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Discoveries in Australia, Volume 2 by John Lort Stokes

Part 8 out of 8

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Our course was now bent towards Cape Shanck, lying eight miles to the
south. The first part lay over a level open woodland country; low hills
then made their appearance, becoming more numerous as we neared our
destination. At their commencement we turned off the road to look for a
kangaroo; a herd was soon found; but all, after a sharp burst of a few
miles, got away from us.


When both horses and dogs had regained their wind we went to better
ground, and came suddenly on a fine herd. A large male, called an Old Man
by the colonists, loitering to protect the does under his care, was
singled out by the fastest dog; and a splendid run ensued; the country,
however, being rather woody, and strewed with fallen timber which was
concealed by long grass, only those who risked the pace over it enjoyed
the sport. The dogs stuck well to their game, and coming at last to an
open piece of ground, the fleetest began to close with the Old Man, who
was covering an immense space in each bound. At length the dog reached
the kangaroo's quarters, and burying his teeth in them, made him face
about, cutting at his pursuer, who kept out of reach, with his hind feet,
and then turning round and endeavouring to escape. But the same liberty
being again taken with his haunches he was once more brought to bay. The
rest of the pack now came up, and a fine half-bloodhound rushed in and
seized the kangaroo* by the throat; whilst the latter, in return,
fiercely clutched the dog round the neck; a violent struggle ensued, each
trying to choke the other. Although the dog that had first reached the
Old Man was biting his quarters, the danger that the game hound would be
laid open by a cut from the kangaroo's hind feet, determined Dr. Barker
and myself to watch an opportunity of creeping up behind a tree to assist
in the struggle. We accordingly did so, and managed to seize the animal
by his monstrous tail, so that by keeping a strain on it he was prevented
from lifting his hind leg, as if he had we should have pulled him over.

(*Footnote. Although these animals have a most innocent countenance, the
large males are very dangerous when brought to bay. I know an instance of
a gentleman, who was endeavouring to assist his dog in killing one of
them, having his clothes severed in front and the skin of his body just
scratched by a cut from the hind leg. Had this person been any nearer the
kangaroo, his bowels would have been torn open. The middle toe projecting
and being armed with a strong nail, enable them to inflict dreadful
wounds, and frequently to kill dogs. It is seldom, indeed, that they will
attack a kangaroo in front; old dogs never do, but have a very clever way
of throwing the smaller kind by the stump of the tail when running.)

The dogs, thus protected from injury, were at last victorious; and the
kangaroo, a great beast, weighing nearly two hundred pounds, was soon
stretched on the ground.


Having secured the tail and hind feet we continued our road to Dr.
Barker's station, situated in one of the rich valleys I have spoken of,
in an early part of the work, as lying a mile and a half to the
North-East of Cape Shanck.

On account of the state of the weather we were obliged to tax this
gentleman's hospitality for two nights, both the early parts of which
were passed on Cape Shanck, watching between the clouds for observations.
This cape is a narrow projection of calcareous formation, rendered
remarkable by a pulpit-shaped rock lying close off it. About a mile to
the north is a hill 190 feet high, which has been selected for the site
of a lighthouse for showing vessels their position off the entrance of
Port Phillip. Being so distant, however, it is of more service for Port

From Dr. Barker I received some curious information respecting the
Aborigines. It appears that there is great hostility between the Port
Phillip and Gipps' Land natives, who occasionally visit each other's
territory for the purposes of war. So great is the feeling of enmity
between them, that they will frequently take a piece of the flesh of
their foes and pass it through the skin of their thighs or arms, where
they leave it until it withers.


Returning to the ship we placed a buoy* on the five-fathom bar at the
eastern entrance of the South Channel, the bearings from which are Whale
Head South 33 degrees West, and Arthur's Seat South 79 degrees East;
Points Nepean and Lonsdale being a little open. Passing through this
channel,** we spent an afternoon within the heads for the purpose of
visiting the lighthouse just built on Shortland's Bluff.*** This I found
to be 108 feet high; the lantern, to contain a fixed light, had not been
established. The position of this light being so far within the entrance
it is only visible between South-West 1/2 West, and South 1/4 West; and a
light placed at the extremity of the rocky ledge off Point Nepean would
be of infinitely more service in showing vessels the entrance of the

(*Footnote. Another buoy at the east extremity of the bank on the north
side of the channel, which is very steep to, and one at the west end of
the bank on the south side, would render the navigation free from
difficulty, as the banks on either side can be readily made out.)

(**Footnote. The directions for entering by this line-of-battle ship
channel are as follows. After passing Point Nepean steer for Arthur's
Seat, keeping Point Flinders open south of Lonsdale Point until the last
cliffy projection is passed and bears South 1/4 West. Then steer half a
point to the left of Arthur's Seat, shutting in Point Flinders with Point
Nepean, and keeping Point Lonsdale a little open of the latter. The buoy
at the eastern entrance will now soon be made out, and should be kept in
line with Arthur's Seat. Pass on the north side of the buoy and then haul
up South-East until the water shoals to five fathoms, or until Whale Head
bears South-West by West; then steer North-East by East for Mount Martha,
the next hill north of Arthur's Seat, until the latter bears South-East,
when a course may be shaped for Hobson's Bay.)

(***Footnote. The patch of dark bushes, breaking the sand beach to the
northward, and forming one of the leading marks in, had been so thinned
that it was very indistinct. Mr. LaTrobe, however, was going to remedy
this evil by erecting a beacon on that spot.)

Whilst we were at Port Phillip this time, a schooner left in a somewhat
mysterious manner, on board of which was the Honourable Mr. Murray, who
fell afterwards in a conflict with the pirates at Borneo. The particulars
of this gallant affair must be fresh in the recollection of my readers.


Leaving Port Phillip,* we returned to Port Western to pick up the party
we had left there. Mr. Fitzmaurice found Cape Patterson, of which I have
before spoken, to lie fourteen miles South-West by West 1/2 West from the
eastern entrance of Port Western,** and twenty-one miles North 55 degrees
West from Cape Liptrap, the next headland to the eastward.

(*Footnote. The result of the tidal observations made at Shortland's
Bluff, gives 12 hours 20 minutes for the time of high-water on the full
and change days. The simultaneous ones made in other parts of this great
sheet of water during our stay, gave the times of high-water later as

At William Town: 1 hour 0 minutes.
Under Arthur's Seat: 1 hour 45 minutes.
At Corio Harbour: 2 hours 30 minutes.

At the entrance of Port Phillip the rise at springs is only three feet
and a half, when the stream makes in at 2 hours 0 minutes. It also
continues to run out from one to two hours after the water begins to rise
by the shore. The outward and inward streams differ considerably; the
latter being from 5 to 5 1/2 hours' duration, whereas the former is from
6 to 6 1/2 and 7. The outward stream between the heads sometimes attains
a strength of nearly 7 knots, and when opposed to a southerly gale,
causes a sea dangerous to small craft; these gales heap the water up in
all parts of the bay, particularly at William Town in the northern
corner. On such occasions there is scarcely any fall of tide perceptible
near the entrance; the outward stream is then also much weaker. In the
West Channel the flood and ebb-streams have a velocity of from 1 to 2 1/2
knots; but in the south it seldom exceeds two. Above the banks or in the
inlet leading to Corio harbour there is scarcely any stream of tide
perceptible; but through the channel over the bar at the latter the flood
runs nearly three quarters of a knot. Outside the entrance the ebb sets
between South by East and South-South-West for seven miles, when its
strength is weakened to about a knot; from thence it trends more westerly
towards the mouth of the Strait.)


Five and seven miles to the westward of Cape Patterson there are two
rivulets, near the former of which an inferior kind of coal crops out; it
occurs in beds of the carboniferous series. Between the two headlands
above mentioned the shore falls back, forming a bight six miles deep, at
the head of which is Anderson's Inlet, six miles in extent, full of mud
banks, and available for boats only. A river, called Toluncan by the
natives, empties itself into the head of it.

(*Footnote. The observations on the tides at this place make the time of
high-water at the full and change days 1 hour 10 minutes, when the rise
is 8 feet. The stream in the main channel runs upwards of 2 knots, and
off the North-East end of Grant Island it makes to the eastward about two
hours before the time of high-water; this difference is to be attributed
to the flood entering round both ends of the island.)

From Port Western we carried a line of soundings across the Strait to
Circular Head,* the greatest depth midway between being 40 fathoms. Here,
according to arrangement, we met the Vansittart. Bad weather had
prevented Mr. Forsyth from completing the work allotted the cutter. We
found the management of the Van Diemen's Land Agricultural Company in the
hands of Mr. Gibson, from whom we received great attention. The new
system of letting lands, recently adopted by this Company, was working
well; and it certainly appeared to be a very fair mode of getting their
lands occupied.


(*Footnote. My intention of getting some more soundings in the western
entrance of Bass Strait was frustrated; but as I have entered into detail
respecting the eastern entrance, I am induced to devote some space to a
few directions, which may aid in averting a repetition of such terrible
catastrophes as the late wreck of the Cataraqui on the western side of
King Island. The western entrance, formed by the islands off the
north-west point of Tasmania and the projection on the Australian
continent called Cape Otway, is 108 miles wide. King Island, lying nearly
midway, occupies 35 miles of this space, and leaves to the north of it a
passage of 47 miles in width, and to the south one of 37 miles. The
latter, however, is impeded by Reid's Rocks, the Conway and Bell sunken
rocks, with Albatross Island and the Black Pyramid; the tide also sets
across it at the rate of from one to three knots, as I have already
mentioned in the first volume; consequently, the entrance between King
Island and Cape Otway is much safer, the chief danger being the Harbinger
Rocks, two granite boulders, with deep water between, one lying North 74
degrees West three miles and a half, and the other North 88 degrees West,
nearly four miles and a half from the north point of King Island, Cape
Wickham, which may be recognized by a round hill, 595 feet high, over it.
The southern Harbinger is a few feet only out of the water, and the other
scarcely awash. These, with the Navarin Rock, lying North 25 degrees
West, one mile and a half from the same cape, and the reef lying half a
mile off Cape Otway, constitute the sole dangers in this entrance.

Masters of vessels should endeavour, if possible, to make the land in the
neighbourhood of Cape Otway; but if the weather be thick they may know
they are in the fairway of the Strait when they get into sixty fathoms,
fine grey sand; in the same depth, with a rocky bottom, ships will be to
the southward, and off the west side of King Island, which, as I have
before described, is a rocky dangerous coast. There is a doubtful
position of a sunken rock, ten miles West 1/2 North of the south point,
which is low and rocky, and in latitude 40 degrees 10 minutes South,
longitude 143 degrees 58 minutes East; whilst Cape Wickham is in latitude
39 degrees 35 minutes South, longitude 143 degrees 59 1/2 minutes, East;
and Cape Otway in latitude 38 degrees 51 minutes South, longitude 143
degrees 35 1/2 minutes East of Greenwich, considering Sydney, to which
these longitudes refer, to be in 151 degrees 16 minutes East.

Various opinions have been expressed as to the best position for a
lighthouse at this entrance of the Strait, some recommending Cape
Wickham; others, Cape Otway. I, however, hold to the latter, for this
simple reason, that it will avoid bringing ships in the neighbourhood of
the Harbinger Rocks and the western side of King Island. If a light were
erected on Cape Wickham, and a vessel running for it should be to the
southward of her position, she would risk sharing the fate of the
Cataraqui,* unless more caution were used than is generally the case, I
regret to say, in merchant vessels. Whereas, if the light were on Cape
Otway, a ship to the southward of her position would have the Strait open
to run through, and to the northward, would discover her error, by
falling in with the land. The lead, also, would inform the master that
his ship was near it, there being 30 fathoms ten miles from the land
thirty-five miles to the westward of Cape Otway; the trend of the coast
besides is too westerly to make it a lee shore.

(*Footnote. In consequence of a letter of mine that appeared in the
Times, the owners of the Cataraqui have communicated with me, stating
that they have reason to believe the Beagle's chart of Bass Strait was
among those with which the ship was furnished, and that with regard to
leads and lines she was well supplied.)

From the middle of the entrance between Cape Wickham and Cape Otway, in
57 fathoms, fine grey sand, and in latitude 39 degrees 13 minutes South,
longitude 143 degrees 48 minutes East, the course to the entrance of Port
Phillip, is North-East 1/2 North seventy miles; the soundings will be
found, at first, to decrease rapidly, and in the parallel of Cape Otway
the depth will be 47 fathoms, fine sand and shells. Further particulars
respecting the quality of the bottom off this part of the coast will be
found in the first volume.

A South-East 1/2 East course 176 miles, from the same position, will take
a ship to Port Dalrymple. In the first twenty-nine miles of this
distance, the soundings will have decreased to nearly 30 fathoms, and the
ship's place should be then abreast of the North-East end of King Island,
distant ten miles. The sight of this and, further on, of the Hunter
Group, which should be passed at a distance of 20 miles to the
South-West, will show if the right allowance has been made for the set of
the tides. In the courses given in this note, the tidal influence has not
been noticed; but I have above noticed the direction of the streams, and
the allowance to be made will of course depend on what stream the ship
enters or leaves the Strait with.

Again, from the same position, an east course, 136 miles, will place a
ship four miles to the south of the Curtis Isles. The soundings will be
found to decrease to 40 fathoms thirty miles to the eastward of King
Island, and will continue within a fathom or two of that depth for the
remainder of the distance.

Two hundred and four miles from the above position, on a North-East 1/4
East course, will take a ship to abreast of Cape Howe, distant twenty
miles; passing midway between Hogan and Kent Groups, distant nearly nine
miles from each, at which time twenty-eight miles will have been run on
the above course. In passing the latter group, attention should be paid
to the set of the tides; as with the flood-stream and a northerly wind
vessels may be obliged to pass on the south side of it. Cape Howe bears
from Kent Group, North 36 degrees East, 170 miles. When a ship gets into
30 fathoms she will be within 8 miles of the North-East side of these
islands; and on the opposite she will have that depth half the distance

It only now remains to notice the tides in the passage north of King
Island. It is high-water on the full and change days at 1 o'clock; the
stream begins to set to the South-West three hours and a half before
high-water, running with a velocity of from 1 to 2 knots; past the
Harbinger Rocks, however, it sweeps round to the South-South-West,
sometimes at the rate of nearly two knots and a half.

Having alluded to the entrance south of King Island in an earlier part of
the work, and as it is a passage I do not recommend, I shall not here
enter into many details respecting it, further than to say that if a ship
is obliged to enter Bass Strait by that entrance, she should keep to the
southward of Reid's Rocks, passing close to the Black Pyramid, a dark
rocky lump, 240 feet high, in latitude 40 degrees 28 minutes South,
longitude 144 degrees 18 1/2 minutes East. This should be made bearing
North-East 3/4 East, which would keep ships clear of the Conway and Bell
sunken rocks, the former and outermost of which lies fifteen miles North
83 degrees West from it. The cross set of the tides should be
particularly borne in mind, and likewise their strength, which is
sometimes 3 knots. The stream to the South-West by South begins at 3 P.M.
on the full and change days, or three hours and a half before high-water.
The depth in the south entrance varies from 35 to 38 fathoms.

I shall perhaps make this note more useful by stating that January and
February are the best months for making a passage to the westward through
Bass Strait; although easterly winds blow on some rare occasions at other
times, but these are mostly gales, and generally terminate in a breeze
from the opposite quarter, having much the character of a rotatory gale,
one of which I have described in an early part of the work. The gales
that chiefly prevail in this Strait begin at North-North-West, and
gradually draw round by West to South-West, at which point they subside;
but if the wind, before it has so much southing, veer again to the
northward of west--or backs, as it is expressed--the gale will continue;
but its duration may be told by the barometer, as it is seldom fine when
it registers less than 29.95, and bad weather is certain if it falls to

N.B. The courses recommended in this note are marked in the chart
accompanying the work.)

Our anchorage this time was on the south side of the singular natural
fortification I have before described; and whilst there we were placed in
some anxiety by being caught in a gale from the eastward. The
holding-ground, however, being very good, and a strong outset sweeping
out of the bay round the south side of the head, lessened the strain on
the cables. The sudden appearance of this breeze, and the manner in which
it was succeeded by another from the westward, afforded additional
evidence of how necessary it is for anchorages in this strait to be
sheltered from both quarters. A jetty, which has been run out by the
Company, forms available shelter at high-water for vessels of nine and
ten feet draught.

On the 20th of January, having made a valuable set of tidal* and other
observations, and arranged with Mr. Forsyth to meet him at Hobart, we
sailed in the afternoon, and next morning passed half a mile from the
south side of the Pyramid, in 35 fathoms. It is a light-coloured mass,
worthy of its name, 300 feet high. From thence we steered towards Cape
Frankland, the North-West point of Flinders Island, which we had still to
examine, decreasing the soundings gradually to 26 fathoms within two
miles and a half to the West-North-West of it. We could see nothing of
the sunken rock said to lie two miles west from the above headland; yet,
as we have not exactly gone over the spot, it has been marked in the
chart with a p.d. against it.

(*Footnote. The line of high-water at the full and change is 11 hours 40
minutes, when the rise is 9 feet.)


I was also anxious to obtain a distant seaward view of Hummock Island,*
which affords the best shelter for ships in westerly winds.

(*Footnote. This island, which affords a plentiful supply of fuel, is
between five and six miles long, and scarcely half a mile in width, with
a North by East trend. The anchorage lies abreast of the middle Hummock,
where the depth is six fathoms, and may be approached by passing round
either the north or south end of the island. Some low islets lie a mile
and a half off the latter, with a narrow passage between; and a reef
extends three quarters of a mile off the north point, which is in
latitude 40 degrees 1 minute South, longitude 3 degrees 27 minutes West
of Sydney, or 147 degrees 49 minutes East. It is distant three miles and
a half from the nearest point of Flinders, where is situated the
settlement of Tasmanian natives. A tide of from half to one knot sets
through between, and the flood-stream comes from the northward. The
outline of Hummock Island is so remarkable that it cannot fail of being
recognised. In thick weather the navigator may know he is approaching
this, and the other islands fronting the western side of Flinders, by
having a depth of less than thirty fathoms.)

The north-west part of Flinders Island has a bold rugged outline. From
our position off Cape Frankland, we carried a line of soundings across
the passage south of Craggy Island, passing two miles to the eastward of
it in twenty-seven fathoms. We then ran out of the strait and up to
Sydney, to leave what stores were not absolutely required during the
passage to England, for the use of the ships on the station.


Having spoken of the feasibility of railroads in other parts of New South
Wales, I cannot leave Sydney without suggesting what appear to me to be
the most practicable directions for lines leading from that capital. As
the country between Parramatta and Sydney is very hilly, I would
recommend that part of the journey should be performed in a steamer; and
that the railroad should commence on the right bank, about seven miles
from the town. An extension of this line would lead into the
north-western interior. Towards the south, and in the direction of the
Manero district, the line ought to pass round the head of Botany Bay, and
by following some of the valleys trending southwards, might reach nearly
to Illawarra, the garden of New South Wales. In this manner, the rich
Manero corn country, and the coalfields of Illawarra, might be brought
into connection with Sydney, and a prodigious development imparted to the
whole colony.


I regretted being obliged to leave this part of Australia without
visiting Moreton Bay, as a survey of the mouth of the Brisbane River
would have enabled the settlers of that district, now rapidly increasing,
to have sent their produce direct from thence to England; whereas, until
a chart of it is published, masters of large ships do not like to go
there. The residents are in consequence obliged to submit to the expense
of first shipping their merchandise to Sydney. The Moreton Bay district
is perhaps one of the most fertile on the continent, combining the
advantages of great partial elevation and of proximity to the equator, so
that, within a comparatively short distance, the productions of both the
tropical and the temperate zones may be found. Corn grows on the high
plains; bananas, raisins, etc., on the lowlands; in short, as in Mexico,
the traveller finds, in ascending from the sea-coast to the summit of the
hills, almost the same successive gradations of climate as in passing
from the tropics towards the poles.


Our final arrangements were soon made; and on the 18th of February, the
Beagle was turning out between the heads.* I cannot for the last time bid
adieu to a place, which had become to us as it were a second home,
without once more alluding to the reception I had experienced from its
inhabitants. To enumerate any particular instances would be invidious;
space forbids me to pay due acknowledgments to all. In general,
therefore, I must say, that every attention which kindness and
hospitality could suggest, was paid to the officers of the Beagle, and a
debt of gratitude accumulated which it will be difficult to repay.

(*Footnote. It is worthy of mention, that vessels working in against the
ebb-tide, should get close under the inner south head before making a
board across the entrance, as the stream sets round the north head a knot
an hour to the northward, but has a southerly direction from one to two
miles off.)

Fresh easterly winds in the first instance, and light northerly ones
latterly, carried us rapidly to the southward, and towards midnight of
the 21st, we crossed the parallel of 39 degrees 31 minutes South,*
steering South by West 1/2 West.

(*Footnote. In this latitude a shoal was reported to have been seen by a
vessel bound to Sydney, from Banks Strait, in 1838. The master of her
states, that he sounded on it in seven fathoms, and saw moored kelp
occupying the space of about half a mile. As this vessel's latitude, by
her run from Banks Strait, was twenty miles further south, we cannot
place much confidence in this report, in which it is stated, that when
Cape Barren bore West eight miles, they steered North-East for sixty
miles, when finding themselves, near noon, close to broken water, they
wore the vessel's head round to the southward, and sounded in seven
fathoms in kelp; the latitude by observation being 39 degrees 31 minutes
South. As it was blowing strong at the time from the North-West with a
high sea, and as there was only one cast of the lead taken, in the
confusion of wearing, it is possible they might have been deceived. The
kelp might have been adrift, and the sea, in that neighbourhood, often
breaks irregularly as if on foul ground. The position of this supposed
shoal, by the run from Banks Strait would be, latitude 39 degrees 51
minutes South, longitude 149 degrees 40 minutes East; but as this gives a
difference of twenty miles in the latitude by observation, and as the
Beagle has crossed those parallels ten times between the meridians of 148
degrees 4 minutes and 150 degrees 13 minutes, and, moreover, as the
position assigned this shoal lies so much in the track of vessels running
between Hobart and Sydney, there is every reason to doubt its existence.)


On the 23rd, we passed along the east coast of Tasmania, at the distance
of eight miles. The weather being fine and the water smooth, we had
frequent opportunities of testing the accuracy of the present chart,
which we found to be about three miles in error both in latitude and
longitude; the latter with respect to the meridian of Fort Mulgrave.*

(*Footnote. Strange to say, the position assigned this place in the
chart, 147 degrees 28 minutes East is much in error with regard to
longitude, as Fort Mulgrave is 3 degrees 52 minutes 35 seconds West of
Sydney, or 147 degrees 23 minutes 25 seconds East; this, with the error I
have already alluded to in the east coast of Tasmania, the most available
one for shipping, points out the necessity of having the survey of that
island completed.)


Next afternoon we entered the Derwent and anchored off Hobart. Finding
that his Excellency Sir John Franklin had just left for Launceston, I
proceeded thither to wait on him. Our stay in the Derwent depending on a
favourable change in the weather, it was necessary that we should be
always in readiness to leave, and accordingly I travelled by the fastest
conveyance, the mail-cart, a sort of gig drawn by one horse, which,
however, by means of frequent changes and good cattle, manages to average
nine miles an hour. It leaves Hobart, at half-past seven P.M., and
reaches Launceston a little before eleven the following morning. It was a
cold, bleak night; but as the road was excellent, and I was well muffled
up, with my feet in a bag, the time passed cheerily. The general topic of
conversation during the journey was about some three desperate
bushrangers,* who appeared to keep all the innkeepers in dread of a
visit. At one place we stopped at, the host came up with a rueful
countenance, and told us that it was only the previous night that he had
been stuck up, with a pistol at his head, while they took what they
wanted from his larder.

(*Footnote. The most notorious of these characters was one Michael Howe,
who became a bushranger in 1812. In 1817 he separated from his party,
taking with him a native girl, whom he shot when hotly pursued, because
he imagined she might occasion delay. He twice surrendered on condition
that his life should be spared; but soon resumed his predatory habits. In
1818 he was killed by three men who had planned his capture; having been
nearly seven years in the bush, part of the time entirely alone. He
committed several murders, and robberies innumerable. His head was
conveyed to Hobart. In his knapsack was found a sort of journal of his
dreams written with blood, and strongly indicative of the horrors of his

The first half of the journey was over a rather hilly and gradually
rising country; the road then winds through almost one continued vale,
bounded on either side by broken ranges of mountains. The noble Ben
Lomond appears quite close on the right as you approach Launceston. I was
much pleased with the comfortable inns on this line of road, the greater
part of which is as smooth as a gravel walk.


I could not avoid, during this journey, being forcibly struck with the
great facilities afforded by the road from Hobart to Launceston for a
railway; and I have since heard and seen enough to convince me, that not
only would such an undertaking be practicable, but that it would greatly
conduce to the prosperity of Tasmania. At present, most of the
productions of the northern part of the island are necessarily, on
account of the expense of land-carriage, shipped at Launceston or Port
Dalrymple, whereas the Derwent affords such superior facilities for the
purposes of commerce, that if a means of cheap and rapid intercourse with
it existed, nearly the whole export and import traffic of the coasts
would be drawn thither. I have already observed that large vessels at
Launceston cannot discharge alongside the wharfs. Besides, on the whole
of the northern coast, with the exception of the Hunter Islands, there is
no place of safety for a ship in all winds that a stranger would like to
run into, the mouth of the Tamar being too much occupied with shoals. On
the other hand, Hobart lies on that part of the island which may be
approached with the greatest safety, being on a weather shore, whereas
the northern side is partly a lee one. In saying thus much, I do not mean
to imply that a private company, under ordinary circumstances, could
construct a line with immediate advantage to itself, though I will go so
far as to say, that in a very few years, comparatively, an ample
remunerative return might be expected. What I especially desire to insist
upon, is the fact, that a railroad traversing Tasmania from north to
south would be a great benefit to the community, would stimulate trade,
and consequently production, and would aid in restoring the prosperity
which it once enjoyed.


This being granted, let us take into consideration the condition of the
labour market in that country, and observe what an opportunity now
presents itself of executing a work of prodigious magnitude at a
comparatively trifling cost. It will be seen at once that I allude to the
population of probationers, pass-holders, ticket-of-leave men, who now
compete with the free inhabitants, and cause the whole land to throng
with people in want of work, with paupers and with thieves.

The great evil at present complained of by the settlers of Tasmania, is
the superabundance of labour. In most other colonies the contrary
complaint is made; and were it not for peculiar circumstances, the great
demand in one place would soon relieve the pressure in the other. But it
must be remembered, that the glut in the Tasmanian labour market is
produced by the presence of crowds of convicts, in various stages of
restraint, all prevented from leaving the island, and forced to remain
and seek employment there; so that as soon as the demand for labour falls
off, or the supply of it becomes disproportionately large, it is the free
population that is necessarily displaced.

The effect, therefore, of the gradual pouring of a superabundance of
convict labour into this island, must naturally be, first, to check free
immigration; and secondly, to drive away those who have actually
established themselves on it as their second home, and may perhaps have
abandoned comfort in England in hopes of affluence there. So great is the
number actually leaving the place every year, that it is calculated that
in six years, at the same ratio, there will be absolutely none left.


And yet, no further back than 1841, the Legislative Council voted 60,000
pounds to encourage immigration, thus needlessly taxing the colony to aid
in producing a disastrous result, which certainly, however, no one seems
to have foreseen.

Who, indeed, four years ago, could have believed that, above all other
things, there should arrive a glut in the labour market? Such an event
was looked upon as absolutely impossible in the full tide of prosperity
that covered the island. Everything wore a smiling aspect. The fields
were heavy with harvests, the roads crowded with traffic; gay equipages
filled the streets; the settler's cottage or villa was well supplied with
comfort, and even with luxuries; crime, in a population of which the
majority were convicts or their descendants, was less in proportion than
in England; in short, for the first time, in 1840 the exports exceeded
the imports; trade was brisk, agriculture increasing, new settlers were
arriving; everything betokened progress; no one dreamed of retrogression
or decay.

In four years all this has been reversed. We now look in vain for the
signs of prosperity that before existed. In their place, we hear of
complaints loud and deep; of insolvency, of reduction in the Government
expenditure; of a falling off of trade; of many beggars, where none
before were known; of large agricultural estates allowed partially to
return to their natural wildness; of cattle and all stock sold at half
their original cost, and of every symptom of agricultural and commercial
distress. I may further add, that the funds derived from the sale of
Crown lands in Tasmania in the year 1841, amounted to 58,000 pounds; in
1844, to 2000 pounds; and in 1845, to nothing. The revenue, in the same
time, has decreased one half; and, to close the financial account, at the
end of 1844 the colony was in debt to the Treasury, 100,000 pounds.


Though many other causes may have co-operated in producing this change,
it seems acknowledged by most persons, that the result is chiefly
traceable to the disproportionate increase of the convict population,
acting in the manner I have already described; and this is itself
encouragement to reconsider the system of 1842. But if, as some maintain,
this plan has inflicted serious evils, in a moral point of view, both on
the free population and on the convicts themselves, there is still
greater inducement to examine whether some better mode could not be

I do not intend, however, to enter into the question of convict
discipline. It would be beside my purpose to do so; and want of space,
moreover, forbids it. But I cannot refrain from observing, that one
feature in the new plan--that of congregating criminals during one period
of their punishment in probation gangs, almost isolated from the free
settlers--seems productive of anything but good. Under the system of
assignment, whatever other objections there may have been to it, the
convict had at least an excellent chance of becoming a better man,
especially when drafted to a pastoral or agricultural district. Whereas,
now that the well-disposed and the irreclaimably bad are often brought
constantly together in the same class, it is much more difficult for them
to regain that self-command and those moral sentiments, the loss of which
brought them to their degraded position of prisoners. Having constantly
before their eyes the garb and stamp of their infamy, reformation, if not
impossible, is extremely difficult. Pass them on the highways at any
time; and, in obedience to an irresistible impulse, they will leave off
their work to look at you, and the comparison of your dress and
condition, with their own distinctive costume and forced occupation,
instead of awakening a spirit of hope and a determination to regain
freedom, induces melancholy and despair. A dogged and sullen silence soon
becomes the characteristic of these men; their features are stamped with
the worst passions of our nature; and in many cases despondency is
triumphant, and they make no proper or continued efforts to reclaim

Even when a probation pass has been obtained, it is grievous to reflect
that, in numerous instances, except in the single quality of industry,
not only has no improvement taken place in the character of the prisoner,
but that he has become more hardened and corrupt than when he left
England. The horrible scenes of depravity he has witnessed in the
barracks whence he has emerged, must have produced their natural effect
on his mind. I cannot help thinking that this system of concentration is
extremely impolitic. We all know what a detrimental influence the
associating of men, punished for an offence comparatively trifling, with
others convicted of the most flagrant outrages upon society, exerts upon
the former. The experience of our prisons testifies to the fact. Can it
be expected, then, that the same agglomeration of bad characters in
Tasmania should be harmless? I foretell that this part of the new system
will be shortly abandoned, and that at any rate the men will be provided
with separate cabins for sleeping berths. The granting the prisoners
occasional holidays of a week, would have a great effect in whetting
their desire to finally obtain their liberty; and a change or improvement
in their apparel, in proportion to their good conduct, would also be very

In my opinion, however, the system of concentration is radically
defective. It supposes the existence in the breasts of criminals of a
principle of action, and a desire of improvement and of a change in their
condition sufficiently powerful to enable them to resist the temptations
to vice held out by habitual intercourse with the depraved. No doubt
there are individuals to be found, even among those who have incurred the
penalty of banishment from their native country, of firm character and
strong sympathy for virtue; but the majority must of course consist of
men almost incapable of resisting momentary impulses, of weak or
perverted understandings, of strong animal passions, naturally or from
habit averse to what is good, and prone to that which is bad. In such
cases association must inevitably be pernicious; and pardon can only be
obtained by comparative, not absolute reformation. By the dispersion of
convicts, under the assignment system or otherwise, the effects of evil
communication will be guarded against, and those of intercourse with the
virtuous and the honest substituted.

I am not of course, as I have said, prepared here even to sketch a new
plan of convict discipline; but I think that the suggestion I have made
with reference to the employment of prisoners in the construction of
railroads, the capital to be supplied by a private company, would afford
a temporary relief to the labour market, whilst it would confer a lasting
benefit on the colony. During the diversion thus created, time would be
afforded for digesting a plan of convict discipline, which should be
consistent with economy, with a due regard to the interests of the
settlers, and with the moral improvement of the prisoners.


I would also suggest another mode of employing the probationers. They
might be dispersed through the islands in Bass Strait, and engaged in
constructing the lighthouses which are so much wanted there. Six years
ago his Excellency Sir John Franklin drew the attention of the Government
of New South Wales to the necessity existing for these lighthouses. On
this occasion a mass of evidence was given before the Legislative Council
as to which would be the most eligible sites; but up to this period only
two have been founded, both by the Tasmanian Government, one on the
Chappell Isles, another in Banks Strait. The important ones for the
eastern and western entrances of the Strait have been neglected, although
the fullest information was obtained on the subject. Opinions concur in
representing Kent Group as the best position for a light at the eastern
entrance, where certainly one is most required, the Strait being there so
much impeded with rocks and islands. I gave my opinion to this effect
before the Legislative Council, in September, 1842. At the same time, for
the western entrance, I recommended Cape Otway in preference to the north
end of King Island, for reasons already assigned.* The melancholy wrecks
that have of late occurred in Bass Strait will, it is to be hoped, direct
immediate attention to the construction of these lighthouses, and I think
that the collateral benefits to be derived from the dispersion of the
convicts ought to be given their due weight. The expense would, in
consequence of the ample supply of labour, be small; some of the islands
afford stone in abundance; and the convicts might raise part of their
food in the vicinity of the proposed buildings. I cannot but think that
this, in the end, will prove a lucrative undertaking for Government; as
on the number of vessels that pass, light-dues of about a penny a ton
might be levied.

(*Footnote. The following is the Report of the Committee of the
Legislative Council of New South Wales, on lighthouses proposed to be
erected in Bass Strait: Your Committee have the honour to report, that
having been favoured with the attendance of Captain Stokes, of her
Majesty's ship Beagle, lately returned from a survey of Bass Strait, and
ascertained his ideas as to the best position for placing a lighthouse at
the western entrance thereof, they are induced to change their opinion as
set forth in their Report of the 1st September, 1841, and to coincide
with him in thinking that Cape Otway would be a better site for a
lighthouse than King Island, as being equally advantageous to the trade
at large, and much more so to that of Port Phillip.

It would appear, too, that no danger could accrue to vessels endeavouring
to make the former, while much mischief might arise in trying to sight
the latter, should there be any error in their reckoning; and that it is
therefore desirable to keep them as far as possible to the northward of
King Island, instead of inducing them to risk the danger of approaching
it, to ascertain their true position.

Captain Stokes perfectly coincides with the Committee, in the opinion
formerly expressed by them, that the eastern island of Kent Group, is the
best position for a light at the eastern entrance of Bass Strait; and
they beg leave respectfully to recommend to your Excellency and
honourable Council, that immediate steps may be taken for commencing so
desirable an undertaking as the erection of a lighthouse on that spot.

(Signed) J. GIBBES, Chairman. Council Chamber, 6th September, 1842.)

In another part of this work I have adverted to the desirability of
forming other convict establishments than those at present existing,
particularly on the north-west and north-east coasts; and I would
especially recommend the neighbourhood of Hanover Bay on the former, and
Halifax Bay on the latter.* By these means many hitherto untrodden lands
may speedily be adapted to the purposes of colonization, and reclaimed
from their present unprofitable state. In a country like Australia, where
the proportion of bad land predominates, it is almost necessary, in the
first instance, to force settlements by means of convict labour. A number
of buildings is always a cheering sight to a settler on his first
arrival, and gives him encouragement to exertion; whereas, if the country
wears its natural arid, desolate, uninviting appearance, dejection and
despondency ensue.

(*Footnote. We have just learned that it is the intention of Government
to form a settlement of the kind mentioned in the text on the north-east
coast; and that the province is to be called North Australia, the
southern boundary of which is to be the 26th parallel. I have already
expressed my opinion, that convicts should not be sent to Port Essington,
as the proximity of the islands would afford them facilities of escape.)


During our stay in the Derwent, perhaps one of the most splendid comets
that has ever appeared, illuminated the southern hemisphere for several
nights. We did not see it until the evening of the 5th of March; but it
was observed on the 2nd at Launceston; and by a ship at sea, off Cape
Leeuwin, on the 27th of February. Several observations were made with it,
when the nucleus, which was of a deep red colour, somewhat resembling the
planet Mars, was visible.* The length of the tail (on the 5th) measured
forty degrees; but was afterwards ten degrees longer. Towards its centre
it showed great intensity of light, becoming visible in the crepusculum
before stars of the second magnitude. Through its more attenuated
extremity, the stars were plainly seen, the coma seeming to be much less
dense, showing the sky through the centre like a dark line.

(*Footnote. On the evening of the 5th its right ascension was found to be
about 0 hours 13 minutes 0 seconds, and declination about 13 degrees 0
minutes South. The following evening it was observed to have had a motion
of above three degrees and a half in the direction of the constellation
Orion; the right ascension being 0 hours 26 minutes 0 seconds, and the
declination 12 degrees 50 minutes South. On the following night it was
found to have had a further motion in the same direction, and with much
the same velocity. Its position, shortly before setting, was as follows:
right ascension 0 hours 41 minutes 0 seconds, declination 12 degrees 30
minutes South.)


Whilst we were in the Derwent, a ship was loading with corn for England;
and I could not help regretting that, although grain from these colonies,
on account of its dry nature, is well adapted for a long voyage, the
heavy duty almost shut it out from the English market. It was impossible
not to feel, that justice as well as policy should have dictated the
admission of Australian wheat on the same terms as Canadian. The injury
inflicted by the exclusive system pursued, is, that less land is put
under cultivation, and fewer people are encouraged to go there; both the
colony and the mother country are sufferers thereby.


Sail from Tasmania.
The South-west Cape.
Monument to Flinders.
Rottnest Island.
Penal Establishment.
Longitude of Fremantle.
Final departure from Western Australia.
Rodrigue Island.
Effects of a hurricane at Mauritius.
The crew and passengers of a foundered vessel saved.
Simon's Bay.
Deep sea soundings.
Arrival in England.
Take leave of the Beagle.
The Surveying service.

The barometer, which had been rising gradually within the last three
days, now standing at 30.20, showed that the opportunity of getting round
the South-West Cape, had at length arrived. We therefore left Sullivan
Cove on the morning of the 15th; and by the following midnight passed the
above-mentioned storm-beaten headland with a fine northerly wind.
Previous, however, to so doing, we had soundings in 84 fathoms, six miles
South-West of the Mew Stone. From the result of others we had obtained at
different times off the south coast of Tasmania, it appears that
soundings of a moderate depth extend out only a short distance, and that
a ship in 60 fathoms will be within ten miles of the land.


It had been my intention, on our passage to the westward, to have
examined the south and west sides of Kangaroo Island, with the rocks
lying off the former. I was also anxious to visit South Australia for
another meridian distance, those already obtained not being satisfactory,
I wished, moreover, to comply with Sir John Franklin's desire, that we
should set up a monument, dedicated to the memory of poor Flinders, which
he had sent to Port Lincoln, the centre of his honoured commander's most
important discoveries on the south coast of Australia.* The performance
of such a task would have constituted an appropriate conclusion to our
labours on the shores of this great continent; and certainly nothing
could have been more agreeable to our feelings than to be instrumental in
paying a tribute of respect to our distinguished predecessor in the
career of discovery. I shall always regret that we were prevented from
doing so. At the same time I must say, that it will reflect great
discredit on the colony of South Australia, if some portion of its wealth
be not devoted to the erection of a suitable monument to the memory of
Flinders in one of the squares of Adelaide.

(*Footnote. Sir John Franklin was a midshipman with Captain Flinders when
he discovered this part of Australia.)

Strong northerly winds prevented us, as I have above hinted, from closing
with the land, we consequently continued our course to the westward; and
on the twenty-third day arrived at King George's Sound, whence, after
completing our wooding and watering, we sailed on the morning of the 21st
of April. At noon we passed between Bald Head and Vancouver Reef.*

(*Footnote. See plate.)


In the forenoon of the 23rd we saw the lighthouse of Rottnest; and
regarded it with great interest, as the work of the aborigines imprisoned
on the island. I could not avoid indulging in melancholy reflections as I
gazed upon this building, erected by the hands of a people which seemed
destined to perish from the face of the earth without being able to leave
any durable monuments of their existence, except such fabrics as this,
constructed under the control of a conquering race. The time indeed, if
we may judge from past experience, seems not far distant when the
stranger, on approaching the shores of Western Australia, and asking who
erected that lighthouse to guide him in safety to the shore, will be told
it was the work of a people that once were and are now no longer.

Passing over the foul ground extending off the Stragglers, we ran into
Owen's anchorage during the first watch. Whilst waiting to rate the
chronometers several soundings were added to our plan of this place, and
a three-fathom patch, about a quarter of a mile in extent, was
discovered, with nine on either side of it, lying nearly two miles and a
quarter North 39 degrees West from Fremantle gaol.


We also visited Rottnest to inspect the establishment. It had now been a
penal settlement for four years; besides erecting the buildings, the
aboriginal labourers had cleared thirty-four acres of land, chiefly in
detached valleys. These grew thirty-five bushels of wheat to the acre (in
the Port Phillip district the return is about five more to the acre) and
from thirty-four to forty bushels of barley. There are about two thousand
acres of available land in the whole island. The average number of native
convicts is about seventeen, and the expense of the whole establishment
to Government is about 200 pounds per annum; but, under the good
management of superintendent Vincent, it has realized 1500 pounds by the
sale of corn and salt, and allowing for the value of the buildings

His Excellency Governor Hutt had done a great deal for the improvement of
the natives; the schools established for their instruction work
exceedingly well; and I am happy to see that a most important step
towards civilizing them has since been made, a white having taken a
native woman as his wife. This may be regarded as in a great measure the
result of the notice bestowed on them.

No opportunity occurred during our stay of adding to the observations I
had previously made for the longitude of Fremantle (Scott's Jetty);
which, however, is the only part of the continent absolutely determined
during the Beagle's voyage. It is considered to be in longitude 115
degrees 47 minutes 50 seconds East.

Before leaving we received a letter of thanks from his Excellency and the
members of the Legislative Council for the services we had rendered the
colony. My friend Lieutenant Roe presented me, also, with two specimens
of the Spined Lizard Moloch horridus, which I intended to present to Her
Majesty; but, unfortunately, I did not succeed in bringing either of them
alive to England; one, however, lived beyond the Western Islands.


We left Swan River on the evening of the 6th of May, 1843, running out
with a moderate North-East breeze. Everything seemed auspicious. The
water was smooth, and the sails, as they slept in the breeze, echoed back
the sounds of the well-known song, We are homeward bound, that was sung
with an earnestness that could not be mistaken. I fancied I could
discern, in the rough tones of the crew under my command, the existence
of the same emotions that swelled in my own breast at this moment. For
seamen, high and low, though content to pass the greater portion of their
lives upon the world of waters, can never entirely suppress that yearning
for home, which, perhaps, after all, is one of the finest traits in human
nature. And now that it might be legitimately indulged, I was not sorry
to see such strong evidences of its existence.

Ere the last vestige of day had passed, the coast of Australia had faded
from our sight, though not from our memory; for, however much thoughts of
the land to which we were returning crowded on our minds, they could not
as yet entirely obliterate the recollection of that we were quitting. The
Swan River colony--its history, its state, its prospects--naturally
occupied much of our mind. What a change had come over it even since our
visit! From a happy little family, if I may use the expression, it had
grown into a populous colony, in which all the passions, the rivalries,
the loves and the hates of the mother country were in some sort
represented. And yet there remained still much of that old English
hospitality, which rendered our first stay so pleasant, and which almost
made us desire to prolong our last. The alteration that had taken place
was rather to be referred to the increasing number of settlers, which
rendered inevitable the formation of circles more or less exclusive, and
which, with the forms of European society, promised to introduce many of
its defects.

But our thoughts wandered, from time to time, over the whole of this
extraordinary continent, which we saw for the first time in November
1837, at the point from which we took our departure, in May, 1843. The
strange contrasts to the rest of the world which it affords were
enumerated and commented upon--its cherries with their stones growing
outside--its trees, which shed their bark instead of their leaves--its
strange animals--its still stranger population--its mushroom cities--and,
finally, the fact that the approach to human habitations is not announced
by the barking of dogs, but by the barking of trees!*

(*Footnote. The trees in the vicinity of houses are generally barked to
obtain a covering for the roofs.)

Westerly winds carried us into the South-East trade by the 13th, in
latitude 22 degrees 30 minutes South four hundred miles from the
North-west Cape, when our course was directed for the Mauritius. We found
the trade very squally, and on one or two occasions managed to screw as
much as eleven knots out of the old craft.


A little after noon on the 27th we saw Rodrigue Island sooner than we
expected, in consequence of our finding it placed seven miles to the
westward of its true position, even with reference to the meridian of the
Mauritius. Our observations, in passing to southward, made the eastern
end of it 5 degrees 59 minutes East of Port Louis, and 63 degrees 31 3/4
East of Greenwich, latitude 19 degrees 42 minutes South. I was rather
surprised to find this error in the position of Rodrigue, as it is quite
a finger-post for ships on their voyage from India to Great Britain. It
trends east and west for seventeen miles, and is in width about six. For
a volcanic island its features are not very remarkable; the highest part
is a peak or excrescence, 1700 feet high, rising towards the eastern end
out of a rather level ridge.

On the morning of the 29th, the high land of the Mauritius was seen
breaking through the mass of clouds. Passing round the north end of the
island, in the evening we reached Port Louis, where we found a French
man-of-war that had just brought in the crew of a vessel foundered at
sea. Their escape had been one of the most remarkable on record. The ship
was from Liverpool, and was rounding the south-eastern point of Africa
with a strong north-west wind, when she sprang a leak, which increased so
fast, that the crew were ultimately obliged to abandon her and take to
the boats. The sea was so great that they were compelled to run before
the wind, with the prospect only of prolonging their lives for a brief
space, no land lying in that direction.


Providentially, the morning following they found themselves alongside a
French frigate; but the boats were so low in the water that for some time
they escaped observation, and were nearly passed. At length, by waving a
lady's shawl in the air, they attracted the attention of the Frenchmen,
and were taken on board, and treated with an attentive kindness, which
entitled their preservers to the thanks of all who would wish to be so
received under such circumstances. I regret that the name of the captain
of the ship has escaped me; though I remember it being said, that he had
himself been saved on a previous occasion by a Liverpool ship in the
China Sea.

Not long before the arrival of the Beagle in Port Louis, a fleet of
crippled vessels, the victims of a recent hurricane, might have been seen
making their way into the harbour, some dismasted, others kept afloat
with difficulty, firing guns of distress, or giving other signs of their
helpless condition. The monotony of colonial life was suddenly disturbed,
by no means disagreeably to some, as the telegraph told off a succession
of lame ducks, as they were jocularly called, such as seldom or ever had
been witnessed, even at that place. It required but a visit to the bell
buoy, to see at a glance the destructive effects of the storm on the
unfortunate ships.


On the tranquil surface of the harbour lay a group of shattered vessels,
presenting the appearance of floating wrecks. In almost all, the
bulwarks, boats, and everything on deck had been swept away; some, that
were towed in, had lost all their masts, others more or less of their
spars; one had her poop and all its cabins swept away; many had four or
five feet water in the hold, and the clank of the pumps was still kept up
by the weary crew.

Such was the description given me of the circumstances under which the
crowd of vessels that lay at anchor in Port Louis had arrived. I had
anticipated that I should here be enabled to make some important
additions to the notices of hurricanes that have occasionally appeared in
this work; and certainly ample opportunity now presented itself. But I
found that this interesting subject was in more able hands, those,
namely, of Mr. Alexander Thom, of H.M. 86th Regiment, whose valuable
observations have been laid before the public, in a work called, An
Inquiry into the Nature and Course of Storms; a volume that embraces many
important considerations for seamen, to whom, indeed, and to the
ship-owner, Mr. Thom, by his scientific investigations, has proved
himself a true friend.

It is curious that military men should have been the first to study the
causes of hurricanes, and to tell sailors how to avoid their effects; but
that such is the case, the works of Colonel Reid and of my friend Mr.
Thom will testify.

I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of the latter gentleman in
Port Louis. What he considered to be the grand sources of rotatory
storms--winds charged with opposite kinds of electricity and blowing in
opposite directions--appeared to account satisfactorily for the
occurrence of hurricanes in the Pacific, where there are no continents or
chains of mountains to produce them and guide their courses.

As so much has been already written about this interesting island, the
Mauritius, and as, moreover, space forbids, I do not here make use of the
mass of information with which Mr. Thom has kindly furnished me,
respecting its history and resources, and the subject of Coolie labour;
but on some future occasion I may be able to lay it before the public.

During my stay at Port Louis I received much hospitality, particularly
from the family of Colonel Staveley, Commander of the Forces, which I
take this opportunity of acknowledging.

We sailed from the Mauritius on the 10th of June, and on the following
day passed about 20 miles south-east of the Island of Bourbon. It
resembles a large cone emerging from the water; and its features are
strikingly different from those of the Mauritius; the outline is not
softened by luxuriant vegetation, but is sudden and steep and massive.


Southerly and westerly winds brought us in sight of Madagascar on the
16th, and on the same evening, aided by a southerly current of 2 knots an
hour, we were just able to weather its South-East extreme. The features
of this great island that were presented to our view approached the
Alpine, and from a passing glimpse of the small hills near the shore, it
appeared to be a fertile country. This portion of the globe is one of
great interest to the world at large, especially when we know that, if
considered as a naval or military station, it is scarcely equalled by any
in the Indian Ocean; besides having a soil of the best description, and
abounding also in mineral wealth, with timber fit for any purposes, and
thousands of cattle running wild in its valleys. On the afternoon of the
27th we were within seven or eight miles of the land, near the great Fish
River, on the south-eastern coast of Africa, having apparently got within
the eddy of the westerly current, which sweeps round that part of the
coast at the distance of thirty miles with a velocity of from two to five
miles an hour, which we entirely lost after passing Algoa Bay. Within
thirty miles of the latter place we had a strong gale from the southward
of twenty-four hours duration; and on the morning of the 1st of July
arrived at Simon's Bay, in company with Her Majesty's ship Belleisle,
which sailed two days before us from the Mauritius. Nearly six years had
elapsed since our last visit, and little improvement had taken place in
colonial affairs.

(*Footnote. The little difficulty that strangers found in recognizing
this anchorage at night, is now overcome by a light-vessel being placed
near the Roman Rocks; but the streaks of sand, resembling snow, down the
sides of the hills over Simons Bay, and the remarkable break in the high
land over another bay, just to the northward, are sufficient guides of
themselves in clear weather.)

On the 9th we were again on our way homeward. Touching at St. Helena* and
Ascension, we crossed the equator on the forenoon of the 15th, in
longitude 19 degrees 45 minutes West, where we endeavoured to obtain
soundings with 2000 fathoms of line, which parted at 1600 fathoms.
Respecting deep-sea soundings, there are some sceptical persons who, in
consequence of the bottom not being brought up from the great depths
reported to have been found, are inclined to doubt that soundings were
actually obtained on those occasions.

(*Footnote. This place is famed for its large flying-fish, of which some
are from 18 to 24 inches in length: and not a little so, for those
monsters of the finny tribe called sharks. In the Admiralty book of
directions, the fact is related of an artillery-man being found fully
accoutred in the stomach of one taken there.)


On the 24th a continuation of westerly winds* brought us in sight of St.
Jago and Bravo, of the Cape de Verd Group; on passing which we got the
North-East trade, and, after staying a part of the 10th and 11th at
Fayal, where we met Her Majesty's Steamer Styx, Captain Vidal, who, on
parting, gave us three hearty farewell cheers, we did not, in consequence
of easterly winds, arrive at Spithead until the 30th day of September,
after an absence of upwards of six years. During this period we only lost
two men, and preserved throughout almost the same spars** and boats,***
we left Plymouth with in 1831. From Portsmouth we proceeded round to
Woolwich, where the ship was paid off on the 18th of October, 1843.

(*Footnote. Ships availing themselves of these winds, when, also, the
westerly current ceases near the equator, might, by running away to the
eastward in them, shorten the passage to either Ascension or St. Helena.)

(**Footnote. I have already mentioned that the Beagle was fitted with Mr.
Snow Harris's lightning conductors; the fact mentioned in the text is
ample proof that they do not weaken even the smallest spars.)

(***Footnote. It is in justice due to say, that the boats were chiefly
built by Mr. Johns, of Plymouth Dockyard.)


After giving the men their certificates, I loitered a short time to
indulge in those feelings that naturally arose on taking a final leave of
the poor old Beagle at the same place where I first joined her in 1825.
Many events have occurred since my first trip to sea in her: I have seen
her under every variety of circumstances, placed in peculiar situations
and fearful positions, from nearly the antarctic to the tropic, cooled by
the frigid clime of the extreme of South America, or parched by the heats
of North Australia; under every vicissitude, from the grave to the gay, I
have struggled along with her; and after wandering together for eighteen
years, a fact unprecedented in the service, I naturally parted from her
with regret. Her movements, latterly, have been anxiously watched, and
the chances are that her ribs will separate, and that she will perish in
the river* where she was first put together. She has made herself as
notorious as during the war did her namesake, that reaped golden opinions
from her success in prize-making; while my old friend has extensively
contributed to our geographical knowledge.

(*Footnote. The Beagle, now employed in the Preventive Service, is moored
in Crouch Creek, near South End.)


There was only one drawback to the pleasure I experienced on arriving in
England--namely, that Lieutenant G. Gore did not obtain his promotion,
but was compelled to seek it by a second voyage to the North Pole. All
the mates were, in the course of a short time, promoted, and the ship's
company received the favour of having half of their slop bill deducted,
an indulgence which the Lords of the Admiralty, from the kindest and most
considerate motives, have in some instances bestowed upon the crews of
surveying vessels, on their return from distant voyages. This boon,
however, in some instances, operates unfairly. In the first place, it
often happens, in spite of the strictest surveillance, that the worst
characters will, if they can, take up the greatest quantity of slops,
which they convert either into money or grog, whenever an opportunity
presents itself. The really steady men generally look clean and neat as
long as possible, without much assistance from the purser. Then again,
the boats' crews of all surveying vessels are necessarily so much more
exposed, that they not only the sooner wear out their ordinary clothing,
but absolutely require additional comforts in that way. I am therefore
strongly of opinion that, in this department (and I speak from
experience) the Captain should be allowed a certain portion of slops, to
be placed at his disposal, and distributed under his sole authority; or
might not he be enabled to recommend a certain number of the best men for
a small increase upon their regular pay? This judicious exercise of
discretion would be the means of retaining in this important branch of
the service, a class of men who would become most valuable to their
officers when engaged in the arduous and responsible duties of a survey.

As in the Royal Engineers, a great deal of the superior talent of the
officers might be better bestowed, by abandoning to the petty officers
the rougher part of the surveying work, in which calculation is not
required. For this purpose, a kind of instruction might be imparted,
which that class of men, if encouraged by extra pay, is capable of
receiving, particularly those who have had the advantage of a Greenwich

To strengthen the suggestions I have made regarding the surveying
service, I cannot refrain from alluding--and I do so with honest
pride--both to the actions in China, and the very recent gallant
destruction of the Argentine batteries in the River Parana, as instances
of the importance of this branch of the profession in time of war. During
peace the new countries that are explored, and the new fields of commerce
that are opened to the world, will speak for themselves.





The winds on the western coast of Australia, are, for the most part, from
some southern point--chiefly between South-South-West and

During the summer, or from the early part of October to the beginning of
April, they are almost constant from this quarter; but in the winter
their regularity is broken in upon by occasional winds between north and
west that at times blow with great violence, and are accompanied by heavy
rain, and thick dirty weather.

Near the shore, land and seabreezes appear to be regular, the former
generally dying away towards the middle of the day, after having reached
as far as East from about South-East at sunrise; then follows a short
interval of calm, after which, the seabreeze sets in, mostly at
South-South-West, and draws to the eastward of south in the evening.

At times the land wind veers round the compass, and is then generally
stronger than usual; blowing fresh for a short time from North-East, and
bringing a parching heat from the land; upon these occasions the
seabreeze comes in from a more western point, and is lighter.

At Swan River, in the months of December, January, and February, the
seabreezes are very strong, for intervals of from three to five days;
during which time they blow fresh throughout the night--drawing to the
southward after midnight, and towards sunrise to South-South-East and
South-East, but more moderate. In the middle of the day, they back again
to the southward, and soon to South-South-West, from which quarter they
blow very fresh until midnight.

Intervals of such weather are from three to five days' duration, and are
followed by the like number of days of moderate weather, with winds
mostly off the land; sometimes strong gusts from the east, for a few
hours, with oppressively hot weather.

I have noticed, that when the seabreeze sets in from a point to the
westward of South-West, it does not blow so strong, and generally lulls
at sunset; but if more southerly, or from South-South-West, it is a fiery
breeze, and often lasts until midnight.

During the prevalence of these strong seabreezes, communication between
Gage Road and the shore is very inconvenient--particularly for laden

In March, the seabreezes are not nearly so strong, but are generally
moderate, and not unfrequently bring in thick misty weather from
southwards, with drizzling rain.

Generally speaking, when the seabreezes are the strongest, the land winds
are light, and vice versa.

I cannot speak from experience of the winds or weather during the month
of April, at Swan River, but have been told that the seabreezes are
moderate, and the land winds of longer duration; calms are frequent--and
the weather altogether seems to indicate the breaking up of the summer
season; light winds are occasionally felt from the northward, with a
dull, gloomy appearance between that point and South-West.

May is the month in which the winter weather fairly sets in, and it
rarely happens that the middle of this month passes without the rains
having commenced. This season seems to vary but little as to the time and
manner of setting in--it is ushered in by blowing weather, from about
North-North-East, the wind gradually veering round to the westward, as it
increases in strength. The first of this weather usually lasts from a
week to fourteen days; then comes an interval of fine weather, generally
of a fortnight's duration, and sometimes a month; after which the rains
set in more constant, and the intervals of fine weather are shorter; this
weather lasts until October, and at times throughout that month.

During the intervals of fine weather the climate is delightful, and the
country has a fresh and pleasing appearance; land and seabreezes are as
regular as in summer, with the exception, that the latter are much more

The North-West gales that occasionally occur during the winter months, on
the southern parts of the west coast of Australia, are probably felt as
far north as Shark's Bay. They blow with great violence, and are
accompanied by dark, gloomy weather, and rain. It is then unsafe to be
near the land--as the gale that commences at North-North-East, invariably
veers to the westward, making a lee shore of the whole line of coast, and
between West-North-West and West-South-West blows the hardest.

Fortunately these gales give ample warning; the barometer always
foretells their approach, and generally begins to fall three or four days
before the commencement of the gale--besides which, there are other
never-failing indications of a northerly wind, such as, the change of the
current, which (owing to the prevailing southerly winds) usually sets to
the northward, but runs strong to the southward during northerly
winds--frequently preceding them, and giving more timely notice than the

A rising of the water is likewise a certain prognostic of a northerly
wind; and has been invariably noticed, at Swan River, to precede all
gales from that quarter--this, of course, can only be observed while at
anchor on the coast.

Another, and perhaps equally certain sign of approaching bad weather,
during the winter season (and which is almost certain to be from the
northward) is the strength of the North-East winds--as it has been
observed, that when the land winds blow strong, particularly from the
North-East and the seabreezes are light, with a falling barometer, a gale
from the northward will follow. Perhaps these latter remarks, are only
applicable to that distance from the shore, where a ship will be within
the influence of the land and seabreezes; but as I conceive the limit of
that distance to be full 30 miles off shore, a notice of such a symptom
of approaching bad weather, may not be altogether useless. I am of
opinion, that land winds are at times felt as far off shore as the edge
of soundings, which is not less than 30 miles, and generally between that
and 40.

(In latitude 30 degrees 25 minutes South and 65 miles from the land,
soundings were got from the Beagle, with 185 fathoms of line, upon a
coral bottom. Between Swan River and Houtman's Abrolhos, soundings may be
had at a greater distance from the land, than off any other part of the
west coast.)

The North-West gales are of longer duration, in the latitude of Swan
River, and south of that, than they are to the northward; they do not
appear to be entirely confined to the winter months, as I am told that a
very heavy one was experienced at Swan River, early in March, 1832, and
on the 13th December, 1839, the Beagle experienced a strong breeze from
the northward, while at anchor in Gage Road, in consequence of which, it
was considered necessary to let go an extra anchor.

As it may be satisfactory to know more particularly the progress of these
gales, and the effect they have upon the barometer and sympiesometer, I
give the details of two that were experienced in H.M.S. Beagle, one at
Swan River, in the beginning of June 1838, the other at Houtman's
Abrolhos, in the beginning of May 1840; they may be taken as fair
criterions of the strength and duration of these gales, the latter having
been experienced, probably, within 5 degrees of their northern limit, and
the former near the southern extreme of the west coast.

As our barometer had been broken in March 1838, the register of a
sympiesometer will be given in describing the gale of June in that year;
but as this instrument had been found (by comparison with the barometer)
to act exceedingly well, it will be sufficient for our purpose; the
GENERAL use of a marine barometer being merely that of a weather glass,
for which purpose a sympiesometer is equally good, and more sensitive.

For the gale of 1840, the register of a barometer is shown, which,
although 0.2 too low, will serve to show the effect upon the mercury.

At Swan River, on the 24th of May, 1838, the wind was strong and squally
from North-East by North; sympiesometer standing at 30.74. During the day
the oil commenced to fall, and continued falling slowly until the 30th,
when it was 30.16; during the greater part of this interval, the winds
were light, generally from some eastern point in the morning, and going
round the compass, by north and west, during the day; the nights were
mostly calm, a heavy bank of clouds was collecting between
North-North-East and South-West and the whole western horizon had a
gloomy appearance. On the evening of the 30th, the water had risen
considerably at the anchorage, and the stream ran to the southward; a
fresh breeze also set in from North-East and gradually veered to the
northward, as it increased in strength. On the 31st it blew hard all day,
between North-North-East and North-North-West, with dark squally weather,
much lightning in South-West and heavy rain, that continued all night. On
June the 1st, the gale was at its height, and at 8 A.M. (the
sympiesometer having fallen to 29.93) was blowing a hard gale, with heavy
squalls and rain, from North-West; towards noon the wind veered to west,
but still blew very hard; the sympiesometer now began to rise, and in the
evening the wind was West-South-West and had moderated considerably, the
weather was also clearer, although heavy clouds still hung on the western

The next morning (the 2nd) the sympiesometer had risen to 30.26; but this
was much too sudden a rise (0.33 in 24 hours) to allow us to suppose,
that the favourable change in the weather was to be of long continuance;
during the day the oil began to fall again, and the wind veered to West
and North-West and on the 3rd blew harder than ever, with heavy rain,
thunder, and lightning; and, with the exception of occasional intervals,
when the wind moderated, this weather continued until the 10th. The wind
during this time was variable, between North-North-West and
West-South-West, the sympiesometer between 29.81 and 30.16--falling with
the North-West winds, and rising as the wind veered to west and

This gale, which may be said to have been of ten days' continuance,
caused a very heavy sea upon the coast; the oldest residents at Swan
River said they had never experienced so heavy a sea before. On the 10th
the glass commenced to rise steadily, and the weather was fine, with
light variable winds, until the Beagle sailed (on the 20th).

Owing to the security of Owen's anchorage, and the good quality of the
bottom, the Beagle rode out this bad weather, without causing the
slightest apprehension to anyone on board; but had a merchant vessel been
in Gage Road, in all probability, she would have added one more to the
list of wrecks, that have already done too much in prejudicing strangers
against the Swan River settlement.

The gale of May, 1840, at Houtman's Abrolhos, commenced in a similar
manner with that already described, but being in a lower latitude, was of
shorter duration, and the indications did not precede it such a length of
time; still they were in every respect similar.

This gale commenced on the 2nd of May, in the evening, and lasted until
the evening of the 4th.
on April the 29th, the barometer stood at 30.17 (having been some days
steadily high); it then commenced to fall, and on the evening of May the
2nd, was 29.86; during this interval we daily experienced strong
East-North-East and North-East winds; they generally commenced after
midnight, and lasted until noon; a bank of clouds was also collecting in
the North-West and there was occasional lightning in that quarter; the
early part of May the 2nd was nearly calm, and there was a heavy bank of
clouds between North and South-West. After noon a light breeze sprang up
from North-West which gradually freshened; and during the night the
barometer fell 17-hundredths.

At sunrise on May the 3rd, there was a fresh breeze from North-North-West
and the weather had a very dull and gloomy appearance, the wind
increasing rapidly, and by noon it blew a heavy gale at West-North-West;
the barometer had fallen to 29.58, at which it continued until midnight,
when the wind drew to the southward of west, and the mercury began to
rise. The gale continued unabated, with squalls and rain, until noon of
the 4th, although the barometer had been rising since the previous
midnight; in the afternoon the wind moderated, and the weather became

From this it would appear that the barometer gives ample warning of an
approaching North-West gale, as it had been falling nearly four days
before the commencement of the bad weather, this alone ought to be
sufficient to put a man upon his guard if near the shore. Between April
the 29th (the first day of the fresh north-easterly winds) and May the
3rd (when the gale was at its height, and the wind began to draw to the
southward of west) the mercury had fallen 6-tenths. The change of current
did not precede the wind, but changed with it; when the gale was strong
from North-West and West-North-West the current ran a knot an hour to the
South-East, and when the wind changed to South-West it ran with the same
velocity to the North-East.

The west coast of New Holland is at times visited by sudden squalls,
resembling hurricanes. I was told by the master of an American whaler,
that in March 1839, when in company with several whalers off Sharks' Bay,
he experienced some very bad weather, which came on suddenly, without
having given any previous warning, but it was not of long continuance;
the gusts of wind were very violent, shifting suddenly to all points of
the compass. Some of the ships suffered considerable damage, in loss of
topmasts, etc. others in sails, but all more or less. I think the first
squall was from North-East off the land.

The American whalers that resort to the west coast of Australia, are upon
different parts of it at all seasons of the year; their range is between
the parallel of 10 and 50 degrees of south latitude. In the summer they
fish to the southward, and at that season visit Swan River and King
George's Sound, for refreshments; but during the winter months they are
rarely to the southward of Sharks' Bay; numbers are to be met off the
North-West Cape.

Between the parallels of 40 and 45 degrees they meet much bad weather, as
it is generally blowing strong with a heavy sea; but between 45 and 50
degrees the weather is much more settled, and finer. November is said to
be generally the finest of the summer months, the winds are mostly
moderate, and the weather more settled than at other periods.

Two gales that were experienced by the Beagle in November 1837, between
the islands of St. Paul and Amsterdam and Swan River, will serve to show
the different effects upon the barometer by gales from opposite quarters,
one being from North-West and the other from South-East.

On November the 1st, the barometer stood at 29.90, having been gradually
rising for some days previous to that, and the wind had been fresh
between north and west. After 8 P.M. on the 1st, the mercury began to
fall, and on the 2nd, the wind was strong from
North-North-West--barometer falling all day. During the night it blew a
heavy gale, and the barometer fell to 29.34. On the morning of the 3rd
the wind veered to the westward, and the mercury began to rise, the
weather also became more moderate, and gradually fine.

On the 8th of the same month, the barometer was 30.05 at 8 P.M. with fine
weather, wind South-East by East, it then commenced to fall, and at 8
P.M. on the 9th was 29.80, and blowing a heavy gale at South-East, which
continued all night, and until 8 P.M. on the 10th, at which time it
became more moderate, and the barometer began to rise.

What a different effect these gales had on the barometer; that from the
North-West causing the mercury to fall nearly 6-tenths, whereas, the
last, from South-East only lowered it 2-tenths, and 5-hundredths; they
were of equal strength and duration, and both accompanied by heavy rain.



The great extent of the North-West coast of Australia, lying as it does
between the parallels of 12 and 22 degrees of south latitude, no doubt
subjects it to a variety of winds and weather, that is not experienced on
the north coast; although, on that part of it north of the parallel of 15
degrees, there is probably much similarity.

As I cannot speak with certainty of the winds and weather that prevail on
this extent of coast, at all seasons of the year, the following remarks
will be confined to such portions of it as were visited by the Beagle,
and will apply only to the particular seasons in which she was employed

To the eastward of the meridian of 123 degrees east longitude, and at a
short distance from the land, the east and west monsoons will be found
regular; but the easterly monsoon is very light to the southward of 13
degrees latitude.

Between Clarence Straits and Cambridge Gulf, and during the months of
September, October, November, and December, the wind during the day is a
seabreeze between North-West and West. In September, and until the middle
of October, we found the wind as follows: About sunrise, a light breeze
sprang up from South-East or East which gradually drew to the northward
towards the middle of the day, in the afternoon, a seabreeze from
North-West or west, becoming light towards sunset, but freshening again
soon after that, and blowing a moderate and pleasant breeze between
North-West and South-West all night.

During the latter part of the period (November and December) the winds
were more constantly from the West or West-North-West, blowing from that
quarter throughout the twenty-four hours, but much more moderate at night
than during the day; at full and change of the moon, the breezes were
much stronger than at other times, and upon one or two occasions, at the
time of the moon's quartering, there was a light breeze from South-East
in the morning.

During the month of November, the ship was at anchor, twelve miles within
the entrance to Victoria River, and sixty-five from Point Pearce, on the
sea coast. For the first three weeks of this time, the seabreeze was
regular from North-West or West-North-West, generally setting in about
noon, and lasting the greater part of the night; in the mornings, and
until noon, it was mostly calm, or very light winds from the northward.
In the last week of this month the weather was very unsettled and
squally, with much thunder and lightning, and rain, the wind mostly
between South-East and North-East; after which, the westerly breezes set
in again, and continued until we left the coast in the middle of

During the whole of this period the westerly winds did not appear to come
from any distance, but to be merely local seabreezes, as they did not
cause any sea upon the coast, nor did they reach far in shore; as we
frequently observed smoke at no great distance from the coast, rising
perpendicularly, or influenced by a light south-easterly wind, and this
at times when the seabreeze was strong. From this it would appear, that
the westerly monsoon had not reached so far to the southward, nor did we
find, after sailing from Point Pearce, that the winds were at all steady
from the westward, until we had reached to the northward of Cape
Londonderry, which is in latitude 13 degrees 45 minutes South. To the
northward of this, the winds were from the westward, accompanied by fine
weather during the day to the southward of that point--sometimes as far
as South-West--and at night inclining to the northward of west, but
generally speaking, we found the wind to the southward of west, and the
current running from half a mile to a mile an hour to the North or

The currents between New Holland and Timor, are said to run to the
westward, during the easterly monsoon--and in the opposite direction with
the westerly; but they seem to be influenced by every trifling change of
wind--as on the 20th, 21st, 22nd, and 23rd of December (when the westerly
monsoon might be supposed at its height) we experienced light, variable
winds, between South-East and East-North-East--during which period the
current ran to the westward--at times, a knot an hour. We were then
between the parallels of 11 1/2 and 13 degrees, south of which we
experienced winds between South-South-West and West until we were to the
southward of the North-West Cape, when they became more southerly, and at
times South-South-East (in January). Throughout all this period, the
weather was fine, and different from what was expected during the
westerly monsoon.

All that part of the North-West coast of New Holland, between the
North-West Cape, and Cape Londonderry, appears to be very much subjected
to light winds, particularly during the easterly monsoon, the strength of
which is not felt to the southward of 13 or 14 degrees of south latitude.
During the westerly monsoon, strong winds and gales from the North-West
at times blow upon the coast, but they do not appear to be frequent. The
strongest winds at this season, are the heavy squalls between
East-South-East and North-East (and which may with propriety be termed
hurricane squalls); fortunately they are not of long duration, rarely
lasting over two hours. They give ample warning of their approach, by the
gathering of a heavy bank of clouds between North-East and South-East,
and much lightning in that quarter. Appearances such as these frequently
precede the squall some days, but coming gradually nearer (to the
westward). The barometer shows no indication of approaching bad weather,
being only acted upon by the immediate change; these squalls mostly occur
in the night, or between sunset and sunrise.

During the latter part of the westerly monsoon, on that part of the coast
between Cape Villaret and Point Swan, we found the weather remarkably
fine, with the exception of an occasional short, but severe squall, from
the eastward. During the day there was generally a moderate seabreeze
between North-West and South-West commencing in the forenoon, and lasting
sometimes nearly until midnight--on which occasions it blew strongest
during the night); during the other part of the twenty-four hours the
wind was light from the eastward or calm. Captain King experienced
similar weather in August.

It was not until we had reached Point Swan, in latitude 16 degrees 20
minutes South that we experienced any of the bad weather that is usually
met with, at this season of the year, a few degrees to the northward; it
commenced in the last week of January, and continued until the middle of
February, during which period, there were some strong gales from the
westward, between North-West and South-West accompanied by heavy rain,
thunder and lightning; but although there was a good deal of dirty
weather, it was by no means constant, as there were occasional intervals
of fine weather, with moderate westerly winds. This was the only bad
weather on this part of the coast, during the season, that could be said
to be caused by the westerly monsoon, if we except the East-South-East
squalls, that do not occur in the easterly monsoon.

While this weather lasted, the easterly squalls were quite suspended, and
the heavy bank of clouds that had generally been noticed in the
South-East had dispersed for the time; but after the strong westerly
winds had ceased, the weather was generally fine, and the wind mostly
from some western point; there were occasional showers, and the clouds in
the eastern horizon resumed their threatening appearance, bringing some
hard squalls, and rain from that quarter. In the middle of March (being
the time when equinoctial gales are looked for in most parts of the
world) there were two or three days of squally, unsettled weather, with
rain, that seemed to terminate the season of the westerly monsoon. After
the 1st of April, the weather was invariably fine, and the easterly
squalls had ceased to trouble us; land and seabreezes became regular, and
the easterly monsoon had no doubt set in to the northward; the strongest
breezes now were from South-East but, generally speaking, the winds were
very light near the land.

It does not appear that the westerly monsoon blows with any degree of
regularity, to the southward of the 13th degree of south latitude;
although for some degrees south of that, the weather is influenced by it,
and winds between West-North-West and South-West will be experienced, and
from the appearances on many parts of the coast, there are no doubt
strong gales at times from the westward, that send in a very heavy sea.
During the easterly monsoon, the weather is fine on the North-West coast,
particularly in the months of May, June, July, and August; this is
undoubtedly the best time for visiting it; land and seabreezes are
regular, and the temperature is very agreeable.

The average range of the thermometer on that part of the coast, between
the North-West Cape, and the meridian of 120 degrees east longitude,
during the above-mentioned period, was between 75 degrees in the middle
of the day, and 60 degrees at night, on board the ship, and the general
course of the wind as follows, viz.

About sunrise, or sometimes a little before that, a breeze springs up
between South and South-South-East and draws to the eastward as the sun
rises, rapidly increasing in strength, and between 8 and 11 A.M. often
blows a fiery breeze; towards noon it moderates, and rarely lasts until 2
P.M., after which there is a light breeze from North-East which at times
reaches to north; the nights are mostly calm, or a light breeze from the
south-westward; at the full and change of the moon, we found the
south-easterly winds stronger than at other times; dews at times very

All this part of the coast is subject to the effects of mirage, by which
its outline is at times very much distorted, but generally speaking it
ceases with the strength of the breeze, and as the sun attains a little
altitude. When the effects of mirage was observed in the morning, I
noticed that the winds were much lighter throughout the day, than usual.

During this part of the year, the atmosphere is clear, with a cloudless
sky, and the coast is exempted from the violent East-South-East squalls,
that are of frequent occurrence, while the sun is in the southern
hemisphere, and the land consequently very much heated.

Towards the latter end of August, and in September, the winds are not
quite so regular, and there are occasional intervals of two or three days
of westerly winds.

That part of the North-West coast between the North-West Cape, and the
116th degree of east longitude, seems to be subject to westerly winds at
all times of the year. The prevailing southerly winds that blow along the
west coast, appear to draw round the Cape, and follow the direction of
the land. Between April and October (when the easterly monsoon is blowing
to the northward) they are generally to the southward of west, or between
that point and South-West, but during the westerly monsoon between West
and North-West.

Upon getting to the westward of the North-West Cape, the wind becomes
more southerly, and draws to the eastward of south as the distance from
the land increases, and will be found varying between South-South-East
and East-South-East, generally speaking as far south as the parallel of
30 degrees of south latitude, after which it is mostly to the westward of
south, so that ships making a passage to the southward, along the west
coast of New Holland, will rarely be able to make any easting, before
reaching that latitude, particularly during the summer months. In the
winter a ship may occasionally make a quick passage to the southward, if
happening to be upon the coast during a northerly gale; and as all these
gales are preceded by North-East winds, a sufficient offing may be gained
to enable her to run on, when the wind gets to the southward of west.



That part of the coast of New Holland from Cape York to Cape Van Diemen,
and extending as far south as the parallel of 12 degrees south latitude,
may be said to be within the limit of the east and west monsoons, as at a
short distance from the coast, these periodical winds will be found to
blow with great regularity.

Near the land, the easterly monsoon sets in between the 1st and middle of
April, and the westerly monsoon in October, and sometimes not until
November. At a distance from the land they are probably more regular, as
the changes of the monsoons are said to take place about the first week
in April and October.

In the month of July, we found the winds between Booby Island and Port
Essington, fresh from the eastward, veering at times to East-South-East
and occasionally to South-East but rarely to the northward of east. Close
to the land these winds are not so constant, but take more the character
of land and seabreezes, and the nights are mostly calm; this we found to
be the case during part of the months of July and August, while at anchor
in Port Essington. The general course of the winds during that period was
as follows. A little before sunrise, a breeze sprang up from South or
South-South-East which gradually became more easterly as the sun
approached the meridian; sometimes in the middle of the day, it was light
from the eastward, or calm, and at other times veered gradually to
North-East, from which quarter there came a fresh seabreeze every
afternoon; this breeze lasted until sunset, and at times later, but the
nights were always calm.

We experienced similar winds between Melville Island and Port Essington,
but being a short distance from the land, the nights were not calm,
although the winds were very light.

During the easterly monsoon, it is difficult to get to the eastward, as
at a few miles from the land the current is always running to the
westward, and runs strong past the projecting points; but by contriving
to be near the land at daylight, at which time the wind is always more
southerly, something may be gained.

At Port Essington, the rainy season can scarcely be said to set in before
the middle of November; there is then, squally, dirty weather, with rain
from the westward and North-West, and at this season, there are at times
heavy squalls from South-East accompanied by rain, thunder, and

In 1838, the westerly monsoon set in at Port Essington, in the first week
in November; there had been no rain before that.


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