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Voyage Of H.M.S. Rattlesnake, Vol. 2 (of 2) by John MacGillivray

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Distribution of Aboriginal tribes of Cape York and Torres Strait.
Mode of warfare illustrated.
Their social condition.
Treatment of the women.
Prevalence of infanticide.
Education of a child.
Mode of scarifying the body.
Initiation to manhood.
Their canoes, weapons, and huts.
Dress of the women.
Food of the natives.
Mode of fishing.
Capture of the turtle and dugong described.
Yams and mode of culture.
Edible roots, fruits, etc.
No recognised chieftainship.
Laws regarding property in land.
Belief in transmigration of souls.
Their traditions.
Diseases and modes of treatment.
Burial Ceremonies.


Sail from Cape York.
Mount Ernest described.
Find Kalkalega tribe on Sue Island.
Friendly reception at Darnley Island, and proceedings there.
Bramble Cay and its turtle.
Stay at Redscar Bay.
Further description of the natives, their canoes, etc.
Pass along the South-east coast of New Guinea.
Call at Duchateau Islands.
Passage to Sydney.
Observations on Geology and Ethnology.
Origin of the Australians considered.


Death of Captain Stanley.
Sail for England.
Arrive at the Bay of Islands.
Falls of the Keri-Keri.
Passage across the South Pacific.
Oceanic birds.
Stay at the Falkland Islands.
Settlement of Stanley.
Call at Berkeley Sound.
Lassoing cattle.
Resume our homeward voyage.
Call at Horta in the Azores.
The caldeira of Fayal.
Arrive in England.


Narrative of Mr. W. Carron.
Statement of Jackey-Jackey.
Dr. Vallack's statement.
Extracts from Mr. T.B. Simpson's Log.












Tab. 2.
Fig. 1. Helix brumeriensis.
Fig. 2. Helix franklandiensis.
Fig. 3. Helix inconspicua.
Fig. 4. Helix iuloides.
Fig. 5. Helix divisa.
Fig. 6. Helix yulei.
Fig. 7. Helix dunkiensis.
Fig. 8. Helix louisiadensis.
Fig. 9. Balea australis.
Fig. 10. Pupina grandis.

Tab. 3.
Fig. 1. Helix macgillivrayi.
Fig. 2. Pupina Thomsoni.
Fig. 3. Helicina gouldiana.
Fig. 4. Helicina stanleyi.
Fig. 5. Helicina louisiadensis.
Fig. 6. Ranella pulchra.
Fig. 7. Scalaria jukesiana.
Fig. 8. Macgillivrayia pelagica.
Fig. 9. Cheletropis huxleyi.

Tab. 4.
Fig. 1, 2. Pachyrhynchus stanleyanus, White.
Fig. 3, 4. Drusilla myloecha, Westwood.
Fig. 5. Eusemia mariana, White.

Fig. 1. Ommatocarcinus macgillivrayi, White.
Fig. 2. Porcellanella triloba, White.





Distribution of Aboriginal tribes of Cape York and Torres Strait.
Mode of warfare illustrated.
Their social condition.
Treatment of the women.
Prevalence of infanticide.
Education of a child.
Mode of scarifying the body.
Initiation to manhood.
Their canoes, weapons, and huts.
Dress of the women.
Food of the natives.
Mode of fishing.
Capture of the turtle and dugong described.
Yams and mode of culture.
Edible roots, fruits, etc.
No recognised chieftainship.
Laws regarding property in land.
Belief in transmigration of souls.
Their traditions.
Diseases and modes of treatment.
Burial Ceremonies.


There are at least five distinct tribes of natives inhabiting the
neighbourhood of Cape York. The Gudang people possess the immediate
vicinity of the Cape: the Yagulles* stretch along the coast to the
southward and eastward beyond Escape River: the Katchialaigas and
Induyamos (or Yarudolaigas as the latter are sometimes called) inhabit
the country behind Cape York, but I am not acquainted with the precise
localities: lastly, the Gomokudins are located on the South-West shores
of Endeavour Strait, and extend a short distance down the Gulf of
Carpentaria. These all belong to the Australian race as unquestionably as
the aborigines of Western or South Australia, or the South-East coast of
New South Wales; they exhibit precisely the same physical characteristics
which have been elsewhere so often described as to render further
repetition unnecessary.

(*Footnote. This is the tribe concerned in the murder of the unfortunate
Kennedy. The circumstances were related by some of the Yagulles to an old
woman at Cape York of the name of Baki, who, when questioned upon the
subject through Giaom, partially corroborated the statement of
Jackey-Jackey. She further stated that a few years ago a Yagulle woman
and child had been shot by some white men in a small vessel near Albany
Island, and that the tribe were anxious to revenge their death. Whether
this was a story got up as a palliative for the murder, or not, I cannot

On the other hand, the tribes inhabiting the islands of Torres Strait
differ from those of the mainland in belonging (with the exception of the
first) to the Papuan or frizzled-haired race. Besides, probably, a few
others of which I cannot speak with certainty, these tribes are
distributed in the following manner. The Kowraregas inhabit the Prince of
Wales group: the Muralegas and Italegas divide between them Banks Island:
the Badulegas possess Mulgrave Island, and the Gumulegas the islands
between the last and New Guinea: the Kulkalegas have Mount Ernest and the
Three Sisters: The Massilegas* reside on the York Isles and others
adjacent: and the Miriam** tribe hold the north-easternmost islands of
Torres Strait, including Murray and Darnley Islands.

(*Footnote. I do not know what name is given to the tribe or tribes
inhabiting the space between the Miriam and the Kulkalaig. Dzum (a
Darnley islander) told me of a tribe called Gamle inhabiting Owrid, Uta,
Zogarid, Sirreb, Mekek, and Wurber; at all events the natives of Massid
belong to a distinct tribe, judging from their language, and are known as
the Massilegas by the Kowraregas. They occasionally (as in 1848) come
down to Cape York on a visit to the Australians there, often extending
their voyage far to the southward, visiting the various sandy islets in
search of turtle and remaining away for a month or more.)

(**Footnote. Is so named from a place in Murray Island. The possessions
of this tribe are Mer, Dowar, Wayer, Errub, Ugar, Zapker, and Edugor,
all, except the two last, permanently inhabited.

The junction between the two races, or the Papuan from the north and the
Australian from the south, is effected at Cape York by the Kowraregas,
whom I believe to be a Papuanized colony of Australians, as will
elsewhere be shown. In fact, one might hesitate whether to consider the
Kowraregas* as Papuans or Australians, so complete is the fusion of the
two races. Still the natives of the Prince of Wales Islands rank
themselves with the islanders and exhibit a degree of conscious
superiority over their neighbours on the mainland and with some show of
reason; although themselves inferior to all the other islanders, they
have at least made with them the great advance in civilisation of having
learned to cultivate the ground, a process which is practised by none of
the Australian aborigines.

(*Footnote. Dr. Latham informs me that the Kowrarega language is
undeniably Australian, and has clearly shown such to be the case: and
although the Miriam language does not show any obvious affinity with the
continental Australian dialects, yet the number of words common to it and
the Kowrarega, I find by comparison of my vocabularies to be very
considerable, and possibly, were we at all acquainted with the grammar of
the former, other and stronger affinities would appear.)


The Kowraregas speak of New Guinea under the name of Muggi (little)
Dowdai, while to New Holland they apply the term of Kei (large) Dowdai.
Their knowledge of the former island has been acquired indirectly through
the medium of intervening tribes. The New Guinea people are said to live
chiefly on pigs and sago; from them are obtained the cassowary feathers
used in their dances, and stone-headed clubs. They trade with the
Gumulegas, who exchange commodities with the Badulegas, from whom the
Kowrarega people receive them. These last barter away to their northern
neighbours spears, throwing-sticks, and mother-of-pearl shells for bows,
arrows, bamboo pipes, and knives, and small shell ornaments called
dibi-dibi. They have friendly relations with the other islanders of
Torres Strait, but are at enmity with all the mainland tribes except the


Occasionally hostilities, frequently caused by the most trivial
circumstances, arise between two neighbouring tribes, when incursions are
made into each other's territories, and reprisals follow. Although timely
notice is usually given prior to an aggression being made by one tribe
upon another, yet the most profound secrecy is afterwards practised by
the invaders. As an illustration of their mode of warfare, in which
treachery is considered meritorious in proportion to its success, and no
prisoners are made, except occasionally, when a woman is carried
off--consisting chiefly in a sudden and unexpected attack, a short
encounter, the flight of one party and the triumphant rejoicings of the
other on their return--I may state the following on the authority of

About the end of 1848, an old Kowrarega man went by himself in a small
canoe to the neighbourhood of Cape Cornwall, while the men of the tribe
were absent turtling at the eastern end of Endeavour Strait. He was
watched by a party of Gomokudin blacks or Yigeiles, who, guided by his
fire, surprised and speared him. Immediately returning to the mainland,
the perpetrators of this savage deed made a great fire by way of
exultation. Meanwhile the turtling party returned, and when it became
known that the old man had been missing for several days, they were
induced by his two sons to search for him, and found the body horribly
mutilated, with many spears stuck into it to show who had been the
murderers. This explained the fire, so another was lit in reply to the
challenge, and at night a party of Kowraregas in six canoes, containing
all the men and lads of the tribe, crossed over to the main. They came
upon a small camp of Yigeiles who had not been at all concerned in the
murder, and enticed one of them to come out of the thicket where he had
concealed himself by the offer of a fillet of cassowary feathers for
information regarding the real murderers. As soon as the man stepped out,
he was shot down with an arrow, his head cut off, and pursuit made after
the rest. Towards morning their second camping-place was discovered and
surrounded, when three men, one woman, and a girl were butchered. The
heads of the victims were cut off with the hupi, or bamboo knife, and
secured by the sringi, or cane loop, both of which are carried slung on
the back by the Torres Strait islanders and the New Guinea men of the
adjacent shores, when on a marauding excursion;* these Papuans preserve
the skulls of their enemies as trophies, while the Australian tribes
merely mutilate the bodies of the slain, and leave them where they fall.

(*Footnote. See Jukes' Voyage of the Fly Volume 1 page 277.)


The Kowraregas returned to their island with much exultation, announcing
their approach by great shouting and blowing on conchs. The heads were
placed on an oven and partially cooked, when the eyes were scooped out
and eaten with portions of flesh cut from the cheek;* only those,
however, who had been present at the murder were allowed to partake of
this; the morsel was supposed to make them more brave. A dance was then
commenced, during which the heads were kicked along the ground, and the
savage excitement of the dancers almost amounted to frenzy. The skulls
were ultimately hung up on two cross sticks near the camp, and allowed to
remain there undisturbed.

(*Footnote. The eyes and cheeks of the survivors from the wreck of a
Charles Eaton (in August 1834) were eaten by their murderers--a party
consisting of different tribes from the eastern part of Torres Strait.
See Nautical Magazine 1837 page 799.)

In the beginning of 1849 a party of Badulegas who had spent two months on
a friendly visit to the natives of Muralug treacherously killed an old
Italega woman, married to one of their hosts. Two of her brothers from
Banks Island were staying with her at the time, and one was killed, but
the other managed to escape. The heads were carried off to Badu as
trophies. This treacherous violation of the laws of hospitality was in
revenge for some petty injury which one of the Badu men received from an
Ita black several years before.


When a large fire is made by one tribe it is often intended as a signal
of defiance to some neighbouring one--an invitation to fight--and may be
continued daily for weeks before hostilities commence; it is answered by
a similar one. Many other signals by smoke are in use: for example, the
presence of an enemy upon the coast--a wish to communicate with another
party at a distance--or the want of assistance--may be denoted by making
a small fire, which, as soon as it has given out a little column of
smoke, is suddenly extinguished by heaping sand upon it. If not answered
immediately it is repeated; if still unanswered, a large fire is got up
and allowed to burn until an answer is returned.


Polygamy is practised both on the mainland and throughout the islands of
Torres Strait. Five is the greatest number of wives which I was credibly
informed had been possessed by one man--but this was an extraordinary
instance, one, two, or three, being the usual complement, leaving of
course many men who are never provided with wives. The possession of
several wives ensures to the husband a certain amount of influence in his
tribe as the owner of so much valuable property, also from the nature and
extent of his connections by marriage. In most cases females are
betrothed in infancy, according to the will of the father, and without
regard to disparity of age, thus the future husband may be and often is
an old man with several wives. When the man thinks proper he takes his
wife to live with him without any further ceremony, but before this she
has probably had promiscuous intercourse with the young men, such, if
conducted with a moderate degree of secrecy, not being considered as an
offence, although if continued after marriage it would be visited by the
husband (if powerful enough) upon both the offending parties with the
severest punishment.

Occasionally there are instances of strong mutual attachment and
courtship, when, if the damsel is not betrothed, a small present made to
the father is sufficient to procure his consent; at the Prince of Wales
Islands a knife or glass bottle are considered as a sufficient price for
the hand of a lady fair, and are the articles mostly used for that

According to Giaom puberty in girls takes place from the tenth to the
twelfth year, but few become mothers at a very early age. When
parturition is about to take place the woman retires to a little distance
in the bush, and is attended by an experienced matron. Delivery is
usually very easy, and the mother is almost always able on the following
day to attend to her usual occupations. The infant is laid upon a small
soft mat which the mother has taken care to prepare beforehand, and which
is used for no other purpose.


The life of a married woman among the Kowrarega and Gudang blacks is a
hard one. She has to procure nearly all the food for herself and husband,
except during the turtling season, and on other occasions when the men
are astir. If she fails to return with a sufficiency of food, she is
probably severely beaten--indeed the most savage acts of cruelty are
often inflicted upon the women for the most trivial offence.


Considering the degraded position assigned by the Australian savages to
their women, it is not surprising that the Prince of Wales Islanders
should, by imitating their neighbours in this respect, afford a strong
contrast to the inhabitants of Darnley and other islands of the
North-East part of Torres Strait, who always appeared to me to treat
their females with much consideration and kindness. Several instances of
this kind of barbarity came under my own notice. Piaquai
(before-mentioned) when spoken to about his wife whom he had killed a
fortnight before in a fit of passion, seemed much amused at the idea of
having got rid of her unborn child at the same time. One morning at Cape
York, Paida did not keep his appointment with me as usual; on making
inquiry, I found that he had been squabbling with one of his wives a few
minutes before, about some trifle, and had speared her through the hip
and groin. On expressing my disapproval of what he had done, adding that
white men never acted in that manner, he turned it off by jocularly
observing that although _I_ had only one wife, HE had two, and could
easily spare one of them. As a further proof of the low condition of the
women, I may state that it is upon them that the only restrictions in
eating particular sorts of food are imposed. Many kinds of fish,
including some of the best, are forbidden on the pretence of their
causing disease in women, although not injurious to the men. The
hawksbill turtle and its eggs are forbidden to women suckling, and no
female, until beyond child bearing, is permitted to eat of the Torres
Strait pigeon.

Among other pieces of etiquette to be practised after marriage among both
the Kowraregas and Gudangs, a man must carefully avoid speaking to or
even mentioning the name of his mother-in-law, and his wife acts
similarly with regard to her father-in-law. Thus the mother of a person
called Nuki--which means water--is obliged to call water by another name;
in like manner as the names of the dead are never mentioned without great
reluctance so, after the death of a man named Us, or quartz, that stone
had its name changed into nattam ure, or the thing which is a namesake,
although the original will gradually return to common use.

The population of Muralug is kept always about the same numerical
standard by the small number of births, and the occasional practice of
infanticide. Few women rear more than three children, and besides, most
of those born before marriage are doomed to be killed immediately after
birth, unless the father--which is seldom the case--is desirous of saving
the child--if not, he gives the order marama teio (throw it into the
hole) and it is buried alive accordingly. Even of other infants some,
especially females, are made away with in a similar manner when the
mother is disinclined to support it.


An infant is named immediately after birth: and, on Muralug, these names
for the last few years have been chosen by a very old man named Guigwi.
Many of these names have a meaning attached to them: thus, two people are
named respectively Wapada and Passei, signifying particular trees, one
woman is called Kuki, or the rainy season, and her son Ras, or the
driving cloud. Most people have several names, for instance, old Guigwi
was also called Salgai, or the firesticks, and Mrs. Thomson was addressed
as Kesagu, or Taomai, by her (adopted) relatives, but as Giaom by all
others. Children are usually suckled for about two years, but are soon
able, in a great measure, to procure their own food, especially
shellfish, and when strong enough to use the stick employed in digging up
roots, they are supposed to be able to shift for themselves.


A peculiar form of head, which both the Kowrarega and Gudang blacks
consider as the beau ideal of beauty, is produced by artificial
compression during infancy. Pressure is made by the mother with her
hands--as I have seen practised on more than one occasion at Cape
York--one being applied to the forehead and the other to the occiput,
both of which are thereby flattened, while the skull is rendered
proportionally broader and longer than it would naturally have been.*

(*Footnote. Precisely the same form of skull as that alluded to in volume
1: hence it is not unreasonable to suppose that the latter might have
been artificially produced.)

When the child is about a fortnight old the perforation in the septum of
the nose is made by drilling it with a sharp-pointed piece of
tortoise-shell, but the raised artificial scars, regarded as personal
ornaments by the Australians and Torres Strait Islanders, are not made
until long afterwards. According to Giaom, who states that among the
Kowraregas this scarification is purely voluntary, the patient is laid
upon the ground and held there, while the incisions are made with a piece
of glass by some old man famous for his skill in performing the
operation. The chewed leaf of a certain plant (which, however, I could
not identify) is introduced into the wound to prevent the edges from
uniting, and a daub of wet clay is then placed over all, and kept there
until the necessary effect has been produced. The principal
scarifications among women at Cape York and Muralug are in the form of
long lines across the hips. Among the men, however, there is considerable

The characteristic mode of dressing the hair among the Torres Strait
Islanders is to have it twisted up into long pipe-like ringlets, and wigs
in imitation of this are also worn. Sometimes the head is shaved, leaving
a transverse crest--a practice seldom seen among the men but not uncommon
among women and children, from Darnley Island down to Cape York. At the
last place and Muralug the hair is almost always kept short--still
caprice and fashion have their sway, for at Cape York I have at times for
a week together seen all the men and lads with the hair twisted into
little strands well daubed over with red ochre and turtle fat.


The Torres Strait Islanders are distinguished by a large complicated oval
scar, only slightly raised, and of neat construction. This, which I have
been told has some connection with a turtle, occupies the right shoulder,
and is occasionally repeated on the left. At Cape York, however, the
cicatrices were so varied, that I could not connect any particular style
with an individual tribe--at the same time something like uniformity was
noticed among the Katchialaigas, nearly all of whom had, in addition to
the horned breast-mark, two or three long transverse scars on the chest,
which the other tribes did not possess. In the remaining people the
variety of marking was such that it appeared fair to consider it as being
regulated more by individual caprice than by any fixed custom. Many had a
simple two-horned mark on each breast, and we sometimes saw among them a
clumsy imitation of the elaborate shoulder mark of the islanders.


The custom of undergoing a certain mysterious ceremony prior to being
admitted to the privileges of manhood, supposed to be an institution
peculiar to the Australians, is found among the Kowraregas, but whether
it extends throughout Torres Strait is uncertain. This initiation is not
at Cape York and Muralug accompanied by the performance either of
circumcision or the knocking out of a tooth, as in many parts of
Australia. The boys, usually three or four in number, are chased about in
the bush during the day by some of the men decked out with feathers and
other ornaments, and at night retire to the men's camp, for, during the
whole time of their novitiate--or about a month--they must on no account
be seen by a woman; in fact, as Giaom informed me, a woman coming upon
these kernele--as they are called--no matter how accidentally, would be
immediately put to death. When all is over the lads return to their
parents, decorated with a profusion of ornaments which are worn until
they drop off, and wearing in front a small triangular piece of shell as
a distinguishing mark.


The same kind of canoe which is found throughout Torres Strait has been
seen to extend from Cape York along the eastern coast as far south as
Fitzroy Island,* a distance of 500 miles. It essentially consists of a
hollowed-out log, a central platform, and an outrigger on each side. The
largest canoes which I have seen are those of the Murray and Darnley
Islanders, occasionally as much as sixty feet long; those of the
Australians are small, varying at Cape York between fifteen and thirty
feet in length. Even the Kowraregas have much finer canoes than their
neighbours on the mainland; one which I measured alongside the ship was
forty-five feet long and three and a half in greatest width, and could
carry with ease twenty-five people.

(*Footnote. At the latter place we found a small canoe with two
outriggers concealed on shore among some bushes. The bark canoes of
Rockingham Bay have already been described. About Whitsunday Passage the
canoes, also of bark, are larger and of neater construction: one which I
examined at the Cumberland Isles was made of three pieces of bark neatly
sewn together; it was six feet long and two and a half feet wide, sharp
at each end, with a wooden thwart near the stem and stern, and a cord
amidships to keep the sides from stretching. In the creeks and bays of
the now settled districts of New South Wales another kind of canoe was
once in general use. At Broken Bay, in August 1847, a singular couple of
aborigines whom I met upon a fishing excursion had a small canoe formed
of a single sheet of bark tied up at each end; on the floor of this they
were squatted, with the gunwale not more than six inches above the
water's edge. Yet this frail bark contained a fire, numbers of spears,
fishing lines and other gear. The woman was a character well known in
Sydney--Old Gooseberry--said to be old enough to have remembered Cook's
first visit to these shores.)


The construction of a canoe in the neighbourhood of Cape York is still
looked upon as a great undertaking, although the labour has been much
lessened by the introduction of iron axes, which have completely
superseded those of stone formerly in use. A tree of sufficient size free
from limbs--usually a species of Bombax (silk-cotton tree) or
Erythrina--is selected in the scrub, cut down, hollowed out where it
falls, and dragged to the beach by means of long climbers used as ropes.
The remaining requisites are now added; two stout poles, fourteen to
twenty feet in length, are laid across the gunwale, and secured there
from six to ten feet apart, and the projecting ends are secured by
lashing and wooden pegs to a long float of light wood on each side,
pointed, and slightly turned up at the ends. A platform or stage of small
sticks laid across occupies the centre of the canoe, extending on each
side, several feet beyond the gunwale, and having on the outside a sort
of double fence of upright sticks used for stowing away weapons and other
gear. The paddles are five feet long, with a narrow rounded blade, and
are very clumsily made. The cable is made of twisted climbers--often the
Flagellaria indica--and a large stone serves for an anchor.

When desirous of making sail, the first process is to set up in the bow
two poles as masts, and on the weather side a longer and stouter one is
laid across the gunwale, and projects outwards and backwards as an
outrigger. These are further supported by stays and guys, and, together
with another long pole forked at the end, serve as a frame to support the
pressure of the sails, which are usually two in number, made of matting
of pandanus leaves, and average four and a half feet in width and twelve
in height. The sails have a slender pole on each side to which the
matting is secured by small pegs; when set, they are put up on end side
by side, travelling along the backstay by means of a cane grommet. When
blowing fresh it is usual to keep a man standing on the temporary
outrigger to counteract by his weight the inclination of the canoe to
leeward. From the whole sail being placed in the bow these canoes make
much leeway, but when going free may attain a maximum speed of seven or
eight knots an hour. Except in smooth water they are very wet, and the
bailer (a melon shell) is in constant requisition.


The inhabitants of the mainland and Prince of Wales Islands use the spear
and throwing-stick, but throughout the remainder of Torres Strait bows
and arrows are the chief weapons. The bows, which are large and powerful,
are made of split bamboo, and the arrows of a cane procured from New
Guinea, afterwards headed with hard wood variously pointed and sometimes
barbed. The Kowraregas obtain bows and arrows from their northern
neighbours, and occasionally use them in warfare, but prefer the spears
which are made by the blacks of the mainland. We saw three kinds of spear
at Cape York; one is merely a sharpened stick used for striking fish, the
two others, tipped and barbed with bone, are used in war. The principal
spear (kalak or alka) measures about nine feet in length, two-thirds of
which are made of she-oak or casuarina, hard and heavy, and the remaining
third of a soft and very light wood; one end has a small hollow to
receive the knob of the throwing-stick, and to the other the leg-bone of
a kangaroo six inches long, sharpened at each end, is secured in such a
manner as to furnish a sharp point to the spear and a long barb besides.
Another spear, occasionally used in fighting, has three or four heads of
wood each of which is tipped and barbed with a smaller bone than is used
for the kalak.

The throwing-stick in use at Cape York extends down the North-East coast
at least as far as Lizard Island; it differs from those in use in other
parts of Australia in having the projecting knob for fitting into the end
of the spear parallel with the plane of the stick and not at rightangles.
It is made of casuarina wood, and is generally three feet in length, an
inch and a quarter broad, and half an inch thick. At the end a double
slip of melon shell, three and a half inches long, crossing diagonally,
serves as a handle, and when used, the end rests against the palm of the
right hand, the three last fingers grasp the stick, and the forefinger
and thumb loosely retain the spear. With the aid of the powerful leverage
of the throwing-stick a spear can be thrown to a distance varying
according to its weight from 30 to 80 yards, and with considerable
precision; still, if observed coming, it may easily be avoided.

The only other weapon which I have seen in Torres Strait is a peculiar
kind of club procured from New Guinea, consisting of a quoit-like disk of
hard stone (quartz, basalt, or serpentine) with a sharp edge, and a hole
in the centre to receive one end of a long wooden handle.

The huts which the Kowraregas and Cape York people put up when the rains
commence are usually dome-shaped, four to six feet high, constructed of
an arched framework of flexible sticks, one end of each of which is stuck
firmly in the ground, and over this sheets of tea-tree (Melaleuca)
bark--and sometimes an additional thatch of grass--are placed until it is
rendered perfectly watertight.


Not only at Cape York but throughout Torres Strait the males use no
clothing or covering of any kind. At Cape York and the Prince of Wales
Islands grown up females usually wear a covering in front, consisting of
a tuft of long grass, or flag (Philydrum lanuginosum) or split pandanus
leaves, either hanging loosely or passed between the legs and tied to
another behind; over this a short petticoat of fine shreds of pandanus
leaf, the ends worked into a waistband, is sometimes put on, especially
by the young girls, and when about to engage in dancing. This petticoat,
varying only in the materials from which it is made, is in general use
among the females of all the Torres Strait tribes except the Kowrarega,
and much labour is often expended upon its construction. The large mats
used as sails, also for sleeping under in wet weather, are made by the
women from the fallen leaves of the pandanus--the common basket from the
rush-like leaves of Xerotes banksii ? --and the water basket from the
sheath of the leaf of the Seaforthia palm.

The food of these blacks varies with the season of the year, and the
supply is irregular and often precarious. Shellfish and fish are alone
obtainable all the year round--collecting the former is exclusively a
female occupation, but fishing is chiefly practised by the men. Fish are
either killed with a plain pointed spear, often merely a stick sharpened
at the end, or are taken in deep water with the hook and line. Their
hooks are made of a strip of tortoise-shell so much curved as to form
three-fourths of a circle, but from their shape and the absence of a barb
they cannot be so effective as those of European make: indeed these last
were at Cape York preferred by the natives themselves. The line is neatly
made from the tough fibres of the rattan, which are first scraped to the
requisite degree of fineness with a sharp-edged Cyrena shell, then
twisted and laid up in three strands.

Turtle forms an important article of food, and four different kinds are
distinguished at Cape York and the Prince of Wales Islands. Three of
these can be identified as the Green, the Hawksbill, and the Loggerhead
species, and the fourth is a small one which I never saw. This last, I
was informed by Giaom, is fished for in the following extraordinary


A live sucking-fish (Echeneis remora) having previously been secured by a
line passed round the tail, is thrown into the water in certain places
known to be suitable for the purpose; the fish while swimming about makes
fast by its sucker to any turtle of this small kind which it may chance
to encounter, and both are hauled in together!

The green turtle is of such consequence to the natives that they have
distinguished by a special name taken from the animal itself (sulangi
from sulur) the season of the year when it is most plentiful; this, at
Cape York, usually extends from about the middle of October until the end
of November, but the limits are not constant. During the season they are
to be seen floating about on the surface of the water, often in pairs,
male and female together. A few are caught at night on the sandy beaches,
but the greater number are captured in the water. The canoes engaged in
turtling, besides going about in the day, are often sent out on calm
moonlight nights. When a turtle is perceived, it is approached from
behind as noiselessly as possible--when within reach, a man in the bow
carrying the end of a small rope jumps out, and, getting upon the
animal's back, with a hand on each shoulder, generally contrives to turn
it before it has got far and secure it with the rope. This operation
requires considerable strength and courage, in addition to the remarkable
dexterity in diving and swimming possessed by all the blacks of the
north-east coast and Torres Strait.


There are some favourite lookout stations for turtle where the tide runs
strongly off a high rocky point. At many such places, distinguished by
large cairns* of stones, bones of turtle, dugongs, etc., watch is kept
during the season, and, when a turtle is perceived drifting past with the
tide, the canoe is manned and sent in chase.

(*Footnote. One of these on Albany Rock is a pile of stones, five feet
high and seven wide, mixed up with turtle and human bones, and, when I
last saw it, it was covered with long trailing shoots of Flagellaria
indica placed there by a turtling party to ensure success, as I was told,
but how, was not explained. The human bones were the remains of a man
killed there many years ago by a party of Kowraregas who took his head
away with them. The mounds described and figured in Jukes' Voyage of the
Fly (Volume 1 pages 137 and 138) and considered by us at the time to be
graves, are merely the usual cairns at a lookout place for turtle.)

With their usual improvidence, the Australians, when they take a turtle,
feast upon it until all has been consumed and the cravings of hunger
induce them to look out for another; but the Torres Strait Islanders are
accustomed to dry the flesh to supply them with food during their
voyages. The meat is cut into thin slices, boiled in a melon shell, stuck
upon skewers, and dried in the sun. Prepared in this manner it will keep
for several weeks, but requires a second cooking before being used, on
account of its hardness and toughness. The fat which rises to the surface
during the boiling is skimmed off and kept in joints of bamboo and turtle
bladders, being much prized as food; I have even seen the natives drink
it off in its hot fluid state with as much gusto as ever alderman enjoyed
his elaborately prepared turtle soup.


The hawksbill turtle (Caretta imbricata) that chiefly producing the
tortoise-shell of commerce, resorts to the shores in the neighbourhood of
Cape York later in the season than the green species, and is
comparatively scarce. It is only taken at night when depositing its eggs
in the sand, as the sharpness of the margin of its shell renders it
dangerous to attempt to turn it in the water--indeed even the green
turtle, with a comparatively rounded margin to the carapace,
occasionally, in struggling to escape, inflicts deep cuts on the inner
side of the leg of its captor, of which I myself have seen an instance.
Of the tortoise-shell collected at Cape York and the Prince of Wales
Islands a small portion is converted into fishhooks, the rest is bartered
either to Europeans or to the Island blacks, who fashion it into various


Another favourite article of food is the dugong (Halicore australis) of
which a few are killed every year. Although it extends along the east
coast of Australia from Moreton Bay to Cape York, it appears to be
nowhere very common. About Cape York and Endeavour Strait, the dugong is
most frequently seen during the rainy season, at which time it is said by
the natives to bring forth its young. When one is observed feeding close
inshore* chase is made after it in a canoe. One of the men standing up in
the bow is provided with a peculiar instrument used solely for the
capture of the animal in question. It consists of a slender peg of bone,
four inches long, barbed all round, and loosely slipped into the heavy,
rounded, and flattened head of a pole, fifteen to sixteen feet in length;
a long rope an inch in thickness, made of the twisted stems of some
creeping plant, is made fast to the peg at one end, while the other is
secured to the canoe. When within distance, the bowman leaps out, strikes
the dugong, and returns to the canoe with the shaft in his hand. On being
struck, the animal dives, carrying out the line, but generally rises to
the surface and dies in a few minutes, not requiring a second wound, a
circumstance surprising in the case of a cetaceous animal, six or eight
feet in length, and of proportionate bulk. The carcass is towed on shore
and rolled up the beach, when preparations are made for a grand feast.
The flesh is cut through to the ribs in thin strips, each with its share
of skin and blubber, then the tail is removed and sliced with a sharp
shell as we would a round of beef. The blubber is esteemed the most
delicate part; but even the skin is eaten, although it requires much
cooking in the oven.

(*Footnote. A slender, branchless, cylindrical, articulated seaweed, of a
very pale green colour, was pointed out to me by a native as being the
favourite food of the dugong.)


This oven is of simple construction--a number of stones, the size of the
fist, are laid on the ground, and a fire is continued above them until
they are sufficiently hot, the meat is then laid upon the bottom layer
with some of the heated stones above it, a rim of tea-tree bark banked up
with sand or earth is put up all round, with a quantity of bark, leaves,
or grass on top, to retain the steam, and the process of baking goes on.
This is the favourite mode of cooking turtle and dugong throughout Torres
Strait, and on the east coast of the mainland I have seen similar
fireplaces as far south as Sandy Cape.


A great variety of yam-like tubers are cultivated in Torres Strait.
Although on Murray and Darnley and other thickly peopled and fertile
islands a considerable extent of land in small patches has been brought
under cultivation, at the Prince of Wales Islands the cleared spots are
few in number, and of small extent--nor does the latter group naturally
produce either the coconut or bamboo, or is the culture of the banana
attempted. On the mainland again I never saw the slightest attempt at

The principal yam, or that known by the names of kutai and ketai, is the
most important article of vegetable food, as it lasts nearly throughout
the dry season. Forming a yam garden is a very simple operation. No
fencing is required--the patch of ground is strewed with branches and
wood, which when thoroughly dry are set on fire to clear the surface--the
ground is loosely turned up with a sharpened stick, and the cut pieces of
yam are planted at irregular intervals, each with a small pole for the
plant to climb up. These operations are completed just before the
commencement of the wet season, or in the month of October.

When the rains set in the biyu becomes the principal support of the Cape
York and Muralug people. This is a grey slimy paste procured from a
species of mangrove (Candelia ?) the sprouts of which, three or four
inches long, are first made to undergo a process of baking and
steaming--a large heap being laid upon heated stones, and covered over
with bark, wet leaves, and sand--after which they are beaten between two
stones, and the pulp is scraped out fit for use. It does not seem to be a
favourite food, and is probably eaten from sheer necessity. Mixed up with
the biyu to render it more palatable they sometimes add large quantities
of a leguminous seed, the size of a chestnut, which has previously been
soaked for a night in water, and the husk removed, or the tuber of a wild
yam (Dioscorea bulbifera) cut into small pieces, and well steeped in
water to remove its bitter taste.

Among the edible fruits of Cape York I may mention the leara, a species
of Anacardium or cashew nut (the lurgala of Port Essington) which, after
being well roasted to destroy its acridity has somewhat the taste of a
filbert--the elari (a species of Wallrothia) the size of an apricot, soft
and mealy, with a nearly insipid but slightly mawkish taste--wobar, the
small, red, mealy fruit of Mimusops kaukii--and the apiga (a species of
Eugenia) a red, apple-like fruit, the pericarp of which has a pleasantly
acid taste. The fruit of two species of pandanus yields a sweet mucilage
when sucked, and imparts it to water in which it has been soaked, after
which it is broken up between two stones, and the kernels are extracted
and eaten.


Throughout Australia and Torres Strait, the existence of chieftainship,
either hereditary or acquired, has in no instance of which I am aware
been clearly proved: yet in each community there are certain individuals
who exercise an influence over the others which Europeans are apt to
mistake for real authority. These so-called chiefs, are generally elderly
men, who from prowess in war, force of character, or acknowledged
sagacity, are allowed to take the lead in everything relating to the
tribe. In Torres Strait such people are generally the owners of large
canoes, and several wives; and in the northern islands, of groves of
coconut-trees, yam grounds, and other wealth. Among the Kowraregas, there
are, according to Giaom, three principal people, Manu, Piaquai, and Baki,
all old men, but among the Gudangs, a young man of twenty-five of the
name of Tumagugo appeared to have the greatest influence, and next to him
Paida, not more than six or eight years older.


It seems curious to find at Cape York and the Prince of Wales Islands a
recognised division and ownership of land, seeing that none of it by
cultivation has been rendered fit for the permanent support of man.
According to Giaom, there are laws regulating the ownership of every inch
of ground on Muralug and the neighbouring possessions of the Kowraregas,
and I am led to believe such is likewise the case at Cape York. Among
these laws are the following: A person has a claim upon the ground where
both himself and his parents were born, although situated in different
localities. On the death of parents their land is divided among the
children, when both sexes share alike, with this exception, that the
youngest of the family receives the largest share. Marriage does not
affect the permanency of the right of a woman to any landed property
which may have come into her possession. Lastly, an old man occasionally
so disposes of his property that a favourite child may obtain a larger
proportion than he could afterwards claim as his inheritance.

Neither at Cape York, nor in any of the Islands of Torres Strait, so far
as I am aware, do the aborigines appear to have formed an idea of the
existence of a Supreme Being; the absence of this belief may appear
questionable, but my informant, Giaom, spoke quite decidedly on this
point, having frequently made it the subject of conversation with the
Kowrarega blacks.


The singular belief in the transmigration of souls, which is general
among the whole of the Australian tribes, so far as known, also extends
to the islands of Torres Strait. The people holding it imagine that,
immediately after death, they are changed into white people or Europeans,
and as such pass the second and final period of their existence; nor is
it any part of this creed that future rewards and punishments are
awarded. It may readily be imagined that when ignorant and superstitious
savage tribes, such as those under consideration, were first visited by
Europeans, it was natural for them to look with wonder upon beings so
strangely different from themselves, and so infinitely superior in the
powers conferred by civilisation, and to associate so much that was
wonderful with the idea of supernatural agency. At Darnley Island, the
Prince of Wales Islands, and Cape York, the word used at each place to
signify a white man, also means a ghost.* The Cape York people even went
so far as to recognise in several of our officers and others in the ship,
the ghosts of departed friends to whom they might have borne some fancied
resemblance, and, in consequence, under the new names of Tamu, Tarka,
etc. they were claimed as relations, and entitled to all the privileges
of such.

(*Footnote. Frequently when the children were teasing Giaom, they would
be gravely reproved by some elderly person telling them to leave her, as
"poor thing! she is nothing, only a ghost!" (igur! uri longa, mata


Among many superstitions held by the Prince of Wales islanders, they are
much afraid of shooting-stars, believing them to be ghosts which in
breaking up produce young ones of their own kind. After sneezing, they
make violent gestures with the hands and arms; if a joint cracks, they
imagine that someone is speaking of them or wishing them well in the
direction in which the arm is pointing.

The only tradition which I heard of occurs among the Kowraregas, and is
worth mentioning for its singularity. The first man created was a great
giant named Adi, who, while fishing off Hammond Island, was caught by the
rising tide and drowned, Hammond Rock springing up immediately after to
mark the spot. His wives, who were watching him at the time, resolved to
drown themselves, and were changed into some dry rocks upon an adjacent
reef named after them Ipile, or the wives.


According to Giaom ague is prevalent in Muralug during the rainy season,
but is not much dreaded, as it is supposed to remove former complaints,
such as the sores prevalent among children. At Cape York I have seen
people affected with this complaint, but to what extent it occurs in that
neighbourhood I cannot state. One day some people from the ship saw our
friend Tumagugo under treatment for ague. He was laid upon the ground
while several men in succession took his head between their knees and
kneaded it with their hands. After this they placed him close to a fire
and sprinkled water over him until a copious perspiration broke out,
denoting the third and last stage of the attack. Boils on various parts
of the body, even on the head, are prevalent, especially during the rainy
season, when the food is of a poorer description than at other times.
Children are most subject to them, and I have more than once seen them so
covered with offensive sores as to be rendered most disgusting objects.
In old people callosities frequently form on the hip and elbows, the
effect, probably, of sleeping on the ground. Scarification of the
affected part is a common mode of treating local inflammatory complaints.
Ligatures are also used, as for example, one across the forehead to
remove headache. A singular mode of treating various complaints consists
in attaching one end of a string to the patient, while the other is held
in the mouth of a second person, who scarifies his own gums at the same
time until they bleed, which is supposed to indicate that the bad blood
has passed from the sick to the sound person.


With regard to the curious burial ceremonies of the Kowraregas, I regret
that I cannot be so explicit as might otherwise have been the case, as
Giaom's information on this subject, and on this only, was not written
down at the time. When the head of a family dies at Muralug, the body is
laid out upon a framework of sticks raised a foot from the ground, and is
there allowed to rot. A small hut is raised close by, and the nearest
relative of the deceased lives there, supplied with food by his friends,
until the head of the corpse becomes nearly detached by the process of
putrefaction, when it is removed and handed over to the custody of the
eldest wife. She carries it about with her in a bag during her widowhood,
accompanying the party of the tribe to which she belongs from place to
place. The body, or rather the headless skeleton, is then interred in a
shallow grave over which a mound is raised ornamented by wooden posts at
the corners painted red, with sometimes shells, and other decorations
attached to them, precisely such a one as that figured in the Voyage of
the Fly, volume 1 page 149. On the occasion of our visiting the grave in
question (at Port Lihou, on Muralug) Giaom told me that we were closely
watched by a party of natives who were greatly pleased that we did not
attempt to deface the tomb; had we done so--and the temptation was great
to some of us, for several fine nautilus shells were hanging up, and some
good dugong skulls were lying upon the top--one or more of the party
would probably have been speared.


Sail from Cape York.
Mount Ernest described.
Find Kalkalega tribe on Sue Island.
Friendly reception at Darnley Island, and proceedings there.
Bramble Cay and its turtle.
Stay at Redscar Bay.
Further description of the natives, their canoes, etc.
Pass along the South-east coast of New Guinea.
Call at Duchateau Islands.
Passage to Sydney.
Observations on Geology and Ethnology.
Origin of the Australians considered.


December 3rd.

At length we have bade a final adieu to Cape York, after a stay of
upwards of two months, which have passed away very pleasantly to such of
us as were in the habit of making excursions in the bush, or who spent
much of their time on shore. We are now on our way to Sydney, by way of
Torres Strait, New Guinea and the Louisiade, chiefly for the purpose of
running another set of meridian distances, the position of Cape York
being now sufficiently well determined to serve as a secondary meridian,
one of the starting points of the survey. The natives learned at daylight
that we were to leave them in a few hours, so in order to make the most
of their last opportunity of getting bisiker and choka, they hauled a
large canoe across the dry sands after much trouble, and under the
direction of Baki, who affected great grief at the prospect of parting
with us, went off to the ship.


We sailed at 8 A.M. for Mount Ernest--at which place a round of
theodolite angles was required--and in the afternoon anchored off its
south-western side in nine fathoms, one mile off shore. A solitary native
was seen at work upon a canoe near the beach, but when a boat approached
the shore he withdrew. The canoe was about half finished, and close by
was a small shed of bamboo thatched with grass. After crossing a small
sandy plain covered with short grass growing in tufts, we met the native
on the edge of a brush to which he had slowly retired in order to pick up
his spears and throwing-stick, both of which were precisely similar to
those of Cape York, from which place they had probably been procured. He
was a quiet, sedate, good-natured old man, and although at first rather
shy he soon laid aside his fears on receiving assurances in the Kowrarega
language, which he understood, that markai poud Kulkalaig Nagir (the
white men are friends of the Kulkalega tribe of Mount Ernest) backed by a
present of some biscuit and a knife. On subsequent occasions, when
accompanying us from place to place, the quiet listless apathy of the old
fellow was a source of some amusement. He did what was told him, and
exhibited little curiosity, and scarcely any surprise at the many
wonderful things we showed him--such as shooting birds with a gun, and
procuring a light from a lucifer match.


On the following day I had an opportunity of examining the whole of the
northern or inhabited side of the island. Mount Ernest is little more
than a mile in greatest length, of a somewhat triangular shape, its
eastern and larger portion hilly, rising gradually to an elevation of 751
feet, and its western part low and sandy. The rock is grey sienite, and
from the striking similarity of aspect, it appeared to me pretty certain
that Pole, Burke, and Banks Islands are of the same formation; they agree
in exhibiting massive peaks, respectively 409, 490, and 1,246 feet in

Mount Ernest is the headquarters of the Kulkalega tribe of Torres Strait
Islanders who are now absent on one of their periodical migrations,
leaving in possession only the old man whom we met yesterday, and his
family, among whom is a daughter of rather prepossessing appearance for a
female of her race. The village consists of a single line of huts, which
would furnish accommodation for, probably, 150 people. It is situated on
the north-west, or leeward side of the island, immediately behind the
beach, and in front of a belt of jungle. The huts are long and low, with
an arched roof, and vary in length from ten to twenty feet, with an
average height of five feet, and a width of six. They consist of a neat
framework of strips of bamboo, thatched with long coarse grass. Each hut
is usually situated in a small well-fenced enclosure, and opposite to it
on the beach is the cooking place, consisting of a small shed, under
which the fire is made. We saw indications of many turtle having lately
been cooked here upon a framework of sticks over a small fire, precisely
as is practised by the natives of New Guinea and the Louisiade


The strip of forest behind the village is traversed in every direction by
well beaten paths, chiefly leading to the back part of the island, where,
on the slope of a hill in good soil, we found many patches of rude
cultivation. The chief plant is a broad-leaved species of yam, trained
upon tall poles kept in position by cross bamboos, forming a framework
divided into little squares, each of which contains a plant. A species of
Calladium with an esculent root is also much cultivated; it is planted in
regular rows with the earth heaped up in ridges, as in a potato or turnip
field at home. I noticed some small plots of ground prepared with more
than usual care for the growth of what Giaom told me was a herb used as
tobacco; the young plants were protected from the sun with pieces of


Not far from the village, under the shade of an aged mimusops tree on the
outskirts of the wood, we observed a cleared oval space where ten human
skulls--of former members of the tribe, as we were informed--were
arranged upon a plank raised on stones a foot or so from the ground. The
skulls were mostly old and weather-worn, and some of them had pandanus
seeds stuck in the orbits by way of eyes. In front was a large smooth
stone painted red and black, and partially embedded in the earth, and
beside it were some painted human leg and arm bones, shells and other
ornaments. Behind, some thirty or forty skulls of turtle were arranged on
the ground in several rows forming a triangle.


In a beautiful opening among the trees behind the village we saw an
extraordinary screen--named wows--the purpose of which, so far as we
could understand, had some connection with the memory of the dead. It
extended fifty-six feet in length, with a slight outward curvature, and
measured five feet and a half in height. It was formed of a row of poles
stuck in the ground, crossed in front by three horizontal strips of
bamboo, and covered with cross latticework. The bars of the screen were
daubed over with red paint, and hung with rows of spider-shells also
painted red. Some poles projecting above the others two to four feet had
painted jaws of the dugong and large conch shells (Fusus proboscidiferus)
fixed to the top, and numerous other dugong bones and shells were
scattered along the front. On the ground along the foot of the screen was
a row of stones painted with black and red in imitation of grotesque
faces, and to several of these the old man who acted as cicerone attached
the names of persons who were dead. In some the painting was
comparatively recent, and the stones appeared to have been placed there
singly at different periods to commemorate the death of the heads of
families of the tribe. We saw another of these curious funeral
screens--like the first one it was situated in a little glade in the
forest, but unlike it the front was covered or thatched with coconut
leaves, and it had a small door-like opening in the centre.

The natives must have left the island either on account of its being now
the turtling season, or else from the want of water. A small deep well
behind the village, apparently the only one in the place, was almost
entirely dried up. From the old man I procured the names of some of the
neighbouring islands, and also a few other Kulkalega words which are so
similar to those of the Kowrarega language as to corroborate Giaom's
assertion that both have many words in common. By way of illustration I
may give a few examples. Thus muto, small bird; kudulug, dove; geinow,
pigeon; kakur, egg; burda, grass; waraba, coconut; moda, enclosure round
the huts.

At one place I saw indications of an upheaval of the northern side of the
island in a bed of coral conglomerate six feet thick, with its raised
wall-like edge towards the hill as if tilted up, and the remainder
sloping down towards the sea. A similar appearance on a small scale
exists on most of the coral islands which I have visited, but I had not
before seen these sloping beds above the influence of the salt water, or
at least beyond reach of the spray, still less supporting luxuriant
vegetation, consisting in the present instance of a large extent of
jungle, with trees often of great size, and a dense growth of underwood.


Among the natural productions of the island I may first allude to the
large thickets of bamboo scattered along the base of the hill as the
first new feature in the vegetation, and secondly, to the small Eucalypti
growing between the hill and the brushes, as this is the most northerly
limit of that Australian genus known to me. Among the trees of the
brushes I may mention the Anacardium, or cashew nut, with large red acrid
fruit, Mimusops kaukii, often attaining a great size, and a species of
Bombax, or silk-cotton tree, from the trunk of one of which the canoe we
saw upon the beach was being constructed.

Of birds the Australian quail, Torres Strait pigeon, and brown dove were
plentiful, and afforded good sport to the shooters; Pitta strepitans (a
handsome thrush-like bird of gaudy colours--red, green, blue and black)
was heard calling in every brush and thicket. Several large lizards were
seen; one of these, about four feet in length, perched upon the fence of
one of the deserted huts, at first took so little notice of my approach
that I refrained from shooting it, thinking it had been tamed. The colour
of this lizard (Monitor gouldii) is a dull bluish green, spotted and
variegated with yellow. It is much esteemed as food, and the skin is used
for covering the warup or New Guinea drum.


December 7th.

In the morning a canoe, with seven men in it, came off to the ship from
Sue Island, near which we were at anchor. At first they approached
cautiously, holding up pieces of tortoise-shell, and making a great
noise, shouting out, "kaisu (tortoise-shell)
kapo-bue--kapo-buai--poud--poud," etc., besides other words which were
unintelligible, pointing at the same time to the island (which they
called Waraber) as if inviting us to land.


These blacks belonged to the Kulkalega or Kulkalaig tribe, as was
ascertained by Giaom, who was well-known to some of them, and understood
enough of their language to keep up a conversation. Nearly the whole
tribe, she was informed, are now upon Sue Island, although their
headquarters are, as mentioned before, at Mount Ernest. The men in the
canoe differed in no material respect from the natives of the Prince of
Wales Islands on one hand, and those of Darnley Island on the other. Many
had the characteristic faint oval scar on one shoulder, some wore the
hair in moderately long pipe-like ringlets, while others had it cut
close. All were perfectly naked, and the only ornaments worn were the
large round pearl-shell on the breast. The canoe was rather singular in
form, with greater beam than I had ever seen in one, nor did the sides
tumble home as usual; the bow was sharp, but the stern square, as if
effected by cutting a very large canoe in halves, and filling up the open
end. We saw several bamboo bows and bundles of arrows, stowed away under
the platform; these the natives would not part with, but a large quantity
of very fine tortoise-shell was obtained, chiefly in exchange for leaf
tobacco, which they know by the name of sugub.

When the tide slackened we got underweigh, and the natives returned to
their island. Sue, although the largest of the Three Sisters, is not more
than the third of a mile in length. Like all the islands of the eastern
side of Torres Strait, with the exception of the Darnley and Murray
Islands, this is of the coral sand formation, low and thickly wooded.
Some coconut-trees grow at the west end of the island, where there is a
native village which we approached close enough to have a good view of it
with the spy-glass. It consisted of several long huts, thatched with
grass, which apparently are not much used during the daytime, as we saw
no one entering or coming out of them. Many of the people, both men and
women, ran down to the beach, waving green branches to induce us to land;
others were sitting down under temporary sheds made by stretching large
mats--the sails of their canoes--over a framework of sticks. The inside
of one large enclosure was concealed by a fence six feet high, and an
adjacent shed, under which some cooking was going on, was completely
covered with some recent shells of turtle, apparently about thirty in
number. Three very large canoes were hauled up on the beach, protected
from the sun by matting, and two smaller ones were kept afloat. There
appeared to be about 60 people upon the island, from which, and other
circumstances, I do not suppose the Kulkalega tribe to consist of more
than 100 souls. The women whom we saw wore loose petticoats of leaves
reaching to below the knees.

The ship worked up through the channel between Bet and Sue Islands, and
anchored for the night off the eastern extreme of the reef running out
from the former. Four large canoes coming from the northward passed over
the reef at high-water, going towards Sue Island.


Next day we passed Coconut Island on our right, and Dove Island on our
left, and anchored near Arden Island, where we landed on the following
morning before daylight with a seining party. The place is scarcely more
than a quarter of a mile in length, low and sandy, covered with tall
bushes and a few clumps of trees (Pisonia grandis). We saw traces--but
none very recent--of visits paid by the natives, indicated by remains of
fires, turtle bones, a large pit dug as a well, and two old graves. As
usual a coral reef extends from the shore, without leaving a clear spot
of sufficient size to admit of the seine being hauled. Species of Cissus
and two or three Capparidae constituted the bulk of the vegetation, and
rendered the low scrub almost impervious in many places. A number of
Torres Strait pigeons, chiefly young birds, and some stone-plovers and
other waders, were shot, and one rare bird was obtained for the
collection, a male of Pachycephala melanura. Soon after our return we got
underweigh, passed on our right Rennel, Marsden, and Keat Islands, and
anchored three miles to the northward of the last of these.


December 10th.

While getting underweigh, a canoe with a party of natives from Stephens
Island came off to us in a very confident manner, and at once called out
for a rope (laga) with which they made fast to the ship. Among them were
two of the natives of Darnley Island, one of whom, Dzum, soon recognised
me as an old acquaintance, under the name of Dzoka, by which I had
formerly been known on shore during the Fly's visits. They had a few
coconuts, and a little tortoise-shell for barter, and were very urgent
that the ship should go to Campbell Island on her way to Darnley,
promising us abundance of water, coconuts, yams, and tortoise-shell, of
the first of which at least they could have had none to spare. In the
evening they left us, after spending the greater part of the day on
board, with their canoe towing astern. I found the native names of at
least three of the islands to differ from those given in the Admiralty's
chart of Torres Strait from the Fly's survey. Thus Nepean Island is
Edugor, not Oogar--Stephens Island is Ugar and not Attagor--and Campbell
Island is Zapker (nearly as Lewis makes it) and not Jarmuth. These names
were obtained under circumstances which obviated the possibility of
mistake. Dzum also gave much information regarding other matters, and
enabled me to fix the limits of the tribe to which he belonged, a matter
which had frequently puzzled me before. In the afternoon the Bramble--as
told to us by the natives--appeared in sight, but we could not reach
Darnley Island, so anchored after dark in forty-five fathoms, mud, seven
miles to the northward of it.

December 11th.

A light air from the North-West carried us up to the anchorage in
Treacherous Bay about noon. A canoe from the village of Kiriam came off
to us, and lay under our stern bartering tortoise-shell for knives, axes,
and tobacco, and when we shoved off in the first cutter to communicate
with the shore, one of the natives, on being asked to accompany us,
jumped into the water without a moment's hesitation, and swam to the
boat. We landed at Kiriam, and were received by a crowd of people on the
rocks and in the water.


My old friend Siwai, with whom I had gone through the ceremony of
exchanging names nearly five years ago, showed much joy at seeing me
again, and made many enquiries regarding Jukes and others then in the
Fly. But these five years have sadly altered him--he now presents the
appearance of a feeble emaciated man prematurely old, with a short cough
and low voice--his back is bowed down, and even with the aid of a stick
he can scarcely totter along. He is now the man in most authority in the
island, his rival Mamus having been killed in New Guinea in company with
several other Darnley Islanders whose names were mentioned to me; they
had been on a visit to a friendly tribe, one of whose quarrels they
espoused, and only a few returned to Errub to tell the tale. The natives
wished us to stay at Kiriam, but as the principal object of the ship's
coming to the island was to procure water, we were anxious to know
whether it could be obtained in sufficient quantity at Bikar, where the
Fly and Bramble had watered before. As Siwai told us that there was none
at Bikar, but plenty at Mogor--his own village--we pulled along to the
latter place, accompanied by himself and three of his sons. In passing
along the south-west side of the island, we were struck with the superior
richness of vegetation and apparent fertility, compared with what we had
seen in New Guinea and the Louisiade Archipelago during the previous part
of the cruise. Some portions reminded one of English park scenery--gently
sloping, undulating, grassy hills, with scattered clumps and lines of


On landing at the village, which consists of two or three houses only, we
were taken a quarter of a mile--by a path leading along a small valley
through a grove of coconut-trees, bananas, and various cultivated plants
(among which I observed the Mango in full bearing) to a pool of water in
the dried-up bed of a small rivulet. But the quantity of water was not
enough for our purpose, even had it been situated in a place more easy of
access. Some magnificent Sago palms overhung the water with their large
spreading fronds; these we were told had been brought from Dowde or New
Guinea, many years ago. Siwai and his sons, at their own urgent request,
were allowed a passage with us to the ship, and remained all night there,
sleeping among the folds of a sail upon the poop.

December 12th.

In the morning a party landed at Bikar (abreast of the ship) to look for
water, but the pool which on several occasions supplied the Fly, Bramble,
and Prince George, was now dry. At this season too, during the prevalence
of North-West winds, landing is difficult on account of the surf, and we
had much trouble in keeping our guns dry while up to the waist in water.
In the afternoon both cutters were sent to Mogor to procure vegetables
for the ship's company by barter with the natives, and I accompanied the
party, but, contrary to expectation, no one was allowed to land, the
person in authority having seen something on shore to alarm him, the
nature of which continued to us a mystery. The second cutter laid off,
and the first remained in water about knee-deep, surrounded by a crowd of
unarmed natives. The scene was at that time very animated--groups of men,
women, and children, were to be seen staggering under a load of coconuts,
wading out to the boats, scrambling to be first served, and shouting out
to attract attention to their wares, which in addition included some
tortoise-shell, a few yams, bananas and mangos. Siwai was present in the
boat, and by exercising his authority in our behalf, matters went on more
smoothly than otherwise might have been the case. A large supply of
coconuts and a few vegetables having been obtained for axes, knives,
calico, and red cloth, we returned to the ship.


December 13th.

Three boats were sent to Kiriam to procure more coconuts. There being no
prohibition of landing, I remained onshore during the bartering, sitting
in a shady place among a group of women and children, and employed in
procuring materials for a vocabulary. Most of them remembered me of old,
and in consequence fancied they had a claim upon my tobacco, the stock of
which was quickly exhausted.


The huts of Darnley Island--together with the inhabitants--have been so
fully described in the voyage of the Fly, that it is unnecessary for me
to enter upon the subject. The natives always objected to show to us the
inside of their huts, many of which we knew were used as dead houses--but
Mr. Huxley today was fortunate enough to induce one of them to allow him
to enter his house, and make a sketch of the interior, but not until he
had given him an axe as an admission fee. These huts resemble a great
beehive in shape--a central pole projects beyond the roof, and to this is
connected a framework of bamboo, thatched with grass, leaving a single
small low entrance to serve as door and window.


Several human skulls were brought down for sale, also a little shrivelled
mummy of a child. Some of the former had the skin quite perfect, the nose
artificially restored in clay mixed with a resinous substance, and the
orbits occupied by a diamond-shaped piece of mother-of-pearl, with a
black central mark. Towards the end of the bartering the natives had
become very noisy, and even insolent, and everything seemed to indicate
that some at least of them were dissatisfied, and inclined to resent some
injury or cause of offence, for which purpose apparently they had their
bows and arrows ready, and their gauntlets upon the left forearm. Some of
them desired me to get into the boat and be off, intended as I understood
for a friendly caution, while Dzum came up with an air of profound
mystery, wishing me to come with him (now that I was alone) to a
neighbouring hut to see a barit which he had brought over for me from
Stephens Island. This name is applied to the opossums of the genus Cuscus
which the Torres Strait Islanders occasionally procure from New Guinea.
However it was time for me to be off, so I contented myself with
promising a large reward for the animal if taken off to the ship. The
produce of our barter on this and previous occasions amounted to 467
coconuts, 388 pounds of yams* (then very scarce) and 159 pounds of

(*Footnote. Not less than nine different kinds of yams and yam-like
tubers--including the sweet-potato--are cultivated in Torres Strait, and
are specially distinguished by name.)


While at dinner news was brought that Dzum was under the stern in a
canoe, shouting out loudly for Dzoka, and, on going up I found that he
had brought off the barit, which, after a great deal of trouble, I struck
a bargain for, and obtained. It was a very fine specimen of Cuscus
maculatus, quite tame, and kept in a large cage of split bamboo. Dzum
seemed very unwilling to part with the animal, and repeatedly enjoined me
to take great care of it and feed it well, which to please him I promised
to do, although I valued it merely for its skin, and was resolved to kill
it for that purpose at my first convenience. He had also brought a
basketful of yams of an inferior quality, as sea stock for the barit
during the voyage, and promised more on the following morning.


December 16th.

Two days ago we left Darnley Island for Bramble Cay, distant about thirty
miles North-East, but owing to calms and light winds had to anchor twice.
A strong North-West breeze which came on last night, and caused us to
drag the stream anchor, at length brought us up to our destination, near
which we anchored in 25 fathoms, sand, the island bearing North-West 1/2
West distant a mile and a quarter. In the afternoon I landed for an hour,
passing many turtles on the water both going and returning. As usual the
islet was covered with seabirds, only two species, however, of which were
breeding. The Brown Booby (Sula fusca) and a large tern (Thalasseus
pelecanoides) existed in about equal numbers; the latter, in one great
colony, had laid their solitary large speckled eggs in a slight
excavation in the sand, the former were scattered all over the island,
and had regular nests of weed, containing either two eggs, or a single
young bird covered with white down. Well does the booby deserve its name.
The grotesque and stupid look of the old bird standing by its eggs or
young--irresolute whether to defend them or not, and staring with an
intensely droll expression at the intruders--is very amusing; at length
on being too closely approached, it generally disgorges the contents of
its stomach--consisting at this time of very fine flying-fish--and after
some half shuffling, half flying movements, manages to get on wing and be
off. As the tern's eggs were within a short time of being hatched we
broke all we saw in order to ensure some newly-laid ones in a day or two.


We remained at this anchorage for the two following days, during which
time the weather was generally gloomy and unsettled, with occasional
heavy rain. As numerous recent tracks of turtles upon the sandy beach
indicated that the season had not yet ended, parties were sent on shore
to watch for them after dark, and although only one was taken on the
first night, yet on the following not less than eighteen were secured and
brought off: fifteen of them were of the green, and three of the
hawksbill kind. The last, I believe, is undescribed: it is certainly not
the one (Caretta imbricata) producing the greater part of the
tortoise-shell of commerce, and which is not rare in Torres Strait,
distinguished by having the posterior angle of each dorsal plate
projecting, so as to give a serrated appearance to the margin of the
carapace which, in the present species is quite smooth. The green turtle
averaged 350 pounds each, and the hawksbills about 250 pounds. Although a
strong prejudice existed against the hawksbill as an article of food, we
all found reason to change our minds, and pronounce it to be at least
equal to the other. The newly-hatched turtles (all hawksbills) were
running about in every direction, and among their numerous enemies, I was
surprised to see a burrowing crab (Ocypoda cursor) which runs with great
swiftness along the sandy beaches. These crabs even carried off a plover
which I had shot, not allowing more than ten minutes to elapse before one
of them had it safely (as it thought) stowed away in its burrow.

The golden plover was plentiful on the island during our visit, and one
afternoon I killed fifteen in about an hour. Two days after the terns'
eggs had been broken we found a small colony of laying birds, and picked
up some dozens of eggs; and had we remained a few days longer, doubtless
a very great number might have been procured. The weed which in the Fly
we used to call spinach (a species of Boerhaavia, apparently B. diffusa)
being abundant here, was at my suggestion collected in large quantity for
the use of the ship's company as a vegetable, but it did not seem to be
generally liked.

December 21st.

Two days ago we left Bramble Cay for Cape Possession in New Guinea, with
a fine breeze from the North-West, and next morning at daylight saw the
land about the Cape on the weather-beam. The wind, however, died away in
the afternoon, but this morning a light north-westerly breeze sprang up,
before which we bore up and were brought in the afternoon to an anchorage
in 11 fathoms, mud, half a mile to leeward of the Pariwara Islands.


Meanwhile Lieutenant Yule, upon our destination being changed, was
ordered by signal to proceed to Cape Direction and survey the
intermediate space between that and Redscar Bay, in order to connect his
former continuation of the Fly's work with ours, and thus complete the
coastline of the whole of the south-east part of New Guinea.

We remained at this anchorage for upwards of a week, during which a rate
for the chronometers was obtained, and the Bramble returned.


The weather during our stay was very variable and unsettled; rain fell on
several occasions. The wind was usually from the westward, varying
between North-West and South-West, and on one occasion during the night
we had a sudden and very violent squall from the westward, which for a
time was thought to be the beginning of a hurricane, but the gale
moderated very gradually next day. When the wind during the day was light
and from seaward, a land breeze generally came off at night, occasionally
with rain. The cause of this last seems to be the influence exerted upon
the winds here by Mount Owen Stanley and the ranges connected with it,
from which the clouds accumulated during the prevalence of the seabreeze,
are reflected after its subsidence. The low and well wooded district
between the mountains and the sea receives the passing influence of these
clouds surcharged with moisture, and the climate there and in all the low
maritime districts of the south-east part of New Guinea backed by high
land, is probably always a moist one, little affected by the prevalence
of either the North-West or South-East monsoon. The observations made
during our last visit to determine the height of Mount Owen Stanley and
not considered very satisfactory, were repeated under more favourable
conditions, but with nearly the same result. This mountain, the highest
of the range of the same name, is somewhat flat-topped (as viewed from
our anchorage) about six miles in length, and the mean of five
observations from different stations gave 13,205 feet as the height of
the highest part above the level of the sea.


On the largest Pariwara Island, although abundance of rain had fallen
lately, there was no water left in any pool or hole in the rock. Nor
although the soil, from the additional moisture, looked darker and richer
than during my former visit in September, was there any perceptible
improvement in the vegetation. A few fork-tailed red-fronted swallows
(Hirundo neoxena) were hawking about, and a large yellow and black
butterfly (Papilio epius, common in collections from India and China) was
abundant. Many Torres Strait pigeons were observed from the ship to
resort nightly to the second largest of the group, which is covered with
trees and seems quite inaccessible from the steepness of its low cliffs.
On several successive evenings about sunset, and until it became too dark
to distinguish them, immense numbers of frigate-birds were observed
flying over Redscar Head, and going out to the North-North-East. This
being a gregarious bird only when associated at a breeding place, and
there being no known sandbank or islet in the direction which they were
pursuing, rendered their object a subject for much conjecture.


We were occasionally visited by parties of natives, chiefly coming from
the northward, probably from some of the large rivermouths known to exist
there. Although in bringing their women and children off to see the ship
they indicated little suspicion or fear, yet on one occasion only could
we induce any of the men to come on board, and the two who did so would
not be persuaded to go below, and made their stay very short. As I had
better opportunities of making observations upon these natives than
during our former visit, some additional information regarding them may
be given here. The inhabitants of Redscar Bay, judging from what was seen
alongside the ship, are rather smaller in stature than those seen at
Dufaure and Brumer Islands and the Louisiade, but perhaps more frequently
show handsome features and good expression. Neither were there any men
exceeding the rest in height by even three inches, as had often been the
case in other places. They are usually of a very light copper colour, but
one man was of a very pale yellow and much resembled a Chinaman in hue;
although it may at first appear strange, yet this pale-skinned individual
by his very colour excited feelings of disgust in the minds of some of
us, such as would be created by the sight of a person whose body was
covered with a loathsome eruption and who still publicly exposed it. And
why should not our pale faces be regarded by these savages in a similar
light? Some had perfect Malayan features, but none seen on this occasion
appeared to practice betel-chewing--a remarkable circumstance, since the
men who on our former visit came off to the ship, then only about fifteen
miles to the north-west, had their teeth discoloured.


None of the natives had any hair upon the face; various ways of dressing
that of the head were practised, the most singular of which has already
been described in Volume 1. The hair was usually of its natural dark
colour at the base, with the remainder dyed reddish brown and frizzled
out into a mop with long-toothed combs of wood or tortoise-shell. One
child had the head so shaved as to leave a long tuft on the forehead, and
another on the back of the head--precisely in the same manner as is
sometimes practised in Java. Nor must I omit noticing a singular
appendage formerly alluded to--analogous to the pigtail once in
vogue--worn by many of these people; it is formed of human hair wrapped
round with twine, and ends in one or more bunches of shells, dogs' teeth,
and tails of pigs--the longest one which I saw measured twenty-one inches
in length. Among numerous ornaments the most common is a large round
concave portion of melon shell, sometimes beautifully inlaid with
filagree work of tortoise-shell, worn on the breast. Fillets of cassowary
feathers, fur of the spotted bare-tailed opossum, or woven stuff studded
with shells, were often seen.

Painting the face or body does not seem to be practised here, but the men
are usually tattooed on the breast, cheeks, forehead, and arms, also
occasionally on other places. Their tattooing, however, is much fainter
and less profuse than among the women, every visible part of whose skin
is generally marked with a great variety of patterns, the most usual
style among them consisting in series of double parallel or converging
lines an inch or more apart, the intervals being occupied by small
figures, or irregular lines, with detached rectilinear figures fancifully
filled up.


The women wear a petticoat of shreds of pandanus leaf, plaited above into
a waistband and below reaching nearly to the knee.

They brought off little with them for barter besides bows and arrows, and
as before appeared perfectly ignorant of the use of iron. A few coconuts,
plantains, and mangos were obtained from them, but they had no yams.
Nearly every canoe which came alongside contained several large baked
earthen pots of good construction, some with wide, others with narrow
mouths, and a third sort shaped like a saucer. Besides bows and arrows,
we saw many spears, mostly of small size and usually finely jagged or
barbed towards the end, but of very inferior workmanship, also some
shields, one of which may be described.* It measures 33 inches in length
by 14 in width, and in shape resembles a fiddle, being rounded at the
ends and slightly contracted in the middle; it is made of wood,
three-fourths of an inch thick, neatly covered with fine cane matting,
fitting very tightly.

(*Footnote. Figured in volume 1.)


The canoes seen here are either single or double, in the latter case
consisting merely of two lashed together, usually without an outrigger.
The single canoes vary in length from 20 to 30 feet, and carry from five
to a dozen people. Each end tapers to a sharp projecting point longer at
the bow. The outrigger frame consists of five poles laid across the
gunwale in grooves, and the float, which is rather less than half the
length of the body of the canoe, is secured to the ends of each by three
pegs, a foot in length. The opposite ends of the outrigger poles project
beyond the side only a few inches, and are secured by lashing of cane to
a piece crossing them; the gunwale is further strengthened by slender
poles running along it from end to end. A small portion only of the
outrigger frame is converted into a platform by a few loose poles or a
plank or two: some of the latter were as much as two feet in width, and
only an inch in thickness, and must have been cut with stone axes out of
a log of wood. The largest canoe seen was judged to be thirty-five feet
in length, with a width at the bow of four and a half feet, but this far
exceeded in bulk any of the other single ones. Like the rest it
essentially consisted of the hollowed-out trunk of a tree. All the heavy
canoes are pulled with oars, working in cane grommets, the others are
propelled with paddles. Both oars and paddles have lanceolate blades and
thick handles, without any attempt at ornament or even neatness of

The sail (of pandanus matting) is a long parallelogram, twelve feet by
three, its sides secured by two tough slender poles, between which it is
stretched, and which serve both as masts and yards. In making sail one of
the poles is shipped, two stays from the centre leading fore and aft are
then set up, after which the second pole is fixed and secured by stays,
so as to give the sail the requisite inclination. We frequently saw a
second smaller sail set before the first, at the distance of eight or ten
feet, and managed precisely in the same way, but, even with both sails
set, owing to the disproportion between the spread of canvas and the bulk
of the canoe, the latter moves slowly at all times, and on a wind makes
much leeway.


December 31st.

We sailed yesterday from our anchorage in Redscar Bay, but did not clear
the sunken ridge of coral in the offing--a submarine extension of the
Barrier Reef, stretching between Low Island and the vicinity of
South-west Cape--until this forenoon, when we got out of soundings. The
Bramble is to remain behind for three or four weeks upon the coast, to
fill up various blanks in the chart between this and Rossel Island, while
we are to make the best of our way to the Duchateau Islands, to obtain a
meridian distance, and thence proceed direct to Sydney.

January 6th, 1850.

Our passage to the Duchateau Isles, a distance of less than 400 miles,
has been protracted by the prevalence of light winds, although these were
generally favourable, or from the westward. Occasional calms, squalls,
and rain occurred, but the weather generally was finer than during the
South-East monsoon.


As an instance of the clearness of the atmosphere, so different from what
we had usually experienced during our former visit to these shores, it
may be mentioned, that on one occasion during a light breeze from the
north-west we clearly saw Mount Yule (10,046 feet high) and the summit of
Mount Owen Stanley, distant respectively, one hundred and twenty, and
eighty miles from the ship. On this occasion also we had a full view of
the whole of Mount Astrolabe, which although 3,824 feet in greatest
height, and appearing to D'Urville as he ran past to be the highest land
on this portion of the coast, is rendered quite insignificant by the
lofty though distant range behind. Mount Astrolabe differs in character
from any other of the New Guinea mountains seen by us, indicating a
different geological formation. The summit extends thirteen miles,
running parallel with the coastline and distant from it about eight
miles. Viewed from the south-westward the outline is regular, exhibiting
a series of nearly flat tops with slight interruptions, but from the
southward it appears as a succession of terraces or projecting cliffs,
precipitous in front near the summit, with a long steep slope below,
probably of debris, while the flat top slopes backwards with a very
gentle declivity. Owen Stanley Range again presented quite a different
aspect as seen on the occasion alluded to, when nearly one half of its
whole length (300 miles) from Mount Yule to Heath Bay was in full view:
the outline was irregular but never suddenly so, and no peaks or other
remarkable points were seen.

I may mention here in relation to this part of New Guinea, though not in
continuance of the narrative, that the Barrier Reef, beginning (or
ending) at Low Island, is continued to the southward and eastward for 150
miles, as far as Cape Colombier, generally following the trend of the
coast, at a distance off it from three to fifteen miles. A long strip of
apparently navigable water is thus enclosed between the reef and the
shore, with numerous passages, many of which appeared to be clear to
Lieutenant Yule as he passed along close to the outer margin of the reef.


Some good harbours doubtless exist here; the Bramble passed through
Roundhead Entrance and found good anchorage in fifteen fathoms
immediately inside. The whole of this extent of coast appeared to be well
peopled. On the western side of Mount Astrolabe, for instance, numerous
villages and patches of cultivated land were seen from the Bramble.


Both in Redscar Bay and for the first two or three days after leaving it
numbers of sago palms, some quite recent, were observed on the water,
occasionally with boobies and noddies perched upon them. These trees had
probably grown upon the banks of the rivers of the bay, and been washed
away by the undermining of the low alluvial banks on which they grow, and
carried out to sea by the current. Along several of the freshwater
channels on the western side of the Great Bight examined by the Fly's
boats in 1844, I had seen this palm growing on the margin of the stream
in great profusion, and according to Giaom, the bisi tree (as she called
it) is occasionally carried by the winds and currents as far south as the
Prince of Wales Islands, when the natives scoop out the soft spongy inner
wood, wash it well with fresh water, beat it up into a pulp, separate the
farinaceous substance which falls to the bottom of the vessel, and bake
it as bread. On no part of the coast of New Guinea, however, did we ever
see any of this sago bread, which is known to constitute the principal
food of the inhabitants of the north-west coast of that great island.*

(*Footnote. Forrest endeavours to show that an acre of ground planted
with 300 sago palms will maintain fourteen men, as each tree produces 300
pounds of sago flour, when arrived at full maturity in its seventh year.
Voyage to New Guinea and the Moluccas in 1774 to 1776 by Captain Thomas
Forrest second edition page 44.)

On one occasion lately the water was discoloured by a conferva resembling
the sea-sawdust of Captain Cook, with which it was found to agree
generically in consisting of long filaments joined together by a softer
gelatinous-looking substance. The present species, however, is six times
larger than the more common sort, some of which was mixed up with it,
their diameters as ascertained by Mr. Huxley, being respectively 8 1/2
over 5000 and 1 1/8 over 5000 of an inch.

Today we stood in for the Duchateau Isles, and, rounding them to the
westward, anchored in the afternoon in seventeen fathoms, with the
central island bearing south, distant one mile.


January 7th.

Along with a shooting party I landed soon after daylight on the
westernmost Duchateau Island. Numbers of Nicobar pigeons left the island
as we approached, having apparently used it merely as a roosting-place.


Heavy showers and thunderclouds passed over at intervals during the whole
morning, rendering our shooting not quite so successful as it might have
been; still we procured about fifty pigeons and a few of Duperrey's
megapodius. In habits this last bird resembles the Australian species,
especially in constructing enormous mounds for the reception of its eggs.
Those which I saw averaged five feet in height and fifteen in diameter,
and were composed of the sandy soil of the neighbourhood, mixed up with
rotten sticks and leaves, but without any shells or coral. Some were
placed on the outer margin of the thickets close to the beach, and others
were scattered about more inland. As several of these mounds showed
indications of having lately been opened by the birds, I entertained
hopes of being able to procure an egg, but after digging several pits
three feet in depth, with no more efficient implements than my hands, I
had to give up the work from sheer exhaustion. This bird is apparently
very pugnacious at times, as I frequently saw them chasing each other
along the ground, running with great swiftness, and uttering their cry
more loudly than usual, stopping short suddenly and again starting off in
pursuit. The cry consists of one or two shrill notes, uttered at
intervals and ending in a hurried tremulous cry repeated five or six
times. The noise made by this megapodius while scratching among the dead
leaves for food may sometimes be imitated with such success as to bring
the bird running up within gunshot. When suddenly forced to rise from the
ground it flies up into a tree, and remains there motionless, but
exceedingly vigilant, ready to start on the approach of anyone, but on
other occasions it trusts to its legs to escape. Its food is entirely
procured on the ground, and consists of insects and their larvae
(especially the pupae of ants) small snails, and various fallen seeds and
fruits. Although a great number of the Nicobar pigeons had left, many yet
remained, and the whole island resounded with their cry mixed up with the
cooing of the Nutmeg pigeon. Little skill is required in shooting these
birds, for they generally admit of very close approach, as if trusting to
the chance of being overlooked among the dense foliage.


January 8th.

During the night a party of natives in five canoes came over from the
Calvados Group, and first attracted our attention by making several fires
on the middle and easternmost islands. Soon after daybreak they came
alongside in their usual boisterous manner. A few words of their language
which were procured proved to be of great interest by agreeing generally
with those formerly obtained at Brierly Island, while the numerals were
quite different and corresponded somewhat with those of my Brumer Island
vocabulary. Two of the canoes--one of which carried sixteen people--were
large and heavy and came off under sail, tacking outside of us and
fetching under the ship's stern. In these large canoes the paddles are of
proportionate size and very clumsy--they are worked as oars with the aid
of cane grommets--the sail is of the large oblong shape formerly
described. One of the canoes was furnished with a small stage above the
platform for the reception of a large bundle of coarse mats, six feet
long and two and a half broad, made by interlacing the leaflets of the
cocoa-palm; these mats are probably used in the construction of temporary
huts when upon a cruise.

Although rather a better sample of the Papuan race than that which we had
lately seen at Redscar Bay, there was no marked physical distinction
between these inhabitants of the Louisiade and the New Guinea men. The
canoes, however, are as different as the language; here, as throughout
the Archipelago, the canoes have the semblance of a narrow coffin-like
box, resting upon a hollowed-out log, the bow having the two
characteristic ornaments of the tabura, or head-board, and the crest-like
carved woodwork running out along the beak. Some of the natives were
recognised as former visitors to the ship. Nearly all were painted,
chiefly on the face, the favourite pattern being series of white bars and
spots on a black ground. Except their ornaments and weapons, they had
little to give us for the iron hoop so much in request with them; only a
few coconuts, and scarcely any yams were obtained, and to the latter they
attached a much higher value than formerly.


At length the natives left us, three canoes making to the northward, and
two returning to the Duchateau Isles. Morning observations for rating the
chronometers having been obtained, we got underweigh soon afterwards,
and, bidding farewell to the Louisiade Archipelago, commenced our voyage
to Sydney.

Our daily average progress during the passage to Sydney (which occupied a
period of twenty-eight days) was less than fifty miles. The winds for the
first few days, or until beyond the influence of the land, were light and
variable, shifting between South-West and North-East by the northward,
and accompanied by occasional squalls and rain. It became a matter of
difficulty to determine when we got into the south-east trade; it was not
until we had reached latitude 20 degrees South that the wind--light on
the preceding day, but on this strong, with squalls and rain--appeared
steady between East-South-East and South-South-East and this carried us
down to Sandy Cape.


In traversing the Coral Sea, the numerous detached reefs were so
carefully avoided that we saw none of them--thus in one sense it is to be
regretted that the passage through them of a surveying vessel, with
seventeen chronometers on board, was productive of no beneficial result
by determining the exact position of any one of these dangerous reefs,
most of which are only approximately laid down upon the charts.*

(*Footnote. About this time a new reef was discovered during the passage
from Cape Deliverance to Sydney of H.M.S. Meander, Captain the Honourable
H. Keppel. While this sheet was passing through the press, I saw an
announcement of the total wreck upon Kenn Reef--one of those the position
of which is uncertain--of a large merchant ship, the passengers and crew
of which, 33 in number, fortunately however, succeeded in reaching
Moreton Bay in their boat--a distance of 400 miles.)


The most important practical result of Captain Stanley's survey of the
Louisiade Archipelago and the south coast of New Guinea, was the
ascertaining the existence of a clear channel of at least 30 miles in
width along the southern shores of these islands, stretching east and
west between Cape Deliverance and the north-east entrance to Torres
Strait--a distance of about 600 miles. This space was so traversed by the
two vessels of the expedition without any detached reefs being
discovered, that it does not seem probable that any such exist there,
with the exception of the Eastern Fields of Flinders, the position and
extent of which may be regarded as determined with sufficient accuracy
for the purposes of navigation, and the reefs alluded to in Volume 1,
which, if they exist at all, and are not merely the Eastern Fields laid
down far to the eastward of their true position, must be sought for
further to the southward. The shores in question may now be approached
with safety, and vessels may run along them either by day or night under
the guidance of the chart--without incurring the risk of coming upon
unknown reefs, such as doubtless exist in other parts of the Coral Sea
further to the southward--judging from the occasional discovery of a new
one by some vessel which had got out of the beaten track. Whalers will no
doubt find it worth their while--with the characteristic enterprise of
their class--to push into those parts of the Coral Sea now first thrown
open to them, and, although we have not as yet sufficient grounds to
warrant the probability of success in the fishery, yet I may mention that
whales were seen on several occasions from both of our vessels.


This naturally originates the question--to what extent do the Louisiade
Archipelago and the south-east coast of New Guinea afford a field for
commercial enterprise? What description of trade can be established there
by bartering European goods for the productions of these countries?
Unfortunately at present most of the evidence on this point is of a
negative kind. Besides articles of food, such as pigs, yams, and
coconuts, and weapons and ornaments of no marketable
value--tortoise-shell, flax, arrowroot, massoy bark, and feathers of the
birds of paradise were seen by us, it is true, but in such small
quantities as to hold out at present no inducement for traders to resort
to these coasts for the purpose of procuring them. That gold exists in
the western and northern portions of New Guinea has long been known, that
it exists also on the south-eastern shores of that great island is
equally true, as a specimen of pottery procured at Redscar Bay contained
a few small laminar grains of this precious metal. The clay in which the
gold is embedded was probably part of the great alluvial deposit on the
banks of the rivers, the mouths of which we saw in that neighbourhood,
doubtless originating in the high mountains behind, part of the Owen
Stanley Range.

It is evident, however, that our acquaintance with the productions of a
great extent of coastline upon which we never once landed must be very
slight, but with that little we must be content until some more complete
exploration of the shores, which were only cursorily examined, and
especially of the rivers of the Great Bight--which seem to offer a ready
means of penetrating far into the interior of New Guinea--shall have been
effected. That an expedition with this end in view will soon be
undertaken is, however, highly improbable, the survey of the Rattlesnake
having completed all that was requisite for the immediate purposes of
navigation in those parts.


The fact of the existence of several active volcanoes on islands
immediately adjacent to the north coast of New Guinea (first made known
by Dampier) and the circumstance of volcanic bands traversing the length
of many of the great islands of the Malayan Archipelago, and others as
far to the southward as New Caledonia and New Zealand, rendered it
extremely probable that we should have found indisputable signs of
comparatively recent volcanic action in the south-east part of New
Guinea. We saw no volcanoes, however, and the great central mountain
chain appeared to me to be probably granitic. The large Brumer Island is
composed of igneous rocks as formerly mentioned; and at Dufaure Island I
obtained from some canoes which came off to us a few smooth water-worn
pieces of hornblendic porphyry. Some specimens of obsidian, or volcanic
glass, were also procured from the natives at the latter place, where
sharp-edged fragments are used for shaving with; one variety is black,
another of a light reddish-brown, with dark streaks. Mount Astrolabe is

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