The Logbooks of the Lady Nelson by Ida Lee

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  • 1915
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First Published in 1915.



The objects for which the Lady Nelson’s voyages were undertaken render her logbooks of more than ordinary interest. She was essentially an Australian discovery ship and during her successive commissions she was employed exclusively in Australian waters. The number of voyages that she made will perhaps never be accurately known, but her logbooks in existence testify to the important missions that she accomplished. The most notable are those which record early discoveries in Victoria: the exploration of the Queensland coast: the surveys of King Island and the Kent Group: the visits to New Zealand and the founding of settlements at Hobart, Port Dalrymple, and Melville Island. Seldom can the logbooks of a single ship show such a record. Their publication seemed very necessary, for the handwriting on the pages of some of them is so faded that it is already difficult to decipher, and apparently only the story of Grant’s voyages and the extracts from Murray’s log published by Labilliere in the Early History of Victoria have ever before been published. In transcription I have somewhat modernized the spelling where old or incorrect forms tended to obscure the sense, and omitted repetitions, as it would have been impossible to include within the limits of one volume the whole of the contents of the logbooks. The story of the Lady Nelson as told by Grant has in places been paraphrased, for he sometimes writes it in diary form under date headings and at others he inserts the date in the narrative. The entries from the logbooks of Murray, Curtoys and Symons, in the Public Record Office, with such omissions as I have specified, are printed verbatim.

Murray’s charts now published are distinctly valuable, as in the fourth volume of the Historical Records of New South Wales, where they should be found, it is stated that they are “unfortunately missing.”

On my inquiring at the Admiralty, Mr. Perrin, the Librarian, to whom my cordial thanks are due, made a special search and was fortunate enough to discover them. Thus, after a long separation, Murray’s charts and his journal are united again in this volume. Perhaps the most important chart, and the one which should appeal especially to the people of Victoria, is that of Port Phillip showing the track of the Lady Nelson’s boat when the brig entered the bay for the first time. Murray’s log telling of this discovery ends on March 24th, 1802. In writing later to the Duke of Portland, Governor King says: “The Lady Nelson’s return just before I closed my letters enabled me to transmit Acting-Lieutenant Murray’s log copies of the discoveries of King Island and Port Phillip. These important discoveries, being combined with the chart of former surveys, I hope will convince your Grace that that highly useful vessel the Lady Nelson has not been idle under my direction.” The charts were sent home in charge of Lieutenant Mackellar, who sailed in the ship Caroline on March 30th, 1802, six days after the Lady Nelson’s return. Duplicates were forwarded by the Speedy, which left Sydney in June, but a comparison of those at the Admiralty shows that King added nothing further to this second series.

My thanks are also due to Lieutenant Bell, R.N., whose researches have enabled me to publish the charts of the Queensland coast. These old charts cannot fail to interest students of Australian history. It is possible that they do not include all that were sent home at first, nor are the Lady Nelson’s logbooks complete; those however of Grant and Murray, Curtoys and Symons, give us the story of the work carried out by those energetic seamen. They are writings worthy of being more widely known, for they are records left by men who sailed uncharted seas along unknown coasts in days which will not come again–men who have helped to give to later generations a spacious continent with a limitless horizon.


































1. THE LADY NELSON. From a painting in the possession of the Victorian Government.


[Jas Grant autograph facsimile.]

3. EYE-SKETCH OF THE LADY NELSON’S TRACK ON HER FIRST VOYAGE THROUGH BASS STRAIT. Drawn by Governor King. Writing of this chart, he says that the longitude in which Lieutenant Grant placed Cape Otway was about a degree and a half in error. He also made the land to trend away on the west side of Cape Otway to a deep bay, which he named Portland Bay. An examination of modern maps will show that the name Portland Bay has been retained for a bay to the westward of Grant’s Portland Bay, which is now called Armstrong Bay.

Chart of the track of His Majesty’s Armoured Surveying Vessel Lady Nelson Lieutenant James Grant Commander. From Bass’s Straits between New Holland and Van Diemen’s Land on her passage from England to Port Jackson. By Order of His Grace The Duke of Portland. In December 1800.


5. CHART OF BASS STRAIT SHOWING THE DISCOVERIES MADE BETWEEN SEPTEMBER 1800 AND MARCH 1802. Drawn by Ensign Barrallier, New South Wales Corps, under the direction of Captain P.G. King, Governor of New South Wales.” This chart is generally referred to as “Barrallier’s Combined Chart.” King doubtless alludes to it when writing to the Duke of Portland in May 1802. See Historical Records of New South Wales volume 4 page 761.)

(CHART OF KING’S ISLAND IN BASS’S STRAIT. This earliest chart of King Island was drawn by Alexander Dalrymple from a sketch made by Flinders of Murray’s original chart. Flinders added to it the west coast unseen by Murray, though it had been sighted by both Black and Buyers. The details given by Flinders were supplied by William Campbell, master of the Harrington, who, in March 1802, found a quantity of wreckage there. Nothing remained to show the name of the lost vessel, nor was any clue subsequently discovered by which she could be identified. The Harrington lay at anchor at New Year’s Isles for over two months, but could not trace the nationality of the vessel or her crew except in the language of the Harrington’s captain, “one dead English cat.” See Historical Records of New South Wales volume 4 page 780.)



Coal Harbour and Rivers on the Coast of New South Wales. Surveyed by Ensign Barrallier, in His Majesty’s Armed Surveying Vessel Lady Nelson: Lieutenant James Grant Commander. In June and July 1801, by Order of Governor King.

High Water Full and Change in the Harbour 9 hours 45 minutes. Rises 6 feet.

Remarks on Hunter’s River: The entrance of Hunter’s River is in latitude 32 degrees 57 minutes south, distinguishable by an Island on the south-east side of its entrance which in coming from the northward appears like a castle, being perpendicular on the south-east side and 203 feet high: the north side is steep and covered with grass. It is the northernmost high land from Sydney to the Heads of Port Stephens from which it lies north-east 6 leagues. The intermediate space being a sandy beach. The tides both in the harbour and entrance runs very strong, and in some places not less than four miles an hour and sometimes from four to five. The ebb in general is much stronger than the flood: 9 3/4 hours in the harbour makes high water full and change, and rises six feet perpendicular where the Lady Nelson anchored, and four feet when she was higher up the river. In the harbour there is good shelter from all winds and plenty of room for more than 100 sail of shipping. There is plenty of water to be had on the north shore by digging a very little way down. There are three wells already dug, and the water is very good. On the south shore there are plenty of runs of fresh water.

For further information refer to Colonel Paterson and Lieutenant Grant’s Narrative.

8. ROUTE OF H.M.A.S. VESSEL LADY NELSON ALONG THE COAST OF NEW SOUTH WALES ON A VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY IN 1801, undertaken by Command of His Excellency Governor King. By Jno. Murray Acting Lieutenant and Commander.

Note the Coast is according to Captain Cook. Jarvis Bay was visited by ye Lady Nelson in March 1801. Twofold Bay is from Bass’s track in the Whale Boat.

9. KENT’S GROUP. By John Murray.



In this chart by Murray, sent to the Admiralty from Sydney by Governor King in 1802, few names appear, although Murray named Point Palmer, Point Paterson, and Point Nepean, and the fact that it bears the date January 1802 seems further evidence that it is the first chart of Port Philip drawn by its discoverer. It is one of those referred to as “unfortunately missing” in the Historical Records of New South Wales volume 4 page 764.

12. CHART OF BASS STRAIT, INCLUDING THE DISCOVERIES OF ACTING-LIEUTENANT JOHN MURRAY IN THE LADY NELSON, between November 1801 AND march 1802. By command of His Excellency Governor King. This chart, which bears Murray’s autograph, shows his explorations of Western Port, Port Philip, and King Island. It should be noted that Flinders’ Island is named Grand Capuchin. This is one of the charts referred to as “unfortunately missing” in the Historical Records of New South Wales volume 4 page 764.

13. TRACK OF THE LADY NELSON IN COMPANY WITH H.M.S. INVESTIGATOR ON A VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY along the coast of New South Wales. By John Murray. This chart also bears Murray’s signature, as well as the outward and return track of his ship.


15. SKETCH OF PORT NUMBER 1 (PORT CURTIS), FACEING ISLAND AND KEPPEL BAY. By John Murray, made on board H.M. armed surveying vessel Lady Nelson.


This chart and the one in Illustration 15 differ in delineation from the rest of Murray’s charts of his voyage northwards, and are beautifully drawn and coloured. Probably they were the work of Westall, the artist with Flinders, Murray merely adding to them his homeward track.

[Facsimile signature Jno Murray]






The logbooks of the Lady Nelson bear witness to the leading part played by one small British ship in the discovery of a great continent. They show how closely, from the date of her first coming to Sydney in 1800 until her capture by pirates off the island of Baba in 1825, this little brig was identified with the colonisation and development of Australia.

In entering upon her eventful colonial career, “the Lady Nelson did that which alone ought to immortalize her name–she was the first ship that ever sailed parallel to the entire southern coast line of Australia.”* (* Early History of Victoria by F.P. Labilliere.) She was also the first vessel to sail through Bass Strait. But discovery cannot claim her solely for itself. While she was stationed at Sydney there was scarcely a dependency of the mother colony that was not more or less indebted to her, either for proclaiming it a British possession, or for bringing it settlers and food, or for providing it with means of defence against the attacks of natives.

In the early history of Victoria the Lady Nelson occupies a niche somewhat similar to that which the Endeavour fills in the annals of New South Wales, but while Cook and the Endeavour discovered the east coast and then left it, the Lady Nelson, after charting the bare coast-line of Victoria, returned again and again to explore its inlets and to penetrate its rivers, her boats discovering the spacious harbour at the head of which Melbourne now stands.

The Lady Nelson also went northward as well as southward, and though many of her logbooks are missing, some survive, and one describes how, in company with the Investigator under Captain Flinders, she examined the Queensland shore as far as the Cumberland Islands. Later she accompanied the Mermaid, under Captain King, to Port Macquarie when he followed Flinders’ track through Torres Strait, and during her long period of service she visited different parts of the coast, including Moreton Bay, Port Essington, and Melville Island. Precisely how many voyages she made as a pioneer will probably never be known. The ship, at least, played many parts: now acting as King’s messenger and carrying despatches from the Governor to Norfolk Island; now fetching grain grown at the Hawkesbury, or coals from Newcastle for the use of the increasing population at Sydney; and at another time carrying troops and settlers to the far distant north. She made other memorable voyages; for example, when she conveyed bricks burnt in Sydney brick kilns to Tasmania and to New Zealand, in order to build homes for the first white settlers in those lands. She helped also to establish Lieutenant Bowen’s colony at Risdon. On that occasion we read that the little ship lent the colony a bell and half a barrel of gunpowder. The logbooks do not record to what use the bell was put, but whether it served as a timekeeper or to call the people to worship, it was doubtless highly valued by the early Tasmanian colonists.

At the time of her sailing to Australia the Lady Nelson was a new ship of 60 tons. She was built at Deptford in 1799, and differed from other exploring vessels in having a centre-board keel. This was the invention of Captain John Schanck, R.N., who believed that ships so constructed “would sail faster, steer easier, tack and wear quicker and in less room.” He had submitted his design to the Admiralty in 1783, and so well was it thought of that two similar boats had been built for the Navy, one with a centre-board and one without, in order that a trial might be made. The result was so successful that, besides the Cynthia sloop and Trial revenue cutter, other vessels were constructed on the new plan, among them the Lady Nelson. She was chosen for exploration because her three sliding centre-boards enabled her draught to be lessened in shallow waters, for when her sliding keels were up she drew no more than six feet.

In 1799 the news reached London that the French were fitting out an expedition to survey unknown portions of Australia; the Admiralty were quickly stirred to renewed activity, and decided to send the Lady Nelson to Sydney. At first it was believed that Captain Flinders would be placed in charge of her, but he was eventually given a more important command, and Lieutenant James Grant was appointed to the Lady Nelson. She was hauled out of Deadman’s Dock into the river on January 13th, 1800, with her full complement of men and stores on board. She carried provisions for 15 men for a period of nine months, and enough water for three months. Her armament consisted of only two brass carriage-guns.

On January 16th she sailed to Gravesend. So small did she look as she made her way down the Thames that the sailors on board the ships in the river ridiculed her appearance and ironically christened her “His Majesty’s Tinderbox.” Grant says that many expressed a doubt that she would ever make her port of destination.

A heavy gale was blowing when she reached the Downs, but from the first she proved herself a good sea-boat, and it was found that lowering the keels greatly steadied her. Grant now had a good opportunity for testing her capabilities. A large convoy ready to sail for the West Indies lay at anchor here, and on the evening of the 23rd, as the fury of the wind increased, many signals of distress were seen flying in the offing. Finding the Lady Nelson drag very much, her commander let go another anchor, with the result that she rode out through the gale with ease, although next morning six vessels were ashore dismasted, while two others had lost both their masts and bowsprits. He then decided to take shelter in Ramsgate, where he remained until the 7th, when he sailed to Spithead and thence to Portsmouth. Here four more guns were placed on board and some oak planking, which caused the brig to lie deeper in the water, so that Grant writes “there were then only 2 feet 9 inches clear abreast the gangway.” He believed, however, that the consumption of coal and provisions would soon bring her to a proper degree of buoyancy.

During her stay at Portsmouth the Lady Nelson lost two men, one through illness, the other by desertion. On March 15th, when she was quite ready for sea, Captain Schanck and Mr. Bayley* (* W. Bayley, formerly astronomer on board the Adventure.) paid her a visit. Orders had been given for her to leave port in company with H.M.S. Anson, Captain Durham, who (as the Powers were at war) was to convoy a fleet of East Indiamen, then on point of sailing, and with whom was H.M.S. Porpoise, bound to New South Wales. The wind being fair, on the night of March 16th, 1800, the signal for sailing was given by the Commodore. While all hands were busily engaged getting up the kedge, the carpenter made his escape in the darkness. Anxious to avoid further delay, and somewhat consoled by the thought that the vessel was new and that he had already tested and found out her good qualities, Lieutenant Grant decided to put up with the loss of the man’s services.

At 6 P.M. on the 18th the ship finally bade adieu to England. At first she was scarcely able to keep pace with the big ships which bore her company, and very soon the Commodore despatched an officer to her commander to suggest that he should go into Falmouth and await there the departure of the West India Fleet. But, as the final decision was left with Lieutenant Grant, he preferred to go on, believing that he could keep pace with the convoy. During the afternoon of the 19th a namesake of his, Captain James Grant of the Brunswick, East Indiaman, hailed him and informed him that he had orders to take the Lady Nelson in tow. The commander of the brig did not at all relish this news, but dreading further detention as he was in the track of the enemy, he took the proffered hawser on board. The brig towed well as long as the sea was smooth, and at first no discomfort was felt. Then a continued spell of bad weather ensued, and a driving rain, which found its way under the covering boards and along the gunwale of the ship, caused great unpleasantness. Worse was to follow, for it began to blow very hard, and the Brunswick set off at high speed, dragging the little brig mercilessly through the heavy seas which almost enveloped her. The sight evoked much amusement among the passengers on board the big Indiaman, who frequently visited the stern galley to watch the waves wash completely over the Lady Nelson.

On the 23rd of March an unusually heavy sea strained the brig to such a degree that Grant ordered the hawser to be let go, and bade the Brunswick farewell. It was imagined by those on board the larger vessel that the Lady Nelson, deeming it impossible to proceed, had turned back to Portsmouth. Grant, however, had determined to continue his voyage alone.

He lost sight of the fleet during the night, and next day, in latitude 43 degrees 55 minutes north and longitude 14 degrees 17 minutes west, the weather being fine and clear, he ordered the saturated bedding to be brought up from below and placed on deck to dry. This practice was continued throughout the voyage, and to it, and to the care taken to prevent the men sleeping in wet clothes, Grant attributed the healthy state of the crew on reaching Sydney. When the sea moderated it was also possible to stop the leaks on deck.

On the 25th a strange sail was sighted, and from the masthead a large fleet was soon afterwards made out bearing north-north-east. One ship detached itself from the rest and gave chase to the Lady Nelson, gaining fast upon her. She was perceived to be an English frigate. At 6 P.M. she fired a shot which compelled Lieutenant Grant to shorten sail and to show his colours. As a second shot was fired it was clear that the frigate still mistook him for one of the enemy, so he wore and stood towards her, when she proved to be H.M.S. Hussar, acting as convoy to the West India Fleet. Her commander informed Grant that he had mistaken the Lady Nelson for a Spaniard, and expressed his regret for having given so much trouble, and after the usual compliments they parted. Grant adds that he did not learn the name of the courteous commander,* (* It was Viscount Garlies.) but again at daylight the Lady Nelson came on part of his convoy, which, not knowing who she was, crowded sail to get out of her way, “with,” says Grant, “one exception, this being the —-, which, much to his credit, hove to and fired a shot almost plump on board of us. Another vessel, the Hope of Liverpool, I could hardly keep clear of, for the more I attempted to avoid him the more he attempted to get near me, so much so that we were near running on board each other.” The Hope’s captain asked Grant very peremptorily who he was and where he came from, to which Grant replied by hoisting his colours and pendant; but even this did not satisfy the irate merchant skipper, who appeared to have had very decided intentions of running down the Lady Nelson. Eventually, however, he rejoined the convoy, which stood to the westward under close-reefed top-sails.

On the 1st of April the Lady Nelson fell in with another heavy gale which raged till the 3rd, and finding that his ship was drifting south of Madeira, Grant shaped a course for Las Palmas.

On the 8th he crossed the Tropic of Cancer.

On Sunday the 13th he came to an anchor in Port Praya, St. Iago, where the Governor received him with much politeness and gave him permission to replenish his ship. While in this port Grant discovered that the second mate had sown seeds of discontent among his crew, so he promptly handed him over to the Governor to be sent back to England. Two boys, however, deserted and ran off with a boat. Several parties were sent out in search of them by the Governor, and the two deserters were eventually caught and brought home by the natives–both riding on one ass. The sight of the bluejackets in such a predicament vastly amused the Portuguese seamen in port, who ridiculed them to such an extent that Grant did not think it necessary to punish them further. Grant describes the natives of Port Praya as resembling negroes, and remarks that the females seemed to spend their time in spinning cotton from a distaff with a spindle. The ship’s keels were examined here and one found to be broken, but the repairs, owing to the assistance given by the Governor, were finished in two days.

Having taken in a sufficient supply of water, the Lady Nelson left St. Iago on April 27th. The Governor, who seems to have been most polite and obliging to everybody, permitted two Portuguese sailors to be entered on her muster-roll, which brought her crew up to twelve. Soon after leaving port, one of the seamen became ill, and as his temperature rose very high the commander gave orders for him to be immediately isolated, though he was fortunately cured in four days. The food served to the men then underwent some alteration. It was thought that oatmeal was too heating in the humid weather of the tropics, and tea was substituted for it at breakfast, wine supplemented with spruce beer being issued instead of spirits. Not one man fell sick afterwards.

As the ship neared the Equator various cross-currents were frequently met with, and “heavy squalls with rain” and a very disagreeable sea arose, the result of a sudden change of wind from north-north-east to south-west and south-south-west. The Lady Nelson pitched and rolled considerably, and nearly every one on board was sea-sick. On the 6th it fell calm again.

At 6 A.M. on the 9th a schooner was sighted, and shortly afterward a brig, which stood towards the ship. Believing that the latter was an enemy, Grant was glad when a storm hid her from view. On the 10th, however, a glimpse of the brig was again caught, and on the 13th two more sail were descried standing to the westward, but they finally disappeared. The Lady Nelson was now surrounded by flying-fish and tropical birds in great numbers, the latter being of the species mentioned by Captain Cook as seen by him when he traversed this route.

On May 16th a long, heavy swell was experienced with light airs, and the sea took a luminous appearance. A spell of bad weather followed, ending on the 23rd, when, the day being fine, the boats were lowered and the keels overhauled and repaired, and it was then found that a new piece of wood which had been put on the after keel at Port Praya was missing. Not having sufficient timber on board to repair it as before, the keel was let farther down in the well and a breadth of planking was joined to it with iron hooping and nails, with the result that it extended three feet below the vessel.

On the 28th, when nearing Rio de Janeiro, an inspection was made of the bread and water, and as the latter was found to be in good condition Grant decided not to enter the port. Some of the bread was a little damaged by leakage into the bread room, but a more water-tight place for storing it was soon found. About the same date birds were again observed, particularly the hoglet: the men caught many of these and made caps of their skins. Mother Cary’s chickens* (* Procellaria pelagica Linn.) were also met with in great numbers. Gales and calms now alternated until June 11th, when there were frequent squalls, the wind finally blowing with such violence that at 3 P.M. it was thought advisable to heave to. Later the storm abated, and the vessel was able to make good progress until the 18th. A curious sea followed the ship on this day, the waves rising perpendicularly, so that the commander conjectured that there was ground at no great depth. He put the deep-sea lead over, but no soundings could be obtained.

On the 23rd at 3 P.M. a vessel was seen bearing down before the wind towards the Lady Nelson. The stranger proved to be a Spanish brig carrying prize colours. She had been captured in the River Plate by a privateer which had been fitted out by a merchant at the Cape of Good Hope, and was commanded by Mr. John Black. She was then on her way to the Cape of Good Hope. On coming within hail her master informed the Lady Nelson’s commander that he had neither book nor chart on board, and wished to know where he was; he also begged some twine and canvas to repair his sails. The prize was of about 70 tons burthen and was loaded with beeswax, hides, tallow, and tobacco. She was without a boat, as it had been washed overboard, so Lieutenant Grant shortened sail and desired her captain to keep near him and gave him the latitude and longitude. On the following day the Lady Nelson lowered a boat and brought the prize master on board, to whom Lieutenant Grant gave a chart of the Cape and several other necessaries. He asked Mr. Black why he had so boldly approached the Lady Nelson, since his ship was painted like a Spaniard, and so might well have been taken for one. Black’s answer was that he knew from her canvas that the Lady Nelson was not an enemy. When he was shown over her he expressed his astonishment at her centre-boards, and her construction was therefore explained to him. But evidently he was not favourably impressed, for when he was being escorted back to his ship he asked one of her sailors if his commander was not mad, for he could not believe that such a small ship as the Lady Nelson could ever accomplish a voyage of discovery.

The vessels continued to sail in company towards the Cape of Good Hope.

At 5 A.M. on the 7th land was seen from the Lady Nelson, the information being signalled to her companion. Soon after daylight the Lion’s Rump was perceived south-east by east 1/2 east, distant five leagues. A little later the ships parted company. Lieutenant Grant had intended to anchor in Simon’s Bay, but having discovered that the Lady Nelson had lost both her main and after keels during the voyage, he sailed to Table Bay. On his arrival there Admiral Sir Roger Curtis, who was in command of the station, gave orders for two new keels to be built immediately, and it is recorded that so well did Mr. Boswell, the builder’s assistant (the builder himself being absent) perform his task that the new keels reflected the greatest credit on him.

On the 16th, her repairs being completed, the Lady Nelson sailed for Simon’s Bay and anchored there at 9 A.M. on the following day. Here was found H.M.S. Porpoise, also bound to New South Wales, which left the bay for Sydney in advance of the Lady Nelson. During his stay Lieutenant Grant met a relative, Dr. J. R. Grant, with whom he made several excursions into the interior of the colony.

While the Lady Nelson was at the Cape of Good Hope a ship named the Wellesley arrived from England with despatches from the Admiralty. She had narrowly escaped capture by a French man-of-war which gave chase to her after she had parted from her convoy, but fortunately she had been able to beat off the enemy and to effect her escape. The instructions brought to Grant from the Duke of Portland directed him to sail to Sydney through Bass Strait instead of sailing round the South Cape of Van Diemen’s Land (as Tasmania was then called).*

(* The following extract is from the letter from the Duke of Portland to Grant:–

“WHITEHALL, 8th April, 1800.

“SIR, Having received information from Port Jackson in New South Wales that a navigable strait has been discovered between that country and Van Diemen’s Land in latitude 38 degrees, it is His Majesty’s pleasure that you should sail through the said strait on your way to Port Jackson. I am, etc., PORTLAND.”)

No ship had yet sailed through this strait, which had been discovered only a little more than a year before by Dr. George Bass. Grant was also instructed to take particular notice of the Australian coast, and especially of the headlands visible on either side of the strait. During his stay at the Cape numerous volunteers offered to accompany him to Sydney, many from on board the ships in the bay. He says that he declined them all except a carpenter and an eccentric person named Dr. Brandt, who might, he thought, be useful as a scientist, and who came on board accompanied by his baboon and his dog. To oblige Sir Roger Curtis, he also consented to take a Dane sentenced to transportation.

On the 7th of October the Lady Nelson left the Cape and proceeded on her voyage to New South Wales. Soon after leaving port bad weather set in and continued until the 12th, but, on the 14th at noon, when the ship was in 38 degrees 1 minute latitude, the sea moderated and the bedding was again brought up on deck while the cabins and berths were washed with vinegar. On the 24th the weather turned extremely cold with snow at times. A heavy cross sea was running, which gave the little brig another opportunity of displaying her good qualities. On the 28th at noon she was in 38 degrees 54 minutes south, and towards evening on the following day she encountered a heavy gale which obliged her commander to heave her to. Violent gusts with showers of sleet blew continually, and the seas were so heavy that often in striking the bow they threw the ship so far over as “to expose her beam.” A drag-sail was then used in order to steady her, and it answered remarkably well. The fore-top-sail yard was also got on deck and eased the ship wonderfully; fortunately little water was shipped, as, owing to her small draught and flat bottom, she rose like a piece of cork on the top of every wave.

On November 1st, in accordance with expectations, the island of Amsterdam was sighted. The Lady Nelson steered a lonely course along its high, inaccessible shores, and beyond seeing that it was covered with grass, those on board could observe little. A flagstaff with a flag flying came into view, but not a single human being could be seen through the telescope, although a party of sealers was known to visit the place frequently. As the ship left the coast a boat’s thwart with a piece of rope wound round it was observed floating in the water, and its presence caused some curiosity on board. Within the next few days a shoal of whales known to sailors as the Right whale was sighted, and later in the month several other whales of various species with two threshers at work upon one of them were seen.

On the 23rd Vancouver’s track was crossed, and then Grant gave orders for a strict look-out for land to be kept from the masthead by night and day.

Still the Australian coast remained invisible.

On the 29th the sea was so calm that there was not a ripple on its surface, and nothing worth noting occurred until December 1st, when a large spermaceti whale passed, and at 3 P.M. a seal. At 5 P.M. another appeared; this seal swam after the ship for some time, gazing after it in a curious way and shaking its head as it leapt from the water. On December 2nd the birds which till then had followed the ship disappeared, and in the evening a horse-fly settled on the main-sail and showed that land was near. The same night heavy squalls arose and blew until morning. At 8 A.M., to the great joy of all on board, land was sighted from the masthead. It appeared to take the form of four islands, some six or seven leagues distant. At noon the ship was in 38 degrees 10 minutes south and longitude by account 142 degrees 30 minutes east, and the following notes are recorded in the journal of Lieutenant Grant,* as his first impression of the land of New Holland (Australia). (* The Journals and logbooks are not printed in extenso. A few passages of minor importance that in no way affect the general course of the narrative have, for want of space, been omitted.)


“December 3rd, 1800. At daylight made all possible sail judging myself to be in latitude of 38 degrees south.* (* (Note in log.) Longitude worked back 141 degrees 20 minutes east.) At 8 A.M. saw the land from north to east-north-east appearing like unconnected islands, being four in number, which on our near approach turned out to be two capes and two high mountains a considerable way inshore. One of them was very like the Table Hill at the Cape of Good Hope, the other stands farther into the country. Both are covered with large trees as is also the land which is low and flat as far as the eye can reach. I named the first of these mountains after Captain Schanck and the other Gambier’s Mountain. The first cape I called Northumberland, after His Grace the Duke of Northumberland. Another smaller, but very conspicuous jut of the land, which we plainly saw when abreast of Cape Northumberland I named Cape Banks.* (* Grant named the two points first sighted Cape Northumberland and Cape Banks and the two mountains behind Mount Gambier and Mount Schanck, names they all still bear. Grant came in sight of Australia near to the present boundary of Victoria and South Australia.) When the former Cape bears north-west by west distant 8 or 9 miles, Schanck’s Mountain loses its table form and appears like a saddle. There does not appear to be a harbour here, but vessels may find shelter under Cape Northumberland from north and north-north-west winds. The shore is in general a flat sandy beach, the sea at present making no breach upon it.

“December 4th. As we stood along the shore steering eastward, the land as far as we could see bearing south-east. Hauled close up for it. This forming a conspicuous cape, I named it Bridgewater* after the Duke of that title. (* This cape has been described since as having “a bald pate and shoulders besprinkled with white sand.” Cape Bridgewater forms with Cape Northumberland another bend called Discovery Bay where the tides meet and create a very turbulent sea. The bay receives the waters of the River Glenelg.) The shore is a sandy beach from where we made the land to this cape, with bushes and large woods inland. Finding we could not weather Cape Bridgewater, got four oars on the lee side, which were employed all night. At daybreak in the morning we weathered the cape when another cape appeared bearing east by north about 15 or 16 miles distant forming with Cape Bridgewater a very deep bay and to appearance had shelter for anchorage. The land appeared beautiful, rising gradually and covered with wood. Being anxious to examine whether it was safe to venture in or not, I ordered a boat out and took two hands with me armed.

“After getting inshore about five miles we found there was not any shelter from southerly winds; the water was very deep and apparently so all the way in. We plainly saw several fires. At noon it was a matter of great doubt whether we should not be forced to anchor–the bay being very deep we could hardly clear it even with a steady breeze. Our latitude was 38 degrees 20 minutes south. Cape Bridgewater then bearing north-west by west 12 or 13 miles. I called the other Cape, Nelson, after the vessel.

“December 5th. Saw several fires. This is a very deep bay and with southerly winds ought carefully to be avoided. Cape Nelson bears from Cape Bridgewater east-north-east 15 or 16 miles. The country is beautiful, apparently a good soil, plenty of grass, and fine woods. Towards evening saw many fires a little way inland. Many seals and porpoises about to-day. At 5 A.M. saw another cape not unlike the Deadman in the English Channel: it runs a considerable way into the sea. When to the west it appears like a long barn arched on the top with a high bluff and next the sea resembling the gable end of a house. I named the land Sir William Grant’s Cape.* (* Lieutenant Grant also called this cape, Cape Solicitor. This name did not survive–the cape being known as Cape Sir W. Grant.) Off this Cape are two small islands (the largest appears like two) having two hummocks joined together by a neck of low land which is not seen till pretty close. On approaching, the smaller island is seen–a little nearer the shore. These I called Lawrence’s Islands after Captain Lawrence, one of the Elder Brethren of Trinity House. As they will be an excellent mark for making this part…and Cape Northumberland, and being very remarkable, navigators will know where they are as they draw abreast of them, the largest being to the Southwards. Its outer end appears like a square-topt tower, very high, with a white spot in the middle of it. The other end is also very high. Lawrence’s Islands bear from Cape Sir William Grant south-east or south-east by south 12 miles distant and there appears no danger between them and the shore. The cape now loses its long form as the vessel gets to the eastward and its particular shape changes to a high bluff point, steep and inaccessible. Many fires were seen about this cape. The land from it runs to the northward as far as the eye can reach or discern from the masthead.

“December 6th. At three made a considerable large island high and inaccessible on all sides. It was covered with grass, but no trees. This island bears east-south-east from Cape Sir William Grant. By a good observation at noon following I made its latitude to be 38 degrees 29 minutes south longitude…I made 144 degrees 40 minutes east. I named this island Lady Julia’s Island in honour of Lady Julia Percy. Observed we ran faster along the land than our distance by log gave us, probably owing to drift from the East.

“December 7th. At daylight we saw the land making a cape ahead; hauled up to clear it. This cape is due east-south-east with a moderate offing from Cape Sir William Grant, distant by log 70 miles. It is the eastern promontory of this deep and extensive bay. I named it Cape Albany Otway (now Cape Otway) in honour of William Albany Otway, Esquire, Captain in the Royal Navy and one of the commissioners of the Transport Board.* (* Governor King says that Lieutenant Grant placed the longitude of Cape Otway in about “a degree and a half in error”: he also made the land to trend away on the west side of Cape Otway to a bay in 38 degrees south latitude which he named Portland Bay.) Another very high and considerable cape I called Patton’s Cape. I also distinguished the bay by the name of Portland Bay in honour of His Grace the Duke of Portland. The land is here truly picturesque and beautiful, resembling very much that about Mount Edgcumbe, near Plymouth, which faces the Sound. It abounds in wood, very thick groves and large trees. It is moderately high, but not mountainous. We did not see any fires on it, probably from the shore being inaccessible and much surf breaking on it. From Cape Albany Otway east-north-east 10 or 12 miles is another point of land which appears as a vessel rounds the former cape to the east. It is rather high land with a clump of trees–as if regularly planted on its brow. Thinking we could find an anchorage, I bore in pretty close, but as we approached I found several heavy breakers at least 6 miles from the shore, but not a rock to be seen. I therefore hauled and named the point of land Point Danger. In getting to the eastward I could not find any shelter nor any place where there was a likelihood of anchoring but from the number of little juts and low points of land further to the north and east I was determined to try if any such place could be got.

“I never saw a finer country, the valleys appeared to have plenty of fresh water meandering through them. At 11 A.M. I ordered the boats out manned and armed, and went in search of a place to land or anchor in. We got within a cable’s length and a half of the beach, but finding the surf breaking heavy I deemed it not prudent to attempt a landing. The shore was a sandy beach with small rocks interspersed here and there. In trying for soundings with a lead line none could be found, so that I really think the beach is steep also. I was very disappointed in being so near and obliged to return on board without setting foot on this beautiful spot. It resembles the Isle of Wight as near as possible from the water. I called this part of the coast (which falls into the bottom of a small bay from Cape Danger to the very low land), Wight’s Land in honour of Captain Wight, R.N., son-in-law to Commissioner Schanck.

“December 8th. At one made sail to the eastward. At 8 P.M. Cape Albany Otway bearing west 18 or 20 miles we made a very high and lofty cape covered with trees to the water’s edge as is all the country round it. From this cape the land breaks short round to the northward when I lost it. We had now a fair wind and might have done a great deal during the night but I had my doubts whether this land which fell off to the northward should not have been followed and kept on board, as from a small chart given to me by Sir Joseph Banks I found that, as far as the coast had been surveyed the land trained off to the northward in the same form nearly as it did here from Cape Patton–with this difference that the cape I allude to on the chart had several islands lying off it. Neither did the latitude exactly correspond and the land which it laid down running to the northward was low and bushy, whereas that which I saw was high with large forests of trees and no islands near it. I therefore chose the middle road. Made sail and ran 60 miles eastward judging if it was a bay I should see the eastern extremity of it. At daylight, however, we could see nothing anywhere from the masthead, but the looming of the land we had left behind. We now bore up and ran north by west and at six we saw the land again ahead forming a very deep bay, which I could not see the bottom of from the masthead.* (* (Note in log.) Had Grant penetrated this bay he would have made a great discovery for he would have found Port Phillip. However, from the evidence contained in his chart he named the indentation in the coast Governor King’s Bay. In Grant’s narrative appears the following note by Governor King. “If such a deep bay as this actually exists it favours the idea of New South Wales being insulated by a Mediterranean sea. However, this the Lady Nelson must determine in the voyage she is now gone upon. P.G.K.”) At eight the land was observed bearing from us east-south-east extending farther to the southward than I could see. Being now certain of our route I hauled up east-south-east and named this bay after Governor King. It is one of the longest we have yet met with. Cape Albany Otway forms the westernmost and the South Cape the easternmost headlands, the distance of about 120 miles due east-south-east.

“December 9th. At 4 P.M. saw several islands bearing east-south-east. The mainland seemed to have an opening in it to the northward of them, which we stood in for, but I found it was another bay with low land. I named the northernmost cape after my friend, John Liptrap, Esquire, of London. The mainland now extended a considerable way to the southward with several islands off the cape. Judging this was the point of land we looked for, from the colour of the water, we sounded and had 50 fathoms with fine sand. South Cape distant 9 or 10 miles. The land abreast of the ship appearing to be at no great distance, and it being quite calm I got the boats out and sent the launch ahead to tow.

“Thinking I should have the pleasure of setting my foot in this fine country, I set off in the gig with two hands ordering the vessel to tow in after me and should a breeze spring up to get the launch in and stand after me for the bay. We pulled inshore for some islands lying off from the main at the western side of the South Cape. Making for the largest of them, which appeared to be the most fertile, on it I meant to have sown some seeds which I took with me should I be able to land. The distance I could not have believed was so great as it proved to be–at least 12 miles from where we quitted the vessel, which we lost sight of before getting near the shore. Although we had not a breath of wind we found it impossible to land on this side, the shore being very steep and a heavy surf running on it. Therefore as the ship was not in sight, and as it was 2 P.M., I judged it prudent to get back as soon as possible, which we effected at 4 P.M.

“In the morning it was calm with hot sultry weather. At noon I had a good observation in latitude 39 degrees 30 minutes south. The south part of the main or South Cape bearing north-west by north distant 20 miles and the longitude 147 degrees 18 minutes from a good lunar observation taken on the 8th instant. All round the western side and even thus far south of the cape there are soundings of fifty fathoms, 45 and 40 white sand and shells. I called that space between Cape Liptrap and the South Cape, King George’s Sound.”

I have no doubt but that there is good anchorage in the bight to the northward of South Cape on the western side of which Cape Liptrap makes the northern head. The land here is high and the mountains covered with wood. Cape Liptrap is low and flat as is the land in this Bight where I suppose there is shelter. There is an island bearing from the western part of the South Cape–south, a little easterly, 12 miles from the shore. It is round and inaccessible on all sides. The above mentioned island I called Rodondo from its resemblance to that rock well-known to all seamen in the West Indies. A set of breakers to the southward and eastward of that rock, on which, though calm, the sea breaks much, bears from us north-north-west 1/2 west distant 6 miles.

To the eastward there are five islands, the largest of which from its resemblance to the Lion’s Mount at the Cape of Good Hope I called Sir Roger Curtis’s Island, who then commanded on that Station. It is high and inaccessible on the north-west side and covered with small bushes at the top. Two other islands like haycocks, only higher and more perpendicular, standing a considerable distance from each other, the largest of which bore us south-east 1/4 south distant 16 or 17 miles and the other south-east by east about 10 miles. The latter is nearly shut in with the south-east end of Sir Roger Curtis’s Island. The fourth is a rock standing a considerable height out of the water nearly in a position between the two haycocks or rather sugarloaf-like islands bearing from south-east 1/4 south. The fifth is a high perpendicular barren cliff which, as we get almost abreast, looked like two islands joined together at the bottom, rising to a sharp edge ragged at the top and resembling a large tower or castle. This island I named The Devil’s Tower. An island inshore was observed, it bore west-north-west distant 10 miles: I called it Moncur’s Island in compliment to Captain Moncur of the Royal Navy, and another was visible bearing north by east 16 or 17 miles.

Land, apparently an island to the southward and eastward we can just see from the masthead. It may be necessary to observe that these bearings were taken at noon, and as it was then a stark calm the vessel was nearly stationary. By a good observation the latitude was 39 degrees 30 minutes, longitude 147 degrees 18 minutes east, calculated from lunar observation 2 days before. But I take it to be correctly 147 degrees east from my making the Ramhead according to the best charts, therefore the bearings are laid down in my chart from 147 degrees east.

“Wilson’s Promontory was so named by Mr. George Bass of H.M.S. Reliance who was the first navigator that ascertained the real existence of a strait separating Van Dieman’s Land from New Holland in his voyage in a whale boat from Sydney to Western Port.* (* “Mr. Bass places Wilson’s Promontory in 38 degrees 56 minutes south, Lieutenant Grant in 39 degrees 17 minutes, and Mr. Black in 39 degrees 8 minutes. As Mr. Bass’s latitude is by computation from the whale boat, I think a preference may be given to Lieutenant Grant’s position, as he had the advantage of a good sextant.” P.G.K.) Having made it I set off in one of my boats early in the morning of the 10th* (* Grant now abandons the plan previously used of heading each entry in the diary with the date of the day on which it was written, and includes the dates of the various events in the text of his narrative.) to endeavour to land on one of the islands lying off it; but after a long pull found the one I judged from its sloping aspect to be the easiest for that purpose, a solid rock for a considerable height with surf too powerful for such a small boat as mine. After several fruitless attempts I was obliged to abandon the idea, contenting myself with taking a view of it–and those contiguous. One of them was an immense rock; on one side perfectly round, with a large hole in the other in the form of an arch with a breastwork rising high enough above the level of the sea to preclude the water from getting into it; the hollow appeared as scooped out by art instead of nature. I gave it the name of the Hole in the Wall and to the range of islands stretching along the main–the name of Glennie’s Islands after Mr. George Glennie, a particular friend of Captain Schanck’s to whom I was under personal obligations. On the summit of all these islands there was a thick brush growing, whereas the land off Cape Liptrap already mentioned exhibited a fine level country. The day being far spent in this survey I deemed it best to get on board as the vessel was just visible with her head towards us and becalmed. On the 12th we had fresh gales and cloudy weather, the shore we were running along was low and covered with thick brush training in a north-east direction which Messieurs Flinders and Bass have given very accurate descriptions of.”

Of his coming to Sydney, Grant writes, “Governor King had taken the precaution of leaving a letter for me at the Cape, describing the particular marks for knowing the entrance of the Port, which no doubt saved us much trouble. They consisted of a flagstaff erected on the South Head or left hand side of the entrance, and when vessels are seen the flag is hoisted. This land being high may be seen at a considerable distance on a clear day. In the afternoon of the 16th saw the flagstaff as described by Governor King. At six in the evening we entered between the Heads of Port Jackson. We found much swell in going in but were soon in smooth water and an excellent harbour, perhaps one of the finest in the known world. As the wind was from the south and contrary to getting into Sydney Cove we were obliged to beat up to it, and at half-past seven in the evening (on Tuesday December 16th) we let go our anchors in 8 fathoms water after a voyage of 71 days from the Cape of Good Hope, and with the satisfaction of being the first vessel that ever pursued the same track across that vast ocean, as we have no traces of its being done particularly from the Island of Amsterdam, namely; between the degrees of latitude 38 and 39 1/2 degrees south until the Lady Nelson made the coast of New Holland in latitude 38 degrees and steering to the eastward along a tract of land nearly four degrees to the westward of any seen by Messieurs Flinders and Bass.”

Following the example of many a first discoverer, he ends the account of his voyage with an expression of thankfulness to God for the protection shown him “during the whole passage.”

The Lady Nelson’s arrival at Sydney gave great satisfaction to the colony, and Colonel Collins remarks that a few such vessels were much needed there in order to obtain a necessary knowledge of the coast. Governor King naturally was most interested in Grant’s description of his passage through Bass Strait, and the news that the Lady Nelson had passed deep indentations with beautifully wooded shores and rocky islands lying off them pleased everybody. But King did not conceal his disappointment that her commander had been unable to land anywhere or to penetrate the deep bay called Governor King’s Bay. The Admiralty had instructed the Governor to have the whole of the south coast properly charted, and he determined that Grant should return in the Lady Nelson and thoroughly survey it. King also made an eye-sketch of the land, for he saw that Grant’s chart was imperfect. For that reason he sent Ensign Barrallier, of the New South Wales Corps, who was a competent surveyor, in the brig, and it is, chiefly, to Barrallier we are indebted for our earliest and most authentic charts of the places which the Lady Nelson visited in the second voyage.

Grant, however, had to contend with many difficulties in both voyages. First and foremost he had to face the risk and dangers of an entirely new coast, and this without a companion ship. King was aware of this for he wrote to Banks: “It is my intention to despatch the Lady Nelson to complete the orders she first sailed with. I also hope to spare a vessel to go with her which will make up for a very great defect which is the utter impossibility of her ever being able to beat off a lee shore.” It is, therefore, well to remember that although Grant did not enter Port Phillip he was the first to see the indentation in the coast within which Port Phillip lay hidden.

Grant had been instructed by the Admiralty to join H.M.S. Supply at Sydney. On his arrival he found this ship laid up as a hulk and unfit for sea. He says that he felt completely adrift until Governor King invited him to continue in his position as commander of the Lady Nelson but, in the colonial service and on less pay. As there was no one in the colony then fitted for the post, and as he did not wish the service to suffer from delay, he accepted the offer. Matters being thus arranged he was re-appointed to the Lady Nelson, his new commission dating from January 1st, 1801.

On January 11th Captain Black, from the Cape, arrived in Sydney in the Harbinger, having followed the Lady Nelson through Bass Strait. On his way through the strait Black met with an island which he named King Island in honour of the Governor. Mr. Reid, of the Martha, however, had first discovered it in 1799.

The Margaret, Captain Buyers, from England, was the third vessel to sail through Bass Strait, arriving in Sydney on February 7th, 1801. Buyers fell in with the Australian coast about Cape Bridgewater eastward of where the Lady Nelson had made it and westward of the point reached by the Harbinger.

Governor King allowed Grant the use of Garden Island in Sydney Harbour for the purpose of raising vegetables for his crew, an article of diet of importance to them; and here in “the shell of a tolerable house” was installed Dr. Brandt, who, with his dog and baboon, had joined the Lady Nelson at the Cape of Good Hope.

The chart (Illustration 2.) is a copy of one published in the narrative of Grant’s voyage, and his autograph has been reproduced from a logbook at the Record Office. [Jas Grant autograph facsimile.]



Governor King, in addition to ordering Grant to return and survey the deep bay which he had passed in Bass Strait between Cape Sir William Grant and Wilson’s Promontory, instructed him to ascertain the correct latitude of the promontory and of the islands lying off it. He was also told to survey King Island, then to sail to King George’s Sound and, in returning to Wilson’s Promontory, to make a general survey of the whole of the south coast, going to the head of every inlet as far as possible. Dr. Bass, when discovering Bass Strait, had rounded the promontory and entered a harbour which, as Grant has told us, he named from its relative situation–Western Port. In his journal Grant says that it was reserved for the Lady Nelson to ascertain accurately the extent of Bass Strait, but he did not carry out the whole of King’s instructions on this second voyage although his examinations of Jervis Bay and of Western Port proved of great value and added much to the knowledge of both harbours.

Besides Ensign Barrallier, Mr. Caley, botanist, four soldiers of the New South Wales Corps and two natives (Euranabie and his wife Worogan) went with the expedition, and Mr. John Murray joined the ship as first mate* (* Formerly Master’s Mate on board H.M.S. Porpoise.). The Bee, of 15 tons, formerly a ship’s launch, was also fitted out to accompany her.

The two ships left Port Jackson on March 8th, Lieutenant Grant particularly wishing to make the examination of Jervis Bay* (* Jervis Bay, named in honour of John Jervis, Lord St. Vincent, was discovered by Lieutenant Richard Bowen in 1791.) on his way southwards in order “to secure a harbour” if obliged to run out of Bass Strait. The Bee, however, did not stay long with the Lady Nelson. On the morning of the 9th the Master hove to and informed Grant that he had shipped much water and that the sea was too heavy for him. Before sending the vessel back to Port Jackson Grant wrote a letter to the Governor at Sydney stating the reason of her return. He placed the letter between two flat pieces of lead, and running close to the Bee threw it on board. The Lady Nelson then continued her voyage, and at 4 P.M. on the 10th sighted the north head of Jervis Bay bearing west-south-west 8 or 9 miles distant. At seven o’clock on the following morning the first mate was sent in the boat to look for an anchorage, and returned at nine with one of the natives, bringing the information that there was good holding ground in the southernmost cove between an island and the main. At half-past ten the Lady Nelson anchored in this cove in four fathoms water, fine sandy bottom, having run over a shallow some four cables’ length which was easily distinguished by the colour of the water. The native who came on board was a middle-aged man, stout and muscular, who showed no symptoms of fear. It was evident that he had seen white men before and he often repeated the words “blanket” and “woman.”

Grant tells us that he was much surprised at several articles on board particularly the compasses in the binnacle. “On my conducting him down into the cabin and placing him before a looking-glass he expressed wonder by innumerable gestures, attitudes and grimaces. He narrowly examined it to see if any one was behind it; and he did not seem satisfied till I unscrewed it from the place it was fastened to. The sound of a small bugle horn had a very great effect on him, and he endeavoured, by applying it to his own mouth, to make it sound, but without effect…This stranger whom I had placed near the natives of Sydney, sat by them, without saying a word, for about half an hour, soon after the expiration of which time, great familiarity took place betwixt them. It appeared evident to me that…the stranger’s attention was directed to the woman, though like the rest of her countrywomen, she was, according to our notions, far from being possessed of any beauty: however, not only this man, but many other natives who visited us at this place, thought her very handsome; nor was I surprised at this when I saw some of the females here…It appeared as if they did not readily understand each other…

“Before we got to an anchor several canoes came round us, in one of which was an old man whose hair had become perfectly white with age, which, joined to his long white beard, made him a very interesting figure. The natives appeared to pay the old man great respect and obedience of which I saw more afterwards…I admitted some of the natives on board but the old man could not be prevailed on to be of the party. They all testified much surprise at what they saw.”

The natives of Jervis Bay seemed to be stronger and more athletic than those at Sydney, and in the management of their canoes–they differed from any Grant had ever seen, “particularly in paddling, sometimes making use of an oval piece of bark, and at others, of their hands, sending the canoe along very swiftly by either means. When paddling with the hand they were apt to throw more or less water into the canoe, which, with a small calabash, they dexterously threw out by a backward motion of the other hand without turning their heads.” At one end of their canoes he observed two or three wooden pins which he thought were designed to steady their fish-gigs or to receive the heads of their spears.

He tells how the sailors clipped their beards: “From observing the smoothness of our chins, they all expressed a desire to have theirs the same, which some of my people instantly set about, clipping them close with scissors. Not seeing any of these people painted, I was desirous of knowing if they were addicted to it. I accordingly got some red paint which as soon as one of them saw, he immediately made signs for me to rub his nose with it. About our settlements they are often seen with their noses painted with a red gum. They likewise form a circle nearly round their eyes with a whitish clay. The latter, it is said, is by way of mourning for the death of a friend…The women also paint their noses red, and their breasts with a streak of red and white alternately. Having occasion to leave the deck for a while, one of my young men (who had contrived to get hold of some of the vessel’s paint pots) very deliberately painted the man (whose nose I had rubbed with red paint) with different colours from head to foot while he grinned his approbation at his own motley appearance. His comrades seemed to enjoy it as much as he did and they quitted the vessel in great glee.”

“The Lady Nelson lay abreast of a fine sandy beach suitable for hauling the seine, and the commander’s party, which included Mr. Barrallier and the Sydney native, went on shore. A number of blacks immediately surrounded Euranabie and began to converse with him, using many words that seemed to resemble the Sydney dialect, such as ‘Bail,’ which Grant says signified ‘No,’ and ‘Maun’ to take off or carry away. These natives, when the seine was hauled, showed their delight by gathering round and giving their assistance unsolicited. A few large whiting were caught, and except three that were kept back for the white party, were distributed among them.

“Shortly afterwards, other natives arrived who also wished to have some fish, so the nets were cast a second time, and the whole of the catch was handed to them without division.”

Their number was so considerable that it was believed that many more were concealed in the bushes…They were all perfectly naked except one young fellow who had a bunch of grass fastened round his waist which came up behind like the tail of a kangaroo. He was very merry, and from his gestures, possessed a keen sense of humour. “He would throw himself into a thousand antic shapes, and afforded no small entertainment.”

“Having sent the boat on board with the seine,” continues Grant, “I was anxious to get some kangaroos which, from the appearance of the shore, I made no doubt were to be found in plenty. I made signs to the natives for that purpose, and one of them offered his services. We walked towards the end of the beach we were then on, and entered the woods. We saw several parrots and smaller birds of beautiful plumage. Mr. Barrallier fired at one of the latter, which so frightened our guide that he took to his heels and ran back to his companions.”

In this excursion the explorers were impressed by the silent grandeur of the forest trees: there was no underwood, but there was excellent grass, from which sprang coveys of quail, or partridges of New Holland.

The trees in general were the tall she-oak so common in the neighbourhood of Sydney.* (* Casuarina suberosa, commonly known as Beefwood.) Grant returned to the beach and went on board to dinner. In the afternoon he again made a party for the shore, consisting of Mr. Barrallier, Mr. Caley, botanist, and two soldiers. They entered the woods at the same place as before, intending to make a circuit back to the boat. Again, beautiful birds were seen, among them, some cockatoos which were perfectly black “excepting the breast and a few feathers on the wing which were yellow.” They were so shy that no one could get near them. Other birds were killed–whose flesh, when cooked, was very palatable; that of the parrot resembled our pigeon in taste–“possibly because they feed on seeds of wild plants.”

According to Grant, “no country in the world abounds with a greater variety of insects. We saw numbers buzzing about the trees…Having pursued our walk inland we fell in with a swampy land in a valley with much brush wood; a rivulet of excellent fresh water ran briskly through it, emptying itself in the sea near to where I had ordered our boat to haul the seine. We found the track of the natives and fell in with several of their gunnies or habitations. These are constructed with a few boughs stuck up to screen them from the wind; bones of beasts, birds and fish were lying about them. On the return to the boat, Mr. Barrallier shot a large hawk. Our fishing-party had caught some fish, and would have been very successful, but two sharks got into the seine and tore it in several places: they were both brought on shore, one measuring seven feet in length. The liver I ordered to be carried on board, to be boiled for the oil and used in our lamp.

“On the 11th of March, the wind still hanging to the south, I took some hands on shore to cut a boatload of wood and fill our water casks…Messieurs Barrallier and Caley, with two soldiers, accompanied me on another excursion. We took another direction inland…but saw no kangaroos. We met with two small lagoons and several streams of good water running through the thickest part of the woods. In this excursion we saw the Laughing Bird so called from the noise it makes resembling laughter.* (* The Giant Kingfisher or Kookaburra.)

“On our return to the boat we fell in with a spot of ground which appeared to have been selected by the natives for the purposes of festivity. It was a small eminence having no habitation near. We counted the marks of fifteen different fires that had been employed in cooking fish and other eatables, the bones of which were strewed about. Among them we picked up part of a human skull–the os frontis with the sockets of the eyes and part of the bones of the nose still attached to it. A little distance from where we found this we discovered a part of the upper jaw with one of the molars or back teeth in it, also one of the vertebrae of the back having marks of fire which the others had not.

“The grass was much trodden down, and many of the bones of the animals eaten appeared fresh…I brought off the human bones and on getting on board showed them to Euranabie. Finding two of the natives from the shore in the vessel, I desired him to ask them whether these bones belonged to a white man or not, and if they had killed and eaten him. I was anxious to have this cleared up, as the ship Sydney Cove from India to Port Jackson had been wrecked about twelve months before to the southward and it was reported that some of the crew were killed by the natives near this place.”* (* The Sydney Cove from Bengal to New South Wales was wrecked on Preservation Island, Tasmania, on 8th February, 1797. Her long-boat was equipped and despatched on 27th February to Sydney, but the boat filled and went to pieces at a spot called Ninety Mile beach. Out of the crew of seventeen, who started to walk to Port Jackson, only three lived to reach their destination–some dying of fatigue and hunger, the others were murdered by the natives.)

Euranabie, who spoke English, made inquiries, and a soldier who understood the Sydney dialect, also endeavoured to extract the truth regarding the bones, from the two black fellows, who said that they were those of a white man that had come in a canoe from the southward where the ship “tumble down,” meaning that it had been wrecked. Lieutenant Grant also questioned Worogan, and was informed that “the bush natives (who appeared to be a different tribe of people from those that lived by the seaside) did eat human flesh.”

He now prepared to leave the port. “On the 12th, we got into a clean berth for getting under weigh, but in the morning the wind being variable and light we were prevented sailing. I went on shore with Mr. Barrallier to make a survey of the cove we were lying in. When preparing to return to the vessel we were joined by several natives who appeared anxious to go on board with us. Two of these were strangers who signified that they had come a long way to see us and that they were very hungry. They were both young, stout men with longer hair than the natives generally.

“In the afternoon…it was needless to attempt sailing till the wind abated. I therefore proposed to survey…the western side of the island which lies in the mouth of the harbour and shelters the cove from easterly winds. This island I named Ann’s Island, in compliment to Mrs. King, the wife of the Governor.

“In putting the surveying instruments into the boat the chain was found missing; we were of opinion it had been left on shore by the soldiers who carried it in measuring the distances. A boat with one of them was sent on shore. After a fruitless search they were returning when a canoe put off from the island with a man in it who held up the chain in his hand. The boat’s crew brought him on board to me. On looking at the chain it was made up in the usual way…and tied with a piece of string; but in undoing it I found that the natives had untwisted every bend of the wires which contained the brass markers and after taking them off bent the wires back into their original form, with this difference, that they placed the end which is carried in the hand in the middle. This was the first instance I had experienced of their pilfering anything and I did not chuse to proceed to extremities. I gave the native a blanket and some biscuits and the mate gave him an old hat.

“We got into the boat to prosecute the intention of surveying the island…the native with us, towing his canoe astern. On landing we were joined by a great number of natives who seemed glad that the man had been rewarded for carrying back the chain. The blanket attracted their notice much, the use of which they appeared to know. The old man whom I formerly mentioned was among them; he made signs for me to sit down at a distance from the rest and by pointing to his white beard signified a wish to have it cut off, which I immediately did with a pair of scissors, and he expressed much satisfaction at being rid of it.”

Observing some of their women in the distance and wishing to see what they were like, signs were made to the old man to ask them to come nearer. He called to them, whereupon they seated themselves close to the visitors. They seemed nervous as the white men approached them, but when the old chief spoke to them sat down again composedly. One of them had fastened to the neck of her child a brass marker which had been taken from the stolen chain. Grant says: “They examined my buttons and the head of my dirk and seemed much surprised at my watch chain which I began to think they had an inclination for, but I was soon relieved on pulling out my watch. They did not seem to like it and talked very gravely among themselves; they were all anxious to listen to the noise of the watch, yet they would pull their ear from it and look at the watch with symptoms of fear…and then return to it again. I attempted to point out the use of it and pointed to the sun, but I am led to think that they believed it to be something we worshipped. The old man particularly pointed to the sun and appeared anxious to know more of it.”

A boy about twelve years of age who was a little deformed, carried a sharp pointed stick in his hand which was the only weapon of defence seen but it was soon perceived that they had weapons not far distant. The Lady Nelson’s commander by signs told the chief that he wanted fresh water. “The old native readily understood and getting up made me follow him to the side of a hill where some water had settled, but it not appearing to be from a spring, I expressed my desire to be taken to a rivulet. A native stept forward, as I supposed, to show me, but on my following him he turned back and left us. Thinking from the direction we were in that water was not far distant I took one of my men with me to whom I gave my fowling-piece to carry…We saw another native a little way before us to whom I signified what I wanted.” As Grant approached, this native, by a sudden jerk of the foot, raised and caught up in his hand a spear; the weapon rose within six inches of the Lieutenant’s face and caused him to turn and grasp his gun from his attendant. The native, however, merely put the spear on his shoulder and walking leisurely towards a cliff stood looking at the sea. It was not supposed anything hostile was meant but the action showed that the natives had weapons concealed.

“At 5 A.M. of the 13th, we weighed anchor with light variable airs and got clear out of the cove by ten, when we found a moderate breeze from north-east, and we made all possible sail to the southward.”

Grant then gives his opinion of Jervis Bay, a place destined to be much more important in the future of the continent, as it will serve as port to Canberra, the seat of the Australian Government. “It is worthy of remark that Jarvis’s Bay* (* i.e. Jervis Bay.) or sound is large, commodious and easy of access, affording shelter from all winds and having room for upwards of 200 sail of ships with plenty of wood and water. When this bay comes to be more known, it will be found eligible for vessels bound to Port Jackson after a long passage from England…and will be the means of saving many lives.”

From Jervis Bay the Lady Nelson continued her voyage southwards and, on the 19th of March, off Point Hicks, she met with a strange sail which proved to be the ship Britannia, Captain Turnbull, from England, bound for the whale fishery. She was going to Sydney to refit, and thus gave Grant an opportunity to send a letter to Governor King. He wrote as follows:


“18th March, 1801.

“SIR,–Seeing a vessel to windward, and judging you would wish to hear of us…I sit down to write you a few lines before she joins us, as I suppose she is bound to Sydney, and from her situation, I presume she is one more who has come through the Straits. The Bee, no doubt, has arrived long ere now. I, on the Tuesday morning after she parted, got safely into Jarvis’s Bay, and sailed early on Friday with the wind at the north-east which only lasted 30 hours so that we have been nearly 5 days beating in sight of Cape Howe and could not weather it, the wind being now south but moderate.

“During our stay in Jarvis’s Bay we were by no means idle, which you will be convinced of, I hope, when we arrive. The weather I have had these 5 days convinces me that the Bee would have been a very great retard to us…for the sea here, when it blows hard (owing, I presume, to the current setting strong against the wind) makes it run confused and break much…Mr. Barrallier has got nearly well of his seasickness and we have had the azimuth compass to work, which he now understands thoroughly. Murray is well, and all my people are comfortable and happy.–I am etc. JAS. GRANT.”

On their parting, the Britannia steered to Sydney, while the Lady Nelson stood to the southward, meeting with a southerly wind and being so retarded that it was 8 A.M. on the 21st before Wilson’s Promontory was sighted. When close to the rock which he had named Rodondo, Grant observed the latitude to be south 39 degrees 4 minutes.* (* The latitude of Wilson’s Promontory is 39 degrees 7 minutes 55 seconds and the longitude 146 degrees 25 minutes east. In the log, Lieutenant Grant gives the former as 38 degrees 59 minutes and longitude 146 degrees 6 minutes east.) From Wilson’s Promontory, the land sloped to the north-north-west as far as eye could reach, becoming low and level towards Cape Liptrap and from Glennie’s Islands. The Lady Nelson now followed the coast towards Western Port. On the way her commander named a point Cape Paterson in honour of Colonel Paterson of the New South Wales Corps.

He thus describes the manner of his coming to Western Port: “At 4 P.M. of the 21st we had sight of the island which forms the south head of Western Port having the likeness of a snapper’s head or horseman’s helmet. By eight we were up with it. On opening the entrance of the port I found two small islands situated about three quarters of a mile from the South Head with apparently a good passage between them and the island forming the harbour. From its likeness, as above mentioned, to a snapper’s head, I named it Snapper Island.* (* The Phillip Island of Bass which even at that time was called Phillip Island, a name it is still known by. Its eastern extremity resembled the head of a snapper and was known as Snapper Head. Bass himself had, in discovering the Strait, noticed the resemblance.) It falls in a high clay bluff down to the water’s edge. The small islands lying off it were covered with seals, numbers of which, on our approach, precipitated themselves into the sea, covering the passage, while others remained on the rocks making a very disagreeable noise, something like the grunting of pigs. They were of a large size, many of them being nearly equal to a bullock. I judged them to be of that species of seal called by fishermen sea elephants, accordingly I named these islands, Seal Islands. I sent a boat ahead to sound…and found between the Seal Islands and the South Head, 12, 9, 6, 5 and 3 1/2 fathoms of water which last was shoaled in mid channel. This passage will shorten the distance when there is a leading wind but standing round to the westward of Seal Islands there will be found sufficient room for any number of vessels to beat in. Mr. Bass, when he visited this place in the whale boat, entered the port by the eastern passage which is much the smallest, and coasting the western shore, from whence he made his remarks. It is probable that these islands, lying so close to the western side of him, did not show themselves to be detached…It had rained constantly and heavily all night and…we could not see any great distance from the vessel therefore I kept the lead going as she worked up the harbour.”

At half-past five she was “brought to” opposite to a sandy point which he named Lady Nelson’s Point “as a memorial of the vessel as she was the first decked one that ever entered this port…Mr. Barrallier went on shore with the second mate. They saw black swans and redbills, an aquatic bird so called whose back is black, breast white, beak red and feet not fully webbed. On Sunday 22nd or, according to our sea account the 23rd at noon, I went with two of our crew in the smallest boat to search for a river or stream described by Mr. Bass.”

In proceeding along the shore Grant passed a muddy flat, and fell in with an island* (* The log says this island bore north-north-west, 2 miles.) “separated from the main by a very narrow channel at low water.”…On this he landed. “The situation of it was so pleasant that this together with the richness of the spot made me conceive the idea that it was excellently adapted for a garden.” The island was called Churchill’s Island after John Churchill, Esquire, of Dawlish, in the county of Devon, who, when the Lady Nelson left England, had given her commander vegetable seeds, the stones of peaches, and the pips of several sorts of apples, telling him “to plant them for the future benefit of our fellow-men, be they countrymen, Europeans or savages.” Captain Schanck had also supplied him with seeds. A very rare apple, having seldom more than one pip in each fruit, was named by Grant “Lady Elizabeth Percy’s Apple,” because, “it was owing to her Ladyship’s care and attention in preparing the pepins that I was enabled to introduce it.”

On this day several good observations were obtained. Grant placed Western Port in latitude 38 degrees 32 minutes south and (by chronometer) in 146 degrees 19 minutes east of Greenwich. He did not, however, discover the stream for which he was looking. On the following morning the second mate (Mr. Bowen) tried to find the stream but was also unsuccessful. During his absence the Commander explored the banks of a creek “which opened abreast of the vessel” and Barrallier and Murray surveyed the harbour while Caley searched for new plants wandering as far as Snapper Island. Barrallier and Grant also made collections but Governor King afterwards wrote that “Caley received everything they found–and refused to give up or part with a duplicate.”

Wet weather set in until the 25th. The day following, search was again made for fresh water, and Grant went up the creek which was found to terminate in a salt marsh. The trees on the bank were not large but the underwood was thick. He penetrated inland for some distance and saw spots “as if cleared by manual labour…covered with good tender grass,” a delightful sight to him. The open land had the appearance of being frequently overflowed and he thought it was well adapted for the purpose of fattening cattle; numbers of black swans and other water-fowl were seen in the creek, the length of which was about two miles and a half, its waters, which were salt, ended in a small run some 12 feet in breadth. It was Bowen, the second mate, who at length found the fresh-water stream originally discovered by Bass, and on the same day he captured a couple of cygnets one of which was presented to the Governor at Sydney.

On 27th March, Murray accompanied by Barrallier and Caley set out to explore the stream. They went up its windings as far as possible passing no less than 42 short reaches. Its breadth at the entrance was about half a cable’s length and at the farthest part reached by the boat not more than 18 or 20 feet, the passage being there impeded by trees lying across it.

While his party were exploring, the commander with Euranabie made excursions along the shore to the mouth of the harbour. “The beach was covered with shells, many of them beautiful and some of them entirely new to me. I observed another creek not so large as the former which I have described but having its entrance quite filled up…so that the sea could not enter it…the land in general was above the level of the sea and the soil was in some places light and black, in others a red clay. We fell in with a rocky point about which I observed playing in the water a number of fishes called salmon in New Holland. I expressed a desire to the native of having some…and no sooner expressed my wish than I missed my companion from behind me. I halloed…upon which he instantly presented himself from the wood with a small stick in his hand. Asking for my knife he presently sharpened one end to a point and then, stripping himself, he leaped from one point of the rock to another until he met with an opportunity of striking a fish which he did, the stick penetrating right through it. I could not but admire the keenness of his sight and his ability to preserve the steadiness of his position, standing as he did on the rough edge of a sharp rock, the sea washing above his knees, his eyes intent on the fish, very difficult to strike from the smallness of its size, presented to him in a narrow back. Though I pressed him to take the fish several times he constantly refused it but accepted some tobacco.”

Next day Grant went on shore at Churchill’s Island with a party to clear a space for a garden. Some twenty rods were burnt after the larger trees had been felled. The soil on the island was found to be rich and loose and easy to dig. On the 29th Murray was sent to ascertain particulars “respecting the entrance of the port and with regard to Seal Islands” on which he was instructed to land. Barrallier accompanied him. Soon after their departure bad weather set in which prevented their landing. They eventually anchored off a sandy beach which appeared to have no surf, but were suddenly surprised by a heavy swelling sea that rolled upon it, followed by another which filled the boat, upsetting it upon the beach. Fortunately no lives were lost though all “were immersed in the water from which the native Euranabie…first escaped to shore.” The provisions, however, and the ammunition were lost or spoiled. At turn of tide they launched the boat and returned on board. A black swan and four ducks, which they had shot on their way out, afforded a savoury meal for those in the ship.

On the 31st the commander went up the freshwater river with Mr. Barrallier.* (* This river had already been seen by Mr. Bowen.) At night they encamped on its banks when there came on an exceeding heavy storm of rain with thunder and lightning and high wind. They traced a branch of the river on the right as far as their boat could go and then followed its course on shore along the bank and found it was fed by the greater river only. This carried them inland and they discovered marks of fires made by the natives. The log book records that they met none of the blacks at any place though there were native dog tracks in abundance. “Towards the end of this branching stream the country appeared to afford plots of very rich pasture. At some considerable distance the land rose to a height, and being covered with large trees which appeared to have been shattered by storms had for this reason obtained the name of Mount Rugged. We marched pretty far inland and found the country everywhere free from inundations and exhibiting a very picturesque appearance. The day was remarkably fine but in the woods the air was close and disagreeably sultry. My people had killed a small black snake…the same kind…is common about Sydney. We pursued our course up the river and Mr. Barrallier completed his survey.”

The water in the river was found to be good and perfectly sweet, and the casks were filled. Among the birds seen was a bell-bird which has “no remarkable plumage but a note not unlike the tinkling of a bell, so that when a number of these birds are collected together the noise they make is similar to that made by the bells of a team of horses.” The laughing-bird (whose note can only be compared to the ha! ha! ha! of a hearty laughing companion) was the first to salute the explorers in the morning. The whistling duck, so called because of the whistling noise made with its wings when flying, was shot here, and a grey parrot was caught alive. Mr. Barrallier shot a rare cockatoo.* (* It was stuffed and afterwards given to General Davies, R.A., by Governor King.) The wet weather afterwards gave little chance of meeting with birds, and the explorers made their way through the woods until they reached an extensive level country. This plain extended out of their sight on the one side and on the other was bounded by hills. Paths beaten down by kangaroos crossed and recrossed it. The face of the country was almost everywhere level and productive, free from swamp and secured from inundation.

Grant thus describes the journey back to the ship: “We returned to the river-side and ordered the boat to drop lower down a few miles through a forest of stately timber trees. I had a few of them cut down and brought on board…I brought Governor King specimens of light woods and a species of sassafras discovered by my second mate…On our way down the river we stopped at the place where we had passed the preceding night and found our fire still burning. To this spot we gave the name of The Halfway House, being halfway up the river.”

The commander now revisited Churchill’s Island: “I found my people had cleared the spot I had laid out for a garden, and that there was nothing wanting but to prepare the ground to receive such seeds as I should choose to plant…It was no easy matter…for we had neither hoe nor spade with us…however, we were in possession of a coal shovel which, though it was thin and much worn, served the purpose.

“My men, who slept on the ground they had cleared…in a hut built for the occasion, informed me that one of their comrades was awakened out of his sleep by some animal that seemed to be gnawing his hair. He supposed it to be the bandicoot rat. I sent on board for a dog which we had brought with us from Sydney. This dog remained with the people on the island, and, as they reported to me, was one night engaged with some animal apparently of equal strength, for it brought him to the ground and made him howl…The ground was now prepared and I sowed my several sorts of seeds, wheat, Indian corn, and peas, some grains of rice and some coffee berries; and I did not forget to plant potatoes. With the trunks of the trees I felled I raised a block house of 24 feet by 12 which will probably remain some years, the supporters being well fixed in the earth.”

Full of enthusiasm regarding his visit in general, Grant is more so about Churchill’s Island: “I scarcely know a place I should sooner call mine than this little island.” And he also tells how he planted the stones of fruit trees round the hut which his men had built there. Of the traces of iron seen, he adds: “We turned up a few stones and some interspersed with veins of iron ore, indeed so rich in metal that they had a visible effect on the needle of our compass; stones of a like kind are found about Sydney.” In the pages of his journal and also of his log he describes very minutely the manner in which European seeds were first sown in the soil of the British colony of Victoria. That they were successfully planted we learn from a subsequent page in Murray’s log when he, in command of the Lady Nelson, visited the same spot.

To return to the narrative. “On the 12th* (* In the narrative, through a printer’s error, this date appears as 21st.) of April Mr. Bowen, while seeking for water in the ship’s launch, discovered near the mouth of the freshwater river part of a canoe which had sunk near the mouth. He brought it back to the ship together with two paddles and some fishing line.” The canoe differed greatly from those made by the natives of Port Jackson, being framed out of timber, and instead of being tied together at the ends “was left open, the space being afterwards filled with grass worked up with strong clay.”

At the termination of the voyage, it was handed over, along with the other specimens collected, to Governor King.

The Lady Nelson now changed her berth and moored close by the opposite shore, “in order to be near a small island lying in the opening of the extensive arms described by Mr. Bass of which this port has two branching out to the northward.” Grant named this island Margaret Island in honour of Mrs. Schanck who had given him several articles which proved useful on board the Lady Nelson.

The tide ebbing very fast, the brig was soon in shoal water, but the bottom being a soft mud and the weather calm there was no danger to be apprehended, yet, says Grant: “As I am no friend to vessels being on the ground by carrying out a hawser I soon hauled her off and brought yet her nearer to Margaret’s Island. We found this island to be in general flat, but well covered with wood. Here we deposited some seeds but did not find the soil equally rich with that of Churchill’s Island.” Having lost some of their drinking water, the Commander writes: “Luckily I heard the bullfrog, which is common in New South Wales, and I made towards the thicket from whence his croaking issued and there found a present supply. This arm reminded me of the appearance of Porchester Lake when the tide is out. Indeed the entire view of Western Port has no small resemblance to Spithead and Portsmouth Harbour. On the 17th we got under weigh and at night brought up in 12 fathoms water with rather a foul bottom. In the morning we discovered a sand shoal whereon the waves were breaking very heavily close to us…We shifted our berth and brought up in a small nook or bay which I named Elizabeth Cove in honour of Miss Elizabeth King, daughter of Governor King, then at Sydney.” The greater part of Grant’s survey of Western Port was completed by April 22nd, but the Lady Nelson was detained there by bad weather until the 29th, when, at break of day, she weighed and stood out of the port, passing to the westward of Seal Islands.

Grant then proceeded to make a survey of the coast from Western Port eastward as far as Wilson’s Promontory, which he says he carried out for a distance of seventy miles, but winter being now advanced little more could be done in the way of surveying, and as the wet weather was prejudicial to the instruments, he resolved to make the best of his way to Sydney; bad weather caused the ship to put into Botany Bay, but she eventually arrived on May 14th, 1801.

On his return to Sydney Grant refers to the good health of those on board: “I had not from the time of my departure a sick man among my ship’s company, one man only excepted, whose skull had been fractured.” He also tells us that while in Botany Bay he had the satisfaction of receiving a letter from Governor King, in which he expressed himself well pleased with what had been done.

We know that the Governor was keenly disappointed that Grant had failed for the second time to explore Governor King’s Bay and to fulfil other duties which had been expected of him. The voyage, however, must have had its compensations, as Barrallier was able not only to survey Jervis Bay and Western Port (the map of the former is not at the Admiralty), but also to obtain much of the information contained in the combined chart of his “discoveries made in Bass Strait up to March 1802,” reproduced above.



During the month of May the Lady Nelson became more closely associated with the town of Sydney, with whose fortunes her own were ever afterwards identified.* (* The Lady Nelson was borne as a contingent expense of the colony from the time of her arrival at Sydney until the 16th October, 1802, then as tender to H.M.S. Buffalo by order of the Admiralty. See Historical Records of New South Wales volume 4 page 901.) From Sydney she set forth on her many voyages of exploration, and to Sydney she returned. In many an old print she is depicted lying at anchor there almost alone–a small ship in a great harbour–with the Union Jack flying at her stern, and in the small Sydney newspapers of those early times her comings and goings are recorded, and her discoveries related with the keenest interest.

By the Governor’s command May 28th, 1801, being the King’s birthday, was observed as a holiday. It was a memorable occasion, for on that day the Royal Proclamation announcing the Union between Great Britain and Ireland was read in public by the Provost Marshal. At sunrise the old Union Jack was hoisted as usual, but at a quarter to nine it was hauled down and the new Union run up at Dawes Battery and on board the Lady Nelson to the accompaniment of salutes from the battery and from the brig.

Shortly afterwards Grant received orders to take Colonel Paterson, the Lieutenant-Governor, to Hunter River, then better known as Coal River.* (* From the abundance of coal found on its banks. Flinders says its native name was Yohaaba. The Hunter River was discovered and named by Mr. Shortland in 1797.) The object of the voyage was to make a survey of the river and to gain some knowledge of its natural productions, for at this time much of the coast, both to the north and to the south, was chiefly known from Cook’s chart, and the geography of the more distant parts, marked but not explored by him, was still as he had left it. Governor King was also anxious that the Lady Nelson should discover a passage at Port Stephens (called by the natives Yacaaba), and wrote to Paterson requesting him to complete the exploration of this port before September, “for,” he said, “it will then be necessary to despatch Her Ladyship (i.e. the Lady Nelson) to the southward.”*) * This particular voyage to Port Stephens does not appear to have been carried out, for in August the brig was “refitting.” (See Historical Records of New South Wales.) The Francis, schooner, was equipped to accompany the Lady Nelson, and orders were given that the schooner should be loaded with coals immediately on her arrival at the Hunter River and sent back to Sydney without delay. Dr. Harris and Ensign Barrallier of the New South Wales Corps (who were appointed to execute the survey) accompanied Colonel Paterson. A number of workmen and labourers were also received on board together with a native of Rose Bay named Bungaree.

The Lady Nelson left the harbour on June 10th, and as she passed out between the Heads, met the ship Cornwallis inward bound from England. On June 11th she made North Head of Broken Bay distant 10 or 12 miles.

On the next day the weather was variable, but as there was a Sydney pilot on board Grant thought that the ship would be safe in his hands. The man, however, mistook his course at a place called Reid’s Mistake, which lies to the northward of Broken Bay. He imagined that he had arrived at Hunter River, and was not convinced of his error till the vessel was within half a mile of an island at the entrance.* (* Reid’s Mistake was so called because a seaman of that name had previously made a similar error, and lost his ship there. The island lies at the entrance of Lake Macquarie (and still bears the name). The wrecked vessel was the Martha, 30 tons, and doubtless was the ship which first saw King Island in 1799.)

Here, as the Lady Nelson was in 17 fathoms water, and the weather was fair, a boat was lowered and Dr. Harris was sent to explore the place. On his return the doctor reported that there was not the least sign of a river here, but that the sea broke heavily over an inlet behind the island. He brought with him a native, who on first seeing the boat had run towards it crying out alternately “Whale boat” and “Budgeree (i.e. good) Dick.” It was supposed that this native had been given this name by some of the people sent in search of the convicts who had run away with the Norfolk. Be this as it may, Budgeree Dick had some fish with him, which he threw into the bottom of the boat, and then without the least hesitation jumped in himself. As soon as he had got on board the brig he continued to cry incessantly, “Whale boat, Whale boat.” In order to find out his meaning he was introduced to the Sydney native Bungaree, who was directed to question the visitor. Bungaree, by signs, invited him to sit down, an invitation, observes Grant, which, according to native ideas, “implied that a stranger was received with friendship.” But it was useless to ask Bungaree to proceed with his inquiries, for another item of etiquette demanded that a profound silence should follow, which lasted for twenty minutes. By degrees the two black men entered into conversation, drawing nearer to one another as they began to talk. The information sought was not obtained, and it was inferred that they did not well understand each other’s language.

The ship got under way about 3 P.M., and two hours later another high perpendicular island bearing north 8 or 9 miles came into view. It was thought to be the real entrance of Hunter’s River. At half-past ten, in company with Dr. Harris, the Commander went in a boat to discover if it was their port of destination. The entrance was narrow with a heavy sea running through it. It had a reef on one side, over which broke a very heavy surf, and on the other side were some sand-breakers. At one time Grant put the boat’s head round to the swell and “pulled out,” but the risk of bringing in the two ships without knowing the size of the channel made him determine to ascertain it, and accordingly he pulled through and found from 5 to 4 and 3 1/2 fathoms close to the island. It was high water when he landed with a party on the island and climbed to the top of its steep side. The side near the entrance was covered with grass, although everywhere else the island was perpendicular and crumbled away by degrees into the sea. From the highest point a beautiful view of Hunter’s River, and of the surrounding islands was obtained. Here Lieutenant Grant hoisted the Union Jack as a signal to the vessels that this was the right entrance to the river. He thought, as have most people since, that this island had been separated from the mainland “by some violent convulsion of nature.” It was named Coal Island by Colonel Paterson, but is now known as the Nobbys. The commander’s journal tells how plentiful wood and coal were on the mainland, and thus describes his coming:–

“We returned on board and set about towing and sweeping her in with all possible dispatch. At noon the latitude was by observation 32 degrees 57 minutes 34 seconds south, the island which we named Coal Island bearing west-north-west distant 3 or 4 miles. By the time we approached the entrance the ebb had set strong out and ran with much force; however, by dint of warping we brought up under the island for the night within pistol shot of the shore. At daylight we proceeded up to a saw pit (made for the purpose of cutting cedar of a large size and excellent quality, which is growing in abundance on the banks of the river) and came to abreast of it in 3 fathoms water, steadying the vessel by a hawser made fast to a tree on the shore. The harbour is of several miles extent and capable of containing many sail of shipping, and well sheltered from every wind that blows.

“We immediately set about making the different arrangements for completing the objects of our voyage. The Colonel and I went on shore to examine the different strata of coals, taking with us a miner who pointed them out to us very distinctly. We found them running from side to side of the mountain of various qualities and degrees of thickness. At low water coals proper for fuel were to be gathered up from the reef before-mentioned, and when the tide was up we could work a pier. Accordingly, having orders to load the schooner…with coals and wood, I had the satisfaction to see her sail with a cargo of both on June 26th, eleven days after her arrival.

“It may be imagined that coals were found in great plenty when I mention that the schooner sailed with forty tons, and that we had only one man employed to dig the mine. The spot where these coals are found is clear of trees or bush for the space of many acres, which are covered with a short tender grass very proper for grazing sheep, the ground rising with a gradual ascent intersected with valleys on which wood grows in plenty, sheltered from the winds, forming the most delightful prospect. This place might serve as a station for the woodcutters and colliers.* (* The point of land where the colliers were put to work was named Collier’s Point by Colonel Paterson. Newcastle now stands on this site.) It affords pasture for sheep, its soil in general being good…Dr. Harris and Mr. Barrallier penetrated to some distance inland and met a native who followed them for some time and left them. Our native Dick also thought proper to leave us in an excursion we made with him into the country. Colonel Paterson discovered some copper and iron ores, the latter strongly impregnated and rich in metal. The seine was hauled and plenty of excellent fish caught, particularly mullet, with a fish much resembling the herring which I am inclined to think go in shoals. On an island in the harbour a tree is found, the quality of whose timber much resembles that of the ash, and from the great numbers growing there has given this name to the island.

“Of this timber I had orders to send a quantity to Sydney, and had brought out sawyers for that purpose, but as every object could not be at once accomplished they were employed in the meantime in cutting down and sawing into planks a tree, the bark of which is much like cork. The timber…is light, close, and durable, and promises to stand against the effects of worms on the bottoms of vessels. I had a boat built of this wood which proved it to be good…this wood has much the resemblance of wainscot with us.

“Mr. Barrallier’s survey was all this time going on. Nearly abreast of the vessel was a creek which Colonel Paterson and I penetrated for a considerable way. On its banks we found part of a net made of strong grass, apparently the work of a European. We likewise found marks of fires having been lighted there, and in the stream the remains of a weir, the work of the native inhabitants…We concluded the net had belonged to the unfortunate men who ran away with the Norfolk…On examining Ash Island we found many large timber trees intermixed with ash, one of which I took on board…it has much the likeness of hickory. I found several other woods, some of them light and pretty, and in particular a tree, the leaves of which sting like nettles. This acquired from us the name of Nettle Tree.”

The native, Budgeree Dick, now reappeared after 48 hours’ absence, with two companions. One had been at Sydney and was known to Colonel Paterson, with whom he was able to converse. Fires and occasionally the natives themselves were observed opposite to Ash Island. A party from the ship went up an arm of the river in order to try and meet with them, but were disappointed, as at the entrance there was barely water for the boat. The opposite (or north) shore to which they now proceeded was found to be full of flats and shoals over many of which the boat had to be dragged. Between these flats were gullies of deep water, but there was no regular channel. Here the trees were encrusted with oysters, and the shore covered to a great depth with oyster shells. The work was vigorously pushed forward. Some woodmen were placed on Ash Island to fell and saw timber. They took a week’s provisions, arms, and ammunition, and were warned to guard against an attack by the crew of the Norfolk or by the natives. Meanwhile the commander and Paterson visited the coal mine and found veins of coal of excellent quality, and among the rocks what is known as “liver of iron.” They also saw strange birds, as well as the wild or native cat, which has been such a pest ever since in most parts of Australia.

On June 22nd Colonel Paterson took some men, one of whom was a miner, to look for coal on the island, while Grant and Barrallier with Dr. Harris sounded the entrance of the harbour. The coal found on the island proved to be of an inferior kind. On his way back to the ship, Lieutenant Grant met a stranger named John Loft, who had been wrecked out of a boat belonging to Mr. Underwood of Sydney. She was cast on shore to the northward of Port Stephens, and he had been thirty-two days in travelling to this place from there. He had had two companions, one of whom, he said, was killed by the natives, the other had eaten a toad fish and died. The emotions that he felt on meeting his countrymen can be better imagined than described. “The laugh and the tear had their repeated place in turns, and his first utterance was, ‘I am starving with hunger.'”

On the 23rd Mr. Barrallier and the second mate met a native in the woods whom they brought on board. “He was a little elderly man, strait made, and spoke not one syllable that was intelligible.” His legs and arms bore no proportion in length to the rest of his body, and his manner of ascending the ship’s ladder was remarkable and proved that he was much accustomed to climbing. His method was “to stretch out his arms as far as he could reach and then bring his feet to the same place with a jerk.” Grant says: “He spoke a jargon of simple sounds as I particularly observed only a few words that came from him were composed of more than one syllable. He could eat nothing; but upon two crows, which some of the people had shot, being given him, he stuffed them in the fire feathers and all which after burning off and heating them a little he ate…The Colonel gave him a tomahawk which he seemed pleased with and showed that he understood the use of it. He was put on shore near the place where they met him…He was quite naked and had no ornament through the cartilage of his nose. Colonel Paterson declared that he had never met a native who differed so widely from the rest of the New Hollanders.” Before he disappeared he gave the boat’s crew an exhibition of his climbing powers, for they pointed to a tree, making signs that they wished to see him climb it. This he quickly did, first cutting a notch with the axe and continuing thus to make footholds until he nimbly reached the top–the tree being without branches to a height of 40 feet. About this time there appeared a small party of woodmen who had been sent to cut cedar for Mr. Palmer. These men had intended returning to Sydney, having run short of provisions, but seeing the Lady Nelson they joined her.

On June 28 the Lady Nelson advanced up the river and moored in one of its branches about 6 miles from the entrance, Mr. Barrallier surveying while Colonel Paterson with Dr. Harris and Mr. Lewin (the artist who had joined the Lady Nelson after the sailing of the Francis) went in the launch to examine the river and inspect the country.

On the 7th the Commander himself in company with Mr. Barrallier set off to join Paterson. They found the country level and swampy near the river, but with delightful views in the distance. “The river took a serpentine course, and for many miles appeared to be as broad as the Thames at Kingston. From the marks on the trees it would seem that it is subject to be greatly overflowed at times. The cedar (or rather the mahogany of New Holland) appeared to have been immersed in water to the height of 50 or 60 feet. On our way up we landed at a small creek which we traced for a considerable distance coming to a gradual ascent covered with the most luxuriant grass. There was an extensive view from this height of a fine champain country. I named the eminence Mount Egerton after a seat belonging to the Duke of Bridgewater. In the evening we found by the sound of the bugle that we had reached the Colonel’s headquarters. We answered the welcome signal and before it was quite dark we joined them.

“The Colonel had erected a comfortable hut. The cedar grew here in great plenty, and Mr. Palmer’s party sawed many fine planks from these trees. Colonel Paterson, Dr. Harris, Mr. Barrallier and myself penetrated 30