hoisted, and a vessel chased in sight of the
island? What were my objects for putting into Port North-West, and by
what authority? The orders from governor King, relating to the
Cumberland, were also demanded, and carried to the captain-general with
my answers to the above questions; and soon afterward to my surprise, an
invitation was brought me to go to the general's table, his dinner being
then served up. This invitation was so contrary to all that had hitherto
passed, and being unaccompanied with any explanation, that I at first
thought it could not be serious, and answered that I had already dined;
but on being pressed to go at least to the table, my reply was, that
"under my present situation and treatment it was impossible; when they
should be changed, when I should be set at liberty, if His Excellency
thought proper to invite me, I should be flattered by it, and accept his
invitation with pleasure." It had indeed the air of an experiment, to
ascertain whether I were really a commander in the British navy; and had
the invitation been accepted without explanation or a change of
treatment, an inference might have been drawn that the charge of
imposture was well founded; but in any case, having been grossly insulted
both in my public and private character, I could not debase the situation
I had the honour to hold by a tacit submission. When the aide-de-camp
returned from carrying the above reply, he said that the general would
invite me when set at liberty; but nothing was offered in the way of

A paper containing the questions of the German secretary with my answers,
was required to be signed, but this being in French, I objected as not
understanding it; a translation was therefore to be made, and the letter
of governor King respecting the Cumberland was to be put into French for
the captain-general. Extracts from my journal, showing the necessity of
quitting the Investigator, were moreover desired, and also my reasons at
full length for stopping at the Isle of France, instead of going to the
Cape of Good Hope; it being necessary, they said, for the general to
transmit these to the French government, to justify himself for granting
that assistance to the Cumberland which had been ordered for the
Investigator. It was already night, and the excessive heat, with being
kept six hours answering questions, was very fatiguing; I therefore took
the third volume of my rough log book, which contained the whole of what
they desired to know, and pointing out the parts in question to the
secretary, told him to make such extracts as should be thought requisite.
I then requested to be shown back to the tavern, also that the sentinel
might be taken out of our room, and Mr. Aken be permitted to return on
board the schooner to keep order; to which the aide-de-camp brought for
answer, that it was then too late to make new arrangements, but His
Excellency would see me in the morning. All the books and papers, the
third volume of my rough log book excepted, were then returned into the
trunk and sealed as before; and I was reconducted to my confinement
between eight and nine o'clock.


Next morning, the sentinel in our chamber was ordered to take his station
without side; and in the afternoon M. Bonnefoy, the interpreter, came to
say that business prevented the captain-general from seeing me before the
following day. Mr. Aken had permission to go on board the schooner under
the conduct of an officer; but not being allowed to remain, he brought
away the time keeper, with my sextant and artificial horizon; and we
commenced a series of observations for a new error and rate, ready
against the day of our departure.


Mr. Charrington came from the schooner on the 20th to inform me, that the
seamen were committing many irregularities, taking spirits out of my
cabin and going on shore as they pleased; the French guard seeming to
take little or no cognisance of their actions. At one o'clock the
interpreter and a military officer took me to the government house, and I
expected to have an interview with the general and a termination put to
our confinement. They showed me into the secretary's office, and
requested a copy of my passport and commission; and having made out one
myself and signed them both, the interpreter then said the general was
busy and could not see me that day; and I was taken back without learning
when he would be at liberty, or what was intended to be done.

As yet I was unable to comprehend any thing of the captain-general's
conduct; but however great my indignation at seeing my liberty and time
thus trifled with, it was to be feared that in writing to him for an
explanation, before seeing what turn the affair would take, might be
productive of more harm than good. The disorders on board the schooner,
however, requiring immediate correction, I wrote a note to inform him of
them; requesting at the same time, that Mr. Aken might remain in the
Cumberland, and that the caulking of the vessel's upper works and fresh
boring of the pumps might be commenced, these being the principal objects
for which I had stopped at the island. In the evening the interpreter
called to say, that the corporal of the guard on board the schooner had
been punished for neglecting his orders; that one of the sailors, a
Prussian, being found on shore had been put into the guard house, and
that an answer would be given to my note in the morning [WEDNESDAY 21
DECEMBER 1803]. In effect, the interpreter then came with
lieutenant-colonel Monistrol, and explained to me a paper to the
following purport.

That the captain-general being convinced from the examination of my
journal, that I had absolutely changed the nature of the mission for
which the First Consul had granted a passport, wherein I was certainly
not authorised to stop at the Isle of France to make myself acquainted
with the _periodical winds, the port, present state Of the colony, etc._
That such conduct being a violation of neutrality, he ordered colonel
Monistrol to go on board the Cumberland, and in my presence to collect
into one or more trunks all other papers which might add to the proofs
already acquired; and after sealing the trunks, I was to be taken back to
the house where my suspicious conduct had made it necessary to confine me
from the instant of arriving in the port. It was further ordered, that
the crew of the schooner should be kept on board the prison ship; and
that an inventory should be taken of every thing in the Cumberland, and
the stores put under seal and guarded conformably to the regulations.*

[* The following is a copy of the order, as given to me by the
interpreter and certified by colonel Monistrol (In French, not included
here. Ebook editor.)]

Such was the answer given to my request for the repairs of the schooner
to be commenced. In compliance with their order the officers took me on
board, and the remaining books and papers, whether relating in any way to
the Investigator's voyage or not, even to letters received from my family
and friends during several years, were all taken away, locked up in a
trunk, and sealed. Mr. Aken and myself were allowed to take our clothes,
but the officers dared not venture to let me have any printed books; I
must however do colonel Monistrol and M. Bonnefoy the justice to say,
that they acted throughout with much politeness, apologizing for what
they were obliged by their orders to execute; and the colonel said he
would make a representation to the captain-general, who doubtless lay
under some mistake.

This turn to my affairs surprised, and at first stunned me. The single
circumstance about which I had entertained the least apprehension, was
the neglect in my passport of providing for any other vessel than the
Investigator; but from this order of the captain-general, I found myself
considered in the light of a spy; my desire to know how far Mauritius
could be useful as a place of refitment in the future part of my
voyage--a desire formed and expressed in the belief of its being a time
of peace, was made a plea for depriving me of liberty and the result of
more than two years of risk and labour. The sensations raised by this
violation of justice, of humanity, and of the faith of his own
government, need not be described; they will be readily felt by every
Englishman who has been subjected, were it only for a day, to French
revolutionary power. On returning to my place of confinement, I
immediately wrote and sent the following letter, addressed to His
Excellency the captain-general De Caen, governor in chief, etc. etc. etc.
Isle of France.


From your order, which was explained to me this morning, I find that the
plea for detaining me is not now that I do not appear with the
Investigator, according to _the letter_ of my passport from the first
consul of France; but that I have violated the neutrality therein
required by having given in my journal, as an additional reason for
putting into this port, that "it would enable me to acquire a knowledge
of the periodical winds, and of the present state of the French colony;
how far it or its dependencies in Madagascar might be useful to Port
Jackson, and how far it would be a convenient place for me to touch at in
my future expected voyage:" I quote from memory only, my journal being in
your possession. How this remark, made upon the supposition of our two
nations being at peace, can be a breach of neutrality, I acknowledge
myself unable to discover. Nothing can, in my opinion, add to the
propriety of the intentions with which I put into this port, but I shall
justify it by the example of your own nation; and to do so, it is only
necessary for me to refer to the instructions which preface the published
voyage of the unfortunate La Perouse, by the judicious Fleurieu. Your
Excellency will there see, that the much lamented navigator was ordered
to make particular observations upon the trade, manufactures, strength,
situation, etc. of every port where he might touch; so that, if the
example of your own nation be taken as a standard of propriety, the plea
for making me a prisoner is altogether untenable. Upon the supposition
even of its being war, and that I knew it and still intended to make the
observations expressed in my journal; upon this incorrect and worst
supposition I have, I think, an example of similar conduct in your own
nation; unless you can assure me that the captains Baudin and Hamelin
made no such remarks upon Port Jackson, for it was a declared war at the
time they lay in that port. But were they forbidden to make such remarks
and notes upon the state of that English colony? Upon its progress, its
strength, the possibility of its being attacked with advantage, and the
utility it might afford to the French nation? I tell you, general De
Caen, No. The governor in chief at Port Jackson knew too well the dignity
of his own nation, either to lay any prohibition upon these commanders,
or to demand to see what their journals might contain.

I shall next appeal to you as being the representative in this place of a
great nation, which has hitherto shown itself forward to protect and
encourage those sciences by which the knowledge of mankind is extended or
their condition ameliorated. Understand then, Sir, that I was chosen by
that patron of science sir Joseph Banks, president of the Royal Society
of London, and one well known by all the literati throughout the world,
to retrace part of the track of the immortal captain Cook--to complete
what in New Holland and its neighbourhood he had left unfinished--and to
perfect the discovery of that extensive country. This employment, Sir, as
it was congenial to my own inclinations, so I pursued it with avidity;
upon it, as from a convex lens, all the rays of knowledge and science
which my opportunities have enabled me to collect, were thrown. I was
unfortunate in that my ship decayed before the voyage was completed; but
the captain-general at Port Jackson, who is also the senior naval officer
there, was so sensible of the importance of the voyage and of the zeal
with which I had pursued it (for the truth of which I appeal to his
letters now in your possession), that he gave me a colonial ship of war
to transport me with my officers, charts, etc. to England, that I might
obtain another ship in which the voyage might be completed. In this
second ship I was a passenger; and in her, shipwreck and the loss of
charts which had cost me much labour and many risks to make perfect, were
added to my first misfortune; but my zeal suffered no abatement. I
returned to Port Jackson (734 miles) in an open boat, and got a merchant
ship which was bound to China, hired to carry my officers and people to
England by that circuitous route; but desirous of losing no time, I took
a small schooner of twenty-nine tons, a mere boat, in order to reach
England by a nearer passage, and thus gain two or three mouths of time in
the outfit of my future expected ship; making my own case and safety to
stand in no competition with the great object of forwarding my voyage.
Necessity, and not inclination, obliged me to put in at the Isle of
France in my route.

Now, Sir, I would beg to ask you whether it becomes the French nation,
independently of all passport, to stop the progress of such a voyage, and
of which the whole maritime world are to receive the benefit? How
contrary to this was her conduct some years since towards captain Cook!
But the world highly applauded her conduct then; and possibly we may
sometime see what the general sentiment will be in the present case.

I sought protection and assistance in your port, and I have found a
prison! Judge for me as a man, Sir--judge, for me as a British officer
employed in a neutral occupation--judge for me as a zealous
philanthropist, what I must feel at being thus treated.

At present I quit the subject with the following requests: that I may be
permitted to have my printed books on shore; and that my servant may be
allowed to attend me in my apartment.

With all the respect due from my situation to the captain-general,

I am
From my confinement,
Your Excellency's obedient servant,
Dec. 21, 1803.
Matthew Flinders.

The lapse of several years has enabled me to consider the transactions of
this period under different views, to regard them with almost the
coolness of an uninterested observer; and I see the possibility that a
dispassionate reader may accuse me of taking too high a position, and
using too warm a style--in rather giving way to the dictates of feeling
than dwelling upon the proofs of my innocence; perhaps also, he may
accuse me of vanity, in seeking to enhance my own zeal and claims.
Without attempting to controvert these censures, I beg him to consider
all the circumstances of my situation: my voyage, shipwreck, and anxiety
to pursue the steps of our celebrated navigators. Let him suppose himself
to have executed so much of the same task, escaped the same dangers; and
under the influence of powerful motives to reach England with expedition,
to be arrested on the way, his misfortunes either not heeded or converted
into proofs of delinquency, and himself treated as a spy; and this is
done by the representative of a government which had promised assistance
and protection, and moreover owed him a return for the kind treatment
recently experienced by Frenchmen in the port from whence he came. Let
him suppose himself writing to his oppressor with these various
recollections crowding on his imagination; and the allowances he would
then desire for himself, I request of him to make for me.


On the day following the transmission of the letter, my servant was
brought on shore from the prison ship, where he left Mr. Charrington and
the seamen closely confined; but no answer was returned either on the
22nd or 23rd, nor did we hear any thing that could give an insight into
what further was intended to be done. We suffered much from the heat of
the weather and want of fresh air; for the town of Port Louis is wholly
exposed to the rays of the sun, whilst the mountains which form a
semicircle round it to the east and south, not only prevent the trade
wind from reaching it, but reflect the heat in such a manner, that from
November to April it is almost insupportable. During this season, the
inhabitants whose affairs do not oblige them to remain, fly to the higher
and windward parts of the island; and the others take the air and their
exercise very early in the morning and late in the evening. We who were
shut up in the middle of the town, and from having been three months
confined to a vessel of twenty-nine tons were much in need of exercise,
could not but feel the personal inconveniences of such a situation in
their full rigour; and the perturbation of mind, excited by such unworthy
treatment, did not tend to alleviate their effects on our health. But the
heat and want of fresh air were not the worst evils. Our undefended
pallet beds were besieged by swarms of bugs and musketoes, and the bites
of these noxious insects upon bodies ready to break out with scurvy,
produced effects more than usually painful and disagreeable. Being almost
covered with inflamed spots, some of which had become ulcers on my legs
and feet, I wrote to the captain-general, requesting the assistance of a
surgeon; and also to know under what limitations he would allow me to
write to the Admiralty of Great Britain, and to my family and friends;
but the main subject was left untouched, in expectation of an answer to
the former letter.

In the afternoon, one of the aides-de-camp said that His Excellency did
not prevent me from writing to whom I pleased; but that my letters must
be sent open to the town major, who would forward them to their address.
The same evening a surgeon, who did not speak English, came to our room;
next morning [SATURDAY 24 DECEMBER 1803] he returned with the
interpreter, and finding the ulcers to be scorbutic, ordered me, in
addition to his dressings, to drink plentifully of lemonade and live upon
fruit and vegetables. Their visit was repeated on the following day
[SUNDAY 25 DECEMBER 1803]; but nothing transpired relative to the
general's intentions, nor to any answer proposed to be given to my letter
of the 21st; and I therefore wrote another in the following terms.


From whatever cause it may be that I have received no answer to my letter
of the 21st last, I shall yet continue to do my duty to my government and
the cause of discovery, by pointing out every circumstance that may have
a probability of inducing you to liberate my people, my vessel, and

A former letter showed, that upon the principles adopted in voyages of
discovery by your own nation, the plea for detaining me a prisoner was
untenable; and also that independently of any passport, it ill became the
French nation to stop the prosecution of a voyage of discovery,
especially one carried on with the zeal that mine has hitherto been. In
this letter I shall endeavour to point out another circumstance, at least
as important as the former, so far as regards the injustice of my
detainer. In this point of view then, Sir, I shall admit, that to make
any remarks upon a port which might enable either myself or others to
come into it again with more facility, or which might give information
concerning the refreshments and articles of commerce to be procured at
it, is, although made in time of peace, a crime; and consequently, that
if La Perouse executed his instructions, he was no better than a spy at
the different ports where he put in. Let this, Sir, for the moment be
admitted; and I ask what proofs you have that I have made such remarks?
You will probably say, I _intended_ to make them. True, but intention is
not action. I might have altered my intentions on coming into the port,
and finding our two nations to be at war: you cannot know what alteration
a knowledge of the war might have made in my sentiments. We do indeed
judge much of the merit or demerit of an action by the intention with
which it is performed; but in all cases there must be an action performed
to constitute any certain merit or demerit amongst men. Now in my case
there appears to have been intention only; and even this intention I have
before shown to be consistent with the practice of your own nation, and I
believe of all nations.

As it appears that Your Excellency had formed a determination to stop the
Cumberland, previously even to seeing me, if a specious pretext were
wanting for it, it would have been more like wisdom to have let me alone
until the eve of sailing, and then to have seized my journal; where it is
possible something better than _intention_ might have been fixed upon as
a cause for making me a prisoner. This would have been a mean action, and
altogether unworthy of you or your nation; but it might have answered
your purpose better than the step now taken. I say there appears to have
been a previous determination to stop the Cumberland, and from this
cause; that on the first evening of my arrival, and before any
examination was made into my papers (my commission and passport
excepted), you told me impetuously that I was _imposing upon you_. Now I
cannot think that an officer of your rank and judgment could act either
so ungentlemanlike, or so unguardedly, as to make such a declaration
without proof; unless his reason had been blinded by passion, or a
previous determination that it should be so, _nolens volens_. In your
order of the 21st last it is indeed said, that the captain-general has
acquired conviction that I am the person I pretend to be, and the same
for whom a passport was obtained by the English government from the First
Consul; it follows then, as I am willing to explain it, that I _am not_
and _was not_ an impostor. This plea was given up when a more plausible
one was thought to be found; but I cannot compliment Your Excellency upon
this alteration in your position, for the first, although false, is the
most tenable post of the two.

Trusting that upon a due consideration of all the circumstances, you will
be pleased to fulfil the intention for which the passport was given, I
have the honour to be,

From my confinement,
Your Excellency's obedient servant,
Dec. 25, 1803.
Matthew Flinders.

In the evening, a letter was brought me by a soldier from general De
Caen, and the haste with which it had been sent inspired favourable
hopes; I did not expect the visit of the interpreter until the following
day, and therefore attempted to decipher the letter by the help of a
French dictionary, with a degree of anxiety which its contents were but
little calculated to satisfy: it was as follows.

I did not answer your letter of the 21st December, Sir, because it was
useless to commence a debate here between you and me, upon the motives
well or ill founded from which I took upon myself to stop the Cumberland
until further orders. On the other hand, I should have had too much
advantage in refuting your assertions, notwithstanding the reasonings and
quotations with which you have adorned them.

I was still willing to attribute the unreserved tone you had used in that
letter, to the ill humour produced by your present situation. I was far
from thinking that after having seriously reflected upon the causes and
circumstances, you should take occasion from a silence so delicate to go
still further; but your last letter no longer leaves me an alternative.

Your undertaking, as extraordinary as it was inconsiderate, to depart
from Port Jackson in the Cumberland, more to give proof of an officious
zeal, more for the private interests of Great Britain than for what had
induced the French government to give you a passport, which I shall
unfold at a proper opportunity, had already given me an idea of your
character; but this letter overstepping all the bounds of civility,
obliges me to tell you, until _the general opinion judges of your faults
or of mine_, to cease all correspondence tending to demonstrate the
justice of your cause; since you know so little how to preserve the rules
of decorum.*

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