Produced by Sue Asscher
NARRATIVE OF A SURVEY
INTERTROPICAL AND WESTERN
COASTS OF AUSTRALIA.
THE YEARS 1818 AND 1822.
CAPTAIN PHILLIP P. KING, R.N., F.R.S., F.L.S.,
AND MEMBER OF THE ROYAL ASIATIC SOCIETY OF LONDON.
VARIOUS SUBJECTS RELATING TO HYDROGRAPHY AND NATURAL HISTORY.
IN TWO VOLUMES,
ILLUSTRATED BY PLATES, CHARTS, AND WOOD-CUTS.
THE rapidly-increasing importance to which the English Colonies in Australia have now arrived, rendering every subject connected with that extensive continent of the greatest interest, whether in respect to its geography, or the extraordinary assemblage of its animal and vegetable productions, has induced me to publish such parts of my Journal as may be useful to accompany the Atlas of the Charts of the Coast recently published by the Board of Admiralty.
One of the results of this voyage has been the occupation of Port Cockburn, between Melville and Bathurst Islands on the North Coast, and the formation of an establishment there which cannot fail to be productive of the greatest benefit to our mercantile communications with the Eastern Archipelago, as well as to increase the influence and power of the mother country in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans; and in contemplating this new extension of her possessions*, I cannot avoid recalling to mind a curious and prophetic remark of Burton, who, in alluding to the discoveries of the Spanish navigator Ferdinando de Quiros (Anno 1612), says: “I would know whether that hungry Spaniard’s discovery of Terra Australis Incognita, or Magellanica, be as true as that of Mercurius Britannicus, or his of Utopia, or his of Lucinia. And yet, in likelihood, it may be so; for without all question, it being extended from the tropick of Capricorn to the circle Antarctick, and lying as it doth in the temperate zone, cannot chuse but yeeld in time some flourishing kingdoms to succeeding ages, as America did unto the Spaniards.”** Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, Part 2 Section 2 Number 3.
(*Footnote. The distance between Melville Island and Hobart Town in Van Diemen’s Land, the former being the most northern, and the latter the most southern, establishment under the government of New South Wales, is more than 2700 miles, and comprises an extent of coast nearly equal to that of the British possessions in India!)
(**Footnote. Since the land that Quiros discovered and called Terra del Espiritu Santo was, at the time Burton wrote, considered to be the Eastern Coast of New Holland, I am justified in the use I have made of the above curious passage.)
Since the return of the Expedition, my time has been occupied in arranging the narrative, and divesting it of such parts as were neither calculated to amuse the general reader, nor to give information to the navigator; but this has been so much impeded by the more important employment of constructing the Charts of the Survey, as to defer until the present season the publication of the events of a voyage that was completed nearly three years ago.
In addition to the Hydrographical Notices in the Appendix, I have ventured to insert descriptive catalogues of the few subjects of Natural History that were collected during the voyage; these were supplied by some friends, to whom I have in another part of the work endeavoured, inadequately no doubt, to express my sense of the obligation: but since that part has been printed, my friend Mr. Brown has submitted some specimens of the rocks of the western side of the Gulf of Carpentaria, that were collected by him on the Investigator’s voyage, to the inspection of Doctor Fitton, by which means that gentleman’s valuable communication in the Appendix has been most materially improved. I have, therefore, taken the present opportunity of acknowledging the readiness with which this additional information has been supplied, and of offering Mr. Brown my best thanks.
It now only remains for me to add, that the views with which these volumes are illustrated were engraved by Mr. Finden from my own sketches on the spot: the charts, which are reductions of those in the Admiralty Atlas, were engraved by Mr. Walker; and the three plates of Natural History by Mr. Curtis, from drawings made from the specimens by himself, by Henry C. Field, Esquire, and by Miss M. Field; to each of whom I take this opportunity of returning my best thanks, and also of bearing testimony to the correctness with which the respective subjects have been represented.
London, March 20th, 1826.
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
THE EARL BATHURST, K.G.,
HIS MAJESTY’S PRINCIPAL SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES,
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
THE LORD VISCOUNT MELVILLE, K.T.,
FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY,
NARRATIVE OF THE SURVEY OF THE INTERTROPICAL COASTS OF AUSTRALIA,
PERFORMED UNDER THEIR LORDSHIPS’ JOINT DIRECTIONS AND FLATTERING COUNTENANCE,
IS, BY PERMISSION, INSCRIBED
WITH THE GREATEST RESPECT,
BY THEIR MOST GRATEFUL SERVANT,
PHILLIP PARKER KING.
Intended mode of proceeding, and departure from Port Jackson. Visit Twofold Bay.
Passage through Bass Strait and along the South Coast to King George the Third’s Sound.
Voyage to the North-West Cape, and Survey of the Coast between the North-West Cape and Depuch Island, including the examinations of Exmouth Gulf, Curlew River, and Dampier’s Archipelago. Loss of Anchors, and Interview with the Natives. Remarks upon Dampier’s account of Rosemary Island, and of the Island upon which he landed.
Examination of Rowley’s Shoals, and Passage to the North Coast. Survey of Goulburn Islands, Mountnorris and Raffles Bays. Meet a Malay Fleet, and communicate with one of the Proas. Explore Port Essington.
Attacked by Natives in Knocker’s Bay. Anchor in Popham Bay.
Visit from the Malays.
Examination of Van Diemen’s Gulf, including Sir George Hope’s Islands and Alligator Rivers.
Survey of the Northern Shore of Melville Island, and Apsley Strait. Interview with the Natives of Luxmore Head. Procure wood at Port Hurd.
Leave the Coast, and arrival at Timor.
Transactions at Coepang.
Procure Water and Refreshments.
Description of the Town and Productions of the Island. Account of the Trepang Fishery on the coast of New Holland. Departure from Timor, and return to the North-west Coast. Montebello Islands, and Barrow Island.
Leave the Coast.
Ship’s company attacked with Dysentery. Death of one of the crew.
Bass Strait, and arrival at Port Jackson. Review of the Proceedings of the Voyage.
Visit to Van Diemen’s Land, and examination of the entrance of Macquarie Harbour.
Anchor in Pine Cove and cut wood.
Description of the Trees growing there. Return to the entrance, and water at Outer Bay. Interview with the Natives, and Vocabulary of their language. Arrive at Hobart Town, and return to Port Jackson.
Departure from Port Jackson, and commence a running survey of the East Coast.
Examinations of Port Macquarie and the River Hastings in company with the Lady Nelson, colonial brig, and assisted by Lieutenant Oxley, R.N., the Surveyor-general of the Colony.
Leave Port Macquarie.
The Lady Nelson returns with the Surveyor-general to Port Jackson. Enter the Barrier-reefs at Break-sea Spit. Discover Rodd’s Bay.
Visit the Percy Islands.
Pass through Whitsunday Passage, and anchor in Cleveland Bay. Wood and water there.
Continue the examination of the East Coast towards Endeavour River; anchoring progressively at Rockingham Bay, Fitzroy Island, Snapper Island, and Weary Bay.
Interview with the Natives at Rockingham Bay, and loss of a boat off Cape Tribulation.
Arrival off Endeavour River.
Transactions at Endeavour River, and intercourse with the Natives. Examine the River.
Leave Endeavour River, and resume the examination of the coast. Anchor among Howick’s Group, and under Flinders’ Group. Explore Princess Charlotte’s Bay, and the Islands and Reefs as far as Cape York, anchoring in the way on various parts of the coast. The cutter nearly wrecked at Escape River. Loss of anchor under Turtle Island.
Pass round Cape York and through Torres Strait, by the Investigator’s route.
Cross the Gulf of Carpentaria, and resume the survey of the North Coast at Wessel’s Islands.
Discovery and examination of Liverpool River. Natives.
Arrive at Goulburn Island.
Complete wood and water.
Attacked by the natives from the cliffs. Leave Goulburn Island, and pass round Cape Van Diemen. Resume the survey of the coast at Vernon’s Islands in Clarence Strait. Paterson Bay.
Mr. Roe examines Port Keats.
Prevented from examining a deep opening round Point Pearce. Discovery of Cambridge Gulf.
Examination of the Gulf.
Death of one of the crew.
Leave Cambridge Gulf.
Trace the coast to Cape Londonderry.
Examination of the coast between Cape Londonderry and Cape Voltaire, containing the surveys of Sir Graham Moore’s Islands, Eclipse Islands, Vansittart Bay, Admiralty Gulf, and Port Warrender. Encounter with the natives of Vansittart Bay. Leave the coast at Cassini Island for Coepang. Obliged to bear up for Savu.
Anchor at Zeeba Bay, and interview with the rajah. Some account of the inhabitants.
Disappointed in not finding water.
Leave Zeeba Bay, and beat back against the monsoon to Coepang. Complete wood and water, and procure refreshments. Return to Port Jackson.
Pass the latitude assigned to the Tryal Rocks. Arrival in Sydney Cove.
Equipment for the third voyage.
Leave Port Jackson.
Loss of bowsprit, and return.
Observations upon the present state of the colony, as regarding the effect of floods upon the River Hawkesbury. Re-equipment and final departure.
Visit Port Bowen.
Cutter thrown upon a sandbank.
Interview with the natives, and description of the country about Cape Clinton.
Leave Port Bowen.
Pass through the Northumberland, and round the Cumberland Islands. Anchor at Endeavour River.
Summary of observations taken there. Visit from the natives.
Vocabulary of their language.
Observations thereon in comparing it with Captain Cook’s account. Mr. Cunningham visits Mount Cook.
Leave Endeavour River, and visit Lizard Island. Cape Flinders and Pelican Island.
Entangled in the reefs.
Haggerston’s Island, Sunday Island, and Cairncross Island. Cutter springs a leak.
Pass round Cape York.
Anchor under Booby Island.
Remarks upon the Inner and Outer routes through Torres Strait.
Cross the Gulf of Carpentaria, and anchor at Goulburn’s South Island. Affair with the natives.
Resume the survey of the coast at Cassini Island. Survey of Montagu Sound, York Sound, and Prince Frederic’s Harbour. Hunter’s and Roe’s Rivers, Port Nelson, Coronation Islands. Transactions at Careening Bay.
Repair the cutter’s bottom.
General geognostical and botanical observations. Natives’ huts.
Prince Regent’s River.
Leave the coast in a leaky state.
Tryal Rocks, Cloates Island.
Pass round the west and south coasts. Bass Strait.
Escape from shipwreck.
Arrival at Port Jackson.
LIST OF PLATES.
VIEW IN RAFFLES BAY, WITH CROKER’S ISLAND IN THE DISTANCE. From a sketch by P.P. King. Published in May 1825 by John Murray, London.
WOODCUT 1: NATIVE OF DAMPIER’S ARCHIPELAGO ON HIS LOG.
CHART OF THE INTERTROPICAL AND WEST COASTS OF AUSTRALIA. As surveyed in the years 1818 to 1822 by Phillip P. King, R.N.
VIEW OF SOUTH-WEST BAY. GOULBURN ISLAND. Watering party attacked by natives.
From a sketch by P.P. King. Published in May 1825 by John Murray, London.
VIEW OF INNER HARBOUR, PORT ESSINGTON. From Spear Point.
From a sketch by P.P. King. Published in May 1825 by John Murray, London.
INTERVIEW WITH THE NATIVES OF ST. ASAPH’S BAY, MELVILLE ISLAND. From a sketch by P.P. King. Published in May 1825 by John Murray, London.
VIEW OF THE ENTRANCE OF PORT MACQUARIE. From a sketch by P.P. King. Published in May 1825 by John Murray, London.
VIEW UP THE RIVER HASTINGS.
At its junction with King’s River.
From a sketch by P.P. King. Published in May 1825 by John Murray, London.
WOODCUT 2: NATIVES OF ROCKINGHAM BAY IN THEIR CANOE.
WOODCUT 3: NATIVES OF ENDEAVOUR RIVER IN A CANOE, FISHING.
WOODCUT 4: MANNER IN WHICH THE NATIVES OF THE EAST COAST STRIKE TURTLE.
VIEW OF MOUNT COCKBURN AT THE BOTTOM OF CAMBRIDGE GULF. Taken from the Gut.
From a sketch by P.P. King. Published in May 1825 by John Murray, London.
VIEW OF THE ENCAMPMENT IN CAREENING BAY. Where the Mermaid was repaired.
From a sketch by P.P. King. Published in May 1825 by John Murray, London.
WOODCUT 5: HUTS OF THE NATIVES AT CAREENING BAY.
PRELIMINARY REMARKS UPON THE DISCOVERY OF THE TERRA AUSTRALIS INCOGNITA. INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE EXECUTION OF THE VOYAGE. PASSAGE TO NEW SOUTH WALES.
PURCHASE AND EQUIPMENT OF THE MERMAID.
Nearly three centuries* have now elapsed since our first knowledge of the Great South Land, the Terra Australis Incognita of ancient geographers; and, until within the last century, comparatively little had been done towards making a minute exploration of its coasts: during the seventeenth century several voyages were made by different Dutch navigators, from whom we have the first-recorded description of its shores; but from the jealous disposition of their East India Company, under whose orders these voyages were performed, the accounts of them were so concealed, and consequently lost or destroyed, that few particulars of a detailed nature have been handed down.**
(*Footnote. The late Rear-Admiral Burney, in his History of Discoveries in the South Sea, volume 1 page 380, describes a chart, dated 1542, drawn by Rotz, in which a coast is continued to the 28th degree of south latitude; and immediately below the 30th degree, there is the name of Coste des Herbaiges, answering by an extraordinary coincidence both in climate and in name to Botany Bay.).
(**Footnote. In the voyages of Gautier Schouten, published at Amsterdam in 1708, duodecimo volume 1 page 41 et seq., there is the following curious account of the wreck of a ship on the coast of New Holland:
“Il me semble que je ne dois pas omettre ici une histoire, de la certitude de laquelle on n’eut pas lieu de douter. Des-que la nouvelle fut venue a Batavia [Anno 1659], que le vaisseau le Dragon, qui venoit de Hollande aux Indes, avoit fait naufrage sur les cotes d’une Terre Australe inconnue, on y envoia la flute la Bouee a la Veille, pour ramener ceux des gens de l’equipage qui auroient pu se sauver, et les efets qui auroient ete conservez.
“La flute etant conduite par ceux qui etoient echapez du naufrage dans la chaloupe, et venus a Batavia en aporter la nouvelle, se rendit au parage ou le Dragon avoit peri, et alla mouiller l’ancre dans l’endroit qui parut le plus propre pour son dessein. Aussi tot la chaloupe fut armee pour aller chercher ceux qui s’etoient sauvez le long du rivage. Elle s’aprocha d’abord du bris, pardessus lequel les vagues passoient; puis elle nagea vers le lieu ou l’on avoit dresse des tentes, quand la chaloupe du vaisseau peri partit, pour ceux qu’elle n’avoit pu recevoir, et qui devoient attendre la qu’on vint les y prendre.
“L’equipage etant descendu a terre, trouva les tentes brisees en pieces, et l’on ne decouvrit pas un seul homme dans tout le pais. La surprise ne fut pas mediocre. On regarda partout si l’on ne verroit point de traces qui marquassent qu’on eut construit quelque petit batiment: mais il n’y avoit ni tarriere, ni hache, ni couteaux, ni cloux, etc. Il n’y avoit ni ecrit ni indication par ou l’on put conjecturer ce qu’etoient devenus les gens qu’on avoit la laissez.
“La chaloupe etant retournee a bord, et aiant annonce cette nouvelle, il fut resolu que l’on iroit chercher plus avant dans les terres, et le long du rivage. Pour cet efet on se divisa en plusieurs troupes, et l’on ne reussit pas mieux que la premiere fois. On eut beau crier, apeller, tirer des coups de mousquet, tout fut inutile, et je n’ai pas seu qu’on ait jamais apris ce qu’etoient devenus ces gens-la.
“On retourna donc au bris, dont on ne put rien tirer, les lames aiant emporte les bordages, les ecoutilles, et fracasse tout le vaisseau, tant la mer brise fort en ces parages. Ainsi l’on jugea que le plus expedient etoit de s’en retourner, puis-qu’on n’avoit rien a pretendre, et qu’on avoit a craindre les vents forcez et les tempetes, qui selon les aparences auroient aussi fait perir la flute. Dans ce dessein on alla faire de l’eau. Ceux qui furent a une petite riviere qu’on avoit vue, au-lieu de se hater, se promenerent, et coururent en divers endroits.
“Cependant il s’eleva une si terrible tempete, que la flute fut contrainte de se mettre au large, ou elle atendit encore quelque tems. Mais comme la chaloupe ne revenoit point, on jugea qu’elle avoit peri; si-bien qu’on reprit la route de Batavia, ou l’on fit le raport de ce qui s’etoit passe.
“Quand l’orage eut cesse, l’equipage de la chaloupe se rembarqua pour retourner a bord. ‘Mais il ne trouva plus la flute, ni sur la cote, ni au large. La tristesse ne fut pas moindre que l’etonnement, et l’on ne seut quel parti prendre. Enfin il fallut retourner a terre, pour n’etre pas englouti par les flots. Mais on n’avoit point de vivres, et l’on ne voioit rien dans tout le pais qui put servir de nouriture. Les montagnes n’etoient que des rochers; les valees etoient de vrais deserts; les plaines n’etoient que des sables. Le rivage etoit aussi borde de roches, contre lesquelles la mer brisoit avec d’efroiables mugissemens.
“Ceux qui etoient la demeurez se trouvoient au nombre de treize hommes, qui furent bientot fatiguez, afoiblis et attenuez. La faim les pressoit, le froid et l’humidite les faisoient soufrir, et ils se regardoient comme condamnez a la mort. Il n’y avoit rien a esperer du bris; les vagues avoient tout fait rouler ca et la dans la mer. Enfin a force de courir et de chercher quelque chose qu’ils pussent manger, ils apercurent entre les rochers qui etoient le long du rivage, de gros limacons, et de plus petits, qui y venoient de la mer, et dont le gout, qui etoit passable, parut excellent a des gens affamez. Mais n’aiant point de feu pour les faire cuire, l’usage continuel qu’ils en firent, commenca de les incommoder, et ils sentirent bien que ce foible remede ne les empecheroit pas de mourir dans peu de tems.
“Enfin ne voiant de toutes parts qu’une mort certaine, ils prirent la resolution de s’exposer a la merci des flots, dans l’esperance que s’il ne se presentoit rien de plus favorable pour eux sur la mer que sur la terre, au moins la mort qu’ils y trouveroient, seroit plus promte, et les delivreroit plutot de leurs miseres. Cependant ils se flatoient encore de l’esperance de pouvoir aborder en quelque autre pais, ou il y auroit des choses propres pour la nourriture des hommes.
“Ainsi chacun travailla selon ses forces a calfater la chaloupe, a faire provision de limacons, a remplir des futailles d’eau. Apres cela l’on mit le batiment a la mer, et l’on quitta ce lieu, ou l’on n’avoit vu que des deserts arides et des feux folets, et ou il n’y avoit ni betes ni gens. On perdit bientot de vue ce pais sterile, le second Pilote de la flute etant parmi cette troupe desolee, et la guidant par le cours du Soleil, de la Lune et des Etoiles.
“Cependant ils avoient trois a quatre cents lieues de chemin a faire, pour terrir a la cote septentrionale de la grande Java. On peut assez s’imaginer a quelles soufrances ils furent exposez dans un tel batiment, pendent une telle route, et avec si-peu de vivres, et si-mauvais. Par le beau tems ils voguoient encore passablement; mais quand la mer etoit grosse, les lames les couvroient et passoient par-dessus leurs tetes, et la chaloupe etoit toujours sur le point de se voir submergee.
“Mais la plus cruelle avanture fut que les limacons se corrompirent, et il n’y eut plus moien d’en manger, si-bien que pour tout aliment il ne resta que de l’eau. La nuit il faisoit un froid insuportable, et le jour on etoit brule des ardeurs du Soleil. Toute esperance de salut sembloit etre retranchee, et les fatigues, aussi-bien que le manque de nourriture, avoient entierement epuise les forces de ces infortunes, lors-qu’un matin ils decouvrirent les montagnes meridionales de la grande Java.”
This ship was probably wrecked in the neighbourhood of Dampier’s Archipelago, near which there is also an account of the loss of a ship called the Vianen.)
The first circumstantial account that we have is that of Dampier; who, in his celebrated Buccaneering Voyage in the year 1688, visited that part of the North-West Coast, to which the name of Cygnet Bay has been attached: of this place he gives a faithful and correct account, particularly with respect to its productions, and the savage and degraded state of its inhabitants: the same navigator afterwards (in 1699) visited the West and North-west Coasts in His Majesty’s ship Roebuck, in the description of which he has not only been very minute and particular, but, as far as we could judge, exceedingly correct.
Within the last fifty years the labours of Cook, Vancouver, Bligh, D’Entrecasteaux, Flinders, and Baudin have gradually thrown a considerable light upon this extraordinary continent, for such it may be called. Of these and other voyages that were made during the 17th and 18th centuries to various parts of its coasts, an account is given by the late Captain Flinders, in his introduction to the Investigator’s voyage; in which, and in that able and valuable work of the late Rear-Admiral Burney, A Chronological Account of Discoveries in the South Sea and Pacific Ocean, the history of its progressive discovery is amply detailed.
It was intended that the whole line of the Australian Coast should have been examined and surveyed by Captain Flinders; but the disgraceful and unwarrantable detention of this officer at the Mauritius by the French Governor, General Decaen, prevented the completion of this project. Captain Flinders had, however, previously succeeded in making a most minute and elaborate survey of the whole extent of the South coast, between Cape Leeuwin and Bass Strait; of the East Coast, from Cape Howe to the Northumberland Islands; of the passage through Torres Strait; and of the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria.
The French expedition, under Commodore Baudin, had in the mean time visited some few parts of the West Coast, and skirted the islands which front the North-west Coast, without landing upon, and indeed scarcely seeing, any part of the mainland. The whole of the north, the north-west, and the western shores remained, therefore, to be explored; and in the year 1817, among the numerous voyages of survey and discovery upon which a part of the navy of Great Britain was so honourably and so usefully employed, these Coasts of Australia were not forgotten. An expedition for the purpose of completing the survey of its North and North-west Coast was planned, under the joint direction of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to the command of which I had the honour of being appointed.
The arrangements for providing me with a vessel and crew were made by the latter department; and the Governor of New South Wales was instructed to give up to my use any vessel in the colonial marine establishment that should be deemed capable of performing the service; or, in the event of there being none fit for the purpose, to purchase any suitable one that might be offered for sale.
For my guidance I received the following instructions from the Admiralty and the Colonial Department:–
Admiralty Office, 4th February, 1817.
My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty being informed of the arrangements of Earl Bathurst, His Majesty’s principal Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, for employing you in a survey of the unexplored parts of the Coast of New South Wales, have commanded me to express their concurrence therein, and to convey to you the following instructions, to which you are to conform yourself, in addition to those which you may receive from the Secretary of State.
The arrangements for providing you with a proper vessel and crew, and other necessaries for the prosecution of the service having been made by the Colonial Department, my Lords have no directions to give you on these subjects, but to recommend you in the conduct and discipline of the vessel which may be intrusted to your care, to conform, as far as may be practicable, to the established usages of the navy, and to the regulations for preserving health, cleanliness, and good order, which have been established in His Majesty’s ships when employed in Voyages of Discovery.
In order to assist you in the care and use of the timekeepers and instruments with which their Lordships have directed the Hydrographer of this department to furnish you, and to follow your orders in all other particulars relating to the service, my Lords have directed Messrs. Frederick Bedwell and John Septimus Roe, two young gentlemen, who have been recommended to them as peculiarly fitted to be of use to you, and for whose appointment you have expressed your wishes, to accompany you and to be under your command.
The principal object of your mission is to examine the hitherto unexplored Coasts of New South Wales, from Arnhem Bay, near the western entrance of the Gulf of Carpentaria, westward and southward as far as the North-west Cape; including the opening, or deep bay called Van Diemen’s Bay, and the cluster of islands called Rosemary Islands, and the inlets behind them, which should be most minutely examined; and, indeed, all gulfs and openings should be the objects of particular attention; as the chief motive for your survey is to discover whether there be any river on that part of the coast likely to lead to an interior navigation into this great continent.
It is for several reasons most desirable that you should arrive on this coast, and commence your survey as early as possible, and you will therefore, when the vessel shall be ready, lose no time in proceeding to the unexplored coasts; but you are at liberty to commence your survey at whichever side you may judge proper, giving a preference to that which you think you may be able soonest to reach; but in case you think that indifferent, my Lords would wish you to commence by the neighbourhood of the Rosemary Islands.
Either on your way out, or on returning, you should examine the coast between Cape Leeuwin and the Cape Gosselin, in M. De Freycinet’s chart; and generally you will observe, that it is very desirable that you should visit those ranges of coast which the French navigators have either not seen at all, or at too great a distance to ascertain and lay down accurately.
You will provide yourself at Port Jackson with the seeds of such vegetables as it may be considered most useful to propagate on the coasts you may visit, and you will take measures for sowing or planting them in the fittest situations, with a view not only to their preservation, but to their being within the observation and reach of succeeding navigators.
You will take care to make duplicate copies of all your notes, surveys, and drawings; and you are to take every possible opportunity of transmitting one copy to Earl Bathurst, and the other to me for their Lordship’s information; but you need not send duplicates by the same conveyance. And you will feel the necessity of writing by every opportunity to acquaint both departments of your progress.
You will remain on this service till you shall have examined all parts of the coast which have not been laid down by Captain Flinders, M. De Freycinet, or preceding navigators, or until you shall receive further orders.
I am, Sir,
Your very humble servant,
(Signed) J.W. CROKER.
To Lieutenant P.P. King.
Downing-street, 8th of February, 1817.
As His Majesty’s Government has selected you for the command of an expedition which is to be fitted out in New South Wales, for the purpose of exploring the yet undiscovered Coast of New Holland, and for completing, if possible, the circumnavigation of that continent; you will proceed with all practicable expedition to Port Jackson, and you will, on your arrival, deliver to Governor Macquarie the accompanying despatches, which state the object which you have in view, and the means by which it is to be accomplished. The Governor will place at your disposal any colonial vessel which you may consider best calculated for the voyage, and you will concert with him as to the equipment of such vessel, and avail yourself of his knowledge of the several persons in the colony, in order to select a crew on whom reliance can be placed for steadiness and subordination. Besides the persons necessary for the navigation of the vessel, you will receive on board Mr. A. Cunningham, a botanist, now in New South Wales, who has received the orders of Sir Joseph Banks to attend you; and you will engage any other person, if there be such in the colony, who possesses a competent knowledge of Mineralogy or Natural History.
It is on every account most desirable that the Expedition should proceed from Port Jackson as early as possible; you will therefore make every exertion in your power to accelerate your departure from thence, and your arrival at the point specified in your Admiralty instructions.
The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty having given you detailed instructions relative to the naval objects of the Expedition, I have only to direct your observation to the several points referred to in the enclosed memorandum, as those upon which it is desirable to procure information. You will exercise your own discretion as to landing on the several parts of the coast which you may explore; but on all occasions of landing, you will give every facility to the botanist, and the other scientific persons on board to pursue their inquiries; and you will afford them such assistance in the pursuit as they may require. If the place selected for landing be in any way remarkable in itself, or important from being at the mouth of a river, or a harbour, you will take care to leave some evidence which cannot be mistaken of your having landed, either by erecting a flagstaff, or sowing some seeds, or by resorting to any other means which may at the time present themselves.
You will not fail regularly to keep a journal of your proceedings, and to note down your observations, as they from time to time occur, transmitting home by every opportunity intelligence of the progress which you have made, and of the leading events which may have befallen you.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your most obedient, humble servant,
To Lieutenant P.P. King, R.N.
The following will be among the most important subjects, on which it will be more immediately your province, assisted by your officers, to endeavour to obtain information on any occasion which may offer.
The general nature of the climate, as to heat, cold, moisture, winds, rains, periodical seasons; the temperature regularly registered from Fahrenheit’s thermometer, as observed at two or three periods of the day.
The direction of the mountains, their names, general appearance as to shape; whether detached or continuous in ranges.
The animals, whether birds, beasts, or fishes; insects, reptiles, etc., distinguishing those that are wild from those which are domesticated.
The vegetables, and particularly those that are applicable to any useful purposes, whether in medicine, dyeing, carpentry, etc.; any scented or ornamental woods, adapted for cabinet work and household furniture, and more particularly such woods as may appear to be useful in ship-building; hard woods for tree-nails, block-sheaves, etc., of all which it would be desirable to procure small specimens labelled and numbered, so that an easy reference may be made to them in the journal, to ascertain the quantities in which they are found; the facility or otherwise of floating them down to a convenient place for shipment, etc.
Minerals, any of the precious metals, or stones; how used, or valued by the natives.
The description and characteristic difference of the several tribes or people on the coast.
The occupation and means of subsistence, whether chiefly, or to what extent by fishing, hunting, feeding sheep or other animals, by agriculture or by commerce.
The principal objects of their several pursuits, as mentioned in the preceding paragraphs.
A circumstantial account of such articles growing on the sea-coast, if any, as might be advantageously imported into Great Britain, and those that would be required by the natives in exchange for them.
The state of the arts, or manufactures, and their comparative perfection in different tribes.
A vocabulary of the language spoken by every tribe with which you may meet, using in the compilation of each the same English words.
On the day that my appointment was dated, I received an order for a passage in the ship Dick, a transport, hired to convey the 48th regiment to New South Wales; and on the 17th of February, twelve days after my appointment, left Gravesend; but from a tedious detention in the Downs, and a succession of foul winds, did not finally leave Cork, where the troops embarked, until the 3rd of April.
On the 26th of May, the Dick anchored in the harbour of Rio de Janeiro, and remained for a fortnight, to procure refreshments for the troops, and complete her water.
Hence to New South Wales the voyage was performed, without the occurrence of any incident worth recording. The heads of Port Jackson were seen at daylight on the 1st of September; but being to leeward of the port, the ship did not anchor in Sydney Cove until the 3rd, after a passage from Cork of twenty-two weeks, including the fortnight that was passed at Rio.
The same evening I waited upon his Excellency Governor Macquarie at Parramatta, and delivered to him his letters and the despatches which acquainted him with the particulars of my mission; upon which His Excellency, after expressing himself anxious to give every assistance in his power in forwarding the service I had to perform, informed me that there were only two vessels belonging to the colony that could suit my purpose: one of one hundred tons that had been lately launched, and the other a brig of seventy tons, the Lady Nelson, that was built at Deptford in the year 1799, and sent out to the colony, expressly for the purpose of surveying the coast; she had, however, for the last ten years, been used as a coal-vessel, and was then hauled upon the slips, undergoing a repair. Upon examining the two vessels, I found that the former, although of convenient burden, not only drew too much water, but was in every other way unsuitable for my purpose; and the latter required much repair before she could be sent to sea, but as there was no other vessel at Port Jackson, either for sale or hire, no choice was left but to prepare the Lady Nelson as quickly as possible; and, as it was found absolutely necessary to give her a new keel, stern-post, and cut-water, besides new decks, with many new beams, there was no probability of completing her for at least four months.
Fortunately, however, this arrangement was shortly afterwards rendered unnecessary by the arrival from India, of the Mermaid, a cutter of 84 tons burden, built of teak, and not quite twelve months old: her length was 56 feet; breadth of beam 18 feet 6 inches; and did not, when deep-laden, draw more than 9 feet; her bottom was rather sharper than was convenient for the purpose of taking the ground; but, as I could not expect to find every advantage combined in one vessel that was necessary for the purpose of surveying, the latter objection was of necessity overruled; and being in every other respect superior to the Lady Nelson, and requiring no repairs, she was eventually purchased for the sum of 2000 pounds sterling, and immediately appropriated to my use.
A schooner would have been much more convenient; but, as there was no opportunity of making such an alteration, it could not be effected. My statement of the arrangements that were requisite for our accommodation was approved of by the Governor, who gave the necessary orders to the Engineer, a captain of the forty-sixth regiment; and the Deputy Commissary General was instructed to attend to all my demands, and to supply the requisite quantities of provisions and stores; but, notwithstanding every wish on the part of His Excellency to forward our outfit and complete the vessel for sea without delay, it was not until the 21st of December that the alterations were finished. Had we met with as much opposition and inattention from the commissariat department as from the engineer, the vessel would not have been ready for sea for six months; it is, however, a duty I owe to Deputy Commissary General Allan, to acknowledge the readiness with which that officer’s department attended to my wants.
The following is a list of the officers and men who formed the crew of the Mermaid:–
Lieutenant Phillip Parker King.
Master’s mates, 2:
Mr. Frederick Bedwell.
Mr. John Septimus Roe.
Mr. Allan Cunningham.
In addition to this establishment, I accepted the proffered services of Boongaree, a Port Jackson native, who had formerly accompanied Captain Flinders in the Investigator, and also on a previous occasion in the Norfolk schooner. This man is well known in the colony as the chief of the Broken Bay tribe; he was about forty-five years of age, of a sharp, intelligent, and unassuming disposition, and promised to be of much service to us in our intercourse with the natives: this addition made our number amount to nineteen, for which we carried provisions for nine months, and twelve weeks’ water.
VOYAGES FOR THE SURVEY
Intended mode of proceeding, and departure from Port Jackson. Visit Twofold Bay.
Passage through Bass Strait and along the South Coast to King George the Third’s Sound.
Voyage to the North-West Cape, and Survey of the Coast between the North-West Cape and Depuch Island, including the examinations of Exmouth Gulf, Curlew River, and Dampier’s Archipelago. Loss of Anchors, and Interview with the Natives. Remarks upon Dampier’s account of Rosemary Island, and of the Island upon which he landed.
1817. December 21.
At the time that the Mermaid was ready to commence her voyage, it was the season when the westerly monsoon blows over that part of the sea which separates the islands of Timor and New Guinea from Australia; it was therefore necessary, in order to benefit by the direction of the wind, to commence the survey of the coast at its western extremity, the North-West Cape: but, to do this, the passage was to be made, by taking the western route, as it is called; that is, by passing either through Bass Strait, or round Van Diemen’s Land, and steering up the West Coast. In doing this, the vessel would, doubtless, have to encounter much bad weather; and, on her arrival might, probably, be more fit to return than to commence the survey of a dangerous and an unknown coast. The passage to the northward, through Torres Strait, would have been, on all accounts, the most advisable route, had the season been more advanced; and, indeed, it would have been even better to wait until March for that purpose; but this would be a loss of time in which much might be effected, were we only fortunate enough to make the western passage without accident: under all these circumstances, I was induced to prefer the route of Bass Strait, rather than remain idle, after the vessel was completed.
Before we left Port Jackson, His Excellency the Governor was made acquainted with my intended mode of proceeding; that, having passed Bass Strait to King George the Third’s Sound, I should there complete my water and fuel: then, by steering up the West Coast, to commence my survey at the North-West Cape, and examine the coast easterly until the westerly monsoon should begin to decline; upon which I proposed to leave the land, and proceed as far to the eastward as the remainder of the monsoon would allow; when I might examine the coast back with the easterly monsoon as long as my stock of water lasted; and lastly, if I could not get a supply upon the coast, to go to Timor, by which time my provisions would, probably, be so reduced as to oblige my returning to Port Jackson to prepare for a second voyage.
Having made our final arrangements, we left Port Jackson on the 22nd of December, with a fresh northerly breeze, which continued until the evening of the 24th, when we were abreast of Cape Howe. After this a heavy gale of wind from South-West obliged us to run into Twofold Bay for shelter, and to repair some trifling damage which we had already sustained.
Twofold Bay was discovered by Mr. Bass in 1797; and, although it is for the most part too open and exposed to easterly winds for large ships, yet it has a cove on its northern side, in which small vessels find secure anchorage and a convenient place for stopping at, if bound to the southward; and hence its name of Snug Cove. It is completely land-locked, and it also conveniently affords both wood and water, and is neither difficult to enter nor to leave.
When passing Red Point, which is on the south side of the bay, several natives were seen upon it; one of them came to the verge of the rocks that overhang the extremity of the point, and made violent gestures, but, whether they were those of friendship or hostility, could not be ascertained. Boongaree answered him in the Port Jackson language, but they were equally unintelligible to each other. The native had a spear in one hand, and either a throwing stick, or a club, in the other; both of which, with his legs widely extended, he flourished most furiously over his head. This man was quite naked, but a woman near him wore a kangaroo’s skin over her shoulders. Several small parties of natives were seen in the other parts of the bay, but they appeared more anxious to avoid than to court a communication with us.
On anchoring in Snug Cove, I went on shore with Mr. Roe and Mr. Cunningham: Boongaree also accompanied us, clothed in a new dress, which was provided for him, of which he was not a little proud, and for some time kept it very clean.
Wood was abundant and near at hand, and the water, which is in a morass at the back of the beach, although shallow, and covered with a species of azolla, was both good and plentiful.
The soil of the hills, contiguous to Snug Cove, is very good, and covered with luxuriant grass. The country appeared to be thickly wooded, but near the water the trees, which were principally species of the eucalyptus and the casuarina, were small and stunted.
In our strolls during the day along the beach, and over the surrounding hills, we did not encounter any inhabitants, although recent signs of them were visible at every step; several beaten paths were observed leading to the morass from different directions, on the banks of which were many shells (Haliotis gigantea, Linn.) used by the natives for drinking-vessels.
In the evening, after hauling the seine on the beach without success, we were upon the point of embarking, when we discovered, at about seventy or eighty yards up the hill, the heads of three or four natives peeping above the long grass, evidently watching our movements, and probably awaiting our departure to allow them to go to the morass for water. Wishing very much to communicate with these people, we walked towards them, but they suddenly rose and scampered up the hill among the trees, which were so thick as soon to conceal them from our view. Boongaree called to them in vain; and it was not until they had reached some distance that they answered his call in loud shrill voices. After some time spent in a parley, in which Boongaree was spokesman on our part, sometimes in his own language, and at others in broken English, which he always resorted to when his own failed in being understood, they withdrew altogether, and we neither heard nor saw anything more of them.
The next morning, the wind being easterly, we left the bay. On passing Red Point, twenty or thirty natives came to the extreme point of the cliff, shouting and hallooing and making violent gestures; a large group of women and children appeared in the background, timidly concealing themselves behind the trees and bushes; another party was quietly seated round small fires on the rocks near the sea-beach, apparently engaged in cooking their fish; and at a little distance from the last group, two canoes were hauled upon the rocks.
The breeze being fresh from the North-North-East, we made rapid progress; and at three o’clock p.m., rounded Cape Howe, with every prospect of passing through Bass Strait before the wind should again veer to the westward. In passing Cape Howe, we observed large fires burning on the hills, made by the natives for the double purpose of burning off the dry grass and of hunting the kangaroos, which are thus forced to fly from the woods, and thereby fall an easy prey to their pursuers.
The next day at noon, Kent’s Group, in the eastern entrance of Bass Strait, was seen; but, at one o’clock, the wind shifted suddenly and blew a gale from South-West, with heavy rain: after beating against it until the following day, we bore up and ran under the lee of Great Island, intending to pass round Van Diemen’s Land: at five o’clock, we passed close to the Babel Islands, on which were heaped incredible numbers of sea-birds of various descriptions, each species huddled together in flocks separate from the other. On another part of the island many seals were seen, by the growl of which, and the discordant screams of the birds, a strange confused noise was made, not ill adapted to the name the island bears.
By the following day, we had made some progress along the eastern side of Van Diemen’s Land, but in the evening, the wind shifted to South-East, and induced us to try the Strait once more. In passing the low north-easternmost point of the land, called by the French, Cape Naturaliste, we had nearly run ashore from the darkness of the night, and the little elevation of the land. Our sounding in seven fathoms was the first indication of danger; and, on listening attentively, the noise of the surf upon the beach was distinctly heard.
The next morning we passed through Banks Strait, and entered Bass Strait.
1818. January 2.
But the wind was so light and baffling, that we made no progress until the 2nd of January; when, with a freshening breeze from the eastward, we moved rapidly on our way, and flattered ourselves with the hope of clearing the strait before night. In this hope we were not deceived; but before it was effected, we had very nearly suffered from the careless look-out of the man at the masthead. At four o’clock we were near Three Hummock Island, and steered so as to pass close to its northern point, in order that we might obtain a correct latitude for sights for the chronometers. Being within half a mile of it, rocks were suddenly seen outside and so close to us, that it was then too late either to haul up or bear away; the rocks to windward and the land to leeward preventing us: nothing was therefore left to us but to proceed and take the chance of finding sufficient depth of water between the point and the rocks; providentially there proved to be a passage of one-eighth of a mile wide, and the cutter passed safely through. These islands were examined by Commodore Baudin, and an elaborate survey made of them by his officers; but this danger is not noticed on their plan of the group. The rocks bear North 30 degrees West (by compass) from the northernmost point of the island, and North 8 degrees East (by compass) from the northernmost hummock. I do not think they extend far from the shore.
At sunset, we were in the meridian of Albatross Island, and by midnight cleared the Strait, when we steered a course for King George the Third’s Sound.
Upon examining our bread, we found that a considerable quantity was spoiled from damp and leaks, which necessarily obliged us to go at once upon a reduced allowance of that article.
From a succession of westerly winds, the vessel was driven so near to the Archipelago of the Recherche, that we were induced to bear up for the anchorage in Goose Island Bay; but as we steered round Douglas’s Isles, the wind veered back to the South-East, and we might have proceeded: we were, however, so near the anchorage, that I determined upon occupying it for the night; and steering in between Middle Island and Goose Island, the anchor was dropped off the first sandy beach to the eastward of the highest hill, at the north-west end of the former.
In the evening I landed with the botanist and Mr. Roe, but we found little that was worthy of our attention. The basis of the island is granitic, and covered with a shallow soil, formed of decayed vegetable matter, mixed with sand, which nourishes the stunted vegetation that thickly clothes the surface, particularly on the north-eastern, which is its most sheltered side.
No animals were observed, excepting some small quadrupeds, which were momentarily seen by Mr. Roe, and, from his description, were kangaroo-rats. On Goose Island, the bird from which it takes its name appeared to be abundant; but there was too much surf to permit our landing upon it, and we were not so much in want of fresh provisions as to induce our risking any damage to the boats: we found the bones of a whale which had been thrown up on the beach where we landed.
The wind in the night veered to North-East by East, to which quarter the anchorage is much exposed; towards morning it blew fresh, but the anchor held well. At dawn of day, (17th) we got underweigh and steered through the islands; at noon, we were abreast of Termination Island, the latitude of which we found to be 34 degrees 32 minutes. Our friendly wind died away at midnight, and was succeeded by a short gale from the westward.
On the 20th, at daylight, we were close to Bald Island, and in the afternoon took up an anchorage in King George the Third’s Sound, between Seal Island and the first sandy beach, at the distance of half a mile to the eastward of a flat rock in seven fathoms, sand and weeds.
In the evening we landed on Seal Island, which we had much difficulty in effecting on account of the surf. Several seals were upon it, one of which we killed; and some penguins were also taken. On the summit of the island or rock, for it scarcely deserves the former appellation, the skeleton of a goat’s head was found, and near it were the remains of a glass case bottle; both of which, we afterwards learnt, were left on the island by Lieutenant Forster, R.N., who put into this harbour in 1815, on his passage from Port Jackson to Europe, in the Emu, hired transport. We searched in vain for the bottle which Captain Flinders left there, containing an account of the Investigator’s visit; my intention, in looking for this document, was not of course to remove it, but to ascertain its existence, and to add a few lines to the memorandum it contained.
Iguanas, geese, penguins, gulls, and seals of the hairy species, were the sole inhabitants of this rock. After leaving Seal Island, we landed on the sandy beach abreast of the anchorage; in doing this the boat filled, and the instruments were so wetted, that they were left on the beach to dry during our absence. Our ascent, from the hill being steep, and composed of a very loose drift sand, was difficult and fatiguing; but the beautiful flowers and plants, with which the surface of the hill was strewed, repaid us for our toil. These being all new to Mr. Cunningham fully occupied his attention, whilst I remained upon the summit, from whence a good view was obtained of the Eclipse Isles, and Vancouver’s breakers, both of which are well laid down by Captain Flinders, whose correctness I had already many occasions to admire. An abundance of shells of the helix tribe (Helix bulimus) was found on the top and sides of the hill; and a calcareous substance was observed protruding from the ground in every part, as noticed both by Vancouver and Flinders;* the former also found it on the bare sandy summit of Bald Head, and supposed it to be coral, a circumstance from which he inferred that the level of the ocean must have sunk. Similar substances have since been discovered by Dr. Clarke Abel, near Simon’s Town, at the Cape of Good Hope, and are described by him to be vegetables impregnated with carbonate of lime; but from the specimens we obtained, it would appear that it is neither coral, nor a petrified vegetable substance, but merely sand agglutinated by calcareous matter**.
(*Footnote. Vancouver volume 1 page 49. Flinders volume 1 page 63.)
(**Footnote. Vide Appendix, C.)
The next morning we got under weigh, and stood over to the entrance of Oyster Harbour, off which we anchored to examine the bar; after satisfying myself on this head, and choosing a spot within the entrance to anchor at, we got under-sail, and in crossing the bar had not less than thirteen feet and a half, being nearly about the time of high water; but between the heads of the harbour it deepened to five, seven, and eight fathoms. Our anchorage was about twenty-five yards from the eastern shore, and not more than fifty yards within the narrowest part of the entrance; it was convenient for our purposes, as the wood was abundantly procured close to our water-holes, which were dug at the edge of the sand, within thirty yards of the vessel; so that the people employed in these occupations could be protected against the natives by the proximity of the cutter, without preventing the necessary repairs to the rigging being carried on at the same time by the remainder of the crew on board.
January 21 to 31.
During our stay in Oyster Harbour many parts of the neighbourhood were visited by us; and on one occasion, Mr. Roe walked round its shores; in doing which he got into great danger. Upon leaving the vessel, his intention was only to go to a projecting head on the western side, for the purpose of taking a sketch; but being tempted to extend his walk, he had half traversed the shore of the harbour before he thought of returning. He had already waded over the river that falls into the North-West corner of the port, which was not more than four feet deep; and to avoid crossing it again, he preferred returning to the tent, by making the circuit of the harbour: but after proceeding some distance further, he unexpectedly met with another river, deeper and wider than that which he had previously passed; this proved to be the Riviere de Francois of Captain Baudin; it falls into Oyster Harbour at its North-East corner, about two miles to the eastward of the Western River. In attempting to ford this, finding the water deeper than he expected, he was obliged to swim about two hundred yards; and, from being burdened with his clothes, narrowly escaped with his life. Fortunately he met with no further impediment to his return, and reached the tent much fatigued. We afterwards made an excursion up this river, but from the greater part of the day being spent in searching for the entrance, which is both shoal and intricate, we did not succeed in reaching farther than four miles from its mouth. At the part where we left off our examination, it was about sixty yards wide, and from ten to twelve feet deep; bounded on either side by gently rising and well wooded hills; but the soil was neither rich nor deep. The shoals of the river, which at the entrance were very extensive, were covered with large flights of water-fowl; among which curlews and teals were abundant.
Oyster Harbour is plentifully stocked with fish, but we were not successful with the hook, on account of the immense number of sharks that were constantly playing about the vessel. A few fish were taken with the seine, which we hauled on the eastern side of the small central island. At this place Captain Vancouver planted and stocked a garden with vegetables, no vestige of which now remained. Boongaree speared a great many fish with his fiz-gig; one that he struck with the boat-hook on the shoals at the entrance of the Eastern River weighed twenty-two pounds and a half, and was three feet and a half long. The mouths of all the creeks and inlets were planted with weirs, which the natives had constructed for the purpose of catching fish. Mr. Roe, on his excursion round the harbour, counted eleven of these weirs on the flats and shoals between the two rivers, one of which was a hundred yards long, and projected forty yards, in a crescent-shape, towards the sea; they were formed by stones placed so close to each other as to prevent the escape, as the tide ebbed, of such fish as had passed over at high water. This expedient is adopted in many parts of the continent; it was observed by Lieutenant Oxley, R.N., the surveyor-general of New South Wales, in his journey on the banks of the Lachlan River: the same was also seen by me on several parts of the North-West Coast; and, from its being used on the South-East, South-West, and North-West Coasts, it may be concluded to be the practice throughout the country.
While waiting for an opportunity of leaving this harbour, Mr. Roe assisted me in making a survey of the entrance, in the hope of finding it more available for large ships; but in vain; for ships drawing more than twelve feet water cannot pass the bar. The rise and fall of the tide is not only very inconsiderable, but also very irregular; under some circumstances we found that it rose three feet, but this was very unusual.
Our gentlemen made several excursions into the country in various directions, in the hope of meeting with natives, but not the least vestige of their immediate presence was found; they were not however far from us, for the smokes of their fires were seen every evening; probably the fear of punishment kept them away, as they had formerly made rather a mischievous attack upon some of the Emu’s crew.
No marks were left of the ship Elligood’s garden, which Captain Flinders found at the entrance of Oyster Harbour;* but a lapse of sixteen years will in this country create a complete revolution in vegetation; which is here so luxuriant and rapid that whole woods may have been burnt down by the natives, and grown again within that space of time; and it may be thus that the Elligood’s garden is now possessed by the less useful but more beautiful plants and shrubs of the country.
(*Footnote. Flinders Terra Australis volume 1 page 55.)
Excepting the sea-fowl, which consisted of geese, wild ducks, teals, curlews, divers, sea-pies, gulls, and terns, very few birds were seen, and those chiefly of the parrot and cockatoo tribe; a species of the latter was noticed of a rich black plumage, and very like the black cockatoo of New South Wales. Kangaroos from their traces must be numerous, but only a very few were noticed; the only reptile that was found was a black snake, which Mr. Cunningham saw for a moment as it glided past him. This gentleman made a large collection of seeds and dried specimens from the vast variety of beautiful plants and flowers with which nature has so lavishly clothed the hills and plains of this interesting country.
A small spot of ground near the tent was dug up and enclosed with a fence, in which Mr. Cunningham sowed many culinary seeds and peach-stones; and on the stump of a tree, which had been felled by our wooding party, the name of the vessel with the date of our visit was inscribed; but when we visited Oyster Harbour three years and a half afterwards, no signs remained of the garden, and the inscription was scarcely perceptible, from the stump of the tree having been nearly destroyed by fire.
A little without the east entrance of the harbour, we saw one of those prodigious large nests which Captain Flinders observed near Point Possession; it was built on the summit of an almost inaccessible rock, exposed to the South-West winds; it measured four feet in diameter at the top, and nearly seven feet at the base: it appeared to have been deserted for some time, as the branches and sea-weed, with which it was made, were strewed about the rock. Captain Flinders thought it probable that the inhabitant was an eagle; but on our subsequent visit to King George’s Sound in 1821, we saw the same nest occupied by a hawk of a moderate size.
On the 31st January we were ready to leave the port; but the weather was so unfavourable that we remained until the following day. In the evening a boat was sent to Seal Island to deposit a bottle, in which was enclosed a memorandum informing future navigators of our visit, and intentions with respect to our further proceedings. When the boat returned she brought two seals, which had been killed on the island for the sake of their skins, to be used for the purpose of refitting the rigging.
1819. February 1.
The next day (February 1st) the cutter was warped out of Oyster Harbour; and, as the wind was from the eastward, we profited by it: after beating out of the Sound we steered along the coast, and at eight o’clock were abreast of West Cape Howe.
On rounding Cape Leeuwin, our crew were attacked with a bowel complaint, and symptoms of dysentery; the want of a surgeon to our establishment was most anxiously felt, from the fear that, by an unskilful or improper use of medicines, I might increase, instead of lessen the progress of complaints, which from the fatigues of such a service, in so warm a climate and in the unhealthy season, threatened to be frequent and severe. One or two of the people had complained of this disorder before we left Oyster Harbour, but it was not until we had sailed, that it assumed any serious appearance. After two days it happily began to subside, or I should of necessity have been obliged to resort to some place for relief, for we had, at one time, only four seamen to keep watch.
This sickness prevented our examining any part of the West Coast, as we passed it; our course was therefore held at a distance from the shore, and on the 10th the land to the southward of the North-West Cape was descried at daylight. Its outline was so level as to appear like a thick fog on the horizon; but, as the sun rose, we were undeceived. At seven miles from the shore we found no soundings with 80 fathoms; but at eight o’clock, being three miles nearer, we had 35 fathoms, sand, coral, and shells. The bottom then gradually shoaled to 22 fathoms; upon which we steered along the outer edge of a line of breakers that fronted the shore, and after rounding a projection of the reef, steered to the East-North-East, towards the extreme of the land.
The coast is here tolerably elevated, and may be seen at the distance of six or seven leagues; it is composed of a red-coloured, sandy-looking rock, which is very scantily sprinkled with small shrubs, and appears to be extremely arid and sterile. The shore is fronted with rocks that extend for three or four miles into the sea; on the extremity of which the surf breaks with a continued foam. To the north the land suddenly terminates with rather a steep slope, but a low sandy plain extends to the East-North-East for three miles further, the extremity of which is the North-West Cape. The fall of the high-land was called Vlaming Head, after the navigator who first discovered this part.
After obtaining the meridional observation, we rounded the Cape, and steered between it and a patch of breakers which lie at the distance of a mile and a half from the shore: we were no sooner under the lee of the land, than the air, before of a pleasant and a moderate temperature, became so heated as to produce a scorching sensation; and to raise the mercury in the thermometer from 79 to 89 degrees. We were also assailed by an incredible number of flies and other insects, among which was a beautiful species of libellula. The sea swarmed with turtles, sea-snakes, and fish of various sorts; and the dolphin was eminently conspicuous for its speed, and the varied beauty of its colours.
From the Cape, the low sandy land trended to the South-South-East for a mile and a half, and then with the same character to South-South-West 1/2 West, in which direction it was lost in distance; and in the north east, was a low rocky island.
The wind fell after passing round the Cape, and was so light during the afternoon that we made no progress, and were obliged to anchor at about three or four miles to the eastward of the Cape. At nine o’clock the wind freshened with the flood-tide, which raised a heavy swell in which the cutter rode very uneasily.
And, in the morning, when we attempted to weigh the anchor, the cable parted, having been cut by rocks. Owing to the bad construction of the buoy, it did not watch; and, as the tide quickly swept us from the place, we had no chance left of recovering the anchor. As the sun rose the wind gradually fell; and, at noon, we were no farther advanced than a mile and a half to the southward of the north east trend of the Cape. Here the coast is low and sandy, and is of shoal approach. A small clump of mangrove-trees on the beach was the first sign of vegetation that we had seen; and, from the absence of verdure hereabout, is a conspicuous object. The thermometer stood at 89 degrees. The ebb tide then commenced and drifted us out near our last night’s anchoring ground, and the evening was spent, without success, in searching for our lost anchor. At sunset a fresh breeze set in from the South-West, and fearing a repetition of our loss, we continued under sail during the night, which was past with great anxiety; and not without reason.
For when the day broke, we found ourselves within one mile of the reef off the South-West end of the island in the north east (which proved to be Captain Baudin’s Muiron Island), and drifting towards it so rapidly, that in less than half an hour the vessel would have been thrown upon the rocks. Standing to the eastward we discovered the three sandy islets–h, i, and k; and at noon, we were near two other sandy islets, y, and z, which appeared to be the north-westernmost of a group of low, sandy, or rocky islets, extending to the South-East, beyond the limits of our masthead view. The islets, y and z, are of circular shape, and not more than a quarter of a mile in diameter; they are so low as not to be visible from our deck at a greater distance than seven miles. Their summits are crowned with a slight shrubby vegetation, the bright verdure of which, separated from the dark blue colour of the sea by their glittering sandy beaches, formed a pleasing contrast to the dull, monotonous appearance of the mainland. These islets are in fact only the dry parts of a shoal, on which the sand has accumulated, and formed a soil to receive and nourish the seeds of plants, which have either been drifted on shore by the tide, or been brought by birds from the continent.
At sunset we anchored under the land, but soon afterwards the wind blew so fresh, that the fluke of our anchor broke, and we were obliged to drop another; which was the last we possessed, besides a small stream anchor that was too light to use, excepting in a calm.
The next morning being fine, and favourable for another search after our lost anchor (the recovery of which from our last night’s misfortune had become of very great consequence) we bore up along the shore, and soon arrived at the spot; but after some time spent in the search, without success, we were at last obliged to relinquish the attempt, and gave up all hope of ever finding it.
We then returned into the gulf to prosecute its examination, but as usual, the wind fell, and the only progress we made was by the assistance of the flood-tide, which ran until sunset; a fresh breeze then sprung up, and the night was passed under sail. At daylight the following morning the cutter was about four miles from the western shore, but the day was so calm that very little progress was made. The thermometer indicated a temperature of 97 degrees, which, from the absence of the sea-breeze, and from our not having an awning to protect us from the sun’s rays, was almost insufferable; and although our crew were happily in good health, yet my fears were momentarily alive lest any should be taken ill. A land-wind at night enabled us to make some progress, and before dark we had reached twenty-five miles into the opening without seeing anything like its termination; the western side still trended in a southerly direction, losing itself in distance, and bore the appearance of being an island.
By the next day we descried some hills of peaked shape to the southward, which was the only indication we had of the termination of the gulf: to the eastward the islands were very numerous and low; but to the South-East the land was so continuous as to impress us with the idea of its being the continent. We steered towards it to satisfy our doubts but the water shoaled and prevented our approaching it near enough to ascertain the fact. The gulf was here so much narrower, and the bottom so uneven and rocky, that an anchorage was now of material importance, but our poverty in anchors made me fearful of risking our last upon a bottom of the least questionable nature. Before dark however we were fortunate in finding a bay on the western shore, in which the anchor was dropped in three fathoms muddy bottom, at one mile from the shore.
The discovery of this anchorage proved so welcome to our fatigued crew, that the place was not unaptly named the Bay of Rest. We remained here three days, in which time I was enabled to lay down my plan of the gulf, and give some little respite to the people who had been up both night and day, and most laboriously occupied, since we rounded the North-West Cape.
As soon as the vessel was secured Mr. Bedwell landed on the eastern shore of the bay, and found it to be of bold approach, but lined with coral rocks, and covered with dead shells, among which a buccinum of immense size was noticed. The soil, if such it can be called, is composed of a red quartzose sand; but on the hills it contained also a small portion of earth, which gave it a strong resemblance to brick-dust. The country is slightly sprinkled with a stunted vegetation, and bore a most desert-like appearance; and on the shore we noticed a few mangrove bushes.
The sea was abundantly stocked with fish and turtle, though it did not appear to be the season for the latter to lay their eggs. An immense shark was hooked, but it broke the hook and escaped: its length was about twelve feet, of an ashy-gray colour, spotted all over with darker marks; the belly was white, and the nose short; it was altogether different from any we had before seen. The impression of what appeared to have been an emu’s foot was noticed upon the sand, there is reason, however, to think we may have been deceived; we never afterwards saw one of those birds on the north coast.
The country was covered with immense ant-hills; one that Mr. Cunningham measured was eight feet high, and nearly twenty-six in circumference; but on breaking it up, he found it to be deserted by its constructors: an iguana, which was hunted by that gentleman, took refuge in one of these hills, which proved a safe asylum, for, although he broke a great part down, it escaped.
During the following day, Mr. Bedwell examined the bottom of the bay, where he found a narrow opening, communicating with an inner basin of small extent, containing from two to five feet water, well stocked with fish: during the afternoon Mr. Roe walked over the sand-ridges behind the beach, and provided me with an outline, and the particular features of a part of the coast.
The country at the back of the bay was in flames during our stay, which proved, if a proof were required, that this arid and barren extremity of Australia is not destitute of inhabitants; and although we saw none, it is probable that they were not ignorant of our presence, but from timidity intentionally avoided us. The heat was very great; on board, the thermometer did not stand higher than 90 degrees, whilst on shore it rose to 105 degrees, and when exposed to the sun to 119 degrees.
On the morning of the 18th we resumed the examination of the inlet, but having proceeded only six miles farther, there was every appearance either of its termination, or of its communicating with the sea. The channel had become narrow and shoal, and as I was not prepared for so critical a navigation, the further examination was given up, and we bore up to coast along the eastern shore; but, from the shoalness of the water, we were obliged to sail at so great a distance that its continuity was by no means distinctly traced. The inlet was named Exmouth Gulf, in compliment to the noble and gallant Viscount.
Having by night reached a clear space, the cutter was kept under sail; and the next morning Vlaming Head and Muiron Island were seen, as well as the islets y and z, and the others to the South-East. The course was then directed to the eastward, and having reached within four miles of the coast, the depth of water was only two and a half fathoms. At noon, we passed between two other islets; and, during the afternoon, steered along the coast parallel to it, and within a range of low sandy islets, of similar character with y and z, and the other islets in their vicinity. A low, sandy projection of the coast was named after Edward Hawke Locker, Esquire.
Twelve miles to the eastward of Cape Locker the shore is lined with mangroves, among which a small opening, like a rivulet, was observed. On attempting to approach it, we were prevented by a reef of rocks that stretched across its entrance; but we succeeded in finding an anchorage about three miles to the eastward of the inlet, in two and a half fathoms at about a quarter of a mile from the shore.
The following morning, we ascended it in a boat for four miles. On our way to the entrance, which was between the reef and the shore, we had some difficulty, even with the boat, in finding a channel; but when we were within the heads, we found a regular depth of from ten to twelve feet, the banks on either side were, for two miles, impenetrably lined with mangrove bushes, which bore the marks of having been torn down by freshes or inundations. Beyond this the banks were low and sandy, but the channel of the river was of mud. At high water we landed to examine the country, and ascended a sand-hillock, the only elevation we could find, to procure a view around; it was so low that our prospect was very limited, yet still it was sufficient to satisfy us of the aridity and poverty of the soil: the country bore the appearance of having been under water, which seemed to be occasioned by high tides, for there were large patches of salt incrustations, which could only have been caused by an inundation of sea-water. Two or three stunted bushes of a species of eucalyptus were the only trees seen, excepting the mangroves. The soil is composed of a mixture of red quartzose sand, mud, and clay, in which the first bore the greatest proportion.
On no part of the coast did we find the heat so intense and oppressive as in this river; the thermometer stood at 94 degrees, and the ground was so heated that we were obliged to beat a bush down to stand upon, whilst we were taking the bearings of some of the islets in the offing.
Some natives and a dog had very recently been crossing the little creeks that fell into the river, for the impressions of their feet were observed below the high-water mark; the mouths of the creeks were planted with weirs, similar to those in the river at Oyster Harbour.
The river appeared to abound in fish, but the only sort that was caught was what the sailors called cat-fish; they were of a nauseous taste. Pelicans and curlews were very numerous, particularly the latter, in consequence of which the inlet was called Curlew River; but the most numerous and annoying of the inhabitants of this part were the flies, from their constantly creeping into the eyes, nostrils, and mouth, particularly during our meals; and it required some little trouble to partake of our repast without also conveying with it several of these troublesome insects.
On our return to the cutter, our party very imprudently bathed, which occasioned, to some of them, two or three days’ indisposition, and it was fortunate that they did not suffer from a coup de soleil. This indiscretion was, however, never afterwards permitted.
During the absence of the boat, Mr. Bedwell landed abreast the anchorage, and walked a mile inland to one of the salt marshes. On his way, he passed several ant-hills of the same description as those seen by us at the Bay of Rest. The coast is here protected from inroads of the sea by a barrier of sand dunes, from ten to twenty feet high, on which were growing a variety of plants, particularly a species of convolvulus, which, from the great size and length of its stem, being an inch in diameter and extending along the beach for more than thirty yards, is very conspicuous. Behind these dunes the country is flat, and in most parts below the level of the sea; so that when the tides rise high enough to pass over the breaks in the dunes, the country is inundated, when, by the intense heat of the sun, the water is very speedily evaporated, and a salt incrustation, to a great extent, is formed upon the plains. At the distance of four or five miles from the beach, a small range of rocky hills, apparently destitute of vegetation, formed a boundary to the view. The shore is lined by a barrier of sharp rocks, covered with species of ostrea and nerita, but although these were the only living testaceous animals that were found, the beach was covered with a multitude of dead and imperfect shells of various species.
In the evening, after our return from the river, the weather clouded, but afterwards cleared up with a change of wind from the South-East, which, from its heat, and from the listless sensations it caused, resembled the hot land-wind of Port Jackson: this seems to afford additional ground for the hypothesis that the interior of this immense island is occupied by vast sandy deserts.
On leaving this anchorage it was low water, when the depth was only six inches more than the vessel’s draught; but the bottom being of mud, it deepened inch by inch, until we reached four, five, and six fathoms; and upon this depth we sailed the whole day, passing through a cluster, or rather range of sandy islets. In the evening we anchored under one of larger size than usual, about four miles from the mainland, the shores of which had been traced during the day, without losing sight of any part of it; it was still low, and bounded either by dunes of sand, or an impervious forest of mangroves, beyond which no part of the interior could be seen.
The following day was spent in examining a bight, but we were prevented from penetrating to the bottom by the shoalness of the water. We were, however, near enough to see large sheets of water over the mangrove belt that lined the shore, in which many openings were observed that communicated with it. Beyond the lakes was a range of rocky hills, that bounded our masthead view. The bight is fronted by a crowded range of sandy islets, from which we did not extricate ourselves until the next day.
Having passed out between two sandy islets, our course was held to the northward, outside of a range of islets, and parallel to the mainland; which was soon afterwards lost to view by trending to the eastward. At one o’clock we passed round a larger and a more elevated island, as well as of a more rocky character than those to the southward; and then steered to the eastward, towards the next projecting point of the main, named after my friend Richard Preston, Esquire, on our way to which we left a small island about one mile to the northward of our track. In the evening, we steered close round Cape Preston, but were disappointed in an attempt to find anchorage near it, from the rocky state of the bottom, so that the night was passed under sail, which, considering the number of low islets scattered about, was running a dangerous risk, and this was increased by encountering a severe squall of wind from the South-East, which blew so insufferably hot that the thermometer stood at 89 degrees, having been at 91 degrees all the previous day.
The next morning it was calm and sultry; at ten o’clock we anchored near a small sandy isle in the centre of the bay, until the sea-breeze set in, which was taken immediate advantage of; and after weighing the course was directed towards a steep rocky head, forming the South-West point of an island, subsequently called Enderby Island, after a very old and valued friend. On our way we had to pass round a sandy islet and a rocky reef of considerable extent; after which we anchored off a sandy beach to the eastward of Rocky Head.
Soon after anchoring the sky became black and clouded over the land to the South-East, and assumed a very threatening appearance; heavy, dense clouds, in which streams of vivid forked lightning momentarily appeared, were rolling rapidly towards us, and made us fear a repetition of last night’s storm; the stream-anchor, the only resource we had, was therefore dropped; and, with the topmast struck, we awaited the bursting of the storm with much anxiety, and just cause of alarm for the safety of the vessel: the clouds continued to roll towards us, but just as the storm was on the point of bursting, the clouds suddenly dispersed and in half an hour the night turned out as fine as it had threatened to be the reverse.
The next morning I landed with Mr. Roe, and climbed the summit of Rocky Head before the sun rose; in the ascent we crossed several deep ravines which, together with the hills, were thickly covered with a wiry grass (spinifex) growing over and amongst heaps of rocks that were piled up in all directions as if it had been done purposely; the greater part of the surface of the island being covered with these stones, we had a considerable difficulty in advancing, and it was not without some labour that we arrived at the summit of the hill. Here the view was very extensive; the coast to the eastward of Cape Preston trends inward and forms a bay, the shores of which are very low. The land on which we were appeared to be the south-westernmost island of a considerable archipelago; and the land to the eastward was observed to be rocky and high, in comparison to the low sandy country we had been lately passing.
From Dampier’s description of Rosemary Island I was, at first, induced to think that we had landed upon the identical island he visited; but this error was soon discovered. An island to the northward, on which are three hummocks, was soon recognised as Captain Baudin’s Ile Romarin, it therefore bears the name of Rosemary Island in my chart, and I have no doubt of its being that under which Captain Dampier anchored, but not the one upon which he landed. To the eastward of Enderby Island, a strait of nearly two miles wide separates it from Lewis Island; and between Enderby and Rosemary Islands is Goodwyn Island. The shores of the bay were plentiful in shell-fish, particularly oysters; and beche de mer* were also abundant in the crevices of the rocks; but there were no traces of this part of the coast having been visited by the Malays, who annually visit it to the eastward, for the purpose of taking that animal. The tracks of natives and their fireplaces were everywhere visible and around the latter the bones of kangaroos and fishes were strewed.
(*Footnote. Trepang, a species of Holothuria (Priapulus sp., Lam. iii. 76), an animal collected by the Malays for the Chinese market. Vide Flinders Terra Australis volume 2 pages 231 and 257.)
On the north side of Rocky Head, in a ravine, under the shade of a ficus, eight or ten gallons of water were found and brought on board; and near it on a spot of tolerable soil Mr. Cunningham sowed some peach-stones.
At daylight we left this anchorage, and proceeded to penetrate to the eastward towards a deep bight or strait; the wind was, however, so light, that we were compelled to anchor until the sea-breeze set in, when the vessel was again under sail, and proceeded onwards. As we advanced, three natives were seen in the water, apparently wading from an island in the centre of the strait towards Lewis Island: the course was immediately altered to intercept them, but as we approached, it was discovered that each native was seated on a log of wood, which he propelled through the water by paddling with his hands. Having hove to close by them, they became much alarmed, and cried out in loud tones which were increased when our boat was lowered and despatched after them; but it was not without the greatest difficulty that Mr. Bedwell succeeded in bringing one on board. On the boat’s coming up with the nearest Indian, he left his log and, diving under the boat’s bottom, swam astern; this he did whenever the boat approached him, and it was four or five minutes before he was caught, which was at last effected by seizing him by the hair, in the act of diving, and dragging him into the boat, against which he resisted stoutly, and, even when taken, it required two men to hold him to prevent his escape. During the interval of heaving to and bringing him on board, the cutter was anchored near the central island, where a tribe of natives were collected, consisting of about forty persons, of whom the greater number were women and children; the whole party appeared to be overcome with grief, particularly the women, who most loudly and vehemently expressed their sorrow by cries, and rolling on the ground, and covering their bodies with the sand. When our captive arrived alongside the vessel and saw Boongaree, he became somewhat pacified, and suffered himself to be lifted on board; he was then ornamented with beads and a red cap; and upon our applauding his appearance, a smile momentarily played on his countenance, but it was soon replaced by a vacant stare. He took very little notice of anything until he saw the fire, and this appeared to occupy his attention very much. Biscuit was given to him, which, as soon as he tasted, he spat out, but some sugared water being offered to him, he drank the whole; and upon sugar being placed before him, in a saucer, he was at a loss how to use it, until one of the boys fed him with his fingers, and when the saucer was emptied, he showed his taste for this food by licking it with his tongue. He was then taken to the side of the vessel from which his companions were visible, when he immediately exclaimed, with much earnestness, and in a loud voice, “coma negra,” and repeated the words several times. After he had been on board for half an hour, during which time he had been greatly caressed, in order to induce him to give a favourable account of us to his companions, he was taken half way towards the shore in our boat, and then launched upon his log, to which was lashed an axe, and around his neck a bag was suspended containing biscuits, and a little of everything that he appeared to fancy or be amused with during his short captivity.
As soon as he perceived himself clear of the boat he paddled away, and in a short time reached the shore and joined his terrified companions; who, upon his approaching them, ordered him to stand at a distance until he had thrown away his red cap, the bag, and the axe, and had answered several questions which they were apparently putting to him. All this time they had their spears poised and pointed towards him, and stood huddled together in the greatest alarm; the women were kept away, but their curiosity was so much excited that, although they were more terrified than the men, they were seen peeping over the bushes and rocks which concealed them, and attentively watching what was going on. Our friend stood in the position of, and as motionless as, a soldier at drill, and answered all their interrogatories and inquiries without making the least movement. He was soon allowed to approach nearer, and then the whole party cautiously advanced, with their spears still poised, and surrounded him. His body was then carefully examined; and upon the women and children being allowed to approach, they seated themselves in a ring and placed him in the middle, when he told his story, which occupied about half an hour. Upon its being finished, they all got up, and, after shouting and hallooing to us, they went to the opposite side of the island, leaving our presents upon the beach, after having carefully examined them.
Before sunset Mr. Roe and Mr. Cunningham pulled towards the island in the jolly-boat: on its approach the natives came down and appeared anxious for the crew to land; but the shore was too rocky to admit of doing so with security, and after making the natives a few presents, to obtain which they waded up to their arms in the water, the party returned. The natives were much amused with Boongaree’s appearance, and frequently addressed him, but his answering them in a strange language surprised them very much; on his taking off his shirt they shouted loudly, and were delighted; but on the return of the boat on board without our party’s landing, they were evidently much disappointed.
Our late captive was noticed in the background, but did not approach the boat: he was, for an Australian, a well made man, and was at least six feet in height. His hair was long and curly, and in it was stuck a short sharp-pointed stick; he wore his beard long, no teeth were wanting in his jaws, and there was no appearance of the septum narium having been pierced: at every three inches between the upper part of the chest and navel his body was scarified in horizontal stripes, the cicatrice of which was at least an inch in diameter, and protruded half an inch from the body. He could not have been more than twenty-two or three years of age; and as for the other characteristics of spare limbs, long arms and large head, he was a perfect facsimile of the inhabitants of the eastern coast.
During the night their fires were seen on the island, and some were also noticed on the mainland to the southward.
Early the next morning the natives came down to the beach, and called out loudly to us; but the glare of the sun, rising immediately over them, prevented our distinguishing their movements. After this they disappeared, and when we visited the island in the afternoon, we found that they had left it: their shouting to us in the morning was therefore to inform us of their departure, and was probably intended to convey to us their farewell.
Upon landing at the island, we directed our steps to their huts, which were of most miserable construction, being nothing more than a bush stuck in the ground, and forming only a very indifferent shade. Here we found the presents, which had been given to our late captive, deposited carefully on the ground; but the bag, instead of having been opened at the mouth, was torn asunder near the seam at the bottom; a fishing line that had been given to him was also left behind, which surprised us the more because the native had one of his own making attached to his log, and therefore must have known its use.
It appears that the only vehicle by which these savages transport their families and chattels across the water is a log of wood; that which we had brought alongside with our captive friend was made of the stem of a mangrove tree; but as it was not long enough for the purpose, two or three short logs were neatly and even curiously joined together end to end, and so formed one piece that was sufficient to carry and buoyant enough to support the weight of two people. The end is rudely ornamented, and is attached to the extremity by the same contrivance as the joints of the main stem, only that the two are not brought close together. The joint is contrived by driving three pegs into the end of the log, and by bending them, they are made to enter opposite holes in the part that is to be joined on; and as the pegs cross and bend against each other, they form a sort of elastic connexion, which strongly retains the two together. When it is used, they sit astride and move it along by paddling with their hands, keeping their feet upon the end of the log, by which they probably guide its course. Such are the shifts to which the absence of larger timber has reduced these simple savages: they show that man is naturally a navigating animal; and this floating log, which may be called a marine-velocipede, is, I should suppose, the extreme case of the poverty of savage boat-building all round the world.
The island is composed of a rocky basis, covered by a thin layer of sandy soil. On the summit of the bluff east end of the island was observed one of those immense nests that were seen at King George the Third’s Sound, the base of which measured seven feet in diameter. Whilst examining the nest, some natives were descried on an adjoining island, and as our principal object was to communicate with these people, we immediately re-embarked and sailed towards it. On approaching the island, we overtook two natives on their logs, who, on perceiving that we were pulling towards them, became frightened, and made violent gestures as if imploring us to go away. Four or five unarmed natives were standing on the shore of the island, and watched our proceedings; and, upon our sheering off and pulling away from the natives upon the logs towards a sandy beach, the party on the shore walked a few steps towards it also, and invited us by signs to go ashore. Upon the boat’s touching the beach, I landed, and taking Boongaree with me divested of his clothes, walked towards the natives, who were standing together, a little in the rear of one, who was probably their chief. The whole party were trembling with fear, and appeared quite palsied as we approached and took the chief by the hand. A little coaxing, and the investiture of a red cap upon the chief’s head, gradually repossessed them of their senses, and we were soon gabbling each in our own language, and therefore mutually unintelligible.
In a short time I obtained permission, which was asked for and granted by signs, for the rest of our party to approach. The chief who had been attired as above-mentioned was thought by Mr. Cunningham to be one of those who waded into the water to receive the presents from him the preceding evening: he was very inquisitive about our clothes, and expressed the greatest astonishment at everything he noticed about us. He ridiculed our repugnance to partake of a piece of the raw gut of a turtle which he offered to us, and to expose our folly, ate a piece, which he appeared to think a dainty, although it was quite fetid from putrefaction. Our attempts to collect a vocabulary of their language were quite unsuccessful. An axe, some chisels, and other tools were given to them, but they expressed no pleasure in receiving the presents, or astonishment at their effect. On our making signs for water, they all simultaneously pointed to an island bearing North-East from the one on which we were.
We now prepared to embark, and walked towards the boat accompanied by these friendly savages, hand in hand; but as they drew nigh, a water-spaniel belonging to me leapt out of the boat and began to bark, which alarmed them so much that some of them ran off, and kept aloof until we began to play with and caress the dog; and when they recovered their fright, they were highly amused with his swimming after some pieces of wood that were thrown into the water.
Boongaree was of course the object of their greatest attention: the fashion in which his body was scarred was the subject of particular remark; and when he pointed at the sea, to show them whence he came, they set up a shout of admiration and surprise.
We now took leave of these friendly Indians, and went through the ceremony of shaking each other by the hand, a mode of taking leave they appeared perfectly to understand. No women made their appearance, but there was every reason to believe that they were close at hand, for several natives were seen from the cutter concealed close to us, armed with spears ready to repel any attack we might have made, and to defend the women and children of their tribe.
The boat was then steered towards the island to which the natives had directed us; but as we pulled along its shore in search of a landing-place, a party of twenty or thirty Indians were observed descending the rocky hills towards the beach, with an evident intention of preventing our going ashore; and upon our pulling into a small bight, where there was some appearance of a stream of water, they threatened us with spears and stones; at the same time loudly vociferating and pointing to us to retire. Much unintelligible parley now ensued, during which we endeavoured to convince them that we only wanted fresh water, and had no intention of molesting them; but although they appeared perfectly to understand our meaning, they were determined upon resisting our attempt to land. A stone thrown at us by one of the foremost, who stood half up to his middle in the water, was an earnest of their hostile intentions if we persisted, and they were on the point of assaulting us with a shower of spears, when we pulled out and returned on board, leaving the Indians masters of the field. There was no mischievous feeling in their conduct towards us, for we were in their power, and had they been inclined, they might have speared the whole of our party before a musket could have been fired by us. Their object seemed to be merely to get rid of us, and in this they completely and very fairly succeeded, for our party was not numerous enough to force a landing without resorting to means which would have entirely destroyed the friendly intercourse we had just held with the last tribe, and for which we were perhaps solely indebted to the opportune capture that we made upon our arrival.
In consequence of the communication that we had with these natives, the group between Lewis Island and the main was called The Intercourse Islands.
Early the next morning, we left the anchorage, and took up a fresh station off the North-East end of the island from which we were repulsed. On our passing the north side of it, we saw no marks of fresh water; if there be any, it must be from rain-water collected and preserved in the holes of the rock. As we passed the east point, two natives were observed crossing over to the main upon their logs, and this was the last we saw of them.
Hence the strait takes a northerly direction, and was named Mermaid’s Strait, after our little vessel which had thus first sailed through it. Mr. Roe, in the afternoon, examined an opening in the land to the eastward of our anchorage; but found it to be overrun with mangroves, and entirely destitute of fresh water.
1818. March 1.
The next day we steered through the strait. Three openings were observed on the eastern side, which appeared to be straits separating as many islands; the northernmost was called Gidley Island. To the north of Lewis Island is Malus Island, the north east end of which is formed by a high bluff point, named Courtenay Head; whose summit, from its elevation and position, appeared to offer so good an opportunity of obtaining a bird’s-eye view of a great part of the Archipelago, that the cutter was anchored in a bay under its west side; and as soon as the vessel was secured, we landed and climbed the Head, and were repaid for the trouble by a very extensive view, and a useful set of bearings of the islands and rocks in its vicinity.
Malus Island is of the same formation as Enderby Island, and is clothed with the same kinds of plants. The ravines are deep, and the sides of the hills are covered with the same stone, of which a pile was erected on the summit of the head to mark the spot where the circumferentor was placed. Some turtle tracks were seen upon the beach; and when we returned to the vessel Mr. Bedwell landed to watch for their coming on shore, but none appeared, and since we found no eggs, it is probable that the young had already taken to the water.
The next morning we sailed, and attempted to steer round the western side of Malus Island; but were prevented from passing between it and Rosemary Island by the shoalness of the water. There is, however, every reason to believe that in mid-channel the water is deep enough for any purpose; but as our persisting would have answered no end, we steered across Mermaid’s Strait, and by sunset were abreast of Cape Bruguieres, so named by Captain Baudin, round which the land trended to East by South, forming the south side of a shoal strait, separating Gidley Island from Captain Baudin’s Legendre Island: the latter is a narrow, long, rocky island, lying East-South-East and West-North-West, and is of a lower character than the islands to the southward of it. We anchored under the North-West end of this island.
But the ground was so uneven and rocky that we considered ourselves fortunate in recovering the anchor the next morning without breaking it; for during the night the anchor dragged and hooked a rock; on weighing it, however, the rock proved to be rotten and broke away. The strait between Legendre and Gidley Islands is full of shoals, which at daylight being dry, were covered with immense flights of pelicans and other water-fowl.
During the day and following night we were becalmed off the north side of Legendre Island.
The next day we passed round its South-East end, and, at sunset, anchored in a deep bay. Off the South-East end of Legendre Island the sea is very full of reefs and dry rocks, but between Hauy and Delambre Islands there is a safe channel of nine and ten fathoms deep.
The bay in which we had anchored was called, at Mr. Roe’s request,