Discoveries in Australia, Volume 1.
J Lort Stokes
Part 7 out of 8
is plentiful. One that we caught was of the enormous weight of twenty
pounds. A large kind of dark bream of excellent flavour was taken in
Many of the reaches also swarmed with wildfowl, consisting almost wholly
of ducks, which, from a habit of perching on the trees, have received the
name of wood-ducks. They were very different and far superior in plumage
to those found on the south-eastern parts of the continent, and as they
have not yet been numbered among the Australian birds so vividly
described by Mr. Gould, we may venture to be somewhat minute in
They are inferior in size to the common European wild duck, but are
marked in much the same manner on the breast. The back is a dark brown,
while the wings, still darker, are slightly bronzed at the tips. Their
singularly long legs are of a pale flesh colour, while the web on the
foot is very much arched near the toes, giving greater pliability to the
foot and a power of grasping, which enables them to perch on trees. The
head and bill, the latter of a pale ash colour, are both large. When on
the wing they make a peculiar though pleasing whistling sound, that can
be heard at a great distance,* and which changes as they alight, into a
sort of chatter. Their perching on trees is performed in a very clumsy
manner, swinging and pitching to and fro. We subsequently often found
them on the rivers on the North coast, but not within some miles of their
mouths or near their upper waters, from which it would appear that they
inhabit certain reaches of the rivers only: we never found them in
swamps. The farthest south they were afterwards met with, was on the
Albert River in the Gulf of Carpentaria, in latitude 18 degrees South,
which gives them a range of six and a half degrees of latitude over the
northern part of the continent. Their nests never came under our notice,
and consequently we are not aware either of the size or colour of their
eggs; neither did we see any young birds during the period of our
observation, ranging from July to November only.**
(*Footnote. Mr. Eyre has since informed me that there is a
whistling-duck, something similar, on the Murray River, but is not aware
that it has the peculiar habit of perching on trees.)
(**Footnote. Mr. Gould, who had previously described this bird
(Leptotarais Eytoni) being desirous of figuring it in his splendid work,
has been furnished with this account.)
EXPLORATION OF THE SOUTHERN BRANCH OF THE ADELAIDE.
The southern arm of the Adelaide River, and about fifteen miles near the
mouth of the other branch, still remaining to be explored, I started on
this interesting service the day of the return of Captain Wickham, August
4th. We soon found that the one we ascended promised nothing, from there
being no tidal stream of any consequence; still we hoped to trace its
rejunction with the main branch, but after proceeding in a general South
by West direction five miles, and East-South-East the same distance, it
became so narrow that the mangroves on each side entirely blocked up the
passage, and stopped the boat's progress. I here again felt the
inconvenience of our not being furnished with one of the pendulum
horizons, invented by Captain Becher, R.N.* It being high-water, and as
the shore was lined with an impenetrable growth of mangroves, we were
unable to land. In vain did I try, by cutting down some of them, to find
a rest for the artificial horizon on one of the stumps; they were so
connected with each other beneath the water, by a perfect network of
roots, that although several of the surrounding trees were felled, a
tremulous motion was still conveyed from a distance, and I consequently
lost the observation for latitude.
(*Footnote. I strongly recommend this ingenious invention to every
seaman. In foggy weather it will save hours of anxiety, and may often
prevent the horrors of shipwreck.)
The saltwater arm of the Adelaide we found had another branch, which took
us eight miles in a South-West direction, terminating like the other, and
at low-water being a mere ditch. There was nothing picturesque in
following the windings of these creeks or inlets; a tall growth of
mangroves with their stems immersed, rendering the view limited and
wearisome. We, however, were urged on by hope, being in momentary
expectation that each turn would bring some change, while to add to the
zest of our proceedings we felt ourselves to be the first Europeans who
had traversed these parts.
Now and then the deep stillness of nature would be broken by the mournful
cry of a curlew, disturbed by the splash of the oars, while sometimes a
heavy flapping of wings was heard amid the mangroves, and out would start
suddenly three or four white ibises with black necks, giving utterance to
a peculiar cry, which faintly resembles that of the male guinea fowl. All
else was deep unbroken silence.
By evening we had again reached the entrance of the river, where we
passed the night, during which there was a very heavy dew.
The lower part of the Adelaide having been already explored, prevented us
from experiencing that depth of interest which we should otherwise have
felt; still we were destined to enjoy our share of pleasurable
sensations, as on the result of our examination depended the important
fact of whether the river was navigable for large vessels. We therefore
started to settle this momentous question, even before the eastern sky
was tinted with orange from the rising of the sun, which in these
latitudes gives no glimmering twilight: day fading and appearing
instantaneously, the rapidity of the change presenting a remarkable
Passing a narrow part, formed by two low red cliffy projections, we
entered a wide reach that had an extensive flat of 2 and 2 1/2 fathoms
water on the south side. The next was similarly circumstanced, the shoal
water of the same depth, being, however, on the west side. Still in both
there was a 3-fathom channel at low-water, and in the reaches above,
seven in number, trending in a general South-South-East direction, about
twice that depth. This imparted to our discoveries the stamp of utility,
and as Captain Wickham found it navigable for thirty miles higher up
where the water is fresh, we may pronounce the Adelaide the deepest river
MEET A CANOE.
Proceeding upwards, we met a party of natives about seven miles from the
mouth, in a very pretty bark canoe, fifteen feet long, and about two
deep. The bark was sewn together with much neatness, and it was
altogether the most artistic piece of workmanship I had seen among the
Aborigines of Australia. It was the last of that description we met with
in this direction, for we did not find canoes in use with the natives to
the westward of Clarence Strait, but only rafts, a fact alluded to in an
earlier portion of the work.
ALARM OF THE NATIVES.
Two young men only were in the craft, which ran close in under the
mangroves, through which we could see other natives passing. By
proceeding cautiously and slowly, I got pretty close to them. They were
evidently afraid that if they left it we should take their boat, and this
gave them courage to face the strange white men. Terror, however, was
marked in their countenances, and one of the two leaped on shore, as we
approached, in a state of great excitement, jumping and flinging his arms
about violently; whilst sometimes he would dip up a handful of water and
squirt it out with great force from the corners of his mouth. The size of
the boat appeared, as usual, to astonish the lad who remained in the
canoe. He appeared less frightened than the other, and I induced him to
accept a few presents from the end of a long stick. Though they had a
deficiency in the upper front teeth, they had not disfigured any other
part of their bodies. The stature of the two young men was small, perhaps
5 feet 7 inches, but those behind the mangroves were much taller.
Alligators being so very numerous I was surprised to notice what little
dread the natives appeared to have of them, dancing and wading about in
the water near the bank, as if they and the animal had entered into a
treaty of amity.
Their alarm appearing to have worn off, we continued our journey, but by
hoisting the sail, the good effect was in a great measure
counterbalanced, as the sight of it called forth a yell from the whole of
them, which catching the echoes, reverberated from side to side, and
resounded in our ears for some time afterwards. Proceeding, we gained the
end of the twelfth reach early in the afternoon, when we obtained
observations for longitude, that being the highest part of the river not
surveyed, and distant about fifteen miles from the mouth; we had also
just reached the portion frequented by the peculiar whistling wild duck,
of which we bagged about twenty, forming an agreeable addition to our
evening and next day meals. After concluding the observations, we
examined the country for some distance; a level tract met the eye
wherever it wandered, broken here and there by patches of low trees. The
plains were thinly dotted with a coarse wiry grass. In places near
hollows, where water had collected, the soil, which was a dark kind of
clayey mould, cracked and curled up with the heat. A few shells were
found scattered over the plains, of the kind so common on the north-east
The tedious uniformity and sameness in the banks of the Adelaide, thus
far, may be illustrated by the fact, that to know the boat's position on
returning, it was necessary to have the sketch of the river constantly
before our eyes, and to reckon each reach as we passed.
Taking the return tide, we passed the night in the fourth reach; very
stringent orders were given to the watch to keep a sharp lookout for
alligators, as a great many had been seen during the day, while we knew
that on the previous night a monster of this description had attempted to
get into one of the boats. We had fired at several, but with one
exception had done no mischief. To be roused by the noise of the boat's
keel or side grating harshly against the scaly back of an alligator, is
far from being a pleasant occurrence, and on such occasions I generally
found myself clutching a pistol, always kept near me, for the purpose of
executing judgment upon the very first flat head that showed his nose
above the gunwale. Entertaining very vivid recollections of our
experience on Fitzroy River, on the first start of the boats great
preparations were made against the mosquitoes; to our agreeable surprise,
however, we experienced but slight annoyance from them. The exemption,
however, was fully made up by the swarms of flies which infest the
Adelaide, and during mealtimes availed themselves of the opportunity of
popping into our mouths.
There had been a fresh North-East wind the latter part of the day, which
dying away was succeeded by a calm and cloudless night with a heavy dew.
The thermometer was down to 77 degrees, and in the day varied from 87 to
RETURN OF THE BOATS.
We got on board in the forenoon, when the result of our examination was
heard with a satisfaction not easily expressed, but which may be readily
imagined. We felt that we had discovered a river navigable for vessels of
four and five hundred tons, for about fifty miles, and into fresh water,
a thing hitherto unknown in Australia. We may then with justice
congratulate ourselves on the importance of the discovery of the
The bay into which it flows, named after Sir Charles Adam, is six miles
deep and ten broad at the entrance, where there are 9 fathoms. The shores
gradually approach each other, and at the head, where it receives the
waters of the Adelaide, the width is only one mile.
The mouth of the river is fronted with shoals that extend out five miles;
the channel between them is narrow, 3 and 4 fathoms deep, and lies on the
western side of the bay. A guide for the mouth of it is the east entrance
point of the river, bearing South 40 degrees East.
The generally discoloured state of the water prevents the shoals from
being seen, as well as the coral reefs extending from half to three
quarters of a mile off the east side of the bay, where there is excellent
anchorage. Sea and land breezes prevailed; the former blowing from the
North-West which gave it the advantage of being of easy access either
from the westward through Clarence Strait, or from the eastward through
that of Dundas. The spring tides sometimes rise 18 feet, when the time of
high-water is six o'clock. The stream set North-East and North-West from
half to one knot, changing to the latter direction two and a half hours
after high-water. Our observations place Escape Cliffs (too remarkable
and conspicuous to be overlooked, and which ships should anchor abreast
of) in latitude 12 degrees 8 1/2 minutes South and longitude 0 degrees 15
minutes West of Port Essington. The variation of the compass was 2
degrees easterly. I was able at this anchorage, by a bearing of a distant
point, to ascertain the local attraction in the ship, which in no
instance exceeded 1 degree, being the amount we had found at Plymouth,
previous to our departure from England. Our deeply interesting researches
on the south side of Clarence Strait, leading to so important a
discovery, were now concluded.
EXAMINE MELVILLE ISLAND.
The success which had rewarded our efforts, made us wish to cling to the
spot, and it was therefore almost with regret that we found ourselves
leaving to examine the southern shores of Melville Island, where we
anchored two miles from the beach, and fifteen within the west entrance
of the strait. A quarter of a mile off the sandy flat, extending some
distance from the shore, there was one fathom of water, being a very
gradual decrease from six where the ship lay.
The necessary angles and bearings for the survey, were taken from the top
of some cliffs sixty feet high, composed of a red sand and ironstone, and
a white kind of marl or pipe clay. The shore trended nearly South-West
and North-East. Six miles in the former direction is an inlet which Mr.
Fitzmaurice has visited from the Vernon Isles, and another much smaller,
about a third of the intervening distance from where we stood. The high
land which was almost level, lay about three miles in our rear, following
the trend of the shore. Two peaks rising in hollows on it attained an
elevation of 260 and 290 feet. There were no rocky points visible at
low-water--a clean sandy beach, which appeared, strange to say, to have
been washed occasionally by a heavy surf, forming the coastline. A
singular clump of Casuarina was close to the westward of the cliffs, and
its dark naked aspect contrasted with the stunted gumtrees and scattered
palms, sparingly sprinkled over this sterile tract of country. With the
exception of a few seabirds, there was nothing living stirring to change
the opinion we have just expressed of this part of Melville Island. Our
visit, however, was not to be forgotten in an instant, although no very
pleasing recollections were connected with it.
Whilst taking a few angles near the cliffs, we suddenly experienced a
series of severe bites or nippings in several parts of our body, and
looking round to discover whence arose this unexpected attack, found
ourselves under a tree covered with large green ants. Their bites were
exceedingly painful, and it was only by beating and tearing off our
clothes that we could rid ourselves of these unwelcome visitors. From a
distance our appearance must have been sufficiently amusing. One moment
soberly intent upon our duties, and the next jumping like madmen, and
hastily stripping off our garments. The name of Ant Cliffs records our
visit to the south shores of Melville Island. The tide on this side of
the strait ran nearly two knots an hour, following the direction of the
shore; the time of high-water being a quarter of an hour earlier than in
Recrossed Clarence Strait to obtain observations for rating the
chronometers, and examine the extensive shoal off Cape Hotham. On
anchoring near its edge, a patch with only five feet was discovered close
to the ship; the muddy and restless state of the water, caused by a
meeting of the tides, setting out of Van Diemen's Gulf and Adam Bay,
renders it necessary to approach Cape Hotham from the northward, with
caution. However, the unusually great depth, for this strait, of twenty
fathoms, will give warning of a ship's proximity to this danger, the
limits of which have been given on the occasion of our first visit to
WANT OF WATER.
Our stock of water being now much reduced, it was necessary before
proceeding further, that we should procure a supply. As it was a matter
of no certainty that we should find sufficient on the coast to the
westward, it was at first suggested that we should take the ship up the
Adelaide and fill the tanks from alongside. This would have been a grand
feat, having never before been accomplished in any river in Australia.
Indeed it was the only one on the whole continent, which could carry up a
vessel of the Beagle's draught into fresh water. An idea, the realization
of which would so completely crown our exploration with success,
naturally gave rise to a great degree of enthusiasm and excitement. Soon,
however, more sober thoughts prevailed, when we reflected on the time
this proceeding would consume, on account of the tortuous* course of the
river: time which we could, with our scanty stock of provisions, ill
spare. At Port Essington it was possible we should be able to get a
supply of both, as a ship might have arrived during our absence. Moreover
it was highly important, that we should make known without delay, the
discovery of a river of such magnitude as the Adelaide, distant only
seventy miles from the settlement.
(*Footnote. Nothing shows the flat nature of a country more than the
tortuous course of a stream passing through it. It is a want of change in
the level, which causes a river to twist and wind about in search, as it
were, of the weakest spot for its exit.)
RETURN TOWARDS PORT ESSINGTON.
It was then finally resolved that we should return to Port Essington, and
in the forenoon of the 17th, the Beagle was drifting along the western
shore of Dundas Strait, out of Van Diemen's Gulf. The day happening, very
remarkably for the locality at this season, to be calm throughout, the
anchor was dropped at sunset in 22 fathoms; Cape Fleming the North-East
point of Melville Island, bearing North-West 1/2 West eight miles. A deep
sandy bay bore South-West five miles, which promised good anchorage. The
appearance of the north-east part of Melville Island was still very
triste, presenting to the eye nothing save patches of mangroves, behind
which rose a range of ill-defined hills, 300 feet in elevation.
(*Footnote. The tide out of Van Diemen's Gulf takes a North-West
direction, until coming in contact with Cape Keith, it branches off along
the east and south side of Melville Island.)
We anchored to prevent being taken back through Dundas Strait by the
return tide, which from 5 P.M., to midnight, set South-East by South from
two to three knots an hour. High-water at Popham Bay on the east side of
the Strait being at a quarter past eleven, we may conclude the North-West
stream began at this anchorage three quarters of an hour after
high-water. Weighing as soon as the tide made out of the strait, although
there was still no wind, we were rather surprised at daylight to find how
little the ship had drifted to the North-North-West. The only reason I
can give in explanation is that the ebb or North-West stream out of the
gulf joins with, and is thrown out of its course by the easterly or ebb
stream setting past Cape Fleming.
ARRIVAL AT THE PORT.
A breeze springing up late in the morning, we beat along the north side
of the Cobourg Peninsula, entering Port Essington at dusk. In working
round Vashon Head, we found the water shoal very rapidly to 12, 9, and 7
fathoms on approaching it; on the bearing South 30 degrees West. This
head is fronted by a reef of some extent, which similar to the other at
the entrance of Port Essington, cannot be distinguished, owing to the
muddy colour of the water; it is therefore necessary that the lead should
be kept constantly going when in its vicinity. When daylight broke, we
found no fresh arrival to greet our anxious gaze, the Britomart being
still the only guardian of the port. Her solitary aspect at once
destroyed our hopes of supplies, and on reaching the settlement our fears
proved to have too much foundation. Hope, however, is the last feeling
which leaves the human breast, and in this instance did not desert us; as
there was still a chance of a vessel arriving, while we were engaged in
watering the ship.
The news of our discovery of the Adelaide was hailed with infinite
satisfaction, and the numerous speculations and ideas on the subject
which were at once afloat, afforded an agreeable variety to the monotony
of existence in the settlement, where however at the moment of our
arrival an unusual degree of excitement prevailed through the activity of
Ever anxious to provide for the amusement of others, he had been for some
time engaged in getting up a play, which was now nearly ready to be
performed. Its name I regret to have forgotten; it was however nothing
very deep, and was selected from a volume that had already performed a
voyage to the North Pole. This adventurous playbook, which had certainly
done its duty, was originally picked up by its owner on Tower-hill. The
scenery was painted by Captain Stanley with earths of the country, who
also was stage manager and general planner of the whole. The wives of
some of the garrison supplied female costumes, while a large workshop was
converted into a theatre. At length, after the difficulties usually
attendant on private theatricals, everything was in readiness for the
first performance of the drama in Northern Australia. Tickets were
issued, of which I have one before me, a small piece of card containing
the words "Victoria Theatre, Port Essington, August 24th, 1839." In after
years this will be looked upon as a curious relic in connection with the
history of this part of the continent. As if to cause the first
performance of a play at Victoria, to take place under smiling auspices,
such as the occasion properly called for, H.M.S. Pelorus arrived with
supplies and letters from Sydney. The previous growing dearth of
provisions had rendered it somewhat difficult to secure a very happily
disposed audience, an empty stomach being apt to provoke fault finding:
but the arrival of a ship on the very play day caused a crowded and
delighted attendance. Everything went off smoothly, and with hearty peals
of laughter. All the characters being supported by men, the female
personages of the drama presented a most grotesque appearance; moreover
the act drop being an old ensign, the ladies could be seen through it,
regaling themselves, during these intervals, with a pipe. The whole
affair gave infinite satisfaction, while ours was greatly enhanced, and
our minds prepared for any duty, by the timely arrival of supplies and
letters, of both of which we fortunately received our share.
Our departure from Port Essington, was not therefore hurried; and I had
some slight opportunity of adding to my knowledge, with regard to the
capabilities of the place, which were found to grow upon acquaintance.
The fact of its being well fitted for the growth of cotton was in
particular a great additional recommendation. The sallow appearance of
the settlers clearly demonstrated the temperature to be high, though
apparently there was no diminution in physical strength. It should
however be remembered that up to this time they had not had the same
nourishment as those who appeared amongst them as transient visitors,
with ruddy faces. The warmth of the climate in itself conduces to
intemperance, which to Europeans is ever fatal.
The Pelorus brought orders for the Britomart to proceed to Sydney.
PASSAGE THROUGH TORRES STRAIT.
Captain Stanley was anxious--with the westerly monsoon--to have attempted
the passage through Torres Strait, instead of going round the west coast,
as such a course might have led to some discoveries in that
neighbourhood; a result always in such a service of the utmost
It is however to be regretted that the senior officer did not approve of
this plan, as the passage has only once been made from the westward by
Captain Lihou, R.N., who having experienced some difficulties reported
unfavourably of it. The importance of an intimate acquaintance with this
route will be better appreciated, when we reflect that ultimately through
this passage will the great traffic be carried on between our East Indian
and Australian possessions.
During our visit to Port Essington, some of the changes among our
officers, mentioned in the beginning of the work, took place. Mr. Forsyth
joined us from the Pelorus, and, from his knowledge of surveying, was a
valuable addition to our party.
SKETCH OF VICTORIA.
Having said so much in relation to Port Essington on our former visit,
and wishing to create among our readers an interest in the locality, we
give a slight sketch of the appearance of the settlement from the
anchorage, which will be more effective than our most elaborate
description of it.
EVIL EXAMPLE OF CONVICTS.
Before taking leave of this new colony, we must at once express a hope
that it will not be made a Penal settlement; not that we doubt the
wonderful degree in which the convict system has hastened the prosperity
of our possessions on the south-eastern part of the continent; but from
the proximity of northern Australia to the islands in the Arafura
sea--the waters separating them being often navigable for boats--the
natives would be contaminated and vitiated, their women corrupted, and
the badly disposed among the islanders rendered worse; and instead of our
advent bringing with it the light of the gospel, and the real and
substantial blessings of civilization, we should enjoy the unenviable
privilege of still further degenerating the savage. The evil thus caused
in New Zealand has been incalculable; to the bad example of convicts we
owe much of the ills which have there arisen; the fine fearless bearing
of the wild man, has been partially exchanged for the low cunning,
acquired from the runaway felon; who reckless of his own life can have no
regard for that of others. The worst crimes of the dregs of a civilized
population have been introduced; and many of those wretched beings, who
might otherwise have been reclaimed from the rude vices of savage life,
have, through the white man's instrumentality, perished in sin.*
(*Footnote. I knew an instance of a convict, who when dying actually
picked a man's pocket. The ruling passion, strong in death, was here
painfully exemplified. J.L.S.)
The number of Malay proas that visit this part of the continent, would
also furnish facilities for the escape of convicts from the neighbourhood
of Port Essington.
We shall now fulfil our promise to the reader, of laying before him
Captain Stanley's interesting cruise to the islands we have just alluded
to, which will occupy the remaining portion of the present volume.
Leave Port Essington.
Reach Timor Laut.
Traces of the Crew of the Charles Eaton.
Their account of the wreck and sojourn on the Island.
Captain King's account of the Rescue of the Survivors.
Boy Ireland's relation of the sufferings and massacre of the Crew.
Appearance of the shores of Timor Laut.
Description of the Inhabitants.
Village of Oliliet.
Visit the Oran Kaya.
Gunpowder in request as Barter.
Proceed to the Arru Islands.
Present to Chief.
Birds of Paradise.
Chinaming Junks' bottoms.
Character of Natives.
Some of them profess Christianity.
Visit the Ki Islands.
Village of Ki Illi.
Place of Worship.
Cultivation of the eastern Ki.
No anchorage off it.
Visit Ki Doulan.
Antique Appearance of.
Employment of Natives.
Defences of the place.
Carvings on gateway.
Civility of Chief.
Population of the Ki Group.
Place of Interment.
Agility of Australian Native.
Anchorage off Ki Doulan.
Island of Vordate.
Visit from Chief.
Excitement of Natives.
Their Arms and Ornaments.
Carved Horns on Houses.
Alarm of the Oran Kaya.
Punishment of the Natives of Laarat by the Dutch.
Discover that Mr. Watson had rescued the European Boy.
Return to Port Essington.
Mr. Watson's Proceedings at Timor Laut.
In pursuance of orders from Sir G. Bremer, C.B. we sailed from Port
Essington on the 18th March, 1839, having on board, Captain Kuper (then
1st Lieutenant of H.M.S. Alligator) and one of the Australian natives,
who was induced to accompany us, partly by his own curiosity, and partly
by liberal promises and plenty to eat. He was known at the settlement by
the name of Jack White, and from his great good humour and intelligence,
was a favourite with everyone. I hoped by keeping him on board for some
time, away from his tribe, to wean him in some degree from his savage
habits; and that by being able to communicate with him with greater
facility, we might learn more of the manners and customs of his
countrymen, than we had yet been able to do; in addition to which we
anticipated no small amusement from witnessing his astonishment at seeing
countries and people so different from his own.
Light airs prevented our clearing the harbour till the morning of the
19th, and at 3 P.M. on the 20th, we made the land of Timor Laut; but from
our ignorance of the coast, we were obliged to keep under easy sail
during the night, which was squally with heavy rain.
TIMOR LAUT PROAS.
At daylight on the 21st, we made all sail to the northward, and about 10,
observed two large proas, with Dutch colours flying, standing out from
the land under sail; they were full of men, and for some time appeared to
be in great doubt, whether they should come near us or not, as they
shortened sail and consulted together several times; at last, however,
they came under our stern, which was the only way in which they could
approach, as their long outriggers, projecting 10 or 12 feet on each side
of their narrow canoes, prevented them from coming close alongside.
As soon as they got hold of the rope we gave them, they hauled close up,
and a little thin shrivelled old man came scrambling over the taffrail:
he was dressed in a long black serge coat, check shirt, and black
trousers, and as soon as he had regained his breath, after the violent
exertions he had made, presented me with a neat little basket containing
some papers which he seemed very anxious I should examine. I took them
up, rather to please him, than with any expectation of being able to
understand them, but to my surprise and great interest, found carefully
rolled up in several envelopes, two pieces of lead pencil, part of the
leaf of a Norie's Navigation Tables, and some scraps of paper, on which,
written in pencil, was a rough journal of the proceedings of the men who
left the ill-fated Charles Eaton (soon after she was wrecked in Torres
Strait) in one of her cutters, in which they reached this island, and
after remaining for thirteen months got to Amboyna in a trading proa, and
thence to Batavia, where they gave the following account of their
misfortunes to the Resident, Mr. D.W. Pietermaat.
WRECK OF THE CHARLES EATON.
The Charles Eaton sailed from Sydney on the 26th July, 1834, and on the
15th of August, about 10 o'clock in the forenoon, during a fresh full
sail breeze, the vessel struck on a reef called the Detached Reef,
situated at the entrance of Torres Strait.
PROCEEDINGS OF THE CREW.
During the preceding night the Captain, as a measure of prudence, had
ordered the first reef to be taken in the topsails, in order not to enter
the passage before daylight.
The ship struck on the reef so violently, that both keel and rudder were
instantly knocked off and carried away, and the Captain declared the
vessel to be totally lost; at the same time giving orders to get the
boats ready and furnished with provisions, in order to endeavour to reach
the island of Timor.
At the time the vessel was wrecked, she had four boats, the longboat, two
cutters, and a dinghy or small jolly boat. In the largest cutter, W.
Grindall, Laurent Constantine, and George Pigot, left the wreck, and
Richard Quin, and James Wright, joined them the next morning by swimming
across a bar or reef at the risk of their lives.
The other boats were knocked to pieces and lost, by the vessel falling
over on her side, and they were unable to save any more of the passengers
or crew, as it was impossible to pull the boat up against the strong
current; and none of them would venture amidst the heavy breakers to
reach the boat by swimming. They were unable to state what became of the
Captain, passengers, and rest of the crew; but at the time Richard Quin
and James Wright left the wreck, all the passengers and crew were alive
on the forecastle of the vessel, with the exception of one sailor named
James Price, who was drowned by the smallest of the cutters swamping at
the time she was lowered.
The passengers on board at the time the vessel was wrecked, were Captain
D'Oyly of the Bengal Artillery, his wife, and two sons, George and
William; an English gentleman named Armstrong; and a Bengalese native
NAMES OF THE CREW.
The ship's crew consisted of twenty-four persons: J.G. Moore, master; J.
Clare, chief mate; W. Mayer, second mate; G. Pigott, third mate; J.
Grant, surgeon; L. Constantine, carpenter; W. Montgomery, steward; W.
Perry, J.P. Ching, midshipmen; R. Quin, A. Quail, W. Moore, C. Robinson,
J. Caen, W. Hill, J. Berry, R. Lounce, W. Jeffrey, J. Wright, W. Gumble,
J. Miller, and W. Williams, seamen; J. Ireland and J. Sexton, boys.
The five seamen in the cutter, not seeing any possibility of saving more
of the ship's company, and the next morning not perceiving a single
person on the wreck, concluded that these unhappy persons had been washed
off by the increasing swell of the sea during the night. On Sunday
morning, August 17th, they left the wreck, and steered as westerly a
course as possible by the sun and stars--they had no compass--in order to
reach the Dutch settlement of Coupang in the island of Timor. The whole
of their provisions consisted of 30 pounds of bread, one ham, and a keg
containing about four gallons of water; which had been placed in the boat
before she was lowered.
THE CUTTER REACHES TIMOR LAUT.
After driving about for fifteen days on the ocean, they descried land
which they took to be Timor; they went on shore and procured some water
and coconuts; but afterwards pursuing their course along the coast, they
were attacked by a number of native proas, and being warn out with
fatigue, and without any arms to defend themselves, they were forced to
surrender. The natives upset the boat, and stripped them of all their
clothes, after which they were brought on shore, where the natives at
first seemed inclined to kill them, but through the intercession of two
chiefs, named Pabok and Lomba, their lives were spared.
They afterwards learnt, that they were at the native village of Oliliet,
in the island of Timor Laut; part of their clothes were given back to
them, and they were well treated, without being compelled by the natives
to perform any labour; their sustenance consisted of Indian corn, yams, a
little rice and some fish, but the quantities given them were only just
sufficient to keep them alive.
During their abode in this island, they learnt that in one of the
neighbouring settlements called Laouran, at that period at war with the
one in which they lived, there was another European, formerly belonging
to an English brig, that had been wrecked seven years ago, and of whose
crew he, and a boy since dead, had alone been spared by their savage
After remaining more than thirteen months at Oliliet, a trading proa
arrived from Amboyna, in which they received permission to depart,
promising to return soon in an English ship, with arms and ammunition to
assist the chiefs in defeating their enemies. In this proa, after a
passage of five days, they arrived at Amboyna, on the 7th of October,
IRELAND'S ACCOUNT OF THE FATE OF THE CREW.
Of the melancholy fate of those who remained on the wreck, the boy
Ireland gave the following account, which was published at Sydney by
Captain P.P. King, R.N. Ireland and the younger D'Oyly, were rescued from
the savages by Captain C.M. Lewis, of the Colonial schooner, Isabella,
who was sent to look for them in consequence of Captain Carr of the ship
Mangles* having reported that he had seen two white persons among the
natives of Murray's Island, but had been unable to induce the natives to
give them up.
(*Footnote. I afterwards met Captain Carr in the Mangles; he expressed
great regret that so much blame should have been attached to him for not
bringing away the children. His account differed very much from young
Ireland's, and it is but justice to him to state that it was owing to his
report that the vessels were sent in search of Ireland and young D'Oyly.
The Charles Eaton left Sydney on the 29th of July, 1834, bound to Canton,
by way of Torres Strait; and experienced a series of fine weather and
favourable winds until she approached the Barrier Reef, when the weather
became thick and rainy.
The master was provided with Captain Ashmore's chart, guided by which he
boldly steered for the reefs. Unfortunately, however, for him the weather
was so clouded on approaching the Barriers, that he could obtain no
observation for the latitude, and yet it would appear that the ship was
in a very favourable position.
About ten o'clock in the morning the reefs were suddenly perceived right
ahead, upon which the ship was hove up in the wind and both anchors let
go, and the cables paid out to the end; but as the depth was probably
unfathomable they had no effect, for she drifted on the reef and fell
over on her beam ends. The chief mate then cut her masts away, but the
bottom was soon bilged, and everything destroyed by the water, which
broke over the decks, and the ship became a perfect wreck. Happily the
upper part of the vessel kept together, on which the crew and passengers
collected. Soon after she struck, a vessel was observed three or four
miles to windward, high and dry upon the reefs, with her masts standing,
and royal yards across, and sails set, in which position she must have
been left by her crew.*
(*Footnote. The Flora, Sheriff, master.)
During the confusion that existed, one of the quarter-boats was lowered,
but immediately swamped, by which one man, named Price, was drowned. Soon
afterwards, three of the crew, namely G. Pigott, the third mate; L.
Constantine, the carpenter; and W. Gumble, one of the seamen, put sails,
provisions, and water, and arms, and all the carpenter's tools, into the
other quarter-boat, and lowered her down; and kept near the wreck during
the day and following night. The next day R. Quin and J. Wright, two
seamen, joined them, after which they refused to take any more; although
six of the crew made their way over the reef the next morning, and wished
to be taken on board. The boat, however, bore away, and was seen no more.
The master then, assisted by those who remained, attempted to make a
raft, which was not completed before the expiration of seven days. During
this interval they had managed to distil the contents of a cask and some
bottles of water from the sea, by the aid of the ship's coppers, and a
leaden pipe from the quarter gallery cistern, the whole of which they
placed on the raft with a basket containing beer, and a cask of pork.
Whilst they were on the wreck they were upon a daily allowance of two
wine glasses of distilled water, and a few pieces of damaged biscuit.
As soon as the raft was completed, they got upon it, but finding that it
was not buoyant enough to hold them, they threw over the water the pork
and beer. Still it did not support their weight, so the greater number
returned on board; leaving Mr. Moore the master, Mr. Grant the surgeon,
Captain and Mrs. D'Oyly, and their two children, their nurse, a native of
India, and Mr. Armstrong, passengers; also two seamen, named Lounce and
Berry, who determined to remain upon it all night. In the morning,
however, it was found that the rope by which the raft had been made fast
to the stern of the wreck had been cut, and nothing was seen of their
companions. It is probable that the uncomfortable situation in which they
found themselves, up to their waists in water, and the sea constantly
breaching over them, induced the master to cut the rope and trust to
Providence to guide himself and the passengers to some place of safety.
Those that remained then made another raft of the vessel's topmasts
lashed together with coir rope, and made a sail out of some cloth which
formed a part of her cargo. It took seven days before it was completed,
when they launched off and bid adieu to the ill-fated vessel, which was
probably soon broken up, for at high-water the sea breached over her.
The vessel that was seen with her masts standing, was too far to windward
for them to reach, for even the boat could not make way against the wind
and current. Upon casting off, they set their sail and steered before the
wind, but the raft was so heavy and deep that very little progress was
made. She drifted rather than sailed, and probably did not go more than a
mile or one mile and a half an hour. After some time they came to a reef
upon which they remained for the night, and the next morning proceeded
before the wind, but saw no more reefs.
After being two days and nights upon the raft, up to their waists in
water, and partaken of very little food, they passed an island, and then
saw several more ahead. Soon afterwards a canoe was perceived paddling
towards them, containing ten or twelve Indians, who as they approached
stood up and extended their arms to show they had no weapons and were
inclined to be friendly. On reaching the raft the Indians got upon it,
and conducted themselves very peaceably; and after a short time proposed
that they should leave the raft and go into the canoe, which they at
first hesitated to do, until Thomas Ching, a midshipman, said he would
go, as he should then have a better chance of getting to England, upon
which they all consented, and embarked in the canoe. Before they left,
the Indians searched the raft very narrowly for iron implements, but only
found a few hoops which they collected and took with them. They left the
raft about four o'clock in the afternoon, and in less than an hour were
landed on an island which they subsequently found was called Boydan, and
which is probably that on the chart called Number 1, to the eastward of
(*Footnote. On their way to it the canoe passed, first, three islands on
the right (northward) and one on the left (southward). The mainland was
also distinguished from Boydan Island, and appeared to be about twelve or
fourteen miles off, which agrees very well with the island it is supposed
Upon disembarking, the natives accompanied them round the island in
search of food and water, but they were so exhausted by fatigue and
hunger, that they could scarcely crawl. Upon their return to the place
where they landed, they threw themselves on the ground in despair; as it
was evident from the ferocious bearing and conduct of the savages, who
stood around their party grinning and laughing in the most hideous
manner, that they were exulting in the anticipation of their murderous
intentions. In this dreadful state of suspense, Mr. Clare, the first
officer, addressing his companions, recommended them to be resigned to
their fate; and read to them, in a most impressive manner, several
prayers from a book which he had brought with him from the wreck; after
which, commending themselves to the protection of the Almighty, they laid
down, and worn out by severe exhaustion, were soon asleep; but it was to
them the sleep of death; for no sooner had they composed themselves than,
as Ireland describes, he was roused by a shout and noise, and upon
looking up saw the Indians murdering his companions by dashing their
brains out with clubs. The first that was killed was poor Ching, and
after him his companion Perry, and then Mr. Mayer, the second officer:
after which the confusion became so great, that Ireland could not
distinguish what passed. The last however, that met his fate was Mr.
Clare, who in the attempt to make his escape to the canoe, was overtaken
by his pursuers, and immediately despatched by a blow on the head.
Ireland and another boy named Sexton, were now left awaiting their fate:
the former, the narrator of this melancholy tale, thus describes his
An Indian came to me with a carving knife to cut my throat, but as he was
about to do it, having seized hold of me, I grasped the blade of the
knife in my right hand and held it fast, struggling for my life. The
Indian then threw me down, and placing his knee on my breast tried to
wrench the knife out of my hand, but I still retained it, although one of
my fingers was cut through to the bone. At last I succeeded in getting
uppermost, when I let him go and ran into the sea, and swam out; but
being much exhausted, and the only chance of my life was to return to the
shore, I landed again fully expecting to be knocked on the head. The same
Indian then came up with an infuriated gesture, and shot me in the right
breast with an arrow; and then in a most unaccountable manner suddenly
became quite calm, and led or dragged me to a little distance, and
offered me some fish and water, which I was unable to partake of.
Whilst struggling with the Indian, I observed Sexton, who was held by
another, bite a piece of his arm out, but after that knew nothing of him,
until I found his life had been spared in a manner similar to my own.*
(*Footnote. Upon interrogating Ireland to obtain some explanation of the
reason their lives were spared, he says, that he has frequently seen the
Indians recover themselves in a moment from a violent paroxysm of fury;
and he attributes their safety to a circumstance of this nature. P.P.K.)
At a short distance off, making the most hideous yells, the other savages
were dancing round a large fire, before which were placed in a row the
heads of their victims; whilst their decapitated bodies were washing in
the surf on the beach, from which they soon disappeared, having been
probably washed away by the tide. Sexton and I were then placed in charge
of two natives, who covered us with the sail of the canoe, a sort of mat,
but paid no attention to my wound, which had been bleeding profusely.
The next day the Indians collected all the heads; and, embarking, removed
to another island where the women lived, which they called Pullan. On
landing there, Ireland saw two of Captain D'Oyly's children, and the
ship's dog, called Portland; the elder (George) D'Oyly, told him that the
first raft had landed on the island, and that all the passengers,
excepting himself and his brother, had been instantly murdered; that his
mother was killed by a blow with a club, and that his little brother was
in her arms at the time, but was saved by one of the women, who
afterwards took care of him. The child was seen by Ireland, when they
landed, in the woman's arms, crying very much. He also saw some pieces of
the ship's cabin doors, attached as ornaments to the heads of their
canoes, which they appeared to prize very much, and other relics, among
which were the heads of the passengers and crew, of the first raft; those
of Mrs. D'Oyly and Captain Moore being plainly distinguishable; the
former by the hair, the latter by the features. The heads were suspended
by a rope to a pole that was stuck up near the huts of the women; round
which they danced every night and morning, accompanying their infuriated
gestures with the most horrid yells.
The number of Indians collected amounted to about sixty; they were merely
residing on the island during the fishing season; for their home, as it
afterwards turned out; was at a considerable distance off. Their
principal subsistence was turtle and small fish, which they caught with
hook and line, and shellfish which abound on the reefs. The island also
produces a small fruit like a plum with a stone in it, probably a species
of Eugenia. The fish were broiled over the ashes of a fire, or boiled in
the basin of a large volute (Voluta ethiopica) which being rather a
scarce shell is of great value to them.
The island of Pullan is covered with low trees and underwood, and the
soil is sandy. In the centre of it is a spring, which supplied the whole
party with sufficient water for their consumption; and, as Ireland says,
they used a great deal, it must at least have yielded fifteen or twenty
gallons a day, for the hole was always full. Upon a voyage they carry
their water in bamboo joints, and coconut shells, as do the Malays.
After remaining here two months, the Indians separated. One party taking
Ireland and the infant D'Oyly with them, embarked in a canoe, and after
half a day's sail reached another islet to the northward, where they
remained a day and a night, on a sandy beach; and the next morning
proceeded and reached another island similar to Pullan, low and bushy,
where they remained a fortnight. They then proceeded to the northward,
calling on their way at different islands, and remaining as long as they
supplied food, until they reached one,* where they remained a month, and
then they went on a visit to Darnley's Island, which they called Aroob,
where for the first time, Ireland says, he met with kind treatment.
(*Footnote. Probably one of the group of the northward of Halfway Island,
near Aureed, named by Mr. Lewis, Sir Richard Bourke's Group.)
After a fortnight they again embarked and returned by the way they came,
to an island they called Sir-reb,* situated near Aureed, where their
voyage ended, and they remained until purchased by Duppar, the Murray
Islander; who, it appears, upon hearing that there were two white boys in
captivity, at Aureed, embarked in a canoe with his wife Pamoy, and went
for the express purpose of obtaining them, taking for the purpose of
barter some fruit. The price of their ransom was a branch of bananas, for
each. They returned by way of Darnley's Island, where they stopped a few
days, and then reached Murray's Island, where they remained ever since,
and were most kindly treated. Duppar gave little D'Oyly to a native named
Oby to take care of; a charge of which he faithfully acquitted himself,
and both Oby and his adopted child soon became very fond of each other;
for as the child was a mere infant, he soon forgot his mother, and
naturally attached himself to his nurse. When at Aureed the Indians had
named Ireland, Wak; and little D'Oyly, they called Uass; names which they
retained at Murray's Island, and by which they are doubtless now known
all over the archipelago.
(*Footnote. Sir-reb, according to Ireland's information is Marsden
Ireland lived in the same hut with Duppar and his family; his employment
was to cultivate a plantation of yams, and during the season to assist in
taking turtle and shellfish. On one occasion he accompanied them on an
excursion towards New Guinea, where they went for the purpose of barter
and trade; which they frequently did, to obtain bows and arrows, canoes
and feathers, for which they give in return shells;* and which from their
scarcity, the New Guinea people prize very much, but as Duppar was
fearful that the New Guinea people would steal or murder him, he was left
at Darnley's Island, in charge of Agge, an Indian, until their return.
Duppar and his friends, however, were not long away; for having stopped
at an island, Jarmuth (Campbell's Island) to pass the night, one of the
islanders attempted to take away by force from one of the visitors, his
moco moco (a sort of bandage worn round the calves of the legs, made of
the bark of bamboo) upon which a quarrel ensued, in which the Murray
Islanders used their bows and arrows, and wounded several, one being shot
through the body. The Jarmuth people then retreated to their huts, and
the others embarked; but instead of going to New Guinea, returned to
Darnley's Island, where in a few days they received a message from
Jarmuth, offering peace; which, however, they would not accept; nor did
they afterwards make friends.
(*Footnote. Ireland describes the shell to be a cone, and recognized it
among the plates in the Encyclopedie Methodique, as the Conusmille
Ireland's account of the visit of the Mangles, is so different from what
Captain Carr describes, that the discrepancy must be received with much
He states that Captain Carr's object seemed to be entirely that of
trading for tortoise-shell; he was alongside the Mangles, and not at a
considerable distance off; he was so near as to ask one of the people on
the poop to throw him a rope, to get fast to the vessel, which was done,
but owing to the sea running high he was obliged to let it go; upon which
he asked for a boat to be lowered for him to get on board, which was also
done, and he should have made his escape, had not one stood up in the bow
with a naked cutlass and the others flourished their weapons over their
heads; which frightened the Indians so much that they pulled away on
shore, followed by the boat for a little distance, and there concealed
him. Ireland declares, that he did not say, that the natives would not
give him up.
When under the Mangles' stern one of the crew offered him some tobacco
which he declined. Had Captain Carr offered an axe for him, he would have
been given up immediately as well as little D'Oyly, who was on the beach,
in the arms of one of the natives. The natives knew that Ireland was
anxious to be taken away, and were averse to his going off to the vessel,
saying, "You shall not go there to be killed;" but as he hoped to make
his escape he persisted, and the result was a bitter disappointment to
Such is the succinct narrative, of which old Lomba offered me the first
THE CHIEF LOMBA.
As soon as I had read the papers contained in the basket, I endeavoured,
by the help of the Malay dictionary, to gain some more information from
the old man, and after some time succeeded in making out that he was the
chief Lomba, mentioned by the seamen in their narrative; which was
confirmed by finding that the shirt he wore was marked with the name of
the unfortunate midshipman, J.P. Ching, who so early fell a victim to the
murderous savages on the reef. From our ignorance of the language I was
unable to gain any information of the European boy, said to be still on
the island. Lomba pointed out the village he came from, prettily situated
on the crest of a well-wooded hill, and gave me to understand that I
should there find the other chief, Pabok, who was too old and infirm to
come down. Upon which I determined to remain for the night, in order to
visit the village, in hopes of getting some more information, and also to
make Pabok a present, which he well deserved for his good services.
The gig was accordingly sent inshore to sound, and soon made the signal
of having found an anchorage, upon which we stood in, greatly to the
delight of the natives, who, as they were not armed, were allowed to come
on board, where they behaved very well. Some went aloft with great
activity to assist in furling sails, and two came aft to the wheel, the
use of which they seemed to understand perfectly.
At one o'clock we anchored in 11 fathoms sand and coral, three quarters
of a mile from the shore; and as soon as the ship was secured, a party of
us landed, accompanied by the old chief, and followed by most of the
natives in their canoes.
APPEARANCE OF THE SHORES.
On landing, the contrast to the Australian shores we had so recently
sailed from, was very striking. We left a land covered with the
monotonous interminable forest of the eucalyptus or gumtree, which, from
the peculiar structure of its leaf, affords but little shelter from the
tropical sun. Shores fringed with impenetrable mangroves; a soil
producing scarcely any indigenous vegetable, either in the shape of root
or fruit fit for food. The natives black, naked, lowest in the scale of
civilized life; their dwellings, if such they can be called, formed by
spreading the bark rudely torn from the tree, over a few twigs placed in
the ground, under which they creep for shelter; dependent almost entirely
on the success of the chase for their daily food, not having arrived at
the first and simplest form of cultivation, and in like manner destitute
of all trace of religion, except the faint symptom of belief in an evil
We landed on a beach, along which a luxuriant grove of coconut trees
extended for more than a mile, under the shade of which were sheds neatly
constructed of bamboo and thatched with palm leaves, for the reception of
their canoes. To our right a hill rose to a height of about 400 feet,
covered with brilliant and varied vegetation so luxuriant as entirely to
conceal the village built on its summit. The natives who thronged the
beach were of a light tawny colour, mostly fine, athletic men, with an
intelligent expression of countenance.
DRESS OF THE NATIVES.
Their dress consisted of a cloth round the waist reaching to the knee,
which in some instances was neatly ornamented with small white shells;
their arms and ankles were loaded with rings formed of ebony, ivory, and
coloured glass, some of the former bore evident marks of having been
turned in a lathe. The lobes of their ears were perforated with large
holes, from which enormous earrings of ivory and ebony, in the shape of
padlocks, were suspended, sometimes as many as three from one ear. A few
of the natives had gold earrings of considerable size but rude
workmanship. The boys and younger men had their hair cut short, and their
heads smeared over with a preparation of lime, which bleaches the
naturally black hair to a flaxen colour; as soon as this is effected, the
hair is allowed to grow to a considerable length, and in due time
presents a piebald appearance, the ends retaining the flaxen colour while
the roots are black. When grown to a sufficient length it is wound
gracefully round the head and fastened by a comb of sandalwood or
tortoise-shell; some specimens of which were very large, and of such
superior manufacture as to indicate an intercourse with much more
The natives appeared to be healthy with the exception of a sort of
leprosy, from which many of them were suffering. It gave them a most
disgusting appearance, but did not appear to cause any inconvenience, nor
were they avoided by the rest of their companions, as if the disease had
been contagious. On our first landing, very few of the natives had any
arms, but they afterwards brought down some bows and arrows, some of
which were four or five feet long, neatly headed with iron. We also saw a
few iron-headed spears, a few cresses, and some hatchets of a very rude
Their canoes, about thirty of which were hauled upon the beach, were from
twenty-five to thirty feet long, and very narrow, with outriggers
projecting ten or twelve feet from each side, and supporting a piece of
buoyant wood to give stability. They carried one large mat-sail, but did
not appear to sail fast.
As soon as we had satisfied our curiosity on the beach, old Lomba led the
way to the village on the crest of the hill. The ascent commenced close
to the landing place by a flight of steps rudely formed by logs of wood
laid across a narrow path cut in the hillside, which brought us to within
forty or fifty feet of the summit. After which we had to climb two
ladders, made of hard red wood richly carved, placed almost
perpendicularly against the cliff. In a recess under the upper step we
noticed four small idols that bore a strong resemblance to those of the
South Sea islanders.
VILLAGE OF OLILIET.
After reaching the top of the ladder we passed through a gateway,
evidently intended for defence, and then found ourselves in the village
of Oliliet, built on a level space of considerable extent, accessible
only from seaward by the path we had ascended, which the removal of the
ladders would render impracticable, and on the land side protected by a
wall, beyond which the jungle appeared to be very dense.
The houses, all raised on piles six or eight feet above the ground, could
only be entered by means of a ladder leading through a trapdoor in the
floor. The roofs neatly thatched with palm leaves, and formed with a very
steep pitch projected considerably beyond the low side-walls, and
surmounted at the gables by large wooden horns,* richly carved, from
which long strings of shells hung down to the ground, giving the village
a most picturesque appearance.
(*Footnote. See the view annexed.)
The houses were arranged with considerable regularity, so as to form one
wide street of considerable extent, from which narrow alleys branched on
Our conductor led us to the Oran Kaya, whom we found seated in front of a
small house in the widest part of the street, opposite to which there was
a circular space marked out by a row of stones placed on the ground, and
which appeared to be set aside for religious purposes, as they seemed
unwilling we should set foot within it. Here the natives soon afterwards
assembled in considerable numbers, and were for some time engaged in
ORAN KAYA AND PABOK.
The Oran Kaya, who was an elderly man, received us very civilly, and
invited us to sit down beside him. Soon afterwards Pabok came up. He was
very old, had lost the sight of one eye, and wore an old straw hat of
European manufacture, decorated with stripes of red and blue cloth sewn
round it. I tried in vain to get more information from him about the
European boy; and on pressing him to come down to the boat to receive a
present, he made signs he was too old to do so.
After remaining a short time in the village, during which one of our
party caught a transient glimpse of some of the women, we returned to the
beach; where we found that the natives had brought a plentiful supply of
coconuts, and they promised to bring some other supplies off in the
DEPARTURE FROM OLILIET.
At sunset the natives all went quietly away, and we returned on board,
passing on our way some small rocky islands which appeared to be used as
burial places, and emitted an intolerable stench; the bodies were placed
in rude wooden boxes, open at the top and quite exposed to the air, from
one small rock not large enough to hold a body, there was a long bamboo
erected, from which a human hand, blackened by exposure to the sun, was
On the 22nd, soon after daylight, the natives came off, bringing with
them Indian corn and coconuts, in such quantities that they sold the
latter for a couple of pins each. They also brought yams, bananas, fowls,
chilies, etc. but they did not seem inclined to part with them for
anything we could offer, except gunpowder, which I would not allow to be
given as barter.
At nine, finding we could get no more information from them, we weighed;
the natives all left us very quietly as soon as the capstan was manned,
and by signs appeared to wish us to revisit them. During the whole time
they were on board, they behaved perfectly well, and did not make any
attempt at stealing, though they must have seen many things most valuable
to them, which they might easily have taken.
From what we saw of Oliliet, it does not appear to be a place from which
any quantity of sea stock can be procured, for although they had plenty
of pigs and fowls in the village, they did not seem at all inclined to
part with them. Water may be procured on the beach, but a merchant vessel
should be very cautious in sending her boats for it, as the crew being
necessarily divided, would easily fall victims to any treacherous attack
on the part of the natives; and from all we subsequently learnt of them
from the traders we met at Arru, they are not always to be trusted.
After clearing the bay we stood to the northward, along the east coast of
Timor Laut, which is formed by a range of hills wooded to the very
summit, and indented by deep bays which would afford anchorage during the
North-West monsoon, were it not for a coral reef that appears to extend
along the coast, at a distance of two to three miles from the shore.
During the day we passed six villages, all built like Oliliet on cliffs
overhanging the sea, and protected on the land side by dense jungle,
through which it would be difficult to penetrate.
At sunset, we passed a small detached coral reef, and then steered for
the Arru Islands, in the hope of being able to gain some information from
the traders who frequent them, for the purpose of procuring the birds of
Paradise, trepang, pearls, etc. which are found in their vicinity.
During our passage across, we had very irregular soundings, and at
daylight on the 24th of March, saw the Arru Islands; all the islands of
this group, which extends from North to South about 100 miles, and the
eastern limits of which are but imperfectly known, are very low and
swampy, but from being well-wooded, have the appearance of being much
higher than they really are: many of the trees that we saw attained a
height of ninety feet, before they began to branch out.
We stood along the islands to the northward all day, with very light
winds, and on the 25th were off the entrance of Dobbo harbour, situated
between the two islands, Wamma and Wokan. As there were several
square-rigged vessels in the harbour, we tacked and made signal for a
pilot, and were soon afterwards boarded by the master of one of the
vessels, who to our great delight hailed us in very good English. Under
his pilotage we ran in and anchored off a low sandy point, on which the
traders establish themselves during their stay, by building very neat
bamboo houses thatched with the palm leaf. Several hundred people,
including some Dutchmen from Macassar, and Chinamen, remain throughout
the year. The house of Messrs. Klaper and Nitzk, cost above 300 pounds
and contained goods to the amount of ten times that sum and upwards. The
trade with these islands appears to be carried on in the following
manner. Towards the end of the North-West monsoon, the trading vessels
from Java and Macassar, having laid in their stock for barter, come over
to Dobbo, generally touching at the Ki Islands to procure boats, which
are there built in great numbers. On arriving they make the chief of the
island (who carries a silver-headed stick, with the Dutch arms engraved
upon it, as an emblem of his authority) a present, which he considers to
be his due, consisting generally of arrack and tobacco. The large boats
they have brought from the Ki Islands having been thatched over, and
fitted with mat sails are then despatched through the various channels
leading to the eastward, under the charge of a Chinaman, to trade for
trepang, pearls, pearl oyster-shells, edible birds-nests, and birds of
Paradise, in return for which they give chiefly knives, arrack, tobacco,
coloured cottons, brass wire, ornaments for the arms, etc.
These boats return to their vessels as soon as they have procured a
cargo, of which the pearls form the most valuable portion. The trepang
obtained here is only considered as third-rate; that from the Tenimber
group second, and from Australia first-rate.
BIRDS OF PARADISE.
The birds of Paradise, which are brought from the east side of the
island, appeared to be plentiful; they are shot by the natives (from whom
the traders purchase them for one rupee each) with blunt arrows, which
stun them without injuring the plumage, and are then skinned and dried.
The natives describe them as keeping together in flocks, headed by one,
they call the Rajah bird, whose motions they follow.*
(*Footnote. This is also mentioned by Pennant in his work on the Malayan
Archipelago, published in 1800.)
During the absence of the trading boats, the rest of the crews are
employed making chinam of lime, from the coral which abounds on the
beach, which fetches a good price at Banda, where fuel is expensive.
As soon as the South-East monsoon is fairly set in, the junks are hauled
up on the western side of the sandy spit at high-water spring tides, a
sort of dam is then built round them, with bamboos, and a kind of mat the
Malays call kadgang, banked up with sand; from this the water is bailed
out by hand, so as to form a dry dock in which they clean and coat the
bottom with chinam which lasts till the next season.
The cargo, as it is brought in by the different trading boats, is
carefully dried and stowed away in the different storehouses on the
CHARACTER OF THE NATIVES.
Of the natives of the islands we had not on this occasion an opportunity
of seeing much, but the traders on the whole gave them a good character
for honesty, and described them as a harmless race very much scattered.
They used formerly to bring their articles of barter to Dobbo, but
discontinued it within the last few years, in consequence of having been
ill-used by the Bughis. Many of them profess Christianity, having been
converted by Dutch Missionaries sent from Amboyna.
THE KI ISLANDS.
Having completed our survey of the harbour and obtained such supplies as
we could, which, from the traders only bringing with them enough for
their own consumption, did not amount to much, we sailed for the Ki
Islands; a group sixty miles to the eastward of Arru, consisting of two
large islands called the greater and lesser Ki, and a number of small
islands lying to the westward of the latter.
The great Ki is about sixty miles long, high, and mountainous; the lesser
Ki and the small islands are low, few parts of the group attaining an
elevation of more than fifty feet.
Owing to the light airs and unsettled weather attendant on the change of
the monsoon, it was not till the 3rd that we arrived off the village of
Ki Illi, situated on the north-east end of the great Ki, and finding no
anchorage, the brig stood on and off, while we landed in the boats at the
village which is built close down on the beach and surrounded by a wall,
but not so strongly protected by its position as the villages in Timor
Laut. The houses, like those at Oliliet, were raised on piles above the
ground, but were not surmounted by the carved gables which seem to be
peculiar to the Tenimber group.
In the centre of the village we noticed a large building, evidently a
place of worship, surrounded by a grass plot, on which a number of stones
were ranged in a circle with some taller ones in the middle. Ki Illi is
celebrated for its manufacture of pottery, of which we saw many
specimens, formed with great taste, of a coarse porous material, which
being unglazed is well adapted for cooling by evaporation, in the manner
so much used in the east.
BOAT-BUILDING AT KI ILLI.
We had also an opportunity of seeing the boats, which are built in great
numbers from the excellent timber with which all the islands of this
group abound. They are much used by the traders frequenting the Arru
Islands, and were highly spoken of for their durability and speed. The
boats we saw, though they varied considerably in size, were all built on
the same plan, having a considerable beam, a clean entrance and run, a
flat floor, and the stem and stern post projecting considerably above the
gunwales. They were all built of planks cut out of solid timber to the
form required, dowelled together by wooden pegs, as a cooper fastens the
head of a cask, and the whole afterwards strengthened by timbers, lashed
with split rattan to solid cleats left for the purpose in each plank,
during the process of hewing it into shape.
Four of the smallest of these boats were purchased for the use of the
colony, for about 2 1/2 dollars each, and were found to answer very well.
After leaving Ki Illi we sailed to the southward, along the eastern side
of the great Ki, which is well wooded to the summit of the hills, and
cleared away for cultivation in many places. There is no anchorage off
this side of the island, which is so steep to, that on one occasion we
could get no bottom with ninety fathoms, two ships' lengths from the
At daylight on the 5th we entered the strait between the greater and
lesser Ki, the shores on both sides of which are lined with small patches
of cultivation. During the day we observed several small detached reefs,
and at sunset anchored on a reef, extending from the north end of the
lesser Ki, in thirteen fathoms.
After breakfast, I started with some of the officers to visit Ki Doulan,
the principal village in the lesser Ki, and sent another boat to sound
towards a small island to the westward. After leaving the brig we passed
a luxuriant grove of coconut trees, extending along the beach, under the
shade of which we saw several villages, where the natives were busily
employed building boats.
A pull of three miles brought us to the town of Ki Doulan, situated near
the beach, and surrounded by a stone wall, which had every appearance of
antiquity. On the sea side, where the wall was in its best state of
preservation, there were three gates leading towards the beach, but
accessible only by means of ladders four or five feet high, which could
easily be removed in case of attack. The stones forming the sides of the
central gateway were ornamented by rude bas-reliefs, representing figures
on horseback; and the gate itself, formed of hard wood, and strong enough
to keep out any party not provided with artillery, was richly carved.
NATIVES OF KI DOULAN.
Within the walls there was a considerable space in which the houses were
built without any regularity, resembling those at Oliliet, with the
exception of the carved horns at the gable. We visited the chief's, and
found it tolerably clean: it consisted of one storey only; the
high-pitched roof being used as a storeroom, to the rafters of which all
sorts of miscellaneous articles were suspended. The chief himself, who
was an old man, dressed in the black serge denoting his rank, was very
civil, and offered us arrack and cocoa nuts. The natives of this group
differ considerably from those of Arru, and more resemble those of Timor
Laut, but are not so much inclined to treachery. The population is said
to amount to 8 or 10,000.
Christianity has not made the same progress here as at Arru, and many of
the natives profess the Mahometan faith, to which they have been
converted by the Mahometans of Ceram, who have several priests in the
They pay great attention to cultivation, and produce considerable
quantities of coconut oil of a superior quality. Tortoise-shell is also
found, but their chief source of trade consists in the number of boats
and proas, of various sizes, they build of the timber which abounds in
both islands. Outside the walls we noticed several burial places; and in
a small shed, not very highly ornamented, was a rude figure of a man,
nearly the size of life, holding a spear in his hand; and near this shed
was a building resembling the one at Ki Illi, but much smaller, and very
much out of repair. On the beach two Macassar proas were hauled up to
repair, and their crews had erected houses, similar to those at Arru, for
the purpose of carrying on their trade. The boats, of which the natives
had great numbers in every stage of construction, were more highly
finished than those at Ki Illi, but of the same form.
On returning on board, Mr. Hill, who had been away sounding, reported a
clear channel to the westward. In the evening we again landed at a small
village near the ship, beautifully situated in a most luxuriant grove of
coconut trees, and surrounded by a jungle, too dense to penetrate, except
where a path had been cleared. Many of the trees were very fine.
AGILITY OF JACK WHITE.
We were all much amused and surprised at the extraordinary activity our
Australian native, Jack White, displayed in ascending the coconut trees,
which he did with as much ease as any of us could have mounted a ladder,
and when near the top of one of the highest, finding the sleeves of his
frock and the legs of his trousers in the way, he held on with one arm
and leg, while he rolled his trousers up above the knee, and then with
both legs, while he rolled his sleeves above his elbows. His delight at
the coconuts, which were quite new to him, was very great.
Although we were not very successful in obtaining supplies on this
occasion, we found on a subsequent visit, when our stay was longer, that
they could be obtained at a very moderate price; firewood and water may
also be obtained without difficulty.
Off the town of Ki Doulan the water is too deep for a ship to anchor, but
the shoal which projects from the point of the island three miles north
of the town affords good anchorage in both monsoons.
There seem to be clear passages between all the islands in this group,
though contracted in places by reefs, which, from the clearness of the
water, can be distinctly seen from the masthead.
ISLAND OF VORDATE.
On the morning of the 6th we got underweigh, and passing to the westward
of the Ki group, saw the Nusa Tello Islands indistinctly through the haze
to the westward of us. At dawn on the 7th we made the high land of
Vordate, but light winds prevented our making much progress till the
evening, when a light air carried us along the land, and soon after
sunset we anchored in twenty fathoms off a small village. Daylight on the
8th did not impress us with a favourable idea of our anchorage, for it
appeared we had entered by a narrow and deep channel between two reefs
upon which there was not more than 4 1/2 fathoms.
At 8 a chief came off from the village in a large canoe pulled by about a
dozen men, with a tom-tom beating in the bow. He was very anxious to get
some arrack, and promised plenty of supplies.
After breakfast we landed, and were saluted by one gun from a proa hauled
up on the beach. Our arrival had evidently caused much excitement among
the natives, who came down in great numbers, and formed a semicircle
round the boat. They were nearly all armed with cresses and steel-headed
spears. Several of them wore a sort of breastplate made of hide, and
their heads were ornamented with a profusion of richly coloured feathers
and long horn-like projections formed of white calico; long necklaces of
shells hung down to their waists, and all had their hair dyed in the same
way as at Oliliet. Here we again noticed the carved horns surmounting the
gables of the houses.
THE ORAN KAYA.
Soon after we landed, the Oran Kaya made his appearance, and seemed to be
in a great state of alarm. As soon as he got within the circle of his
countrymen he commenced a series of most profound salaams, bending his
head down till he touched my feet. By way of reassuring him, I presented
him with a fine gaudy red shawl, which for a time had the desired effect;
and he then produced a document in Dutch, signed by Lieutenant Kolff,
which appeared to be a certificate of good conduct. By means of the
vocabulary and dictionary I tried to make them understand that we only
wanted some pigs, vegetables and poultry, for which we had brought money
to pay or goods to exchange. These he promised to procure for us, and to
send them on board, earnestly making signs all the time that we should go
away as soon as possible.
ALARM OF THE NATIVES.
Finding the natives still coming down to the beach in great numbers, and
that all were in a highly excited state, we merely gratified our
curiosity on the beach, without attempting to go into their village, and
returned on board.
We subsequently found out that the natives had some reason to be alarmed
at our appearance, as they had been recently visited by a frigate, sent
by the Dutch government to punish the inhabitants of the neighbouring
island Laarat for the murder of Captain Harris, and part of the crew of
the English bark Alexander, on which occasion she destroyed the village
and took away several of the natives, who were supposed to have been
implicated in the business, prisoners to Amboyna.
After about an hour, during which the natives remained in a compact group
on the beach, evidently in deep consultation, the same chief who visited
us in the morning came off again, bringing with him the promised
supplies, consisting only of a billy-goat and a small pig. We tried some
time in vain to convince him we had no hostile intentions, and as the
weather was too unsettled to remain in so insecure an anchorage, we
weighed, and made sail for Oliliet, passing close along the island of
Vordate, which is moderately high, luxuriantly wooded, very well
cultivated, and apparently densely inhabited. It is separated from Laarat
by a narrow strait, which, from the way the sea broke across it, appeared
to be quite shoal.
RETURN TO OLILIET.
At 10 A.M. we were off Laouran, but finding the swell, occasioned by the
strong breezes experienced yesterday, was breaking too heavily on the
reef skirting the bay for a boat to land, we stood on for Oliliet, and on
rounding the point fired a gun and hove to. Two canoes soon after left
the beach, and from the number of articles of European manufacture with
which they were decorated, we soon saw that some vessel must have visited
the place since our departure; and on the chief coming on board he handed
me some papers, from which I ascertained that Mr. Watson, commanding the
Essington schooner, had visited the place during our absence; and by
having a person on board who could communicate with the natives, he had
succeeded by threats and promises held out to the chiefs in getting the
European boy given up to him. The boy had nearly forgotten his English at
first, but Mr. Watson afterwards made out that he belonged to the
Stedcombe schooner, the crew of which were all murdered by the natives
while engaged in watering their vessel. He had been ten years on the
island, during which time he had been well treated by his captors.
The brig was obliged to stand off and on, as there is no anchorage off
Oliliet during the south-east monsoon, which had now set in; but two
boats were sent on shore to obtain supplies.
CONDUCT OF THE NATIVES.
They were well received by the natives, and again visited the village,
where they were surprised to find that all the women came out to see
them. All, both young and old, were dressed in a dark coloured wrapper,
which reached from the waist to the knees, and on their ankles they wore
a profusion of bright brass ornaments. The boats were not very successful
in procuring stock, but the chiefs promised an abundant supply in the
morning, which I determined to wait for, and accordingly worked to
windward under easy sail during the night, but found at daylight that we
had been sent so far to the southward by a current, that it was 10 A.M.
before we were again near enough to send the boats in.
On landing they found all their chiefs, and a considerable number of the
natives waiting on the beach with vegetables, etc. for sale. But they had
hardly commenced their barter, when a powerful looking man, armed with a
large iron-headed spear, in a state of intoxication, came rushing down
from the village; he made directly for the crowd upon the beach,
apparently with the intention of attacking our party; but the natives
immediately closed upon him, and after some trouble disarmed him; after
which he continued to rush about the crowd in a violent state of
excitement, running against any of our party he could see, and making
urgent signs to them to leave the shore.
At the same time the noise and confusion on the beach was so great, that
the officer in charge of the party prepared to return on board at once,
in order to avoid any collision with the natives. As soon as the chiefs
became aware of his intention, they were most anxious he should remain,
and made every profession of friendship to induce him to do so; but he
had heard so much of their treachery from the traders at Arru that he
resisted their entreaties, and returned on board at half-past eleven.
ARRIVE AT PORT ESSINGTON.
As soon as the boats were hoisted up, we made sail for Port Essington,
and anchored there on the 15th of April.
It was our intention to have concluded this volume with Captain Stanley's
narrative, but as the following account of the daring manner in which Mr.
Watson rescued the English boy from the savages of Timor Laut, has fallen
into our hands, and as doubtless it was the cause of the strange and
suspicious reception the Britomart's boats met with on their second visit
to Oliliet, we here lay it before our readers:
MR. WATSON'S PROCEEDINGS AT TIMOR LAUT.
Mr. Watson had not been off the island long before his vessel, the
schooner Essington, was surrounded by eleven armed canoes, for the
purpose of attack. The chief wished Mr. Watson to go in and anchor, which
he refused, but showed him that he was ready for defence in case of any
outrage on their part. The chief, thinking he could entrap him, made
signs of friendship, and Mr. Watson allowed him and his crew to come on
board. The chief then said that a white man was on shore, and wished the
master to go and fetch him off, which was refused. Mr. Watson then laid
out an immense quantity of merchandise, which he said he would give for
the white man, and desired the chief to send his canoe ashore to fetch
him; stating, however, that he would retain him on board till the white
man came, and also, that if he was not immediately brought, he would
either hang or shoot the chief, and he had rope prepared for the purpose,
as also a gun. This manoeuvre had the desired effect on the chief, who
immediately despatched his canoe to the shore. For three days and nights
Mr. Watson was compelled to cruise off the island, the natives still
refusing to bring off Forbes. Towards the close of the third day they
brought off the boy, but would not put him on board until Mr. Watson
placed the rope round the chief's neck, when they came alongside; and as
the crew of the Essington were hoisting Forbes up the side of the vessel,
the chief jumped overboard into his canoe. Mr. Watson made the chief come
on board again, and told him that although he had deceived and wished to
entrap him, yet he would show that the white men were as good as their
word; and not only gave the chief the promised wares, but also
distributed some to each of the other ten canoes. This line of conduct
had a very good effect on the natives, who after receiving the goods
expressed great joy, and as they were leaving kept up a constant cheer.
Forbes at first appeared in a savage state, but after a short time,
stated the following particulars relative to the loss of the Stedcombe,
and the massacre of the crew: The Stedcombe, Mr. Barns, master, arrived
off the coast in the year 1823. Mr. Barns* having left her in charge of
the mate, he and two or three others went ashore at Melville Island.
(*Footnote. When at Sydney, in 1838, I met Mr. Barns, who corroborated
Forbes's account. J.L.S.)
The mate ran her into Timor Laut, and anchored; he then went ashore with
the crew, leaving the steward, Forbes, and another boy, on board. After
they had been ashore a short time, Forbes looked through a telescope to
see what they were about, when he saw that the whole of the crew were
being massacred by the natives. He immediately communicated that fact to
the steward, and advised him to unshackle the anchor, and run out to sea,
as the wind was from the land. The steward told him to go about his
business, and when he got on deck he found the vessel surrounded with
canoes. The natives came on board and murdered the steward; Forbes and
the other boy got up the rigging, and in consequence of their expertness
the natives were unable to catch them, but at last made signs for them to
come down, and they would not hurt them. They availed themselves of the
only chance left them of saving their lives, and surrendered. They were
immediately bound, and taken on shore; a rope was fastened to the ship,
her cable slipped, and the natives hauled her ashore, where she soon
became a wreck. Forbes states that several Dutchmen had called at the
island, to whom he appealed for rescue, but they all refused to
interfere; and latterly, whenever any vessel hove in sight, he was always
bound hand and foot, so that he should have no chance of escape. Both
himself and the other boy had been made slaves to the tribes; his
companion died about three years since. The poor fellow is still in a
very bad state of health; the sinews of his legs are very much
contracted, and he has a great number of ulcers all over his legs and
body. Fortunately for Forbes, Mr. Watson had a surgeon on board the
Essington, who immediately put him under a course of medicine, which,
without doubt, saved his life; for, from the emaciated state in which he
was received on board, it was impossible, without medical aid, that he
could have survived much longer. Too much Fraise cannot be awarded to Mr.
Watson for his exertions in rescuing this lad.
LIST OF BIRDS,
COLLECTED BY THE OFFICERS OF H.M.S. BEAGLE,
DURING THE YEARS 1837 TO 1843.
Astur approximans, Vig. and Horsf.
Podargus humeralis, Vig. and Horsf.
Podargus phalaenoides, Gould.
Merops ornatus, Lath.
Dacelo cervina, Gould.
Halcyon macleayii, Jard. and Selb.
Dicrurus bracteatus, Gould.
Colluricincla cinerea, Gould.
Pachycephala melanura, Gould.
Pachycephala pectoralis, Vig. and Horsf.
Pachycephala lanoides, Gould.
Pitta Iris, Gould.
Cinclosoma punctatum, Vig. and Horsf.
Malurus Lamberti, Vig. and Horsf.
Malurus melanocephalus, Vig. and Horsf.
Malurus brownii, Vig. and Horsf.
Cysticola exilis ?
Mirafra ? ---- ?
Pardalotus uropygialis, Gould.
Amadina gouldiae, Gould.
Estrelda annulosa, Gould.
Donacola pectoralis, Gould.
Donacola flaviprymna, Gould.
Emblema picta, Gould.
Poephila acuticauda, Gould.
Rhipidura albiscapa, Gould.
Rhipidura isura, Gould.
Piezorhynchus nitidus, Gould.
Gerygone ---- (like G. albogularis).
Cacatua galerita, Vieill.
Calyptorhynchus macrorhynchus, Gould.
Trichoglossus swainsonii, Jard. and Selb.
Trichoglossus rubritorquis, Vig. and Horsf.
Trichoglossus versicolor, Vig.
Climacteris melanura, Gould.
Sittella leucoptera, Gould.
Meliphaga novae-hollandiae, Vig. and Horsf.
Glyciphila ocularis, Gould.
Glyciphila fasciata, Gould.
Ptilotis versicolor, Gould.
Ptilotis flavescens, Gould.
Ptilotis flava, Gould.
Entomophila albogularis, Gould.
Entomophila rufogularis, Gould.
Acanthogenys rufogularis, Gould.
Tropidorhynchus citreogularis, Gould.
Tropidorhynchus argenticeps, Gould.
Acanthorhynchus superciliosus, Gould.
Myzomela erythrocephala, Gould.
Myzomela pectoralis, Gould.
Myzomela obscura, Gould.
Myzantha lutea, Gould.
Geophaps plumifera, Gould.
Petrophassa albipennis, Gould.
Geopelia placida, Gould.
Haematopus fuliginosus, Gould.
Turnix melanotus, Gould.
Turnix castanotus, Gould.
Turnix velox, Gould.
Turnix pyrrhothorax, Gould.
Synoicus ? chinensis.
Ardea novae-holiandiae, Lath.
Nycticorax caledonicus, Less.
Numenius australasianus, Gould.
Recurvirostra rubricollis, Temm.
Strepsilas collaris, Linn.
Nettapus pulchellus, Gould.
Podiceps poliocephalus, Jard. and Selb.
Phalacrocorax carboides, Gould.
Phalacrocorax melanoleucus, Vieill.
DESCRIPTIONS OF SIX FISH
TAKEN BY THE OFFICERS OF THE BEAGLE ON THE COASTS OF AUSTRALIA,
BY SIR JOHN RICHARDSON, M.D. F.R.S., ETC.
INSPECTOR OF NAVAL HOSPITALS.
Balistes phaleratus. RICHARDSON.
CH. SPEC. B. cauda tot aculeolis quot squamis armata; gena tota squamulis
stipatis aspera, nec lines laevibus decursa; squamis majoribus
rotuntdatis post aperturam branchiorum; fascia frontali et mtacula caudae
nigris: fascia nigra laterali ab oculo ad caudam extensa, cumque pari suo
ter trans dorsum conjugata.
RADII. D. 3-1 : 25; A. 1 : 23; C. 12; P. 14.
FISHES. PLATE 1. Figures 4, 5.
Profile oval, with a somewhat convex nape, and the face descending in a
very slightly concave line. The mouth is on a level with the middle
height of the body, and forms the obtuse end of the oval. The white teeth
have their points ranged evenly, the eye is high up but does not touch
the profile, and the two contiguous openings of the nostrils are
immediately before it. The gill opening inclines obliquely forward as it
descends, touches the middle line of height at its lower end, and its
length is equal to a fifth of the altitude of the body. The scales
anterior to the pectorals and gill openings are closer and finer than on
the hinder parts of the fish. On the body each scale is roughened by
vertical rows of blunt points, which become more acute towards the hinder
part of the flanks, and on the tail one of the points of each scale rises
into a minute spine curved towards the caudal fin. In the narrowest part
of the tail there are not above three or four of these spines in a
vertical row, but there are ten or more between the posterior parts of
the dorsal and anal. Immediately behind the gill openings there are three
roundish scales larger than the others. The scales of the cheeks are
studded with points, which are more minute and rounded than the others,
and there are no smooth intervening lines, such as exist on the cheeks of
some other species. The dorsal spine is rather short, thickish, and not
acute. It is strongly roughened by five or six rows of short bluntish and
truncated teeth. The soft dorsal and anal commence with a simple flexible
ray which is not jointed. The other rays have each from four to six rough
points near their bases. The rays of the caudal are alternate. The
ventral spine is short and blunt, and is armed with short divaricated
teeth, some of which are forked. The roughness runs forward on the chine
or ventral line, until it passes gradually into the ordinary scales of
the head. The dewlap is very slightly extensible, and but little
developed. It is supported by six thread-like rays, which are all divided
to the base.
A black band crosses the forehead from eye to eye. The upper half of the
eye is bordered with black. The first dorsal exclusive of its last ray is
of the same hue; a black band descends from it, and two from the second
dorsal, which meet in a stripe that extends from the eye to the tail, the
whole bearing some resemblance to the traces of a coach-horse. There is
also a black mark on the upper surface of the tail, and a minute brownish
speck on each scale, which specks form very faint rows on the cheeks and
belly. The ground tint is pale or whitish, with some duskiness on the
face, as if it had been coloured when recent. Length, 2 1/4 inches.
Height of body, 1 1/8 inch.
HABITAT. The western coasts of Australia.
Cristiceps axillaris. RICHARDSON.
CH. SPEC. C. pinnis intaminatis; macula argentata post os maxillare,
altera in summa gena pone oculum et tertia majori in axilla pectorali;
linea laterali argenteo-punctata.
RADII. B.6; D. 3 : --28 : 7; A. 2 : 25; C. 11; P. 11; V.1 : 2.
FISHES. PLATE 1. Figures 1, 2, 3.
This singularly delicate and clear-looking fish has, after long immersion
in spirits, a pale flesh colour, with transparent and spotless fins. A
bright silvery streak descends from the angle of the preorbitar to the
corner of the mouth, where it dilates a little. A speck of the same
colour exists within the upper limb of the preoperculum, and immediately
behind the pectoral fin there is a large oblong one. The little tubes
forming the lateral line are also silvery. It is with much doubt that I
name this species as distinct from the C. australis of the Histoire des
Poissons, but there some points in M. Valenciennes' description of that
fish which I cannot reconcile with the specimen now under consideration.
And first, with respect to scales, M. Valenciennes states that he could
detect none in australis, but in axillaris there are minute round scales,
lying rather wide of each other, each having central umbo and lines
radiating from it to the circumference. These scales are not easily seen
while the skin continues moist, but become apparent as it dries, and are
most numerous towards the tail. The head of axillaris is scaleless, and a
row of pores runs along the lower jaw, up the preoperculum, and along the
temporal groove. The eye is also encircled by similar pores. The muscular
fibres shine through the delicate skin as in australis, and the teeth on
the jaws and vomer appear to be similar. On comparing the specimen of
axillaris with the figure of australis in the Histoire des Poissons, the
second dorsal does not appear undulated as in the latter, but the spinous
rays increase gradually in height from the first, and the anterior dorsal
is proportionally higher; the distance also between the ventrals and anus
is considerably less in proportion to the length of the head, which is
contained four times and a half in the total length of the fish, while
the height of the body is contained five times. The proportions of
australis are stated differently. Length of specimen, 3.42 inches.
HABITAT. King George's Sound (Benj. Bynoe, Esquire Surgeon of the
Since the above notice was drawn up I have examined a cristiceps upwards
of six inches long, which was sent from Botany Bay by Sir Everard Home to
the College of Surgeons. This does not clear up the doubt respecting the
identity of australis and cristiceps. It has completely lost its colours,
and shows neither the greenish bands of australis, nor the silvery marks
of axillaris, it has, however, the form of the fins of the latter, with
the number of rays exactly as in australis, a space between the ventrals
and anus equal to the length of the head, scales on the body, as in
axillaris, and similar pores on the head. Better materials are required
to enable us to decide whether axillaris be a nominal species or not.
Scorpaena stokesii. RICHARDSON.
RADII. D. 12 : 9; A. 3 : 5; C. 13 6/6; P. 17; V. 1 : 5.
FISHES. PLATE 2. Figures 6, 7, 8, and 9, natural size.
The Scorpaenae have so strong a generic resemblance among themselves that
it is difficult to detect the distinctive characters of the species,
especially as the colours of the recent fish speedily fade when macerated
in spirits, or when the mucous integument decays or is injured. We have
received but a single example of the subject of this article, which is
named in honour of the able commander of the Beagle.
The species bears a near resemblance to the Scorpaena militaris, but
differs from it in having no spinous point terminating the intra orbitar
ridges, and in the distribution of the scales on the cheek and gill
cover. The spinous points on the head approach very near to those of bufo
and porcus. The inferior preorbitar tooth is acutely spinous, and points
directly downwards; the two anterior ones are inconspicuous, and not very
acute, and the smaller upper posterior one observed in most Scorpaenae is
obsolete, or, at least, completely hidden by the integuments. The nasal
spines are, as usual, small, simple, and acute. The three supra orbitar
teeth are smaller than in militaris, and the middle one reclines so as to
be concealed by the integument instead of standing boldly up. The two low
ridges between the orbits do not end in spinous points. The lateral
ridges continued from the orbits over the supra scapulars, and the
temporal ridges which are parallel to them, but run farther back, contain
each four teeth. The infra-orbitar ridge is slightly uneven anteriorly,
and two reclining teeth may be made out at its posterior end. The
preoperculum is curved in the segment of a circle, and has a short spine,
with a smaller one on its base, opposite to the abutment of the
infra-orbitar ridge. Beneath this spine there are four angular points on
the edge of the bone. The opercular spines are as usual two in number,
being the tips of two low even divergent ridges, with a curved notch in
the edges of the bone between them. The coracoid bone is notched above
the pectoral fin, the notch being terminated below by a spine, and above
by an acute corner. There are no scales between the cranial ridges on the
top of the head, nor in the concave inter-orbital space. A single row of
five or six scales traverses the cheek below the infra-orbitar ridge. The
temples before the upper limb of the preoperculum are densely scaly, as
is also the gill flap above the upper opercular ridge. The acute
membranous lobe which fills the notch between the two opercular spines is
likewise scaly, and there are a few scales about the origin of the
ridges, but the space between the ridges, the sub-operculum, and the
inter-operculum, are naked.
There is a short fringed superciliary cirrhus, and some slender filaments
from other parts of the head, as shown in the figure, also lax skinny
tips on the inferior points of the preorbitar and preoperculum, but the
condition of the specimen does not admit of other cirrhi being properly
made out if such actually existed. In the axilla of the pectoral there
are four or five pale round spots. The figure, which is of the natural
size, represents the markings which remain after long maceration in weak
spirit. If there be a black mark in the first dorsal, as in the
militaris, it is effaced in our specimen. Length, 2.4 inches.
HABITAT. The coasts of Australia.
Smaris porosus. RICHARDSON.
CH. SPEC. Smaris rostro porosissimo; fascia obscura e rostro per oculum
recte ad caudam tracta; fascia altera in summo dorso.
RADII. B. 6; D. 10 : 9; A. 3 : 7; C. 15 5/5; V. 1 : 5.
FISHES. PLATE 3.
This Smaris has fewer dorsal rays than any species described in the
Histoire des Poissons, and a shorter body than the Mediterranean
vulgaris. Its shape is fusiform, the greatest height, which is at the
ventrals, and which exceeds twice the thickness, being contained exactly
four times in the total length, caudal included. The thickness at the
gill cover is greater than that of the body, which lessens very gradually
to the end of the tail. The snout is transversely obtuse, but is rather
acute in profile. A cross section of the body at the ventrals is ovate,
approaching to an oval, the obtuse end being upwards. In profile the
curve of the belly is rather greater than that of the back, and the face
slopes downwards to the mouth, nearly in a straight line.
The head forms rather less than a quarter of the whole length. The eye is
large, and approaches near the profile without trenching on it. The mouth
is scarcely cleft so far back as the nostrils. The intermaxillaries are
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