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Discoveries in Australia, Volume 2 by John Lort Stokes

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impenetrable fogs meanwhile passed at intervals to the South-West; and
whenever this obstruction to our vision was removed, could be seen a dark
heap of clouds collecting, some of which detaching themselves passed
rapidly over our heads. About three P.M. there was the sighing of a
breeze from that quarter. The barometer, also, at this time, ceased
falling and stood at 29.57, being as much as two-tenths lower than what
it was an hour before, and having fallen since eight A.M. four-tenths.

The rapid depression of the mercury was quite perceptible to the eye.
Under reduced sail the ship, like the petrel with closed wing, waited the
coming blast. A dense fog enveloped us; but an hour after the barometer
had ceased falling, it lifted up and revealed a long sheet of hissing
foam crowning the troubled waters that were rolling, urged by the
tempest, tumultuously towards us from the south-west.


For a while the heavy reduced canvas still flapped with a lazy swag
against the masts; but suddenly it was filled by a violent gust; and the
Beagle was hurried swiftly onwards, careering over the waves like the
misty spectre in a storm. Two hours after (six P.M.) the barometer had
risen a tenth. We now expected our passage to Sydney to be short: but the
ill luck of foul winds again attending us, it was the fifteenth before we


Exploration of Interior.
Twofold Bay.
Survey of Bass Strait.
Dangerous situation of the Beagle.
Kent and Hogan Groups.
Gipps Land.
Wilson's Promontory.
The Tamar.
Eastern entrance of Strait.
Steam communication between India and Australia.
New Guinea.
North coast of Tasmania.
Port Phillip.
Directions for ships passing King Island.
Complete survey of Bass Strait.
Farewell to Sydney.
Moreton Bay.
The Comet.
State of Tasmania, or Van Diemen's Land.
Lighthouses in Bass Strait.


The most interesting topic of conversation on our arrival at Sydney was
the projected expedition into the interior. Two candidates for this
important and deeply interesting undertaking had presented
themselves--Mr. E.J. Eyre and Sir Thomas Mitchell, both experienced
Australian explorers. The latter proposed to start from Fort Bourke on
the Darling; and the former from Moreton Bay. In my own humble opinion,
strengthened by recent experience, neither of these are practicable
routes;* or at any rate, they are not the best that could be selected.
The centre of the continent must be reached by the shortest possible
journey; it being advisable to avoid the despondency that seizes on a
party during a protracted expedition, and to keep up throughout a certain
degree of excitement. As, therefore, the greatest indentation on the
shores of the continent is the Gulf of Carpentaria, the head of the
Albert River, which discharges its waters into the bottom of it, is
unquestionably the best point of departure that could be selected, being
one-half the distance of Fort Bourke from the centre, and two-thirds
nearer than Moreton Bay.

(*Footnote. Whilst this sheet was going through the press, the report of
our greatest Australian traveller, Captain Sturt, reached England;
wherein he writes, speaking of his furthest (February 1845) in latitude
28 degrees South and longitude about 141 degrees 22 minutes East having
apparently entered the central desert, as follows: "I could see no change
in the terrible desert to which I had penetrated. The horizon was
unbroken by a single mound, from north round to north again, and it was
as level as that of the ocean. My view to the north extended about eight
miles, but I did not venture to compass that distance, only perhaps to
have overlooked a similar heart-rending and desolate scene." This bears
out the opinion expressed in the text. I do not hesitate, however, in the
face of the interesting evidence brought forward by Captain Sturt, still
to doubt the existence of an inland sea. I think the high temperature he
experienced contradicts such an hypothesis; and I believe the large
expanse of water, reported by the natives, to be the Gulf of Carpentaria,
which bore about north (true) six hundred miles from his position,
Moreton Bay being nearly equidistant on an east bearing, whilst Adelaide
bore South by West 1/2 West about four hundred and thirty miles.


I have before recommended the use of camels, with skins for carrying
water, in an undertaking of this kind; and I may here add, that they
might be procured in the neighbourhood of the Gulf of Cutch,* which place
the vessel should leave in the North-East monsoon, in time to have the
latter end of the North-West monsoon to take her to the Gulf of
Carpentaria, where at Sweers Island the final arrangements for
disembarking, before alluded to,** could be made.

(*Footnote. Camels are to be procured in this neighbourhood, when they
are not required for war service, for about five pounds a head. Besides,
the natives of that part are more easily to be obtained as attendants
than Arabs.

(*Footnote. See above.)

In a country like Australia, with so varied a surface, it is certainly
impossible to indicate with confidence anything beyond the point of
departure for an exploring party. Their direction must, of course, depend
on the country they find; but I think it may be said from the most
recent, and I much fear melancholy, experience, that the routes from
neither Moreton Bay nor Fort Bourke are practicable. That from the head
of the Albert is, I believe, much superior, and I consider, after mature
deliberation, that the plan I have recommended is at once the most
expeditious and the most economical way of solving a question of daily
increasing interest, and of removing an imputation on English enterprise
which is daily becoming more serious.

The other routes of exploration which appear to me both practicable and
useful are from Halifax Bay to the Albert,* a distance of above four
hundred miles, and from Limmens Bight to the Victoria, about three
hundred. These will be found marked in the chart accompanying this work.

(*Footnote. This route I suggested to his Excellency Sir George Gipps, in
March, 1842.)


After leaving Sydney we had a succession of south-easterly gales, of
three or four days' duration, and equal in severity to any we had
experienced since leaving England. To avoid one from the westward we put
into Twofold Bay;* a remarkable high-peaked hill, Mount Imlay, lying
behind the head of it, bearing South-West 1/2 West, leads in.

(*Footnote. This we found to be a very convenient anchorage; and the
constant resort of coasters. From its proximity to the southern parts of
the Manero country, it is likely to become a very thriving place, under
the auspices of Mr. Boyd, who is erecting a town there. This gentleman, I
am happy to say, employs the natives as part of the crew of his yacht;
they are also constantly engaged in the boats of the whaling station,
where their excellent eye renders them extremely useful in seeing and
harpooning the fish; and being particularly well-disposed, they might he
made something of.)

I was surprised to find by my observations* here that this part of the
coast is laid down ten miles too much to the eastward of Sydney, an error
I subsequently found to be continued to Jervis Bay; so that the course
from thence to Sydney, instead of being, according to the chart, North
1/4 East magnetic is North by East, a fact that should be borne in mind
by masters of vessels, until this part of the coast is properly surveyed.

(*Footnote. Which placed Point Brierly in latitude 37 degrees 6 minutes
40 seconds South, longitude 1 degree 18 minutes 18 seconds west of
Sydney; or 149 degrees 57 minutes 42 seconds east of Greenwich, according
to what I consider the meridian of Sydney.)

The error I found in the position of Twofold Bay induced me to commence
our survey there, for the purpose of ascertaining the position of Cape
Howe," which I discovered to be rather more out in longitude; while the
islet, instead of lying off it, lies four miles to the south-west.

(*Footnote. This Cape, in latitude 38 degrees 31 minutes 00 seconds South
and longitude 1 degree 14 minutes 15 seconds West of Sydney, although
rather low, is of bold approach, and admirably situated for a lighthouse.
Others erected on Montague Island and Point Perpendicular, would light
the whole coast as far as Sydney.)


Leaving, we again spent several days under a close-reefed main-topsail
and a reefed fore-sail; but at length reached an anchorage on the eastern
shore of Flinders Island within the north-east side of a granitic lump
called Babel Islet. The flood tide came from the north-east at this
anchorage, which can only be used in easterly winds. There is a curious
dome on the inner side of Babel, which is connected by a sandy spit with
the large island. Within the eastern point of the latter are the
remarkable pyramidal hills, called the Patriarchs, rising out of a
scrubby plain, much cut up with lagoons, which forms the character of
this side of Flinders. We were enabled to fix the eastern shore of the
island, from Babel Islet and the outer Patriarch, whence the view was
commanding. A range of bare-topped hills lies to the west, whilst to the
south-west, through a mass of clouds, we occasionally caught glimpses of
some high peaks, which I named after my friend Count Strzelecki. A heathy
valley stretches across the island to the westward, through which I saw
the sea on the opposite side; on the northern part the hills are more
rounded and lower.


From Babel Islet we proceeded towards Kent Group, passing, in 11 or 12
fathoms, along the eastern shore of Flinders Island, where we discovered
a dangerous sandy spit extending five miles off; from its extreme the
eastern part of the outer Sister bore North 64 degrees West, six miles
and a half. After rounding the latter the wind changed in a violent
squall to the westward, and gave us a long beat of a day to reach Kent
Group, during which we discovered a reef,* just awash at high-water, and
bearing East 8 degrees South, five miles and a half from Wright's Rock.**

(*Footnote. Beagle's Reef.)

(**Footnote. A pyramidal lump, three hundred feet high, resembling a
cutter under sail.)

This, Endeavour Reef, and a sunken rock, about a mile east of Craggy
Island, constitute the chief dangers between Kent Group and Flinders. The
extremes are marked to the north and south by Wright's Rock and Craggy
Island, between which ships should not pass, although there is a channel
close to the south side of the former. It should also be particularly
borne in mind that the tides, which here sometimes run two knots, set
rather across the channel South-West by South and North-East by North.
The north-easterly stream beginning a quarter before noon at the full and
change of the moon.


The Beagle passed half a mile from the north-west side of Wright's Rock,
in 29 fathoms, in the evening; and having spent the night standing
to-and-fro between it and Kent Group, in the morning was abreast of the
opening between the islands called Murray Pass, when we steered towards
it. The weather, for the season, was fine; and the sun, although weak,
shone brightly from a clear wintry sky--it well-nigh happened for the
last time--upon the poor old Beagle!

The sea, still vexed and chafing from the breeze of yesterday, rolled in
with solemn grandeur on the storm-beaten sides of the islands; each
heaving swell carrying the ship nearer towards the almost fatal opening.
Her motions, however, as if she was conscious of the fate that threatened
her, were sluggish and slow, and she seemed unwillingly to obey the
impulse of the light southerly breeze that aided her progress. Indeed
there appeared to be an opposing tide until we drew in between the high
rocky sides of the channel, when suddenly the ship was hurried onwards
with such rapidity that to prevent our being swept past a cove on the
right it was necessary to close with its outer point, towards which a
merciless eddy flung the ship's head so rapidly, that before the
thrown-aback sails checked her way, her jib-boom was almost over the
rocks.* During the few awful moments that succeeded, a breathless silence
prevailed; and naught was heard but the din of waters that foamed in fury
around, as if impatient to engulf us in their giddy whirl. Still, it must
be confessed, that our hearts sickened within at the thought that our
little bark, after having braved so many storms, and done so much good
service to the state, might be left to whiten a foreign shore with her
timbers. Providence, however, decreed it should be otherwise; and the
next moment the Beagle's head was slowly paying off from the shore. But
her broadside becoming exposed to the swell, she was again driven in
towards the point, and so close, that before the well-trimmed sails gave
her way, as her stern went down with the swell, the assurance that she
must strike, pervaded every shuddering frame. To myself, the sensation
was just as if my feet were under the keel; and I almost expected to feel
the bones crushing. Still we clung to hope, which can find a place even
in the narrowest interval of danger; and our eyes and hearts were lifted
up in supplication to Him who had already so miraculously reprieved us.
Scarcely, however, had the prayer been formed and preferred, when the
peril was past: in the course of an hour we were safely moored in East
Cove, Kent Group.

(*Footnote. See the view annexed.)


In this wild and confined anchorage we were detained by constant westerly
gales for a fortnight, during the whole of which there was only one
really clear day, when I got angles to all the distant points from a hill
near the south-east extreme of the group, nine hundred and ten feet high
and quite precipitous on its seaward face. We named it Lighthouse Hill,
its admirably conspicuous situation suggesting the purpose to which it
might be devoted; the materials for building, moreover, are all at hand.


The principal islands of Kent Group have been named Deal and Erith; they
occupy a square of four miles, and are separated by Murray Pass, a
channel half a mile wide. Conical granitic hills, in some cases clothed
to their very summits with an impervious scrub, are scattered over them.
On Deal, the eastern isle, there are charred stumps of a few large
eucalypti: but otherwise the trees are small, the largest being a few
casuarinas over the head of East Cove. The valleys on the north side are
rich; and in one leading from Garden Cove we found a quantity of fine
carrots, planted by some sealers; their seed had been carried by the wind
until the whole valley was filled with them; fresh water also is abundant
on that side of Deal Island; and as limestone crops out at the head of
East Cove, a small party of convicts might be kept here and
advantageously employed in erecting the lighthouse and cultivating the
soil. By holding out to them a slight reward, many of the islands in Bass
Strait might be brought under cultivation, and supply grain, potatoes,
etc., for the consumption of the prisoners in Tasmania. This plan of
dispersing the convicts would also be beneficial in producing a change
for the better in themselves; for whilst together they are certainly more
likely to brood mischief.


Besides East Cove there are others on the north-east and south-east sides
of Deal Island; whilst on Erith there is only one called West Cove, in
the north part of Murray Pass; it is subject to violent gusts that do not
reach East Cove.

The formation of this group is a little singular, the calcareous
limestone on Deal occurring two hundred feet above the sea and between
granite; whilst on Erith vesicular lava was found. These islands are
connected with Flinders by a sand ridge, on which the depth is 28 and 30
fathoms; but the islets and rocks between would appear, from the evidence
of upheaval we have just cited, to be elevated portions of a submerged
piece of land about to disclose itself.*

(*Footnote. The observations on the tides at these islands make the time
of high-water on the full and change of the moon a quarter past eleven,
when it rises eight feet. The stream in Murray Pass, which runs from two
to five knots, changes to the northward twenty minutes after high-water.)

In a valley behind East Cove there was a stream of water, which strange
to say was quite salt and came from the middle of the island. In the same
neighbourhood I turned loose about a dozen rabbits for the benefit of any
unfortunate voyagers who might be thrown hungry ashore in this locality.
During the few days that we were there they appeared to thrive very well,
and I have no doubt that if not disturbed the island will soon be overrun
with them, there being no wallabies to offer molestation.


We were not sorry to find ourselves one fine morning turning our backs on
the scene of one of the Beagle's many narrow escapes; so favourable did
the weather continue, that, although in the first week in June, we were
able to pass both the following nights at anchor in the middle of the
strait;* on the first occasion between the Devil's Tower and Curtis's
Island;** and on the second, five miles to the southward of Hogan Group.

(*Footnote. I gladly seized these opportunities of ascertaining exactly
the set of the tides. At the first anchorage they ran East-North-East and
South-East only from half to a quarter of a knot, the latter beginning
half an hour before low-water at Kent Group; at the second the tide set
North-East by East, one knot, and South-South-West a knot and a half; the
southerly stream began one hour and a half after low-water at Kent Group:
on both occasions there was a light westerly wind.

(**Footnote. The central position of this island renders it quite a
finger-post for ships passing through the Strait. It has at the south end
a square summit 1060 feet high, in latitude 39 degrees 28 minutes 20
seconds South, and longitude 4 degrees 33 minutes 45 seconds West of
Sydney; towards the north it slopes away something in the shape of a
shoe, from which it is called by the sealers The Slipper. Two sugarloaf
rocks, each 350 feet high, lie two miles and a half off its southern

I landed on the largest island;* which I found to be a mile and a half in
extent, inhabited by a number of dogs left by sealers, that had become
quite wild; in a cave on the south-east point were some fur seals. Two
small islets front a boat-cove on the north-east side, where there is
fresh water; and outside these there is a rock just awash. The summit of
the large island was a most important station; and with Lighthouse Hill
at Kent Group, formed an astronomical base for the survey.

(*Footnote. The highest point I found to be in latitude 39 degrees 13
minutes 04 seconds South, and longitude 4 degrees 13 minutes 15 seconds
west of Sydney; and 430 feet high.)


From Hogan Group we stood to the northward, and were able to pass another
night at anchor six miles from a low sandy shore, and fourteen to the
eastward of Corner Inlet, which we found on examination had a bar
extending off six miles from the entrance, on which at low tide there is
water for vessels drawing sixteen and eighteen feet. A group of islets,
named from their utility Direction Isles, lies in the fairway, a few
miles outside the bar.

During the examination of this great useless sheet of water, the ship lay
near a small islet close to the Promontory about seven miles from the
entrance, which, from the abundance of rabbits, we called Rabbit Island;*
I have since learnt that these animals had multiplied from a single pair
turned loose by a praiseworthy sealer six years before; and the sight of
their number did not a little encourage me to expect a similar result
from the gift I had bestowed on Kent Group.

(*Footnote. The outer extreme of this island, in one with Cape
Wellington, forms a leading mark into Corner Inlet, but vessels should
get them on within a mile of the island. These marks are of use until the
eastern and highest of the Direction Isles opens out just clear of the
others, when by keeping it in that position, or steering for the middle
of the entrance, a ship may be taken safely in. The tide rises eight feet
at springs, when the time of high-water is twenty minutes before noon.)


From the highest hill on the south-eastern point I had obtained a most
excellent view of Corner Inlet, which bore a great resemblance to a
basin. I have before called it useless, from its being only navigable a
mile or two within the entrance and that chiefly on the northern side,
the rest being occupied by mud flats. It was a bitter cold day; but
between the sleet squalls I was able to trace the coast westward as far
as Cape Liptrap over the low neck connecting Wilson's Promontory with the
main, and forming the south-western shore of Corner Basin; and eastward
beyond Shallow Inlet,* where the Clonmel steamer was lost. About six
miles to the north-east the masts of some vessels pointed out the
approach to Alberton. The intervening space was filled with islands and
mud banks; which character the shore appeared to retain further eastward,
being fronted by a margin of low sandy land, sometimes broken by the
pressure of the sea from without or of the waters from within, when the
streams that add to the fertility of Gipps' Land are swollen by the
melting of the snows on the Australian Alps.

(*Footnote. Vessels bound to Alberton, the capital of Gipps' Land,
generally pass through this inlet, but as the water is shallow, and
breaks across the entrance, if there is any swell, it is more prudent to
enter by Corner Inlet, and take the second opening on the right within
the entrance.)


To commemorate my friend Count Strzelecki's discovery of this important
and valuable district, which he named in honour of His Excellency the
Governor, I called the summit of a woody range 2110 feet high, over the
north shore of Corner Inlet, Mount Fatigue.* The only vegetation this
part of the promontory supports is a wiry grass, stunted gums and
banksias in the valleys, and a few grass-trees near the crests of the
hills which are generally bare masses of granite. Behind a sandy beach on
the east side beneath where I stood were sinuous lines of low sandhills,
remarkable for their regularity, resembling the waves that rolled in on
the shore.

(*Footnote. It was in the rear of this range that Count Strzelecki and
his companions, on their way to Western Port, experienced the sufferings
related in the Port Phillip Herald, June 1840, from which I extract the
following: "The party was now in a most deplorable condition. Messrs.
MacArthur and Riley and their attendants had become so exhausted as to be
unable to cope with the difficulties which beset their progress. The
Count, being more inured to the fatigues and privations attendant upon a
pedestrian journey through the wilds of our inhospitable interior, alone
retained possession of his strength, and although burdened with a load of
instruments and papers of forty-five pounds weight, continued to pioneer
his exhausted companions day after day through an almost impervious
tea-tree scrub, closely interwoven with climbing grasses, vines, willows,
fern and reeds. Here the Count was to be seen breaking a passage with his
hands and knees through the centre of the scrub; there throwing himself
at full length among the dense underwood, and thus opening by the weight
of his body a pathway for his companions in distress. Thus the party inch
by inch forced their way; the incessant rains preventing them from taking
rest by night or day. Their provisions, during the last eighteen days of
their journey, consisted of a very scanty supply of the flesh of the
native bear or monkey, but for which, the only game the country afforded,
the travellers must have perished from utter starvation...On the
twenty-second day after they had abandoned their horses, the travellers
came in sight of Western Port.")


Water and fuel are abundant on the point abreast of Rabbit Island.
Southward from this projection a sandy beach extends five miles, with a
rivulet at either end, and separated from a small deep bay* open to the
east, by a remarkable bluff, the abrupt termination of a high-woody
ridge. The trees on the south-west side were large and measured eight
feet in diameter. In the humid shelter they afforded the tree and a
variety of other kinds of fern were growing in great luxuriance, with a
profusion of creepers matted together in a dense mass of rich foliage.
From thence southwards the shore is rocky and the water deep.

(*Footnote. This bay is evidently Sealer's Cove in the old charts; but
this part of the Strait is so much in error that it is hardly possible to
recognize any particular point.)


Refuge Cove, lying seven miles South 1/4 West from Rabbit Island, was our
next anchorage. It was so named from its being the only place a vessel
can find shelter in from the eastward on this side of the Promontory. Of
this we ourselves felt the benefit; for although in the middle of June
east winds prevailed the first few days we stayed there, with thick hazy
weather, whilst at Rabbit Island we had constant westerly gales with a
great deal of hail and sleet. This small cove, being only a cable wide at
the entrance may be recognized by Kersop Peak, which rises over the south
part, and from its lying between Cape Wellington and Horn Point,* and
also from its being the first sandy beach that opens north of the former.

(*Footnote. This projection has two pointed hummocks on it resembling

Such of us as had been in Tierra del Fuego were particularly struck with
the resemblance of the scenery in Refuge Cove; the smooth quiet sand
beaches, and dense forests reaching the water's edge, the mist-capped
hills, and the gusts that swept down the valleys and roared through the
rigging, forcibly recalled to our recollection that region of storms.

We found a whaling establishment in the south-east corner,* and the
houses for the boats and their crews formed quite a little village. The
person in charge, with one or two others, remains during the summer.
These people had a novel safeguard against the attacks of the natives: a
horrible looking figure, dressed so as to represent the evil spirit, of
which the Australian aborigines are so much afraid, was placed in a
conspicuous place; but whether it would have had the desired effect was
not proved, as the natives had never been seen in those parts. There can,
indeed, be little to tempt them to wander thither; for there are neither
kangaroos nor wallabies, and but few birds. Among the most curious of
those belonging to the land, is a kind of finch, with a black head,
yellow beak, a dark brown back, and dirty white belly; across the wings
and arching over the back, at the stump of the tail, was a stripe of

(*Footnote. Our observations made this spot in latitude 39 degrees 02
minutes 30 seconds South, and longitude 4 degrees 44 minutes 45 seconds
West of Sydney. High-water on the full and change of the moon, takes
place at 12 hours 5 minutes when the tide rises eight feet; a mile in the
offing the northern and ebb stream, which runs from one to two knots,
begins at 11 hours 40 minutes. Past the south end of the promontory the
same stream sweeps round from the westward, sometimes at the rate of two
knots and a half.)


Cape Wellington, the eastern projection of the Promontory, forms the
north point of Waterloo Bay, which is wide and spacious. These names were
suggested by the fact that the day of our anchoring there was the
anniversary of one of the greatest triumphs ever achieved by British
arms. At the head of the bay, lies the low valley, three miles in length,
which stretches across the promontory and forms a very conspicuous break
in the high land. On the northern side of it, the highest hill, Mount
Wilson, rises abruptly until its woody crest reaches an elevation of 2350
feet. On the southern, was a ridge strewn over with immense boulders of
granite, one, near where I stood, measuring eighty feet in height, and
resting with such apparent insecurity, that little seemed required to
send it rolling and crashing into the valley below, along which a rivulet
winds, and falls into the sea at the north end of a sandy beach, forming
the head of Waterloo Bay. The depth in the middle of the latter is 12
fathoms, muddy bottom; it lies four miles from the south end of the
Promontory, and there is no good anchorage between.


From a small flattened sugarloaf, forming the summit of Cape Wellington,
I got an angle to the Crocodile Rock,* and with others from the
south-west end of the Promontory, and from the ship on passing, I
determined the position of this danger most satisfactorily.

(*Footnote. This rock, in latitude 39 degrees 21 minutes 30 seconds
South, and longitude 4 degrees 41 minutes 45 seconds West of Sydney, lies
in a line midway between the western extremities of Curtis and Rodondo
Islands, nearly nine miles from each. It is a smooth round-topped granite
boulder, just protruding above the surface; and in fine weather the sea
runs over it without breaking. The depth being 43 fathoms close to it, if
the waters of the Strait were drawn off the shape of it would be that of
a column nearly 260 feet high.)

As we had not, as I expected, met the Vansittart, I was anxious to learn
something of her, and crossing over to the south side of the Strait, for
the purpose, entered Port Dalrymple, where I found that Mr. Forsyth and
his party had preceded our arrival by a day or two. The Vansittart's
employment had been the examination of the north-east extreme of
Tasmania, some portions of which were found to be nine miles out in
latitude; the greater part was fronted with kelp and rocky patches. The
work, also, included a portion of Banks' Strait, and the southern part of
the western side of Flinders Island, among the islets fronting which were
discovered several good anchorages: the best in westerly winds being
under Goose or Western Chappell Island, where a lighthouse was in course
of construction.


His Excellency, Sir John Franklin, requesting that I would send the
Vansittart round to Macquarie Harbour, on the west coast, after a party
of runaway convicts, we were for a time deprived of her services. As the
rise of the tide in the Tamar was sufficient for laying the ship ashore,
I took the opportunity of doing so on the west bank, just above Garden
Island, to examine her bottom, and found it so defective that 130 sheets
of copper were required to make good the damage; in some places the
two-inch sheathing was completely destroyed. The original settlement,
York Town, was at the head of a shoal bight just above us; I found it
almost quite in ruins, though there were one or two of the original
settlers there; the chief part of the inhabitants were a lawless set, who
were said to live, chiefly, by plunder.


Whilst the ship underwent these repairs, the triangulation was extended
to Launceston,* at the head of the Tamar, thirty miles from the sea.
Large vessels are prevented from approaching close to the town by a bar.
The greatest difficulty found in navigating the river is Whirlpool Reach;
near the middle of this lies a rock, an attempt to remove which, by
blasting, was made; the top was blown off, so that now vessels are liable
to be carried upon it, whereas, before, when it broke the surface, such
was not the case.

(*Footnote. The latitude of the Port office I found to be 41 degrees 26
minutes 5 seconds South longitude 4 degrees 42 minutes 24 seconds West of
Sydney. High water 3 hours 35 minutes; springs rise 12 feet. During the
winter, after rains, the stream sets down for days together at the rate
of from one to three knots.)

The valley, through which the Tamar winds, is narrow, with sides
generally steep and densely wooded; in some places, the reaches are wide,
and the hills recede; on their lower slopes, near Launceston, are
situated many pretty villas, peeping through garden shrubberies; whilst
further down are the straggling habitations of the more recent settlers,
surrounded by clear patches, with difficulty won from the forest by the
axe and the firebrand. On the whole, therefore, it may be said that art
and nature combine to render beautiful the scenery on the banks of this
important stream.

The first view of Launceston, the second town in Tasmania, is very
pretty. The valley of the river expands as you approach, and over a low
tract of land on the east bank, the straggling mass of buildings forming
the town is descried. Though very healthy it lies on a kind of flat,
backed with open woodland undulations at the junction of the North and
South Esks; and, during the winter, is subject to fogs so dense that many
persons well acquainted with the town frequently lose themselves. Where
the streams unite, they become the Tamar, one of the principal rivers in
Tasmania. At the distance of half a mile from the confluence, the North
Esk makes a by no means insignificant waterfall. This forms one of the
first sights to which strangers arriving at Launceston are conducted, by
a path which, winding along the face of a precipice, suddenly brings the
cataract in sight, tumbling and roaring over the rocks into the pool,
which seethes like a cauldron below, and sends up a steaming mist into
the air. From the waters of the South Esk, the country around Launceston
derives its fertility; and perhaps there is no part of our southern
colonies that more resembles England. The number of gentlemen's seats,
before alluded to, thickly scattered over an undulating country cleared
of all timber, save a few monumental trees, and well cultivated, strongly
suggested thoughts of home.


When the weather permitted, the boats were employed in continuing the
survey of Port Dalrymple. Observations were made at the flagstaff in
George Town,* which we found to be in latitude 41 degrees 6 minutes 20
seconds South and longitude 4 degrees 23 minutes 44 seconds West of
Sydney; variation 9 3/4 East. This place is only a straggling village,
situated on the east bank, about three miles and a half from the mouth of
the Tamar, upon a flat, forming the north side of a snug cove at the
western foot of a group of conical hills; on one of them is a signal
station, by means of which, with another intervening, communication is
kept up with Launceston.

(*Footnote. The geological formation in the neighbourhood of this place
will be found in Volume 1.)


The entire month of July was occupied by the repairs of the ship, and the
surveying operations; when we sailed from the Tamar and examined the
passage at the eastern entrance of the strait, between Craggy Island and
Flinders, which we found perfectly free from danger--a fact of great
importance, as it had, hitherto, been reported full of sunken rocks. The
Beagle passed a mile and a half from the south side of Craggy Island in
25 and 28 fathoms. This passage has a depth of 26 and 27 fathoms, and is
six miles wide, whilst between Wright's Rock and Kent Group the width is
nearly eleven miles. There appears, by the ripplings, to be foul ground
between Craggy Island and Endeavour Reef, and the space intervening has,
accordingly, been marked as one shoal in the chart.


Leaving the eastern entrance of the strait, we ran up to Sydney, for the
supplies that had not arrived from England on our last visit; we now
found them waiting for us, together with orders for the Beagle to return
to England. Fortunately, however, the survey of Bass Strait was in such a
forward state, thanks to Sir John Franklin's kind assistance in lending
the Vansittart, that I could take upon myself the responsibility of
waiting a few months to complete it.* I was, however, compelled by the
brief interval of time allowed me, and the urgent demand that existed for
a correct chart of the whole strait, to work on a smaller scale than I
could have wished. It seemed to me that detached portions on a very large
scale would be of far inferior utility to a complete survey on a
comparatively small one.

(*Footnote. This step was approved of by the Commander in chief.)

It was not, however, my being prevented from completing Bass Strait in
the manner most satisfactory to myself that occasioned the greatest part
of the regret that accompanied this summons for the old Beagle to wend
her way homewards; for we were thus also deprived of the opportunity of
gratifying our desire to explore the southern parts of New Guinea, which
we had always looked forward to as one of the most interesting parts of
our voyage, containing elements of excitement sufficient to cheer the
hearts that were yearning for home, and a character of novelty that would
have amply compensated for whatever fatigue and exertion we might have
experienced. On many occasions, during the heavy and monotonous part of
our labours, the anticipated delights of discovery refreshed our
imaginations and elevated our spirits, imparting to our most irksome
occupations an interest that did not belong to them, but was borrowed
from those hoped-for scenes of adventure on the unvisited shores of New
Guinea to which we believed that each dull day's hard work brought us
nearer. But it was not destined to be our lot to add any more new lands
to the geography of this part of the world; and H.M.S. Fly and Bramble
had been commissioned at home for surveying service in Australasia. This
expedition, under the command of Captain F.P. Blackwood, arrived at
Sydney on the 10th of October, whilst we were there, and sailed soon
after our departure, to commence tracing the outer Barrier Reefs, a
service attended with no ordinary risk, but which has been happily
completed, and a beacon erected to show vessels the best entrance,
without a mishap.

Since the early part of this work was written this valuable addition to
the survey of New Holland has induced an enterprising master of a
merchant vessel to try the eastward passage through Torres Strait. As a
proof of the practicability of this route I may state, that the above
vessel passed through Torres Strait in January, went to Sydney, and
returned for another cargo to Ballytown, in Allas Strait, by the May
following. This passage, an account of which has been published in the
Nautical Magazine, was made through the Barrier Reef by Captain
Blackwood's Beacon on Raines Islet; but as this is out of the limits of
the westerly monsoon, a better passage, doubtless, would have been
effected by following a more northerly route, as recommended by Captain

(*Footnote. See Nautical Magazine for December 1845.)


With reference, however, to the anticipated steam communication* between
India and Australia, which will bring Sydney within nearly sixty days of
England, I think with Captain Blackwood that steamers should at all times
use Captain King's inner route;** and much of the delay occasioned by
anchoring at night would be obviated by cautiously approaching, at
reduced speed, the reefs, the position of which might be distinguished by
means of a powerful light at the vessel's head or bowsprit end; when a
course might be shaped for the next and so on. As the smooth water within
the shelter of the Great Barrier Reefs affords facilities for steering
with great nicety, a steamer, with care, might effect a saving of fuel as
well as time by passing through Torres Strait without anchoring.

(*Footnote. Steam communication between Sydney and Singapore would
require three vessels of six hundred tons, one of which should leave
Sydney and Singapore on the 1st of each month. Their engines should be of
200 horse-power, and furnished with tubular boilers, which consume a
fifth less fuel than the others; they must carry at the least 200 tons,
which, at the rate of 14 tons per diem, is sufficient for fourteen days
fullspeed steaming, in which time, at the rate of 7 knots an hour, 2,352
miles will have been traversed, which is about 100 miles more than the
distance between Sydney and Port Essington, and about 420 miles more than
between the latter place and Singapore. This clearly shows that Port
Essington is, as I have before stated, the best place for a coal-depot;
and that one there would suffice for the whole line of communication. As,
moreover, it is necessary that such a station should have protection
against the natives, it further enhances the value of the settlement at
Port Essington. This depot might be economically made, from the cheapness
and abundance of coals in New South Wales; and the number of ships that
are constantly passing Port Essington in ballast would be glad of the
freight so far. The cost of steam vessels of the size mentioned would be
about 20,000 pounds, if built of wood, and 16,000 pounds, if of iron; and
the annual expense of running one would be between 3,000 and 4000

(**Footnote. On this inshore track steamers would be able to replace with
wood any deficiency in their fuel. I take this opportunity of saying that
vessels carrying troops from Sydney to India should be compelled to use
it, the chances of the loss of life being much less. On one occasion a
ship called the Ferguson sailed from Sydney with part of a regiment,
whilst we were there. The master ridiculed the advice given him by one of
the Beagle's officers, to take the inner passage. The next news we heard
of her was, that she had been wrecked on the outer Barrier at four in the
morning; no observation having been taken since the previous noon, by
which they might have found a current drifting them to the northward.
Fortunately, another ship was in company, and saved the loss of life, but
that of property was great. The fact that the lives of so many souls
should be placed at the mercy of careless masters of ships, who run such
risks, in spite of the warnings of experience, deserves the serious
attention of Government.)


The part of New Guinea above alluded to, which had often afforded us the
materials of interesting speculation, also formed part of the survey of
Captain Blackwood, who writes as follows: "On the coast of New Guinea we
found a delta of fine rivers, and a numerous population, all indicating a
rich and fruitful country. It is true that we found the inhabitants very
hostile; but it must be considered that we were the first Europeans that
they had ever seen; and I have no doubt that, on a further acquaintance,
and convinced of our power, they might be easily conciliated. Their
houses, arms, and cultivation, all indicate a considerable degree of
civilization, and no small intelligence in the construction of their
canoes; and I think it probable that a trade might be opened with this
hitherto perfectly unknown people and country."* The people inhabiting
the islands fronting the coast, Captain Blackwood found to be highly
inclined to trade, readily bartering a valuable species of tortoise-shell
for European articles of hardware.

(*Footnote. See Nautical Magazine for December 1845.)


During our stay at Sydney we also met H.M.S. Favourite, Captain T.R.
Sullivan, just returned from visiting the Eastern Polynesian Isles,
having succeeded in rescuing the guns that were lost from the ship in a
melancholy and much to be lamented affray with the natives of Tongataboo,
previous to the command of Captain Sullivan, whose adventure in this
affair was very interesting, and cleverly managed.


The Favourite had experienced a hurricane* off Mangaia Island, the
natives of which gave notice of its approach; and at Tahiti Captain
Sullivan was also told that he might expect a hurricane before long. From
this, and the experience of other navigators, it appears that rotatory
gales are prevalent in the Pacific as well as in the Indian Ocean.

(*Footnote. Although this hurricane has been noticed, and the Favourite's
Log published in the Nautical Magazine, I think it will be useful to
continue the practice of entering into some detail respecting every
hurricane that came under my observation. This storm, it appears, was
encountered off Mangaia, one of the Harvey Isles, lying about midway
between the Society and Hapai Groups. The Favourite was in latitude 21
degrees 58 minutes South, longitude 158 degrees 02 minutes West, five
miles South-West by West from Mangaia, at noon on the 17th December,
1842, steering West by South 1/2 South before a moderate gale from
East-North-East, with cloudy rainy weather. At 3 P.M. she had gone 27
miles, when the wind, which had increased to a strong gale, veering to
North-East, the course before it was now South-West; but at the end of
another hour, having run eight miles, the wind increased to a storm, and
veering again to the eastward, the ship was brought to the wind on the
port tack under a main trysail. For the hours 5 and 6, she headed from
South to South-West, which would give for the direction of the wind about
South-East by East. At 6.30 a man was washed away with the lee
quarter-boat. At 8, the wind had veered to South by West, having blown a
hurricane, with constant rain for the last hour; at 9 most of the
half-ports were washed away, the sea making a clean sweep over the decks.
By midnight the wind had subsided to a whole gale; but still veering had
reached the West-South-West point, and at 3 the next morning it was
blowing only a moderate breeze from West-North-West, with tolerably clear
weather. Sail was now made, and a South-West by South course held for 28
miles, when by the noon observation the latitude was 22 degrees 1 minute
South, longitude, by chronometer, 158 degrees 44 minutes West. The day
following the hurricane the wind was moderate from the westward; and on
that previous to it of about the same strength from the northward. The
ship's position at noon of the latter day was about 130 miles to the
North-East by East of Mangaia Island. The duration of this storm, then,
may be considered to have been from 4 P.M. to midnight, in which eight
hours the wind had veered gradually from East round by South to
West-South-West. The veering being much more rapid between 8 and 9 P.M.
when the storm was at its height, the ship must at that time, have been
nearer the focus. The tack on which the Favourite was hove to carried her
into the course of the hurricane, or rather placed her in a position to
be overtaken by it, as it passed along to the southward and westward; but
as the ship broke off to the westward and northward, she fell out of its
north-western edge. Doubtless, if a West-North-West course had been
pursued in the first instance, or at noon on the 17th, the Favourite
would have avoided the storm. It is to be regretted that the barometer
was broken in the commencement of the hurricane, when it was unusually
low, having been falling for some time before. Besides this, there was
ample warning in the unusually gloomy lurid appearance of the sky; the
weather also was misty, with showers of rain as the ship approached the
course of the storm.)


Leaving Sydney, we resumed our work to the southward; and towards the end
of October anchored under Swan Island, lying midway on the south side of
Banks Strait, which trends West by North, with a width of twelve miles, a
length of seventeen, and a depth of from 16 to 25 fathoms; it is formed
by the north-east point of Tasmania and the islands lying to the south of
Flinders. Barren Island, one of the latter, has a remarkable peak at its
south-eastern end, and some high rounded hills on the north-western; it
is twenty-two miles in extent, lying in an east and west direction. It is
separated from Flinders by a channel, which I named after Sir John
Franklin, four miles wide, thickly strewed with islands and shoals. The
eastern entrance is almost blocked up by sandbanks, extending off five
miles and a half from a large island (called by us after the Vansittart,
but known to the sealers by the name of Gun-carriage Island) and leaving
only a narrow, shifting passage of 2 and 4 fathoms between their northern
side and Flinders Island. The anchorages which lie in the western part of
Franklin Channel are not so sheltered as those between Barren and Clarke
Islands. The latter has two rounded summits, the highest 690 feet,
resembling a saddle, either from west or east. The rugged peaks of
Strzelecki, reaching an elevation of 2,550 feet, rise immediately over
the northern point of the west entrance of Franklin Channel.


The north-east extreme of Tasmania is singularly low, with a coastline of
sandhills. Out of this level tract rise Mounts William and Cameron; the
latter, 1,730 feet high, is the highest of a group of peaks, cresting a
ridge, whilst the former is a solitary pyramidal hill, 730 feet high,
used as a guide for craft in working through the strait. When it bears
South by West, vessels may close with the south shore, being then past
the Black Reef,* and the rocks that lie off the coast to the eastward, as
far as Eddystone Point. The most outlying and remarkable are the St.
George's Rocks, a cluster of grey granite boulders, 66 feet high; a patch
of moored kelp, however, on which the water sometimes breaks, lies three
miles East-South-East from the Black Reef. The principal danger on the
northern side of the eastern entrance of the strait is Moriarty Bank,
which extends off four miles and a half east from the south-east point of
Clarke Island; there is, however, a narrow passage of 16 fathoms close to
the latter. This Bank, which has a couple of rocks near its north-eastern
part, is steep to, and may be avoided by keeping the south point of
Clarke Island, to bear to the southward of West 12 degrees North. Mount
William, also, bearing South 7 degrees West clears the outer end of it.

(*Footnote. This reef is a low, dark, rocky islet, with reefs extending
off North 45 degrees West three quarters of a mile, and South 56 degrees
East, one mile. There is a passage of 7 fathoms, a mile wide, between it
and the main, through which the highest St. George's Rock, bearing South
52 degrees East, leads. Black Reef bears from the latter North 45 degrees
West, six miles and a half, and from the summit of Swan Island, South 53
degrees East, eight miles and three-quarters. Mount William, also, bears
from it South 22 degrees West.)

I may here mention, that the importance of Banks Strait is great, as all
the trade between Hobart, Launceston, and Port Phillip, passes through


Swan Island is a narrow hummocky strip of land, a mile and a half long,
trending South-West by West; the loftiest part, 90 feet high, near the
north end,* was selected by Sir John Franklin for the site of a
lighthouse, the foundation of which he laid, after resigning the reins of
government; it was the last benefit he was able to confer on the colony.

(*Footnote. In latitude 40 degrees 43 minutes 36 seconds South, longitude
3 degrees 5 minutes 50 seconds West of Sydney, and 148 degrees 10 minutes
10 seconds East of Greenwich; variation, 10 east.)

A well of indifferent water was found near the north-west end of the
island; and some sealers had recently turned loose a couple of pigs, to
which I added a third.

Two small islets lie one mile and a half West-North-West from Swan
Island, and a dangerous patch of rocks, one and a quarter North-West by
West from the summit; they are all connected with the large island by
shoal water.


We found the best anchorage to be a quarter of a mile off the south point
of a sandy bay, near the outer end of the island. During the time we lay
here for the purpose of obtaining a series of tidal observations,* and
verifying a few of the principal points of Messrs. Forsyth and Pasco's
survey, constant strong westerly gales prevailed; and from all the local
information obtained it appeared that such was generally the case.

(*Footnote. The result of these observations makes the time of high-water
at the full and change of the moon 9 hours 36 minutes when the rise of
the tide is six feet and three at neaps. The flood-stream comes from the
eastward; and both it and the ebb is of 6 hours 15 minutes duration at
springs; but during neaps the flood runs 7 hours 0 minutes and the ebb 5
hours 30 minutes. The interval of slack-water never exceeded a quarter of
an hour, and the western stream begins 0 hours 30 minutes after low-water
at springs, and 0 hours 50 minutes after it at neaps; whilst the eastern
begins 0 hours 40 minutes after high-water at springs, and 0 hours 10
minutes before it at neaps. The velocity of the stream was from one to
three knots, the strongest being the ebb, which at springs and with a
strong westerly breeze attains a strength in the middle of the strait of
nearly four knots, and causes, when opposed to the wind, a high-topping
sea, dangerous for small craft.

Whilst in other respects the tides are the same, the time of high-water
at Preservation Island, though only at the northern side of the strait,
is 1 hour 15 minutes later than at Swan Island. This great difference is
caused by the influence of the flood-stream out of Franklin Channel and
from the northward along the west side of Flinders Island. The
flood-streams setting to the westward through Banks Strait, and to the
south-westward past the north-west end of Flinders, meet about ten miles
to the westward of the Chappell Isles, when their united stream curves
round by south to west, becoming gradually weaker, and soon after passing
the mouth of the Tamar ceasing to be felt at all, leaving in the middle
of Bass Strait a large space free from tidal influence as far as the
production of progressive motion is concerned, that given to it from the
entrances being neutralized by their mutual opposition. There is,
however, an easterly current of nearly a knot an hour, in strong westerly
winds. The meeting of the tides on the west side of Flinders also leaves
a space, close to the shore near the centre, free from any stream. At the
eastern entrance of Franklin Channel there is also a meeting of the
flood-streams, one coming from North-North-East and the other from

Whilst at this anchorage two boats belonging to the whaling station on
Wilson's Promontory passed on their way to Hobart, which they reached in
safety. They made the passage, hazardous for boats, across the strait by
touching at Hogan and Kent Groups and so over to Flinders Island.


Leaving, we beat through between Swan Islands and the main, which we
found to be a good channel,* a mile and a half wide, with an average
depth of ten fathoms. After passing the western islet the south side of
the strait should be given a wide berth, particularly on approaching Cape
Portland, off which some islets with foul ground and a sunken rock at
their extreme, extend two miles and a half. The summit of Swan Island,
bears South 75 degrees East and Mount Cameron South 2 degrees East from
the outer edge of this danger; which masters of vessels should remember,
both in reaching to the southward in the strait, and in running for it
from the westward.

(*Footnote. Mount William bearing South 40 degrees East leads into the
western entrance.)


Crossing Banks Strait we anchored under Preservation Island, lying
between the western extreme of Clarke and Barren Islands; it owes its
name to the preservation of the crew of a ship run ashore upon it in a
sinking state. The value of the shelter this anchorage affords is in some
measure destroyed by the presence of a sandbank extending off three miles
from the eastern side of Preservation Island. Two small rocky islets lie
a mile and a half off the western side of the latter, and several ugly
rocks are scattered along the face of Barren Island, and as far as
Chappell Group; on the outer isle of this group, which is low and level,
the lighthouse bearing North 60 degrees West fifteen miles and a half
forms a very conspicuous object, and is visible to the eye in clear
weather from the top of Preservation Island. Over the northern point of
the latter, towers the summit of Barren Island, forming a sort of double
mount 2300 feet high.


I found Preservation Island inhabited by an old sealer of the name of
James Monro, generally known as the King of the Eastern Straitsmen.
Another man and three or four native women completed the settlement, if
such a term may be applied. They lived in a few rude huts on a bleak
flat, with scarce a tree near, but sheltered from the west by some low
granite hills; a number of dogs, goats and fowls constituted their
livestock. In this desolate place Monro had been for upwards of
twenty-three years; and many others have lived in similar situations an
equally long period. It is astonishing what a charm such a wild mode of
existence possesses for these men, whom no consideration could induce to
abandon their free, though laborious and somewhat lawless state.

The term sealers is no longer so appropriate as it was formerly; none of
them confining themselves to sealing, in consequence of the increasing
scarcity of the object of their original pursuit. Straitsmen is the name
by which those who inhabit the eastern and western entrance of Bass
Strait are known; they class themselves into Eastern and Western
Straitsmen, and give the following account of their origin: Between the
years 1800 and 1805, the islands in Bass Strait and those fronting the
south coast of Australia, as far westward as the Gulfs of St. Vincent and
Spencer were frequented by sealing vessels from the old and the new
country, if I may use this expression for England and Australia. Many of
their crews became so attached to the islands they were in the habit of
visiting, that when their vessels were about to leave the neighbourhood,
they preferred to remain, taking with them a boat and other stores as
payment for their work. There can be no doubt, however, that their
numbers were afterwards recruited by runaway convicts.


On one island reside seldom more than two families. The latter word will
at once satisfy the reader that these people were not deprived of the
pleasures of female companionship: man was never born to be satisfied
with his own society; and the Straitsmen of course found beauties
suitable to their taste in the natives of the shores* of Bass Strait. It
appears that a party of them were sealing St. George's Rocks when a tribe
came down on the main opposite and made a signal for them to approach.
They went, taking with them the carcasses of two or three seals, for
which the natives gave as many women. These, perhaps, were glad of the
change, as the aborigines of Tasmania often treat them shamefully. The
sealers took their new-bought sweethearts to an island in Banks Strait,
and there left them to go on another sealing excursion. Returning one
day, they were surprised to find their huts well supplied with wallaby by
the native women. Interest cemented a love that might otherwise have been
but temporary. Visions of fortunes accumulated by the sale of wallaby
skins flashed across the minds of the sealers; who, however, to their
credit be it spoken, generally treated their savage spouses with anything
but unkindness; though in some instances the contrary was the case. It
must be confessed, at the same time, that having once discovered the
utility of the native women, they did not confine themselves to obtaining
them by the lawful way of barter; making excursions, principally to the
shores of Australia, for the express purpose of obtaining by violence or
stealth such valuable partners.

(*Footnote. The islands were never inhabited by the aborigines until the
remnant of the original population of Tasmania was sent by government to


Thus commenced a population likely to be of great service to shipping,
particularly as they make excellent sailors, and excel as headsmen in
whalers, where the keenness of their half-savage eyes, and their
dexterity in throwing the spear, render them most formidable harpooners.
The young half-castes I saw were very interesting, having a ruddy dark
complexion, with fine eyes and teeth. On Preservation, and the islands in
the neighbourhood, there were twenty-five children; among whom were some
fine-looking boys. Had the survey just been commenced I should have taken
one of them in the Beagle. Their fathers, I am happy to say, give them
all the instruction in their power: many can read the Bible, and a few

The common native belief in the transmigration of souls did not extend, I
was glad to find, beyond the mothers, whom nothing could induce to think
otherwise. When we were at Preservation Island, there was a young woman
on her way, in company with her father, to Port Dalrymple, to be married
to a European; and I afterwards learned from the clergyman there, that he
had not for some time seen a young person who appeared to be so well
aware of the solemn vow she was making.


The principal trade of the Straitsmen is in the feathers of mutton birds
(Sooty Petrels) which annually visit the islands, between the 15th and
20th of November, for the purposes of incubation. Each bird lays only two
eggs, about the size of that of a goose, and almost as good in flavour.
The male sits by day and the female by night, each going to sea in turn
to feed. As soon as the young take wing they leave the islands. Their
nests are two or three feet underground, and so close that it is scarcely
possible to walk without falling. The collection of the eggs and birds,
which is the business of the women, is frequently attended with great
risk, as venomous snakes are often found in the holes. When the sealers
wish to catch them in large quantities they build a hedge a little above
the beach, sometimes half a mile in length. Towards daylight, when the
birds are about to put to sea, the men station themselves at the
extremities, and their prey, not being able to take flight off the
ground, run down towards the water until obstructed by the hedge, when
they are driven towards the centre, where a hole about five feet deep is
prepared to receive them; in this they effectually smother each other.
The birds are then plucked and their carcasses generally thrown in a heap
to waste, whilst the feathers are pressed in bags and taken to Launceston
for sale.* The feathers of twenty birds weigh one pound; and the cargoes
of two boats I saw, consisted of thirty bags, each weighing nearly thirty
pounds--the spoil of eighteen thousand birds! I may add, that unless
great pains are taken in curing, the smell will always prevent a bed made
of them from being mistaken for one composed of the Orkney goose
feathers. Some of the birds are preserved by smoking, and form the
principal food of the Straitsmen, resembling mutton, according to their
taste, though none of us could perceive the similarity.

(*Footnote. They now fetch 3 pence a pound; formerly the price was 1


The habitations of these people are generally slab and plaster, of very
rude and uninviting exterior, but tolerably clean and comfortable within.
They generally take what they may have for the market to Launceston twice
in the year, lay in stores for the next six months, and return home,
never, I believe, bringing back any spirits, so that while on the
islands, they lead, from necessity, a temperate life.

It is sometimes in the power of these men to be of infinite service to
vessels who are strangers in the strait, when driven into difficulties by
westerly gales. Portions of the islands on which they reside are brought
into cultivation; but at Gun Carriage they complain of their crops having
been very backward since they were disturbed by the natives, with Mr.
Robinson, as they destroyed with fire all the shelter that was afforded.
The water throughout the islands is not always very good; grain, however,
thrives tolerably, and potatoes do very well indeed. The latter are
taken, with peas and other garden produce, to Port Dalrymple. This is an
evident proof of what these islands are capable of producing, and is
worthy the attention of Government, in case the idea, which I have
suggested, is entertained, of sending convicts thither from Tasmania.


Taking advantage of a very unexpected breeze from the eastward we left
Preservation Island for Port Dalrymple, which was made after a night's
run, on the morning of the 26th November. Eighteen miles from the
entrance of Banks Strait, and as far as abreast of Waterhouse Island,*
and nine miles from it, we had soundings of from 18 to 20 fathoms;
afterwards the depth was 30 and 40; whilst in the fairway nine miles from
the opposite entrance of the Strait we had 37.

(*Footnote. This island lies about a mile and a half from the main, and
affords shelter for ships in westerly winds. They should anchor in 6
fathoms, midway in a line between the north points of the island and of
the bay lying to the south-east. This anchorage being not so far to
leeward as those on the western side of Flinders, is the best place of
refuge for strangers arriving in a westerly gale off Port Dalrymple,
where, as they can get no assistance from the pilots, they may not like
to run in, on account of its treacherous appearance. Tenth Island (a mere
white rock) and Ninth Island, are admirably situated for guiding a ship
to Waterhouse; the first, bears North-East 1/2 East, twelve miles from
the entrance of Port Dalrymple; the course from it to Ninth Island (which
should be passed on the outside) is North 52 degrees East, fourteen
miles; and from Ninth Island to Waterhouse, North 69 degrees East,
seventeen miles. The latter islands are very much alike in the distance,
being both rather low, with cliffy faces to the westward, and sloping
away in the opposite direction. Mount Cameron, bearing South 61 degrees
East, is also a distant guide for Waterhouse Island. The great advantage
of running for this place, instead of for an anchorage on the western
side of Flinders, is that, in the event of missing it, Banks Strait will
be open to run through; and should the Anchorage under Swan Island not be
tried, shelter will be found in about 15 fathoms under the main to the


Mr. Forsyth, in the Vansittart, had again preceded our arrival in the
river Tamar by a few days. His visit to the west coast had been attended
with considerable risk.* Still, with his usual zeal, he had not lost
sight of the important branch of the service in which he was employed,
and had made a survey of Port Davy and the coast to the South-west Cape,
which completed our chart of the south-western shores of Tasmania.

(*Footnote. Mr. Forsyth entered and examined Macquarie Harbour in his
boat, and found on an island, in the head of it, two men in a state of
starvation. These he took with him and returned to the mouth of the
harbour; but a gale of wind having set in in the meantime, the Vansittart
had sought shelter in Port Davy, lying ninety miles to the southward. Day
after day passed away without any sign of the cutter. The increase of
two, requiring much more than could be afforded, to their small party,
soon consumed their stock of provisions, sparingly dealt out; so that, to
preserve the lives of his party, Mr. Forsyth was obliged to risk a
boat-passage, in the depth of winter, and along a storm-beaten coast, to
Port Davy, which he most providentially reached in safety; though, at one
time, in spite of the precaution taken to raise the gunwale by strips of
blanket, the sea was so great that they expected each moment would be
their last.)

The coast on either side of the Tamar still remained to be surveyed, and
accordingly I undertook the examination of that to the eastward, whilst
Mr. Fitzmaurice, although even now scarcely convalescent, proceeded to
the westward.


Without entering into details, I may briefly say, that to the eastward
the coast trended North 62 degrees East to Cape Portland, distant
fifty-eight miles; and that at the distance of eight, eighteen,
twenty-nine, forty-eight, and fifty-three miles, the rivers Currie,
Piper, Forestier, Tomahawk, and Ringarooma, empty themselves into wide
bays, which increase in depth as they advance eastwards. That formed by
the point opposite Waterhouse Island and Cape Portland,* which receives
the two last-mentioned rivers, and bears the name of the larger
Ringarooma Bay, is seven miles deep and fifteen miles wide. Mount Cameron
lies behind the head of it, where there is a vast extent of boggy land;
this is also the case in the next bay to the westward, Anderson Bay,
which receives the waters of the Forestier River.** The only good soil
seen was on the large Piper River, so that the disproportion of land fit
for cultivation on this part of the northern shore of Tasmania, with that
which is not, is very great. Behind the coast the eye wanders over
interminable woody ranges of various heights, thrown together in
irregular groups, called by the colonists Tiers. They are seldom
separated by valleys of any width, but rather by gullies, and are
generally covered with an impervious scrub. The most conspicuous points,
in addition to Mount Cameron, are Mounts Barrow and Arthur, two peaks
about 4,500 feet high, very much alike, and lying nine miles in a
north-west direction from each other. Mount Barrow bears, from
Launceston, East-North-East, thirteen miles.

(*Footnote. Small vessels anchor behind an island on the west side of
this cape, to take away the wool from the sheep-stations in the
neighbourhood. The rivers mentioned in the text are only navigable for
boats, and by them only at high-water.)

(**Footnote. A small bay, with some outlying rocks off its points,
bearing South-South-East, seven miles from Ninth Island, affords shelter
for small vessels in its north-west corner. The passage inside that
island should be used with caution.)


At the large Piper River I passed a night at the station of a gentleman
of the name of Noland, whom I found to be the nephew of a person of
remarkable talent and great influence with the Peruvian Government, known
only, at Lima, by the name of Don Tomas. There was a good deal of mystery
about his character and position, nobody being able to explain who he
was, whence he came, or what was the source of his influence; and it was
rather a curious circumstance that I should learn the explanation of what
had so much puzzled me in South America, at a solitary sheep-station in
Van Diemen's Land.

Shortly before we crossed the Great Piper River a party of convicts had
run away with a fishing boat. Although only three in number they made the
fishermen take them to Banks Strait, where they forced a party of sealers
to pass them over to Wilson's Promontory. Notwithstanding they were
several weeks on the passage, waiting for fine weather at the different
islands (the sealers, too, being twice their number) such was their
vigilance that they never allowed them a chance of escape. These men were
afterwards seen near Sydney.


The most remarkable coast-feature, between Waterhouse Island and the
Tamar, is Stony Head, a bluff three hundred feet high,* lying twelve
miles from Port Dalrymple. A small sandy bay separates it from a point to
the westward, and it is the nearest part of the main to Tenth Island. In
the neighbourhood of this headland I was induced to enter a hut at a
sheep-station, by seeing stuck round a fence a number of the heads of an
animal called by the colonists a hyena, from the resemblance it bears in
shape and colour, though not in ferocity, to that beast.** My object was
to obtain a few of these heads, which the hut-keeper, who was the only
inmate, instantly gave, along with an unsolicited history of his own
life. In the early part we instantly discovered that this loquacious
personage was, what he afterwards mildly confessed to be, a government
man, in other words a convict, sent out of course, according to the usual
story, through mistake. It appears that he had been a drover, and that a
few beasts were one morning found (quite by accident) among a herd he was
driving through the West of England. He had spent the early part of his
servitude at Circular Head, where he was for some time in charge of the
native woman caught stealing flour at a shepherd's hut, belonging to the
Van Diemen's Land Agricultural Company--a fact mentioned in a former

(*Footnote. Of basaltic formation; whilst the rocks that prevail to the
eastward are of primary character. But as Strzelecki has written so
largely on the geology of Tasmania, it will be needless for me to enter
further into the subject, except to say, that the raised beaches found on
the western side of Flinders, are evidences of an upheaval having
recently taken place.)

(**Footnote. This is the only animal the Tasmanian sheep-farmer is
annoyed with; and from its paucity, they have not, as in New South Wales,
the trouble of securing their flocks in yards or folds every night.)

(***Footnote. See Volume 1.)


I was curious to know how he managed to procure the obedience of this
aboriginal victim; and the inhuman wretch confessed, without a
blush--which must rise instead to the cheeks of my readers, when they
hear of what barbarities their countrymen have been guilty--that he kept
the poor creature chained up like a wild beast; and whenever he wanted
her to do anything, applied a burning stick, a fire-brand snatched from
the hearth, to her skin! This was enough. I could listen to no more, and
hurried from the spot, leaving my brutal informant to guess at the cause
of my abrupt departure. It is possible that the emotion I allowed to
appear may have introduced some glimmering of the truth into his mind,
that he may have faintly perceived how disgusted I was with his
narrative; but such is the perversion of feeling among a portion of the
colonists, that they cannot conceive how anyone can sympathize with the
black race as their fellow men. In theory and practice they regard them
as wild beasts whom it is lawful to extirpate. There are of course
honourable exceptions, although such is a very common sentiment. As an
instance, I may mention that a friend of mine, who was once travelling in
Tasmania, with two natives of Australia, was asked, by almost everyone,
where he had CAUGHT them? This expression will enable the reader better
to appreciate the true state of the case than many instances of ferocity
I could enumerate. It shows that the natives occupy a wrong position in
the minds of the whites; and that a radical defect exists in their
original conception of their character, and of the mode in which they
ought to be treated.


Soon after I returned to the ship at Port Dalrymple, a party of natives
was sent on board, with a request that I would allow the Vansittart to
take them to Flinders Island; it consisted of an elderly woman and man,
two young men, and a little boy. These were the remainder of the small
tribe to which belonged the woman who received, as I have related, such
cruel treatment from her keeper. I should here state, that when she was
removed to Flinders Island, none of the natives there could understand
her--a fact somewhat hostile to the theory of those who hold that there
is little or no variety in the aboriginal languages of Australasia.

The party of natives in question were taken by some sealers on the
western coast, near Arthur's River, and not far from the Van Diemen's
Land Agricultural Company's station at Point Woolnorth, to which place
they were first brought. A reward of 50 pounds had been offered for their
apprehension, on account of some depredations they were said to have from
time to time committed. A countrywoman of their own, the wife of one of
the sealers, was instrumental in their capture. Pretence was made that
the boat would carry them to some good hunting ground; but when they were
all afloat, and prostrated by sea-sickness, the sealers made sail for the
Company's station at Point Woolnorth, with a freight more valuable than


These were supposed to be the last of the aboriginal inhabitants of
Tasmania; though a report at one time prevailed that a solitary young man
had been left behind. If this be the case, his position must be truly
lamentable. Alone of all his race on that vast island, belonging to a
people against whom the deepest prejudices are entertained, who have been
hunted down like wild beasts by the new population, professing a religion
which should teach them to act otherwise towards their brethren, no
resource must have been left to him but to fly to the most inaccessible
fastnesses, to hide in the gloomiest forests and darkest caverns, and to
pass the remainder of his miserable life in constant struggles to prolong
it, and in ceaseless endeavours to stave off that final consummation
which could alone ensure him peace, and safety, and rest. Whether or not
the report of the existence of this Last Man was true I cannot say; but,
certainly, his story, imaginary or real, suggests numerous reflections,
and opens a wide field for conjecture and speculation. What was the
character of his thoughts, what importance he attached to the
prolongation of his life, cut off as he was from the world, a solitary
being, with no future prospect of the enjoyment of society, with no hope
of seeing his race continued, we cannot tell. But his fate, at least,
must force upon us the questions--have we dealt justly by these wild
people? have we nothing to answer for, now that we have driven them from
their native land, leaving no remnant, save one single individual, whose
existence even is problematical? Without wishing to press too hard on any
body of my countrymen, I must say I regret that that page of history
which records our colonization of Australia must reach the eyes of

The woman, whose capture I have more than once alluded to, was,
doubtless, the wife of one of the young men taken by the sealers, and
mother of the boy who accompanied him. The prospect of meeting her
probably lightened the hours of his captivity. But what a tale of
suffering she had to relate! What had she not undergone as the penalty of
an attempt to procure food for her family. With the narrative of her
sorrows fresh in my memory, I could not but sympathize deeply with the
last five of the aboriginal Tasmanians that now stood before me.


These natives differed even more than others I had seen as the wives of
sealers, from the inhabitants of the Australian continent, possessing
quite the negro cast of countenance, and hair precisely of their woolly
character. These characteristics are nowhere to be found on the
continent, natives from every part of which have come under my
observation. The difference existing is so great, that I feel warranted
in pronouncing them to be a distinct race. Excellent likenesses of
Tasmanian natives will be found in Strzelecki's work on New South Wales,
where the truth of these remarks will be perceived at a glance.

Having thus been engaged in the removal of the last of the natives to
Flinders Island, I feel that it is incumbent on me to give a short
account of the causes which led to it. In the first place, history
teaches us that whenever civilized man comes in contact with a savage
race, the latter almost inevitably begins to decrease, and to approach by
more or less gradual steps towards extinction. Whether this catastrophe
is the result of political, moral, or physical causes, the ablest writers
have not been able to decide; and most men seem willing to content
themselves with the belief that the event is in accordance with some
mysterious dispensation of Providence; and the purest philanthropy can
only teach us to alleviate their present condition, and to smooth, as it
were, the pillow of an expiring people. For my own part I am not willing
to believe, that in this conflict of races, there is an absence of moral
responsibility on the part of the whites; I must deny that it is in
obedience to some all-powerful law, the inevitable operation of which
exempts us from blame, that the depopulation of the countries we colonize
goes on.


There appear to me to be the means of tracing this national crime to the
individuals who perpetrate it; and it is with the deepest sorrow that I
am obliged to confess that my countrymen have not, in Tasmania, exhibited
that magnanimity which has often been the prominent feature in their
character. They have sternly and systematically trampled on the fallen. I
have before remarked that they started with an erroneous theory, which
they found to tally with their interests, and to relieve them from the
burden of benevolence and charity. That the aborigines were not men, but
brutes, was their avowed opinion; and what cruelties flowed from such a
doctrine! It is not my purpose to enter into details; I will only add
that the treatment of the poor captive native by her inhuman keeper was
in accordance with the sentiments prevailing, at one time, in the colony,
and would not have received the condemnation of public opinion.

The natural consequence of such conduct by the whites, commenced in the
very infancy of the colony, was a system of frightful retaliation on the
part of the natives. These led to counter-reprisals, every year
accumulating the debt of crime and vengeance on either hand, until the
memory of the first provocation was lost, and a war of extermination, the
success of which was, in the end, complete, began to be carried on.


It was not until exasperation, on either side, rose to its highest, that
measures were taken to prevent the complete destruction of the
aborigines. The first method selected was not characterized by prudence;
being the result of the passionate counsels of the great body of
colonists, who were smarting under evils entailed upon them by their own
violent conduct. As is natural in all these cases, they looked only to
the necessity of protecting their property and their lives; and did not
take into account the massacres, the cruelties of every description,
which had been at one time encouraged, or at least not condemned by the
general voice. The casuistry of the human heart, in most instances,
concealed the true state of the case, and many, if not the majority, felt
the virtuous indignation which some only affected. At any rate, they set
about the hunting down and capture of the aborigines, as a duty which
they owed to themselves and their families. Government, with the best
intentions, lent them every assistance in its power. The whole colony
rose to a man; and military operations on a most extensive scale were
undertaken. Cordons were established, marches and countermarches
performed, complicated manoeuvres planned and executed, and every method
resorted to, which in a different country and against a different enemy
must have been rewarded with complete success. But in this instance, the
impenetrable forests of Tasmania baffled the generalship and the tactics
that were displayed; and an expedition attended with immense expense, and
carried on with the greatest enthusiasm, ended in the capture of a single


It was now evident that means of another character must be tried, and the
plan which Mr. Robinson had laid before Government for the capture of the
natives in the meshes of persuasion was adopted. This enterprising
person, accordingly, went alone and unattended among the aborigines,
endured great privations, ran much risk, but finally, partly by his
eloquence, partly by stratagem, contrived to bring in the tribes one by
one, and to transport them quietly to the islands in the eastern entrance
of Bass Strait. Mr. Bateman, commanding the colonial brig, Tamar, who
took them across, describes them as reconciled to their fate, though
during the whole passage they sat on the vessel's bulwark, shaking little
bags of human bones, apparently as a charm against the danger to which
they felt exposed.

They were first taken to Swan Island, but that not being found
convenient, they were landed on the west side of Flinders Island, under
the superintendence of Mr. Robinson. This place, also, was discovered to
be ill-adapted for a permanent settlement; and a removal again took place
to Vansittart or Gun-carriage Island, at the eastern extremity of
Franklin Channel, where a number of sealers had been resident for some
years; as, however, they could not show any title to the land they
cultivated, except that of original occupancy--a title which I think
should be respected, as it is the only true basis of the right of
property--they were obliged to vacate, leaving their huts and crops to be
laid waste. In the course of a few weeks, when considerable mischief had
been effected, this position, likewise, was abandoned, and a location
made once more on the west side of Flinders, about sixteen miles to the
northward of Franklin Inlet.


The Home Government directed that in this their place of banishment every
attention should be paid to the wants of the aborigines, and a liberal
scale of necessaries provided. The officers of the establishment
originally consisted of the superintendent, medical officer, catechist
and storekeeper; but when the buildings, etc. for the settlement, were
completed, the convicts were withdrawn, which diminished the number so
much, that it was deemed practicable to reduce the staff of officers, and
the whole duties of the four departments above alluded to devolved on one
person, under the name of Surgeon-Superintendent. The combination of so
many duties has, unfortunately, necessitated the neglect of some portion
or another, possibly of the most material. The Sabbath afternoon is the
only time that can be set apart for the religious instruction of the
natives. This is to be regretted, as we have ample evidence of how
capable they are of receiving it, in the lasting effects produced by Mr.
Clarke, who sometime since filled the office of storekeeper; and for whom
they all continue to feel great veneration, and to exhibit that respect
which is due to a parent. On our visit in 1842 we heard all the natives
of both sexes, old and young, sing several hymns, taught them by this
excellent person. A few comprehended the full meaning of the words they
uttered; and all, no doubt, might be brought to do so if proper
instructions were again granted them.

Walter and Mary Ann, a married couple, who had recently returned from
Port Phillip, where they had been living in the family of the former
superintendent, Mr. Robinson, were so civilized, and proficient in all
the plain parts of education, that they possessed great influence over
their countrymen, who, incited by the contemplation of their superiority,
were apparently desirous of acquiring knowledge. The barracks in which
the natives dwell form a square of good stone buildings; but Walter and
his wife have a separate cottage, with a piece of land attached. Mary Ann
is a very tolerable needlewoman, and capable of teaching the others; some
of whom, encouraged by the prizes that are awarded to industry, already
assist in making their own dresses.


The men, to whom inducements are also held out to labour in farming,
etc., are, however, generally indolent. They still retain a taste for
their original wild habits, taking to the bush, occasionally, for several
days together; and in order to enjoy all the freedom of limb to which
they had been accustomed, throwing off their European clothing. This
practice has been expressly prohibited, as from the sudden resumption of
savage habits, and the abandonment of the covering to which they had
become accustomed, severe illness resulted. To this may in part be
attributable the rapid mortality which exists among them, and which leads
us to suppose that at no distant period their utter extinction must take
place. Out of two hundred who were originally taken to Flinders Island,
more than one hundred and fifty had perished in 1842, to replace which
loss, an addition of only fourteen by births, besides seven brought in
the Vansittart, had been made. It seems, in truth, impossible that a race
transported from their country, suddenly compelled to change all their
habits and modes of life, kept under restraint, however mild and
paternal, obliged to repress all the powerful instincts which lead them
to desire a renewal of their wild and unfettered life, tormented by the
memory of the freedom they once enjoyed, and galled by the moral chain
which they now wear, constantly sighing in secret for the perilous charms
of the wilderness, for their hunts, and their corrobberies, for the hills
and mountains and streams of their native land--it is impossible, I say,
that a people whose life has undergone such a change, who cherish such
reminiscences and such regrets, should increase and multiply and
replenish the face of the land.


Their destiny is accomplished. In obedience to a necessity--of man's
creating certainly, but still a necessity--they have been expatriated for
their own preservation; to restore them, would be but to ensure their
speedier destruction; and all we can do is to soothe their declining
years, to provide that they shall advance gently, surrounded by all the
comforts of civilization, and by all the consolations of religion, to
their inevitable doom; and to draw a great lesson from their melancholy
history, namely, that we should not leave, until it is too late, the
aborigines of the countries we colonize exposed to the dangers of an
unregulated intercourse with the whites; that, without giving them any
undue preference, without falling into the dangerous extreme of
favouritism--an error of which the most high-minded and generous are
susceptible in the case of a depressed race--we should consider, that in
entering their country we incur a great responsibility, and that it
behoves us at once to establish distinctly the relation in which they
stand to the government, the colonists, and the soil!


Mr. Fitzmaurice's examination of the coast to the westward extended to
Dial Point, distant twenty-nine miles from the Tamar. In this space there
are no less than five rivers, all with very short courses, and not
navigable except by boats and small craft; and by these only, on account
of the surf on their bars, in fine weather. The first empties itself into
an estuary, called Port Sorel; but it is difficult to detect the mouths
of the others in the low sandy shore, which is deceptive, as the hills
rising immediately in the rear give the coast a bold striking appearance
from the offing. These rivers, namely, the Sorel, the Mersey,* the Don,
the Frith, and the Leven, are distant from the Tamar, eleven, eighteen,
twenty, twenty-three and twenty-seven miles.

(*Footnote. A horse-shoe reef, extending nearly two miles from the shore,
lies two miles to the eastward.)

A range of hills, nearly 2000 feet high, in which asbestos is found, lies
midway between Port Sorel and the Tamar; and immediately over Dial Point
rises a peaked range, of the same name; whilst Valentine Peak,* 4000 feet
in height, is situated twenty-three miles South 40 degrees West from the
above point. This peak is a bare mass of granite, and as it glistens in
the first beams of the morning sun like an immense spire, forms the most
remarkable hill-feature in the north side of Tasmania. High level ranges
extend to the eastward of it for some distance.

(*Footnote. In latitude 41 degrees 17 minutes South and longitude 5
degrees 28 1/2 minutes West of Sydney, and when bearing South by West is
a distant guide to Emu Bay.)

From Dial Point to Circular Head the coast trends North 72 degrees West,
and as far as Rocky Point the shore is steep and woody. Emu Bay* lies at
the end of the first ten miles; it is a confined anchorage, affording
shelter in westerly winds. A river of the same name runs into it, and
another called the Blyth joins the sea a mile and a half on the Tamar
side of the east point, which has a remarkable round hill on it: nearly
four and five and a half miles to the westward of this bay are other
small streams. An islet lies at the mouth of the eastern one; and in its
neighbourhood only the shore, which falls back a little, is sandy and
faced with rocks.

(*Footnote. The North-West or Blackman's Point is low, and in latitude 41
degrees 2 minutes 45 seconds South, longitude 5 degrees 18 minutes 50
seconds West of Sydney.)


The River Inglis is of a good size; but a reef extends off the mouth and
some distance to the eastward; it is two miles and a half to the
South-South-East of a headland, called Table Cape, the distances between
which, Rocky Cape, Circular Head, and Emu Bay, are equal, namely, eleven
miles and a half. Rocky Cape has a high pointed summit, with other peaks
in the rear; a sunken rock is said to lie a mile and a half north of it;
and the coast from thence to Circular Head falls back, forming a bight;
five miles to the south-east of it is a sandy bay with a small rivulet
running into it. The Sisters, two round hills, 870 feet high, renders the
east point remarkable; an islet with a reef of considerable extent fronts
it for some distance.


One of the pilots at Port Dalrymple, I found, had travelled along the
west coast of Tasmania, from Macquarie Harbour to Point Woolnorth. He
crossed four or five small rivers; but the country was covered with a low
scrub, growing in an impenetrable network along the surface of the soil,
so that he could only make progress by keeping the shore. He was landed
from a colonial vessel, by a party of convicts who had taken possession
of it, and afterwards succeeded in reaching Valdivia, on the west coast
of South America. They scuttled the vessel off the harbour's mouth, and
came in in the boat, reporting it to have foundered. Being useful
artificers in such an out of the way place, few inquiries were made about
them, and they were received by the governor as a very acceptable
addition to the population. Singular to say, when at Valdivia in 1835, I
saw some of these men; they were married, and continued to be regarded as
a very great acquisition, although a kind of mystery was attached to
them. However, their enjoyment of liberty and repose was destined to be
but short. Their whereabouts became known, and a man of war was sent to
take them. All but one again effected their escape, in a boat they had
just finished for the governor; and they have not since been heard of.
The remaining delinquent was afterwards hanged at Hobart, where he gave a
detailed and interesting narrative of the whole affair.


The few quiet days we had during our stay at Port Dalrymple, enabled us
satisfactorily to complete the soundings at the entrance. Beacons were
also erected on the shore by the Beagle's crew, for guiding vessels
through the channels; they, however, require to be kept white, in order
to show well against the dark ground behind. I furnished Lieutenant M.
Friend, R.N. the port officer, with a few notes on the navigation of the
Tamar, which, for the sake of the nautical reader, I give below.*

(*Footnote. The most formidable shoal in the mouth of the Tamar, bearing
the name of the Middle Ground, is a rocky patch, with, according to
report, only 9 feet on one spot at low-water, spring tides, but the least
depth found on it by the (Beagle's) boats was 12 feet. The north extreme
of Low Head, in one with the first black cliffy projection to the
eastward of it, or the flagstaff on Low Head, open northward of the
lighthouse, clears the northern edge of it. The leading marks for
entering eastward of the Middle Ground, generally called the Eastern
Channel, are the Shear and West Beacons. The latter stands in front of
Dr. Browne's house, which is the first inside Point Friend, the western
entrance point. The Shear Beacon must be kept a little open to the left
or eastward of the West Beacon, until you get abreast of the lighthouse;
after which, both beacons should be kept in one. When within two cables
and a half of the Shear Beacon, the course should be changed in the
direction of the Red Beacon on the Barrel Rock, the first on the eastern
side, to avoid a patch of kelp, extending one cable and a half in an
easterly direction from the Shear Beacon, the depth, there, at low-water
is 9 fathoms, and the least in the channel is 4 fathoms, on a ledge,
apparently extending from Low Head to the Middle Ground.

The Western Channel is two cables wide, with a depth, in the shoalest
part, of 10 fathoms; it is formed by the Middle Ground on the eastern
side, and the Yellow Rock Reef on the western; the latter is an extensive
patch of kelp, with a double light-coloured rock near its extremity. The
least water on it at low-water is 6 feet; from the Shear Beacon, it bears
North 50 degrees West five-tenths of a mile, and from the lighthouse,
South 52 degrees West eight-tenths of a mile. The Shear Beacon and the
flagstaff at George Town in a line lead over the outer extreme. There is
generally a white buoy in its vicinity, and a black one on the western
edge of the Middle Ground. The Barrel Rock red beacon, and the high and
low white beacons, erected by the Beagle's crew on the shore over Lagoon
Bay, kept in one, lead through the Western Channel. When abreast of the
Shear Beacon, steer for the next beyond on the west side of the channel,
to avoid a long patch of kelp, with three and five fathoms in it,
extending two cables and a half to the South-South-West of the Barrel

The high part of the Western Reef, bearing South by East leads into the
fairway of the Western Channel, when will be seen the white beacons over
Lagoon Bay. The latter is the second sandy beach inside the lighthouse on
the eastern shore. The Western Reefs are those fronting Point Friend; the
part above-mentioned, the only spot uncovered at high-water, is a black
patch of rocks near their northern extreme.

The only danger near the entrance of the Tamar is the Hebe Reef, named
after a ship lost on it in 1808; it occupies a space of a quarter of a
mile, chiefly in an east direction. A small portion of its centre is
nearly dry at low-water; this part bears South 89 degrees West, three
miles and three-tenths from the lighthouse on Low Head; inside it there
is a channel of 7 fathoms. The guide for passing northward of it, is a
white spot on the North-West extreme of Low Head in one with the
lighthouse; the latter will then bear East 16 degrees South.

The shoals, on either side, within the entrance of the river, are marked
with beacons. Those on the western shore, have a letter V sideways with a
vertical bar on the top; and those on the eastern a dagger. Shoals marked
with chequered buoys, may be passed on either side; a red or black buoy,
signifies that the danger extends from the eastern shore; and a white
one, that it extends from the western.

The result of 115 tidal observations, taken three miles within the
entrance, gives 12 hours 06 minutes for the time of high-water on the
full and change day. The rise of tide was irregular, the least being 4,
and the greatest 10 feet. The highest noticed in the Beagle was during
the neaps, caused by a strong North-West gale forcing the water into the
river. The tides flow 5 hours 50 minutes, and ebb 6 hours 25 minutes,
with a velocity varying from two to five miles an hour, according as the
river is confined or open. The ebb-stream setting round Low Head into the
bay to the eastward, is apt to drift vessels in that direction. Three
miles in the offing the flood-stream runs from one to two knots to the

The position of the lighthouse on Low Head is as follows: latitude 41
degrees 03 minutes 26 seconds South, longitude 4 degrees 25 minutes 44
seconds West, of Sydney; or 146 degrees 50 minutes 16 seconds East of
Greenwich, variation 10 degrees 05 minutes easterly. The light is
elevated 140 feet above the sea-level, and may be seen, in clear weather,
sixteen miles from the decks of small vessels, revolving once in fifty


On December 19th both vessels left the Tamar; the Vansittart for Flinders
Island, to land the unfortunate natives; whilst the Beagle crossed the
strait to Wilson's Promontory, anchoring behind an island two miles long,
trending north and south, with a hollow in the centre, forming a saddle,
the highest part being 450 feet high. It is the northernmost of a group
called the Glennie Islands, fronting the south-western face of the
Promontory; and is strewn over with blocks of granite, which give it a
castellated appearance. We did not find this anchorage very good, the
depth being 20 fathoms, and the bottom sand over rock. Three small islets
lie close to the south-west point, and a reef extends a cable's length
off the northern. There is a passage nearly four miles wide, and 23
fathoms deep, between this part of Glennie's Group and the Promontory.
The singular break in the high land on the latter, bearing East 1/2 North
is a distant guide to the anchorage, in which the flood-tide sets to the
northward, and when aided by the current, attains a strength of a knot
and a half; the time of high-water, is a quarter of an hour later than at
Refuge Cove.

We found on this, the largest of the group, a small black dog, that had
been left behind by some visitor, recently I should say, from his anxiety
to be taken on board, which was done. It was, also, on this island that
the intrepid Bass met a number of runaway convicts, who had been
treacherously left by their companions one night when asleep, the party
being too large for the boat they had run away with from Sydney, with the
intention of plundering the wreck of the Sydney Cove, at Preservation
Island in Banks Strait. Thus they were actually the first to traverse
this part of the Strait, which has received its name from the
enterprising Mr. Bass.


Leaving the Glennie Isles we examined the coast beyond Cape Liptrap;* and
from thence made the best of our way to Western Port. There I availed
myself of the kind offer of Mr. Anderson--a settler on the Bass River,
who was going to Cape Patterson, to shoot wild cattle, the produce of the
stock left behind when the old settlement was abandoned--to give Mr.
Fitzmaurice, and a small party, conveyance in his bullock dray to that
projection, for the purpose of determining its position. A party was also
landed on the eastern entrance of Grant Island, to collect tidal

(*Footnote. The next headland to Wilson's Promontory, from the extreme of
which it bears North-West by West, twenty-four miles; the shore between
recedes, forming a bay nine miles deep. The Cape lies in latitude 38
degrees 55 minutes South, longitude 5 degrees 17 minutes West of Sydney,
145 degrees 57 minutes East, and is the extreme of a tableland three
hundred and fifty feet high. A small islet lies close to the shore, about
two miles northward from the extreme, where there is a boat cove. Where
the rocky coast ceases to the eastward, the shore falls back, affording
shelter for vessels in north-west winds; a rock lies off the southern
point of this anchorage.)


Having made these arrangements, we left for Port Phillip, where, after
landing another party at Shortland's Bluff, also to make tidal
observations, we pursued our course round Indented Head towards Corio
Harbour, anchoring off Point Henry--where no less than four vessels were
lading with wool for England--early on the morning of the 27th. We
devoted the remainder of this day and the next to making a plan of the
harbour; and from the result of our survey I feel more than ever
convinced that the bar (through the northern part of which a channel
winds for vessels of eight feet at low-water) might be removed, and the
entrance rendered fit for vessels of any draught. There is deep water in
the south-western part, close to the northern side of Geelong, where, by
erecting wharfs, large ships might discharge alongside, an advantage
which can never be obtained at Melbourne,* and of so great importance
that I am induced to believe Geelong will ultimately be the capital of
Australia Felix. In this event communication will be held with Melbourne
by railroad, for which the country intervening is admirably adapted,
being a complete level the entire way. At present a steamer plies daily
between the two places; and when we consider that on our last visit, only
two years before, Geelong consisted of a few sheds at its north end only,
and now stretched across from Corio Harbour to the River Barwon, a space
of more than a mile, the belief seems warranted that at no distant period
the line of rail I allude to must be laid down. The township is now
divided into North and South Geelong; the latter lies on a slope,
reaching the river's edge.

(*Footnote. Corio Harbour is in fact the best anchorage in Port Phillip,
that at Hobson's Bay being very confined, and scarcely affording any
shelter from southerly winds for large ships. Moreover, Corio Harbour
lies more convenient for the western districts, there being no other
place where the sheep-farmers of those parts can, with safety, ship their
wool, except Portland Bay.)


Located in a snug house, with a garden teeming with flowers, that
reminded one of home, and overlooking a still reach of the Barwon, I
found Captain Fyans, of whom I have before spoken.


In the course of conversation, pointing to a weapon used by the natives,
called a Lliangle, resembling a miner's pick, he said, "I had that driven
through my horse's nose, a short time since, by a native, of whom I was
in pursuit." As I expressed a desire to be made acquainted with the
circumstance, he informed me, that being out with a party of mounted
police, in search of some natives who had been committing depredations on
the flocks of the settlers, in the neighbourhood of Port Fairey, he
suddenly, whilst crossing a valley in advance of his men, came upon the
chief of those of whom he was in chase. He, too, was alone; an attack
immediately commenced. The native threw his spears, but without effect;
and Captain Fyans, finding that the rain had wetted the priming of his
pistols, charged to cut him down; but such was his antagonist's dexterity
in defending himself with his shield, only a narrow piece of wood, that
beyond a few nicks on the fingers, Captain Fyans' sword-cuts were of no
avail. Several times he attempted to ride over the native; who, however,
doubled himself up in a ball under his shield, and was saved by the
natural reluctance of a horse to trample on a prostrate man in going over
him. After having been apparently more than once ridden down, the chief
managed to drive his lliangle through the horse's nose, and so firmly
that he was unable to withdraw it. The wound inflicted bled so freely
that Captain Fyans was obliged to pull up, and the native made his
escape. He was not only a fine fellow in conduct, but in person, having a
chest, as Captain Fyans expressed it, like a bullock's. I afterwards
learned that he displayed the sword-cuts upon his shield in triumph at
some of the sheep-stations.

From Corio Harbour* we proceeded to Hobson's Bay, for a meridian
distance, the result of which was highly satisfactory, differing from our
former measurement only five seconds. The longitude, therefore, of
Batman's Hill, 6 degrees 16 minutes 17 seconds West of Sydney, or
(approximately) 144 degrees 59 minutes 43 seconds East of Greenwich, may
be relied on.

(*Footnote. The approach to this harbour would be vastly improved by a
buoy placed at the end of the spit extending nearly across from Point
Wilson on the north shore.)


A great improvement had been made since our last visit in the approach to
the anchorage, by the erection of a light on Point Gellibrand.* This we
found to be a small lamp fixed at the top of a kind of wooden framework,
thirty feet high, suggested by the superintendent, Mr. LaTrobe; and for a
temporary economical affair, until a more expensive light can be
afforded, it is certainly a clever contrivance.

(*Footnote. This light may be seen from a ship's deck, in clear weather,
seven miles off. Vessels intending to anchor in Hobson's Bay should keep
the light bearing North-West by North until the water shoals to 6
fathoms; then steer North by West. When the lights of William Town open
out, bearing South-West by West, haul in West-South-West for the
anchorage. The best berth is in 3 1/2 fathoms, with the light bearing
South 1/4 East and the jetty at William Town South-West 1/2 West.)

The last three years had also made great additions to the buildings of
William Town; but Melbourne had so increased that we hardly knew it
again. Wharfs and stores fronted the banks of the Yarra-yarra; whilst
further down, tanners and soap-boilers had established themselves on
either side, where, formerly, had been tea-tree thickets, from which the
cheerful pipe of the bell-bird greeted the visitor. Very different,
however, were now the sights, and sounds, and smells, that assailed our
senses; the picturesque wilderness had given place to the unromantic
realities of industry; and the reign of business had superseded that of
poetry and romance.


Near Melbourne I again noticed the manna mentioned above, but had no
opportunity of making further observations upon it. Mr. Bynoe, however,
having since visited Australia, has turned his attention to the subject,
and the result of his experience, which will be found below, tends to
overthrow the opinion I have previously expressed, to the effect, that
this substance is the exudation of a tree, not the deposit of an insect.*

(*Footnote. There is a prevailing opinion in some parts of New Holland,
particularly on the east side, that the gumtrees distil a peculiar form
of manna, which drops at certain seasons of the year. I have heard it
from many of the inhabitants, who, on a close investigation, could only
say, that it was to be found adhering to the old and young bark of the
trees, as well as strewed on the ground beneath.

In the month of December, about the warmest period of the year, during my
rambles through the forest in search of insects, I met with this manna in
the above-mentioned state, but could never find in any part of the bark a
fissure or break whence such a substance could flow. Wherever it
appeared, moreover, the red-eyed cicadae were in abundance. I was
inclined to think that the puncture produced by these suctorial insects
into the tender shoots for juice, would in all probability give an exit
for such a substance; but by wounding the tender branches with a
sharp-pointed knife, I could never obtain a saccharine fluid or
substance. It was the season when the cicadae were abundantly collected
together for reproduction; and on warm, clear, still days, they clung to
the more umbrageous parts, particularly to trees that, having been
deprived of old limbs, shot forth vigorous stems, thickly clustered with
leaves. To one of these, in which the male insects were making an
intolerable noise, I directed my steps, and quietly sheltered myself from
a hot wind that was crossing the harbour, bringing with it a dense column
of smoke, which for a short time shut out the powerful rays of the sun. I
found that the ground about the root of the tree was thinly covered with
the sugar-like substance, and in a few minutes I felt that a fluid was
dropping, which soon congealed on my clothes into a white substance. On
rising cautiously to ascertain from whence it came, with a full
determination not to disturb the insects but to watch their pursuits, I
observed that it was passing of a syrup-like consistence per anum from
the cicadae. As it ran down the smooth branches of the gumtree and over
the leaves it gradually congealed, and formed a white efflorescence.
Whilst ejecting this fluid, the insect raised the lower part of the
abdomen and passed off three or four drops in sudden jets, which either
streamed down the stem, or fell on the leaves or ground.

I watched them for nearly half an hour, and in that space of time
observed between twenty and thirty distil this fluid, which gradually
concreted into a white substance. I collected above three ounces, some of
which I still have in my possession. The natives gather it in their rush
baskets and use it as a part of their food.)


Leaving Hobson's Bay we passed along the east shore of Port Phillip in
search of a ledge of rocks, reported to lie about three miles off Red
Bluff, which is eight miles to the southward of the above-mentioned bay.
We, however, found this danger to be nothing more than the extreme of the
reef fronting that bluff for a distance of half a mile, in a West by
North direction, and which has three feet on it at low-water, with three
fathoms just outside. As the soundings gradually decrease to this depth,
the lead will always keep a ship clear of it.

Anchoring under Arthur's Seat, I delivered the letters with which Mr.
Powlett, Commissioner of Crown Lands at Melbourne, had kindly furnished
me, to the different settlers in the neighbourhood, requesting them to
afford me every assistance in my contemplated visit to Cape Shanck, for
the purpose of determining its position.


One of them was addressed to a gentleman residing close to the Cape, Dr.
Barker, to whom it was forwarded, and who returned with the messenger to
welcome me to his station, and in the most liberal manner placed at my
disposal, his horses and his services.


Early the following morning, a well mounted party of us started for
Arthur's Seat. I wished to get a few angles from its summit, and to show
to Captain Bunbury, R.N., Superintendent of Water Police at Melbourne,
the banks at the eastern entrance of the South Channel. Dr. Barker had
brought his dogs over with him, to show us some sport on our way to Cape
Shanck. They formed quite a pack; and among them were two bloodhounds of
a celebrated Duke's breed at home. Their deep rich notes as they wound
round the foot of Arthur's Seat, after a kangaroo, were quite cheering to
the heart; but the ground was too hilly for the fast dogs, and too dry
for the scent to lie.

I was disappointed in not seeing Port Western from Arthur's Seat, which
had one of those unsatisfactory woody summits, of which it is difficult
exactly to ascertain the highest part. We passed a spring of water near
the south-eastern foot, and in a level beyond were some large lagoons.

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