A Voyage to Terra Australis Volume 2
Part 2 out of 10
was no ground at 10 fathoms. From thence I steered up the western arm,
passing to the south of a central rock lying a mile out; and got with
difficulty to the projection named _West-water Head_. The arm terminated
a little further on; but to the northward, over the land, I saw a long
shallow bay at the back of Island Head, and beyond it was the sea. This
western arm being full of sandy shoals, and of no utility, if at all
accessible to ships, I observed the latitude and took angles, and then
returned to the inner part of Cape Clinton. In rowing to the southward,
close along the inside of the cape, we had from 3 to 9 fathoms water; but
it was too late in the evening to make an examination of the southern
arm, and I therefore ascended a hill near the shore, to inspect it. This
was called _East-water Hill_, and I saw from its top, that the southern
arm extended S. 16 deg. W. about seven miles, to the foot of the hills behind
Cape Manifold, where it terminated in shallows and mangroves. Close under
Eastwater Hill there was a small branch running eastward, nearly
insulating Cape Clinton; but neither this branch nor the main arm seemed
to be deep enough to admit a ship much higher than the cape; and in
consequence, I gave up the further examination, and returned on board at
Amongst the useful bearings for the survey, taken at Eastwater Hill, were
Entrance Island, centre, N. 9 deg. 45' E.
Peaked Islet in the offing, S. 58 45 E.
Cape Manifold, east end of the island, S. 29 40 E.
Cape Manifold, highest of the two peaks, S. 3 20 W.
By means of this last bearing, the longitude of Port Bowen was connected
with Keppel Bay and Port Curtis, independently of the time keepers.
A fresh wind from the south-eastward had blown all day, and raised so
much surf on the north side of the port, that our watering there was much
impeded; a midshipman and party of men remained on shore with casks all
night, and it was not until next evening [MONDAY 23 AUGUST 1802] that the
holds were completed and pine logs got on board. The water was very good;
it drained down the gully to a little beach between two projecting beads
which have rocky islets lying off them. The gully is on the west side of
the northern entrance, and will easily be known, since we sent there on
first coming to an anchor, in the expectation of finding water, but Mr.
Westall's sketch will obviate any difficulty (Atlas, Plate XVIII. View
There were pine trees in the watering gully and on the neighbouring
hills; but the best, and also the most convenient, were those upon
Entrance Island, some of them being fit to make top masts for ships. The
branches are very brittle; but the carpenter thought the trunks to be
tough, and superior to the Norway pine, both for spars and planks:
turpentine exudes from between the wood and the bark, in considerable
For a ship wanting to take in water and pine logs, the most convenient
place is under Entrance Island, where we lay in the Investigator; indeed
fresh water was not found in any other place; but this anchorage is not
tenable against a strong south-east wind. At the entrance of the southern
arm, just within Cape Clinton, a ship may lie at all times in perfect
safety; and might either be laid on shore or be hove down, there being 3
fathoms close to the rocks, at each end of the beach; it is moreover
probable, that fresh water might be there found, or be procured by
digging at the foot of the hills. In the southern arm the bottom is
muddy; but it is of sand in other parts of the port.
Of the country round Port Bowen not much can be said in praise; it is in
general either sandy or stony, and unfit for cultivation; nevertheless,
besides pines, there are trees, principally _eucalyptus_, of moderate
size, and the vallies of Cape Clinton are overspread with a tolerably
good grass. No inhabitants were seen, but in every part where I landed,
fires had been made, and the woods of Cape Clinton were then burning; the
natives had also been upon Entrance Island, which implied them to have
canoes, although none were seen. There are kangaroos in the woods; hawks,
and the bald-headed mocking bird of Port Jackson are common; and ducks,
sea-pies, and gulls frequent the shoals at low water. Fish were more
abundant here than in any port before visited; those taken in the seine
at the watering beach were principally mullet, but sharks and flying fish
The _latitude_ of the north-west end of Entrance Island, from an
observation taken by lieutenant Flinders in an artificial horizon, is 22 deg.
28' 28" south.
_Longitude_ from twelve sets of lunar distances by the same officer, 150 deg.
47' 54"; and by the time keepers, 150 deg. 45' 36"; but from the fifty sets
which fix Broad Sound, and the reduction from thence by survey, the more
correct situation will be 150 deg. 45' 0" east.
_Dip_ of the south end of the needle, 50 deg. 20'.
_Variation_ from azimuths with the theodolite, 7 deg. 40' east; but on the
top of the island, where my bearings were taken, the variation appeared
to be 8 deg. 30' east; and 8 deg. in other parts of the port.
The time of high water, as near as it could be ascertained, was _ten
hours after_ the moon's passage over and under the meridian, being half
an hour later than in Keppel Bay; and the tide rises more than nine feet,
but how much was not known; it is however to be presumed, from what was
observed to the south and to the north of Port Bowen, that the spring
tides do not rise less than fifteen feet.
TUESDAY 24 AUGUST 1802
At daylight of the 24th, we steered out of Port Bowen by the northern
passage, as we had gone in. The wind was from the westward; but so light,
that when the ebb tide made from the north-west at ten o'clock, it was
necessary to drop the kedge anchor for a time. In the evening we came to,
in 10 fathoms fine grey sand, one mile and a half from the main; being
sheltered between N. E. by E. and E. by S. by the same cluster of small
isles upon which the pine trees had been first seen. In the morning
[WEDNESDAY 25 AUGUST 1802] we worked onward along the coast, against a
breeze at north-west, till ten o'clock; when the tide being unfavourable,
an anchor was dropped in 15 fathoms, sand and shells, near three islets,
of which the middlemost and highest bore S. 29 deg. E., one mile: these were
also a part, and the most northern of Harvey's Isles.
A boat was lowered down, and I landed with the botanical gentlemen on the
middle islet; where we found grass and a few shrubs, and also ants,
grasshoppers, and lizards. Upon the rocks were oysters of the small,
crumply kind, which seemed to indicate that the sea here is not violently
agitated; and in the water we saw several large turtle, but were not able
to harpoon any of them. Several of the Northumberland Isles were in sight
from the top of the islet, and the following observations were taken.
Latitude, observed in artificial horizon, 22 deg. 20' 42"
Longitude, deduced from survey, 150 42
Peaked Islet in the offing bore S. 35 35 E.
Island Head, distant 3 miles, S. 82 45 W.
Cape Townshend, the rock near it, N. 57 45 W.
Northumberland Isle, the 4th, a peak, N. 43 30 W.
When the tide slacked in the afternoon we stretched over towards Island
Head, and saw a canoe with two Indians, who made for the shore near a
place where the woods were on fire. At dusk we anchored in 18 fathoms,
soft mud, in a bight between Island Head and Cape Townshend, at the
bottom of which was an opening one mile wide, where captain Cook had
suspected an entrance into Shoalwater Bay. The Lady Nelson had fallen to
leeward, as usual; and not being come up in the morning [THURSDAY 26
AUGUST 1802], the master was sent ahead of the ship in a boat, and we
steered for the opening with a strong flood tide in our favour. From 22
fathoms, the water shoaled to 12, and suddenly to 3, on a rocky bottom,
just as we reached the entrance. A kedge anchor was dropped immediately;
but seeing that the opening went through, and that the master had deep
water further in, it was weighed again, and we backed and filled the
sails, drifting up with the tide so long as it continued to run. At nine
o'clock the anchor was let go in 6 fathoms, sand and shells, one mile
within the entrance, the points of which bore N. 34 deg. and S. 89 deg. E.; but
the extent of deep water was barely sufficient for the ship to swing at a
[EAST COAST. STRONG-TIDE PASSAGE.]
(Atlas, Plate XI.)
Lieutenant Flinders landed on the north side of the entrance, and
observed the latitude 22 deg. 17' 53', from an artificial horizon; and a boat
was sent to haul the seine upon a beach on the eastern shore, where fish
to give half the ship's company a meal was procured. We had no prospect
of advancing up the passage until the turn of tide, at three in the
afternoon; and I therefore landed with a party of the gentlemen, and
ascended the highest of the hills on the eastern side. From the top of it
we could see over the land into Port Bowen; and some water was visible
further distant at the back of it, which seemed to communicate with
Shoal-water Bay. Of the passage where the ship was lying, there was an
excellent view; and I saw not only that Cape Townshend was on a distinct
island, but also that it was separated from a piece of land to the west,
which captain Cook's chart had left doubtful. Wishing to follow the
apparent intention of the discoverer, to do honour to the noble family of
Townshend, I have extended the name of the cape to the larger island, and
distinguish the western piece by the name of _Leicester Island_. Besides
these, there were many smaller isles scattered in the entrance of
Shoal-water Bay; and the southernmost of them, named _Aken's Island_
after the master of the ship, lies in a bight of the western shore. Out
at sea there were more of the Northumberland Islands, further westward
than those before seen, the largest being not less distant than fifteen
leagues; Pier Head, on the west side of Thirsty Sound, was also visible;
and in the opposite direction was the highest of the two peaks behind
Cape Manifold, the bearing of which connected this station with Port
Curtis and Keppel Bay. The view was, indeed, most extensive from this
hill; and in compliment to the landscape painter, who made a drawing from
thence of Shoal-water Bay and the islands, I named it Mount Westall.* The
bearings most essential to the connection of the survey, were these;
Pier Head, the northern extreme, N. 62 deg. 40' W.
Aken's Island in Shoal-water Bay, N. 86 55 W.
Pine Mount, on its west side, S. 80 40 W.
Double Mount, S. 56 35 W.
Cape Manifold., highest peak behind it, S. 20 10 E.
West-water Head in Port Bowen, S. 30 25 E.
Northern Harvey's Isles, last station, N. 81 20 E.
Cape Townshend, north-east extreme, N. 20 25 W.
Northumberland Isles, the 4th, a peak, N. 26 25 W.
[* A painting was made of this view, and is now in the Admiralty; but it
has not been engraved for the voyage.]
Mount Westall and the surrounding hills are stony, and of steep ascent;
pines grow in the gullies, and some fresh water was found there, standing
in holes. The lower hills are covered with grass and trees, as is also
the low land, though the soil be shallow and sandy; the wood is mostly
_eucalyptus_. No natives were seen during our walk, and only one
At dusk in the evening, when we returned on board, I found the Lady
Nelson at anchor near us, and two boats absent from the ship. In hauling
them up to be hoisted in, the cutter had been upset from the rapidity of
the tides, which ran above four knots, the man in her was thrown out, and
the boat went adrift. The man was taken up by the Lady Nelson; but the
boatswain, who with two men in a small gig had gone after the cutter, was
not heard of till next morning [FRIDAY 27 AUGUST 1802], when he returned
without any intelligence of his object, having been bewildered in the
dark by the rapid tides in a strange place, and in danger of losing
[EAST COAST. SHOAL-WATER BAY.]
On weighing the kedge anchor to go further up the passage, it came up
broken near the crown, having in all probability hooked a rock. The Lady
Nelson went one mile ahead, a boat was kept sounding close to the ship,
and in this manner we drifted up with the flood tide, till half past
eight; when another kedge anchor was dropped in 7 fathoms, a short mile
from the land on each side, and two from the inner end of the opening.
Lieutenant Fowler was immediately sent away in the whale boat, to search
for the lost cutter; and in the mean time we weighed with the afternoon's
flood, to get through the passage. On approaching a low, triangular
island on the eastern shore, the depth diminished quick, and an anchor
was let go; but in swinging to it, the ship caught upon a bank of sand
and shells where there was no more than twelve feet water. In half an
hour the tide floated her off; and the whale boat having returned, but
without any information of the cutter, it was kept ahead; and before dark
we anchored in 5 fathoms, at the entrance of Shoalwater Bay.
The opening through which we had come was named _Strong-tide Passage_. It
is six miles long, and from one to two broad; but half the width is taken
up by shoals and rocks, which extend out from each shore and sometimes
lie near the mid-channel; and the rapid tides scarcely leave to a ship
the choice of her course. The bottom is rocky in the outer entrance, but
in the upper part seems more generally to consist of sand and shells. By
the swinging of the ship, it was high water _ten hours after_ the moon's
passage, and the rise was thirteen feet by the lead; but at the top of
the springs it is probably two or three feet greater; and the rate at
which the tides then run, will not be less than five miles an hour. It
will be perceived, that I do not recommend any ship to enter Shoal-water
Bay by this passage.
SATURDAY 28 AUGUST 1802
In the morning, I went in the whale boat to the westward, both to search
for the lost cutter and to advance the survey. In crossing the inner end
of Strong-tide Passage, my soundings were 5, 4, 3, 21/2, 2, 3 fathoms, to a
rock near the south end of Townshend Island, whence it appeared that the
deepest water was close to the Shoals on the eastern side. After
searching along the shore of Townshend Island., and amongst the rocky
islets near it, I crossed the western channel over to the south end of
Leicester Island; where a set of bearings was taken, and the latitude
observed to be 22 deg. 18' 17" from an artificial horizon. This channel is
about one mile wide, and I proceeded up it until a passage out to sea was
clearly distinguishable; but although there be from 4 to 7 fathoms with a
soft bottom, the deep part is too narrow for a stranger to pass with a
ship. I returned on board in the evening, without having discovered any
traces of the lost cutter or seen any thing worthy of particular notice;
unless it were three of the large bats, called flying foxes at Port
Jackson: when on the wing and at a distance, these animals might be taken
SUNDAY 29 AUGUST 1802
On the following morning, we got up the anchor and steered further into
Shoal-water Bay. The land on the western side appeared to be high; and as
the botanists were likely to find more employment there, during the time
of my proposed expedition to the head of the bay, than they could promise
themselves at any other place, I was desirous of leaving the ship on that
side, in a situation convenient for them. After running three miles to
the westward, mostly in 3 fathoms, we anchored in 6, till four o'clock,
and then again weighed. The soundings became very irregular; and at five,
seeing a shoal which extended up and down the middle of the bay, we
tacked from it and came to, in 5 fathoms soft bottom, it being then low
Mount Westall bore N. 86 deg. E.
Leicester Island, the south end, N. 9 W.
Pine Mount, S. 78 W.
The western land was still six or seven miles distant, but there was no
prospect of getting nearer, without taking time to make a previous
examination of the shoal; and I therefore embarked early next morning
[MONDAY 30 AUGUST 1802] on board the brig, and proceeded towards the head
of the Bay.
Steering south-eastward, in a slanting course up the bay from the middle
shoal, we had from 5 to 8 fathoms; and passed a shallow opening in the
eastern low shore, four miles above Strong-tide Passage. Three miles
higher up there was another opening, near two miles in width; and the
wind being then light and foul, I quitted the brig and proceeded three
miles up in my boat, when the arm was found to be divided into two
branches. Pursuing that which led eastward in a line for Port Bowen, and
was three-quarters of a mile wide, I carried a diminishing depth, from 6
fathoms to six feet, above two miles further; and the branch then
terminated at the foot of a ridge of hills. I wished much to ascend this
ridge, believing that Westwater Head in Port Bowen, lay close at the
back; but the shore was so defended by mud flats and interwoven
mangroves, that it was impossible to land.
The other branch of the eastern arm led south-eastward, and was a mile
wide, with a depth of 6 fathoms as far as two miles above the division;
it then separated into three, but the entrances were shallow and the
borders every where muddy and covered with mangroves. I therefore
returned to the brig which had anchored at the entrance of the branch;
and in the night, we dropped out of the eastern arm with the tide, to be
ready for going up the bay with the morning's flood.
TUESDAY 31 AUGUST 1802
On the 31st, in steering for the middle of the bay, the brig grounded
upon a spit which runs out from the south point of entrance to the
eastern arm, and I believe extends so far down the bay as to join the
middle shoal near the ship. The bottom was muddy, and the rising tide
soon floated her; but our progress being slow, I went onward in the boat
and got into a channel of a mile wide, with regular soundings from 6 to 4
Abreast of the eastern arm, the width of the bay had diminished to about
four miles; and in advancing upwards, I found it to go on contracting
until, at four miles above the arm, the shores were less than one mile
asunder, and the head of the bay assumed the form of a river, though the
water remained quite salt. The depth here was from 4 to 6 fathoms; and
the east side of the contracted part being a little elevated, I was able
to land and take a set of angles to fix its position. The width and depth
continued nearly the same two miles higher up, to a woody islet in the
middle of the channel; where the latitude 22 deg. 37' 6" was observed from an
artificial horizon, and more bearings taken.
A ship may get up as high as this islet, for the channel is no where less
than half a mile wide, nor the depth in it under 3 fathoms; but there the
stream divides into several branches, which appeared to terminate amongst
the mangroves, similar to the branches of the eastern arm. The largest
runs S. S. E; and I could see three or four miles up it, near to the foot
of the hills behind Cape Manifold, where it probably ends, as did the
southern arm of Port Bowen.
The islet had been visited by Indians, and several trees upon it were
notched, similar to what is done by the people of Port Jackson when they
ascend in pursuit of opossums. Upon the main, to the west of the islet,
where I walked a mile inland, fire Places and other signs of inhabitants
were numerous, and still more so were those of the kangaroo; yet neither
that animal nor an Indian was seen. Around the extinguished fires were
scattered the bones of turtle, and the shells of crabs, periwinkles, and
oysters of the small kind; and in the low grounds I observed many holes,
made apparently by the natives in digging for fern roots. An iguana of
between two and three feet long, which lay upon the branch of a high tree
watching for its prey, was the sole animal killed; but the mud banks are
frequented at low water by sea pies of both kinds, curlews, and small
The soil was stiff, shallow, and often stony; the vegetation consisted of
two or three species of _eucalyptus_ and the _casuarina_, not thickly set
nor large--of several kinds of shrubs, amongst which a small grass-tree
was abundant--and of grass, with which the rest of the soil was thinly
After making my observations, I rejoined the Lady Nelson two miles below
the woody islet; but the wind blowing fresh up the bay, and the brig
being leewardly, went on and with some difficulty landed on the west
side, opposite to the entrance of the eastern arm. This part is stony;
but equally low with the rest of the shores, and is probably an island at
high water. A confined set of bearings was taken here; and the sun being
then nearly down and the brig at anchor, I went on board for the night.
Next afternoon [WEDNESDAY 1 SEPTEMBER 1802], when the ebb tide enabled
the vessel to make progress against the strong north-west wind, we beat
down in a channel of between one and two miles wide, with soundings from
2 to 8 fathoms; but they were not regular, for the depth was less in some
parts of the middle than at the sides of the channel. The wind moderated
in the evening; and being then within three miles of the ship, I quitted
the brig, and got on board at sunset.
One object of my research in this expedition had been the lost cutter,
and orders had been left with lieutenant Fowler to send again into
Strong-tide Passage upon the same errand, but all was without success.
During my absence, the naturalist and other gentlemen had gone over in
the launch to the west side of the bay, where they had an interview with
sixteen natives; their appearance was described as being much inferior to
the inhabitants of Keppel and Hervey's Bays, but they were peaceable, and
seemed to be very hungry. They had bark canoes which, though not so well
formed, were better secured at the ends than those of Port Jackson; and
in them were spears neatly pointed with pieces of quartz, for striking
turtle. The number of bones lying about their fire places bespoke turtle
to be their principal food; and with the addition of shell fish, and
perhaps fern roots, it is probably their sole support.
The same muddy flats which rendered landing so difficult in the upper
parts of the bay, run off to some distance from the shore under _Double
Mount_; and the land is low for two or three miles back. The hills then
rise, ridge over ridge to a considerable elevation; and at the top are
several hummocks, of which two, higher than the rest, obtained for this
high land its present name. So far as the gentlemen were able to ascend,
the hills were found to be tolerably well covered with pines and other
trees; and the soil of the vallies was better than in those near Mount
Westall on the opposite side of the bay.
THURSDAY 2 SEPTEMBER 1802
Early on the 2nd the brig rejoined; and the wind being at S. by E., we
steered across towards Pine Mount, passing over the shoal in sixteen
feet. In crossing the middle channel, our soundings increased to 9, and
then diminished to less than 3 fathoms upon a second shoal, the width of
the channel here being not quite three miles. On the west side of the
second shoal is another channel, nearly as wide as the former; and the
greatest depth in it, reduced to low water as usual, was 8 fathoms. The
water shoaled again suddenly on approaching the west side of the bay, and
obliged us to veer round off; we then steered to pass within Aken's
Island, intending to anchor in the West Bight behind it; but the depth
not being sufficient for the ship at low water, we came to in 4 fathoms,
muddy bottom, one mile from the shore and two from Aken's Island, the
east end of which bore N. 27 deg. W.
Pine Mount is a single round hill with a high peaked top, standing about
two miles inland from the West Bight; and to obtain a set of bearings
from it which should cross those from Mount Westall, had induced me to
anchor here; but finding my health too much impaired by fatigue to
accomplish a laborious walk, I sent the launch next morning [FRIDAY 3
SEPTEMBER 1802] with the scientific gentlemen, and as an easier task,
landed upon Aken's Island and took angles from the little eminence at its
At every port or bay we entered, more especially after passing Cape
Capricorn, my first object on landing was to examine the refuse thrown up
by the sea. The French navigator, La Perouse, whose unfortunate
situation, if in existence, was always present to my mind, had been
wrecked, as it was thought, somewhere in the neighbourhood of New
Caledonia; and if so, the remnants of his ships were likely to be brought
upon this coast by the trade winds, and might indicate the situation of
the reef or island which had proved fatal to him. With such an
indication, I was led to believe in the possibility of finding the place;
and though the hope of restoring La Perouse or any of his companions to
their country and friends could not, after so many years, be rationally
entertained, yet to gain some certain knowledge of their fate would do
away the pain of suspense; and it might not be too late to retrieve some
documents of their discoveries.
Upon the south-east side of Aken's Island, there was thrown up a confused
mass of different substances; including a quantity of pumice stone,
several kinds of coral, five or six species of shells, skeletons of fish
and sea snakes, the fruit of the pandanus, and a piece of cocoa-nut shell
without bernacles or any thing to indicate that it had been long in the
water; but there were no marks of shipwreck. A seine was hauled upon the
small beaches at the south end of the island, and brought on shore a good
quantity of mullet, and of a fish resembling a cavally; also a kind of
horse mackerel, small fish of the herring kind, and once a sword fish of
between four and five feet long. The projection of the snout, or sword of
this animal, a foot and a half in length, was fringed with strong, sharp
teeth; and he threw it from side to side in such a furious way, that it
was difficult to manage him even on shore.
A boat was sent in the evening to the foot of Pine Mount, for the
naturalist and his party, but returned without any tidings of them; and
it was noon next day [SATURDAY 4 SEPTEMBER 1802] before they got on
board. They had reached the top of the mount, but were disappointed in
the view by the pines and underwood. In returning to the boat, a chase
after a kangaroo had led one of the gentlemen out of his reckoning; and
this, with the labour of bringing down their prize, had prevented them
from reaching the water side that night. Pine Mount is stony, but covered
with large trees of the kind denoted by its epithet; the country between
it and the water side is grassy, bears timber trees, and is of a
tolerably good soil, such as might be cultivated. There are small creeks
of salt water in the low land; and in one of them a fish was shot which
furnished the party with a dinner.
Pine Mount is composed of the _greenstone_ of the German mineralogists;
but in some other parts of the neighbourhood the stone seems to be
different, and contains small veins of quartz, pieces of which are also
scattered over the surface. At Aken's Island there was some variety. The
most common kind was a slate, containing in some places veins of quartz,
in a state nearly approaching to crystallization, and in others some
metallic substance, probably iron. The basis of most other parts of the
island was _greenstone_; but in the eastern cliffs there was a soft,
whitish earth; and on the north-west side of the island, a part of the
shore consisted of water-worn grains and small lumps of quartz, of coral,
pumice stone, and other substances jumbled together, and concreted into a
Speaking in general terms of Shoal-water Bay, I do not conceive it to
offer any advantages to ships which may not be had upon almost any other
part of the coast; except that the tides rise higher, and in the winter
season fish are more plentiful than further to the south. No fresh water
was found, unless at a distance from the shore, and then only in small
quantities. Pine trees are plentiful; but they grow upon the stony hills
at a distance from the water side, and cannot be procured with any thing
like the facility offered by Port Bowen. The chart contains the best
information I am able to give of the channels leading up the bay, and of
the shoals between them; but it may be added, that no alarm need be
excited by a ship getting aground, for these banks are too soft to do
injury. The shelving flats from the shores are also soft; and with the
mangroves, which spread themselves from high water at the neaps, up in
the country to the furthest reach of the spring tides, in some places for
miles, render landing impossible in the upper parts of the bay, except at
some few spots already noticed.
Were an English settlement to be made in Shoal-water Bay, the better soil
round Pine Mount and the less difficulty in landing there, would cause
that neighbourhood to be preferred. There is not a sufficient depth at
low water, for ships to go into the West Bight, by the south side of
Aken's Island, and the north side was no otherwise sounded than in
passing; but there is little doubt that the depth on the north side is
adequate to admit ships, and that some parts of the bight will afford
anchorage and good shelter.
The tides do not run strong in Shoal-water Bay, the rate seldom exceeding
one knot; but they stir up the soft mud at the bottom., and make the
water thick, as in Keppel Bay. I am not able to speak very accurately of
the rise in the tide; but it may be reckoned at twelve or fourteen feet
at the neaps, and from seventeen to eighteen at the springs. High water
takes place about _ten hours and a half after_ the moon's passage; but on
the east side of the bay, the flood runs up a full hour later.
The _latitude_ of the north-east end of Aken's Island, from an
observation in the artificial horizon, is 22 deg. 21' 35" south.
_Longitude_ from twelve sets of distances of the sun and moon, taken by
lieutenant Flinders, and reduced to the same place, 150 deg. 18' 45"; but
from the survey, and the position afterwards fixed in Broad Sound, it is
preferably 150 deg. 15' 0" east.
_Variation_ from azimuths taken with a theodolite at the same place, 9 deg.
48'; but the bearings on the top of the eminence showed it to be 9 deg. 0'.
The variation on shore, on the _west_ side of the bay, may therefore be
taken at 9 deg. 24' east.
Upon Mount Westall on the east side, and at the south end of Leicester
Island, it was from the bearings 8 deg. 50'. Upon the small islet at the head
of the bay, 9 deg. 25'.
At our anchorage on the west side of the bay, Mr. Flinders took azimuths
when the ship's head was S. E. by E., which gave 6 deg. 31' by one compass;
before he had done, the ship swung to the flood tide with her head W. N.
W., and two other compasses then gave 11 deg. 27' and 11 deg. 4': the mean
corrected to the meridian, will be 8 deg. 46' east.
At an anchorage towards the east side of the bay, the same officer
observed the variation with two compasses, when the head was east, to be
4 deg. 49', or corrected, 7 deg. 21' east.
The difference in Strong-tide Passage, where the land was one mile to the
south-south-east on one side, and the same to the west on the other, was
still more remarkable; for when the head was N. E. by N., an amplitude
gave me 9 deg. 10', or corrected, 10 deg. 34' east.
There might have been an error in any of the ship observations of half a
degree; but I am persuaded that the attraction of the land, sometimes to
the east and sometimes west, as the ship was near one or the other side
of the bay, was the great cause of the difference in the corrected
results; and it will presently be seen, that the effect on a neighbouring
part of the coast was much more considerable.
Departure from Shoal-water Bay, and anchorage in Thirsty Sound.
Boat excursion to the nearest Northumberland Islands.
Remarks on Thirsty Sound.
Observations at West Hill, Broad Sound.
Anchorage near Upper Head.
Expedition to the head of Broad Sound:
another round Long Island.
Remarks on Broad Sound, and the surrounding country.
Advantages for a colony.
Astronomical observations, and remarks on the high tides.
[EAST COAST. THIRSTY SOUND.]
SATURDAY 4 SEPTEMBER 1802
At noon September 4, when the botanical gentlemen returned from their
excursion to Pine Mount, we made sail out of Shoal-water Bay with a
breeze from the eastward. In steering north-west amongst the small
islands, the soundings were between 9 and 14 fathoms; and nearly the same
afterwards, in keeping at three or four miles from the coast. I intended
to go into Thirsty Sound; but not reaching it before dark, the anchor was
dropped in 8 fathoms, sandy bottom, when the top of Pier Head bore west,
three miles. In the morning [SUNDAY 5 SEPTEMBER 1802] we ran into the
Sound, and anchored in 6 fathoms, with the points of entrance bearing N.
16 deg. and S. 67 deg. E., one mile. The carpenters had for some time been
employed in making a sliding keel for the Lady Nelson, from the pine logs
cut in Port Bowen; and being now finished, it was sent on board.
The botanists landed upon the east shore, preferring the main land for
their pursuits; and the launch was sent to haul the seine on that side,
at a beach a little way up the Sound. I went to the top of Pier Head and
took bearings of the Northumberland Islands, as also of the points and
hills of the coast to the east and west; the most essential of them to
the connexion of the survey, were as under:
Mount Westall, station on the top, S. 63 deg. 20' E.
Aken's Island, station on the N. E. end, S. 43 10 E.
Pine Mount, S. 25 5 E.
Long Island, the north point, distant 8 miles, N. 65 5 W.
Peaked Hill, west side of Broad Sound, N. 61 25 W.
Northumberland I., a peak, marked h, N. 22 25 W.
Northumberland I., No. 3 peak (of Percy Isles), N. 20 10 E.
Captain Cook observed, when taking bearings upon the top of Pier Head,
"that the needle differed very considerably in its position, even to
thirty degrees, in some places more, in others less; and once he found it
differ from itself no less than two points in the distance of fourteen
feet." (Hawkesworth, III, 126); from whence he concluded there was iron
ore in the hills. I determined, in consequence, to make more particular
observations, both with the theodolite and dipping needle; and shall
briefly state the results obtained on this, and on the following day.
Azimuths were taken, and the bearing of Mount Westall, distant
thirty-four miles, was set at S. 63 deg. 28' E. (true), whilst the theodolite
remained in the same place; and from a comparison between this bearing
and those of the same object at different parts of the head, the
variations were deduced. The dip was observed with both ends of the
needle, and the face of the instrument changed each time.
At the highest top of Pier Head, Var. 3 deg. 25' E. Dip 53 deg. 20' S.
West, three yards from it, 6 10
S. E. three yards, 10 5
S. S. E., ten yards, 8 6 52 19
North, four, 6 55
N. E., twenty, 6 50 50 35
N. N. E., one-sixth mile, at the water side, 7 6 50 28
S. E., one-third mile, at ditto, 8 2 50 50
There are here no differences equal to those found by captain Cook; but
it is to be observed, that he used a ship's azimuth compass, probably not
raised further from the ground than to be placed on a stone, whereas my
theodolite stood upon legs, more than four feet high. The dipping needle
was raised about two feet; and by its greater inclination at the top of
the hill, shows the principal attraction to have been not far from
thence. The least dip, 50 deg. 28', taken at the shore on the north side of
the head, was doubtless the least affected; but it appears to have been
half a degree too much, for at Port Bowen, twenty-two miles further
south, it was no more than 50 deg. 20'. An amplitude taken on board the ship
in the Sound by lieutenant Flinders, when the head was S. S. W., gave
variation 8 deg. 39', or corrected to the meridian, 7 deg. 40' east. As Pier Head
lay almost exactly in the meridian, from the ship, its magnetism would
not alter the direction of the needle; and I therefore consider 7 deg. 40' to
be very nearly the true variation, when unaffected by local causes: in
Port Bowen, it varied from 7 deg. 40' to 8 deg. 30' east.
Notwithstanding this very sensible effect upon the needle, both
horizontally and vertically, I did not find, any more than captain Cook,
that a piece of the stone applied to the theodolite drew the needle at
all out of its direction; nevertheless I am induced to think, that the
attraction was rather dispersed throughout the mass of stone composing
Pier Head, than that any mine of iron ore exists in it. The stone is a
porphyry of a dark, blueish colour.
MONDAY 6 SEPTEMBER 1802
On the 6th, at noon, when the observations were finished and I had
proposed to quit Thirsty Sound, the wind and tide were both against us.
To employ the rest of the day usefully, I went over in the whale boat,
accompanied by the landscape painter, to the 6th, 7th, and 8th
Northumberland Islands, which, with many low islets and rocks near them,
form a cluster three or four leagues to the north-east of the Sound.
Orders were left with lieutenant Fowler to get the ship under way as
early as possible on the following morning, and come out to meet us.
Nearly mid-way between Pier Head and the cluster, lie some rocks
surrounded with breakers; and until they were passed the depth was from 6
to 8 fathoms, and 11 afterwards. We rowed to a beach at the north-west
end of the 7th island, proposing there to pass the night, and hoped to
turn some turtle; but proofs of natives having lately visited, or being
perhaps then on the island, damped our prospects, and still more did the
absence of turtle tracks; yet under each tree near the shore were the
remains of a turtle feast.
TUESDAY 7 SEPTEMBER 1802
In the morning I ascended the highest hill on the 7th island, and took
bearings; but the hazy weather which had come on with a strong wind at E.
S. E., confined them within a circle of three leagues. This island is
somewhat more than a mile in length, and was covered with grass, but
almost destitute of wood; the rock is a greenish, speckled stone, with
veins of quartz finely inserted, and is something between granite and
porphyry. The 6th island is the largest of this little cluster, being two
and a half miles long; and it was well covered with wood. We rowed over
to it with some difficulty on account of the wind, but could not sound in
the channel; it appeared to be deep, its least width three-quarters of a
mile, and in fine weather a ship might anchor there and procure pines fit
for top masts, at several places in the group. Water was found under the
hills on the 6th island; but not in sufficient quantities for the purpose
of a ship.
I looked anxiously, but in vain, for lieutenant Fowler to come out of
Thirsty Sound; for the wind blew so strong that it was uncertain whether
the boat could fetch over, or that it was even safe to attempt it; our
provisions, besides, were nearly exhausted, and nothing more substantial
than oysters could be procured. Pressed by necessity, we set off under
close-reefed sails; and the boat performing admirably, fetched the low
neck to leeward of Pier Head, whence another boat took us to the ship;
and at high water in the evening, the whale boat floated over the neck
When Mr. Fowler had weighed in the morning, according to my directions,
the ship had driven so near the shore before the stream anchor was at the
bows, that he let go the small bower; but the cable parted, and obliged
him to drop the best bower, being then in 3 fathoms water with the wind
blowing strong into the sound. By means of a warp to the brig, the best
bower was shifted into 4 fathoms; and when I got on board, the stream and
small bower anchors had just been recovered. The weather tide made at
nine in the evening, and we ran into 7 fathoms in the channel; and at
daylight stood out of the sound, with the brig in company, having then a
moderate breeze at south-east.
Of Thirsty Sound as a harbour, very little can be said in praise; the
north-east and east winds throw in a good deal of sea, and there is not
room for more than three or four ships, without running up into the
narrow part; and what the depth may be there I did not examine, but saw
that there were shoals. The entrance of the sound may be known by two
round hills, one on each side, lying nearly north and south, one mile and
a half from each other: the northernmost is Pier Head. The surrounding
country is clothed with grass and wood; but on the Long-Island side the
grass is coarse, the trees are thinly scattered, and the soil is every
where too stony for the cultivation of grain.
There were many traces of natives, though none recent. Judging from what
was seen round the fire places, turtle would seem to be their principal
food; and indeed several turtle were seen in the water, but we had not
dexterity enough to take any of them. In fishing with the seine, at a
small beach two miles up the sound, we always had tolerably good success;
but no fresh water accessible to boats could be found in the
The _latitude_ of Pier Head, from an observation made at the top in an
artificial horizon, is 22 deg. 6' 53" S.
_Longitude_ from thirteen sets of distances of the sun west of the moon,
observed by lieutenant Flinders, 149 deg. 47' 50"; but by the survey and the
fixed position in Broad Sound, with which the time-keepers agreed, it
will be more correctly 150 deg. 0' 10" E.
Captain Cook specifies the situation of Thirsty Sound to be in latitude
22 deg. 10', longitude 149 deg. 42' (Hawkesworth, III, 128); but in the chart
published by Mr. Dalrymple, it is 22 deg. 7' and 149 deg. 36', which agrees
nearer with the deductions of Mr. Wales (_Astron. Obs._ p. 135). In
either case it appears, that my longitude was getting more eastward from
captain Cook as we advanced further along the coast.
WEDNESDAY 8 SEPTEMBER 1802
The tides in Thirsty Sound were neaped at this time, and the rise,
judging by the lead line, was from ten to twelve feet; but captain Cook
says, "at spring tides the water does not rise less than sixteen or
eighteen feet," which I have no doubt is correct. It ceases at _ten hours
and three quarters after_ the moon passes over and under the meridian.
On quitting Thirsty Sound we steered north-westward, to pass round a
chain of rocks extending six miles out from Pier Head, and behind which
there was a bight in Long Island, with some appearance of an opening. It
was my intention to examine Broad Sound up to the furthest navigable
part, and we hauled up between the north point of Long Island and a
cluster of small isles lying three miles to the north-west; but finding
the water too shallow, and that it would be more advantageous to begin
the examination on the west side, I desired Mr. Murray to lead round the
_North-point Isles_ and across the sound. A small reef lies between four
and five miles N. E. by E. from the largest and easternmost of these
isles; it is covered at half tide, and therefore dangerous, but we had 7
to 8 fathoms at less than a mile distance, on the inside.
At noon, the depth was 8 fathoms, the largest North-point Isle, which is
nearly separated into two, was distant four miles, and our situation was
Latitude observed to the north, 21 deg. 56' 17"
Pier Head top, bore S. 38 E.
Northumberland Island, peak marked 'h', N. 15 W.
North-point I., westernmost, highest part, S. 56 W.
North-point I., largest, S. 37 to 16 W.
In steering W. by N., rippling water was seen ahead at one o'clock. and
the depth diminishing to 4 fathoms, we hauled a little to the southward
and then resumed our course. This rippling seems to have been on a part
of the same shoal near which captain Cook anchored in 3 fathoms; for it
lies five miles from the North-point Isles, and as he says, "half way
between them and three small islands which lie directly without them."
[EAST COAST. BROAD SOUND.]
Our course for the west side of Broad Sound passed close to some low,
flat isles, lying to the south-east of the peaked West Hill set from Pier
Head. At dusk I sought to anchor behind the hill, for it had the
appearance of being separated from the main land; but the water being too
shallow, we hauled off upon a wind. At ten o'clock, however, the breeze
having become light and the sea gone down, an anchor was dropped in 5
fathoms, sandy bottom; whence the top of West Hill bore N. 68 deg. W. three
miles. A flood tide was found running from the N. N. E., one mile and a
quarter per hour.
THURSDAY 9 SEPTEMBER 1802
In the morning I landed with the botanical gentlemen, and wished to
ascend the top of the hill; but the brush wood was too thick to be
penetrable. Upon a projecting head on the north-east side, I took a part,
and about half way up the hill on the south-east side, the remainder of a
set of bearings, which included many of the Northumberland Isles not
before seen, and other of the Flat Isles within Broad Sound. The furthest
visible part of the main land towards Cape Palmerston, was distant about
five leagues, and behind it was a hill to which, from its form, I gave
the name of _Mount Funnel_; the shore both to the north and south was
low, and the Flat Isles to the southward of the ship were mostly over-run
with mangroves. I did not go round West Hill, and could not see whether
it were connected with the main land, or not; but if joined, it must be
by a very low isthmus. The bearings at this station, most essential to
the connection of the survey, were these:
Main coast, the extremes, N. 1 deg. and S. 10 deg. 45'
Pier Head, the top, S. 61 25
Northumberland Isles, peak marked 'h', N. 61 45
Northumberland Isles, high northmost marked 'i', dist. 11 L. N. 19 15
The stone of the hill had in it specks of quartz or feldtspath, and was
not much unlike that of Pier Head; but it had a more basaltic appearance.
A piece of it applied to the theodolite, drew the needle two degrees out
of its direction, and yet the bearings did not show any great difference
from the true variation; for an amplitude taken on board the ship by Mr.
Flinders, when the head was N. N. E, gave 6 deg. 18', or corrected to the
meridian, 7 deg. 17' east, and the variation on the eastern side of the hill
was 8 deg. 15', according to the back bearing of Pier Head.
From an observation of the sun's upper and lower limbs in an artificial
horizon, the latitude was 21 deg. 50' 18", and the ship bore from thence S.
68 deg. E. two miles and a half; the latitude of the ship should therefore
have been 21 deg. 51' 14"; but a meridian altitude observed to the north by
lieutenant Flinders, gave 21 deg. 49' 54"; and I believe that altitudes from
the sea horizon can never be depended on nearer than to one minute, on
account of the variability of the horizontal refraction. From this cause
it was that, when possible, we commonly observed the latitude on board
the ship both to the north and south, taking the sun's altitude one way
and his supplement the other, and the mean of the two results was
considered to be true; separately, they often differed 1', 2', and even
3', and sometimes they agreed. The observation to the north most commonly
gave the least south latitude, but not always, nor was there any regular
coincidence between the results and the heights of the barometer or
thermometer; though in general, the more hazy the weather, the greater
were the differences. At this time, the wind was light from the eastward
and weather hazy; the thermometer stood at 72 deg., and barometer at 30.15
At two o'clock we got under way to go up Broad Sound, it being then near
low water. After steering south-east one mile, the depth rapidly
diminished and we tacked; but the ship was set upon a bank of sand, where
she hung five minutes and then swung off. I afterwards steered nearer to
the shore, in deeper water; and at dusk the anchor was dropped in 5
fathoms, sandy bottom, between the Flat Isles and the main, West Hill
bearing N. 35 deg. W. three leagues; the master sounded towards the coast,
which was five miles off, and found the deepest water to be on that side.
In the morning [FRIDAY 10 SEPTEMBER 1802] the wind had shifted to south,
and we beat up in a channel formed by the Flat Isles and the shoals
attached to them, on one side, and the shelving banks from the main
coast, on the other. We had the assistance of a strong flood tide till
eleven o'clock; at which time the anchor was let go, one mile from the
north end of the 4th Flat Island.
I landed immediately, with the botanists; and at the south-east end of
the island, which is a little elevated, took bearings and the meridian
altitude of both limbs of the sun from an artificial horizon. The
latitude deduced was 22 deg. 8' 33"; and the ship bearing N. 19 deg. 30' W., two
miles, it should have been for her, 22 deg. 6' 40"; but lieutenant Flinders'
observation to the north gave 22 deg. 5' 19", or 1' 21" less, nearly as on
the preceding day; and it was ascertained that the difference arose
neither from the eye nor the instrument. Amongst the bearings were,
West Hill, the top, N. 16 deg. 40' W.
Northumberland Isles. the peak marked 'h', N. 25 15 E.
Long Island, extreme of the north point, N. 73 35 E.
Upper Head, on the west shore up Broad Sound, S. 39 55 E.
The 4th Flat Isle is about one mile long, and there is a smaller lying
off its south-east end; they are a little elevated, and bear grass and
small trees; but the shores are covered with mangroves, and surrounded
with extensive flats of mud and sand. The main coast, from which they lie
two or three miles, is also low, with mangroves and shelving mud banks;
but there is a deep channel between, of a mile in width. In the evening,
when the flood made, we steered into this channel with a light
sea-breeze; but not having time to clear it before dark, the anchor was
dropped in 4 fathoms at six o'clock.
My attention was attracted this evening by the vast extent of mud left
dry on each side of the channel, and I ordered particular attention to be
paid to the tides during the night. At eleven o'clock, when the flood had
ceased running, the depth was sounded and the lead line measured, and the
same at half past five in the morning [SATURDAY 11 SEPTEMBER 1802] when
it was low water; the difference was no less than thirty-two feet, and it
wanted a day of being full moon; so that the springs may reach two or
three feet higher. The flood set S. by E., but its greatest rate did not
exceed one mile and three quarters an hour.
At daylight the wind was south-east, directly against us. We backed and
filled, drifting up with the flood between the shoals on each side, and
having the Lady Nelson and a boat ahead; but on approaching the end of
the channel, our passage into the sound was blocked up by a bank running
across, upon which there was not water enough for the ship by a fathom,
and we therefore anchored. At nine the tide had risen a fathom. and we
passed over into the open sound; the depth immediately increasing to 4
and 7 fathoms, reduced to low water. So long as the flood continued
running we worked up the sound; and when it ceased, anchored three miles
from a shallow opening in the low western shore, the second which had
been observed. We again proceeded upwards with the evening's tide until
dusk; and at nine next morning [SUNDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 1802] passed a fifth
opening, and anchored abreast of the hilly projection on its east side,
which I have named _Upper Head_, in 4 fathoms, soft bottom, two-thirds of
a mile from the shore. This was the first place on the main where there
was any prospect of being able to land; for the western shore, thus far
up, was equally low, and as much over-run with mangroves and defended by
muddy flats, as the shores of Keppel Bay.
It being my intention to explore the head of Broad Sound with the brig
and whale boat, a situation where tents could be fixed and an easy
communication held with the ship during my absence, was the object now
sought; and I immediately went with a party of the gentlemen, to
ascertain how far Upper Head was calculated for our purpose. We landed at
half flood, without difficulty; and on ascending the hill, obtained a
view of the Sound which exceeded my expectations. Amongst the many
bearings taken, were the following fixed points in the survey.
Pine Mount, of Shoal-water Bay, S. 84 deg. 38' E.
Pier Head, the western part, N. 36 7 E.
West hill, the top, N. 28 5 W.
Flat Isles, the 4th, station there, N. 39 53 W.
The breadth of the Sound, from Upper Head over to the inner end of Long
Island, appeared to be three leagues, but it contracted upwards, and
assumed the same river-like form as Shoalwater Bay; and it was to be
feared, from the mangrove shores and muddiness of the water, that it
would terminate in the same manner. No shoals could be then
distinguished; but towards low water in the evening I again ascended the
hill, and saw to my regret, that the upper parts were mostly occupied
with banks of mud and sand, many of which were dry, and extended downward
past the inner entrance of Thirsty Sound. Amongst the banks were various
channels; but that of about two miles wide where the ship lay, was by far
the most considerable. The small fifth opening, close on the west side of
Upper Head, ran some miles in the low land towards the foot of a ridge of
hills, lying three or four leagues at the back of the shore; but the
greater part of this inlet was also taken up by mud banks, and the
borders covered with mangroves. There was no fresh water at Upper Head,
nor did I see any prospect of obtaining wherewith to complete the holds
of the two vessels before leaving the coast; unless it were at a place a
little higher up on the same side, to which the appearance of another
opening between two hills, induced me to move the ship.
MONDAY 13 SEPTEMBER 1802
Next morning, when the flood made, we drifted upwards, with the Lady
Nelson and a boat sounding ahead. After advancing three miles the brig
suddenly took the ground, and we dropped a stream anchor; but in swinging
to it, the ship was caught upon a bank of quick sand in eleven feet; and
the tide running strong upon the broad side, it made her heel in a manner
to excite alarm. The sails were immediately clewed down, and the
top-gallant yards struck; and it appearing that the stream anchor allowed
the ship to drive further up the bank as the tide rose, the best bower
was let go, and then she righted and swung to the tide. The Lady Nelson
also got off safe; but a part of the after sliding keel was carried away.
I went in a boat to examine the place which had presented the appearance
of an opening; but it proved to be only a bending in the shore, and the
mud banks and mangroves did not admit of landing; we therefore went back
with the returning ebb to Upper Head, and moored the ship nearly in our
first situation; where there was something more than 3 fathoms all round,
at low water.
TUESDAY 14 SEPTEMBER 1802
On the following morning, the time keepers and other instruments were
sent on shore under the charge of lieutenant Flinders, with two of the
young gentlemen to assist him, and a guard of marines for the protection
of the tents. It had appeared from the survey, that the time keepers were
losing more than the Port-Jackson rates supposed; and before quitting
this coast for the Gulph of Carpentaria, it was necessary to take fresh
observations. Mr. Flinders undertook as usual to perform this service,
whilst I should be absent up the Sound; and lieutenant Fowler was
directed to examine and air all the stores, and make the ship ready for
sea against my return.
Having made these dispositions, I embarked in the Lady Nelson with the
naturalist, taking my whale boat and surveying instruments. We had a
strong flood tide; and after grounding on a bank, anchored eleven miles
above the ship, in 3 fathoms, that being the greatest depth to be found.
It was then high water; and the brig being expected to be left dry by the
ebb, we prepared for it by mooring, to prevent all chance of settling on
the anchor, and hove up the fore and after keels; the new main keel being
swelled by the wet, could not be raised, and when it took the ground, the
vessel turned about violently and dragged both the anchors, until the
keel broke off, and then she lay easy.
At low water, the seamen went out upon the dry flat and found the best
bower cable parted, and the anchor so far buried in the quicksand, that
it could not be raised. At ten o'clock the flood tide came rolling in,
and presently set the brig afloat; the anchor was then weighed with ease,
by means of a hawser previously bent to it, and the vessel rode by the
small bower, against a tide which ran at the strongest between four and
WEDNESDAY 15 SEPTEMBER 1802
The Lady Nelson again took the ground at six in the morning. On sounding
over to the east shore, distant half a mile, I found a small channel
leading upwards, with four or five feet more water in it than where the
brig lay; the western shore was two miles distant over a silty flat,
which was dry at low water and level as a race ground.
At eleven, the flood came in, six or eight inches perpendicular, with a
roaring noise; and so soon as it had passed the brig, I set off with Mr.
Brown and Mr. Lacy in the whale boat, to follow it up the small channel
on the eastern shore; and having a fair wind we outran the tide and were
sometimes obliged to wait its rising before we could proceed. At the end
of six miles the small channel led across to the western side; and the
rare opportunity of a landing place induced me to pitch our tent there
for the night: two miles higher up, the whole breadth of the Sound was
reduced to half a mile.
The country here was a stiff, clayey flat, covered with grass, and seemed
to have been overflowed at spring tides; though the high water of this
day did not reach it by five feet. Three or four miles to the southward
there were some hills, whence I hoped to see the course of the stream up
to its termination; and having time before dark, we set off. The grass of
the plain was interspersed with a species of sensitive plant, whose
leaves curled up in, and about our footsteps in such a manner, that the
way we had come was for some time distinguishable. From the nearest of
the small hills, I set the bearings of Double and Pine Mounts, our tent,
and the brig at anchor, by which this station was fixed as in the chart;
but in order to reconcile the bearings, I found it necessary to allow 12 deg.
of east variation.
Towards Double Mount and Shoal-water Bay, the country consisted of
gently-rising hills and extensive plains, well covered with wood and
apparently fertile. The stream at the head of Broad Sound could not be
traced from hence more than three or four miles above the tent; but it
may possibly run up much further to the south-eastward, though too small
to be distinguished in the wood, or to be navigable for boats. To the
south and westward there was a ridge of high land, which appeared to be a
prolongation of the same whence the upper branches of Port Bowen and
Shoal-water Bay take their rise, and by which the low land and small arms
on the west side of Broad Sound are bounded. A similar ridge ran behind
Port Curtis and Keppel Bay, and it is not improbable that the two are
connected, and of the same substance; for at Port Curtis the basis stone
of the country was a granite, and this small hill was the same. It has
been more than once observed, that granite is amongst the substances
which exert an influence upon the magnetic needle; and it is to the
attraction of the ridge of mountains to the south and westward, that I
attribute the great variation found in the bearings at this station.
We returned to the tent at sunset; and there passed a disagreeable night
amongst musketoes, sand flies, and ants. At four in the morning [THURSDAY
16 SEPTEMBER 1802] the ebb had made, and we embarked in the boat; but the
depth of water was so little that we could not proceed, and were obliged
to re-land and wait for the following tide; not without apprehension of
being left till the next springs came on. At two in the afternoon the
flood came up rapidly, and in half an hour it was high water; we set off
immediately, and after some trouble from the shoals, reached the brig at
five o'clock. Mr. Murray got under way at three the next morning [FRIDAY
17 SEPTEMBER 1802] to beat down to Upper Head, the wind being from the
northward; but the Lady Nelson getting aground, I went off with Mr. Brown
in my boat, and reached the ship at seven o'clock, and in the evening,
the brig arrived.
Lieutenant Fowler had gone through the most essential duties, and the
ship was nearly ready for sea; but on landing at the tents I found that
the time keepers had been let down, and the business of finding new rates
for them was to be recommenced. This accident would require a week to be
repaired; and being unwilling to remain so long inactive, I determined to
leave Mr. Flinders at Upper Head, and take the ship over to the inner end
of Thirsty Sound, where it appeared there was something to correct in
captain Cook's chart.
SATURDAY 18 SEPTEMBER 1802
The Lady Nelson had lost two sheets of copper, and the trunks of the
sliding keels required some reparation; I therefore desired lieutenant
Murray to lay his vessel on shore and get these matters arranged, to cut
wood for himself, and be ready to sail in a week for Torres' Strait; and
his stock of water was completed out of the Investigator.
SUNDAY 19 SEPTEMBER 1802
On the 19th in the morning we unmoored the ship, and a little before low
tide stretched over towards Thirsty Sound; but the numerous shoals to be
encountered, and which cannot be concisely described otherwise than in a
chart, caused much delay; and it was near noon of the day following
[MONDAY 20 SEPTEMBER 1802] before we anchored at the south end of Long
Island, in 3 fathoms, and about one mile from the low mangrove shore. At
the south end of the island was a small hill, bearing S. 55 deg. E. one mile
and a half from the ship, where I landed with a party of the gentlemen;
it forms the west point of the inner entrance to Thirsty Sound, as some
low red cliffs, one mile and a half distant, do the east point; but a
shoal, dry at low water, lies in the middle, and the channels on each
side are not calculated for a ship. The small hill was found to be on a
detached islet one mile long, the greater part of which is mud covered
with mangroves; the hill is partly excavated by an arched way running
through it, and the stone is of a mixed red and white colour, and of an
ochry consistence. From the highest top, I set:
Upper Head, bearing S. 28 deg. 22' W.
Double Mount. S. 53 20 E.
Pine Mount, S. 61 5 E.
These bearings place the inner end of Thirsty Sound in latitude 22 deg. 16';
and curtail the distance of thirty miles from Pier Head in captain Cook's
chart, to twelve miles and a half.
TUESDAY 21 SEPTEMBER 1802
On the 21st, the botanical gentlemen went over in the launch to the east
side of Thirsty Sound, the main land having been always found more
productive in the objects of their pursuit, than any island however
large. I went to examine along the west side of Long Island; but had not
proceeded two miles before an opening presented itself amongst the
mangroves. It led to the eastward, and then separated into two branches;
and in following that which trended north-east I came into Thirsty Sound,
and landed five miles above the inner entrance, at an islet in
mid-channel, which had been set from Pier Head and is laid down by
No less than five different pieces of land were found to be cut off from
the south end of Long Island, by winding channels amongst the mangroves;
and I now saw the prospect of a passage through the middle, leading out
at the bight between the north point and Pier Head. A woody and rather
elevated islet obscures the inner end of the opening, and seems to have
prevented captain Cook's observing this separation when going up Thirsty
Sound in his boat. I found in it a good bottom, with 3 to 5 fathoms
water, and room for a ship to swing, or sail through as far as the outer
opening to sea; but another island lies in the outlet, the bottom is
rocky, and the regular depth at low water is not so much as 3 fathoms on
Having taken a second set of angles, and passed out by the new opening, I
steered northward along the east side of Long Island; but although the
land be high and rather steep, there was seldom so much as 3 fathoms at a
mile distance. I landed at the north end of the island, to ascertain
better the forms and positions of the North-point Isles; and then,
steering southward along the west side, entered a cove where the form of
the surrounding land gave a hope of finding fresh water for the ship; but
the borders were covered with mangroves, and we could not get
sufficiently far up to know whether any part of the stream running
through them were fresh. Another set of angles was taken from a hill on
the south side of the cove; and the sun being then set, our tent was
pitched for the night.
WEDNESDAY 22 SEPTEMBER 1802
Next morning I steered onward along the west side of Long Island, landing
occasionally to examine the gullies made by the rains; but at this time
they were all dry. As far to the south as Westside Islet, the shore is
tolerably high and the water deep; and near to the inner end of the
islet, where I landed to take angles, there was no bottom with 10
fathoms; but the shore from thence to the ship was low and covered with
mangroves, and even the rocky points cannot be approached within half a
mile, except by boats.
Not a single Indian was seen during this excursion round Long Island; nor
from the length of the grass and appearance of their fire places, do I
think they had been there for some months.
THURSDAY 23 SEPTEMBER 1802
Next day I made a further examination of the winding channels at the
south end of Long Island; and also went to an inlet on the east side of
Broad Sound, the entrance of which is so much obstructed by shoals, that
it was difficult to find a sufficient depth, even for the boat. I landed
with the naturalist at a low, cliffy head on the north side of the
entrance; but not without wading a quarter of a mile in the mud. We saw
from thence, that this inlet, though presenting the appearance of a
respectable river when the tide was in, had no perceptible breadth at
five miles within the land, that it was almost wholly dry at low water,
and that the shores were covered with mangroves to a great extent; even
the cliffy head where we stood, was surrounded with mangroves, and
appeared to be insulated at spring tides.
FRIDAY 24 SEPTEMBER 1802
In the morning of the 24th, we got under way to return to Upper Head; and
having the same difficulties to encounter amongst the shoals as before,
did not reach our former anchorage until next day [SATURDAY 25 SEPTEMBER
1802]. On landing at the tents, I found, to my no less surprise than
regret, that the time keepers had again been let down; and no more than
one day's rates had been since obtained. Twenty-five sets of distances of
the sun and moon had been taken to correspond with an equal number on the
opposite side; and it appeared that lieutenant Flinders being intent upon
these, had forgotten to wind up the time keepers on the 22nd at noon.
This fresh difficulty was very embarrassing. To go away for Torres'
Strait and the Gulph of Carpentaria without good rates, was to cripple
the accuracy of all our longitudes; and on the other hand, the expected
approach of the contrary monsoon on the North Coast admitted of no longer
delay in Broad Sound. On comparing the last day's rates with those of the
four days previously obtained, the letting down did not appear to have
produced any material alteration; and I therefore determined to combine
the whole together, and to sail immediately.
SUNDAY 26 SEPTEMBER 1802
The following day was occupied in completing the holds with wood, taking
on board our shore establishment, and preparing for sea; and next morning
[MONDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 1802] we steered down Broad Sound, with the Lady
Nelson in company, keeping near the western side to avoid the middle
shoals. On a sea breeze coming in at north, we tacked towards the
North-point Isles; and at sunset, the flood tide having then made,
anchored in 8 fathoms, upon a bottom of sand and rock, the
north-westernmost isle bearing N. 6 deg. E., two leagues. In the morning we
passed round the North-point Isles, with a breeze from the south-east;
and thus quitted Broad Sound, steering off for the outermost and largest
of the Northumberland Islands.
There remains little to be said upon the navigation of Broad Sound, more
than what has been related of our courses in it, and what will be found
in the chart. The western channel, between the Flat Isles and the main,
is not to be recommended; but after steering up the middle of the Sound
and passing these isles, the western shore should be kept nearest a-bord.
A ship may then reach Upper Head without difficulty, and lie there in
perfect safety from all winds, at two-thirds of a mile off; but cannot go
higher up the sound without risk of grounding on the banks. From half
flood to half ebb, landing is easy at Upper Head, and it is perhaps the
sole place on the main possessing that advantage; every where else the
shore is very low, fronted with mud banks, and covered, in some places
miles deep, with interwoven mangroves, amongst which the tide flows at
The stone of Upper Head, and apparently of all the hills in its
neighbourhood, is granitic; whilst that of Long Island and West Hill
approach nearer to porphyry. At the inner entrance of Thirsty Sound the
points are mostly composed of an earth, which is not heavy, is sometimes
red, but more frequently white, or mixed; and of a consistence not harder
Long Island, though covered with grass and wood, is stony and incapable
of ordinary cultivation. On the main land, the low parts between the
mangroves and the hills seemed to be of a tolerably good soil; and
according to the report of some of the gentlemen, who made an excursion
at the back of Upper Head, the vallies there produce good grass and
appeared fertile. There seems, indeed, to be a considerable extent of
land about Broad Sound and on the peninsula between it and Shoal-water
Bay, which, if not calculated to give a rich return to the cultivator of
wheat, would support much cattle, and produce maize, sugar, and tobacco;
and cotton and coffee would grow upon the more rocky sides of the hills,
and probably even upon Long Island. Should it ever be in contemplation to
make an establishment in New South Wales within the tropic, in aid of
Port Jackson and the colonies to the southward, this neighbourhood would
probably be chosen; and the great rise of tide presents advantages which
might be some time turned to account in ship building. On the west side
of the sound, near the Flat Isles, the rise at spring tides is not less
than thirty, and perhaps reaches to thirty-five feet. At Upper Head it is
from twenty at the neaps, to thirty or more at the springs; but the
bottom rises so much towards the top of the sound, that the tide there
never seems to exceed twelve feet. The time of high water is nearly
_eleven hours after_ the moon's passage over and under the meridian;
though the flood runs up near an hour on the west side of the sound,
after it is high water by the shore.
The places best calculated for the construction of docks, appear to be at
the uppermost or 4th Flat Isles, where the shoals form a natural harbour,
and at the entrance of the opening near Upper Head, in which is a small
islet of sand and rock, not covered with mangroves nor surrounded with
mud flats. The pines of Port Bowen, Shoal-water Bay, and the
Northumberland Isles, would furnish the necessary spars and lighter
planking; and there is no reason to think that the _eucalyptus_, which
grows all over the country, should not be as fit for timbers, etc., as it
is found to be further southward. No iron ore was seen in the
neighbourhood; but were a colony established and the back ridge of
mountains well examined, this and other metallic productions might be
found. The attraction which the mountains seemed to have upon the needle,
is in favour of this probability; but the iron work might be prepared at
Port Jackson where the ore exists, and in whose vicinity there are plenty
Fresh water was scarce at this time, none being any where discovered near
the sea side, except a small rill at the back of Upper Head, little more
than adequate to the supply of the tents; it can however be scarcely
doubted, that fresh water for domestic purposes would be found in most
parts of the country; and there is a season of the year, most probably
the height of summer, when rain falls abundantly, as was demonstrated by
the torrent-worn marks down the sides of the hills.
Not a single native was seen, either on the shores of Thirsty, or Broad
Sounds, during the whole time of our stay.
There are kangaroos in the woods, but not in numbers. The shoals all over
the sound are frequented by flocks of ducks and curlews; and we saw in
the upper part, some pelicans, an individual of a large kind of crane,
and another of a white bird, in form resembling a curlew. Many turtle
were seen in the water about Long Island, and from the bones scattered
around the deserted fire places, this animal seemed to form the principal
subsistence of the natives; but we had not the address to obtain any.
Hump-backed whales frequent the entrance of the sound, and would present
an object of interest to a colony. In fishing, we had little success with
hook and line; and the nature of the shores did not admit of hauling the
The climate here, being one degree within the tropic, was warm at this
season, which may be considered as the spring and the driest time of the
year. On board the ship, the height of the thermometer did not exceed
76 deg., with the warm winds from the northward, but at the tents it averaged
at noon somewhat above 90 deg.; and the musketoes and sand flies were very
troublesome at all places near the mangroves. We did not see any snakes
or other venemous reptiles or insects.
The _latitude_ of Upper Head, from six meridian observations in the
artificial horizon, is 22 deg. 23' 24" S.
_Longitude_ from fifty sets of distances of the sun and moon, given in
Table II of the second Appendix to this Volume, 149 deg. 46' 53" E.
The errors of the time keepers from mean Greenwich time, at noon there
Sept. 26, and their mean rates of going during seven days, of which four
were before and three after they had been let down the second time, were
Earnshaw's No. 543 slow 2h 3' 37.23" and losing 9.62" per day.
Earnshaw's No. 520 slow 3h 29' 15.57" and losing 21.41" per day.
These errors and rates were found by lieutenant Flinders, from equal
altitudes taken with a sextant on a stand, and using an artificial
horizon of quicksilver.
The longitudes given by the time keepers on Sept. 12 a.m. at Upper Head,
with the Port-Jackson rates, were these:
No. 543, 149 deg. 54' 27" east.
No. 520, 149 deg. 53' 47.5" east.
The mean is 7' 14" to the east of the lunars; but on using rates equally
accelerated from those at Port Jackson to the above at Upper Head, and
commencing the acceleration on Aug. 15, at Keppel Bay, where the time
keepers were found to be keeping their former rates, the mean longitude
will be 149 deg. 48' 56.6", or 2' 3.6" from the lunar observations; which is
therefore the presumable sum of their irregularities after August 15, or
in 27.7 days.
In fixing the positions of places along the East Coast, I have made use
of the time keepers from Port Jackson to Port Curtis, without any
correction. From Port Curtis to Broad Sound, the coast and islands are
laid down from theodolite bearings taken on shore, combined with the
observed latitudes; and consequently the accuracy in longitude of the
first portion depends upon that of Port Jackson and the time keepers, and
of the last, upon Upper Head and the survey. These two unconnected
longitudes meet at Port Curtis, and the difference between them is there
no more than 5".
From observations with the theodolite upon the top of Upper Head, the
_variation_ was 8 deg. 37' east; but on moving the instrument ten yards to
the south-west, it was 45' less. At two other stations on the west side
of the sound, it was 8 deg. 15', and 8 deg. 0'; and on board the ship 7 deg. 17' and
7 deg. 46', corrected. On the east side of the sound it differed at six
stations on shore, from 8 deg. to 6 deg.; and on board the ship was 6 deg. 44'
corrected. As general results, therefore, but subject to many small
deviations, the variation may be taken,
On the west side of Broad Sound at 8 deg. 0' E.
On the east side 7 0
At the head of the sound it was,
at one station 12 deg., at another 10 deg.;
the mean, 11 0
The differences between the two sides of the sound, both on shore and on
board, are nearly similar to what took place in Shoal-water Bay.
The rise of _tide_ and time of high water have been mentioned; but it may
be proper to say what I conceive to be the cause of the extraordinary
rise in Broad Sound. From Cape Howe, at the southern extremity of the
East Coast, to Port Curtis at the edge of the tropic, the time of high
water falls between seven and nine hours after the moon's passage, and
the rise does not exceed nine feet; but from thence to the northward,
commencing with Keppel Bay, the time becomes later, and the rise
augments, till, at Broad Sound, they reach eleven hours, and between
thirty and thirty-five feet. The principal flood tide upon the coast is
supposed to come from the south-east, and the ebb from the north, or
north-west; but from the particular formation of Keppel and Shoal-water
Bays, and of Broad Sound, whose entrances face the north, or north-west,
this ebb tide sets into them, and accumulates the water for some time,
becoming to them a flood. This will, in some degree, account for the
later time and greater rise of the tide; and is conformable to what
captain Cook says upon the same subject (Hawkesworth, III. 244); but I
think there is still a super-adding cause. At the distance of about
thirty leagues to the N. N. W. from Break-sea Spit, commences a vast mass
of reefs, which lie from twenty to thirty leagues from the coast, and
extend past Broad Sound. These reefs, being mostly dry at low water, will
impede the free access of the tide; and the greater proportion of it will
come in between Break-sea Spit and the reefs, and be late in reaching the
remoter parts; and if we suppose the reefs to terminate to the north, or
north-west of the Sound, or that a large opening in them there exist,
another flood tide will come from the northward, and meet the former; and
the accumulation of water from this meeting, will cause an extraordinary
rise in Broad Sound and the neighbouring bays, in the same manner as the
meeting of the tides in the English and Irish Channels causes a great
rise upon the north coast of France and the west coast of England.
That an opening exists in the reefs will hereafter appear; and captain
Cook's observations prove, that for more than a degree to the north-west
of Broad Sound, the flood came from the northward. I found, when at
anchor off Keppel Bay, and again off Island Head, that the flood there
came from the east or south-east; but when lying three miles out from
Pier Head, there was no set whatever; and I am disposed to think that it
is at the entrance of Broad Sound, where the two floods meet each other.
The Percy Isles: anchorage at No. 2.
Remarks on the Percy Isles; with nautical observations.
Coral reefs: courses amongst them during eleven days search
for a passage through, to sea.
Description of a reef.
Anchorage at an eastern Cumberland Isle.
The Lady Nelson sent back to Port Jackson.
Continuation of coral reefs;
and courses amongst them during three other days.
An opening discovered, and the reefs quitted.
General remarks on the Great Barrier;
with some instruction relative to the opening.
[EAST COAST. PERCY ISLES.]
TUESDAY 28 SEPTEMBER 1802
On quitting Broad Sound, we steered for the north-easternmost of the
Northumberland Islands., which I intended to visit in the way to Torres'
Strait. These are no otherwise marked by captain Cook, than as a single
piece of land seen indistinctly, of three leagues in extent; but I had
already descried from Mount Westall and Pier Head a cluster of islands,
forming a distinct portion of this archipelago; and in honour of the
noble house to which Northumberland gives the title of duke, I named them
(Atlas, Plate XI.)
At noon, the observed latitude on both sides was 21 deg. 51' 20"; the west
end of the largest North-point Isle bore S. 18 deg. W. three or four leagues,
and the Percy Isles were coming in sight ahead. The weather was hazy; and
the wind at E. S. E. preventing us from fetching No. 2, the largest isle,
we tacked at five o'clock, when it bore S. 31 deg. to 54 deg. E, two or three
leagues; No. 5, the north-westernmost of the cluster, bearing N. 24 deg. W.,
two miles and a half. At dusk the anchor was dropped in 14 fathoms, sandy
ground, two or three miles from some rocky islets which lie off the west
side of No. 2. The flood tide at this anchorage came from the north-east,
one mile per hour.
We got under way again in the morning [WEDNESDAY 29 SEPTEMBER 1802]; but
the wind being light and unfavourable, and the tide adverse, I went off
in the whale boat, accompanied by Messrs. Brown and Westall, to examine
the passage between the rocky islets and No. 2, directing lieutenant
Fowler to follow with the ship when the signal should be made. We first
landed at the islets, where the same kind of pine as seen at Port Bowen
and other places, was abundant; and leaving the two gentlemen there, I
sounded the passage, which was a mile and a half wide, with a sandy
bottom of 8 to 13 fathoms deep, and sheltered from all eastern winds. The
signal was then made to the ship; and so soon as she was brought to
anchor, I went to examine a little cove, or basin, into which the height
of the surrounding hills gave expectation of finding a run of fresh
water. The entrance is little more than wide enough for the oars of a
rowing boat, the basin, within side, is mostly dry at low water, and the
borders are over-run with the tiresome mangrove; but when the tide is in,
it is one of the prettiest little places imaginable. In searching round
the skirts, between the mangroves and feet of the hills, a torrent-worn
gully was found with several holes of water; and one in particular, near
the edge of the mangroves, where, by cutting a rolling way for the casks,
the holds of the two vessels might be filled; and at a beach without side
of the entrance to the basin, several hauls of the seine were made with
THURSDAY 30 SEPTEMBER 1802
Early next morning, lieutenant Fowler landed with a party of men prepared
to cut through the mangroves; but fresh water was discovered to ooze out
from amongst them, much below high-water mark; and by digging in the sand
at half ebb, our casks might be filled more easily, and with better water
than in the gully. Whilst this duty was going on, the carpenters were
sent to cut fire wood and pine logs upon the rocky islets, the botanical
gentlemen followed their pursuits where it best pleased them, and my time
was occupied in surveying. From a hill near the head of the basin, I took
bearings of all the objects to the south and westward; amongst which, the
five following were the most important to the connexion of the survey.
Mount Westall on the main (not distinct), S. 23 deg. 5' E.
Northumberland Islands, the 4th, a peak, S. 18 20 E.
Northumberland Islands, the 7th, station on the hill, S. 19 30 W.
Northumberland Islands, a peaked I. marked 'h', S. 89 deg. 55' to N. 87 35 W.
Northumberland Islands, high northmost, marked 'i', N. 57 0 W.
The circle was completed in the afternoon, from a higher part of the
island near the north point; and the weather being tolerably clear,
nearly the whole of the Northumberland Islands were comprehended in the
bearings from one or the other station. Two distant pieces of land in the
N. W. by N., marked _k_ and _k1_, situate near the eastern Cumberland
Islands of captain Cook, were also distinguished; but to the north-east,
where I expected to see a continuation of the reefs discovered by captain
Campbell of the brig Deptford, in 1797, neither reef nor island was
SATURDAY 2 OCTOBER 1802
On the 2nd of October, Mr. Brown accompanied me to No. 1, the
southernmost of the Percy Isles, which is near five miles long, and the
second of the group in magnitude. Fresh water was found in ponds near the
shore, and there were clusters of pine trees; but in general, this island
is inferior to No. 2, both in soil and productions. Of the two peaked
hills upon it, the south-easternmost is highest; but being craggy and
difficult to be ascended, my bearings were taken from the western hill.
In returning to the ship in the evening, we passed between No. 6 and the
east side of No. 2, and round the north end of the latter island, in
order to see the form of its coasts: the water was deep, and there
appeared to be no hidden dangers.
SUNDAY 3 OCTOBER 1802
On the 3rd, Mr. Bauer, the natural-history painter, went with me to the
northern Percy Isles, upon each of which is a hill somewhat peaked; but
that on No. 3 is much the most so, and the highest; and being thickly
covered with pine trees, is called _Pine Peak_: it lies in 21 deg. 311/2' south
and 150 deg. 141/2' east. My principal object was to take angles for the
survey; and not being able to ascend Pine Peak, from its great acclivity,
we went onward to the two smaller islands No. 4; and from the top of the
easternmost, a third Cumberland Island, marked _k2_, was distinguished,
and the following amongst many other bearings, were taken.
Percy Isle No. 3, Pine Peak, distant 21/2 miles, S 2 deg. 5' W.
The ship, at anchor under No. 2, S. 10 48 W.
Northumberland I., the 7th, station, S. 14 0 W.
Northumberland I., the peak marked 'h', S. 67 35 W.
Northumberland I., the high, northmost, marked 'i', N. 73 10 W.
Cumberland I., marked 'k', centre, N. 36 0 W.
Cumberland I., marked 'k2', centre, N. 42 50 W.
There is no shelter amongst the northern Percy Isles against east winds;
but ships may pass between them, taking care to avoid a rock which lies
one mile northward from the Pine Peak, and is dry at low water. Nothing
was seen on these islands to merit more particular notice; and their
forms and situations will be best learned from the chart.
On returning to the ship at nine in the evening, I found lieutenant
Fowler had quitted the shore with his tents and people, the holds were
completed with water, and both vessels ready for sea.
No. 2, the largest of the Percy Isles, is about thirteen miles in
circumference; and in its greatest elevation perhaps a thousand feet. The
stone is mostly of two kinds. A concreted mass of different substances,
held together by a hard, dark-coloured cement, was the most abundant; I
did not see either coral or pumice-stone in the composition, but it
otherwise much resembled that of Aken's Island in Shoal-water Bay, and
still more a stratum seen at the north-west part of Long Island: it was
found at the tops of the highest hills, as well as in the lower parts.
The second kind of stone is light, close-grained, and easily splits, but
not in layers; it is of a yellowish colour, and probably argillaceous.
The surface of the island is either sandy or stony, or both, with a small
proportion of vegetable soil intermixed. It is generally covered with
grass and wood; and some of the vallies round the basin might be made to
produce vegetables, especially one in which there was a small run, and
several holes of fresh water. The principal wood is the _eucalyptus_, or
gum tree, but it is not large; small cabbage palms grow in the gullies,
and also a species of fig tree, which bears its fruit on the stem,
instead of the ends of the branches; and pines are scattered in the most
No inhabitants were seen upon any of the islands, but there were deserted
fire places upon all. The Indians probably come over from the main land
at certain times, to take turtle, in which they must be much more
dexterous than we were; for although many turtle were seen in the water,
and we watched the beaches at night, not one was caught. There are no
kangaroos upon the Percy Isles; nor did we see any useful birds. The
large bats or vampyres, common to this country, and called flying-foxes
at Port Jackson, were often found hanging by the claws, with their heads
downward, under the shady tops of the palm trees; and one solitary eel of
a good size, was caught on clearing out the hole where our water casks
had been first intended to be filled.
Pines, fresh water, and fish will be some inducement to visit the Percy
Isles; as perhaps may be the hump-backed whales, of which a considerable
number was seen in the vicinity. The best and most convenient anchorage,
and indeed the only one to be recommended, is that where the Investigator
lay, directly off the basin; in mid-channel between No. 2 and the western
pine islets. It is sheltered at fourteen points to the eastward, and
three towards the west; and there being a clear passage out, both to the
north and south, no danger is to be apprehended: the bottom, however,
does not hold very well.
A wet dock might be made of the basin without other trouble or expense
than a little deepening of the narrow entrance, and throwing a pair of
gates across; and were the mud to be cleared out, the basin would contain
fifteen or twenty sail of merchant ships with great ease.
The flood _tide_ came from the north and the ebb from the south, past the
anchorage; but on the outside, they run south-west and north-east. It is
not extraordinary that the rise and fall by the shore did not exactly
coincide with the swinging of the ship; but that the time of high water
should differ three hours, and the rise twenty feet from Broad Sound, is
remarkable. According to Mr. Fowler's observations in the basin, it was
high water there _eight hours after_ the moon's passage; and the rise at
the neaps and springs appeared to be from eight to twelve feet.
Three meridian observations to the north, taken by lieutenant Flinders,
gave the _latitude_ of our anchorage, 21 deg. 39' 31" S.
_Longitude_, according to the position of Upper Head and the survey from
thence, 150 deg. 12' E.
_Variation_ of the needle, observed on the low south-west point of No. 2,
8 deg. 28' E.
Three compasses on board the ship at anchor, gave 5 deg. 34' when the head
was east, or corrected to the meridian, 8 deg. 4' E.
Upon the different elevated places whence bearings were taken, the
variation differed from 7 deg. 30' to 9 deg. 30' east.
MONDAY 4 OCTOBER 1802
Early in the morning of the 4th, we got under way, with the Lady Nelson
in company, to proceed on our voyage to Torres' Strait and the Gulph of
Carpentaria. The wind was at E. by N., and we kept close up to weather
the northern Percy Isles; for I had a desire to fall in with the reefs
laid down by Mr. Campbell, three-quarters of a degree to the eastward, in
latitude 211/2 deg.; and to ascertain their termination to the north-westward.
[EAST COAST. BARRIER REEFS.]
The tide prevented us from weathering the islands till three in the
afternoon; we then passed between No. 4 and some rocks lying two miles to
the north-east, with 33 fathoms water. During the night we tacked every
two hours, working to the eastward, in from 30 to 36 fathoms; and at
daylight [TUESDAY 5 OCTOBER 1802], my station on the eastern isle No. 4
bore N. 89 deg. W., four leagues. Nothing was seen in the offing, but in
stretching to the N. N. E, reefs were discovered from the mast head a
little before noon; and after the observation for the latitude was taken,
I set one bearing East to E. by S., two leagues, and another N. 14 deg. W. to
29 deg. E., four or five miles. Our situation was in 21 deg. 15 2/3' south, and
longitude from the bearing of the Pine Peak, 150 deg. 34' east.
These reefs were not exactly those seen by Mr. Campbell; but they are
probably not more than five or six leagues to the north-westward of them,
and form part of the same _barrier_ to the coast. In standing on between
the two reefs above set, others, or parts of the same, came in sight
ahead; upon which I shortened sail to the three top sails, desired the
Lady Nelson to take the lead, and bore away north-westward along the
inner side of the northern reef. In an hour we had passed its west end;
but another reef came in sight, and for a time obliged us to steer W. by
S. At four o'clock we ran northward again, following the direction of the
reef on its lee side; and at six anchored in 27 fathoms, coarse sand, in
the following situation:
Latitude observed from the moon., 21 deg. 4' S.
Longitude from bearings, 150 19 E.
Nearest part of the reef, dist. 21/2 miles, E. 1/2 S.
A smaller reef, distant 3 miles, N. W. 1/2 N.
Percy Isles, Pine Peak of No. 3, S. 9 0 W.
Cumberland Island marked 'k', W. 6 0 N.
The reefs were not dry in any part, with the exception of some small
black lumps, which at a distance resembled the round heads of negroes;
the sea broke upon the edges, but within side the water was smooth, and
of a light green colour. A further description of these dangers is
unnecessary, since their forms and relative positions, so far as they
could be ascertained, will be best learned from the chart.
Until midnight, five hours after the moon had passed the meridian, a tide
came from S. by E., half a mile per hour. The ship then tended to the N.
E. by E.; and this tide, whose rate was one mile, appearing to be the
flood, led me to suppose there might be an open sea in that direction. In
the morning [WEDNESDAY 6 OCTOBER 1802], I sent a boat to lieutenant
Murray with instructions for his guidance in case of separation; and
appointed him Murray's Islands in Torres' Strait, discovered by captain
Edwards in 1791, for the first rendezvous; cautioning him to be strictly
on his guard against the treachery of the natives.
We weighed at seven o'clock, and steered N. N. E., close to the wind; at
ten, reefs came in sight, extending from W. by N., to N. by E. 1/2 E.,
which we weathered one mile, having 35 fathoms water. Our situation at
noon was in latitude 20 deg. 45' 40", from observations to the north and
south, and the longitude by time keeper 150 deg. 28'; the east end of the
great reef to leeward bore S. W. 1/2 W. two miles, and it extended in
patches to N. 16 deg. W., where, at the distance of two leagues, was either a
dry white sand or high breakers but which could not be discerned from the
reflection of the sun. Nothing was seen to the north-east, and we now lay
up in that direction; but at one o'clock there was a small reef bearing
N. 1/2 E.; and at three, a larger one extended from N. by W. 1/2 W. to E. N.
E., and on the outside of it were such high breakers, that nothing less
than the unobstructed waves of the ocean could produce them. We stood on
for this reef, until four; and being then one mile off, tacked to the
southward, having 33 fathoms, nearly the same depth as before.
The larbord tack was continued to six o'clock, at which time we anchored
in 32 fathoms, white sand, shells, and pieces of coral, having neither
reef nor danger of any kind in sight; but the smoothness of the water
left no doubt of many lying to windward. From the high breakers seen in
the afternoon, however, hopes were entertained of soon clearing the
reefs; for by this time I was weary of them, not only from the danger to
which the vessels were thereby exposed, but from fear of the contrary
monsoon setting in upon the North Coast, before we should get into the
Gulph of Carpentaria.
At this anchorage, the tide came from between S. W. by S. and W. by S.,
till midnight; and at two in the morning [THURSDAY 7 OCTOBER 1802] the
ship rode north, and afterwards N. E. by E., to the flood; which seemed
to imply two openings in the reefs, and one of them near the high
breakers. The depth of water changed from 35 to 32 fathoms, in the night;
but a part of the difference might arise from irregularities in the
We got under way at daybreak, and stretched south-east to gain the wind;
at nine, a reef was passed on each beam; and at noon, when we tacked to
the northward in 20 deg. 58' south and 150 deg. 48' east, there were five others,
distant from two to five miles, bearing from S. 20 deg. W., round by the east
and north to N. 25 deg. W.; but apparently with passages between most of
them. Upon these reefs were more of the dry, black lumps, called negro
heads, than had been seen before; but they were so much alike as to be of
no use in distinguishing one reef from another; and at high water, nearly
the whole were covered.
In the afternoon, a very light wind at north-east left no prospect of
weathering the reef before dark, upon which the high breakers had been
seen; we therefore tacked to the E. S. E., and anchored at sunset in 84
fathoms, fine white sand, not far from our noon's situation; a reef,
partly dry, was then distant one mile and a half, and bore E. 1/2 S. to S.
E. The flood tide here ran something more than one mile an hour, and came
from between north and north-west, the ship tending to it at one in the
FRIDAY 8 OCTOBER 1802
At seven, when the flood had done running, the two vessels were lying up
E. N. E., with a light breeze from the northward; but a rippling which
extended a mile from the reef, caused us to tack until a boat was sent to
sound upon it; for the Lady Nelson was so leewardly, that much time was
lost in waiting for her. At ten we passed through the rippling, in from
14 to 34 fathoms; and at noon were in latitude 20 deg. 55', and longitude
150 deg. 55' by time keeper. We seemed at this time to be surrounded with
reefs; but it was ascertained by the whale boat, that many of these
appearances were caused by the shadows of clouds and the ripplings and
eddies of tide, and that the true coral banks were those only which had
either green water or negro heads upon them. Of these, however, there was
a formidable mass, all round ahead, with but one small channel through
them; and this I was resolved to attempt, in the hope of its carrying us
out to windward of the high breakers.
At two o'clock, the eastern reef, which was a mile distant to leeward and
nearly dry, was seen to terminate, whilst the northern reefs extended out
of sight to the north-east; the opening between them was a mile and a
half wide, and full of ripplings; but having the whale boat ahead, we
bore away E. S. E., to go through the least agitated part. Having little
wind, and a flood tide making against us, the boat was called back to
tow, and the brig directed to take its station by means of her sweeps.
Our soundings were irregular in the narrow part, between 24 and 9
fathoms, on rocky ground; but after getting through, we had from 30 to
32, the usual depth in the open places. At sunset, the stream anchor was
dropped on a bottom of coral sand and shells; the reefs then in sight
extending from about E. S. E., round by the north to N. W., where was the
great northern bank. Whether there were any passage through them, could
not be discerned; but the breakers on many of the outer parts proved the
open sea to be not far distant, and that the waves ran high; whilst
within side, the water was as tranquil as in harbour.
The ship rode north-west, till between eight and nine o'clock, when it
appeared to be high water, and the depth was 35 fathoms; at 9h 34' the
moon passed the meridian, and we were then riding S. by W., to a tide
which ran at the strongest one and a quarter mile per hour. Between three
and four in the morning [SATURDAY 9 OCTOBER 1802] this tide had done, the
depth was 31 fathoms, and the ship afterwards rode N. N. E. till
daylight. The first of the flood therefore came from the N. N. E. and the
latter part from N. W.; it was high water at _one hour before_ the moon's
passage, and the rise at least three fathoms, or eighteen feet. This time
of high water coincides with that of Broad Sound; but it is remarkable,
that at the Percy Isles, lying between them, it should be three hours
earlier. The rise in Broad Sound was five fathoms, and three, or more,
amongst the reefs; whereas at the Percy Isles, there was nothing on the
shore to indicate a higher tide than two fathoms.
In the morning we steered E. N. E., with a light air from the southward;
the brig was ahead, and at half past nine, made the signal for immediate
danger; upon which the stream anchor was dropped in 16 fathoms. The tide
ran one mile and a half to the E. N. E, and this leading me to expect
some opening in that direction, I sent the master to sound past the brig;
and on his finding deeper water we followed, drifting with the tide. At
eleven he made the signal for being on a shoal, and we came to, in 35
fathoms, broken coral and sand; being surrounded by reefs, except to the
westward from whence we had come. On the outside were high breakers, not
more than three or four miles distant; these terminated at E. by S., and
between them and other reefs further on, there seemed a possibility of
finding an outlet; but no access to it could be had, except by a winding
circuit amongst the great mass of banks to the southward, which it was
not advisable to make upon such an uncertainty. I therefore determined to
remain at the present anchorage till low water, when the reefs would be
dry, and the channels between them, if any such there were, would be
visible: and should nothing better then present itself, to steer
north-westward, as close within the line of the high breakers as
possible, until an opening should be found.
The latitude observed to the north and south, at this fifth anchorage
amongst the reefs, was 20 deg. 53' 15"; longitude by time keeper, 151 deg. 5'
east. In the afternoon, I went upon the reef with a party of the
gentlemen; and the water being very clear round the edges, a new
creation, as it was to us, but imitative of the old, was there presented
to our view. We had wheat sheaves, mushrooms, stags horns, cabbage
leaves, and a variety of other forms, glowing under water with vivid
tints of every shade betwixt green, purple, brown, and white; equalling
in beauty and excelling in grandeur the most favourite _parterre_ of the
curious florist. These were different species of coral and fungus,
growing, as it were, out of the solid rock, and each had its peculiar
form and shade of colouring; but whilst contemplating the richness of the
scene, we could not long forget with what destruction it was pregnant.
Different corals in a dead state, concreted into a solid mass of a
dull-white colour, composed the stone of the reef. The negro heads were
lumps which stood higher than the rest; and being generally dry, were
blackened by the weather; but even in these, the forms of the different
corals, and some shells were distinguishable. The edges of the reef, but
particularly on the outside where the sea broke, were the highest parts;
within, there were pools and holes containing live corals, sponges, and
sea eggs and cucumbers;* and many enormous cockles (_chama gigas_) were
scattered upon different parts of the reef. At low water, this cockle
seems most commonly to lie half open; but frequently closes with much
noise; and the water within the shells then spouts up in a stream, three
or four feet high: it was from this noise and the spouting of the water,
that we discovered them, for in other respects they were scarcely to be
distinguished from the coral rock. A number of these cockles were taken
on board the ship, and stewed in the coppers; but they were too rank to
be agreeable food, and were eaten by few. One of them weighed 471/2 lbs. as
taken up, and contained 3lbs. 2 oz. of meat; but this size is much
inferior to what was found by captains Cook and Bligh, upon the reefs of
the coast further northward, or to several in the British Museum; and I
have since seen single shells more than four times the weight of the
above shells and fish taken together.
[* What we called sea cucumbers, from their shape, appears to have been
the _beche de mer_, or _trepang_; of which the Chinese make a soup, much
esteemed in that country for its supposed invigorating qualities.]
There were various small channels amongst the reefs, some of which led to
the outer breakers, and through these the tide was rushing in when we
returned to the ship; but I could not any where see an opening
sufficiently wide for the vessels. Low water took place at a quarter past
three, which corresponded with the time of high water observed at the
It was too late in the day to begin following the line of the high
breakers to the north-westward; but we lifted the anchor to remove
further from the eastern reef, which was dry within a mile of the ship.
The wind was light at south-east; and in steering westward, with a boat
sounding ahead, we got into one of the narrow streams of tide which
carried us rapidly to the south-west; nor could the boat assist us
across, so much was it twisted about by the whirlpools. At six o'clock,
being well clear of the stream, an anchor was dropped upon coral sand, in
30 fathoms; at ten, when the ship swung to the ebb, the depth was 33
fathoms, and 28 at low water; as, however, we had two-thirds of a cable
out, some of the difference probably arose from the irregularity of the
SUNDAY 10 OCTOBER 1802
At daylight we steered N. N. W.; but reefs were presently seen all round
in that direction, and the course was altered for the small passage
through which we had come on the 8th. Such, however, was the change in
the appearance of the reefs, that no passage could then be discovered;
and fearing to be mistaken, I dared not venture through, but took a more
southern channel, where before no passage had appeared to exist. At nine
o'clock, having sandy ground in 32 fathoms, and it being very difficult
to distinguish the shoals at high water, the anchor was dropped in
latitude 20 deg. 561/2' south and longitude 150 deg. 541/2' east. Between one and two
in the afternoon, we steered W. N. W. and N. W.; and meeting with a small
dry reef at four, hauled up northward, following the line of the great
northern reefs upon which the high breakers had been seen. At half past
five we came to, in 26 fathoms sand and shells, having reefs from S. by
E., round by the east and north, to W. by S.; but there were openings at
N. N. W. 1/2 W. and N. E. by E., and we had the pleasure to see high
breakers, five or six miles distant in the latter direction. The latitude
here, from an observation of the moon, was 20 deg. 491/2', and longitude 150 deg.
48' by time keeper.
MONDAY 11 OCTOBER 1802
Next morning, the brig and whale boat went ahead, and we steered north,
after them; the eastern opening was choaked up with small reefs, and we
had scarcely entered that to the west when Mr. Murray made the signal for
danger, and hauled the wind to the southward. We did the same, round two
inner shoals; and finding the bottom irregular, and more shallow than
usual, dropped the stream anchor in 27 fathoms. The Lady Nelson was
carried rapidly to the south-west, seemingly without being sensible of
it, and I therefore made the signal of recall; but although favoured by a
fresh breeze, she did not get up against the tide till past nine o'clock.
We rode a great strain on the stream cable, and the ship taking a sudden
sheer, it parted at the clinch and we lost the anchor; a bower was
immediately let go; but the bottom being rocky, I feared to remain during
the lee tide, and in a short time ordered it to be weighed. Mr. Murray
had lost a kedge anchor, and was then riding by a bower; and when the
signal was made to weigh, he answered it by that of inability. The tide
was, indeed, running past the brig at a fearful rate, and I feared it
would pass over her bows; for she lay in one of the narrow streams which
came gushing through the small openings in the outer reef. So soon as our
anchor was purchased, a boat's crew was sent to her assistance; and just
before noon she got under sail.
We beat up till one o'clock, towards the anchorage of the preceding
evening; but the reefs being deeply covered, they could not be
distinguished one from the other; and having found a good bottom, in 35
fathoms, we came to, and made signal for the brig to do the same.
Lieutenant Murray informed me that his anchor had come up with a palm
broken off; and having only one bower left, he applied to me for another.
Our anchor had swiveled in the stock; and the work required to it, with
getting the last stream anchor out of the hold, and sending Mr. Murray
two grapnels, which were all that our own losses could allow of being
spared, occupied us till the evening. At low water, two reefs were seen,
bearing N. 18 deg.to 41 deg. E., a third S. 72 deg. E., and a fourth S. 74 deg. W.; their
distances being from two to four or five miles.
The loss of anchors we had this day sustained, deterred me from any more
attempting the small passages through the Barrier Reef; in these, the
tide runs with extraordinary violence, and the bottom is coral rock; and
whether with, or without wind, no situation can be more dangerous. My
anxious desire to get out to sea, and reach the North Coast before the
unfavourable monsoon should set in, had led me to persevere amongst these
intricate passages beyond what prudence could approve; for had the wind
come to blow strong, no anchors, in such deep water and upon loose sand,
could have held the ship; a rocky bottom cut the cables; and to have been
under sail in the night was certain destruction. I therefore formed the
determination, in our future search for a passage out, to avoid all
narrow channels, and run along, within side the larger reefs, until a
good and safe opening should present itself. This plan, which was
dictated by a common regard to safety, might carry us far to the
north-west, and delay our arrival in the Gulph of Carpentaria; yet I
hoped not; for captain Cook had found the flood tide to come from
south-east after passing the Cumberland Islands, whereas before, it ran
from the northward; a circumstance which seemed to indicate a termination
of the reefs, or a great opening in them., to the north or north-west of
TUESDAY 12 OCTOBER 1802
In the morning., we got under way and steered N. N. W.; but anchored
again on finding the flood tide too strong to be stemmed with a light
breeze. Our latitude at this tenth anchorage amongst the reefs, was 20 deg.
53' 10", from observations to the north and south, and longitude by time
keeper 150 deg. 42' east. At one o'clock our course was resumed, and
continued till sunset in clear water; when we came to, in 32 fathoms sand
and shells, not far to the south of where the first high breakers had
been seen, in the afternoon of the 6th. A dry reef bore N.1/2 E., distant
two and a half, and another E. 1/2 S. one-and-half miles; and from the mast
head others were seen at the back of them, extending from N. W. by N. to
near S. E. by E.
WEDNESDAY 13 OCTOBER 1802
On going upon deck next morning at daybreak, to get the ship under way, I
found her situation different to that wherein we had anchored in the
evening. The wind had been light, and as usual in such cases, the cable
was shortened in; and it appeared from the bearings, and from the
soundings marked every hour on the log board, that between four and five
in the morning, the anchor had been lifted by the tide, or dragged, two
miles north-east amongst the reefs, from 33 into 28 fathoms; where it had
again caught. This change of place had not been perceived; and it was
difficult, from the circumstance having occurred at the relief of the
watch, to discover with whom the culpable inattention lay; but it might
have been attended with fatal consequences.
Having weighed the anchor, we steered westward with the brig and whale
boat ahead, until past ten; when the eastern breeze died away and the
stream anchor was dropped in 30 fathoms, fine white sand. The reefs were
then covered. and a dry bank, bearing N. W. by W. five or six miles, was
the sole object above water; and towards noon it was covered also.
Between this bank and the great reef and breakers, was a space which
seemed to be open; but it was not sufficiently large, nor did the tide
run with that regularity and strength, to induce a belief that, if there
were a passage, it could be such as I desired for the vessels. We
therefore again steered westward, on a breeze rising at N. W., until
reefs were seen extending southward from the dry bank, and we bore away
along their eastern side. At sunset, the anchor was dropped in 36
fathoms, near to our situation on the 6th at noon; the dry reefs bearing
from S. 20 deg. to N. 21 deg. W., distant from one to three miles.
THURSDAY 14 OCTOBER 1802
At daylight the breeze was still from the north-westward, and our course
was pursued to the south and south-west, close round the inner end of the
reefs, till they trended west and we could no longer keep in with them.
The Pine Peak of the northern Percy Isles, and several of the Cumberland
Islands were then in sight; and at noon our situation and bearings were
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