Part 9 out of 9
our employments, whilst others were in progress on board the ship and in
the dockyard. On the morning after our arrival we warped to a convenient
situation near the point, and sent on shore the tents, the sailmakers and
sails, and the cooper with all the empty casks. Next day the observatory
was set up, and the time-keepers and other astronomical instruments
placed there under the care of lieutenant Flinders, who, with Mr.
Franklin, his assistant, was to make the necessary observations and
superintend the various duties carrying on at the same place; and a small
detachment of marines was landed for the protection of the tents.
I had found the barricade of the quarter deck to stand so high, as to be
not only an obstacle to beating to windward, but a great inconvenience to
surveying the coast; for when the wind was on the side next to the land,
there were no means of taking bearings over it but by standing on the top
of the binnacle; or otherwise by removing the compass to different
places, which I had found could not be done without materially changing
the variation. These inconveniences being stated to the governor, his
permission was obtained to reduce it so low as that it might be
overlooked in all cases; and an order was given that four convict
carpenters, and such other assistance from the dockyard should be
furnished as was necessary.
To supply the place of the cutter we had lost at the entrance of
Spencer's Gulf, I contracted for a boat to be built after the model of
that in which Mr Bass made his long and adventurous expedition to the
strait. It was twenty-eight feet seven inches in length over all, rather
flat floored, head and stern alike, a keel somewhat curved, and the
cut-water and stern post nearly upright; it was fitted to row eight oars
when requisite, but intended for six in common cases. The timbers were
cut from the largest kind of banksia, which had been found more durable
than mangrove; and the planking was of cedar. This boat was constructed
under the superintendance of Mr. Thomas Moore, master builder to the
colony; and proved, like her prototype, to be excellent in a sea, as well
as for rowing and sailing in smooth water. The cost at Port Jackson was
no more than L30.; but this was owing to some of the materials being
supplied from the public magazines.
Whilst these branches of our refitment were going on, a thorough
examination was made and survey taken of all the ship's stores; as well
for the purpose of sending away those unserviceable and replacing them
with others so far as they could be obtained, as with a view to enable
the warrant officers to pass their accounts and obtain their pay up to
this time; a precaution which the nature of our voyage rendered more
peculiarly necessary. After the surveys were ended, the seamen were
employed in stripping and re-rigging the masts, and preparing the hold to
receive a fresh stock of provisions and water; the naturalist and his
assistants, as also the two painters, made excursions into the interior
of the country; and my time was mostly occupied in constructing the fair
charts of our discoveries and examinations upon the south coast, for the
purpose of their being transmitted to the secretary of the Admiralty.
On the 4th of June, the ship was dressed with colours, a royal salute
fired, and I went with the principal officers of the Investigator to pay
my respects to His Excellency the governor and captain-general, in honour
of HIS MAJESTY'S birth day. On this occasion, a splendid dinner was given
to the colony; and the number of ladies and civil, military, and naval
officers was not less than forty, who met to celebrate the birth of their
beloved sovereign in this distant part of the earth.
On the 6th, the Speedy, south-whaler, sailed for England. By Mr. Quested,
the commander, I transmitted to the Admiralty an account of my
proceedings upon the south coast of Terra Australis; but the charts being
unfinished, were obliged to be deferred to a future opportunity. To the
Astronomer Royal I sent Arnold's time keepers, No. 82 and 176, which had
stopped; together with a statement of the principal astronomical
observations hitherto made, and an account of Earnshaw's two time
keepers, No. 543 and 520, which continued to perform well.
Captain Baudin arrived in Le Geographe on the 20th, and a boat was sent
from the Investigator to assist in towing the ship up to the cove. It was
grievous to see the miserable condition to which both officers and crew
were reduced by scurvy; there being not more out of one hundred and
seventy, according to the commander's account, than twelve men capable of
doing their duty. The sick were received into the colonial hospital; and
both French ships furnished with everything in the power of the colony to
supply. Before their arrival, the necessity of augmenting the number of
cattle in the country had prevented the governor from allowing us any
fresh meat; but some oxen belonging to government were now killed for the
distressed strangers; and by returning an equal quantity of salt meat,
which was exceedingly scarce at this time, I obtained a quarter of beef
for my people. The distress of the French navigators had indeed been
great; but every means were used by the governor and the principal
inhabitants of the colony, to make them forget both their sufferings and
the war which existed between the two nations.*
[* These liberal proceedings, which do so much honour to governor King
and the colonists, are handsomely acknowledged by M. Peron in his account
of the French voyage.]
His Excellency, Governor King, had done me the honour to visit the
Investigator, and to accept of a dinner on board; on which occasion he
had been received with the marks of respect due to his rank of
captain-general; and shortly afterward, the Captains Baudin and Hamelin,
with Monsieur Peron and some other French officers, as also Colonel
Paterson, the lieutenant-governor, did me the same favour; when they were
received under a salute of eleven guns. The intelligence of peace, which
had just been received, contributed to enliven the party, and rendered
our meeting more particularly agreeable. I showed to Captain Baudin one
of my charts of the south coast, containing the part first explored by
him, and distinctly marked as his discovery. He made no objection to the
justice of the limits therein pointed out; but found his portion to be
smaller than he had supposed, not having before been aware of the extent
of the discoveries previously made by Captain Grant. After examining the
chart, he said, apparently as a reason for not producing any of his own,
that his charts were not constructed on board the ship; but that he
transmitted to Paris all his bearings and observations, with a regular
series of views of the land, and from them the charts were to be made at
a future time. This mode appeared to me extraordinary, and not to be
worthy of imitation; conceiving that a rough chart, at least, should be
made whilst the land is in sight, when any error in bearing or
observation can be corrected; a plan which was adopted in the
commencement, and followed throughout the course of my voyage.
Amongst our employments was that of fitting up a green house on the
quarter deck, and sawing plank to make boxes for the reception of such
plants as might be found by the naturalist, and thought worthy of being
transported to His Majesty's botanic garden at Kew. This green house had
been received at Sheerness, and stowed away in pieces; but I saw that
when filled with boxes of earth, the upper works of the ship, naturally
very weak, would be incapable of supporting the weight; and that in bad
weather, we should be obliged to throw it over board for the safety of
the ship. I therefore proposed its reduction to two-thirds of the size;
and Mr. Brown being of opinion it would then contain all the plants
likely to be collected in any one absence from Port Jackson, it was
reduced accordingly; and the feet lowered down close to the deck. This
arrangement required an alteration in the tiller, and a short one, with
two arms, was fitted to the after part of the rudder head; with which
expedient, and leading the main braces forward, the green house was not
likely to cause much inconvenience to the working of the ship. The plants
already collected on the South Coast had been landed on our arrival, in
good order; and deposited in the governor's garden until such time as,
the objects of the voyage being completed, we should be ready to sail for
The ship had never made more than three inches of water in an hour, after
leaving the Cape of Good Hope; so that much caulking was not required,
either within or out board. What was found necessary, was finished by the
middle of July, at the same time with the barricading of the quarter
deck; and the masts being then new rigged, and holds nearly completed
with water and provisions, the sails were bent and the ship was painted.
On the 21st, the last bag of bread and turn of water were received, the
new whale boat was brought off, and we dropped down the harbour; being
then ready for going to sea next morning.
In consequence of the directions given by His Majesty's principal
Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Lady Nelson, a brig of sixty
tons, commanded by Acting-Lieutenant John Murray, was placed under my
orders, as a tender to the Investigator. This vessel was fitted with
three sliding keels; and built after the plan of that ingenious officer
commissioner (now vice-admiral) Schanck. When the sliding keels were up,
the Lady Nelson drew no more than six feet water; and was therefore
peculiarly adapted for going up rivers, or other shallow places which it
might be dangerous, or impossible for the ship to enter. Mr Murray's crew
was mostly composed of convicts; and having no officer in whom he could
place entire confidence, I lent to him Mr Denis Lacy, one of my young
gentlemen acquainted with the management of a time keeper, to act as his
The price of fresh meat at Port Jackson was so exorbitant, that it was
impossible to think of purchasing it on the public account. I obtained
one quarter of beef for the ship's company, in exchange for salt meat,
and the governor furnished us with some baskets of vegetables from his
garden; and in lieu of the daily pound of biscuit, each man received a
pound and a quarter of soft bread, without any expense to government. But
with these exceptions, I was obliged to leave the refreshment of the
people to their own individual exertions; assisting them with the payment
due for savings of bread since leaving the Cape of Good Hope, and the
different artificers with the money earned by their extra services in
refitting the ship. Fish are usually plentiful at Port Jackson in the
summer, but not in the winter time; and our duties were too numerous and
indispensable to admit of sending people away with the seine, when there
was little prospect of success; a few were, however, occasionally bought
alongside, from boats which fished along the coast.
In purchasing a sea stock for the cabin, I paid L3 a head for sheep,
weighing from thirty to forty pounds when dressed. Pigs were bought at
9d. per pound, weighed alive, geese at 10s. each, and fowls at 3s.; and
Indian corn for the stock cost 5s. a bushel.
To complete the ship's provisions, I entered into a contract for 30,000
pounds of biscuit, 8000 pounds of flour, and 156 bushels of kiln-dried
wheat; but in the meantime, the ship Coromandel brought out the greater
part of the twelvemonths' provisions, for which I had applied on sailing
from Spithead; and the contractor was prevailed upon to annul that part
of the agreement relating to flour and wheat. The biscuit cost 33s. per
hundred pounds; and considering that the colony was at short allowance,
and that the French ships were to be supplied, it was a favourable price.
From two American vessels which arrived, I purchased 1483 gallons of rum
at 6s. 6d. per gallon; which, with what remained of our former stock was
a proportion for twelve months. In other respects our provisions were
completed from the quantity sent out from England; and the remaining part
was lodged in the public stores, in charge of the commissary, until our
In addition to the melancholy loss of eight officers and men, at the
entrance of Spencer's Gulf, and the previous deficiency of four in the
complement, I found it necessary to discharge the man who had been bitten
by a seal at Kangaroo Island, as also a marine, who was invalided; so
that fourteen men were required to complete my small ship's company. Mr
John Aken, chief mate of the ship Hercules, was engaged to fill the
situation of master, and five men, mostly seamen, were entered, but
finding it impossible to fill up the complement with free people, I
applied to the governor for his permission to enter such convicts as
should present themselves, and could bring respectable recommendations.
This request, as every other I had occasion to make to His Excellency,
was complied with; and when the requisite number was selected, he gave me
an official document, containing clauses relative to these men, well
calculated to ensure their good conduct. As this document may be thought
curious by many readers, it is here inserted; premising, that the men
therein mentioned, with the exception of two, were convicts for life.
By His Excellency Philip Gidley King, Esq.,
captain-general and governor in chief, in and
over His Majesty's territory of New South Wales
and its dependencies, etc., etc., etc.
"Whereas Captain Matthew Flinders, commander of His Majesty's ship
Investigator, has requested permission to receive on board that ship the
undermentioned convicts as seamen, to make up the number he is deficient.
I do hereby grant Thomas Toney, Thomas Martin, Joseph Marlow, Thomas
Shirley, Joseph Tuzo, Richard Stephenson, Thomas Smith, Francis Smith,
and Charles Brown permission to ship themselves on board His Majesty's
ship Investigator, and on the return of that ship to this port, according
to Captain Flinders' recommendation of them, severally and individually,
they will receive conditional emancipations or absolute pardons, as that
officer may request.
"And in the interim I do, by virtue of the power and authority in me
vested, grant a provisional-conditional emancipation to the said Thomas
Toney, etc.; for the purpose of their being enabled to serve on board His
Majesty's said ship Investigator, whilst in the neighbourhood of this
territory; which conditional emancipation will be of no effect, in case
any of those named herein do individually conduct themselves so ill, as
to put it out of captain Flinders' power to recommend them for a
conditional or absolute pardon on his return to this port.
"Given under my hand and seal at government house Sydney,
in New South Wales, this 15th day of July, in the year
of our Lord 1802. (Signed) Philip Gidley King, (L. S.)"
Several of these men were seamen, and all were able and healthy; so that
I considered them a great acquisition to our strength. With respect to
themselves, the situation to which they were admitted was most desirable;
since they had thereby a prospect of returning to their country, and that
society from which they had been banished; and judging from the number of
candidates for the vacancies, such was the light in which a reception on
board the Investigator was considered in the colony. When the master was
entered, one of the men, being over the complement, was sent to the Lady
Nelson, with a reserve of the privilege above granted.
I had before experienced much advantage from the presence of a native of
Port Jackson, in bringing about a friendly intercourse with the
inhabitants of other parts of the coast; and on representing this to the
governor, he authorised me to receive two on board. _Bongaree_, the
worthy and brave fellow who had sailed with me in the Norfolk, now
volunteered again; the other was Nanbaree, a good-natured lad, of whom
Colonel Collins has made mention in his _Account of New South Wales_.
My instructions directed me to consult with Governor King upon the best
means of proceeding in the execution of the voyage; they also pointed out
my return to the south coast, as the first step after refitting the ship
at Port Jackson; but His Excellency was of opinion, as well as myself,
that it would be unsafe to do this in the middle of the winter season;
and that to remain six months in port waiting for the fine weather would
be a sad waste of time; I had, besides, left very little of importance to
be examined upon the south coast, a circumstance which the instructions
had not contemplated. Upon all these considerations, it was decided to
proceed to the northward--examine Torres' Strait and the east side of the
Gulf of Carpentaria before the north-west monsoon should set in--proceed
as I might be able during its continuance--and afterwards explore the
north and north-west coasts; returning to Port Jackson when, and by such
route as might be found most advisable, and conducive to the general
purposes of the voyage.
It was probable that the north-west monsoon would not set in before the
beginning of November; I therefore intended to examine such parts of the
east coast of New South Wales in my way to the northward, as had been
passed by Captain Cook in the night, and were not seen in my expedition
with the Norfolk sloop in 1799. The openings of Keppel and Shoal-water
Bays, and the still larger of Broad Sound, I was also anxious to explore;
in the hope of finding a river falling into some one of them, capable of
admitting the Lady Nelson into the interior of the country. These
desirable objects I expected to accomplish before the approach of the
monsoon would call me into the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The French ships were in no forwardness for sailing; and it was
understood that Captain Baudin intended sending back Le Naturaliste to
France, by the way of Bass' Strait, so soon as the season should be
favourable. He had purchased a small vessel of between thirty and forty
tons at Sydney, to serve him as a tender; and he told me that we should
probably meet in the Gulf of Carpentaria in December or January. I
understood that he meant to return to the south coast, and after
completing its examination, to proceed northward, and enter the Gulf with
the north-west monsoon; but it appeared to me very probable, that the
western winds on the south coast would detain him too long to admit of
reaching the Gulf of Carpentaria at the time specified, or at any time
before the south-east monsoon would set in against him.
Before leaving Sydney Cove, I placed in the hands of governor King two
copies of my chart of the south coast of Terra Australis, in six sheets;
with three other sheets of particular parts, on a large scale. One copy I
requested him to send with my letters to the secretary of the Admiralty,
by the first good opportunity that offered; the other was to remain in
his hands until my return, or until he should hear of the loss of the
Investigator, when it was also to be sent to the Admiralty.
During our stay of twelve weeks at Port Jackson, there were not many days
favourable to our pursuits at the observatory, the weather being dull and
rainy for the greater part of the time; by watching all opportunities
however, a sufficient number of observations were obtained to show the
rates of the time keepers, and to answer the purposes of geography and
The _Latitude_ of Cattle Point, from thirty meridian altitudes in an
artificial horizon, of which fourteen were taken by Mr. Crosley and seven
by me in 1795, and nine by lieutenant Flinders at this time, is 33 deg. 51'
_Longitude_ from forty-four sets of distances of the sun and moon, of
which the individual results are given in Table VI of the Appendix to
this volume, 151 deg. 11' 49" E.*
[* In 1795 and 1796 I took sixty sets of distances upon Cattle Point, an
equal number on each side, which gave the longitude 151 deg. 17' 12"; but
these observations not having been calculated with great nicety, nor
corrected for the errors of the lunar and solar tables, the result is not
considered to be of equal authority with that given above. The present
admiral D'ESPINOSA, when an officer in the voyage of Malaspina, observed
an eclipse of the sun at Port Jackson, and occultations of the first and
second satellites of Jupiter, from which he deduces the longitude of the
town of Sydney to be 151 deg. 12' 45" east of Greenwich; not differing more
than a minute of longitude from the above forty-four sets of corrected
This position of Cattle Point, being reduced to the entrance of Port
Jackson, will be for the Flag staff on the south head, latitude 33 deg. 511/2'
south, longitude 151 deg. 161/2 east.
Ramsden's universal theodolite was set up at the observatory, and
intended to be used as a transit instrument; but from the unfavourable
state of the weather and my numerous occupations, it was not adjusted to
the meridian; and the rates of the time keepers were therefore deduced
from equal altitudes, taken with a sextant and artificial horizon in the
usual way. Their errors from mean Greenwich time, at noon there July 18,
and the mean rates of going in the last fifteen days, which were selected
as the best, were as under:
Earnshaw's No. 543, slow Oh 16' 39.72" and losing 8.63" per day.
Earnshaw's No. 520, slow 1 18 53.00 and losing 19.52 per day.
The longitude of Cattle Point, given by the time keepers with the
Kangaroo-Island rates on May 10th, the first day of observation after our
arrival, was by
No. 543 151 deg. 31' 21" east
No. 520 151 26 49 east.
The mean is 17' 16" more than deduced from the lunar observations; and
when rates are used equally accelerating from those at Kangaroo Island,
to what were found on first arriving at Port Jackson, the longitude by
the time keepers would still be 14' 57.4" to the east; so that they
appear to have gone less regularly during this passage than before. In
fixing the longitudes of places between the two stations, the time
keepers with their accelerated rates have been used; and the error of 14'
57.4" has been corrected by quantities proportionate to the times of
observation, between April 6 at Kangaroo Island, and May 9 at Port
The mean _dip_ of the south end of the needle at Cattle Point was 62 deg. 52'
Variation of the compass, observed by lieutenant Flinders on Garden
Island in the following year, 8 deg. 51' east.
No remarks were made at this time upon the _tide_; but it is known to be
high water in Port Jackson about _eight hours and a quarter_ after the
moon's passage over and under the meridian; and the usual rise to be
between four and six or seven feet. When high water takes place between
three or four in the afternoon and one or two in the morning, it rises
from six to eighteen inches higher than the preceding flood; and the
following ebb descends a few inches lower than that which preceded the
The range of the thermometer on board the ship, was from 51 deg. to 69 deg.; and
nearly the same on shore. The mercury in the barometer stood from 29.60
to 30.36 inches; but it was remarkable that it stood lowest in the fine
weather, when the wind came from the westward off the land, and was
highest in the rainy, squally weather, with the wind from the sea.
According to the information communicated by colonel W. Paterson, F. R.
S., commander of the troops at Port Jackson, this relation between the
mercury and the weather was general here in the winter season, when the
eastern winds bring rain with them; and I had frequent occasion to remark
upon the South Coast, that sea winds raised the mercury in the barometer,
whilst those from the land, even with fine weather, caused it to descend.
Of the winds and currents on the south coast of Terra Australis,
and in Bass' Strait.
Usual progress of the gales.
Proper seasons for sailing eastward,
and for going westward:
best places of shelter in each case,
with some instructions for the Strait.
[SOUTH COAST. WINDS AND CURRENTS]
Before entering upon the second part of the voyage, it seems proper to
give an account of the winds and currents which prevailed upon the South
Coast; and to add thereto such other general information as may be useful
in rendering the navigation more safe and expeditious, both along the
coast and through Bass' Strait.
The rate and direction of the currents here described, are deduced from
the daily positions of the ship by astronomical observation, compared
with those given by a log kept in the common way, but with somewhat more
than common attention. In the observations, however, there may be some
errors, and a log cannot be depended upon nearer than to five miles in
the distance, and half a point in the course for the twenty-four hours;
and consequently this account of the currents must be taken as subject to
the sum, or to the difference of the errors in the observations and log;
though it is probable they may have been diminished by taking the medium
of several days, which has always been done where it was possible.
Besides the difficulty there is in obtaining the exact rate and direction
of a current, it is known that a continuance of the wind in any
particular quarter may so far change its rate of moving, and even its
direction, that at another time it may be found materially different in
both. Of the probability of these changes the commander of a ship must
form his own judgment, from the winds he may have previously experienced;
and he will consider what is here said upon both winds and currents, as
calculated and intended to give him a general notion, and no more, of
what may usually be expected upon the South Coast.
(Atlas Plate I.)
Several days before making Cape Leeuwin, I experienced a current setting
to the northward, at the rate of twenty-seven miles per day; but at the
mean distance of forty leagues, west-south-west from the cape, the
current ran north-east, twenty-two miles; and when the ship got in with
the South Coast, I found it setting N. 70 deg. E., at the average rate of
twenty-seven miles per day: this was in the month of December. On
approaching Cape Leeuwin in May, from the north-westward, the current for
five days was ten miles to the east; but at forty leagues from the cape,
it ran N. 35 deg. E. fifteen miles; and from the meridian of the cape to past
King George's Sound, the current set east, twenty-seven miles per day,
nearly as it had before done in December. Captain Vancouver and admiral
D'Entrecasteaux do not speak very explicitly as to the currents; but it
may be gathered from both, that they also experienced a set to the
eastward along this part of the South Coast.
The winds seem to blow pretty generally from the westward at Cape
Leeuwin. In the summer time, they vary from north-west in the night, to
south-west in the latter part of the day, though not regularly; and in
the winter season this variation does not seem to take place. A long
swell of the sea, called _ground swell_ to distinguish it from the
lesser, variable one of the surface, appears to come at all times from
the south-westward, which indicates that the strongest and most durable
winds blow from that quarter; and this was partly confirmed by our
experience, for whenever it blew hard, the wind was at, or near to
It is from the superior strength and apparent prevalence of this wind,
that the currents in the neighbourhood of Cape Leeuwin may be explained.
The sea being driven in from the south-west, and meeting with the cape,
will necessarily be divided by it, and form two currents, which will
follow the directions of the land; one branch will run northward, along
the west coast of Terra Australis, and the other eastward along the South
Coast: our present business is to follow the latter current.
If a line be drawn from the south-western extremity of New Holland, to
King's Island in Bass' Strait, it will show where the current may be
expected to run strongest; though it will not be equally strong at those
parts of the line which are distant from the land, as at those in its
immediate vicinity. In drawing another line, from the north-eastern isles
of the Archipelago of the Recherche to Cape Northumberland, we shall have
what will commonly be the northern boundary of the current; for within
this line the water does not seem to run in any constant direction, but
is moved according as the wind may happen to blow. This was found by
admiral D'Entrecasteaux; and is conformable to my experience, as I shall
It has been said, that the eastwardly current was found in May and
December to run twenty-seven miles per day, from Cape Leeuwin past King
George's Sound. From thence to a little beyond the Archipelago of the
Recherche, keeping in with the shore, I found it to set north-east
thirteen miles; and at a distance from the coast, it ran
north-east-by-east sixteen miles per day, the wind being more from the
south than from the northward in both cases.
In coasting from the Archipelago, all round the Great Bight and as far
south-eastward as to Cape Northumberland, I had no determinate current;
it generally followed the impulsion given to it by the winds, and was
inconsiderable. From the middle of January to the middle of April, the
winds were most prevalent from south-south-east to east-north-east;
coming more from the land at night, and from the sea in the day time.
They seldom had any strength; whereas the winds which occasionally blew
from the westward were fresh, and sometimes became gales, veering in that
case, invariably to the south-west.
On reaching Cape Northumberland I again found the eastwardly current; and
from thence into Bass' Strait it ran N. 80 deg. E., at the rate of twelve
miles a day, the wind blowing strong from the south-westward in the
latter part of the time.
In a subsequent run across the Great Bight in May, from the Archipelago
nearly direct for Bass' Strait, the current set upon the average, N. 39 deg.
E. fourteen miles a day; appearing to be much influenced in its northern
direction by the winds blowing strong from the southward. Mr. Dalrymple,
in reasoning from the analogy of southern Africa, expected that the winds
upon this coast would be found to blow from the northward, or off the
shore, _in the winter time_, and this might possibly be the case if close
in with the land; but at a distance from it, as just observed, the winds
were from the southward.
Such an accumulation of water forcing itself through Bass' Strait, would
naturally lead to the expectation of finding a strong current there,
setting to the east; but on the contrary, the set in common cases was
found to be rather in the opposite direction, the current appearing to be
predominated by the tides, whose superior strength forced it below the
surface. The flood comes from the eastward; and after making high water
at Furneaux's Isles, passes on to Hunter's and King's Islands, where it
meets another flood from the southward; and the high water then made
seems to be nearly at the time that it is low water at Furneaux's Isles.
Another flood is then coming from the east, and so on; whence a ship
going eastward through the Strait, will have more tide meeting than
setting after her, and be commonly astern of her reckoning. This applies
more especially to the middle of the strait, and is what I there found
with winds blowing across it; but the bight on the north side, between
Cape Otway and Wilson's Promontory, seems to be an exception, and in
fact, it lies out of the direct set of the tides. In running from Port
Phillip to the Promontory I was set S. 73 deg. E., thirty-five miles in the
day; but it then blew a gale from the west and south-westward.
Although the eastwardly current be not commonly found at the surface in
Bass' Strait, it is not lost. Navigators find it running with
considerable strength, when passing the strait two or three degrees to
the east of Furneaux's Islands; and it was this current so found, which
led admiral Hunter to the first opinion of the existence of an opening
between New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land.
Every thing in Bass' Strait bespeaks the strongest winds to come from the
south-west; and there is reason to believe that during nine months of the
year, it generally blows from some point in the western quarter. In
January, February, and March, eastern winds with fine weather seem to be
not uncommon; but there is no dependence to be had on them at any other
season. At the eastern side of the strait and of Van Diemen's Land, it is
not unusual to meet a north-east or north wind, though it seldom blows
strong. The gales usually come from between south-west and south-east,
and most frequently from the latter direction; which renders it hazardous
to approach the coast between Cape Howe and Wilson's Promontory.
Thus, speaking generally of the south coast of Terra Australis, it may be
considered that during the six or eight winter months, the winds blow
almost constantly from some western point; and that gales of wind at
south-west are frequent. The progress of the gales is usually this: the
barometer falls to 291/2 inches, or lower, and the wind rises from the
north-westward with thick weather, and commonly with rain; it veers
gradually to the west, increasing in strength, and the weather begins to
clear up so soon as it has got to the southward of that point; at
south-west the gale blows hardest, and the barometer rises; and by the
time the wind gets to south or south-south-east, it becomes moderate, the
weather is fine, and the barometer above 30 inches. Sometimes the wind
may return back to west, or something northward, with a fall in the
mercury, and diminish in strength, or die away; but the gale is not over,
although a cessation of a day or two may take place. In some cases, the
wind flies round suddenly from north-west to south-west; and the rainy,
thick weather then continues a longer time.
Such is the usual course of the gales along the South Coast and in Bass'
Strait; but on the east side of the strait the winds partake of the
nature of those on the East Coast, where the gale often blows hardest
between south and south-east. and is accompanied with thick weather, and
frequently with heavy rain.
In the four or five summer months, the south-east and east winds appear
to be most prevalent all round the Great Bight; but even there, the
western winds sometimes blow at that time, and usually with considerable
strength. Thus I had a strong south-west wind in the middle of February,
near the Investigator's Group, and a gale from the same quarter in March,
at the entrance of Spencer's Gulph; which last was felt still more
severely in Bass' Strait by captain Baudin. At the two extremities of the
coast, that is, in the strait and near King George's Sound, the winds
blow sometimes from the west and sometimes from the eastward, in the
summer; but the strongest winds are from the south-west.
It will hence appear, that the summer is alone the proper time for a ship
to come upon, and still more so for exploring the south coast of Terra
Australis; whether she proceed along it from west to east, as I did in
the Investigator, or from east to west, as captain Baudin, seems to be
almost a matter of indifference. From Cape Leeuwin to the end of the
Archipelago of the Recherche, and from Cape Northumberland to Bass'
Strait, it is perhaps most advantageous to proceed eastward, on account
of the current; but in the intermediate and more considerable part of the
coast, a western route is certainly preferable. It has also this general
advantage, that the winds which are fair for running along the coast are
those that blow moderately, and are accompanied with fine weather, most
proper for making a survey; whereas those favourable to the opposite
route frequently blow strong, and render it dangerous to keep in with the
land. As to making a survey of the South Coast in the winter season,
which had been judged from theoretical analogy to be the most proper
time, it appears to be not only a dangerous experiment, but also one from
which very little accuracy of investigation could be expected; and with
as much ardour as most men for such pursuits, I should very unwillingly
undertake the task.
[SOUTH COAST. SAILING DIRECTIONS.]
These observations upon the danger of sailing along the South Coast in
the winter season, are not meant to apply to the commander of a ship
desirous of going eastward through Bass' Strait, and of seeing no more of
the land than is necessary to assure his situation. The strait may be
passed without more than very common danger, at any time of the year,
provided that the navigator be certain of his latitude before approaching
the longitude of 1431/2 deg.; he should not, however, enter the strait in the
night, unless he have previously seen the land, or be certain both of
latitude and longitude. The parallel of 39 deg., or 39 deg. 20', according as the
wind may incline, is the best for taking a ship between King's Island and
Cape Otway; and a sight of either, or preferably of both, will point out
his position on the chart. The sole danger to be apprehended here, is the
Harbinger's Reefs, two patches lying nearly two leagues out from the
north end of King's Island; but are so far separated from it, and from
each other, as to leave practicable passages between them, where the
shoalest water found by the Cumberland schooner was 9 fathoms.
(Atlas Plate VI.)
When the position of the ship at the entrance of the strait is
ascertained, a course should be shaped for Curtis' Island, which will be
visible ten or eleven leagues from the deck in fine weather; and as the
distance is between forty and fifty leagues, and nothing lies in the way,
a part of it may be run in the night, with a good look-out. I would
afterwards pass on the south side of Kent's Groups, at not a greater
distance from the largest than two leagues; and then steer
east-north-east by compass, if nearly before the wind, or on either side
of that course as the wind may incline; but taking care not to approach
the northern Long Beach.
In case of meeting with a continuance of foul winds, the most convenient
places in the strait for anchorage, when going eastward, are these:
1st. Under the north-west end of King's Island, near the New Year's
Isles. Of this anchorage I know only, besides what is given in the chart,
that the brig Harrington there rode out a gale from south-west, the heavy
sea being broken off by the New Year's Isles; and the shelter from
eastern winds must certainly be much more complete.
2nd. Port Phillip; anchoring just within the entrance, on the south side.
When a fair wind comes, a ship can get out of the port by means of the
3rd. Hunter's Isles, between Three-hummock and Barren Islands; taking
care not to anchor too close to the weather shore, lest the wind change
4th. The bight between Wilson's Promontory and Cape Liptrap, _in case of
necessity_; but I would not recommend this place, it being very dangerous
should the wind shift to south-west.
5th. Kent's large Group for brigs and lesser vessels; in one of the small
sandy coves under the eastern island.
6th. Furneaux's Isles, between Clarke's and Preservation Islands. If the
ship be not able to weather Clarke's Island, and pass out to the
south-eastward when the fair wind comes, she may run through Armstrong's
Channel, with a boat ahead and a good look-out.
This is all that it seems necessary to say for the information of a
commander desirous of going eastward through Bass' Strait; and with the
chart in the Atlas, (Plate VI.), it is all that a man of moderate
experience and judgment will desire. I have not mentioned the entrance to
the strait between King's Island and Hunter's Isles, thinking it not to
be recommendable; both on account of _Reid's Rocks_, which lie in the
passage, and whose position is not well ascertained, and also because I
am not satisfied that Hunter's Isles are placed in the chart at their
true distance from King's Island: the difference of longitude is from an
approximation only; but the error, if any, cannot exceed eight or ten
miles, and is in excess. However, with daylight and a good look-out, the
strait may be safely entered by this pass, at any time that a ship can
carry sail upon a wind. I entered this way in the Investigator, during
the night; but what a ship on discovery may do is not to be given as an
example to others, whose sole objects are expedition and safety. The
outlet by the pass called Banks' Strait, between Furneaux's Islands and
Cape Portland, is perfectly safe; but is out of the way for a ship bound
to Port Jackson.
It has been observed that the winds are commonly favourable for making a
passage to the _westward_, through Bass' Strait and along the South
Coast, in the months of January, February, and March. I have no personal
experience of such a passage, further than through the strait, though it
has lately been made several times; but to those who may be desirous of
doing the same, and are strangers to these parts, the following
observations may be acceptable.
The first remark is, that the three months when this passage is most easy
to be made, are precisely those in which it is unsafe, if not
impracticable to go through Torres' Strait; and the second, that it will
generally be of no avail for a ship to be in Bass' Strait before the
middle of December, and if it be the middle of January it will be
Ships coming from Port Jackson, or anywhere from the north-eastward, may
take a departure from Cape Howe in 37 deg. 301/2' south and 150 deg. 5' east; but
from thence, they should not steer a course more westward than
south-south-west by compass, until in latitude 39 deg. 30'; on account of the
danger to be apprehended from south-east winds upon the Long Beach.
Having reached 39 deg. 30' they should steer a true west course, or
west-by-south by compass, leaving the Sisters, the craggy islet, and a
rock, on the larbord hand. The eastern island of Kent's large Group,
which lies in 39 deg. 30' south, 147 deg. 19' east, and may be seen ten, or
perhaps twelve leagues from the deck in fine weather, will come in sight
ahead; and in passing three or four miles on the south side, the small
western group will be seen, and is to be passed in the same way; as are
Curtis' peaked Isles, which will then be in sight. From Curtis' Isles to
the north end of King's Island, the course is nearly true west, and
distance about forty-two leagues, with nothing in the way; but it is
better to steer five or six leagues to the north of King's Island, if the
winds permit. Should they hang to the westward of north, the course may
be safely directed for Three-hummock Island; passing afterwards to the
north or south of King's Island, as the winds may be most favourable.
In the case of foul winds, which, if the weather be thick or rainy, may
be expected to fix at south-west and blow strong, there are many places
where a ship may anchor, to wait a change; but the following appear to be
the most convenient.
1st. Hamilton's Road, at the east end of Preservation Island.
2nd. On the south side of the largest Swan Isle, for small vessels, or
under Isle Waterhouse.
3rd. Port Dalrymple.
4th. Various places amongst Hunter's Isles.
5th. Sea-elephant Bay, on the east side of King's Island, where there is
fresh water; or under the north-east end of that island, if the wind be
6th. Western Port, under Phillip Island; anchoring so soon as the ship is
sheltered. A fair wind for going onward through the strait, will take a
ship out of this port.
7th. Port Phillip.
(Atlas Plate I.)
After clearing Bass' Strait, I think it most advisable to keep at not
more than ten or twenty leagues off the coast, from Cape Otway to
Kangaroo Island; as the wind may there be expected more favourable, and
the contrary current less strong than in steering a straight course
toward Cape Leeuwin. But should the wind rise from the north-westward,
with thick weather and a descent more than usually rapid in the marine
barometer, a stretch off shore should immediately be made, to prepare for
a south-west gale. A look-out must be kept for an island lying to the
west-south-west of Cape Northumberland; it was seen by Mr. Turnbull,
commander of the Britannia, south whaler, but the weather being thick,
its situation was not well ascertained. According to the best information
I could procure, this island lies in 381/4 deg. south, and about 1391/2 deg. or 3/4
From Kangaroo Island, a straight course may be made for the southernmost
part of the Archipelago of the Recherche; but should the winds come from
the westward and not blow a gale, or be light and unsteady, I would steer
more northward, nearer to the land, in the hope of having them more
favourable. From the Archipelago to Cape Leeuwin it seems best to keep at
a distance from the land, unless under the necessity of stopping in that
neighbourhood; for the current runs strong near the shore, and with the
advantage of an offing of twenty or thirty leagues, a ship may lie clear
of the cape with a wind which might otherwise keep her beating for many
There appears to be no place of shelter against western gales, between
Bass' Strait and Kangaroo Island; but there are then, besides various
anchorages under that island, the bays and coves at the entrance of
Spencer's Gulph; and further westward, Coffin's Bay, Petrel Bay in the
island St. Francis, and Fowler's Bay near the head of the Great Bight.
Afterwards come Goose-Island Bay, Thistle's Cove, and the lee of
Observatory Island, all in the Archipelago of the Recherche; the cove
cannot be entered in a gale, but when once secured in the south-west
corner, a ship will be safe; the other two places afford very indifferent
shelter from strong winds, and are indeed fit only for a temporary
anchorage in moderate weather. Doubtful-Island Bay and King George's
Sound afford complete shelter against western gales; but some little time
would be lost in getting out of them, if a ship waited until an eastern
wind set in. Some account of all these places will be found in the
preceding pages of this volume; with the exception of Observatory Island,
for which D'Entrecasteaux's voyage may be consulted.
Account of the observations by which the Longitudes of places on the
south coast of Terra Australis have been settled.
The lunar distances and other observations taken in the Investigator's
voyage having been ordered by the Commissioners of the Board of Longitude
to be recalculated by a professed astronomer, with every degree of
correctness which science has hitherto been able to point out as
necessary, this delicate, but laborious task was assigned to Mr. John
Crosley, formerly assistant at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich; a
gentleman who formed part of the expedition as far as the Cape of Good
Hope, but whose ill health had then made it necessary to relinquish the
voyage and return to England. The data and results of all the
observations will probably be made public, by order of the Commissioners;
but in the mean time, for the satisfaction of the geographer, and more
especially for that of the seaman, whose life and property may be
connected with the accuracy of the charts., the _results of the lunar
distances_ observed upon each coast are added in the form of an Appendix
to the volume wherein that coast is described. It is by these results
that the time keepers have been regulated; and the longitudes used in the
construction of the charts are taken from the time keepers.
To appreciate the degree of confidence to which these results may be
entitled, it is necessary to know under what circumstances the
observations were taken; also the method used in the calculations, and
the corrections which have been applied beyond what is usual in the
common practice at sea: of these the following is a general statement.
1st. The instruments used in taking the distances, were a nine-inch
sextant by Ramsden, and three sextants of eight inches radius by
Troughton, the latter being made in 1801, expressly for the voyage. On
board the ship, the sextant was necessarily held in the hand, and the
distances were sometimes so taken on shore; but in most of the latter
cases, it was fixed on a stand admitting of the sextant being turned
easily in any direction. The telescopes were of the largest magnifying
powers which the motion of the ship, or state of the atmosphere could
admit, and each longitude is the result of a set of observations, most
generally consisting of six independent sights. They were taken either by
lieutenant Flinders or by myself; those by him being designated in the
column of _Observers_ by the letter F, the others by C.
2nd. Preparatory to the reduction of the apparent to the true distance,
the four following corrections have been applied.
From the _sun's semi-diameter_, as given in the nautical almanack, 3"
have been subtracted. In the almanacks of the years comprehending our
observations, the semi-diameter was stated from Mayer's tables, which
gave it 3" too great; owing to the imperfection of the telescope with
which Mayer observed.
The semi-diameters of the sun and moon being less in the vertical, than
in the horizontal direction, on account of the differences in the
refraction, they have been reduced proportionally to these differences
and to the angles at the points of contact in measuring the distance.
This correction is called _contraction of the semi-diameter_.
Before using the _moon's horizontal parallax_ in the nautical almanack,
where it is calculated for the equator, it has been corrected (printed as
'diminished', and corrected in the errata) by a number of seconds
depending upon the latitude of the place, and upon this assumed position:
that the earth is a regular spheroid, whose polar axis is to the
equatorial axis, as 320 to 321. This, and the preceding correction are
unnecessary, unless where great exactness may be required.
The _refraction_ of the heavenly bodies given in the tables, being
calculated for a mean height of 50 deg. of Fahrenheit's thermometer, and 29.6
inches of the barometer, it has been corrected for the difference between
these means and what was the state of the atmosphere at the time of
3rd. In reducing the apparent to the true distance, Mr. Crosley has used
the method of Joseph Mendoza de Rios, Esq., F. R. S., given with his
_Nautical Tables_, second edition, 1809; and the tables from which the
corrections were taken and the computations made, are those of the same
4th. The reduced distance, found as above, has been corrected to the
spheroidal figure of the earth, according to the theory explained in the
_Philosophical Transactions_ of the Royal Society of 1797; and for doing
which, rules are given by Mr. Mendoza with his _Nautical Tables_ of 1801.
This calculation is tedious, and the correction, more especially in low
latitudes, too small to be necessary in common cases.
5th. In the nautical almanack the distances are given to every three
hours, but the irregularities of the moon's motion being such as to cause
some inequality in the different parts of this interval, the distance at
the hour preceding, and at the hour following the time of observation,
was found by interpolation from the two nearest given on each side; and
having the distances at Greenwich for each hour, the observed distance
can never fall more than half an hour from one of them; and the moon's
inequalities do not then produce any sensible error in the corresponding
time, as obtained from common proportion. The correction arising from
this process is seldom so important as to be necessary in sea
6th. The longitude deduced from a comparison of the true distance at
observation with the hourly distances at Greenwich, is contained in the
following tables under the head of _Longitude from Nautical Almanack_.
But as it frequently happened, that the observation was not taken exactly
in the place which it is intended to fix, this longitude is reduced to
that place by the application of the difference shown by the time keepers
to have existed between the two situations. In ascertaining this
difference, the rates of going allowed to the time keepers are generally
those found at the place which is to be fixed; whether applied to
observations taken before arriving, or after quitting that place. This,
however, could be done only at those stations where rates had been
observed; at the intermediate points, where the result of lunar distances
is given principally as an object of comparison with the time keepers,
the rates allowed in the reduction are those found at the station
previously quitted; but then the difference of longitude is corrected by
the quantity consequent on the following supposition: that the time
keepers altered their rates from those at the previous, to those at the
following station, in a ratio augmenting in arithmetic progression. The
difference of longitude, thus corrected when necessary, is given under
the head of _Reduction by time keepers_; and the longitudes reduced by it
to the place intended to be fixed, are taken to be of equal authority
with those resulting from observations made in the place itself.
7th. But these longitudes, whether reduced to, or observed in, the place
to be fixed, still require a correction which is of more importance than
any of those before mentioned. The theories of the solar and lunar
motions not having reached such a degree of perfection as to accord
perfectly with actual observation at Greenwich, the distances calculated
from those theories and given in the almanack become subject to some
error; and consequently so do the longitudes deduced from them. The
quantities of error in the computed places of the sun and moon, have been
ascertained at Greenwich as often as those luminaries could be observed;
and Mr. Pond, the astronomer royal, having permitted access for this
purpose to the table of errors kept in the Observatory, Mr. Crosley has
calculated the corresponding effects on the longitude, and proportioned
them to the time when our observations were taken. The combined effect of
the two errors forms a correction to the longitudes obtained from the sun
and moon; but when the moon was observed with a star, then the moon's
error alone gives the correction. But it has sometimes happened, that
there were many days interval between the observations of the moon at
Greenwich, and that the errors preceding and following are so extremely
irregular, that no accuracy could be expected in reducing them by
proportion; in these unfortunate cases, that part of the error belonging
to the moon has been taken absolute, such as it was found on the day
nearest to the time of observation; but the sun's error is always from
proportion. These corrections, with the interval in the Greenwich
observations of the moon, are given under their proper heads.
8th. The longitudes thus computed, reduced to the intended point, and
corrected, are placed under each other; and the mean of the whole is
taken to be the true longitude of that point, unless in certain cases
where it is otherwise expressed. The mean is also given of the longitudes
_uncorrected_ for the errors of the sun and moon's places, that the
reader may have an opportunity of comparing them; and some sea officers
who boast of their having never been out more than 5', or at most 10',
may deduce from the column of corrections in the different tables, that
their lunar observations could not be entitled to so much confidence as
they wish to suppose; since, allowing every degree of perfection to
themselves and their instruments, they would probably be 12', and might
be more than 30' wrong.
In the nautical almanacks for 1811 and 1815, the distances are computed
from the new tables of _Burg_ for the moon, and of _Delambre_ for the
sun; and it is to be hoped that the necessity of correcting for errors in
the distances at Greenwich will have ceased, or be at least greatly
diminished. Should the computed places of the sun and moon be happily
found to agree with actual observation, and supposing that our results
may be taken as the average of what practised observers with good
instruments will usually obtain when circumstances are favourable, then
lunar observations taken in 1814 and afterwards, may be entitled to
confidence within the following limits:
From one set of distances, consisting of six independent sights, the
error in longitude may be 30' on either side; but will probably not
From six sets on one side of the moon, each set consisting as above, the
error may be 20'; but not probably more than 8'.
Twelve sets of distances, of which six on each side of the moon, are not
likely to err more than 10' from the truth; and may be expected to come
The error in sixty sets, taken during three or four lunations, and one
half on each side of the moon, will not, I think, be wrong more than 5';
and will most probably give the longitude exact to 1' or 2', This degree
of accuracy is far beyond what the hopes of the first proposers of the
lunar method ever extended, and even beyond what astronomers accustomed
only to fixed observatories will be disposed to credit at this time; but
in thinking it _probable_ that sixty sets of lunar distances will come
within 1' or 2' of the truth, when compared with correct tables, I
conceive myself borne out by the following facts.
In Port Lincoln, I observed an eclipse of the sun with a refracting
telescope of forty-six inches focus, and a power of about two hundred. It
was recalculated by Mr. Crosley from Delambre's and Burckhardt's tables,
the one made four and the other ten years afterwards. The longitude
deduced from the beginning differed only 1' 31.5" from that at the end,
and the mean of both only 1' 17" from _thirty_ sets of lunar distances
corrected for the errors of the tables.
The Spanish admiral D'Espinosa observed emersions of the first and second
satellites of Jupiter in 1793, at Port Jackson, and also an eclipse of
the sun which he recalculated by the tables of Burg. He deduces from
thence the longitude of Sydney Cove to be 151 deg. 12' 45"; and from
forty-four sets of lunar distances by lieutenant Flinders, it would be
151 deg. 11' 49" east.
At Port Louis in the Isle Mauritius, the Abbe de la Caille observed an
eclipse of the sun, the transit of mercury over the sun's disk, and
various occultations of Jupiter's satellites; M. d'Apres also observed
several occultations; and this place should therefore be well determined.
Its longitude in the Requisite Tables is 57 deg. 29' 15" east; and from
_twenty-seven_ sets of distances taken whilst a prisoner there, I made
it, when corrected for the errors of the tables, 57 deg. 29' 57" east.
In appreciating the degrees of accuracy to which a small or larger number
of lunar distances may be expected to give the longitude, I suppose the
observer to be moderately well practised, his sextant or circle, and time
keeper to be good, and his calculations to be carefully made; and it is
also supposed, that the distances in the nautical almanack are perfectly
correct. As, however, there may still be some errors, notwithstanding the
science and the labour employed to obviate them, it cannot be too much
recommended to sea officers to preserve all the data of their
observations; more especially of such as may be used in fixing the
longitudes of places but little, or imperfectly known. The observations
may then be recalculated, if requisite; the corrections found to be
necessary may be applied; and the observer may have the satisfaction of
forwarding the progress of geography and navigation, after having
contributed to the safety of the ship, and benefit of the particular
service in which he may happen to have been engaged.
The following tables, set out in the book, are not reproduced in this
text version of _A Voyage to Terra Australis_--refer to the _html_