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The History of Australian Exploration from 1788 to 1888 by Ernest Favenc

Part 8 out of 10

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ascertain his fate.

Not only can we admire both of these men for their dauntless courage, so
often tried, but all their work on the coast of Australia was done with
no hope of ulterior gain for themselves; their one thought was the
extension of geographical knowledge and the benefit of their fellow men.


The French Expedition--Buonaparte's lavish outfitting--Baudin in the
Géographe--Coast casualties--Sterile and barren appearance--Privations of
the crew--Sails for Timor--Hamelin in the NATURALISTE--Explores
North-Western coast--Swan River--Isle of Rottnest--Joins her consort at
Coepang--Sails for Van Dieman's Land--Examination of the South-East coast
of Australia--Flinders' prior visit ignored--French names
substituted--Discontent among crew--Baudin's unpopularity--Bad food--Port
Jackson--Captain King's Voyages--Adventures in the MERMAID--An extensive
commission--Allan Cunningham, botanist--Search at Seal Islands for
memorial of Flinders' visit--Seed sowing--Jeopardy to voyage--Giant
anthills--An aboriginal Stoic--Cape Arnhem and west coast
exploration--Macquarie Strait--Audacity of natives--Botanical results
satisfactory--Malay Fleet--Raffles Bay--Port Essington--Attack by
natives--Cape Van Dieman--Malay Teachings--Timor and its Rajah--Return to
Port--Second Voyage--MERMAID and LADY NELSON--East Coast--Cleveland
Bay--Cocoa-nuts and pumice stones--Endeavour River--Thieving
natives--Geological formation of adjacent country--Remarkable
coincidences--Across Gulf of Carpentaria--Inland excursion--Cambridge
Gulf--Ophthalmia amongst crew--MERMAID returns to port.

The voyage of the GÉOGRAPHE and NATURALISTE, under Commander Baudin, was
undertaken whilst the explorations of Flinders were in progress, and
their meeting on the south coast, and the subsequent substitution of
French for English names, led to a very sore feeling on the part of the
English navigator.

The expedition was under the special sanction of Buonaparte, and there is
little doubt was mainly dictated by his morbid jealously of the maritime
supremacy of England.

Even at the time when the army of reserve was on the move to cross the
Alps, he found leisure to attend to the details of the projected
expedition and nominate twenty-three persons to accompany the ships and
make scientific observations. "Astronomers, geographers, mineralogist,
botanists, zoologists, draftsmen, horticulturists, all were found ready
in number, double, treble, or even quintreple."

"Particular care had been taken that the stores might be abundant and of
the best quality. The naval stores at Havre were entirely at the disposal
of our commander. Considerable sums were granted him for the purchase of
supplies of fresh provisions, such as wines, liquors, syrups, sweetmeats
of different kinds, portable soups, Italian pastes, dry lemonade,
extracts of beer, etc., some filtering vessels, hand mills, stoves,
apparatus for distilling, etc., had been shipped on board each vessel."

Added to which a national medal was struck to preserve the memory of the
undertaking, and unlimited credit opened on the principal colonies in
Asia and Africa.

Think of Flinders in the crazy old INVESTIGATOR, of King and Cunningham
cramped up in the MERMAID, where the cabin was not big enough for their
mess-table, and imagine with what scorn they would have looked on these
luxurious preparations.

M. Péron writes:--

"On the shores to which we were destined were many interesting nations.
It was the wish of the First Consul, that as deputies of Europe, we
should conciliate these uninformed people, and appear among them as
friends and benefactors. By his order the most useful animals were
embarked in our vessels, a number of interesting trees and shrubs were
collected in our ships, with quantities of such seeds as were most
congenial to the temperature of the climate. The most useful tools,
clothing, and ornaments of every sort were provided for them; even the
most particular inventions in optics, chemistry, and natural philosophy
were contributed for their advantage, or to promote their pleasure."

Certainly if M. Baudin failed it would not be the fault of the First

On the 27th of May, 18oi, the coast of New Holland was made--"a blackish
stripe from the north to the south was the humble profile of the
continent first caught sight of." Their first acquaintance with the coast
was not encouraging. Landing at Géographe Bay to examine a river reported
to be there, the longboat was lost, a sailor named Vasse drowned, and the
NATURALISTE lost two anchors. The ships now parted company, the GÉOGRAPHE
steering north to Dirk Hartog's Road, or Shark's Bay. Here they waited
some time for the appearance of the NATURALISTE, but that vessel not
appearing, the GÉOGRAPHE sailed north, and on the 27th July they were in
the neighbourhood of the much visited Rosemary Island. On the 5th of
August the Lacepede Islands were found and named, but no landings were
effected, and the voyagers described the appearance of the islands as
"hideously sterile."

"In the midst of these numerous islands there is not anything to delight
the mind. The soil is naked; the ardent sky seems always clear and
without clouds; the waves are scarcely agitated, except by the nocturnal
tempests: man seems to fly from these ungrateful shores, not a part of
which, at least as far as we could distinguish, had the smallest trace of
his presence. The aspect is altogether the most whimsical and savage, at
all parts raising itself into a thousand different shapes of sandy,
sterile, and chalky isles, many of them resembling immense antique tombs;
some of them appear united by chains of reefs, others protected by
immense sand-banks, and all that one could see of the continent displayed
the same sterility, and the same monotony of colour and appearance. The
dismayed and astonished navigator turns away his eyes, fatigued with the
contemplation of these unhappy isles and hideous solitudes, surrounded,
as he views them, with continual dangers; and when he reflects that these
inhospitable shores border those of the archipelago of Asia, on which
nature has lavished blessings and treasures, he can scarcely conceive how
so vast a sterility could be produced in the neighbourhood of such great
fecundity. We continued to range the coast, which seemed to make part of
the archipelago, everywhere bordered with reefs and quicksands, against
which the sea struck with violence, and varied itself as it were in
sheafs of foam. Never was such a spectacle before presented to our
observation. 'These breakers,'" says M. Boulanger, in his journal, "'seem
to form several parallel lines at the shore, and little distant one from
the other, above which the waves are seen raising themselves,
successively breaking with great fury, and forming a horrible cascade of
about fifteen leagues in length. We navigated at this time in the midst
of shallows; the lead found only at times six fathoms. Then, though more
distant from the land, we were not out of sight of it. This part of New
Holland is truly frightful. All the islands that we could reconnoitre
presented alike hideous characters of sterility. We continued to sail in
the midst of shallows and sandbanks, compelled to repeatedly tack, and
avoiding one danger only to fall into another.'"

Their privations were very heavy at this time; the food to which they had
been reduced since their departure from the Isle of France had affected
the health even of the strongest, and the scurvy increased its ravages.
Added to that, the allowance of water beginning to fail, and their belief
in the utter impossibility of taking any from these shores, the
GÉOGRAPHE, after naming the archipelago of the north-west coast,
BUONAPARTES, a name now obsolete, sailed for Timor, and here, after a
lapse of some time, was joined by her consort. The stay at Coepang was a
long one, for scurvy and sickness was rife amongst the crews and many

During the time Captain Hamelin of the NATURALISTE was absent from his
consort, he had been busy along the coast. The Swan River was explored by
Bailly the naturalist, and the island of Rottnest examined.

"The River of Swans," says M. Bailly, .'was discovered in 1697 by
Vlaming, and was thus named by him, from the great number of black swans
he there saw. The river cannot be considered as proper to supply the
water necessary for a ship; in the first place it is difficult to enter,
and its course is obstructed by many shoals and sandbank; and secondly,
the distance from the mouth of the river is too great before we can find
any fresh water.

"In the meantime the days fixed by Captain Hamelin to wait for the
GÉOGRAPHE had expired, and we had heard nothing of her, nor did it now
appear likely that we should obtain any news of her by staying any longer
on this coast, we therefore determined to sail for Endracht's Land,
leaving on this island of Rottnest a flag, and a bottle with a letter for
the Commander, in case he should touch there."

Leaving the Isle of Rottnest, they sailed north, intending to examine the
shore, but the wind compelled them to keep off the land. After several
attempts they succeeded in keeping near enough to distinguish the general
constitution of the soil, and pronounced this part of Edel's Land of the
same melancholy appearance as the shore of Leeuwin's Land. On the 9th of
July they were in sight of the Isles of Turtel-Duyf and the Abrolhos, on
which Pelsart was wrecked in the year 1629. Their first care on anchoring
in the "Bay of Sea-dogs"--or Shark's Bay--so called by Dampier--was to
find if the GÉOGRAPHE was there, or had been there, this being the second
rendezvous appointed. No signs being found, they concluded to wait eight
or ten days in the hope she would appear.

"Our chief coxswain, on his return from the island of Dirck Hartighs,
brought us a pewter plate of about six inches in diameter, on which was
roughly engraven two Dutch inscriptions, the first dated 25th of October,
1616, and the second dated 4th of February, 1697. This plate had been
found on the northern point of the island, which for this reason we named
Cape Inscription. When found it was half covered with sand, near the
remains of a post of oak-wood, to which it seemed to have been originally

"After having carefully copied these two inscriptions, Captain Hamelin
had another post made and erected on the spot, and replaced the plate in
the same place where it had been found. Captain Hamelin would have
thought it sacrilege to carry away this plate, which had been respected
for near two centuries of time, and by all navigators who might have
visited these shores. The Captain also ordered to be placed on the N.E.
of the island a second plate, on which was inscribed the name of our
corvette, and the date of our arrival on these shores."

Evidently M. de Freycinet had no such veneration for antiquity, for on
his return from the voyage round the world he subsequently made, he is
reported to have carried the relic home and deposited it in the Museum of
the Institute in Paris.

Having done much to determine the size and formation of the great bight
called Shark's Bay, the NATURALISTE resumed her voyage, and joined her
consort at Coepang, finding the GÉOGRAPHE had arrived there more than a
month before. The NATURALISTE, more fortunate than her companion, had few
cases of scurvy on board, owing principally to their many and long
stoppages on shore.

The ships in September took their departure from Timor for Van Dieman's
Land, having on board a large proportion of sick. On drawing near the
coast, the humidity of the climate and short allowance of water caused
many deaths.

"On the 2nd of December, in 15 deg., we observed the first bird of
paradise--the most beautiful of equatorial sea-birds. On the 22nd we saw
more of them, and on this day we passed the Tropic of Capricorn. Thus
these observations agree with what is so elegantly said by Buffon on the
limits of the climates in which these beautiful birds are seen.

"Following the chariot of the sun in the burning zone between the
tropics, ranging continually beneath that ardent sky, without ever
exceeding the extreme boundaries of the route of the mighty stars of
heaven, it announces to the navigator his approaching passage under the
celestial signs.

"On the 29th of December, the sea appeared covered with janthines, the
most beautiful of the testaceous molusques. This jellyfish, by means of a
bunch of small vesicles filled with air, floats on the surface of the
waters. On this shining shell I discovered a new kind of crustaceous
animal, of a beautiful ultramarine blue, like the shell; I knew this to
be a Pinnothera. This discovery is so much the more interesting, as it
does not appear that any of these adhesive animals were ever before found
in univalve shells. On this same day died my colleague, M. Levillian.
During his stay in Dampier's Bay, he had made a fine collection of shells
and petrifactions, which form long banks on these shores, and which are
so much the more interesting, as most of them seem to have their living
resemblance at the feet of the same rocks, which are composed of these
petrified shells."

On their departure from Timor the ships sailed for Van Dieman's Land,
having on board a large proportion of sick, and losing many lives on the

Through calms and wind they had much difficulty in doubling Cape Leeuwin,
and on the 10th of January, 1802, they sighted the southern coast of Van
Dieman's Land, and devoted some time to the examination of that island,
finding many discrepancies in the chart of D'Entrecasteaux.

Sailing up the east coast, the GÉOGRAPHE sighted the mainland of
Australia on the 28th March, near Wilson's Promontory, most carefully
examining and naming all capes, bays, and harbours, little thinking that
they were directly after Flinders. Whilst off this shore, the encounter
with the INVESTIGATOR took place, which has before been referred to.
After the ships parted, Baudin continued along the south coast, already
surveyed by Flinders, which he re-christened Napoleon's Land, and in
Péron's narrative no reference at all is made to Flinders' prior

The French claim to the discovery and names of these shores was not
received in France until after the publication of Flinders' book, which
took place the day after his death.

Throughout the voyage Baudin had greatly embittered himself with his
crew. He showed no sympathy nor care for the sick, and was harsh and
unfeeling in his conduct to all on board; in fact, he is blamed for the
constant presence of scurvy that had decimated his men. He seemed utterly
to ignore all precautions for health, and refused to take the many
preventatives that were accessible to prevent that dread disease. After
the magnificent preparations that had been made, it is astonishing to
read of the state of the ship before entering Port Jackson. M. Péron

"Several of our men had already been committed to the deep already more
than the half of our seamen were incapable of service from the shocking
ravages of scurvy, and only two of our helmsmen were able to get on deck.
The daily increase of this epidemic was alarming to an extreme degree,
and, in fact, how should it be otherwise?

"Three-quarters of a bottle of stinking water was our daily allowance;
for more than a year we had not tasted wine; we had not even a single
drop of brandy, instead was substituted half a bottle of a bad sort of
rum, made in the Isle of France, and there only used by the black slaves.
The biscuit served out was full of insects; all our salt provisions were
putrid and rotten, and both the smell and taste were so offensive that
the almost famished seamen sometimes preferred suffering all the
extremities of want itself to eating these unwholesome provisions, and,
even in the presence of their commander, often threw their allowance into
the sea.

"Besides, there were no comforts of any kind for the sick. The officers
and naturalists were strictly reduced to the same allowance as the
seamen, and suffered with them the same afflictions of body and mind."

With unlimited credit and a princely outfit, this state of things did not
speak well for the captain's management.

The sickness of his crew and want of provisions compelled the French
commander to make for Port Jackson, and on arrival they heard of the
safety of the NATURALISTE, that vessel having parted from them off the
coast of Van Dieman's Land and arrived there earlier, but left in search
of them a few days before the GÉOGRAPHE made the port.

From Port Jackson the NATURALISTE went home to France, the GÉOGRAPHE, in
company with a small vessel purchased in Sydney, and placed in charge of
Lieutenant Freycinet, pursuing her geographical labours in other parts of
the world.

The many voyages of Captain P. P. King, son of the Governor of that name,
are some of the most adventurous voyages ever chronicled in our history.
On the 22nd December, in a tiny cutter called the MERMAID, he left Sydney
for the first of his survey trips. It was the year 1817, and his mission

"To examine the hitherto unexplored coasts of New South Wales from Arnhem
Bay, near the western entrance of the Gulf of Carpentaria, westward and
southward, as far as the North-West Cape, including the opening, or deep
bay, called Van Dieman's Bay, and the cluster of islands called Rosemary
Islands, also the inlets behind them, which should be most minutely
examined; and, indeed, all gulfs and openings should be the objects of
particular attention, as the chief motive for sour survey is to discover
whether there be any river on that part of the coast likely to lead to an
interior navigation into this great continent.

"It is for several reasons most desirable that you should arrive on this
coast and commence your survey as early as possible, and you m-ill
therefore, when the vessel shall be ready, lose no time in proceeding to
the unexplored coasts, but you are at liberty to commence your survey at
whichever side you may judge proper, giving a preference to that which
you think you may be able soonest to reach, but in case you think that
indifferent, my Lords would wish you to commence by the neighbourhood of
the Rosemary Islands.

"Either on your way out, or on returning, you should examine the coast
between Cape Leeuwin and the Cape Gosselin, in M. De Freycinet's chart,
and generally you will observe that it is very desirable that you should
visit those ranges of coast which the French navigators have either not
seen at all, or at too great a distance to ascertain and lay down

Captain King was further instructed to take from Port Jackson seeds of
all vegetables that he considered most useful to propagate on the coasts
to be visited, and to plant them not only in the best situations for
their preservation, but that, also, they might be in sight and reach of
succeeding navigators.

All notes, surveys, and drawings were to be made in duplicate, and on
every opportunity to dispatch a copy, with full report, of his progress.

The most important subjects to obtain information on were:--

"The general nature of the climate as to heat, cold, moisture, winds,
rains, periodical seasons, and the temperature. The direction of the
mountains, their names, general appearance as to shape, whether detached
or continuous in ranges. The animals, whether birds, beasts or fishes,
insects, reptiles, etc., distinguishing those that are wild from those
that are domesticated. The vegetables, and particularly those that are
applicable to any useful purpose, whether in medicine, dyeing carpentry,
etc.; all woods adapted for furniture, shipbuilding, etc. To ascertain
the quantities in which they are found, the facility, or otherwise, of
floating them down to a convenient place for shipment. Minerals, any of
the precious stones, how used or valued by the natives; the description
and characteristic difference of the several tribes of people on the
coast. Their occupation and means of subsistence. A circumstantial
account of such articles growing on the sea coast, if any, as might be
advantageously imported into Great Britain, and those that would be
required by the natives in exchange for them. The state of the arts, or
manufactures, and their comparative perfection in different tribes. A
vocabulary of the language spoken by, every tribe which you meet, using
in the compilation of each word the same English words."

How much was expected to be accomplished by King with his company of
seventeen, including Messrs. Bedwell and Roe as mates, and Mr. Allan
Cunningham, botanical collector! he also had "Boongaree," a Port Jackson
native, who had accompanied Captain Flinders in the INVESTIGATOR, And
promised to be of great service in any intercourse with the natives.
Provisions for nine months were procured, and twelve weeks water.

The MERMAID'S outfit being completed too early in the season to attempt
the passage by way of Torres Straits to the north-west coast, King,
rather than remain inactive, determined to sail VIÂ Bass' Strait and Cape

At Seal Island they landed, and searched in vain for the bottle left
there by Captain Flinders, containing an account of the INVESTIGATOR'S
visit, not with any motive of removing it, but to add a memorandum. On
the summit of the island or rock--for it can scarcely be called an
island--the skeleton of a goat's head was found, and near it were the
remains of a glass case-bottle. These, as was afterwards learned, were
left by Lieutenant Forster, R.N., in 1815, on his passage from Port
Jackson to Europe.

Next day they anchored off Oyster Harbour, and examined the bar, finding
they could lie close to the shore. It was convenient for all purposes,
the wood being abundant and close to the waterholes, which were dug in
the sand; so that both wood and water could be procured without going far
away from the vessel, thus preventing any possibility of a surprise from
the blacks.

It was here that Captain Vancouver planted and stocked a garden with
vegetables, but no signs of it now remained, also the ship ELLEGOOD'S
garden, which Captain Flinders found in 1802; the lapse of sixteen years,
however, would make a complete revolution in the vegetation. Cunningham
made here a large collection of seeds and dried specimens from the vast
variety of beautiful plants and flowers.

"A small spot of ground near our tent was dug up, and enclosed with a
fence, in which Mr. Cunningham sowed many culinary seeds and peach
stones; and on the stump of a tree, which had been felled by our wooding
party, the name of the vessel and the date of our visit was inscribed;
but when we visited Oyster Harbour three years afterwards, no signs
remained of the garden, and the inscription was scarcely perceptible,
from the stump having been nearly destroyed by fire."

Sickness having attacked the crew, little attempt was made to investigate
the west coast, but a straight course was steered to Cape North-west,
that goal of so many navigators. On the 10th of February, 1818, while at
anchor off the Cape, the cable parted, and they lost one of their
anchors, an accident which considerably endangered the remainder of the
voyage, as on the 12th the fluke of a second anchor broke in consequence
of the wind freshening during the night. Three days afterwards they
reached a secure anchorage, which he named the Bay of Rest, as the crew
had been long fatigued when the found it. Here a landing was effected,
and Allan Cunningham took occasion to measure one of the gigantic
ant-hills of that coast. He found it to be eight feet in height and
twenty-six in girth, which after all is not so large as some to be seen
in that region. All examinations of the country tending to give King and
his companion a very poor opinion of the place; they left the inlet in
which they had found shelter, and the large bay in which it was situated
received the name of Exmouth Gulf.

They pursued their course to the north-east. On the 25th they arrived at
Rosemary Island, so long supposed to mask the entrance to a strait, and
commenced a closer examination of the coast line. Here the always active
botanist planted peach stones, and the party made their first capture of
an "Indian." He and some more were paddling from island to island on
logs--their only means of navigation--and a regular "duck hunt" ensued
before one was caught, and taken on board the cutter by a boat's crew.

"The tribe of natives collected upon the shore, consisting of about forty
persons, and of whom the greater number were women and children, the
whole party appeared to be overcome with grief, particularly the women,
who most loudly and vehemently expressed their sorrow by cries and
rolling on the ground, covering their bodies with the sand. When our
captive arrived alongside the vessel, and saw Boongaree, he became
somewhat pacified, and suffered himself to be lifted on board; he was
then ornamented with beads and a red cap, and upon our applauding his
appearance, a smile momentarily played on his countenance, but it was
soon replaced by a vacant stare. He took little notice of anything until
he saw the fire, and this appeared to occupy his attention very much.
Biscuit was given him, which as soon, as he tasted it he spat out, but
some sugared water being offered to him he drank the whole, and upon
sugar being placed before him in a saucer, he was at a loss how to use
it, until one of the boys fed him with his fingers, and when the saucer
was emptied he showed his taste for this food by licking it with his

He was then restored to his log and around his neck a bag was suspended
containing a little of everything he had appeared to fancy during his
short captivity, this was to induce him to give a favourable account
to his companions. He rejoined his tribe, and the amused seamen
watched the interview on the beach. He was ordered to stand at a
distance until he had thrown away the red cap and axe that had been
given him. Each black held his spear poised, and a number of
questions were seemingly put to him. Upon his answering them apparently
satisfactorily he was allowed to approach, his body was carefully
examined, then they seated themselves in a ring, he placed in the middle.
Evidently he told them his story, which occupied about half an hour. When
finished, after great shouting, the tribe departed to the other side of
the island, leaving the presents on the beach, having carefully examined
them first. After some days spent amongst this group of islands,
endeavouring to establish friendly communication with the natives, the
little vessel resumed her voyage, and on the 4th of March anchored in and
christened Nickol Bay.

Steering on E.S.E. to Cape Arnheim, where the examination of the west
coast was to commence, they named and passed through Macquarie Strait,
and anchored off Goulburn Island, making a complete survey of the Bay in
which they were anchored, and the surrounding islands, calling them
Goulburn Islands. Here they found traces of the visits of the Malays on
their voyages after trepang, before mentioned by Captain Flinders, and
also could tell from the boldness and cunning of the natives that they
were well used to visitors; they even had the audacity to swim off after
dark and cut the whale boat adrift, fortunately the theft was detected
before the boat drifted out of sight.

Their hostile conduct caused much trouble whilst getting wood and water,
so much so, that King determined to finish wooding on Sims Island to the
northward. It was fortunate that they were not often obliged to resort
to the muskets for defence, as the greater number of the twelve they had
taken from Port Jackson were useless, yet they were the best they could
then procure in Sydney.

Meantime Cunningham greatly added to his collection, and took advantage
of a good spot of soil to sow every sort of seed he possessed, but with
little hope of their surviving long; as fire no doubt would soon destroy

"The country, was thickly, in some parts impenetrably, clothed with
eucalyptus, acacia, pandanus, fan-palms, and various other trees, whilst
the beaches are in some parts studded, and in others thickly lined with
mangroves. The soil is chiefly of a grey sandy earth, and in some parts
might be called even rich; there was, however, very few places that could
bear so favourable a character.

"The climate here seems to favour vegetation so much, that the quality of
the soil appears to be of minor importance, for everything thrives and
looks verdant."

Whilst on this part of the coast they encountered a fleet of Malay proas,
fifteen in number, but King, with his little unarmed cutter, did not care
to have any communication with such very doubtful characters.

On the 16th of April, Raffles Bay was found, and named after Sir Stamford
Raffles, and the next day they entered Port Essington, which was
christened after Vice-Admiral Sir William Essington.

King thought that:--

"Port Essington being so good a harbour, and from its proximity to the
Moluccas and New Guinea, and its being in a direct line of communication
between Port Jackson and India, as well as from the commanding situation
with respect to the passage through Torres Straits, it must at no very
distant period become a place of great trade, and of very considerable

At Knocker's Bay, immediately to the west of this port, the natives made
a very determined attack on the boat, whilst she was hemmed in amongst
the mangroves, but without doing any damage. King next entered and
examined Van Dieman's Gulf, so called by the three Dutch vessels that
sailed from Timor in 1705. The examination of this Gulf formed a
prominent feature in his instructions. Here he found part of the Malay
fleet at anchor, and feeling strong enough to encounter a few of them at
a time, he anchored and allowed them to come on board. He showed them his
rough chart, when they instantly understood the occupation of the cutter.
Like the visitors who came off to Flinders, they showed a great liking
for port wine. Upon mentioning the natives of the coast, and showing a
stone-headed spear, they evinced great disgust. They called them
"Marega," being the Malay definition of that portion of the coast.

King, during his survey of Van Dieman's Gulf, found and named the two
Alligator Rivers, afterwards traversed by Leichhardt on his trip to Port
Essington. From the Gulf they sailed to Melville Island, which was named
after the First Lord of the Admiralty. He says:--

"We passed round Cape Van Dieman and anchored in the mouth of a very
considerable river-like opening, the size of which inspired us with the
flattering hope of having made an important discovery, for as yet we had
no idea of the insularity of Melville Island."

Here once more they had trouble with the natives, whose intercourse with
the Malays had made them adroit and treacherous thieves.

Whilst on shore taking some bearings, the party was suddenly surprised,
and, beating a hasty retreat, the theodolite stand and Cunningham's
insect net were left behind, and immediately appropriated by the natives.

This stand they obstinately refused to deliver or exchange, although
offered tomahawks and other tempting presents. Once, after a long
discussion, they brought it down to the beach and minutely examined it,
but the brass mountings took their fancy too much to allow them to part
with it, and King could not take it by force without bloodshed. On the
19th May, Apsley Strait was discovered, and the second island received
the name of Bathurst.

King next surveyed and named the Vernon Islands, and Clarence Strait.

"The time had now arrived for our leaving the coast; our provisions were
drawing to an end, and we had only a sufficiency of bread to carry us
back to Port Jackson; although we had been all the voyage upon a reduced
allowance; our water had also failed, and several casks which we had
calculated upon being full were found to be so bad that the water was
perfectly useless; these casks were made in Sydney, and proved-like our
bread casks-to have been made from the staves of salt provision casks:
besides this defalcation, several puncheons were found empty, and it was,
therefore, doubly necessary that we should resort to Timor without any
more delay."

While at Timor, "Dramah," the principal rajah of the Malay fishing fleet,
gave King the following information respecting the coast of New Holland,
which he had frequently visited in command of the fleet that visits its
shores yearly for trepang:--

"The coast is called by them 'Marega,' and has been known to them for
many years. A fleet, to the number of two hundred proas, annually (this
number seems exaggerated), leave Macassar for this fishery; it sails in
January, during the westerly monsoons, and coasts from island to island
until it reaches the north-east of Timor, where it steers S.E. and
S.S.E., which courses carry them to the coast of New Holland; the body of
the fleet then steers eastward, leaving here and there a division of
fifteen or sixteen proas, under the command of an inferior rajah who
leads the fleet, and is always implicitly obeyed. His proa is the only
vessel provided with a compass; it also has one or two swivel or small
guns, and is perhaps armed with musquets. Their provisions chiefly
consist of rice and cocoa-nuts, and their water--which during the westerly
monsoon is easily replenished on all parts of the coast--is carried in
joints of bamboo. Besides trepang, they trade in sharks' fins and birds'

Their method of curing is thus described by Flinders:--

"They get the trepang by diving in from three to eight fathoms of water,
and where it is abundant a man will bring up eight or ten at a time. The
mode of preserving it is thus--the animal is split down on one side,
boiled and pressed with a weight of stones, then stretched open by slips
of bamboo, dried in the sun and afterwards in smoke, when it is fit to
put away in bags, but requires frequent exposure to the sun. There are
two kinds of trepang, the black and the white or grey slug."

From Dramah's information, it would seem a perpetual warfare raged
between the natives and Malays, which was unfortunate for King, as it
would make it a very difficult matter to establish friendly communication
with people who could not be expected to distinguish between the English
and Malays. After a short stay in Timor, he sailed for Sydney by way of
the west coast, and anchored in Port Jackson on the 29th of July, 1818.

The early loss of the anchors had not allowed King so much opportunity of
detailed examination as would otherwise have been the case; but much of
the work that he had been sent to do had been carried out; the
examinations of the opening behind Rosemary Island, and of Van Dieman's
Gulf, beside the survey of the numerous smaller openings and islands.

"Mr. Cunningham made a very valuable and extensive collection of dried
plants and seeds; but, from the small size of our vessel and the constant
occupation of myself and the two midshipmen, who accompanied me, we had
neither space nor time to form any other collection of natural history
than a few insects, and some specimens of the geology of those parts
where we landed!"

The equipment of the vessel for the second voyage, and the construction
of charts of the first, occupied Captain King until December, when he
left Port Jackson to survey the entrance of Macquarie Harbour, which had
lately been discovered, on the western coast of Van Dieman's Land, and in
February, 18ig, he returned to Sydney.

King now started to return to the scene of his labours, this time
intending to make his way along the east coast and through Torres
Straits. With him went Surveyor-General Oxley, in the colonial brig, LADY
NELSON, to examine Port Macquarie, in New South Wales, where, it will be
remembered, Oxley reached the coast after his descent of the Main Range.
On the 8th of May, 1819, the two vessels left Port Jackson, and arrived
at their destination in two days. Here, after spending a short time in
the necessary examination, they parted company, the LADY NELSON returning
to Sydney with the Surveyor-General, and the MERMAID continuing her

The east coast having been twice surveyed by Cook and Flinders, there was
little left beyond minor details for King to complete. An opening which
had escaped Captain Flinders was examined, finding good, well sheltered
anchorage within. They named it Rodd's Bay. Amongst other places they
landed at, was Cleveland Bay.

"Near the extremity of Cape Cleveland some bamboo was picked no, and also
a fresh green cocoa-nut that appeared to have been hastily tapped for
milk. Heaps of pumice stone was noticed upon this beach; not any of this
production had been met with floating. Hitherto no cocoa-nuts have been
found on this continent, although so great a portion of it is within the
tropic, and its north-east coast, so near to islands on which this fruit
is abundant. Captain Cook imagined that the husk of one, which his second
Lieutenant, Mr. Gore, picked up at the Endeavour River, and which was
covered with barnacles, came from the Terra del Espiritu Santo of Quiros;
but from the prevailing winds it would appear more likely to have been
drifted from New Caledonia, which island was at that time unknown to him;
the fresh appearance of the cocoa-nut seen by us renders, however, even
this conclusion doubtful; Captain Flinders also found one as far to the
south as Shoal Water Bay.

"In the gullies, Mr. Cunningham reaped an excellent harvest both of seeds
and plants. Here as well as at every other place that we had landed upon
within the tropic, the air is crowded with a species of butterfly, a
great many of which were taken. It is doubtless the same species as that
which Captain Cook remarks are so plentiful in Thirsty Sound. He says,
'We found also an incredible number of butterflies, so that for the space
of three or four acres the air was so crowded with them, that millions
were to be seen in every direction, at the same time that every branch
and twig were covered with others that were not upon the wing.' The
numbers seen by us were indeed incredible; the stem of every grass tree,
which plant grows abundantly upon the hills, was covered with them, and
on their taking wino, the air appeared, as it were, in perfect motion."

King landed at the Endeavour River to build a boat that he had on board
in frame--in all probability the very same spot that Captain Cook landed
upon forty-nine years before. He took the precaution to burn the grass
that the natives should not attempt the same trick upon him that they had
played on Cook. During the time the boat was building the inevitable
thieving of the natives took place, and the usual tactics of firing over
their heads had to be resorted to.

"On the 10th of July our boat was launched and preparations were made for
leaving the place which had afforded us so good an opportunity of
repairing our defects.

"The basis of the country in the vicinity of this river is evidently
granitic; and from the abrupt and primitive appearance of the land about
Cape Tribulation, and to the north of Weary Bay, there is every reason to
suppose that granite is also the principle feature of those mountains,
but the rocks that lie loosely scattered about the beaches and surface of
the bills on the south side of the entrance, are of quartzoze substance;
and this, likewise, is the character of the hills at the east end of the
northern beach. Where the rocks are coated with a quartzoze crust, that,
in its crumbled state, forms a very productive soil. The hills on the
south side of the port recede from the banks of the river, and form an
amphitheatre of low grassy land, and some tolerable soil, upon the
surface of which, in many parts, we found large blocks of granite heaped
one upon another. Near the tent we found coal, but the presence of this
mineral in a primitive country, at an immense distance from any part
where a coal formation is known to exist, would puzzle the geologist were
I not to explain all I know upon the subject.

"Upon referring to the late Sir Joseph Banks' copy of the ENDEAVOUR log,
I found the following remark:--'June 21st and 22nd, 1770--Employed
getting our coals on shore.' There remains no doubt that it is a relic of
that navigator's voyage, which must have been lying undisturbed for
nearly half a century."

Leaving the Endeavour, the next object of interest they fell in with was
the wreck of a vessel, which, on examination, proved to be the FREDERICK,
but no signs of the fate of her crew were to be seen. They next had a
narrow escape of being wrecked themselves on a bank at the mouth of a
river running into Newcastle Bay, which King christened Escape River, and
which was afterwards destined to come into fatal prominence as the scene
of Kennedy's death.

Off Good Island, in Torres Straits, the arm of their anchor broke.

"A remarkable coincidence of our two losses upon the two voyages has now
occurred. Last year, at the North-West Cape, we lost two anchors just as
we were commencing the survey; and now, on rounding the North-East Cape,
to commence our examination of the north coast, we have encountered a
similar loss; leaving us, in both instances, only one bower anchor to
carry on the survey."

Eleven weeks now since they had left Port Jackson, during that time King
had laid down the different projections of the coast, and the track
within the Barrier Reefs and between the Percy Islands and Cape York;
surveyed Port Macquarie, examined Rodd's Bay, and constructed the boat at
the Endeavour River.

Frequent rain between Cape Grafton and Torres Straits not only increased
the danger of navigation, but the continued dampness of the small cabins,
and--from the small size of the vessel--no stove to dry them, caused much
sickness; but on the voyage from the straits to the western head of the
Gulf of Carpentaria--Cape Arnhem--they found drier air, and finer
weather, which soon restored the invalids to perfect health.

King sailed across the Gulf, and sighted the land again at Cape Wessel,
and on the 30th July anchored off the "COCODRILES' EYLANDTS" of the old
charts. Here King discovered a river which he named the Liverpool, and is
doubtless the Spult of the Dutch navigators. Up this river, the
commander, accompanied by Bedwell and Cunningham, made a long excursion,
but the country was too flat for him to gain much information.

At Goulburn Island, where they landed at their old watering place, they
were again attacked by their friends, the natives, as of old. There is no
doubt that the bad habits of these blacks had been induced by their long
intercourse with the Malays.

Leaving Goulburn Island they passed round Cape Van Dieman, steering so as
to see several parts of the coast of Melville Island, in order to check
the last year's survey. After rounding the cape they kept a course down
the western side of Bathurst Island. On the 27th they made land on the
south side of Clarence Strait, in the vicinity of the Vernon Islands.

"This was the last land seen by us on leaving the coast in May, 1818."

Captain King's next important discovery was the now well-known Cambridge
Gulf. On Adolphus Island, in the Gulf, he buried one of his seamen, named
William Nicholls, and in memorial, the north-west point of the island was
named after him. From this point King was very anxious to examine the
coast most carefully, as the French ships, under M. Baudin, had seen but
very little of it; but he had been unable to find fresh water in
Cambridge Gulf, and his stock was running low. They were very weak
handed, three men, besides Mr. Bedwell, being ill.

"The greater part of the crew were affected with ophthalmia, probably
caused by the excessive glare and reflection of the sun's rays from the
glassy surface of the sea."

Under these unfavourable circumstances they were obliged to make for
Coepang. King says:--

"In the space between Cape Bougainville and Cape Voltaire, which was
named Admiralty Gulf, we have given positions to at least forty islands
or islets. Having now emerged from the archipelago of islands which front
this part of the north-west coast, we seized the opportunity of taking
leave of it for the present, and directed our course for Timor."

Here he heard that some of the crew of the wrecked vessel, the FREDERICK,
that they had seen on the east coast, had arrived, but the greater number
of the crew in the long boat had not been heard of.

On the 12th January, 1820, the MERMAID returned to Port Jackson, having
surveyed five hundred miles of coast, in addition to five hundred and
forty surveyed on the previous voyage, and a running survey of the east
coast from Percy Islands to Torres Straits, which had not formerly been
narrowly examined.


King's Third Voyage--Early misadventures--Examines North-West coast
closely--The Mermaid careened--Unforeseen result--Return to Sydney--The
Bathurst--King's Fourth Voyage--Last of the MERMAID--Love's
stratagem--Remarkable cavern--Extraordinary drawings--Chasm
Island--South-West explorations--Revisits his old camp--Rich
vegetation--Greville Island--Skirmish at Hanover Bay--Reminiscence of
Dampier--His notes on the natives and their mode of living--Cape
Levêque--Buccaneers' Archipelago--Provisions run out--Sails for the
Mauritius--Survey of South-West re-commenced--Cape Chatham--Oyster
Harbour anchorage--A native's toilet--Seal hunt--Friendly
intercourse--Cape Inscription--Vandalism--Point Cloates not an
island--Vlaming Head--Rowley Shoals--Cunningham--Botanical
success--Rogers Island closely examined--Mainland traced further--An
amazing escape from destruction--Relinquishment of survey--Sails for
Sydney--Value of King's work--Settlement on Melville Island--Port
Essington--Colonisation--Fort building--A waif--Roguish
visitors--Garrison life--Change of scene--Raffles Bay--Dismal
reports--Failure of attempt.

King, now got ready for his third voyage, and on the 14th June, 1820,
left Port Jackson to again encounter the perils of the north coast in his
little cutter, with the addition to his company of Mr. James Hunter, as

His late voyage had led him to recommend to vessels the passage of the
Barrier Reef, between the reef and the shore, instead of the outside
passage, that had been usually adopted by northern bound ships. His start
was unfortunate; heavy weather set in, the cutter lost her bowsprit, and
they had to put back. On the way up, after repairs had been effected, the
little craft struck heavily on a sandbank, and damaged her hull
considerably, but the voyage was continued.

On the 19th of August the voyagers were at their former anchorage at
Goulburn Island, taking in fresh water, and watching narrowly for their
old friends the natives, who were so long in making their appearance.
They cut off Lieutenant Roe, when by himself, and nearly succeeded in
spearing him; he was only rescued, when quite exhausted, by the boat's
crew coming to his assistance.

King proceeded to examine that part of the north-west coast that M.
Baudin had overlooked, more minutely than he had been enabled to do
before. Reaching Hunter's River on September 14th, an opportunity was
offered for filling the water casks. The harbour of this river is of
considerable size, and in most parts offers good anchorage, with
abundance of fuel and water. The harbour was called Prince Frederic's,
and the sound that fronts it, York Sound.

"After passing Point Hardy we entered a fine harbour, bounded on the west
by a group of islands, and on the east by the projection of land that
forms the western side of Prince Frederic's Harbour. The flood tide was
not sufficient to carry us to the bottom, so we anchored off the east end
of the southernmost island of the group, which, on the occasion of the
anniversary of the late king's coronation, was subsequently called the
Coronation Islands. The harbour was called Port Nelson, and a high, rocky
hill that was distinguished over the land to the southward received the
name of Mount Trafalgar."

From the alarming increase of the leak which the MERMAID had sprung, it
was found necessary to find a place to careen her in, in order, if
possible, the damage might be repaired, that they might continue the
survey, or, at least, ensure their safe return to Port Jackson. On the
sandy beach of a bay, which they named Careening Bay, a place was found
in every way suitable.

"These repairs were completed by the 28th, but just as we were
congratulating ourselves upon having performed them, a fresh defect was
discovered, which threatened more alarming consequences than the others.
Upon stripping off some sheets of copper, the spike nails which fastened
the planks were found to be decaying, and many were so entirely
decomposed by oxidation that a straw was easily thrust through the vacant
holes. As we had not enough nails to replace the copper, for that was now
our only security, we could not venture to remove more than a few sheets
from those parts which appeared to be the most suspicious, under all of
which we found the nails so defective that we had reason to fear we might
start some planks before we reached Port Jackson. . . When the repairs
were completed, and the people were more at leisure, I made an excursion
as far as Bat Island, off Cape Brewster. . . . Bat Island is a mass of
sandstone superincumbent upon a quartzoze basis, and intersected by
nearly vertical veins of white quartz, the surface of which was in a
crystallised state. The floor of the cavern was covered with heaps of
water-worn fragments of quartzoze rock containing copper pyrites, in some
of which the cavities were covered by a deposit of greenish calcedony.
The sides of the cavern had a stalagmitical appearance, but the recess
was so dark that we could not ascertain either its formation or
extent. . . . On first entering it we were nearly overpowered by a strong,
sulphurous smell, which was soon accounted for by the flight of an
incredible number of small bats, which were roosting in the bottom of
the cave, and had been disturbed at our approach. We attempted to grope
our way to the bottom, but not having a light, were soon obliged to give
up its further examination. . . . From the summit of this place a set of
bearings were obtained, particularly of the islands to the northward and
westward, and Mr. Cunningham secured here specimens of eighteen different
sorts of plants."

On the 9th, leaving Careening Bay, passing between Cape Brewster and the
Coronation Islands, they enter a spacious sound, which received the name
of Brunswick Sound. And here they also found and named the Prince
Regent's River, afterwards the scene of Grey's discomfiture. Here it was
patent that, in spite of their late repairs, the cutter leaked so much
that, for the safety of the crew, King had reluctantly to return to
Sydney; and when off Botany Bay, narrowly escaped total wreck during a
dark and stormy night.

The tiny craft that had carried King so far and so safely was now laid up
for repairs, and a brig of one hundred and fifty tons was purchased and
re-christened the BATHURST. On the 26th of May, 1821, King sailed from
Port Jackson upon his fourth and last voyage to the north coast,
accompanied by the merchant ships DICK and SAN ANTONIO, bound for
Batavia, who requested permission to accompany King through Torres

Meantime, the MERMAID had been thoroughly repaired and fitted out,
leaving Port Jackson to carry the first establishment to Port Macquarie,
on which service she was wrecked.

Their company now numbered thirty-three, but three days after they left
port, King says:--

"A discovery was made of another addition to the crew. Upon opening the
hold, which had been locked ever since the day before we sailed, a young
girl, not more than fourteen years of age, was found concealed among the
casks, where she had secreted herself in order to accompany the boatswain
to sea. Upon being brought on deck she was in a pitiable plight . . .
that her acquaintances, of which she had many on board, could scarcely
recognise her. Upon being interrogated, she declared she had, unknown to
all on board, concealed herself in the hold the day before the vessel
sailed, and that her swain knew nothing of the step she had taken. As it
was now inconvenient to return to put her on shore, and as the man
consented to share his rations with her, she was allowed to remain; but
in a very short time heartily repented of her imprudence, and would
gladly have been re-landed, had it been possible."

Along the east coast the BATHURST was accompanied by the DICK and SAN
ANTONIO, both going north, and near the wreck of the FREDERICK, they had
a trifling brush with the natives. While here, Mr. Cunningham visited
Clack's reef:

"The reef abounded with shells, of which they brought back a large
collection, but not in any great variety; an indifferent CYPRAEA was the
most common, but there were also some VOLUTAE and other shells, besides
trepang and ASTERIAE in abundance.

"Mr. Cunningham observed a singularly curious cavern upon the rock, of
which he gave me a description in the following account of the island:--

"'The south and south-eastern extremes of Clack's Island presented a
steep rocky bluff, thinly covered with small trees. I ascended the steep
head, which rose to an elevation of a hundred and eighty feet above the

"'The remarkable structure of the geological feature of this islet led me
to examine the south-east part, which was the most exposed to the
weather, and where the disposition of the strata was, of course, more
plainly developed. The base is a coarse granular, silicious sandstone, in
which large pebbles of quartz and jaspar are imbedded. This stratum
continues for sixteen to twenty feet above the water; for the next ten
feet there is a horizontal stratum of black schistose rock, which was of
so soft a consistence, that the weather had excavated several tiers of
galleries, upon the roof and sides of which some curious drawings were
observed, which deserve to be particularly described. They were executed
upon a ground of red ochre (rubbed on the black schistus), and were
delineated by dots of white argillaceous earth, which had been worked up
into a paste. They represented tolerable figures of sharks, porpoises,
turtles, lizards (of which I saw several small ones among the rocks),
trepang, star-fish, clubs, canoes, water-gourds, and some quadrupeds,
which were probably intended to represent kangaroos and dogs. The
figures, besides being outlined by the dots, were decorated all over with
the same pigment in dotted transverse belts. Tracing a gallery round to
windward, it brought me to a commodious cave, or recess, overhung by a
portion of the schistous sufficiently large to shelter twenty natives,
whose recent fire places appeared on the projecting area of the cave.

"'Many turtles' heads were placed on the shelfs or niches of the
excavation, amply demonstrative of the luxurious and profuse mode of life
these outcasts of society had, at a period rather recently, followed. The
roof and sides of this snug retreat were also entirely covered with the
uncouth figures I have already described.'

"As this is the first specimen of Australian taste in the fine arts that
we have detected in these voyages, it became me to make a particular
observation thereon. Captain Flinders had discovered figures on Chasm
Island [Note, below] in the Gulf of Carpentaria, formed with a burnt
stick, but this performance, exceeding a hundred and fifty figures, which
must have occupied much time, appears at least to be one step nearer
refinement than those simply executed with a piece of charred wood.
Immediately above this schistose stratum is a superincumbent mass of
sandstone, which appeared to form the upper stratum of the island."

[Note: "Chasm Island lies one mile and a half from a low point of GROOTE
EYLANDT, where the shore trends southward and seemed to form a bay. In
the deep sides of the chasms were deep holes or caverns, undermining the
cliffs; upon the walls of which I found rude drawings made with charcoal
and something like red paint upon the white ground of the rock. These
drawings represented porpoises, turtle, kangaroos, and a human hand; and
Mr. Westall, who went afterwards to see them, found the representation of
a kangaroo, with a file of thirty-two persons following after it. The
third person of the band was twice the height of the others, and held in
his hand something resembling the 'whaddie' or wooden sword of the native
chiefs of Port Jackson, and was probably intended to represent a chief.
They could not, as with us, indicate superiority by clothing or ornament,
since they wear none of any kind, and, therefore, with the addition of a
weapon similar to the ancients, they seem to have made superiority of
person the principal emblem of superior power, of which, indeed, power is
usually a consequence of the very early stages of society."]

From the wreck of the FREDERICK the crew had been busy during their stay
here procuring all the spars and planks that would be of use to them, and
on the 25th June the BATHURST got under weigh, and with her two
companions resumed their course to the northward, following the same
route as that traversed last year by the MERMAID--steering across the
Gulf of Carpentaria to Cape Wessell, which they sighted on the 3rd June.
Anchoring in South-West Bay, they landed at their former watering place
on Goulburn Island, but found the stream had failed, and the parched
appearance of the island showed that the season had been unusually dry.
Leaving South-West Bay, they passed to the eastward of New Year's Island,
and the following day sighted Cape Van Dieman. Here they parted company
with their companions, the DICK and SAN ANTONIO, by an interchange of
three cheers, the DICK having King's letters for conveyance to England.
The course of the BATHURST was now south-west towards Cape Londonderry,
sighting, during the next few days, Eclipse Hill, Sir Graham Moore's
Islands, and Troughton Island. Light baffling winds detained them for two
days in the vicinity of Cassini Island, and on the 23rd the BATHURST
anchored about half a mile off the sandy beach of Careening Bay.

"As soon as the vessel was secured we visited the shore, and recognised
the site of our last year's encampment, which had suffered no alteration
except what had been occasioned by a rapid vegetation. A sterculia, the
stem of which had served as one of the props of our mess tent, and to
which we had nailed a sheet of copper, with an inscription, was
considerably grown, and the gum had oozed out in such profusion where the
nails had pierced the bark that it had forced one corner of the copper
off. The large, gouty-stemmed tree on which the MERMAID'S name had been
carved in deep indented characters remained without any alteration, and
seemed likely to bear the marks of our visit longer than any other
memento we had left. The sensations experienced at revisiting a place
which had so seasonably afforded us a friendly shelter and such
unlooked-for convenience for our purposes, can only be estimated by those
who have experienced them; and it is only to strangers to such feelings
that it will appear ridiculous to say that even the nail to which our
thermometer had been suspended was the subject of pleasurable

"No water in the gully where last year it was running, and no sign that
it had contained any for some time, yet from the luxuriant vegetation and
verdant appearance of the grass, it was the more astonishing. After
examining the bight to the eastward, where formerly there had been a
considerable stream, all hope of success in finding water here was given
up, and an anchorage made in St. George's Basin, finding an abundant
supply at the cascade in Prince Regent's River.

"While the boat's crew rested and filled their baricas, I ascended the
rocks over which the water was falling, and was surprised to find its
height had been so underrated when we passed by it last year; it was then
thought to be about forty feet, but I now found it could not be less than
one hundred and fifty. The rock--a fine-grained, silicious sandstone--is
disposed in horizontal strata, from six to twelve feet thick, each of
which projects about three feet from that above it, and forms a
continuity of steps to the summit, which we found some difficulty in
climbing; but where the distance between the ledges was great, we
assisted our ascent by tufts of grass firmly rooted in the luxurious moss
that grew abundantly about the watercourses. On reaching the summit, I
found that the fall was supplied from a stream winding through rugged
chasms and thickly-matted clusters of plants and trees, among which the
pandanus bore a conspicuous appearance, and gave a picturesque richness
to the place. While admiring the wildness of the scene, Mr. Montgomery
joined me; we did not, however, succeed in following the stream for more
than a hundred yards, for at that distance its windings were so confused
among rocks and spinifex that we could not trace its course. Large groves
of pandanus and hibiscus, and a variety of other plants, were growing in
great luxuriance upon the banks of the Prince Regent's River, but,
unhappily, the sterile and rocky appearance of the country was some alloy
to the satisfaction we felt at the first sight of the fresh water."

Water had been obtained sufficient to last until October. Preparations
were then made to leave this anchorage, when they explored Half-way Bay,
finding in it a strait that communicated with Munster Water, so
insulating the land that forms the northwest shore of the Bay. This
island was named Greville Island.

Whilst in Hanover Bay, a skirmish with the natives enlivened proceedings.
In spite of all the many warnings the party had received by this time,
they would venture amongst the natives quite unarmed, and when their men
came to their assistance the muskets, as a rule, would not go off. This
time the surgeon, Mr. Montgomery, was speared in the back--fortunately, not

From Hanover Bay, King sailed some distance to the westward, anchoring on
August 21st, near the Lacepede Islands. The next day Cape Baskerville was
named, and the smoke of fires was noticed at intervals for miles along
the shore; from which one might infer that this part of the coast was very
populous. Captain Dampier saw forty Indians together on one of the rocky
islands to the eastward of Cape Levêque, and in his quaint description of
them says:--

"The inhabitants of this country are the miserablest people in the world.
The Hodmadods, of Monomatapa, though a nasty people, yet for wealth are
gentlemen to these, who have no houses and skin garments, sheep, poultry,
and fruits of the earth, ostrich eggs, etc., as the Hodmadods have; and,
setting aside their human shape, they differ but little from brutes. They
are tall, straight-bodied, and thin, with small, long limbs. They have
great heads, round foreheads, and great brows. Their eye-lids are always
half-closed to keep the flies out of their eyes, they being so
troublesome here that fanning will not keep them from coming to one's
face; and without the assistance of both hands to keep them off, they
will creep into one's nostrils, and mouth too, if the lips are not shut
very close. So that, from infancy, being thus annoyed with those insects,
they do never open their eyes as other people; and therefore they cannot
see far unless they hold up their heads, as if they were looking at
somewhat over them. They have great bottle noses, pretty full lips, and
wide mouths. The two fore-teeth of their upper jaw are wanting in all of
them, men and women, old and young. Whether they draw them out or not I
know not. Neither have they any beards. They are long-visaged, and of a
very unpleasant aspect, having not one graceful feature in their faces.
Their hair is black, short, and curled like that of the negroes; and not
long and lank like the common Indians. The colour of their skins, both of
their faces and the rest of their body, is coal-black like that of the
negroes of Guinea. They have no sort of clothes but a piece of the rind
of a tree tied like a girdle about their waists, and a handful of long
grass, or three or four small green boughs full of leaves thrust under
their girdle to cover their nakedness. They. have no houses, but lie in
the open air without covering, the earth being their bed and heaven their

"They live in companies-twenty or thirty men, women, and children
together. Their only food is a small sort of fish, which they get by
making weirs of stone across little coves or branches of the sea, every
tide bringing in the small fish, and there leaving them a prey to these
people, who constantly attend there to search for them at low water. This
small fry I take to be the top of their fishery. They have no instruments
to catch great fish should they come, and such seldom stay to be left
behind at low water; nor could we catch any fish with our hooks and lines
while we lay there. In other places, at low water, they seek for cockles,
mussels, and periwinkles; of these shell-fish there are fewer still, so
that their chief dependency is upon what the sea leaves in their weirs,
which, be it much or little, they gather tip and march to the places of
their abode. There is neither herb, root, pulse, nor any sort of grain
for them to eat that we saw, nor any sort of bird or beast that they can
catch, having no instruments. I did not perceive that they did worship
anything. These poor people have a sort of weapon to defend their weirs
or fight with their enemies, if they have any, that will interfere with
their poor fishery. They did at first endeavour with their weapons to
frighten us, who, lying ashore, deterred them from one of their fishing
places. Some of them had wooden swords, others had a sort of lance. The
sword is a long, straight pole, sharp at one end, and hardened afterwards
by heat. I saw no iron, nor any sort of metal; therefore, it is probable
they use stone hatchets. How they get their fire I know not, but,
probably, as Indians do, out of wood. I have seen the Indians of Bon-Airy
do it, and have myself tried the experiment. They take a flat piece of
wood that is pretty soft, and make a small dent in one side of it; then
they take another hard, round stick, about the bigness of one's little
finger and sharpened at one end like a pencil; they put that sharp end in
the hole or dent of the flat, soft piece, and then rubbing or twirling
the hard piece between the palm of their hands, they drill the soft piece
till it smokes and, at last, takes fire.

"These people speak somewhat through the throat, but we could not
understand one word they said. . . . We went over to the islands, and
there we found a great many of the natives. I do believe there were forty
on one island--men, women, and children. The men, on our first coming
ashore, threatened us with their lances and swords, but they were
frightened by firing our gun, which we purposely fired over their heads.
The island was so small that they could not hide themselves, but they
were much disordered by our landing. This, their place of dwelling, was
only a fire, with a few boughs before it, set up on the side the winds
were off.

"After we had been here a little while, the men began to be familiar, and
we clothed some of them, designing to have some service of them for it;
for we found some wells of water here, and intended to carry two or three
barrels of it aboard. But it being somewhat trouble some to carry to the
canoes, we thought to have made these men to have carried it for us, and
therefore, we gave them some old clothes; to one an old pair of breeches,
to another a ragged shirt, to the third a jacket that was scarce worth
owning, which yet would have been very acceptable at some places where we
had been, and so we thought they might have been with these people. We
put them on them, thinking that this finery would have brought them to
work heartily for us; and our water being filled in small, long barrels,
about six gallons in each, which were made purposely to carry water in,
we brought these our new servants to the well, and put a barrel on each
of their shoulders for them to carry to the canoe. But all the signs we
could make were to no purpose, for they stood like statues, without
motion, but grinned like so many monkeys, staring one upon another; for
these poor creatures seem not accustomed to carry burthens, and I believe
that one of our ship boys, of ten years old, would carry as much as one
of them. So we were forced to carry our water ourselves, and they very
fairly put the clothes off again, and laid them down, as if clothes were
only to work in. I did not perceive that they had any great liking to
them at first, neither did they seem to admire anything we had. Four men,
captured while swimming, were brought aboard; two of them were middle
aged, the other two young men about eighteen or twenty years old. To
these we gave boiled rice, and with it turtle and manatee boiled. They
did greedily devour what we gave them, but took no notice of the ship, or
anything on it, and when they were set on land again, they ran away as
fast as they could. At our first coming, before we were acquainted with
them, or they with us, a company of them, who lived on the main, came
just against our ship, and standing on a pretty high bank threatened us
with their swords and lances, by shaking them at us; at last the captain
ordered the drum to be beaten, which was done of a sudden with much
vigour, purposely to scare the poor creatures. They, hearing the noise,
ran away as fast as they could drive, and when they ran away in haste
they would cry GURRY-GURRY, speaking deep down in the throat. Those
inhabitants, also, that live on the main would always run away from us
yet we took several of them. For, as I have already observed, they had
such bad eyes that they could not see us till we came close to them; we
did always give them victuals, and let them go again." ["Dampier."
Vol. I, p464.]

August 20. King, when laying down the plan of the coast upon his chart,
found Cape Levêque to be the point Dampier anchored under when on his
buccaneering voyage in the CYGNET, 1688. In commemoration of his visit
the name of Buccaneer's Archipelago was given to the islands that front
Cygnet Bay, which bay is so named after his vessel; and on August 26,
Roebuck Bay received its name after the ship Captain Dampier commanded
when he visited this coast in 1699. Their water being nearly out, and the
provisions generally being in a bad state, besides the want of a second
anchor being very much felt, King deemed it prudent not to rely longer
upon the good fortune that had attended them, but to sail for the
Mauritius, entering Port Louis on September 26th.

On November 15th they were again ready for sea, and left the Mauritius to
re-commence their survey on the south-west coast of New Holland. Sighting
Cape Chatham, a course was directed to the eastward for King George's
Sound, where they intended to get wood and water previous to commencing
the examination, and anchored close to the entrance of Princess Royal
Harbour. This harbour not proving suitable, their old anchorage in Oyster
Harbour was taken up. The luxuriant growth of vegetation had almost
entirely destroyed all traces of the visit of 1818. The garden in which
Mr. Cunningham had planted seeds was covered with three or four feet of
additional soil, formed of sand and decayed vegetable matter, and clothed
with a thicket of plants in flower. The natives appeared to be very
friendly, and some visited the vessel.

"After an absence of an hour our two friends returned, when it appeared
that they had been at their toilet, for their noses and faces had
evidently been fresh smeared over with red ochre, which they pointed out
to us as a great ornament; affording another proof that vanity is
inherent in human nature, and not merely the consequence of civilization.

"Two of them were watching a small seal that, having been left by the
tide on the bank, was endeavouring to waddle towards the deep water. At
last one of the natives, fixing his spear in its throwing-stick, advanced
very cautiously, and when within ten or twelve yards, lanced it, and
pierced the animal through the neck, when the other instantly ran up and
stuck his spear into it also; and then, beating it about the head with a
small hammer, very soon despatched it. This event collected the whole
tribe to the spot, who assisted in landing their prize and washing the
sand off the body. They then carried the animal to their fire, at the
edge of the grass, and began to devour it even before it was dead.
Curiosity induced Mr. Cunningham and myself to view this barbarous feast,
and we landed about ten minutes after it had commenced. The moment the
boat touched the sand the natives, springing up and throwing their spears
away into the bushes, ran down towards us, and before we could land, had
all seated themselves in the boat, ready to go on board, in as
unceremonious a manner as passengers would seat themselves in a
ferry-boat; but they were obliged to wait whilst we landed to witness
their savage feast. On going to the place, we found an old man seated
over the remains of the carcass, two-thirds of which had already
disappeared. He was holding a long strip of the raw flesh in his left
hand, and tearing it off the body with a sort of knife. A boy was also
feasting with him, and both were too intent upon their breakfast to
notice us, or to be the least disconcerted at our looking on. We,
however, were very soon satisfied, and walked away perfectly disgusted
with the sight of so horrible a repast, and the intolerable stench
occasioned by the effluvia that arose from the dying animal, combined
with that of the bodies of the natives, who had daubed themselves from
head to foot with a pigment made of redocherous earth, mixed up with
seal-oil. Returning on board, the natives were very attentive to the
mixture of a pudding, and a few small dumplings were made and given to
them, which they put on the bars of the fire-place, but, being too
impatient to wait until they were baked, ate them in a doughy state, with
much relish. One of them, an old man, was very attentive to the
sail-makers cutting out a boat's sail, and, at his request, was presented
with all the strips that were of no use. When it was completed, a small
piece of canvas was missing. After a great search, in which the old rogue
assisted, it was found secreted under his arm. The old man appeared
ashamed and conscious of his guilt, and although he was frequently
afterwards with us, yet he always hung down his head and sneaked into the

So with the exception of a few thefts all communication with the natives
was here carried on in a most friendly manner, and on the 1st of January
the anchors were lifted, and the BATHURST left for Seal Island, where
they intended to refit the sails. Leaving King George's Sound they sailed
at a distance from the land to ensure a quicker passage to Cape Péron,
Flinders and M. Baudin having minutely examined the coast between.

Frederick Houtman's Abrolhos were sighted on January 17th, and the
passage or channel between the Abrolhos Bank and the coast has been
distinguished by the name of Vlaming's ship, the GEELVINK, since she was
the first vessel that passed there, 1697. The cliffs of Red Point named
by Vlaming partake of a reddish tinge, and appear to be of horizontal
strata; behind Red Point is a bight, named by the French Gantheaume Bay.
Reaching Dirk Hartog's Island they anchored off Cape Inscription, and
searched for the historical plates, but although the posts were standing,
the plates had been removed.

King found that former navigators had taken that part of the coast he
named Point Cloates for an island, calling it Cloates Island; the next
day Vlaming Head, of the North-West Cape, came in sight, and a north
course bore him to Rowley Shoals, wishing to fix their position with
greater correctness, and to examine the extent of the bight round Cape
Levêque, which during the earlier part of their voyage they were obliged
to leave unexplored. Landing next at Point Cunningham, Mr. Cunningham
botanized with great success; a fresh stream was running down the rocks
into the sea, and at the back of the beach was a hollow full of sweet
water; the heat was terrible, and the soil of a red coloured earth of a
very sandy nature.

Another anchor lost, in a bay they afterwards called Disaster Bay. The
succession of bad weather, and only one anchor left, made it desirable to
go to Port George the Fourth, as they wanted both food and water; and
during the delay here, a part of the crew in the boats could examine the
islands in Rogers Strait, and trace the continuation of the mainland,
behind the islands, that forms the south-east coast of Camden Bay, of
which nothing was known; also continuing the examination of the deep bay
behind Montgomery's Islands, and connect that part with the gulf or
strait behind Buccaneers' Archipelago, which King felt sure existed. Here
they had a most amazing escape, that reads more like fiction than sober
fact. The astonishing influx and reflux of the tides amongst these
islands had been noticed by Dampier, and had led that navigator to
conclude that a strait or large river must be situated near this part of
the coast. Whilst among these islands, King was caught in one of these
tidal draughts during a dead calm. The following is his description of
the position. He was at the mast-head--his usual position for conning the
ship when near the land--but seeing his vessel carried swiftly and, as he
thought, inevitably on the rocks, he descended to the deck:--

"Happily, however, the stream of the tide swept us past the rocks without
accident, and after carrying us about half-a-mile farther, changed its
direction to south-east, and drifted us towards a narrow strait
separating two rocky islands, in the centre of which was a large
insulated rock, that seemed to divide the stream. The boat was now
hoisted out to tow, but we could not succeed in getting the vessel's head
round. As she approached the strait the channel became much narrower, and
several islands were passed at not more than thirty yards from her
course. The voices of natives were now heard, and soon afterwards some
were seen on either side of the strait, hallooing and waving their arms.
We were so near to one party that they might have thrown their spears on
board. BY this time we were flying past the shore with such velocity that
it made us quite giddy; and our situation was too awful to give us time
to observe the motions of the Indians; for we were entering the narrowest
part of the strait, and the next moment were close to the rock, which it
appeared almost impossible to avoid, and it was more than probable that
the stream it divided would carry us broadside upon it, when the
consequences would have been dreadful. The current, or sluice, was
setting past the rock at the rate of eight or nine knots, and the water
being confined by its intervention, fell at least six or seven feet; at
the moment, however, when we were upon the point of being dashed to
pieces, a sudden breeze providentially sprang up, and filling our sails,
impelled the vessel forward three or four yards. This was enough, but
only just sufficient, for the rudder was not more than six yards from the
rock. No sooner had we passed this frightful danger than the breeze fell
again, and was succeeded by a dead calm; the tide, however, continued to
carry us on with a gradually decreasing strength until one o'clock, when
we felt very little effects from it."

This was the last danger that King was to escape on the north-west coast,
as after a little more examination of the neighbourhood of this dangerous
archipelago, the thick weather and easterly winds compelled him to
relinquish his work and sail for Sydney.

King left the coast thoroughly impressed with the idea that behind
Buccaneers' Archipelago there was, if anywhere, an opening into the
interior of New Holland; the constant loss' of his anchors had prevented
him from confirming his conjecture; but he had good reason for then
thinking so. In these days of strong, well-found surveying steamers, it
is wonderful to recall the work that King did in the MERMAID, amongst all
the dangers of unknown seas, and constantly having to get his wood and
water in the face of hostile savages.

It was not long after his return to England, and whilst engaged preparing
his journal for publication, that he heard a settlement had been founded
on Melville Island, one of his discoveries. As this settlement was in
accordance with his recommendation, and a detailed account of its
foundation has not been given in these pages, the present may be a
fitting time to do so.

It must be remembered that this settlement was finally, after many
removals, abandoned, and the one established at Port Essington, when
Leichhardt arrived there, was a second attempt at colonisation.

The TAMAR, under captain Bremer, left Sydney in August, 1824, having with
her the COUNTESS OF HARCOURT, and that ever useful colonial brig, the

Arrived at Port Essington, the little fleet anchored off Table Point, the
marines landed, the Union Jack was hoisted, and formal possession taken
of the north coast of Australia, between the meridians of 129 deg. and
136 deg. east of Greenwich. After the TAMAR had fired a royal salute, and
the marines three volleys, the business of finding a site commenced.

This was no such easy matter, the first object being to find fresh water;
parties were despatched in all directions, but for a long time
unsuccessfully; at last some was obtained at a sandy point, where there
was an old Malay encampment, but it was a deficient supply, only to be
got by digging holes in the sand, and the inducements for remaining were
not considered sufficiently attractive. An examination of St. Asaph Bay,
in Melville Island, was next made, and possession taken in like manner;
but no fresh water was forthcoming there, and at last, after much
searching, a small river and plenty of water were found in another part
of Melville Island, opposite Harris Island. A point of the land for the
town was fixed upon, and named Point Barlow, after the commandant. The
cove where the ship anchored was called King's Cove, and the entrance to
Apsley Strait, Port Cockburn.

A redoubt was built of logs, seventy-five feet long by fifty broad, and a
ditch dug surrounding it; the quarter-deck guns were mounted, the colours
hoisted, and it was formally christened Fort Dundas, under a royal salute
from itself.

After all this display of enthusiasm and gunpowder, work commenced in
earnest, quarters were built inside the stockade, a deep well sunk, a
wharf constructed, and gardens laid out.

As might have been reasonably supposed, the evil-disposed natives of the
island soon got over their first scare at this invasion of their
territory. At first they came into the fort in friendly guise.

"I was greatly astonished to see amongst them," says Lieutenant Roe, "a
young man of about twenty years of age, not darker in colour than a
Chinese, but with perfect Malay features, and like all the rest, entirely
naked; he had daubed himself all over with soot and grease to appear like
the others, but the difference was plainly perceptible. On observing that
he was the object of our conversation, a certain archness and lively
expression came over his countenance, which a native Australian would
have strained his features in vain to produce. It seems probable that he
must have been kidnapped when very young, or found while astray in the

All this friendliness soon disappeared, the aborigines took to robbing
the working parties of their tools, and spear and musket soon came to be
used on either side. Up to the time the TAMAR left, however, no harm had
been done. In all, the settlement consisted of one hundred and twenty-six
individuals, of whom four were women, and forty-five convicts.

The fortunes of this little colony, and even its existence, being almost
forgotten, it may be interesting to the reader to follow them to the end.
After the TAMAR left for India, and the COUNTESS OF HARCOURT proceeded on
her voyage, the settlement was left with the colonial brig, the LADY
NELSON, as the nucleus of a fleet, but she sailed for Timor, and was
never heard of again. The hostility of the natives increased, and the
Malays, who were expected to visit and trade with the English, did not
put in an appearance, it being out of the track of their proas; and of
Fort Dundas, of which such high hopes were entertained, in a few short
years not a vestige remained.

At last, what with scurvy amongst the garrison (which, considering the
amount of vegetables grown, should not have been the case), the incessant
feud with the natives, the most gloomy reports were sent down at every
opportunity afforded by a vessel calling. Latterly, it was unsafe to
venture out of the camp unarmed, and the surgeon and commissariat officer
were murdered only a few yards from the stockade. The public policy
pursued was not of a liberal nature, and it was decided to try the
experiment of a settlement on the mainland.

As it was considered that Port Essington was deficient in fresh water,
Raffles Bay was selected, and two years before Melville Island was
finally abandoned, Captain Stirling, of the SUCCESS, was ordered to
proceed there. The settlement was formed on the 18th June, and in honour
of the date, was called Fort Wellington.

The usual scene of activity ensued, the erection of a house, the
formation of a garden, and finally, the old routine of commencing
intercourse with the natives; then the thieving and the usual

Two shipwrecked men were picked up during the early days of the
settlement, one a Portuguese sailor belonging to the FREDERICK, wrecked
on the east coast, so often mentioned by King. This man, in company with
two others, had escaped in a small boat, and reached Port Essington,
where his two companions had died. The other was a Lascar belonging to
the ship FAME, that had been wrecked in the straits. He had been with the
blacks six or seven years.

On the final abandonment of Melville Island, in 1829, the live animals,
stores, plants, etc., were transferred to Raffles Bay, but although such
doleful accounts of the island had been sent down, Captain Lawes, who
visited it only a few months before the removal, gives a favourable
report of its healthiness, and of the success attending the growth of
vegetables and tropical fruits. The same dismal reports concerning the
unhealthiness of the climate were reported about Raffles Bay, and, much
to the surprise of the commandant, Captain Barker, orders were received
to abandon that place, too, in the same year.

On the 28th of August the abandonment took place. The principal natives,
who had been admitted near the settlement, were taken over the stockade
and garden, and an attempt made to teach them the value of the fruits.

The whites left behind them orange, lime, and lemon trees, bananas, in
abundance, shaddocks, citrons, pine-apples, figs, custard apples,
cocoa-nuts, sugar-cane, and many other plants. In addition, paw-paws,
bananas, and cocoa-nuts were planted in many other places where it was
thought they would thrive.

Poultry, pigs, a bull and three cows (buffaloes), a Timor horse, and mare
in foal, were also left, in the hope of their increasing. An old Union
Jack was then nailed on the deserted fort, and the garrison went on board
the brig. On notice being given of the intended removal, a disposition to
abscond had been evinced by many of the prisoners. Some succeeded; the
idea being to hide until the departure of the commandant, and then live
with the natives until the arrival of the Malay proas. All returned and
gave themselves up with the exception of two, and these two were left
behind. Their fate is of course unknown. This was the end of the first
attempt at colonisation of the north coast.


Cruise of H.M.S. BEAGLE--Passengers Grey and Lushington--Swan
River--Northern coast survey commenced--Supposed channel at Dampier's
Land non-existent--Lieutenant Usborne accidentally shot--King's
Sound--Effects of a rainy season--Point Cunningham--Skeleton of a native
found--New discoveries--Fitzroy River explored--Exciting incident--Boat
excursion to Collier Bay--Swan River--Native steward "Miago"--Amusing
inspection--Meeting with the explorers at Hanover Bay--Lieutenant Grey's
description of native tribes--Miago's memory--Fremantle--Needed
communication--BEAGLE at Hobart Town--Survey work at Cape
Otway--Exploration of northwest coast--Reminiscences of
colonisation--Discovery of the Adelaide River--A serious comedy--Port
Essington and Clarence Straits--Harbour of Port Darwin named--The
Victoria River--Extravagant hopes--Land party organized--Captain Stokes
speared--Return to Swan River--BEAGLE again North--Examination of Sweer's
Island--Flinders and Albert Rivers discovered--Inland navigation--Gun
accident--Native mode of burial--Fallacious Theorising--The BEAGLE'S
surveying concluded--Maritime exploration closes.

The next voyage of importance in these waters was conducted by Captains
Wickham and Stokes. Few narratives of the survey of our coasts have read
with so much interest as that of the cruise of the BEAGLE. Partly is this
owing to the intense love of exploration and discovery that seems to have
animated the spirit of her commander, Captain Lort Stokes, throughout
whose journal there breathes the very essence of genuine enthusiasm. In
addition, the incidents and results of the survey added so much to our
knowledge of Australia, that one can look upon him as a most worthy
successor to Flinders and King.

The BEAGLE was an old surveying vessel, and Captain Stokes had served on
board of her for nearly eighteen years, passing through all the grades,
from midshipman upwards, in many parts of the world. She left Plymouth on
the 5th July, 1837, under the command of John Clements Wickham, who
invalided in March, 1841, when John Lort Stokes, lieutenant and assistant
surveyor, was appointed to the vacant command.

On board the BEAGLE, at her departure from Plymouth, were Lieutenants
Grey and Lushington, on their way to explore the interior of Western
Australia. These gentlemen parted company from the BEAGLE at the Cape of
Good Hope, the sloop proceeding to the Swan River. In January, 1838, the
BEAGLE left Swan River, and sailed north, where, on the 15th, they
anchored in Roebuck Bay, and commenced a search for the much talked of
channel supposed to exist by Captains King and Dampier--a channel that
would connect Roebuck Bay with an opening behind Buccaneer's Archipelago,
thus making Dampier's Land an island. As was anticipated by Stokes, this
proved unsuccessful, but the stay there was terminated by an unfortunate
but, luckily, not fatal accident, Lieutenant Usborne being accidentally

"At the time this unlucky accident occurred, some twenty natives rushed
from the concealment, whence they had been, doubtless, watching all the
proceedings of the party, as though they, designed to bear a part in what
probably seemed to them, as poor Usborne went down, an approaching fray;
however, the sight of the two boats in the distance, which, upon
deploying, they had full in view, deterred them from acting upon any
hostile intentions, supposing such to have existed in their minds. The
accident, however, and their sudden appearance could only serve
additionally to flurry the little party, who had to convey their disabled
officer to a place of safety, and Mr. Helpman, who may well be pardoned
the want of his usual self-possession at such a moment, left behind a pair
of loaded pistols. They would puzzle the savages greatly, of course, but
I hope no ill consequences ensued; if they began pulling them about, or
put them in the fire, the better to separate the wood and iron, two or
three poor wretches might be killed or maimed for life, and their first
recollections of the 'Quibra men,' as Miago calls us, would naturally be
anything but favourable.

"Thus disastrously terminated our examination of Roebuck Bay, in which
the cheering reports of former navigators had induced us to anticipate
the discovery of some great water communication with the interior of this
vast continent. A most thorough and careful search had clearly
demonstrated that the hoped-for river must be sought elsewhere."

Touching here and there along the coast, and having occasional
communication with the natives, which Stokes amusingly describes, they
finally anchored in, and christened King's Sound after the narrow escape
that King experienced there from the tidal race. The point had now been
reached where they expected to carry on their most important operations,
and the first question to settle was if they could rely on fresh water.
The delightful verdure that clothed the country after the long ranges of
sandhills, and shores covered with mangroves, also the fact of many
natives living here, would on any other coast have been looked upon
favourably, but upon the coasts, and in the heart of Australia nature
seems to delight in contradiction.

Heavy rains provided them with an abundance of rain water, and they
collected in the hollows of the rocks several boat loads, so preventing a
more distant search.

"While waiting here a party was made up for the purpose of penetrating a
little way into the interior. Everything wore a green and most delightful
appearance, but the reader must bear in mind how vegetation had just been
forced by heavy rains upon a light, heated soil, and also recollect that
to one who has been pent up for some time on board ship a very barren
prospect may seem delightful. The country was more open in character than
I had before noticed it, and the numerous traces of native fires which we
found in the course of the excursion seemed readily to account for this.
Indeed, during dry seasons it not infrequently happens that an immense
tract of land is desolated with fire, communicated either by the design
or carelessness of the natives, to the dry herbage on the surface. The
moment the flame has been kindled, it only waits for the first breath of
air to spread it far and wide; then, on the wings of the wind, the fiery
tempest streams over the hillsides and through the vast plains. Brushwood
and herbage, the dry grass, the tall reed, the twining parasite, or the
giant of the forest, charred and blackened, but still proudly erect-alike
attest and bewail the conquering fire's onward march; and the bleak
desert, silent, waste, and lifeless, which it leaves behind, seems for
ever doomed to desolation. Vain fear! The rain descends once more upon
the dry and thirsty soil, and, from that very hour which seemed the date
of cureless ruin, Nature puts forth her wondrous power with increased
effort, and again her green and flower-embroidered mantle decks the earth
with a new beauty."

Leaving this anchorage, another was found in a bay on the mainland,
eleven miles N.W. from a remarkable headland, named by Captain King Point
Cunningham, and remained here a week, by which time the coast, as far as
Point Cunningham, was carefully examined.

"We named this Skeleton Point, from our finding here the remains of a
native, placed in a semi-recumbent position under a wide-spreading
gum-tree, enveloped, or, more properly, shrouded, in the bark of the
papyrus. All the bones were closely packed together, the larger being
placed outside, and the general mass, surmounted by the head, resting on
its base; the fleshless, eyeless skull 'grinning horribly' over the right
side. The removal of the skeleton was effected, and presented by Captain
Grey to the Royal College of Surgeons, in whose museum it is now to be

From the summit of Point Cunningham a fine view of the opposite shore of
the sound was obtained. It appeared very rugged and broken, and from the
geological formation of the country, and no land to the south-cast or
south, Captain Stokes' hopes were again raised of finding the long and
anxiously expected river. A singular cliff on the south-east side of the
point is called by King, "Carlisle Head." Rounding Point Cunningham, they
anchored near a red cliffy head, called by Captain King "Foul Point." It
was here King was compelled to leave the coast, and Foul Point marks the
limit of his survey on the northern shore.

On the 23rd February they crossed the limit of King's Sound, and entered
unknown waters. Here, at Disaster Bay, Stokes was sent in command of the
whaleboat and yawl, to inspect the coast ahead, whilst the survey of the
bay proceeded. On the 26th, Stokes discovered a new river, which he named
the Fitzroy, after his former commander. Whilst exploring this river,
Stokes and his companions, Helpmann and a sailor, had a most narrow
escape. They had left the boat, and were making their way through the
mangrove-fringed banks on foot to a certain point where they were to meet
the boat again; but rising tide proved so strong that the boat could not
reach them, and although Stokes and Helpman could swim, the sailor could
not, and they would not desert him. There they had to stand with the tide
creeping up their bodies, and watch the desperate efforts of the crew to
contend against its force. Only when the water was high enough to allow
the boat to creep along the shelter of the mangroves, and they were
shoulder deep, were they rescued.

On the return to the ship, a fresh expedition was immediately despatched,
Captain Wickharn himself taking command, and they pulled up the Fitzroy a
distance of twenty-two miles in a straight direction, and ninety miles
following the bend of the river. Returning, Stokes had the satisfaction
of seeing a monster alligator reposing on the mud-bank, where he had such
a near escape from drowning.

After a lengthened survey of the sound, the BEAGLE returned to Port
George the Fourth, where she arrived on the 7th of April, from whence
they made a boat excursion to Collier Bay. Many natives were seen on the
shore, evidently wanting to be friendly. On board the BEAGLE, the party
had a native of Swan River--Miago. He turned out an excellent gun
room waiter, and they hoped that in any communication with the natives he
might prove useful. When off Point Swan, Stokes says:--

"They closely examined the heroic Miago, who submitted to be handled by
these much-dreaded 'northern men' with a very rueful countenance, and
afterwards construed the way in which one of them had gently stroked his
beard, into an attempt to take him by the throat and strangle him--an
injury and indignity which, when safe on board, he resented by repeated
threats, uttered in a sort of wild chant, of spearing their thighs,
back, loins, and, indeed, every individual portion of the frame.

"When Captain Wickharn and myself left the ship at Point Cunningham, in
the hope of inducing the natives to return with us, Miago, hearing of the
expected visit, immediately went below and dressed himself to the best
possible advantage. No sooner did the boat come alongside, than he
appeared at the gangway, inquiring, with the utmost possible dignity,
'Where blackfellas?' and was evidently deeply mortified that he had no
opportunity of 'astonishing the natives.'"

On their return to the ship, from the examination of Collier Bay, they
found the exploring party, under Grey and Lushington, had arrived on the
coast at Hanover Bay, twelve miles away.

"From Lieutenant Grey's description of the tribes his party had
encountered, he must have been among a people more advanced in
civilization than any me had hitherto seen upon this coast. He found
several curious figures, images, and drawings, generally in colours, upon
the sides of caves in the sandstone rock, which, notwithstanding their
rude style, yet evince a greater degree of advancement and intelligence
than we have been able to find any traces of; at the same time, it must
be remembered that no certain date absolutely connects these works with
the present generation; the dryness of the natural walls upon which they
are executed, and the absence of any atmospheric moisture may have, and
may yet preserve them for an indefinite period, and their history, read
aright, may testify-not the present condition of the Australian School of
Design, but the perfection which it had formerly attained. Lieutenant
Grey, too, like ourselves, had seen certain individuals, in company with
the natives, much lighter in colour, and widely differing in figure and
physiognomy from the savages by whom they were surrounded, and was
inclined to believe that they are descended from Dutch sailors who, at
different times suffering shipwreck upon the coast, have intermarried
with its native inhabitants; but as no authentic records can be produced
to prove that this portion of the coast was ever visited by Dutch
navigators at all, I am still more disposed to believe that these lighter
coloured people are Malays captured from the trepang fishers, or,
perhaps, voluntarily associating with the Australians, as we know that
the Australian not unfrequently abandons his country and his mode of life
to visit the Indian Archipelago with them."

From Port George the Fourth the BEAGLE sailed for Swan River, where she
arrived on the 25th of May. Her most important discovery during this
cruise was King's Sound and the Fitzroy River. As they neared Miago's
birthplace, Stokes says he questioned him upon the account he intended
giving his friends of the scenes he had witnessed.

"I was quite astonished at the accuracy with which he remembered the
various places we had visited during the voyage. He seemed to carry the
ship's track in his memory with the most careful accuracy. His
description of the ship's sailing and anchoring was most amusing. He used
to say: 'Ship walk--walk--all night--hard walk--then, by-and-by, anchor
tumble down.' His manner of describing, his interviews with the wicked
'northern men' was most graphic. His countenance and figure became at
once instinct with animation and energy, and no doubt he was then
influenced by feelings of baffled hatred and revenge, from having failed
in his much-vaunted determination to carry off in triumph one of their
gins. I would sometimes amuse myself by asking him how he was to excuse
himself to his friends for having failed in the promised exploit, but the
subject was evidently a very unpleasant one, and he was always anxious to
escape it.

"We were considerably amused with the consequential air Miago assumed
towards his countrymen on our arrival, which afforded us a not
uninstructive instance of the prevalence of the ordinary infirmities of
our common human nature, whether of pride or vanity, universally to be
met with, both in the civilised man and the uncultivated savage. He
declared that he would not land until they first came off to wait on him.
Decorated with an old full-dress lieutenant's coat, white trousers, and a
cap with a tall feather, he looked upon himself as a most exalted
personage, and for the whole of the first day remained on board,
impatiently, but in vain, prying into each boat that left the shore for
the dusky forms of some of his quondam friends. His pride, however, could
not long withstand the desire of display. Yielding to the impulse of
vanity he, early the following morning, took his departure from the ship.
Those who witnessed the meeting described it as cool on both sides,
arising on the part of his friends from jealousy; they, perhaps, judging
from his costume that he had abandoned his bush life."

The BEAGLE had arrived at Fremantle just in time to allow her company to
share in the annual festivities with which the inhabitants celebrate the
formation of the colony. It may give some idea of the neglected state of
this then infant colony to mention that during the six months' absence of
the BEAGLE, only one boat had arrived there, and that, H.M.S. PELORUS
from the Indian station. Communication with the home country was sadly
needed, apart from the wish for news. Necessary articles of home
manufacture or importation were becoming unattainable.

From the Swan River settlement, the BEAGLE proceeded to Sydney, passing
Cape Leeuwin on the 23rd June, the south-western extremity of the
continent named by the first discoverer in 1622, "Landt van de Lewin," or
the Land of Lions. It was their intention to pass through Bass's Strait,
but the weather had been extreme on rounding Cape Leeuwin, making that

On the morning of the 8th, the south-western extremity of Van Dieman's
Land was seen. Van Dieman's Land, as before noted, was discovered in 1633
by Abel Janz Tasman, the Dutch navigator, and so named by him after the
Governor of Batavia, under whose authority his voyage had been performed,
but the insularity of the island was not fully proved until Bass passed
through the Strait in 1798.

The bad state of weather detained the BEAGLE in Hobart Town for some
time, reaching Port Jackson on July 24th.

It was not until the 11th of November that the BEAGLE left Port Jackson,
and anchored close to the southern shore of Port Phillip. Surveying
operations were set to work in good earnest, chiefly in determining the
position of the mouths of the various channels intersecting the bank that
extended across the entire bay, three miles from the entrance, then
continuing the examination to the westward. Passing the mouth of the
Barwon, the nature of the country begins to change, and high grassy
downs, with rare patches of woodland, present themselves; then, as they
near Cape Otway, a steep rocky coast, with dense woodland rising abruptly
over it. Cape Otway, being the northern point of the western extremity of
Bass's Strait, is swept by all the winds that blow into that end of the
funnel, and this is the cause of the stunted appearance of the trees in
that neighbourhood.

Having coasted the northern side of the strait, they cross to Tasmania to
examine the south side.

Again, in May 1840, the BEAGLE left Sydney to cruise on the north coast,
and explore the north-western part of the continent, this time taking
the inside passage between the east coast and the Barrier Reef to reach
her destination, and after discovering the mouth of a river near Cape
Upstart (the present Burdekin), and making other minor corrections and
additions in King's chart, the vessel anchored at the new settlement of
Port Essington. In 1829, it will be remembered that Fort Dundas and Fort
Wellington had been abandoned, and it was not until the year 1829 that
any fresh attempt was made. The ships ALLIGATOR and BRITOMART, under Sir
Gordon Bremer and Lieutenant Owen Stanley, were then despatched to Port
Essington; but the new settlement to be formed was intended to be a
purely military one, and although many intending settlers volunteered and
sought permission to try their fortunes, no inducement was held out to

The township (destined to follow the date of its predecessors) received
the imposing name of Victoria. Not long after the arrival of M. D'Urville
with the ASTROLABE and ZELIE in Raffles Bay, Lieutenant Stewart, when
visiting that bay to invite the French officers to the new settlement,
found nothing remaining of the old one, but the graves of those buried
there; the garden and stockade had totally disappeared.

Leaving Port Essington, the BEAGLE discovered a river at the head of Adam
Bay, which was explored for eighty miles, and called the Adelaide. Here
occurred the trago-comic episode that gave the name of Escape Cliffs to
the neighbourhood.

"Messrs. Fitzmaurice and Keys went ashore to compare the compasses. From
the quantity of iron contained in the rocks it was necessary to select a
spot free from their influence. A sandy beach at the foot of Escape
Cliffs was accordingly chosen. The observations had been commenced and
were about half completed, when on the summit of the cliffs, which rose
about twenty feet above their heads, suddenly appeared a large party of
natives with poised and quivering spears, as if about immediately to
deliver them. Stamping on the ground and shaking their heads too and fro,
they threw out their long shaggy locks in a circle, whilst their glaring
eyes flashed with fury as they champed and spit out the ends of their
long beards (a custom with Australian natives when in a state of violent
excitement). They were evidently in earnest, and bent on mischief. It was
therefore not a little surprising to behold this paroxysm of rage
evaporate before the happy presence of mind displayed by Mr. Fitzmaurice,
in immediately beginning to dance and shout, though in momentary
expectation of being pierced by a dozen spears. In this he was imitated
by Mr. Keys, and they succeeded in diverting them from their bad designs
until a boat landing in a bay drew off their attention.

"Messrs. Fitzmaurice and Keys had fire-arms lying on the ground within
reach of their hands, the instant, however, they ceased dancing, and
attempted to touch them, a dozen spears were pointed at their breasts.
Their lives hung upon a thread, and their escape must be regarded as
truly wonderful, and only to be attributed to the happy readiness with
which they adapted themselves to the perils of their situation. This was
the last we saw of the natives in Adam Bay, and the meeting is likely to
be long remembered by some and not without pleasant recollections, for
although at the time it was justly looked upon as a serious affair, it
afterwards proved a great source of mirth. No one could recall to mind,
without laughing, the ludicrous figure necessarily cut by our shipmates,
when to amuse the natives they figured on the light fantastic toe; they
literally danced for their lives."

The BEAGLE now returned to Port Essington, first examining the southern
shore of Melville Island. It was a visit not soon to be forgotten. Here
they encountered their first experience of the green ants. Standing under
a tree, whilst taking some observations, they found themselves covered,
and nothing but undressing, at least tearing off their clothes, relieved
them of the torture. The name of Ant Cliffs records this visit on the
south shore of Melville Island.

Leaving Port Essington for the second time on September 4th, 1839, the
BEAGLE threaded her way through Clarence Straits, to examine the western
entrance, and on the 7th came in sight of the mouth of an opening not
examined by Captain King. The next morning, with the boat provisioned for
four days, they started on their exploring trip, and named the opening
Hope Inlet, to commemorate the feelings it excited on its first
discovery, and the bay in which it lies, Shoal Bay, it being very shallow
at the head. Another wide opening, some fifteen miles ahead, having a
more favourable appearance, they pulled for it, and reached the entrance
at dark. In the morning, they found themselves at the entrance of a large
and promising harbour, which they at once proceeded to investigate, and
Stokes gave it the name of Port Darwin. Stokes seems to have been far
more anxious to discover a river than a harbour; the discovery of the
Adelaide elated him far more than did the finding of Port
Darwin, and he does not seem to have at all anticipated finding the site
of the future capital of the north, that was to take the place of all the
former settlements. Stokes returned to the ship, and the BEAGLE entered
the new found port, and a thorough survey was made. Resuming her voyage,
the BEAGLE, after examining Port Patterson and Bynoe Harbour, sailed for
a large opening one hundred and forty miles to the westward.

"Captain King's visit to this part of the coast was in 1819, and under
very adverse circumstances; his vessel had but one anchor left, and the
strong easterly winds then prevailing, with thick hazy weather, rendered
his progress into the opening both difficult and hazardous. After a trial
of two days, and having several narrow escapes from getting on shore, he
bore away to examine the coast to the south-west, where he was repaid for
his disappointment by the discovery of Cambridge Gulf. Thus did the
exploration of this wide and interesting opening fall to our good

The explorers had great hopes of finding the mouth of an important river.
These hopes were rewarded by the discovery of the Victoria, which Stokes,
in his extravagant joy, deemed equal in importance to the Murray. Captain
Wickharn bestowed the present name on it, and the delighted explorers
proceeded to trace their new found stream, and pulled up it thirty miles.
After their return, Lieutenant Fitzmaurice returned, having also
discovered a river more to the eastward, which received the name of
Fitzmaurice, after its discoverer. A long and interesting task now
commenced--the examination of the new river, and the process of taking the
vessel up as far as possible. After this had been successfully
accomplished, Captain Wickharn being unwell, Stokes was put in charge of
a boat party to follow the river up as far as possible. Taking the boats
as far as practicable, and then forming a land party, they managed to
reach a distance of one hundred and forty miles from the sea, and finding
the river still of considerable size, and full of large freshwater
reaches, Stokes hugged the belief that at last the highway to the
interior was discovered.

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