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Narrative Of The Voyage Of H.M.S. Rattlesnake, Commanded By The Late Captain Owen Stanley, R.N., F.R.S. Etc. During The Years 1846-1850. Including Discoveries And Surveys In New Guinea, The Louisiade Archipelago, Etc. To Which Is Added The Account Of Mr. E.B. Kennedy's Expedition For The Exploration Of The Cape York Peninsula. By John Macgillivray, F.R.G.S. Naturalist To The Expedition. In Two Volumes. Volume 1. by John MacGillivray

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(*Footnote. Since the survey of Endeavour Strait in 1844 by Lieutenant
Yule in the Bramble (then attached to the Fly under Captain F.P.
Blackwood) several sunken rocks have been discovered, thereby lessening
the value of the passage through the Strait, as others, yet undetected,
to be found only by sweeping for them, may be presumed to exist. Captain
Stanley was strongly of opinion that the Prince of Wales Channel was far
preferable, especially for large ships, to Endeavour Strait.)


November 9th.

Since leaving Booby Island, the weather has been fine with light easterly
winds, the westerly monsoon in these seas not usually setting in until
the month of December. We first made the land in the neighbourhood of
Cape Croker, and soon afterwards saw the beacon on Point Smith. Entering
Port Essington we ran up the harbour, and anchored off the settlement of
Victoria early in the afternoon.

On landing and walking over the place after an absence of more than three
years, I might naturally have looked for some signs of improvement in the
appearance of the settlement and condition of the unfortunate residents,
had I not been aware of the non-progressive nature of the system which
had long been established there. I saw no such indications of prosperity
except in the flourishing and improved appearance of the coconut-trees
now in full bearing, as if nature boldly asserted her rights in
opposition to the dormant or even retrograde condition of everything else
in the place.


We found the settlement in a ruinous condition. Even the hospital, the
best building in the place, had the roof in such a state that when rain
came on some of the patients' beds had to be shifted, and the surgeon
found it necessary to protect his own bed by a tent-like canopy. With few
exceptions, everyone was dissatisfied, and anxiously looked forward to
the happy time when the party should be relieved, or the settlement
finally abandoned. The unhealthiness* of the place, so often denied, had
now shown itself in an unequivocal manner; everyone had suffered from
repeated attacks of intermittent fever, and another fever of a more
deadly character had occasionally made its appearance, and, operating
upon previously debilitated constitutions, frequently proved fatal.

(*Footnote. As illustration of this point, I would direct attention to
the following tabular view of the Detachment of Marines at Port
Essington, from the time of the arrival of the SECOND party to their
final departure, embracing a period of five years. I have not been able
to procure any authentic statement of the mortality among the FIRST

November 19th, 1844:
Found there: 1 officer, 0 men.
Arrived by Cadet: 3 officers, 52 men.

Arrived by Freak: 2 officers, 6 men.

Total: 6 officers, 58 men.

Died: 1 officer, 12 men.
Were invalided: 1 officer, 13 men.

November 30th, 1849:
Were taken away by Meander: 4 officers, 33 men.

Total: 6 officers, 58 men.

I may remark that, although it would obviously be unjust to suppose that
all the cases of death and invaliding are to be attributed to the effects
of the climate, yet the loss of the services of twenty-seven men out of
fifty-eight in five years by these means, clearly proves the
unhealthiness of the place. Another may be added to the list, for Captain
Macarthur was shortly afterwards invalided in Sydney, a victim to the
climate of Port Essington.)

There can, I think, be little doubt that much of the unhealthiness of the
garrison depended upon local influences. The situation of Victoria, at
the distance of sixteen miles from the open sea on the shores of an
almost land-locked harbour, was unfavourable for salubrity, although in
other respects judiciously chosen. Occasionally for days together the
seabreeze has not reached as far up as the settlement, and the heat has
been almost stifling; usually however the seabreeze set in during the
forenoon, and after blowing for some hours was succeeded by a calm, often
interrupted by a gentle land-wind. Within 400 yards of the hospital a
great extent of mud overgrown with mangroves, dry at low-water, must have
exercised a prejudicial influence; at times while crossing this swamp,
the putrid exhalations have induced a feeling almost amounting to nausea.
And if anything more than another shows the comparative unhealthiness of
the site of the settlement, it is the fact, that invalids sent to Point
Smith (at the entrance of the harbour) or Coral Bay--both of which places
are within the full influence of the seabreeze--speedily recovered,
although relapses on their return to Victoria were not infrequent.


Even in the important article of food--setting aside other secondary
stores--the Port Essington garrison have almost always been badly
supplied. I have seen them obliged to use bread which was not fit for
human food--the refuse of the stock on hand at the close of the war in
China, and yet there was none better to be got. In short, I believe, as I
stated some years ago in a Colonial paper, that there is probably no
vessel in Her Majesty's navy, no matter where serving, the men of which
are not better supplied with all the necessaries and comforts of life
than are the residents at Port Essington. All these have volunteered for
the place, but their preconceived ideas formed in England almost always
on reaching the place gave way to feelings of regret at the step they had
taken; I well remember the excitement in the settlement, and the feelings
of joy everywhere expressed, when in October 1845, the first party
learned that their relief had arrived.


I shall now proceed to make some remarks upon Port Essington, ere the
subject becomes a matter of history, as I fervently hope the abandonment
of the place will render it ere many years have gone by;* but before
doing so I may premise a brief account of the former British settlements
on the north coast of Australia.**

(*Footnote. Port Essington was finally abandoned on November 30th, 1849,
when the garrison and stores were removed to Sydney by H.M.S. Meander,
Captain the Honourable H. Keppel. I may mention that most of the remarks
in this chapter relative to Port Essington appear as they were originally
written in my journal soon after leaving the place in the Rattlesnake;
they are mostly a combination of the observations made during three
visits, at intervals of various lengths, including a residence in 1844,
of upwards of four months. I am also anxious to place on record a
somewhat connected but brief account of the Aborigines, as I have seen
many injudicious remarks and erroneous statements regarding them, and as
it is only at Port Essington, for the whole extent of coastline between
Swan River and Cape York, that we were able to have sufficient
intercourse with them to arrive at even a moderate degree of acquaintance
with their manners, customs, and language.)

(**Footnote. See Voyage round the World by T.B. Wilson, M.D.)

The British Government having determined to form an establishment on the
northern coast of Australia, Captain J.J. Gordon Bremer, with H.M.S.
Tamar, sailed from Sydney in August 1824, in company with two store ships
and a party of military and convicts, the latter chiefly mechanics. On
September 20th, they arrived at Port Essington, when formal possession
was taken of the whole of the coast between the 129th and 135th meridians
of east longitude.


A sufficiency of fresh water not being found at this place it was
determined to proceed to Melville Island, where they arrived on the 30th,
and commenced forming the settlement of Fort Dundas in Apsley Strait.
This settlement, however, after an existence of four years, was abandoned
on March 31st, 1829, in consequence of the continued unfavourable
accounts transmitted to the Home Government. Hostilities with the natives
had early commenced, and several lives were lost on either side.


Meanwhile in anticipation of the abandonment of Melville Island, it had
been resolved to found a second settlement upon the north coast of
Australia. For this purpose, H.M.S. Success, Captain Stirling, with a
convoy of three vessels conveying troops, convicts, stores, and
provisions, sailed from Sydney, and arrived at Raffles Bay on June 17th,
1827. Next day the new settlement of Fort Wellington was formed. A grand
error was made in the very beginning, for the site was chosen behind a
mudbank, dry at low tides, in order to secure proximity to a lagoon of
fresh water, which after all disappeared towards the close of the dry
season. At first the natives committed many depredations, chiefly during
the night. About a month after the founding of the settlement, it was
thought necessary to order the sentries to fire upon the natives whenever
they approached, and on one occasion they were greeted with a discharge
of grape-shot. At length one of the soldiers was speared, and in reprisal
a party was sent out, which, coming unexpectedly upon a camp of natives,
killed and wounded several, including a woman and two children. When the
Bugis paid their annual visit to the coast several prahus remained to
fish for trepang under the protection of the settlement. Of the
healthiness of the place the medical officer states: "There is no endemic
disease here. The climate of the place surpasses every other as far as I
know, which is equally as near the equator; and were it not for the great
height of atmospheric temperature, I should consider this one of the best
in the world." However, two years after the foundation of the settlement,
when hostilities with the natives had ceased, and a friendly intercourse
had been established--when the Bugis had already taken advantage of the
protection of Europeans to carry on the trepang fishery in the bay--when
the reported unhealthiness of the climate had never exhibited itself--in
short when the settlement had been brought into a flourishing state,
orders were suddenly received for its entire abandonment, which were
carried into effect on August 29th, 1829.


Eight years afterwards, Government resolved for the fourth time to
establish a settlement on the north coast of Australia, with the double
view of affording shelter to the crews of vessels wrecked in Torres
Strait, and of endeavouring to throw open to British enterprise the
neighbouring islands of the Indian Archipelago. For this purpose, H.M.S.
Alligator, under the command of Captain J.J. Gordon Bremer, and H.M.S.
Britomart (Lieutenant Owen Stanley) were sent out, and left Sydney for
Port Essington in September 1837. Another vessel with stores accompanied
the Alligator, and both arrived at Port Essington on October 27th of the
same year. Soon afterwards, upon a site for the settlement being chosen,
the necessary operations were commenced, and by the end of May in the
following year, the preliminary arrangements having been completed, the
Alligator left, and Captain John Macarthur, R.M., with a subaltern,
assistant-surgeon, storekeeper, and a linguist, together with a
detachment of forty marines, remained in charge of the new settlement.
The Britomart remained behind for several years as a tender to this naval
station, or military post--for either term is equally applicable, and was
afterwards succeeded in her charge by H.M.S. Royalist. In October 1845
the remains of the original party which had been there for seven years
(including also a small detachment sent down from China) were relieved by
a draft from England of two subalterns, an assistant-surgeon, and
fifty-two rank and file of the Royal Marines, Captain Macarthur still
remaining as commandant.


The Port Essington experiment I am afraid is to be regarded as a complete
failure. Yet it could not well have been otherwise. It was never more
than a mere military post, and the smallness of the party, almost always
further lessened by sickness, was such that, even if judiciously managed,
little more could be expected than that they should be employed merely in
rendering their own condition more comfortable. And now after the
settlement has been established for eleven years, they are not even able
to keep themselves in fresh vegetables, much less efficiently to supply
any of Her Majesty's vessels which may happen to call there.


In order to develop the resources of a colony, always provided it
possesses any such, surely something more is required than the mere
presence of a party of soldiers, but it appears throughout, that
Government were opposed to giving encouragement to the permanent
settlement at Port Essington, of any of her Majesty's subjects. It is
well perhaps that such has been the case, as I can conceive few positions
more distressing than that which a settler would soon find himself placed
in were he tempted by erroneous and highly coloured reports of the
productiveness of the place--and such are not wanting--to come there with
the vain hopes of being able to raise tropical productions* for export,
even with the assistance of Chinese or Malay labourers. Wool, the staple
commodity of Australia, would not grow there, and the country is not
adapted for the support of cattle to any great extent.

(*Footnote. I need not here enlarge upon the unfitness of Port Essington
for agricultural pursuits--even that point has long ago been given up.
The quantity of land which might be made productive is exceedingly small,
and although cotton, sugarcane, and other tropical productions thrive
well in one of the two gardens, there is no field for their growth upon a
remunerative scale.)

Yet the little settlement at Port Essington has not been altogether
useless. The knowledge of the existence of such a military post, within a
few days' sail of the islands in question, together with the visits of
Commander Stanley in the Britomart, had completely prevented a repetition
of the outrages formerly committed upon European trading vessels at the
various islands of the group extending between Timor and New Guinea. The
crews and passengers of various vessels wrecked in Torres Strait had
frequently found in Port Essington a place of shelter, after six hundred
miles and more of boat navigation, combined with the difficulty of
determining the entrance, owing to the lowness of the land thereabouts,
which might easily be passed in the night, or even during the day, if
distant more than ten or twelve miles. I have myself been a witness to
the providential relief and extreme hospitality afforded there to such
unfortunates. Still, as a harbour of refuge, it is obvious that Cape York
is the most suitable place, situated as it is within a short distance of
the spot where disasters by shipwreck in Torres Strait and its approaches
have been most frequent.

Port Essington has sometimes been alluded to as being admirably adapted
for a depot from which European goods can be introduced among the
neighbouring islands of the Indian Archipelago, but on this subject I
would perfectly coincide with Mr. Jukes, who states: "Now, the best plan
for a vessel wishing to trade with the independent islands, obviously, is
to go to them at once; while she has just as good an opportunity to
smuggle her goods into the Dutch islands, if that be her object, as the
natives would have if they were to come and fetch them from Port


The natives of the Cobourg Peninsula are divided into four tribes, named
respectively the Bijenelumbo, Limbakarajia, Limbapyu, and Terrutong. The
first of these occupies the head of the harbour (including the ground on
which the settlement is built) and the country as far back as the
isthmus--the second, both sides of the port lower down--the third, the
north-west portion of the peninsula--and the last have possession of
Croker's Island, and the adjacent coasts of the mainland. From the
constant intercourse which takes place between these tribes, their
affinity of language, and similarity in physical character, manners, and
customs, they may be spoken of as one.

The Aborigines of Port Essington scarcely differ from those of the other
parts of Australia--I mean, there is no striking peculiarity. The septum
of the nose is invariably perforated, and the right central
incisor--rarely the left, is knocked out during childhood. Both sexes are
more or less ornamented with large raised cicatrices on the shoulders and
across the chest, abdomen, and buttocks, and outside of the thighs. No
clothing is at any time worn by these people, and their ornaments are few
in number. These last consist chiefly of wristlets of the fibres of a
plant--and armlets of the same, wound round with cordage, are in nearly
universal use. Necklaces of fragments of reed strung on a thread, or of
cordage passing under the arms and crossed over the back, and girdles of
finely twisted human hair, are occasionally worn by both sexes and the
men sometimes add a tassel of the hair of the possum or flying squirrel,
suspended in front. A piece of stick or bone thrust into the perforation
in the nose completes the costume. Like the other Australians, the Port
Essington blacks are fond of painting themselves with red, yellow, white,
and black, in different styles, considered appropriate to dancing,
fighting, mourning, etc.

These people construct no huts except during the rainy season, when they
put up a rude and temporary structure of bark. Their utensils are few in
number, consisting merely of fine baskets of the stems of a rush-like
plant, and others of the base of the leaf of the Seaforthia palm, the
latter principally used for containing water. Formerly bark canoes were
in general use, but they are now completely superseded by others,
hollowed out of the trunk of a tree, which they procure ready-made from
the Malays, in exchange for tortoise-shell, and in return for assistance
in collecting trepang.

The aboriginal weapons are clubs and spears--of the latter the variety is
very great, there being at least fourteen distinct kinds. Their clubs are
three in number, made of the tough heavy wood called wallaru, a kind of
gumtree, the ironbark of New South Wales; one is cylindrical, four feet
long, tapering at each extremity; the other two, of similar length, are
compressed, with sharp edges--one narrow, the other about four inches in
greatest width, and resembling a cricket-bat in shape. These weapons on
account of their great weight are used only at close quarters, and are
never thrown like the waddy of New South Wales. The spears of the Port
Essington natives may be divided into two classes--first, those thrown
with the hand alone, and second, those propelled by the additional
powerful leverage afforded by the throwing-stick. The hand-spears are
made entirely of wood, generally the wallaroo, in one or two pieces,
plain at the point or variously toothed and barbed; a small light spear
of the latter description is sometimes thrown with a short cylindrical
stick ornamented at one end with a large bunch of twisted human hair. The
spears of the second class are shafted with reed. The smallest, which is
no bigger than an arrow, is propelled by a large flat and supple
throwing-stick to a great distance, but not with much precision. Of the
larger ones (from eight to twelve feet in length) the two most remarkable
are headed with a pointed, sharp-edged, flatly-triangular piece of quartz
or fine-grained basalt, procured from the mountains beyond the isthmus.
These large reed-shafted spears are thrown with a stiff flat
throwing-stick a yard long, and with pretty certain effect within sixty


The food of the aborigines consists chiefly of fish and shellfish, to
which as subsidiary articles may be added lizards, snakes, possums,
various birds, and an occasional kangaroo, turtle, dugong, or porpoise.
Several roots (one of which is a true yam) together with various fruits
in their seasons--especially a cashew-nut or Anacardium, also the base of
the undeveloped central leaves of the cabbage-palm, are much prized. The
digging up of roots and collecting of shellfish are duties which devolve
upon the females.

Before the arrival of Europeans, in cases of remarkable disease or
accident, certain old men known by the name of bilbo (by which cognomen
the medical officers of the settlement have also been distinguished) were
applied to for advice. I know of no popular remedies, however, with the
exception of tight ligatures near a wound, bruise or sore, the object of
which is to prevent the malady from passing into the body. In like manner
for a headache, a fillet is bound tightly across the forehead. These
people, like most other savages, recover in a most surprising manner from
wounds and other injuries which would probably prove fatal to a European.
The chief complaint to which they are subject is a mild form of
ophthalmia, with which I once saw three-fourths of the natives about the
settlement affected in one or both eyes; they themselves attributed this
affection to the lurgala, or cashew-nut, then in season, the acrid oil in
the husk of which had reached their eyes.


On the death of any one of the natives, the relatives give utterance to
their grief in loud cries, sobs, and shrieks, continued to exhaustion.
Some cut their bodies and tear their hair, and the women paint their
faces with broad white bands. The body is watched by night, and the
appearance of the first falling-star is hailed with loud shouts and
waving of fire-brands, to drive off the yumburbar, an evil spirit which
is the cause of all deaths and other calamities, and feeds on the
entrails of the newly dead. When decomposition has gone on sufficiently
far, the bones are carefully removed, painted red, wrapped up in bark,
and carried about with the tribe for some time; after which they are
finally deposited, either in a hollow tree or a shallow grave, over which
a low mound of earth and stones is raised, occasionally ornamented with
posts at the corners. I was unable to find out what circumstances
determine the mode of burial in each case; neither differences of sex,
age, or class are sufficient, as several natives whom I questioned told
me which of the two kinds of burial his or her body would receive,
without being able to assign any reason. Their reverence for the dead is
probably not very great, as even a relative of the deceased will sell the
skull or skeleton for a small consideration, on condition of the matter
being kept a secret.


Like other Australians they carefully refrain from mentioning the name of
anyone who is dead, and like them, believe in the transmigration of
souls--after death they become Malays (the first strangers they had come
in contact with) in precisely the same way as in New South Wales, etc.
"When black fellow die, he jump up white-fellow."

In addition to the yumburbar above-mentioned, there is another
supernatural being, which has a corporeal existence. It appears in the
shape of a man, and loves to grapple with stragglers in the dark, and
carry them off. So much is the arlak an object of dread, that a native
will not willingly go alone in the dark, even a very short distance from
his fire, without carrying a light. Some have assured me that they had
seen this arlak, and one man showed me wounds said to have been inflicted
by its teeth, and I have no doubt of his having firmly believed that they
were produced in this manner.


Although in each tribe there are three distinct classes, possibly ranks,
or perhaps something analogous to the division in other countries into
castes, yet there does not appear to be anything approaching to
chieftainship. There are a few elderly men, however, in each tribe, who,
having acquired a reputation for sagacity and energy, exercise a certain
degree of authority over the younger members, and generally manage
important matters in their own way. Yet very few of these principal men
are of the highest class, the manjerojelle--the middle is termed
manjerawule--and the lowest manbulget, but I could not succeed in making
out what privileges, if any, are enjoyed by the superior classes. The
members of all three appeared to be upon a perfect equality.

Polygamy, although one of their institutions, is little practised, as few
men have more than one wife at a time. The betrothal of a female takes
place in infancy, and often even before birth. A few half-caste children
have been born, but they do not appear to thrive, although this does not
imply any want of attention on the part of the mothers.

These natives are fond of social enjoyment. Their evenings are passed
away round the fires, with songs generally of a low, plaintive, and not
unpleasing character, time being kept by beating one bone or stick upon
another. They have besides what may be called a musical instrument--the
ibero--a piece of bamboo, three feet in length, which, by blowing into
it, is made to produce an interrupted, drumming, monotonous noise. In
their dances I observed nothing peculiar.


In illustration of their laws relative to punishments, and to show their
identity with those of other Australian tribes, I may mention a
circumstance which came under my own knowledge. One night about ten
o'clock, hearing an uproar at a native encampment near the hospital, I
ran out and found that a young man, named Munjerrijo, having excited the
jealousy of another, of the name of Yungun, on account of some improper
conduct towards the wife of the latter, had been severely wounded, his
arm being broken with a club, and his head laid open with an iron-headed
fishing spear. As the punishment was considered too severe for the
offence, it was finally determined, that, upon Munjerrijo's recovery, the
two natives who had wounded him should offer their heads to him to be
struck with a club, the usual way, it would appear, of settling such

Like the other Australian tribes, those of Port Essington are frequently
at feud with their neighbours, and quarrels sometimes last for years, or,
if settled, are apt to break out afresh. In these cases the lex talionis
is the only recognised one. I may give an example.


A Monobar native (inhabitant of the country to the westward of the
isthmus) was shot by a marine in the execution of his duty, for
attempting to escape while in custody, charged with robbery. When his
tribe heard of it, as they could not lay their hands upon a white man,
they enticed into their territory a Bijenelumbo man, called Neinmal, who
was a friend of the whites, having lived with them for years, and on that
account he was selected as a victim and killed. When the news of
Neinmal's death reached the settlement, some other Bijenelumbo people
took revenge by killing a Monobar native within a few hundred yards of
the houses. Thus the matter rests at present, but more deaths will
probably follow before the feud is ended. Both these murders were
committed under circumstances of the utmost atrocity, the victims being
surprised asleep unconscious of danger and perfectly defenceless, then
aroused to find themselves treacherously attacked by numbers, who, after
spearing them in many places, fearfully mangled the bodies with clubs.

In some of the settled districts of Australia missionaries have been
established for many years back, still it must be confessed that the
results of their labours are far from being encouraging. Indeed no less
an authority than Mr. Eyre, writing in 1848, unhesitatingly states as
follows: "Nor is it in my recollection," says he, "that throughout the
whole length and breadth of New Holland, a single real and permanent
convert to Christianity has yet been made amongst them."* From what I
myself have seen or heard, in the colony of New South Wales, I have
reason to believe the missionary efforts there, while proving a complete
failure so far as regards the Christianising of the blacks, have yet been
productive of much good in rendering them less dangerous and more useful
to their white neighbours, without however permanently reclaiming more
than a few from their former wandering and savage mode of life, and
enabling them and their families to live contentedly on the produce of
their own labour. I am not one of those who consider that the Australian
is not susceptible of anything like such permanent improvement as may be
termed civilisation, although it appears to have been sufficiently proved
that his intellectual capacity is of a very low order.

(*Footnote. Journals of Expeditions of Discovery into Central Australia
etc. by E.J. Eyre volume 2 page 420.)

Many of the Port Essington natives have shown a remarkable degree of
intelligence, far above the average Europeans, uneducated, and living in
remote districts--among others I may mention the name of Neinmal (the
same alluded to in the preceding paragraph) of whose character I had good
opportunities of judging, for he lived with me for ten months. During my
stay at Port Essington, he became much attached to me, and latterly
accompanied me in all my wanderings in the bush, while investigating the
natural history of the district, following up the researches of my late
and much lamented friend Gilbert.* One day, while detained by rainy
weather at my camp, I was busy in skinning a fish--Neinmal watched me
attentively for some time and then withdrew, but returned in half an hour
afterwards, with the skin of another fish in his hand prepared by
himself, and so well done too, that it was added to the collection. I
could give many other instances of his sagacity, his docility, and even
his acute perception of character--latterly, he seemed even to read my
very thoughts. He accompanied me in the Fly to Torres Strait and New
Guinea, and on our return to Port Essington begged so hard to continue
with me that I could not refuse him. He went with us to Singapore, Java,
and Sydney, and from his great good humour became a favourite with all on
board, picking up the English language with facility, and readily
conforming himself to our habits, and the discipline of the ship. He was
very cleanly in his personal habits, and paid much attention to his
dress, which was always kept neat and tidy. I was often much amused and
surprised by the oddity and justness of his remarks upon the many strange
sights which a voyage of this kind brought before him. The Nemesis
steamer under weigh puzzled him at first--he then thought it was "all
same big cart, only got him shingles** on wheels!" He always expressed
great contempt for the dullness of comprehension of his countrymen, "big
fools they," he used often to say, "blackfellow no good." Even Malays,
Chinamen, and the natives of India, he counted as nothing in his
increasing admiration of Europeans, until he saw some sepoys, when he
altered his opinion a little, and thought that he too, if only big
enough, would like to be a soldier. The poor fellow suffered much from
cold during the passage round Cape Leeuwin and was ill when landed at
Sydney, but soon recovered. Although his thoughts were always centred in
his native home, and a girl to whom he was much attached, he yet
volunteered to accompany me to England, when the Fly was about to sail,
but as I had then no immediate prospect of returning to Australia, I
could not undertake the responsibility of having to provide for him for
the future. I was glad then when Lieutenant Yule, who was about to
revisit Port Essington, generously offered to take him there--while in
the Bramble he made himself useful in assisting the steward, and, under
the tuition of Dr. MacClatchie, made some proficiency in acquiring the
rudiments of reading and writing. At Port Essington, the older members of
his family evinced much jealousy on account of the attention shown him,
and his determination to remain with Mr. Tilston, the assistant-surgeon,
then in charge, and endeavoured to dissuade him from his purpose. While
upon a visit to his tribe he met his death in the manner already
recorded. His natural courage and presence of mind did not desert him
even at the last extremity, when he was roused from sleep to find himself
surrounded by a host of savages thirsting for his blood. They told him to
rise, but he merely raised himself upon his elbow, and said: "If you want
to kill me do so where I am, I won't get up--give me a spear and club,
and I'll fight you all one by one!" He had scarcely spoken when a man
named Alerk speared him from behind, spear after spear followed, and as
he lay writhing on the ground his savage murderers literally dashed him
to pieces with their clubs. The account of the manner in which Neinmal
met his death was given me by a very intelligent native who had it from
an eyewitness, and I have every reason to believe it true, corroborated
as it was by the testimony of others.

(*Footnote. See Journal of an Overland Expedition in Australia etc. by
Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt page 309 for an account of his death.)

(**Footnote. Wooden tiles generally used for covering the roofs of houses
in Australia.)


Even Port Essington was destined to become the scene of missionary
labours. A party of three persons, sent out by the Society for the
Propagation of the Faith, one an Italian Roman Catholic priest, the
others lay brothers of his order, embarked at Sydney, some time in 1847.
The vessel conveying them unfortunately struck on a reef near the
Northumberland Isles during the night, and Father Anjello was the only
one of his party saved, and reached Port Essington in a most destitute
condition. Nothing daunted, however, he commenced his labours among the
blacks, by first acquiring the native language,* in which he ultimately
became so proficient as to understand it thoroughly. A hut was built for
him at a place called Black Rock, near the entrance of the harbour, at
the distance of 14 miles from the settlement. Here he collected together
as many of the children of the Limbakarajia tribe as he could induce to
remain in the neighbourhood. He endeavoured to instruct them in the
elements of his religion, and taught them to repeat prayers in Latin, and
follow him in some of the ceremonious observances of the Roman Catholic
Church. Like other children this amused them, and so long as they were
well fed and supplied with tobacco, everything went on as he could
desire. Meanwhile he was supported chiefly by the contributions of the
officers of the garrison, themselves not well able to spare much. While
leading this lonely life he seems gradually to have given way to gloomy
despondency. I recollect one passage in his diary (which I once saw for
an hour) where he expresses himself thus: "Another year has gone by, and
with it all signs of the promised vessel. Oh! God, even hope seems to
have deserted me." At length a vessel from Sydney arrived, bringing a
large supply of stores of every kind for the mission, but it was too
late, for Father Anjello and his sorrows were alike resting in the tomb.
One day news came that he was ill; a boat was sent immediately for him,
and found him dying. He was removed to the settlement and next day he
breathed his last--another, but not the last victim to the climate. His
death-bed was described to me as having been a fearful scene. He
exhibited the greatest horror of death, and in his last extremity
blasphemously denied that there was a God!

(*Footnote. I regret that the arrangements for this work will not admit
of my publishing in the Appendix a Port Essington vocabulary, consisting
of about 650 words, in four dialects, formed in 1844, and corrected and
improved in 1848; the manuscripts will be deposited in the library of the
British Museum.)

In concluding the subject of the Aborigines, I may add that at present
the natives of Port Essington have little to thank the white man for. The
advantage of being provided with regular food and other comforts enjoyed
by such as are in service are merely temporary, and, like the means of
gratifying two new habits--the use of tobacco and spirits--to which they
have become passionately addicted, will cease when the settlement is
abandoned. The last importation of the whites was syphilis, and by it
they will probably be remembered for years to come.


During our stay at Port Essington, I made an excursion in the decked boat
of the settlement (which Captain Macarthur kindly allowed me the use of)
to Coral Bay, a station for invalids very pleasantly situated on the
western side of the harbour, twelve miles from Victoria. We found there
my old friend Mr. Tilston,* the assistant-surgeon, with some
convalescents under his charge. This is a much cooler and pleasanter
locality than the neighbourhood of the settlement, still the heat was at
times very great. I had here pointed out to me a kind of tea-tree, or
Melaleuca, which had a short time before been recognised by a Malay as
that producing the valuable cajeput oil, and on trial, the oil procured
from the leaves by distillation, was found to be scarcely inferior in
pungency to that of the Melaleuca cajeputi of the Moluccas. Here, too, we
saw some of the playhouses of the greater bowerbird (Chlamydera nuchalis)
and had the pleasure of witnessing the male bird playing his strange
antics as he flew up to the spot and alighted with a dead shell in his
mouth, laid it down, ran through the bower, returned, picked up the
shell, and rearranged the heap among which it was placed, flew off again
and soon returned with another--and so on.


On November 16th we got underweigh at daylight, but the wind died away in
the afternoon, and we anchored halfway down the harbour. Next day we got
out to sea on our voyage to Sydney. We were all glad to leave Port
Essington--it was like escaping from an oven. During our stay the sky was
generally overcast, with heavy cumuli, and distant lightning at night,
but no rain fell, and the heat was excessive. These were indications of
the approaching change of the monsoon--the rainy season, with a wind more
or less westerly, usually commencing in December and continuing until

December 3rd.

Latitude 11 degrees 2 minutes South longitude 123 degrees 11 minutes
East. Today we may be said to have cleared the land after a dead beat to
the westward, between the Sahul Bank and the islands of Timor and Rottee.
It took us eleven days to make good less than 300 miles. The land was in
sight during the greater portion of this time, and we had a good view of
the noble mountain-range of Timor, also of Rottee and the Strait of
Semao, which last we entered with the intention of passing through, but
the wind headed us and we had to pass to the southward of Rottee. For a
few days after leaving Port Essington we experienced very light and
variable winds, which gradually settled into south-westerly, with
occasional gloomy blowing weather and frequent squalls at night.


At length on January 24th, 1849, a long and monotonous passage of
sixty-eight days brought us to Sydney, from which we had been absent for
nine months.


Fate of Kennedy's Expedition.
Sail on our Third Northern Cruise.
Excursion on Moreton Island.
History of Discoveries on the South-East Coast of New Guinea and the
Louisiade Archipelago, from 1606 to 1846.
Find the Shores of the Louisiade protected by a Barrier Reef.
Beautiful appearances of Rossel Island.
Pass through an opening in the Reef, and enter Coral Haven.
Interview with Natives on Pig Island.
Find them treacherously disposed.
Their mode of Fishing on the Reefs.
Establish a system of Barter alongside the Ship.
Description of the Louisiade Canoes, and mode of management.
Find a Watering Place on South-East Island.
Its Scenery and Productions.
Suspicious conduct of the Natives.
Their Ornaments, etc. described.


The most eventful occurrence during our stay in Sydney, was the arrival
of the schooner which we had left at Port Albany, awaiting the arrival of
Mr. Kennedy. She brought the sad news of the disastrous failure of his
expedition, and of the death of all but three composing the overland
party, including their brave but ill-fated leader. I was present at the
judicial investigation which shortly afterwards took place, and shall
briefly relate the particulars. I shall not easily forget the appearance
which the survivors presented on this occasion--pale and emaciated, with
haggard looks attesting the misery and privations they had undergone, and
with low trembling voices, they gave their evidence.

It would appear that their difficulties commenced at the outset, as many
weeks passed before they got clear of Rockingham Bay, its rivers, swamps,
and dense scrubs, fenced in by a mountain chain. Six weeks elapsed before
they were enabled to pursue a northerly course, the scrubs or dense
brushes still continuing, requiring the party to cut their way. The carts
were abandoned on July 18th, and the horses were packed. Sickness early
made its appearance, the stock of provisions was getting low, the horses
long failing in strength were dying of weakness, and their flesh was used
as food.

On November 10th, or upwards of five months after leaving Rockingham Bay,
having made less than 400 miles in a direct line towards their
destination, and three of the party having been completely knocked up,
and the remainder in a feeble state; nineteen of their horses dead, and
their provisions reduced to one sheep, forty-six pounds of flour, and
less than one pound of tea--Mr. Kennedy resolved to form a light party
consisting of himself, three men, and the aboriginal Jackey-Jackey, and
push on for Cape York, distant about 150 miles, to procure assistance for
the remainder, and save them from impending death by the combined
influences of sickness, exhaustion, and starvation.

On November 13th Kennedy started, leaving eight men at the camp at
Weymouth Bay. Near Shelburne Bay one of the party accidentally shot
himself, and another was too ill to proceed; consequently, it was
determined to leave them behind in charge of the third man, with a horse
for food, while Kennedy and the black pushed on for Port Albany. At
length near Escape River, within twenty miles of Cape York, a tribe of
natives with whom they had had some apparently friendly intercourse,
tempted by their forlorn condition and a savage thirst for plunder,
attacked them in a scrub and with too fatal success, as the gallant
leader of this unfortunate expedition breathed his last after receiving
no less than three spear wounds. The affecting narrative of what passed
during his last moments as related by his faithful companion, is simply
as follows: "Mr. Kennedy, are you going to leave me?" "Yes, my boy, I am
going to leave you," was the reply of the dying man, "I am very bad,
Jackey; you take the books, Jackey, to the Captain, but not the big ones,
the Governor will give anything for them." "I then tied up the papers;"
he then said, "Jackey, give me paper and I will write." "I gave him paper
and pencil, and he tried to write; and he then fell back and died, and I
caught him as he fell back and held him, and I then turned round myself
and cried; I was crying a good while until I got well; that was about an
hour, and then I buried him; I dug up the ground with a tomahawk, and
covered him over with logs, then grass, and my shirt and trousers; that
night I left him near dark."

About eight days after, Jackey-Jackey, having with wonderful ingenuity
succeeded in escaping from his pursuers, contrived to reach Port Albany,
and was received on board the vessel, which immediately proceeded to
Shelburne Bay to endeavour to rescue the three men left there. The
attempt to find the place was unsuccessful, and from the evidence
furnished by clothes said by Jackey to belong to them, found in a canoe
upon the beach, little doubt seemed to exist as to their fate. They then
proceeded to Weymouth Bay, where they arrived just in time to save Mr.
Carron, the botanical collector, and another man, the remaining six
having perished. In the words of one of the survivors: "the men did not
seem to suffer pain, but withered into perfect skeletons, and died from
utter exhaustion."

Such was the fate of Kennedy's expedition, and in conclusion, to use the
words of the Sydney Morning Herald, "it would appear that as far as
earnestness of purpose, unshrinking endurance of pain and fatigue, and
most disinterested self-sacrifice, go, the gallant leader of the party
exhibited a model for his subordinates. But the great natural
difficulties they had to encounter at the outset of the expedition so
severely affected the resources of the adventurers, that they sunk under
an accumulation of sufferings, which have rarely, if ever been equalled,
in the most extreme perils of the wilderness."


Our stay in Sydney was protracted to the unusual period of three months
and a half, affording ample time for refreshing the crews after their
long and arduous labours, thoroughly refitting both vessels, and
completing the charts. The object of our next cruise, which was expected
to be of equal duration with the last, was to undertake the survey of a
portion of the Louisiade Archipelago, and the south-east coast of New
Guinea. For this purpose we sailed from Sydney on May 8th, deeply laden,
with six months provisions on board, arrangements having also been made
for receiving a further supply at Cape York in October following.

The Bramble joined us at Moreton Bay, where we did not arrive until May
17th, our passage having been protracted beyond the usual time by the
prevalence during the early part of light northerly winds and a strong
adverse current, which on one occasion set us fifty-one miles to the
southward in twenty-four hours. We took up our former anchorage under
Moreton Island, and remained there for nine days, occupied in completing
our stock of water, and obtaining a rate for the chronometers--so as to
ensure a good meridian distance between this and the Louisiade. Since our
last visit, the pilot station had been shifted to this place from Amity
Point, the northern entrance to Moreton Bay being now preferred to that
formerly in use.

One night while returning from an excursion, I saw some fires behind the
beach near Cumboyooro Point, and on walking up was glad to find an
encampment of about thirty natives, collected there for the purpose of
fishing, this being the spawning season of the mullet, which now frequent
the coast in prodigious shoals. Finding among the party an old friend of
mine, usually known by the name of Funny-eye, I obtained with some
difficulty permission to sleep at his fire, and he gave me a roasted
mullet for supper. The party at our bivouac, consisted of my host, his
wife and two children, an old man and two wretched dogs. We lay down with
our feet towards a large fire of driftwood, partially sheltered from the
wind by a semicircular line of branches, stuck in the sand behind us;
still, while one part of the body was nearly roasted, the rest shivered
with cold. The woman appeared to be busy all night long in scaling and
roasting fish, of which, before morning, she had a large pile ready
cooked; neither did the men sleep much--for they awoke every hour or so,
gorged themselves still further with mullet, took a copious draft of
water, and wound up by lighting their pipes before lying down again.

At daylight everyone was up and stirring, and soon afterwards the men and
boys went down to the beach to fish. The rollers coming in from seaward
broke about one hundred yards from the shore, and in the advancing wave
one might see thousands of large mullet keeping together in a shoal with
numbers of porpoises playing about, making frequent rushes among the
dense masses and scattering them in every direction. Such of the men as
were furnished with the scoop-net waded out in line, and, waiting until
the porpoises had driven the mullet close in shore, rushed among the
shoal, and, closing round in a circle with the nets nearly touching,
secured a number of fine fish, averaging two and a half pounds weight.
This was repeated at intervals until enough had been procured. Meanwhile
others, chiefly boys, were at work with their spears, darting them in
every direction among the fish, and on the best possible terms with the
porpoises, which were dashing about among their legs, as if fully aware
that they would not be molested.


On May 26th, we sailed from Moreton Bay--but, before entering into the
details of this, the most interesting portion of the Voyage of the
Rattlesnake, a brief but connected account of the progress of discovery
on the south-east coast of New Guinea, and the Louisiade Archipelago,
will enable the reader more clearly to perceive the necessity then
existing for as complete a survey of these shores and the adjacent seas
as would enable the voyager to approach them with safety. A glance at any
of the published charts will show a vague outline of coast and islands
and reefs, with numerous blanks--a compilation from various sources, some
utterly unworthy of credit; and of the inhabitants and productions of
these regions, nothing was known beyond that portion at least of them
were peopled by a savage and warlike race.


The first navigator who saw the shores in question, appears to have been
Luiz Vaez de Torres, in the Spanish frigate La Almiranta, coming from the
eastward, in August 1606. In latitude 11 1/2 degrees South, Torres came
upon what he calls the beginning of New Guinea, which, however, appears
to have been a portion of what is now known as the Louisiade Archipelago.
Being unable to weather the easternmost point of this land (Cape
Deliverance) he bore away to the westward along its southern shores. "All
this land of New Guinea," says he, in his long-forgotten letter to the
king of Spain (a copy of which was found in the Archives at Manila, after
the capture of that city by the British, in 1762) "is peopled with
Indians, not very white, much painted, and naked, except a cloth made of
the bark of trees. They fight with darts, targets, and some stone clubs,
which are made fine with plumage. Along the coast are many islands and
habitations. All the coast has many ports, very large, with very large
rivers, and many plains. Without these islands there runs a reef of
shoals, and between them (the shoals) and the mainland are the islands.
There is a channel within. In these parts I took possession for your

"We went along 300 leagues of coast, as I have mentioned, and diminished
the latitude 2 1/2 degrees, which brought us into 9 degrees. From hence
we fell in with a bank of from three to nine fathoms, which extends along
the coast above 180 leagues. We went over it along the coast to 7 1/2
South latitude, and the end of it is in 5 degrees. We could not go
further on for the many shoals and great currents, so we were obliged to
sail out South-West in that depth to 11 degrees South latitude."

By this time Torres had reached the Strait which now bears his name, and
which he was the first to pass through. He continues: "We caught in all
this land twenty persons of different nations, that with them we might be
able to give a better account to your Majesty. They give much notice of
other people, although as yet they do not make themselves well

(*Footnote. Burney's Chronological History of Voyages and Discoveries in
the South Sea or Pacific Ocean Volume 2 Appendix page 475.)


M. de Bougainville, in June 1768, with two vessels, La Boudeuse and
L'Etoile, was proceeding to the eastward towards the coast of Australia,
when the unexpected discovery of some detached reefs (Bougainville's
reefs of the charts) induced him to alter course and stand to the
northward. No land was seen for three days. "On the 10th, at daybreak,"
says he, "the land was discovered, bearing from east to North-West. Long
before dawn a delicious odour informed us of the vicinity of this land,
which formed a great gulf open to the south-east. I have seldom seen a
country which presented so beautiful a prospect; a low land, divided into
plains and groves, extended along the seashore, and afterwards rose like
an amphitheatre up to the mountains, whose summits were lost in the
clouds. There were three ranges of mountains, and the highest chain was
distant upwards of twenty-five leagues from the shore. The melancholy
condition to which we were reduced* neither allowed us to spend some time
in visiting this beautiful country, which by all appearances was rich and
fertile, nor to stand to the westward in search of a passage to the south
of New Guinea, which might open to us a new and short route to the
Moluccas by way of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Nothing, indeed, was more
probable than the existence of such a passage."** Bougainville, it may be
mentioned, was not aware of the previous discovery of Torres, which
indeed was not published to the world until after our illustrious
navigator Cook, in August, 1770, had confirmed the existence of such a
strait by passing from east to west between the shores of Australia and
New Guinea.

(*Footnote. They were beginning to run short of provisions, and the salt
meat was so bad that the men preferred such RATS as they could catch. It
even became necessary to prevent the crew from eating the LEATHER about
the rigging and elsewhere in the ship.)

(**Footnote. Voyage autour du Monde par la Fregate du Roi La Boudeuse et
la Flute l'Etoile en 1766 a 1769 page 258. See also the chart of the
Louisiade given there, which, however, does not correspond very closely
with the text.)

The Boudeuse and Etoile were engaged in working to windward along this
new land (as it was thought to be) until the 26th, when, having doubled
its eastern point, to which the significant name of Cape Deliverance was
given, they were enabled to bear away to the North-North-East. The name
of Gulf of the Louisiade was bestowed by Bougainville upon the whole of
the space thus traversed by him, extending between Cape Deliverance and
that portion of (what has since been determined to be) the coast of New
Guinea of which he gives so glowing a description, and calls the Cul de
Sac de l'Orangerie upon his chart.


The next addition to our knowledge of these shores was made in August,
1791, by Captain Edwards in H.M.S. Pandora, shortly before the wreck of
that vessel in Torres Strait, when returning from Tahiti with the
mutineers of the Bounty. In the published narrative of that voyage the
following brief account is given. "On the 23rd, saw land, which we
supposed to be the Louisiade, a cape bearing north-east and by east. We
called it Cape Rodney. Another contiguous to it was called Cape Hood: and
a mountain between them, we named Mount Clarence. After passing Cape
Hood, the land appears lower, and to trench away about north-west,
forming a deep bay, and it may be doubted whether it joins New Guinea or
not."* The positions assigned to two of these places, which subsequent
experience has shown it is difficult to identify, are:

Cape Rodney: Latitude 10 degrees 3 minutes 32 seconds South, Longitude
147 degrees 45 minutes 45 seconds East.

Cape Hood: Latitude 9 degrees 58 minutes 6 seconds South, Longitude 147
degrees 22 minutes 50 seconds East.**

(*Footnote. Voyage round the world in His Majesty's frigate Pandora,
performed under the direction of Captain Edwards in the years 1790, 1791
and 1792 by Mr. G. Hamilton, late surgeon of the Pandora, page 100.)

(**Footnote. Ibid page 164. Krusenstern assumes these longitudes to be 45
minutes too far to the westward, adopting Flinders' longitude of Murray's
Islands, which differs by that amount from Captain Edwards'.)


In the following year, Captains Bligh and Portlock, in the Providence and
Assistance, conveying breadfruit plants from Tahiti to the West Indies,
saw a portion of the south-east coast of New Guinea, when on their way to
pass through Torres Strait. A line of coast extending from Cape Rodney to
the westward and northward about eighty miles, the latter half with a
continuous line of reef running parallel with the coast, is laid down in
a chart by Flinders,* as having been "seen from the Providence's
masthead, August 30th 1792."

(*Footnote. Flinders' Voyage to Terra Australis Atlas Plate 13.)


The northern portion of the Louisiade Archipelago was yet unknown to
Europeans, and for almost all the knowledge which we even now possess
regarding it, we are indebted to the expedition under the command of
Rear-Admiral Bruny d'Entrecasteaux, who, on June 11th, 1793, with La
Recherche and L'Esperance, during his voyage in search of the unfortunate
La Perouse, came in sight of Rossel Island. The hills of that island were
enveloped in clouds, and the lower parts appeared to be thickly wooded
with verdant interspaces. A harbour was supposed to exist in the deep bay
on the north coast of Rossel Island, but access to it was found to be
prevented by a line of breakers extending to the westward as far as the
eye could reach. D'Entrecasteaux passed Piron's Island, which he named,
as well as various others, and on St. Aignan's observed several huts, and
the first inhabitants of the Louisiade whom they had seen, for, at
Renard's Isles, a boat sent close in to sound, had observed no
indications of natives, although smoke was afterwards seen rising from
the largest of the group. At the Bonvouloir Islands, they had the first
communication with the natives, who came off in a very large canoe and
several others which approached near enough for one of the officers of
L'Esperance to swim off to them. The natives showed much timidity and
could not be induced to come on board the frigate. Some sweet-potatoes
and bananas were given in return for various presents. No arms were seen
among them, and these people did not appear to understand the use of
iron.* The remainder of the voyage does not require further notice here,
as the D'Entrecasteaux Isles of the charts belong to the north-east coast
of New Guinea.

(*Footnote. Voyage de Bruny D'Entrecasteaux envoye a la recherche de la
Perouse. Redige par M. de Rossel, ancien Capitaine de Vaisseau, tome 1
page 405 et seq. See also Atlas.)

In June 1793, Messrs. Bampton and Alt, in the English merchantships
Hormuzeer and Chesterfield, got embayed on the south-east coast of New
Guinea, and after in vain seeking a passage out to the north-east, were
forced to abandon the attempt and make their way to the westward, through
Torres Strait, which they were no less than seventy-three days in
clearing. Among other hydrographical results, was the discovery of large
portions of the land forming the north-west shores of this bay, extending
from Bristow Island to the northward and eastward for a distance of 120


In 1804, M. Rualt Coutance, commanding the French privateer L'Adele, made
several discoveries on the south-east coast of New Guinea which were
recorded by Freycinet, from the manuscript journal of Coutance, in the
history of Baudin's voyage.* A portion of this is unquestionably the land
seen by Captain Bligh in 1792--but in addition detached portions of the
shores of the great bight of the south-east coast were seen, as in the
neighbourhood of Freshwater Bay and elsewhere.

(*Footnote. Voyage de decouvertes aux Terres Australes, execute sur les
corvettes Le Geographe, Le Naturaliste, et la goelette La
Casuarina--pendant les annees 1801 a 1804, sous le commandement du
Capitaine de vaisseau N. Baudin. Redige par M. Louis Freycinet.
Navigation et Geographie page 462 and Atlas plate 1.)

Mr. Bristow, the master of an English merchant vessel, visited the
northern part of the Louisiade Archipelago in 1806, but added nothing of
consequence to our knowledge of the group, although various islands were
named anew, as if discoveries of his own. His Satisfaction Island is
clearly Rossel's, and Eruption Island is St. Aignan's of

(*Footnote. See Krusenstern's Recueil de Memoires Hydrographiques etc.
page 154.)


Since Bougainville's voyage the southern shores of the Louisiade remained
unvisited until the year 1840, when Captain Dumont d'Urville, with the
French corvettes L'Astrolabe and La Zelee, during his last voyage round
the world, determined upon attempting their exploration. On May 23rd, the
expedition (coming from the eastward) rounded Adele Island and Cape
Deliverance, at the distance of about twenty miles. Next morning, the
thickness of the weather prevented them from clearly distinguishing the
features of the land. They steered towards South-east Island, but found
close approach prevented by an immense continuous reef, supposed to be
part of that seen on the previous day to the southward of Rossel Island.
On Conde's Peninsula, some natives and a small village were observed. In
the evening a long line of islands (the Calvados group) appeared to the
north, and the reef, which before had been continuous, with the exception
of some small openings, now existed only as a few isolated patches.
D'Urville stood off to sea for the night, and next morning passed close
to some low woody islets (Montemont) enclosed by a reef stretching to the
eastward, and supporting upon it many scattered islands covered with
verdure. Bougainville's chart was found of very little assistance; in the
evening, however, they recognised the low wooded isle which he had called
Ushant. Several high rocks (Teste Isles) in sight when they stood off for
the night served next morning as a connecting point.

On the 26th, a crowd of small islands, mostly inhabited, were seen at a
short distance off, and in the background some high mountain summits were
visible. Approaching more closely, D'Urville observed numerous channels
intersecting the coast which they appeared to divide into a multitude of
islands, and it seemed doubtful whether the land seen belonged to the
Louisiade or to New Guinea. On the 27th, the two ships reached the Cul de
sac de l'Orangerie--the appearance of the land at this place was
considered to "agree perfectly with the pompous description" of
Bougainville. D'Urville would willingly have searched for an anchorage
here, but sickness prevented him from delaying much longer on this coast.
Many canoes had been seen during the day, and one with six men at length
came off, followed by some smaller ones, each carrying two or three
people. The natives could not be induced to venture on board, and for a
long time hesitated to receive some presents conveyed to them on a plank,
in return for coconuts, a stone axe, and some shells. These natives
appeared to be unarmed; by signs they invited the Frenchmen to visit them
on shore. D'Urville was now anxious to determine whether, as represented
by his charts,* a passage existed between this portion of the Louisiade
of Bougainville, and what was then considered to be the south-east
extremity of New Guinea, in the neighbourhood of Cape Rodney. Next day,
however (28th) a high chain of mountains was seen to occupy the space
assigned to the supposed passage. On the 29th, a barrier reef was found
extending to the eastward in the direction of the coastline; they were
unable to clearly identify Cape Rodney and Point Hood, of the English
charts. In the evening D'Urville saw a chain of high mountains which he
named Mount Astrolabe, and a well marked headland (Cape Passy) beyond
which the coast appeared to trend to the northward. The expedition now
shaped a course for Torres Strait, having in seven days made a running
survey extending over a space of 450 miles in length, without anchoring
or communicating with the inhabitants.**

(*Footnote. This matter had been discussed by the Russian Admiral
Krusenstern; see Receuil de Memoires Hydrographiques pour servire
d'analyse et d'explication a l'Atlas de l'Ocean Pacifique page 60. Also
in his Atlas, a general chart of the Pacific Ocean, and two others of New
Guinea, and the Louisiade Archipelago, published in 1824.)

(**Footnote. Voyage au Pole Sud et dans l'Oceanie sur les corvettes
L'Astrolabe et la Zelee pendant les annees 1837 a 1840. Sous le
commandement de M. J. Dumont D'Urville. Histoire du Voyage tome 9 pages
208 a 215. Atlas Hydrographique Plate 1.)


During his survey of the northern and eastern entrances of Torres Strait,
Captain F.P. Blackwood, in H.M.S. Fly, spent two months in 1845, upon the
south-east coast of New Guinea, 140 miles of which, including that part
seen by Bampton and Alt in 1793, was surveyed as completely as the time
and means would permit. This country presented a great sameness of
aspect; low muddy shores covered at first with mangroves, and, further
back, with dense forests, were found to be intersected by numerous
channels of fresh water, the mouths, there is reason to suppose, of one
or more large rivers, of which this great extent of country is the delta.
Great mudbanks, extending from ten to twenty miles out to sea, prevented
approach except in the boats. Several of these channels were entered by
the surveying parties, and one (Aird River) was ascended by Captain
Blackwood to the distance of twenty miles from its mouth. Many villages
were seen scattered along the coast and on the river banks. The natives,
apparently closely resembling the Torres Strait Islanders, appeared to be
a savage and warlike race, and refused to have any friendly intercourse
with the white men, whose boats they attempted to cut off on various
occasions. They seemed to be perfectly naked, and their principal weapons
were observed to be bows and arrows and wooden sword-like clubs.*

(*Footnote. Narrative of the Surveying Voyage of H.M.S. Fly, commanded by
Captain F.P. Blackwood, R.N. by J.B. Jukes, Naturalist to the Expedition,
volume 1 page 282 etc.)


In the following year, a further addition to the survey of the south-east
coast of New Guinea was made by Lieutenant C.B. Yule, while in command of
H.M. Schooners Bramble and Castlereagh. This survey was commenced at Cape
Possession, and continued to the westward and northward as far as Cape
Blackwood, where the Fly's work ended, a distance equal to two degrees of
longitude.* Many large river mouths were observed, the fresh water on one
occasion extending two or three miles out to sea. The country had ceased
to present the low monotonous appearance shown to the westward, and had
become more broken with wooded hills, and on the extreme east, ranges of
lofty mountains were seen in the distance; one of these (Mount Yule)
attains an elevation of 10,046 feet. Landing was attempted only once, on
which occasion the whole party--their two boats having been capsized in
the surf, and their ammunition destroyed--were set upon by a large body
of natives and plundered of everything, even to their clothes, but not
otherwise injured, although completely at the mercy of these savages.

(*Footnote. See Admiralty Chart Number 1914.)

In company with the Bramble we sailed from Moreton Bay for the Louisiade
on May 26th. Next day it began to blow fresh, commencing at south-east
and coming up to east, and on the 28th the wind had increased to a heavy
gale from East-South-East to East. On the following morning the gale
broke, the wind having suddenly fallen and shifted round from East to
North-East and North-West by West until it became variable, and at night
died away altogether. On June 3rd we picked up the south-east trade-wind
in latitude 20 degrees 8 minutes South; and next day and those following
until we made the land, having left the beaten track from Sydney to the
outer passages leading to Torres Strait,* we hauled on a wind at night so
as to avoid going over unexplored ground. No reefs, however, were seen
between Moreton Bay and the Louisiade.

(*Footnote. See a very useful chart of the Coral Sea, constructed by Mr.
J.O. Evans, formerly master of H.M.S. Fly.)


On June 10th (our noon position of that day being latitude 11 degrees 38
minutes South and longitude 154 degrees 17 minutes East) at daylight,
high land was seen extending from North to North-west, distant about
twenty-five miles. It proved to be the largest Ile du Sud-Est of
D'Urville's chart, and Rossel Island, the latter forming the eastern
termination of the Louisiade Archipelago. Next day we fell in with the
Bramble in the neighbourhood of Cape Deliverance of the English chart (by
Laurie) her rendezvous in case of separation; we had parted company
during the late gale, in which she lost her jib-boom and stern-boat.


The whole of June 12th was spent in working to windward to weather the
eastern end of Rossel Island--Cape Deliverance of Bougainville--the
barrier reef to the southward of the two large islands in sight
preventing us from closely approaching the land from that quarter.


June 13th.

Having gained a good offing, we bore up at daylight, and stood in for
Rossel Island with the Bramble ahead. We passed at a distance Adele
Island (so named after Coutance's ship) low and woody, situated at the
eastern extreme of the barrier reef surrounding Rossel Island, at a
variable distance from the land. The southern portion of this great coral
reef here makes a sharp turn round the islet, and runs back ten miles to
connect it with Rossel Island, where it loses the character of a barrier,
becomes narrow and fringing and almost disappears for a time. Passing
Cape Deliverance* and getting into smooth water on the northern side of
Rossel Island, we ran along it at a distance from the shore of about two
miles and a half.

(*Footnote. As the longitude of Cape Deliverance varies considerably in
different charts, its determination by the three best authorities may
here be given:

D'Entrecasteaux places it in longitude 154 degrees 26 minutes East of

D'Urville places it in longitude 154 degrees 26 minutes East of

Owen Stanley places it in longitude 154 degrees 20 minutes East of

Rossel Island (named after one of D'Entrecasteaux' officers) is 22 miles
in length from east to west, and 10 1/2 in greatest width; it is high and
mountainous, and thickly wooded, with occasional large, clear, grassy
patches. Towards the western end the hills become lower and more
detached, but present the same features. The mountain ridges, one of
which, but not the highest elevation (which was obscured by clouds) is
2,522 feet in height--form sharp narrow crests and occasional peaks, but
the outline is smooth and the rock nowhere exposed, even the steepest
ridges being covered with vegetation. Some of the trees appeared to be of
great dimensions, others were tall and straight, branching only near the
top, and many, probably Melaleuca leucodendrum--were conspicuous from the
whiteness of their trunks. Large groves of cocoa-palms scattered about
from the water's edge to halfway up the hills, formed a pleasing break in
the sombre green of the forest scenery. The shores are either bordered
with mangroves with an occasional sandy beach, or clothed with the usual
jungle of the island.

As we advanced to the westward the reef gradually extended out from the
island with a short space inside, and this appearance continued for
several miles, until, upon the land trending away to the south-west, the
line of reef left it and ran out to the westward as far as the eye could
reach, in an apparently unbroken line of surf. This is Rossel Reef of the
charts along which we ran for* 35 miles, sounding occasionally, but
although within a mile of its edge, no bottom was got with upwards of 100
fathoms of line. From the masthead we could see the surf of the southern
border of this great reef, the space between being a lagoon of apparently
navigable water. At the western extremity of the reef there appeared to
be a clear opening, but the day was too far advanced to admit of entering
it to search for an anchorage, and the ship was hove to for the night.

(*Footnote. It extends 17 miles beyond the westernmost point of Rossel


Rossel Island, judging from the little we saw of it, appears to be well
inhabited. The first natives seen were a party of five men, apparently
naked, who came out upon the beach from a grove of coconut trees, and
stood gazing at the unusual sight to them of two vessels passing by.
Opposite a pretty creek-like harbour, the windings of which we could
trace back a little way among the hills, several canoes of various sizes
were seen, each with an outrigger on one side, and one of them furnished
with a large mat-sail of an oblong shape, rounded at the ends. The
people, of whom there were usually about six or seven in each canoe,
appeared to be engaged in fishing in the shoal water. One man in a very
small canoe was bailing it out with a large melon-shell so intently that
he appeared to take no notice whatever of the ship which passed within a
quarter of a mile of him. We saw many huts close to the beach, usually
three or four together, forming small villages. They appeared to be long
and low, resting on the ground, with an opening at each end, and an
arched roof thatched with palm-leaves. The most picturesque situations
were chosen for these hamlets in the shade of the coconut-trees, and
about them we could see numbers of children, but no women were made out,
and most of the men were fishing on the reef. At one place we observed
what appeared to be a portion of cultivated ground; a cleared sloping
bank above the shore exhibited a succession of small terraces, with a
bush-like plant growing in regular rows.

June 14th.

In the morning we found ourselves so far to leeward of the opening seen
last night, with a strong breeze and a considerable head sea, that the
attempt to work up for it was abandoned, and we kept away to the westward
to look for an anchorage.


We then ran along the northern side of Piron* Island, which is five miles
in length, and one and a half in breadth, of moderate elevation, and
sloping gently towards each extreme. It exhibits a range of low grassy
hills, with smooth rounded outline, a straggling belt of wood--often
mangroves--along the shore, patches of brush here and there in the
hollows, and on the hilltops, scattered along the ridge, a few solitary
tall bushy trees with silvery-looking foliage. The bright green of the
tall grass gave a pleasing aspect to the whole island, large tracts of
which appeared like fields of unripe grain. We saw few natives, the
opposite, or southern shore, being probably that chiefly inhabited. Close
approach to Piron Island was prevented by a second barrier reef, which we
followed to the North-North-West for several miles beyond the end of the
island, anxiously looking out for an opening into the fine expanse of
pale blue water seen to extend to the southward as far as the large
south-east island.** At length an opening in the reef was observed, and
the ship hauled off and hove to, while Lieutenant Yule examined it in one
of his boats.

(*Footnote. Piron was draughtsman to D'Entrecasteaux's Expedition.)

(**Footnote. This is 41 miles long, and 10 1/2 in greatest width.)


In the afternoon the Bramble having made the signal passage clear but
narrow, was directed to enter, and we followed her through a fine opening
400 yards wide, and were immediately in soundings, which 111 fathoms of
line had failed to procure only a short distance outside. After standing
on the southward for two miles we anchored in 15 fathoms water. The name
of Coral Haven was bestowed upon this new harbour. We remained here all
next day, during which the natives in their canoes came off to the
Bramble, and one or two of the boats away sounding, but would not venture
to approach the ship.

June 16th.

The ship was moved in one and a half miles to the southward, towards the
land, and anchored in ten fathoms, close to a reef covered at high-water,
and about a mile distant from a small bank of dead coral and sand; the
former of these was selected by Captain Stanley as the starting point of
the survey, and on the latter magnetical observations were made by
Lieutenant Dayman.


In the afternoon I took a passage in a boat sent with a party to Pig
Island--the name afterwards given to that nearest us--to search for
water, and endeavour to communicate with the natives. A party of eight
men, fishing upon the reef surrounding a small islet, allowed us to
approach within a short distance, but upon our attempting to leave the
boat they became alarmed and retreated to their canoe in which they
paddled off in great haste to a landing-place under a small village in
sight of the ship. This consisted of three or four long barn-like huts,
raised from the ground on posts. A large village was also seen on Joannet
Island, situated, like the other, on the brow of a hill in a commanding


Five of our party landed about half a mile from where the canoe had
disappeared, apparently in some creek of a mangrove swamp; while walking
along the muddy shore we were met by about a dozen natives, who gradually
fell back as we approached. Seeing them apparently afraid of our number
and weapons--they themselves being unarmed--I left my gun behind, and,
advancing alone, holding up a green branch in each hand, was allowed to
come up to them.


They were apparently in a state of great agitation, and very suspicious
of our intentions. The spokesman of the party was much lighter in colour
than the others, and I at first fancied he spoke some Malay dialect from
the similarity in sound and intonation of his words, nor was it until I
had used some of the commonest and least changeable Malay words--as those
meaning fire, water, etc.--without being understood, that I was convinced
of my mistake. Two others of our party were allowed to come up one by
one, and some trifling articles were exchanged for various ornaments.
Still they would not suffer anyone with a gun to approach, although
anxious to entice us singly and unarmed to their village towards which
they were gradually leading us, and where they could be reinforced by
another party, whom we saw watching us on the edge of the mangroves.

But it was not considered expedient to waste more time upon the natives,
so we turned back and walked along the eastern side of the island one and
a half miles, with the boat in company outside. A small stream of fresh
water was found, not sufficient, however, for our wants, nor was the
place suitable for the approach of boats. The rock on Pig Island, where
exposed at some of the points, is mica slate, soft and splintery in many
places, with frequent veins of quartz. The hills,* although often running
in ridges, have a rounded outline, and the soil on the smooth grassy
places--comprising three-fourths of the island--is composed of
disintegrated rock mixed with pieces of undecomposed quartz, any
considerable accumulation of vegetable mould being probably prevented by
the heavy rains. The grass is very luxuriant without being rank; it was
not known to me, for, unlike most of the other plants, I had not met with
it in Australia. Indeed the frequency of the coconut-palm was the only
non-Malayo-Australian feature in the vegetation. As no botanist had
previously visited the Louisiade, a few of the principal plants may be
mentioned. These are Guilandina bonduc, Tournefortia argentea, Morinda
citrifolia, Paritium tiliaceum, Casuarina equisetifolia, and Clerodendrum
inerme,* among the trees and shrubs, which were often overgrown with
Lygodium microphyllum, and Disemma coccinea. The only birds seen were the
sacred kingfisher, the sulphur-crested cockatoo, and the Australian crow.
The shells on the reef were all Australian likewise, but under some
decaying logs, on the beach, I found single species of Auricula,
Truncatella, Scarabus, and Melampus.

(*Footnote. The highest part of the island, measured up to the tops of
the trees, is 479 feet.)

(**Footnote. These are all common to Polynesia, the Indian Archipelago,
and tropical Australia.)

The men we saw today were dark copper coloured, with the exception of the
spokesman, whose skin was of a light-brownish yellow hue. The hair in
nearly all was frizzled out into a mop, in some instances of prodigious
size; the light-coloured man, however, had his head closely shaved.* The
physiognomy varied much; some had a savage, even ferocious aspect. The
nose was narrower and more prominent, the mouth smaller, the lips
thinner, the eyes more distant, the eyebrows less overhanging, the
forehead higher, but not broader, than in the Australian, with whom I
naturally compared them as the only dark savage race which I had seen
much of. They used the betel, or something like it, judging from the
effect in discolouring the teeth and giving a bloody appearance to the
saliva; each man carried his chewing materials in a small basket, the
lime, in fine powder, being contained in a neat calabash with a stopper,
and a carved piece of tortoise-shell like a paper-cutter was used to
convey it to the mouth.

(*Footnote. This allowed us to observe its contour, which was remarkable.
The forehead was narrow and receding, appearing as if artificially
flattened, thereby giving great prominence and width to the hinder part
of the skull. Altogether this man appeared so different from the rest,
that for some time he was supposed to belong to a different class of
people, but I afterwards often observed the same configuration of head
combined with dark coloured skin and diminutive stature.)

None had the artificial prominent scars on the body peculiar to the
Australians, or wanted any of the front teeth, but the septum of the nose
was perforated to admit an ornament of polished shell, pointed and
slightly turned up at each end. The lobe of the ear was slit, the hole
being either kept distended by a large plug of rolled-up leaf, apparently
of the banana, or hung with thin circular earrings made of the ground
down end of a cone-shell (Conus millepunctatus) one and a half inches in
diameter, with a central hole and a slit leading to the edge. A piece of
cloth-like substance, the dried leaf of the Pandanus or some palm was
used by all as a breech cloth--it passes between the legs and is secured
in front and behind to a narrow waist-band.


June 17th.

I formed one of the party in the second cutter, sent in command of
Lieutenant Simpson, on a similar mission to that of yesterday. As we
passed along the north side of Pig Island we saw small groups of natives
upon the grassy ridges watching the boat, and, upon our closely
approaching the north-west point of the island, one of them, whom we
recognised as our light-coloured acquaintance of yesterday, came running
down to the top of a bank inviting us by gestures to land.

Four of our party got on shore with difficulty after a long wade upon the
reef, up to the waist in water, but, on ascending the bank, the red man,
as we provisionally named him, retired to a small group of natives who
were coming up. Following them as they gradually fell back in the
direction of the village, in a short time the two foremost, Messrs.
Huxley and Brierly,* the latter having laid down his rifle, were allowed
to approach and parley. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Simpson and I remained
behind watching the natives who quickly surrounded the two others,
offering tortoise-shell, green plantains, and other things for barter,
and hustling them in no very ceremonious way while intent upon sketching,
and having to keep their subjects in good humour by treating them to
sundry scraps of extempore melodramatic performance. Newcomers were
continually making their appearance, and all the party were now suddenly
observed to have furnished themselves with spears, none of which had been
seen at first, and which had probably been concealed among the long grass
at the spot to which they had led us. These weapons are made of polished
coconut-wood, eight to ten feet long, sharp at each end, and beautifully
balanced, the thickest part being two-fifths of the distance from the
point; one end was usually ornamented with a narrow strip of palm leaf,
fluttering in the breeze like a pennon as usually carried. One man was
furnished with a two-edged carved and painted instrument like a sword.
Most of these people had their face daubed over with broad streaks of
charcoal down the centre and round the eyes. Occasionally variegated with
white, giving them a most forbidding aspect. At length a live pig was
brought down from the village, slung on a pole, and was purchased for a
knife and a handkerchief. This was a masterstroke of policy, as the
natives well knew that it would take two of us to bear off our prize to
the boat, thus rendering our little party less formidable.

(*Footnote. A talented marine artist who accompanied us upon this and the
preceding cruise, as Captain Stanley's guest.)


The number of men had been gradually increasing until it amounted to
about thirty, all with spears. They were also becoming more rude and
insolent in their behaviour, and seeing this I left my post on a hillock,
and joined Simpson to take part in the expected fray. The natives were
now evidently bent on mischief, and we fully expected they would not much
longer delay making an attack, with the advantage of a commanding
position on a hillock which we must descend to return to the boat. At
this crisis one of our party discovered that he had lost a pistol from
his belt, and attempted to recover it by showing another and making signs
evincing great anxiety to recover the lost weapon. On this there was a
general movement among the natives, who began drawing back into a
cluster, balancing their spears and talking to each other very earnestly.
It being evident that the pistol had been stolen, and not dropped
accidentally among the grass, it was also apparent that by attaching
undue importance to its loss our safety might be supposed to depend upon
its possession. We then slowly commenced our retreat, two in advance
carrying the pig, and the remainder covering the retreat. Being the last
of our party, as I slowly descended the hillock sideways, watching every
motion of what we might fairly consider as the enemy, with spare caps
between my teeth, and a couple of cartridges in one hand, I was in
momentary expectation of receiving a spear or two, which probably would
have been the case, had I stumbled or turned my back to them for a
moment. As we drew back along the ridge and dipped into the first hollow
a party of the natives detached themselves from the rest as if to come
round upon our flank, but this fortunately was formed by a steep ascent
covered with dense jungle which would have occupied them some time to get


Arriving at the bank above the boat, the pig-carriers with their burden
speedily reached the bottom, all three rolling down together. When they
were well clear we followed, keeping a sharp lookout behind in case of
any advantage being taken of our position. The boat had grounded upon the
reef with the falling tide, but with some difficulty was got afloat, when
we left the place.

After rounding the point we opened a large bay on the west side of the
island where we saw the mouth of a small stream pointed out by the
natives during our last interview, but, on approaching within 300 yards,
it was found that boats could not get any closer in at low-water, the
shore being everywhere fringed by a reef. This is the most beautiful and
sheltered portion of the island, well wooded, with a sandy beach, clumps
of coconut-trees, and a village of four or five huts. We landed on a
small islet connected with the south-west point of Pig Island by a reef,
and strolled about with our guns while the boat's crew were having their
dinners. Several Megapodii were seen and one was shot--it afterwards
proved to be the M. duperreyi, previously known as a native of Port Dorey
on the north-west coast of New Guinea. While holding on to the reef a
party of natives, apparently from Brierly Island, paddled up in a canoe,
and, after some hesitation at first, came alongside calling out
kelumai-kelumai, which we conjectured to be their word for iron. For a
few trifling articles we obtained a spear or two, and some cooked yams,
and parted good friends, after which we returned to the ship, having
completed the circuit of the island without finding a practicable


June 18th.

Five canoes came off this morning with seven or eight natives in each,
but apparently not with the intention of bartering, although they
remained for a short time near the Bramble; it was thought that some
allusions were made by them to the pistol stolen yesterday, but this did
not appear to be certain. After a while they crossed over to the ship,
and from a respectful distance--as if afraid to come closer--used many
violent gesticulations, talking vehemently all the while, and repeatedly
pointed to the break in the reef by which we had entered Coral Haven,
waving us off at the same time. Our red friend from Pig Island made
himself as conspicuous as on former occasions, and none shouted more
loudly or wished to attract more attention to himself. Unfortunately his
eloquence was quite thrown away upon us, nor had his threatening gestures
the desired effect of inducing us to leave the place and proceed to sea.


June 20th.

I returned to the ship after a short cruise in the pinnace sent away with
Lieutenant Simpson to ascertain whether a passage for the ship to the
eastward existed between Piron Island and South-east Island.
Independently of numerous detached coral patches, the channel was found
to be completely blocked up by a reef stretching across from one island
to the other, beyond which, separated by an extensive tract of shoal
water, a heavy surf was breaking on what is probably an outer barrier.
Many snakes were seen on the surface of the water, and large shoals of
skipjacks (Caranx) playing about in long extended lines occasionally
presented the appearance of a breaking reef. The fish were attended by
flocks of terns and noddies, the former the beautiful Sterna melanauchen.

June 21st.

Landed on the neighbouring Observation Reef, and spent some hours there
searching for shells, but nearly all were Torres Strait species. The reef
is margined with blocks of coral, but the centre is mostly smooth and
covered with sand part of which dries at low-water; the rise and fall,
ascertained by a tide-pole set up here, was only four feet.


I had a good opportunity of witnessing the mode of fishing with the seine
practised by the natives of the Louisiade. One of these nets, apparently
of the usual dimensions, measured 130 feet in length, with a depth of a
yard only. The upper border is supported, when in the water, by numerous
small thin triangular floats of light wood, and the lower margin is
strung with a series of perforated shells--chiefly single valves of Arca
scapha--serving as sinkers. The cordage is of a white colour, very light,
and neatly laid up, the meshes are an inch wide, and the centre of the
net ends in a purse-like bag. A party of eight men poled along the
shallow margin of the reef in their canoe, using the seine at intervals.
When a shoal of fish is seen, three men lay hold of the net and jump out
into the water--it is run out into a semicircle, the men at the extremes
moving onwards with one person in advance on each side splashing the
water with long poles and stones to drive the fish towards the centre.
The canoe now makes a sweep and comes up to the opening, when the net is
closed in upon it, and hauled inboard with its contents. This mode of
fishing would appear to be practised also at some of the islands of
Polynesia, for similar seines are exhibited in the ethnological gallery
of the British Museum from the Feejees and elsewhere. In addition to the
seine, we had occasionally observed in canoes alongside the ship a small
scoop-net with a very long handle, and once procured a fishing hook of
singular construction. This last is represented by the right hand figure
of the accompanying woodcut. It is seven inches in length, made of some
hard wood, with an arm four and a half inches long, turning up at a sharp
angle, and tipped with a slightly curved barb of tortoise-shell
projecting horizontally inwards an inch and a half.


During the afternoon one of the crew of a boat upon the reef, while
incautiously handling a frog-fish (Batrachus) which he had found under a
stone, received two punctures at the base of the thumb from the sharp
dorsal spines partially concealed by the skin. Immediately severe pain
was produced which quickly increased until it became intolerable, and the
man lay down and rolled about in agony. He was taken on board the ship in
a state of great weakness. The hand was considerably swollen, with the
pain shooting up the arm to the axilla, but the glands there did not
become affected. The pulse fell to as low as 40 beats in the minute, with
a constant desire to vomit. Large doses of opium in the course of time
afforded relief, but a fortnight elapsed before the man was again fit for


June 23rd.

I accompanied Mr. Brown, the master, who was sent to examine and report
upon a watering-place said to have been found a day or two ago on
South-east Island, about four miles north from the ship. We found the
coast thereabouts fringed with mangroves, a gap in which, margined by
forest trees, indicated the place which we were in search of. The
ebb-tide was scarcely beginning to make, yet a narrow band of shingle off
the entrance of the creek had barely water enough upon it to allow the
boat to cross. Beyond the bar we got into deep water, and after pulling
up for 300 yards found it only brackish. Our further progress, however,
was impeded by the narrowing of the creek, which besides was blocked up
with dead trees and some rocks in its bed a few yards ahead of us. The
fresh water being thus unattainable without much trouble, and the bar at
the entrance adding to the difficulty of watering the ship there, we
turned back to search elsewhere. While standing along shore to the
eastward, opposite an opening in the low hills behind the coast we
observed another breach in the mangroves backed by trees of a different
description, and thought it worthy of examination. Tacking inshore we
found a small bight, with shoal water, on a bank of mud extending right
across, beyond which the entrance of a creek fringed with mangroves was
discovered. Our hopes were still further raised, when, ascending about
200 yards, with a depth of two and three fathoms, the surface water was
found to be quite drinkable. While passing the entrance on our return a
great lizard, about five feet in length, rushed out from an adjacent
swamp across a narrow strip of sandy beach and plunged into the water
after receiving an ineffectual charge of small shot. The boat's crew
pronounced it confidently to have been a young alligator, but, although
in a very likely haunt for these animals, it was probably only a monitor.


We then crossed over to Round Island, small, uninhabited, 230 feet in
height, thickly covered with trees and underwood, and connected on the
eastern side with the reef running across to Piron Island. The rock here
is still mica slate, varying much in texture and composition, often
highly ferruginous; the strata run East-South-East and West-North-West
with a northerly dip of about 45 degrees.

June 24th.

In the course of the day no less than seven canoes with natives,
including several women and children, came off to the ship boldly and
without hesitation, as if confidence were now established. At one time we
had five canoes alongside, with a brisk and noisy traffic going on. The
people parted very readily with their weapons and ornaments, also
coconuts in abundance, and a few yams and bananas, for strips of calico
and pieces of iron hoop. Axes, however, were more prized than any other
article, and the exhibition of one was certain to produce great eagerness
to procure it, amidst much shouting and cries of kelumai! The purpose to
which they applied the iron hoop we found was to substitute it for the
pieces of a hard greenstone (nephrite) in the heads of their axes and
adzes. The one figured above represents the usual form of these
instruments. The V-shaped handle is a single piece of wood, and the
stone, previously ground down to a fine edge, is fixed in a cleft at the
end of the short arm, and firmly secured by cordage. This axe is usually
carried by being hooked over the left shoulder with the handle crossing
the breast diagonally.

Among our visitors today I noticed two who had large white patches on the
skin, as if caused by some leprous complaint--one man had lost his nose,
and in addition was affected with elephantiasis of the left foot.


After leaving us two of the canoes paddled up to the tide pole on the
neighbouring reef, and before a boat could reach them, the natives
managed to secure the pigs of iron ballast with which it was moored. They
communicated with two canoes, coming from the direction of Piron Island,
which soon afterwards came under the stern. As one of the stolen pigs was
seen partially concealed in the bow of one of the last comers the
jollyboat was manned to recover it, when the canoes left in great haste
with the boat in chase. As the boat approached a coconut was thrown
overboard from the canoe, as if to cause delay by stopping to pick it up,
but, the intended effect not being produced, the stolen ballast also was
thrown out, when the boat of course returned. By Captain Stanley's orders
two musket shots were fired over the canoes, while about 300 yards
distant, to show that although in fancied security they were still within
reach. The splash of the first bullet caused them to paddle off in great
haste, and, when they again stopped, a second shot, striking the water
beyond the canoes, sent them off to the shore at their utmost speed.


With a single exception, to be afterwards noticed, the canoes seen by us
in Coral Haven are of the following description. The usual length is
about twenty-five feet, and one of this size carries from seven to ten
people. The body is formed by the hollowed-out trunk of a tree, tapering
and rising at each end, short and rounded behind, but in front run out
into a long beak. A stout plank on each side raises the canoe a foot,
forming a gunwale secured by knees, the seam at the junction being payed
over with a black pitch-like substance. This gunwale is open at the
stern, the ends not being connected, but the bow is closed by a raised
end-board fancifully carved and painted in front of which a crest-like
wooden ornament fits into a groove running along the beak. This
figurehead, called tabura, is elaborately cut into various devices,
painted red and white, and decorated with white egg-shells and feathers
of the cassowary and bird of paradise. The bow and stern also are more or
less profusely ornamented with these shells, which besides are strung
about other parts of the canoe, usually in pairs. An outrigger extends
along nearly the whole length of the left or port side of the canoe. In
its construction there are employed from six to eight poles, two inches
in diameter, which rest against one side of the body of the canoe and are
secured there, then passing out through the opposite side about five
feet, inclining slightly upwards at the same time, are connected at the
ends by lashing to a long stout pole completing the strong framework
required for the support of the float. This last is a long and narrow log
of a soft and very light wood (probably a cotton tree) rising a little
and pointed at each end so as to offer the least possible resistance to
the water. Four sticks passing diagonally downwards from each of the
transverse poles are sunk into the float and firmly secure it. A strip of
the inner portion of the outrigger frame is converted into a platform by
long sticks laid lengthways close to each other--here the sails, masts,
poles, spears, and other articles are laid when not in use. The paddles
vary slightly in form but are usually about four feet in length, with a
slender handle and a pointed lance-shaped blade. The number of men able
to use the paddles is regulated in each canoe by that of supporting
outrigger poles, the end of each of which, in conjunction with one of the
knees supporting the gunwale, serves as a seat. One sitter at each end,
being clear of the outrigger, is able to use his paddle on either side as
requisite in steering, but the others paddle on the right or starboard
side only. The man seated at the stern closes with his body the opening
between the ends of the raised gunwale and thus keeps out the spray or
wash of the sea. Still they require to bail frequently, using for this
purpose the large shell of the Melo ethiopica. In calms and light airs
these canoes of Coral Haven may be overtaken without difficulty by a
fast-pulling ship's boat, but on going to windward with a moderate breeze
and a little head-sea they appeared to have the advantage. The sails are
from twelve to fifteen feet in length and a yard wide--made of coarse
matting of the leaf of the coconut-tree stretched between two slender
poles. The mast is stepped with an outward inclination into one of three
or four holes in a narrow shifting board in the bottom of the canoe, and
is secured near the top to a slender stick of similar length made fast to
the outside part of the outrigger; a second pole is then erected
stretching diagonally outwards and secured to the outer one near its
centre. Against the framework thus formed the sails are stuck up on end
side by side to the number of three or four, occasionally even five, and
kept in their places by long sticks placed transversely, their ends as
well as those of the mast being sharpened to serve as skewers which in
the first instance secure the sails. While under sail either the bow or
stern of the canoe may be foremost, this being regulated by the necessity
of having the outrigger on the weather side, unless in a very light wind.
From the sail being placed so far forward these canoes do not lay up
close to the wind, but when going free considerable speed may be


Among the canoes which visited the ship one was of a quite different
construction from the rest and resembled some of those which we had seen
while passing along the northern side of Rossel Island. It contained
seven men, and came from the eastward--probably from Piron Island. The
body of a canoe of this class is formed like the other, or more common
kind, of the hollowed out trunk of a large tree, tapering to a point and
rising slightly at the ends, which, however, are alike and covered over
by a close-fitting piece of wood, each end being thus converted into a
hollow cone. The sides are raised by a plank two feet high and end-boards
forming a kind of long box, with the seams pitched over. One side is
provided with an outrigger similar to that already described, and on the
other is a small stage, level with the gunwale, six feet long, planked
over, and projecting four feet or thereabouts. The mast is a standing one
stepped into a board in the bottom--it is lashed to a stout transverse
pole, and is further supported by two fore and aft stays. The halyards
reeve through a hole in a projecting arm a foot long at the masthead. But
the sail forms the most curious feature in the whole affair.* It measures
about fifteen feet in width by eight in depth and is made of rather fine
matting stretched between two yards and rounded at the sides. The sail
when not in use is rolled up and laid along the platform--when hoisted it
stretches obliquely upwards across the mast, confined by the stays, with
the lower and foremost corner resting on the stage and the tack secured
to the foot of the mast. Both ends being alike, the mast central, and the
sail large and manageable, a canoe of this description is well adapted
for working to windward. Tacking is simply and expeditiously performed by
letting go the tack, hauling upon the sheet, and converting one into the
other. The large steering paddles are eight or nine feet long, with an
oblong rounded blade of half that length.

(*Footnote. The annexed illustration represents this kind of sail--it was
not however taken from the canoe in question, but on a subsequent
occasion, and at another part of the Louisiade Archipelago.)


June 26th.

Yesterday afternoon the Rattlesnake was removed to the neighbourhood of
the proposed watering-place on South-east Island, and anchored in
seventeen fathoms, mud, a mile off shore. Soon after daylight I
accompanied Captain Stanley and a party in two boats to ascend the
neighbouring creek and determine whether a practicable watering-place
existed there. For several hundred yards above the entrance we found the
channel preserving a nearly uniform width of about fifteen yards, with
low muddy shores covered with mangroves, some of which attained the
unusual dimensions of 60 to 80 feet in height, with a circumference at
the base of 6 to 8 feet.


To this succeeded during our upward progress a low bank of red clay
backed by rising ground and tangled brush, with very large trees at
intervals, and others arching over the stream, their branches nearly
touching the water. Gigantic climbers hung down in long festoons passing
from branch to branch, and the more aged trunks supported clumps of ferns
and parasitical plants. Here and there an areca palm shot up its slender
stem surmounted by a cluster of pale-green feathery leaves, or the
attention was arrested for a moment by a magnificent pandanus--its trunk
raised high above the ground by the enormous supporting root-like
shoots--or some graceful tree-fern with dark widely-spreading foliage
exceeding in delicacy the finest lace.

Meanwhile the creek had slightly narrowed, the dead trees in the water
became more frequent and troublesome, and the thickets on the banks
encroached more and more upon the channel so as not to allow room for the
oars to pass, obliging the men to use them as poles. At every turn in the
windings of the stream (still too brackish to be fit to drink) some
beautiful glimpse of jungle scenery presented itself as we passed
upwards--long vistas and stray bursts of sunshine alternating with the
gloomy shadows of the surrounding woods. A deep silence pervaded the
banks of this water never before visited by civilised man. Its monotony
broken only by the occasional brief word of command, the splash of the
oars, or the shrill notes of some passing flights of parrots. The river,
for now it might fairly be called one, retained the same character until
we had gone up about a mile, when further progress was stopped by a ridge
of rocks stretching across from side to side marking the limits of the
tidal influence. Over this the rush of fresh water formed a strong rapid
backed by a deep, sluggish, winding stream, draining a large basin-like
valley bounded behind by the central ridge of the island, the principal
hills of which attain an elevation of from 992 to 1,421 feet, and one,
Mount Rattlesnake, is 2,689 feet in height. At times the body of water
discharged here must be immense, judging from the quantity of driftwood
and other detritus lodged in the trees twelve feet above the present
level of the stream, probably during the inundations of the rainy season.
These floods must also spread over the low land on the margin of the
river to a considerable distance, the deep red clay there, evidently the
washings of the hills, bearing the marks of having been under water. The
jungle in places is very dense, but, with the exercise of a little
patience and labour, it can be penetrated at almost every point. On
rising ground it is often bordered by a thicket of creeping and climbing
plants mixed up with bushes and patches of Hellenia coerulea. The low
wooded hills are covered with tall grass growing on very poor soil--of
partially decomposed mica-slate with lumps of quartz.

It being considered practicable to water the ship at this place, we
returned on board. In the afternoon the first load of water was brought
off, and in the course of the week we procured 78 tons with less trouble
than had been anticipated. I afterwards repeatedly visited the
watering-creek, and a brief account of the productions of its
neighbourhood may here be given as a popular contribution to the natural
history of the little-known Louisiade Archipelago.

The rock is scarcely ever exposed on the banks of the river except at the
rapid before alluded to. Though still mica-slate, it is there of much
greater hardness and denser texture than on Pig and Round Islands, and
stretches across the stream like a dyke, running nearly north and south
with a westerly dip of about 60 degrees. Elsewhere, along the shores of
Coral Haven, this mica-slate is of a leaden hue and glistening lustre,
yielding to the nail, with a slight greasy feel, especially in some
pieces of a shining ash-grey, acted upon by salt-water. From hand
specimens alone it is difficult to assign a name to this rock, as it
partakes more or less of the characters of mica, chlorite, and


Among the botanical productions Nepenthes destillatoria, the famous
pitcher-plant of the East, deserves mention. It grows abundantly among
the tall grass on the skirts of the jungle, and the pitchers invariably
contained a small quantity of limpid fluid of a slightly sweetish taste,
with small insects floating on its surface. The finest of the tree-ferns
(Hemitelium) grew alone near the watering-place, and was cut down to
furnish specimens. The trunk measured fifteen feet in height, with a
diameter at the base of eight inches.


No mammalia were procured on South-east Island--indeed the only one seen
was a flying-squirrel which I caught a glimpse of one evening at the
river-mouth as it sprung off among the mangroves from the summit of a
dead tree--it appeared to be of the size of an ordinary rat, and was
probably a Petaurus. Wild pigs must be very numerous--as indicated by
fresh marks where they had been wallowing in the beds of the ditch-like
rivulets, their footprints everywhere, and well-beaten tracks through the
jungle. But none of the animals themselves, probably from their extreme
shyness and partially nocturnal habits, were ever encountered by our
shooting parties. I was afterwards informed by Mr. Inskip that while in
the Bramble, in the neighbourhood of Conde Peninsula, a native in a canoe
alongside having his attention directed to a very large boar's tusk which
he wore as an ornament, described, by pantomimic gestures, that the
animal had cost much trouble in killing it, having repeatedly charged
him, and received no less than eight spear wounds before it fell.

Birds were plentiful, but owing to the difficulty of seeing them among
the thick foliage, few, comparatively, were shot. The most interesting
specimen procured was one of a very handsome scarlet Lory, closely allied
to Lorius domicellus, a bird widely spread over the Indian Archipelago.
It was usually seen in small flocks passing over the tops of the trees,
uttering a loud sharp scream at intervals. Another parakeet, not so big
as a sparrow, of a green colour, was sometimes seen in flocks, but we
could not succeed in getting one. The Torres Strait and Nicobar pigeons,
also Duperrey's Megapodius were common enough, as well as many other
birds, twelve species of which are also found in Australia--a most
unlooked-for occurrence.

No snakes were seen during our rambles, but small lizards occurred
everywhere. A large lizard, apparently Monitor gouldii, was shot from a
tree on the banks of the river.


Although not troubled by mosquitoes, such of us as strolled about much in
the bush were sadly tormented by sandflies--a minute two-winged insect
whose bite raises a small swelling followed by much itching. On going to
bed one night, I counted no less than sixty-three of these marks on my
left leg from the ankle to halfway up the thigh, and the right one was
equally studded with angry red pimples. Among many kinds of ants I may
mention the green one, which is found chiefly on trees and bushes, of the
leaves of which it makes its nest. Should one unconsciously disturb them
by getting entangled among the branches in the neighbourhood of a nest,
he may expect a whole swarm upon him before he can extricate himself, and
is first made aware of their presence by feeling sharp stinging pains in
various places, especially the neck, caused by their bites. A small
firefly (a species of Lampyris) is plentiful, showing out at night like a
twinkling phosphorescent spark, slowly flitting about from tree to tree
or resting on the leaves wet with dew. Nor must I omit a very splendid
day-flying moth (Cocytia durvillei) which is common on the skirts of the
woods and thickets; several even came on board the ship at various times.

Very few fish were caught at this anchorage, but on the mudflat at the
mouth of the creek, shoals of mullet and guard-fish were seen daily. In
the fresh water I observed several small species of Cyprinidae rising at
flies, but, not being provided with the requisite tackle, none were


The muddy mangrove-covered banks of the lower part of the creek furnished
the collection with an Auricula and a very fine Cyrena, apparently the
same as the Australian and New Guinea C. cyprinoides. Many freshwater
shells were found in the neighbourhood of the watering-place--three kinds
of Melania, a Mytilus, a Navicella, and five species of Neritina--but
most of these have been already described as inhabitants of the Feejee
Islands and other places in Polynesia, and elsewhere. One might
reasonably have anticipated a rich harvest of land-shells in the damp
forests of South-east Island, yet diligent search on the trunks of the
trees and among the dead leaves about their roots produced only four
species, all of which however are new. The finest of these is a Pupina,
the giant of its race, of a glossy reddish pink colour with red mouth.


During our stay here the ship was daily visited by canoes from Pig Island
and its vicinity, also from a village or two on South-east Island, a few
miles to the eastward of our anchorage. They usually made their
appearance in the morning and remained for an hour or so, bartering
coconuts, yams, ornaments and weapons for iron hoop, knives, and axes.
After leaving us, those coming from the eastward, as the wind was
unfavourable for their return, landed at the mouth of the creek and
waited for the floodtide. Our intercourse throughout was peaceful, which
was fortunate for both parties, for, if inclined to be hostile, the
natives might frequently have attacked our watering-boats while passing
up and down the river, impeded occasionally by dead trees and shoals,
with a dense forest on each side. Latterly, however, as if suspicious of
our intentions or tired of our protracted stay, they fired the grass on
the hill at the entrance of the creek, possibly to deter us from
entering. Still we thought this might have been done without reference to
us, but afterwards two or three men with spears were seen by passing
boats skulking along the banks of the river on their way to the rapid,
where they again set fire to the grass as if to smoke us out or prevent
our return. But the grassy tracts along the tops of the low hills in the
vicinity being intersected by lines and patches of brush the fire did not
extend far, as had also been the case lower down, so caused us no

Among our numerous visitors we occasionally saw a woman or two, but none
were favourable specimens of their kind. Unlike the men, whose only
covering was the breech-cloth formerly described, the women wore a short

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