Discoveries in Australia, Volume 2
John Lort Stokes
Part 4 out of 8
By the time we got within doors, after our unsuccessful stroll, we were
quite tired, and well prepared to enjoy our dinner. The dignified air
assumed by our guide, evidently for the purpose of showing off, and the
ostentatious liberality with which he proffered the goodly viands sent by
the commandant, amused us highly. An account of our fare may be
acceptable to the gastronomic reader, who will thus be enabled to
determine whether he should envy or pity the voyager to the distant
shores of Timor. First came tea and coffee; then, in the course of an
hour, followed fowls, cooked in all sorts of ways, with a proportion of
rice. The good things were brought in by a train of domestics some fifty
yards long, headed by a paunchy, elderly man, who greatly reminded us of
Caleb Balderston. If there was a word said by any of the lookers-on--for
many came to have a gaze at the lions--he was out in a moment, and
brought the offender to account. In short, by his officious attention he
afforded us much amusement, and greatly contributed to our proper
enjoyment of the dinner. Our candles were original ones--a few threads of
cotton drawn through a roll of bees' wax.
Dinner being over, we retired to pass as cold a night as we had felt for
some time, having only a few coarse mats to cover us; so that long before
daylight we were obliged to get up and walk about for the purpose of
warming ourselves. The first of the morning we spent again
pigeon-shooting; the birds were large and wild, yet we managed to get a
THE HILLS IN A MIST.
This excursion gave us an opportunity of beholding the mountains of Timor
under a remarkable aspect. From various openings in the woody plain we
could perceive their sides, clothed in grey mist, above which sometimes
we caught a glimpse of a pinnacle rising through the clear air, and just
touched by the rays of the morning sun. Here and there the slopes of the
hills were dimly seen through the vapour, which in other places, however,
rolled along in thick masses, completely hiding the uplands from view.
Nearly every gorge and valley was filled with heavy volumes of fog,
whilst in some, a slight steam only rising, allowed the trees to be
faintly discovered. There is nothing more grand than the aspect of lofty
peaks and crags and precipices imperfectly revealed through a morning
mist. It seems as though the darkness of night, unwilling to depart,
lingers still fondly around them. Their hollows and recesses are still
wrapt in gloom, when all else around is beaming with light. Within the
tropics the contrast thus afforded has a startling effect; but the
influence of the sun is not long to be resisted; the mist soon begins to
disperse; valley after valley opens its depths to the view; the outline
of each rocky peak becomes more and more defined against the deep blue
sky, and presently the whole scene appears before you clear and bright,
with every line sharply drawn, every patch of colour properly
discriminated, a splendid panorama of towering hills and waving forests.
Whilst I was gazing at this picture, the report of a fowling piece behind
me drew my attention, and on turning I was surprised to see the old
commandant out shooting likewise, and with him no less a person than
Caleb Balderston, as we had christened his faithful domestic. In their
company we returned to Pritie.
MUSTER OF THE PARTY.
Soon after breakfast our party began to muster, each man armed with a
long-condemned Tower musket. On one of them I was surprised to recognize
the name of a marine who had belonged to the Beagle in 1827. The powder
they used was of the coarsest kind, carried in small pieces of bamboo,
each containing a charge, and fitted in a case of skin, something like
our cartouch boxes. As a substitute for balls they used BOLTS OF STONE,
from two to three inches long. Besides a musket, each had a huge knife or
chopper, stuck in his belt. I was much struck with the simple contrivance
they had for shoes: a piece of the fan palm plaited together and tied
under the foot. The number of uses to which this tree is applied is
astonishing--for making water-buckets, for thatching houses, filling up
the panel-work of doors, and a variety of others I could mention.
It was late before we could muster all our force; but we at length got
away, commandant and all. I was much pleased with the respect everyone
paid him, especially as he was one of those mild kind persons who require
very little. Soon after leaving the village we halted in a shady spot,
near a stream of water, some of our party being still missing. This gave
me a good opportunity of comparing the features of the Malay and Timoree,
for some of both were in attendance. The Malay has a much more open
countenance than the Timoree, but is not so handsome, the latter having a
more aquiline nose.
THE SHOOTING ARRANGEMENTS.
When they all arrived I counted fifty armed men. There were some whose
grey hairs proclaimed their lengthened years; though there was a keenness
in their eyes that revealed that the principle of vitality was strong
within them yet; in others all the dash and vigour of youth was
perceptible; many had a truly wild appearance, with their long bushy hair
and ever restless eye. It was a picturesque sight to behold fifty such
fine fellows scattered about in small groups in the deep shade of these
All the necessary arrangements being made, we once more started. An
hour's walk brought us to a rather large plain, where I and my companions
were stationed, about a hundred yards asunder, whilst the rest of the
party formed a circle, driving all the game in our direction.
Unfortunately those on the left commenced hallooing before those on the
right, in which latter direction the only three deer in the circle ran
from the noise, instead of towards us. Two of them were shot, and by the
stone bolts above mentioned. We now went to fresh ground, when, provoking
to say, the same thing happened again, not without our suspicions being
raised that this was purposely contrived; so that after all we were
obliged to leave without a single shot. Each deer, the largest of which,
a doe, must have weighed a hundred pounds, was shot STANDING, for the
natives have a peculiar cry, which arrests the animal's progress for a
moment, while they fire.
THE JAVANESE COMMANDANT.
The deer were all brought up to the commandant, who begged our acceptance
of them. We thanked him, and took the two smallest. By the time we
reached Pritie they were skinned and hung up, ready to be put into the
boats. The persons who had shot them had received their stone bolts again
very little injured; the hole they make is enormous. We rewarded these
people; but to the commandant we were really at a loss how to express our
obligations. At length we thought of giving him some powder and shot,
which was a present he seemed right glad to receive. I afterwards learnt
the history of this excellent old Javanese, and was surprised and grieved
to hear that a person so universally esteemed had been banished from Java
and his family for some trifling political offence. His property was sold
to purchase his freedom, and the proceeds were entrusted to the captain
of a ship, who ran off with the whole, thus at once ruining a most worthy
family, and reducing my good friend the commandant to the necessity of
remaining in exile. I was glad to hear, on my second visit to Timor, that
he was still alive and well, though without any prospect of an
alleviation to his condition.
Wishing him farewell, we left Pritie with some regret. By dark we had
crossed Babao Bay, and reached the ship at half-past eight. It may be as
well to mention that, looking from Coepang, the valley of Pritie is
situated immediately under Timor Peak, the highest over the northern
shore of Babao Bay. A small hut, on a projecting shingle point, close to
the westward, marks the landing place, where several canoes are generally
to be seen hauled up. At high tide a boat can get in; but, as we have
already said, there is a long mud flat at low-water.
The Timorees do not bear the character of being very industrious; the
small portion of land they cultivate is turned up in the following
manner: a slight fence is placed round the part required for the purposes
of agriculture and a drove of bullocks is driven furiously backwards and
forwards over it; which very much resembles the mode adopted for
thrashing corn in some parts of South America.
The Rajahs of the western portion of Timor receive their appointment from
the Resident at Coepang; and their installation I am told is rather a
grand affair. Nearly all the Timorees speak Malay, a soft
pleasant-sounding tongue, apparently easy to be acquired; but there were
few of the Coepang people that spoke the native language. Some of the
Timor customs are singular: if a woman, for example, dies in childbirth,
she is buried on the spot where she breathes her last.
DUTCH SETTLEMENT IN NEW GUINEA.
During our stay at Coepang I met the doctor of the Dutch settlement at
Triton Bay, on the west coast of New Guinea. He gave me a very poor
account of the inhabitants. The Dutch settlers, he says, can scarcely
venture out of the fort; as the natives have bows and arrows, as well as
muskets, with which they are excellent marksmen. Their firearms they
obtain in exchange for birds of paradise, tortoise-shell and birds-nests,
from vessels from the Arru, and other islands in the Eastern Archipelago.
When a vessel arrives on the coast they flock down from the interior to
trade, which cannot be done without an interpreter. It is even then
attended with great risk, owing to the extreme treachery of the natives.
Knives, stained blue, and cotton goods are in great request; but,
although they of aware of the superiority of Europeans, they will not on
any account allow them to live in their country. The inhabitants,
however, are better disposed on the shores of Great Bay, a deep
indentation on the north-east side of the island, where great quantities
of nutmeg grow.
On the 5th the Mangles arrived from Sydney by the outer route through
Torres Strait, having lost all her anchors, and been nearly wrecked in a
south-east gale near Halfway Island. She was commanded by the same
master, Mr. Carr, to whom I have before alluded as having given the first
information concerning the survivors of the crew of the Charles Eaton.
ISLAND OF ROTTEE.
The next afternoon we weighed, and the following morning anchored, the
water being deep, close in near Tykale Inlet, on the south-west side of
Rottee, for observations,* and for the purpose of better determining the
position of Pulo Douw, and the other islands in its neighbourhood.
(*Footnote. They placed the south point of the inlet in latitude 10
degrees 46 minutes 18 seconds South and longitude 0 degrees 43 minutes 50
seconds West of Coepang.)
An extensive coral flat fronts this part of Rottee, connecting it with
the small islands lying off it.
We got from the natives some shells of a kind of small green mussel of a
very peculiar shape. The old men from whom I got them was making a meal
from some rare shell-fish. He did not understand the value of money; and,
strange to say, not a word of the Malay language. The same was the case
with all his companions. At the part of Samow I visited the people all
understood it, which is very remarkable, as only a narrow strait
separates the islands. In this state of ignorance they may perhaps be
I here recognised several Australian shrubs and palms. The rock of which
this port of Rottee is formed appeared of a madreporic nature, scattered
about in huge blocks. At a little distance from the water it formed low
broken cliffs from twenty to thirty feet in length; these were everywhere
undermined by the sea, from which the land here was evidently emerging. I
noticed several deserted huts and broken walls or fences, which bore the
appearance of having had much labour bestowed on them at some time or
other. They added much to the lonely appearance of the place, for there
is nothing that imparts so great an air of desolation to a scene as the
signs that it has once been inhabited by man. Tracts which have never
before been trodden by human foot may be gazed on with pleasurable
emotions; but there are always melancholy associations connected with a
spot which our fellow-creatures have once inhabited and abandoned.
The natives we saw belonged to the southern side of Tykale Inlet. They
were occupied in looking after some weirs, from the size and number of
which it would appear that they chiefly live on fish.
JEWELLERS OF PULO DOUW.
The inhabitants of Pulo Douw are a small wandering tribe from Savu,
chiefly jewellers, as the Resident at Coepang informed me. It is a
strange place for them to take up their abode in; perhaps they do not
like the idea of living under a Rajah. They are, I believe, beautiful
workmen; but with them all is not gold that glitters. There are plenty of
coconuts in the island, but little water; the landing at all times is
When at Coepang we saw some specimens of the gold, collected after heavy
rains from the washings of the hills, and brought down for barter to the
merchants in grains enclosed in small lengths of bamboo, containing each
from six to eighteen drams. Thirty miles south-west of Diely, also, are
some mines of virgin copper.
Sail from Rottee.
Search for shoal.
Examination of coast.
Passage between Delambre and Huiy Islands.
Proceed to Montebello Isles.
Description of them.
Abundance of turtle.
Sail for Swan River.
Find Ritchie's Reef.
Islands between Barrow's and North-West Cape.
Table of soundings.
Swan River Native.
Anchor under Rottnest.
Habits of a native dog.
Sail from Swan River.
Error in position of Cape Naturaliste.
King George's Sound.
Appearance of Bald Head.
Princess Royal Harbour.
Origin of settlement.
Town of Albany.
Salubrity of climate.
Excursion into interior.
Course a kangaroo.
Herds of kangaroos.
The Hay River.
Return to Albany.
Departure for South Australia.
Discover an Island.
Death of a seaman.
Position of Neptune Isles.
Kangaroo, Althorp and Quoin Islands.
Description of country.
Governor Gawler's policy.
Visit the Port.
Mr. Eyre's expedition.
Hardships of Overlanders.
Meet Captain Sturt.
System of education.
Sail for Sydney.
Error in coast.
Arrive at Sydney.
Leaving Rottee we passed, soon after dark, round the western end of Pulo
Douw, and stood for the position of a shoal reported by Mr. Lewis of the
Colonial schooner, Isabella, to be in latitude 14 degrees 43 minutes
South, and longitude 119 degrees 20 minutes East. Our inducement to
search for this shoal was the fact of its being supposed to lie in the
direct route of vessels sailing between Timor and the West coast of
Australia. But after searching from the 9th to the 14th, and sounding
repeatedly without getting bottom, we came to the conclusion that it did
not exist. Breakers could have been seen at least ten miles from the
Beagle's masthead, as there was a considerable swell from the south-west.
On the 15th we were in latitude 16 degrees 05 minutes South and longitude
118 degrees 16 minutes East. After one of those stagnant calms so
frequently met with near the equator, we got a light westerly breeze on
the morning of the 18th. Towards midnight it freshened, veering from
South-West by South to West-South-West with some rather sharp rain
squalls. It appears that the westerly winds had already set in, and that
the calm we experienced on the 17th was an unoccupied space between the
easterly and westerly winds. There are few parts of the globe where light
winds prevail so much as on the North-west coast of New Holland,
particularly between the latitudes of 13 and 17 degrees, and from one to
two hundred miles from the land. They are, however, excepting in the
months of January, February, and March, from the eastward, south-east in
the morning and east in the afternoon. These winds prevented us from
making the coast on the eastward of Depuch Island; and as we had failed
in getting a supply of provisions at Timor, we were compelled to
relinquish the plan of continuing the examination of that part of the
coast between the Turtle Islands and Roebuck Bay.
The Beagle was consequently anchored under Bezout Island, one of the
eastern isles of Dampier's Archipelago, and boats were sent to examine
the coast on the southward of Cape Lambert.
It may, perhaps, be worthy of remark, that should a vessel be brought by
any chance to this dreary part of the world in May, June, or July,
anchorages exposed to easterly winds should be left at or before
daylight--that being the time they set in; by noon all is again quiet.
Bezout Island is of the same formation as Depuch; and so are many of the
broken ridges, with bare stony summits, of a dark brown hue, on the main
near Cape Lambert, trending South-South-West. A more dreary sterile
country can scarcely be seen; yet it still maintains inhabitants.
The weather has been truly strange for the last four days. The winds,
instead of being easterly have been from South-west to North-west, light
with the former during the mornings, and moderate with the latter in the
evenings. On this day they were from all quarters, with distant thunder
in the north-west, and several rain squalls. In the night it settled at
east, a fresh breeze bringing with it fine weather. In connection with
our former remarks on striking vicissitudes in the weather occurring near
the change of the moon, we should mention that it was new moon the day
The material for the chart collected in this part consists of the main
from below Picard Island to nearly twenty miles west of Cape Lambert,
with the neighbouring islands, an extent of nearly forty-five miles. The
part near Picard Island was carefully examined by Mr. Forsyth. He
reported the main to the South-South-West of that island, forming the
head of the bay between Cape Lambert and Depuch, to be extensive flats of
mud and sand, over which the sea sometimes passed. Between Picard and
Cape Lambert the shore is cut up by mangrove creeks. On a hill up one of
these, several small kangaroos were seen. Near the Cape Mr. Forsyth
perceived twenty-seven natives, seven of whom were children, in one
On the 27th we crossed over to Delambre Island, on which a large party
landed in the afternoon. A few turtle were here taken, of a different
kind from any we had seen before, and apparently a cross between the
Hawk's Bill and the Green Turtle; several nests were also found, in one
of which were 138 eggs. This island terminates, like Bezout Island, to
the northward, in cliffs about 90 feet high, with deep water close to; on
the east and west sides it is fronted by a reef nearly a mile in extent;
but we could see no traces of those lying three miles to the
North-North-West of the North-West point, laid down by Captain King. The
passage between Huiy Island and Delambre is five miles wide, though clear
for two miles only, and in working out we found that it had a very uneven
bottom, over which a two-knot tide causes heavy ripplings. We noticed
that a hill, lying nine miles to the south-west of Bezout Island, called
in the chart Round-backed Hill, bearing between South 5 degrees East, and
South 15 degrees East, clears the reefs on either side the channel; and
that the same hill bearing South 24 degrees West leads between Bezout and
Delambre, and South 8 degrees West clears the reef off the eastern side
of the latter.
THE MONTEBELLO GROUP.
From Delambre we proceeded to the Montebello Islands, principally in
order to set at rest two points of great interest, namely, the position
of Ritchie's Reef, and of the long lost Tryal Rocks. On the 31st, in the
afternoon, we anchored in 6 fathoms on the eastern side of Tremouille
Island, a cliffy islet off the south-east end of which bore South 42
degrees East two miles. The tide was ebbing and setting to the
North-North-East two knots an hour. We found the Montebello Group to be
confined by a coral reef encircling it. The two principal islands are
Tremouille and Hermite Islands. The fact that these and their neighbours
are not separated in the charts fully evinced the necessity of our visit.
Leaving a boat to examine them, the ship proceeded towards the northern
end of Barrow's Island, being anxious to avoid the southerly winds to
which the anchorage off Tremouille is exposed. These usually commenced at
midnight, blowing from south-west, freshening and veering to south by 8
A.M., and by about 10 moderating at South-South-East. On our way to
Barrow's Island they were so violent as to cause the ship to drive with
two anchors ahead, there appearing to be no holding ground, but simply a
coating of sand over a rocky ledge. During the prevalence of these winds
the temperature varied from 66 to 76 degrees.
Near Barrow's Island, on our passage, I shot (from the quarter-boat) the
largest sea-snake ever killed. It is figured and described in the
Appendix, by Mr. J.E. Gray, as Hydrus major, and measured eight feet one
inch in length, by three inches broad; the colour was a dark yellow:
several smaller ones striped brown and white were also seen.
We found that from the Montebello Group a long series of reefs and small
islands, the largest and most central of which is called Lowendal,
extends towards Barrow's Island, leaving a winding channel* along the
north side of the latter. Near the centre of the western side of the reef
is a cluster which proved to be the long-lost Tryal Rocks; the middle and
largest of which is in latitude 20 degrees 35 minutes South and longitude
0 degrees 17 minutes West of Swan River.** The reef continues along the
eastern side of Barrow's Island, extending off three miles; our anchorage
was consequently little more than that distance from the shore. We
examined the northern and eastern sides; the former is composed of red
sandstone cliffy projections, separated by sandy bays, fronted for nearly
two miles by a coral reef, partly dry at low-water; but the south part of
the eastern side becomes very low; and where the cliffs end there is a
remarkable valley trending westwards. There were recent marks of the sea
many feet above the ordinary reach of the tides, bespeaking occasional
strong south-east winds. A number of stony-topped hills, from 150 to 200
feet in height, were scattered over the northern parts of the island. In
the valleys was a little sandy soil, nourishing the spinifex, and a
stunted kind of wood sufficiently large for fuel.
(*Footnote. Lowendal Island, bearing east, leads into it.)
(**Footnote. We recognised them from a sketch furnished by the Admiralty,
and made in 1719 by a Dutch sloop sent in search of them from Batavia.
They placed them eight degrees west from the coast of New Holland. If we
take leagues instead of degrees it would bring them near their actual
distance from the shore. Van Keulen says they were seen in the ship
Vaderland Getrouw, and found to be in 20 degrees 30 seconds south. In
1777 they were seen by Captain Joss, of the Danish ship Frederisberg
Castel, who places them in 20 degrees 40 minutes South. It was by his
description that I recognised them beyond a doubt, although his longitude
would place them thirteen degrees more to the westward, and near the
position they have occupied for years in the charts. The centre of them
bears North by East five miles and a quarter from Cape Dupuis, the
north-west point of Barrow's Island.)
We found a new kind of kangaroo and wallaby on Barrow's Island; but the
only specimen obtained of the former was destroyed through the neglect of
the person in whose charge it was left. It was a buck, weighing fifty
pounds, of a cinnamon colour on the back and a dirty white on the belly;
the hair was fine and long; the head of a peculiar shape, resembling a
dog's, with a very blunt nose; the forearms were very short; the hind
feet cushioned like those inhabiting rocky ground. The does appeared to
be much lighter; but all were very wary and scarce. From the number of
red sandhills, too, scattered over the island, they were difficult to be
seen at a distance. From our description of this specimen it has been
named Osphranter isabellinus. With the wallaby we were more fortunate,
Mr. Bynoe and myself succeeding in knocking over four, weighing from five
to eight pounds; they also had blunt noses, and were of a light brown
colour, quite different from those on the Abrolhos.
Two iguanas, measuring seven feet in length, and nearly black, striped
slightly with white, were also killed here.
We did not find any surface water; everything wore a dry parched
appearance. No traces of natives were discovered, except some charred
pieces of wood. Indeed I may remark that we saw signs of fire on every
part of the continent we visited. From the south extremity of the island
a long reef trended in the direction of the mainland, where Captain King
traced it extending off some distance, thus connecting with the shore the
whole of these islands, which seem to lie in a line with each other, like
the various parts of a submerged piece of land. The small isles,
especially between the Montebello Group and Barrow's Island, have all the
same direction; so that it seems fair to conclude that they were once a
part of the main, being in fact fragments of a promontory, forming a gulf
similar to Exmouth Gulf, lying on the south-west of it. I had been led to
expect this from the fact of our finding the flood-stream coming from the
north-east, whereas the direction of it in the offing is
SUPPLY OF TURTLES.
Barrow's Island, being about twelve miles broad and twenty long, would,
in the event of a penal settlement being formed in this neighbourhood,
make a good second Norfolk Island. On leaving we brought away with us
seven tons of turtles from the abundant supplies its shores afforded.
Many of them we gave to our friends at Swan River on our arrival. We
cannot quit this island without reminding our readers that it was named
after the distinguished Secretary to the Admiralty, who has just retired
from office after a period of service of nearly half a century, during
which time he was the promoter of all geographical research, and mainly
instrumental in founding a society which is of growing importance to
Great Britain, and who has established a lasting reputation both by his
travels and his literary productions.
On our return to Tremouille Island Mr. Fitzmaurice joined us, having
completed the examination of the Montebello Group, a large proportion of
chart material, in a very short space of time, considering the number of
small islands, which would render it an endless labour to attempt any
description, further than that they lie something in the shape of a
A hill 145 feet high, the loftiest point of the group, rises near the
centre of Tremouille, the north-east island, off the north-west end of
which a ledge extends in the direction of an out-lying reef, bearing
North 55 degrees West (magnetic) nine miles and a half, which places it
in latitude 20 degrees 17 minutes South and longitude 0 degrees 26
minutes West of Swan River; or 115 degrees 21 minutes East. This could be
no other than that which we had so often looked for as Ritchie's Reef, as
our former tracks to the westward had assured us that it did not lie in
that direction. In latitude it agreed with the position given to it on
the charts, but in longitude it differed considerably, lying full half a
degree to the eastward. It therefore appeared not to be a discovery of
Lieutenant Ritchie's, as it had been not only seen previously by the
French, who had considered it as a reef extending off Tremouille Island,
but many years before by Captain Clerke, who placed it in latitude 20
degrees 18 minutes South, nine or ten miles North-West (magnetic) from
what he thought to be Rosemary Island, but which it is very evident was
Tremouille. The name then of Clerke's Reef should be given it instead of
Mr. Fitzmaurice having seen plenty of wallaby on the larger islands, a
party of us went on shore in the evening, after securing observations for
the rates of the chronometers on a small islet called Flag Islet, near
the centre of the rocky cluster fronting the eastern side of Hermite
Island. This can be recognised by it alone having a sandy point on the
south-west end, which we placed in latitude 20 degrees 27 minutes 47
seconds South and longitude 0 degrees 8 minutes 20 seconds west of Swan
River. The time of high-water here at full and change, was about 10
o'clock, when the tide rose fourteen feet; the flood-stream came from the
We found that Tremouille was as scantily supplied with vegetation as
Barrow's Island; in one or two places was growing a stunted kind of wood,
sufficient for fuel for a small-sized ship; but there was no sign of
water. The wallaby, which were very numerous, must have got their supply
of moisture from the copious dews. They were found lying very close in
the wiry prickly grass, allowing us to kick them out, when they went off
at speed, affording excellent sport, quite equal to any rabbit shooting;
among three guns we managed, in a couple of hours, to bag nearly twenty.
It was quite a new kind of wallaby, and has been classed, from a specimen
we brought away, as Lagorchester conspicillata. It had a blunt nose,
similar to those at Barrow's Island, and was about the same size, though
its colour was lighter, and it had a back exactly like a European hare.
The tail tapered away like a rat's, and the flesh was by no means good to
eat, tasting very strong; this was the only instance in which we found
wallaby at all unpalatable.
Although our exploration in this neighbourhood did not lead to our
finding any of the land fertile, yet from the new feature our chart will
give to this part of the coast, the necessity of the Beagle's visit will
be evident. Our object had been satisfactorily attained, inasmuch as we
had cleared up the doubts respecting Ritchie's Reef, and the long-lost
Tryal Rocks. We had also been so fortunate as to add to the stores of
natural history a new kangaroo and two kinds of wallaby, besides a large
We left Tremouille Island in the morning, and passing round the north
side, soon came in sight of Clerke's, alias Ritchie's Reef. It was our
intention to have gone round the northern end of it, but the tide setting
two knots an hour forced us to the southward. In a line midway between it
and Tremouille the depth was 17 and 20 fathoms. The reef was nearly three
miles long, in a north-east and south-west direction, and one mile and a
half wide; the centre being partly dry. Two miles and a half South-West
by West of it we crossed a patch of 13 fathoms, with 22 and 25 fathoms on
each side, the northern part of Hermite Island bearing South 62 degrees
East fourteen miles, soon after which it was lost sight of from the poop.
The next afternoon a westerly wind brought us again in with the land; and
in the evening we tacked in six fathoms, three miles and a half to the
northward of Thevenard Island, which we found to be connected with a reef
we discovered in the morning, lying eleven miles North by East from it;
inside this reef the water looked deep and smooth. The island is a narrow
strip lying east and west, about three miles; the west end we made in
latitude 21 degrees 26 minutes South and longitude 114 degrees 54 minutes
East. From the number of islands I saw to the south of Thevenard, I think
the reef continues to Maison Island, near the North-west Cape. The outer
one, seen from the Beagle, is in latitude 21 degrees 31 minutes South and
longitude 114 degrees 42 minutes East. I myself believe the whole extent
from Maison to Barrow's Island is occupied by islets and reefs, probably
all connected. We know, in fact, from Captain King, that a reef extends
sixteen miles off the south end of Barrow's Island.
RESULT OF SOUNDINGS.
Seventeen miles in a North-West by North direction from Thevenard Island
we had 65 fathoms, fine white sand, having deepened gradually from six
fathoms three miles north of it. In June of this year, working to the
North-East we had 68 fathoms three miles West by South of that position,
and 111 fathoms six miles North-West of it; beyond this no bottom was
found with 120 and 150 fathoms.*
(*Footnote. The following table is the result of other outer soundings
obtained in the Beagle, showing how far the bank of soundings extends off
the Western coast of Australia.
COLUMN 1: LATITUDE SOUTH (DEGREES, MINUTES).
COLUMN 2: DEPTH IN FATHOMS.
COLUMN 3: QUALITY OF BOTTOM.
COLUMN 4: DISTANCE FROM NEAREST LAND.
32 02 : 70 : Fine white sand and rock : Rottnest or Garden Island 20
30 55 : 86 : Fine grey sand : Main abreast 34 miles.
29 38 : 127 : Fine grey sand : Main abreast 39 miles.
26 42 : 187 : Fine grey sand : South point of Shark's Bay 37 miles.
21 14 : 111 : Fine white sand : Thevenard Island 25 miles.
20 00 : 150 : Fine white sand : Tremouille Island 35 miles.
It would thus appear that a ship in less than 110 fathoms off the west
shore of the continent would be within forty miles of the land; and
nearly the same distance from the islands fronting it, when in about 200
fathoms between the latitudes of 19 degrees 50 minutes South and 20
degrees 10 minutes South. The bank of soundings extends further off the
North-west coast, as eighty-five miles north of Depuch Island we had only
75 fathoms, fine white sand. In a south direction from that position the
water shoaled rapidly to 40 fathoms in fifteen miles; but very gradually
afterwards to 15 fathoms in fifty miles. This slope of the bank was
determined by several boards in working to the westward.)
RETURN TO SWAN RIVER.
The glimpse we got of the string of islands lying between Barrow's Island
and the North-west Cape, was quite unexpected, as the next land we had
intended seeing was Swan River. After rounding the North-west Cape, we
had the usual southerly winds, but a strong breeze from the north-west
overtook us in latitude 30 degrees 40 minutes South and longitude 112
degrees 25 minutes East, and shortened the passage, bringing us on the
27th to an anchorage under the east end of Rottnest Island, where we
found a current sweeping round to the southward, at the rate of nearly a
knot an hour. There had not been any previously felt; but in latitude 30
degrees South and longitude 110 degrees East, two days before the
north-wester, it set two knots to the northward; another instance of how
entirely the currents are governed by the winds off this coast.
Our Swan River native had not obtained so much information of his wild
countrymen to the northward as Miago. Still he had made the most of what
he saw; and his visit to Timor crowned all. The facility and rapidity
with which he could make a song about anyone whom he might choose as the
subject of his poetical fancy, was very amusing; he must have equalled
many of the Italian improvisatori. He had also got a very good idea of
where the ship had been since leaving Swan River, in his head. The
drawings of his countrymen on Depuch Island had greatly hurt his vanity,
whilst they excited his emulation; and always afterwards, whenever he
could get hold of paper or pencil, he was trying to excel them, which,
from the improvement he made, I have no doubt he would have shortly done.
During the time he and his townsman Miago were with us, the following
vocabulary was made; the words from Port Essington have been furnished by
COLUMN 1: ENGLISH.
COLUMN 2: PORT ESSINGTON.
COLUMN 3: SWAN RIVER.
Crow : - : Woordang.
Emu : Angorok : Wadye.
Eggs : Olajuk : Noorago.
Shags : - : Mere.
Kangaroo : Abbugi : Yewart.
Female Kangaroo : - : Waroo.
Wallaby: - : Wallyo.
Bandicoot or rat : - : Condee.
Very small kangaroo, larger than a wallaby : - : Goora.
Ringtail possum : - : Gnoorah.
Large possum : - : Goomal.
--tailed possum : - : Mooroo.
Native dog : Nukakoin : Dudah.
The tail : - : Diar.
Black swan : - : Coolecha.
Duck : Cormoro : Oonanah.
Mountain duck : - : Kooracha.
Wombat : - : Koolemah.
Magpie : - : Gooraba.
Brown Chatterer : - : Telaho
Fishhawk : - : Undoorah.
Eagle : - : Mulurah.
Pigeon : - : Woodah.
Quail : Windalo : Barrabberry.
Tortoise : - : Booye, or Boorje.
Mullett : - : Kalkurrie.
Cobler : - : Corallia.
Small blue bird : - : Deldillia.
Snake : Ambeetj : Waggile.
Sun : Muree : Murgah.
Moon : Allee : Magee.
Stars : Argadba : Nungarah.
Clouds : - : Marah.
Wind : Mailo : Curajahl.
A bird : Aluk-aluk : Walta.
Sand : Onak : Coo-yah.
Head : Wokbok : Cuttah.
Eyes : Ira : Mael.
Nose : Anjinmul : Moolyah.
Ears : Alaijar : Tungah.
Mouth : Angaikbirig : Dah.
Chin : - : Nungah.
Face : Anmarura : Yoodah.
Hair : Angbal : Cutap.
Eyebrows : - : Mingart.
Eyelashes : - : Cunbah.
Teeth : Anjigi : Nalgo.
Tongue : - : Dalang.
Neck : - : Wardo.
Throat : - : Daragert.
Shoulders : - : Wundardah.
Arms : - : Wango.
Armpit : - : Nulyar.
Collar bone : - : Chelee wundardah.
Arm, upper : - : Maraga.
Arm, lower : - : Aye yung.
Wrist : - : Mardalliah.
Thumb : Gamar : Marang-unga.
First finger : - : Mara-mamal.
Second finger : - : Mara-cudejip.
Third finger : - : Mara-cudejip.
Little finger : - : Mara-colun.
Nails : - : Bere.
Back : - : Goon goh.
Loins : - : Moondo.
Hips : - : Corlge.
Buttocks : - : Mooro.
Hip joint : - : -.
Thigh : - : Dahwool.
Knee : - : Bonnet.
Leg : Adjirt-adjirt : Mattah.
Hams : - : Yallee.
Ankle : - : Bilgah
Heel : - : Geenang hooran.
Foot : Ingalmulbil : Geenang coongoh.
Instep : - : Geenang guerack.
Toes : Rujut-bullal : Chenang ungah.
Breast : - : Undoo.
Belly : Angonidjark : Cabollo.
Breast (woman) : - : Bebe.
Navel : - : Bilye.
Woman : Wari-comomo : Babelyah.
Man : Iwala : Medah.
To run, stoop, hide, crouch, when about to rain : Kiddi kit mya warra.
To go a long distance : Maran dugon bordeneuk.
To cut up an animal of any kind for roasting : Dedayah killa, kuirderkan,
ki ti kit.
To cover up, to keep warm : Borga koorejalah kunah.
For roasting : Ki ti kit.
To cut up : Kurerkna.
Give me some water : Yahago cabe.
I'm very thirsty : Gangah.
To carry the pickaninee : Colanganee wandung.
Here carry the pickaninee (strong expression) : Colang maranga barang
Give me some money : Anyah (or ana) yunagh, uddah.
No money, go away : Neundoh barang gerangah.
You have money : Anyah yungagah uddah.
I go to sleep : Unyah begang undagah.
To sneeze : Neyetta.
A tree : Boono.
Vegetation generally : Jibbah.
Grass : Bobo.
Long grass : Bobo wal-yur-deg.
NAMES OF SNAKES OF SWAN RIVER.
LIZARDS OF ABROLHOS, AS WELL AS SWAN RIVER.
When the weather became fine, we ran over to Gage Road.
ERECT BEACONS AT ROTTNEST.
We again visited Rottnest in the ship (Lieutenant Roe the
Surveyor-General, accompanying us) for the purpose of erecting beacons on
the rocks lying off the points of Thomson's Bay, as marks for leading
clear to the eastward of the Champion Rock. We were happy to have an
opportunity of rendering this important service to the colonists, who
acknowledged it in a very handsome manner.
Another object in crossing over to Rottnest was to avoid a north-west
breeze which came on the next day; on the 15th we again returned to Gage
ANECDOTES OF A WILD DOG.
Whilst we were at Swan River this time, a wish I had long entertained of
procuring a pup of the wild breed of dogs* of the country, was gratified.
It was a bitch, and left in the hollow of a tree by her mother who had
just escaped. Knowing that they hunt kangaroos in packs, and have
excellent noses, I was anxious to try if something useful might not be
made out of a cross with the fox-hound; and with this view on my arrival
in England, I gave her to my cousin, Mr. G. Lort Phillips; but she died
in a fit soon after coming into his possession. Whilst with me she had
two litters of pups by a pointer, three each time, the first at two
years, and the second after an interval of ten months. At these times she
was particularly savage, and would take the opportunity of paying off any
old grudge she might have against those who had ill-used her--for she
never forgot an injury--by stealing after them and snapping at their
heels. She was very much attached to her young; one day I took her on
shore and she kept catching birds to bring to them, supplying them, as an
over-fond mother will do, with a superfluity of good things.
(*Footnote. I am informed by Colonel Owen Phillips, 56th B.N.I., formerly
Assistant-Resident at Macassar, that he saw four wild dogs brought to Sir
Stamford Raffles at Java, which bore a very strong resemblance to the
animals mentioned in the text.)
I was very much interested in this animal, and took a great deal of pains
to tame her, though I never fully succeeded. Her nose, as I have said,
was excellent; and though quite mute she could hunt very well, as I found
by repeated trials when out rabbit shooting. She would never leave a
hole, working at it with her feet and teeth until she got at the inmate.
These qualities confirmed me in my opinion that a cross with the
fox-hound would produce a good result. As an illustration of her keenness
of smell, I may mention that one day when we were lying in the Tamar
river, she winded some sheep on the bank, and was instantly overboard and
after them, swimming so rapidly that she had reached the land, and,
though herself only the size of a large dog-fox, had pulled down a fine
ram before a party could get on shore to prevent her. When they landed,
instead of trying to make her escape, she slunk into the boat. This freak
of hers cost me five pounds.
PECULIARITIES OF THE WILD DOG.
In cold weather her coat was always best, and the brush on her tail most
perfect. She was of a light tan colour, with a little white on the tip of
the tail, and a few black hairs sprinkled in the brush; there was a
little black also about her face. Her step was light and stealthy; and in
her eye meekness and cunning were curiously blended. Though very shy of
man, when once taken up in the arms she lay as quiet as a cat; but with
all dogs she was very quarrelsome, fighting savagely with a greyhound
bitch I had on board, and several times nearly killing a small dog. It
was always difficult to catch her, as she would generally manage to
escape either between the legs or by springing over the shoulders, except
when we were going on shore; then she would allow herself very quietly to
be put into the boat; but on our return the difficulty was how to get her
off, and it became necessary to pounce upon her suddenly. She was never
heard to bark, the only noise she ever made being the dismal howl
peculiar to her breed, and this only when tied up, which consequently,
for the sake of peace, was but of short duration, and always had to be
done with a chain, as she would instantly bite through a rope. Her
mischievous propensity was remarkable, as she often stole into the
officers' cabin and pulled books down from the shelves, tearing the backs
off and then destroying the leaves. As an instance of her sure-footedness
and activity I may mention that I have seen her leap twice her own height
from the stem of the midship boat, in endeavouring to seize fowls or meat
that was hung on the mainstay, always alighting on the point she sprang
from. At other times she would attempt to crawl up it like a cat, in
order to steal what was there. Her proneness to thieving was very great;
I have frequently seen her eating stolen things when she would refuse
what was offered her; it was never safe to take her near poultry.
Whilst in this locality I may take the opportunity of introducing a few
notes on the geological formation of the country in the neighbourhood of
Swan River, furnished by Mr. Bynoe:
The most remarkable feature is the absence or scantiness of the secondary
and transition rocks; all the tertiary appears to be of the newest kind,
and to lie in juxtaposition with the primary. This character forms the
sandy margin from the Darling Range, or chain of granite hills, nearly
2000 feet high to the sea, in the immediate vicinity of which the sand is
bounded by a calcareous form of limestone, and, where jutting into the
sea and forming perpendicular or overhanging cliffs, the faces are thrown
into a beautiful kind of fretwork (See volume 1) of more compactness than
the surrounding mass. In most places about the neighbourhood of
Fremantle, shells are found of the existing species along the coast,
firmly impacted in its substance, particularly a large species of
buccinum, as well as the strombus. This calcareous formation has been
traced as far north as Shark's Bay; it crosses over to the Abrolhos
Group, there frequently lying over a coral formation, and forming in many
places cavities of a cylindrical figure, of some few feet in depth. Beds
of clays, varying in quality and colour, are to be met with on sandy
margins, containing particles of gypsum.
On the Darling Range is found a red cellular structure capping the
granite, assuming all the appearance of having been subjected to fire; it
extends also in the low country about that
Slate of a primitive character is found on the Canning River. The
mountain chain or Darling Range runs nearly in the direction of north and
south. On the eastern side of it, close to the base, are several groups
of isolated conical hills, from a half to one mile apart, extending from
the William River to the Tugee District, a distance of about one hundred
and twenty miles, bearing on their summits strong evidences of ignition.
The country farther on to the eastward falls into sandy plains, similar
to those on the western side, and intersected by watercourses; during the
summer, pools remain, and at that time become remarkably salt. On the
mountains, as well as on the plains, scattered pebbles in patches are to
be met with; they appear to contain iron, being highly magnetic.
SAIL FROM SWAN RIVER.
From the very debilitated state of some of the crew, from dysenteric
affections contracted at Timor, we were not able to leave Swan River
before the 25th of October. At noon on the 28th, Cape Naturaliste bore
South 80 degrees East three miles; according to our observations it was
in latitude 33 degrees 31 minutes 45 seconds South four miles further
south than it is placed in the charts, though in longitude (0 degrees 47
minutes 30 seconds West of Swan River) it appeared pretty correct. Some
reefs have been reported three or four miles off the north-east side of
it: but we could see nothing of them, and had a depth of 25 and 26
fathoms. We got soundings of 23 and 25 fathoms in passing along a few
miles from the coast towards Cape Leeuwin, in the neighbourhood of which
we looked in vain for a rock called the Rambler, that had been supposed
to be about twelve miles south-west of a remarkable white patch close to
the northward of the Cape, the locality of which it always serves to
show. Twenty miles west of Cape Leeuwin the depth was 47 fathoms.
Passing along the south coast we found the white-topped rocks near Cape
Chatham to be in longitude 0 degrees 29 minutes 30 seconds East of Swan
River. They are not only remarkable in themselves, but like the Eclipse
Islands, are admirably situated for showing a ship's position when in
with the coast.
We entered King George's Sound on November 2nd. I should here observe
that Bald Head is connected with the main by a low piece of land, in the
centre of which stands a small peak; this gives the head, from the offing
to the southward, the appearance of an island. In the view annexed the
reader will perceive a representation of the conspicuous headland called
Peaked Hill, with its peculiar profile outline, lying about five miles
south-west of Bald Head.
Proceeding up the Sound we anchored in Princess Royal Harbour, Mount
Clarence bearing North-North-East, and the south end of Michaelmas Island
just open of Point Possession. The entrance to this great basin is by a
narrow channel in the north-east corner; a long spit extending off the
inner western entrance-point forms the chief impediment. Few vessels
escape touching it; but although the passage is thus contracted the
Beagle was worked through both ways. Inside, there is water sufficient
for the largest ship in the navy; but only for a limited space, a short
distance within the entrance--merely a hollow scooped out towards the
north-west corner of the harbour.
Here, just above a dazzling white sandy beach, a straggling village
points out the township of Albany. Mounts Clarence and Melville reared
their bare granitic heads on either side, and huge fantastically-shaped
boulders were strewn over their slopes. The origin of this settlement may
not be generally known: it was first planned, in consequence of a report
that the French were about to establish themselves there; which turned
out to be the truth, for they had actually formed and abandoned a
settlement before Major Lockyer arrived from Sydney, in 1825. The gang of
convicts he brought with him was withdrawn, when Albany became part of
the government of Western Australia.
Among the few improvements that had taken place since our visit in 1836,
were a jetty and a government storehouse. The latter was close to the
spot where the observations were made, and where I noticed some trappean
dykes intersecting the granite in a North-North-West direction. I
observed the same circumstance at Simon's Bay, Cape of Good Hope.
I was sorry to see that the infant town of Albany had made so little
progress, especially as it possesses by far the finest harbour in Western
Australia. There is no doubt that ultimately its great natural advantages
will be developed; but it is somewhat surprising that they have not
already been turned to better account. Though there is not a very great
extent of good land in the neighbourhood, there is amply sufficient to
hold out encouragement to the settler; especially when we consider that
this is one of the most healthy portions of the continent, that it is
never visited by hot winds, and that the thermometer is rarely below 60
or above 85 degrees. This evenness of temperature at all times of the
year is very remarkable, and renders the spot particularly suitable for
invalids, many persons coming even from Swan River to renovate
themselves. If our East Indians were aware of what a salubrious climate
they might enjoy at King George's Sound, they would soon be seen flocking
thither to repair the constitutions they have injured on the banks of the
Ganges and the Indus.
Our object in visiting this place was to obtain a meridian distance; and
between the observations for rating the chronometers I availed myself of
an offer of Lieutenant Warburton, commanding the detachment of the 51st
Regiment, doing duty there, to accompany him on a visit to the
out-stations. We were joined by a person from the settlement, who owned
some kangaroo dogs, and by three or four natives.
Leaving Albany, we reached the foot of a large clear piece of land called
the Great Plain, about fifteen miles distant, and a little off the Swan
BURNING THE BUSH.
On our way we met a party of natives engaged in burning the bush, which
they do in sections every year. The dexterity with which they manage so
proverbially a dangerous agent as fire is indeed astonishing. Those to
whom this duty is especially entrusted, and who guide or stop the running
flame, are armed with large green boughs, with which, if it moves in a
wrong direction, they beat it out. Their only object in these periodical
conflagrations seems to be the destruction of the various snakes,
lizards, and small kangaroos, called wallaby, which with shouts and yells
they thus force from their covert, to be despatched by the spears or
throwing-sticks of the hunting division. The whole scene is a most
animated one, and the eager savage, every muscle in action and every
faculty called forth, then appears to the utmost advantage, and is indeed
almost another being. I can conceive no finer subject for a picture than
a party of these swarthy beings engaged in kindling, moderating, and
directing the destructive element, which under their care seems almost to
change its nature, acquiring, as it were, complete docility, instead of
the ungovernable fury we are accustomed to ascribe to it. Dashing through
the thick underwood, amidst volumes of smoke--their dark active limbs and
excited features burnished by the fierce glow of the fire--they present a
spectacle which it rarely falls to our lot to behold, and of which it is
impossible to convey any adequate idea by words.
COURSE A KANGAROO.
After tethering out our horses and making our breakwind for the night, we
went out in the evening to look for a kangaroo. I had never as yet seen
one put fairly at his speed on open ground before a dog, but this evening
I was fully gratified; for we soon found a couple lying out on our side
of the plain, and by crawling up through the wood we managed to slip the
dogs about five hundred yards from them. Away they went, leaving a stream
of dust in their wake. Their habitual curving direction soon gave us a
broadside view; and a splendid course it was. They ran horizontally, no
leap or hop being perceptible. At first the dogs closed rapidly, but for
some time afterwards no change in their relative positions took place,
each doing his best. The kangaroos held their own well, until they had
reached nearly the other side of the plain, a distance of about two
miles, when the dogs began gradually to draw on them, and at length,
after a turn or two, the smaller was run into just before entering the
wood. It was a fine young buck, weighing about 60 pounds, and made a
capital supper for our party. The natives cooked the tail for us in their
own way, roasting it with the hair on, the best mode of dressing it,
except in soup.
Next morning we found that our sable friends had eaten so much of the
kangaroo that there was great difficulty in getting them to move.
However, they at length consented to accompany us, and we proceeded five
or six miles further on the Swan River road, to a place where a party of
soldiers were stationed. Here the temptation of a fresh supply of
kangaroo proved irresistible, and with the exception of one, who was
Lieutenant Warburton's servant, the natives all left us to resume the
pleasant occupation of eating. The gastronomic feats performed by these
persons are really surprising; and in the work recently published by Mr.
Eyre the reader will find some curious details on the subject.
We now took a westerly direction, for a tract of good country lying about
thirty-five miles from the Sound, a little to the westward of the road to
PITFALLS FOR KANGAROOS.
On our way we crossed several short trenches, cut by the natives for
pitfalling kangaroos, which were here very numerous. They were dug across
the runs of the animal, and covered with a slight layer of brush or
grass, and were very narrow at the bottom, so that the prey could get no
footing to bound out.
HERDS OF KANGAROOS.
I have never, at any other place, seen similar contrivances resorted to
by the aborigines; in this neighbourhood they have probably been
suggested by the great abundance in which the kangaroo is found. I am
certain there could scarcely have been less than a hundred in a herd. It
was curious to observe them hopping along over the grass or underneath
the trees, with the large males bringing up the rear of a certain number
of does. We had several very beautiful courses, but the dogs being
footsore were beaten on all occasions.
I was very much pleased with this portion of the country: it quite
resembles the park-like features of Port Phillip. We heard the kangaroos
thumping the ground all night, as they hopped along round our bivouac,
the heavier fall of the male being plainly distinguishable. It was now
determined to shape a southward course for Ungerup, one of Lady Spencer's
farms on the Hay River; and after laying down our position by a sort of
dead reckoning I had kept to find the course, we started.
Soon after moving off, Lieutenant Warburton discovered that he had
forgotten to leave some message or other at the station, and determined
on sending back his native servant. But as he was out of the limits of
his own tribe, it required some persuasion to induce him to go; and he
was only prevailed on to do so by being allowed to carry his master's gun
Part of our road lay through a thick mahogany scrub; and as the horse I
rode was a young unbroken one from the Cape, I might perhaps with less
trouble have tried to take an elephant straight with a snaffle bit in his
mouth. The sameness of the trees in this part being very great it is
difficult to hold a direct course; and if, after having chosen one to
steer by, my attention happened to be taken off by a kangaroo starting
up, I was always obliged to refer to the compass.
We made the Hay a mile or two above Ungerup; it is there a small tortuous
rivulet, with rich grassy banks, overhung by wide shady trees. The valley
is narrow, sloping gently up on either side. If I had been pleased with
the good piece of land just left, I was still more so with this; the
mould was rich and fine: I did not believe there was land of such quality
near the Sound.
LADY SPENCER'S FARMS.
In passing another of Lady Spencer's farms, seven miles farther down the
same river, we were glad to pocket a large piece of damper for our
evening meal, which we made at our old bivouac near the Great Plain,
where we found the native under the break-wind, which he had covered with
another bough or two. Next evening we got into Albany, and on the morning
of the 15th the Beagle was running out of King George's Sound.
It was resolved that we should touch at South Australia, to secure a good
meridian distance by short stages between Swan River and Sydney.
Accordingly, on the morning of the 27th, we entered Investigator Strait,
having been detained by strong easterly winds about a hundred and fifty
miles to the westward of Kangaroo Island. Whilst contending with them we
discovered a small high rocky island, the summit of which we found to be
in latitude 34 degrees 49 minutes South and in longitude 19 degrees 4
minutes East of Swan River; it bore South 8 degrees East nine miles from
the high peak on Greenly's Island. The name of the Beagle was bestowed
At noon, as we entered the Strait, we committed to the deep the body of
Nicholas Lewis, seaman, who died of sickness contracted at Timor.
We kept close to the Neptune Isles, a low rocky group, the southernmost
of which we give the position of; Captain Flinders, who passed too far to
the northward, having not exactly determined it: it lies in latitude 35
degrees 22 minutes 15 seconds South and longitude 20 degrees 22 minutes
15 seconds East of Swan River. These islands appear well adapted for a
There was a strong indraught of a knot an hour into Spencer's Gulf.
Kangaroo Island has no remarkable features; whilst Althorpe and Quoin
islands are sufficiently striking to be recognized by anyone who has once
On the morning of the 29th we anchored in Holdfast Road, in 4 1/2
fathoms, Mount Lofty,* a slight excrescence on the highest part of the
range of hills eastwards, bearing North 80 degrees East; a flagstaff at
a straggling village under it pointed out the township of Glenelg. At the
foot of this we made our observations, which place it in latitude 34
degrees 58 minutes 30 seconds South and longitude 12 degrees 41 minutes
15 seconds West of Sydney.
(*Footnote. This hill, bearing east, is a guide to Holdfast Road.)
Landing at Glenelg we proceeded towards Adelaide, which lay about six
miles to the northward, in the centre of a rich plain, stretching from
the foot of Mount Lofty to the sea, and contracting gradually to the
southward, where beyond Glenelg it rises into downs, increasing in height
as they approach Cape Jervis, and ultimately blending with spurs thrown
off from Mount Lofty range. Adelaide itself is situated on the banks of
the Torrens, a very insignificant stream, or rather series of pools, in
the dry season.
I have spoken, in a former chapter, of my astonishment at first seeing
Sydney; but certainly the same feeling was roused in a still greater
degree by the first appearance of Adelaide; although I was prepared for
something great by what I had heard of the multitudes that had flocked
thither from the mother country. In truth a noble city had in the course
of four years sprung, as if by magic, from the ground, wearing such an
appearance of prosperity and wealth that it seemed almost incredible it
could have existed but for so short a time.
GOVERNOR GAWLER'S POLICY.
The fact is that this was mainly owing to the liberal expenditure of the
governor, Colonel Gawler, who saw the policy at the earliest possible
opportunity of making adequate preparation for the stream of population
that was so rapidly flowing in. Every public building was erected on a
scale to suit the anticipated splendour of the colony, and in so
substantial a manner, that it will be long ere another outlay becomes
necessary. That this was the best line of conduct to adopt, most persons,
on reflection, will acknowledge. In New Zealand, for example, much of the
disturbances that have arisen may be attributed to the fact of so many
settlers arriving before sufficient preparation had been made for their
Much fault has been found with Colonel Gawler's military display, as it
is called; in other words, with his raising a corps of volunteers. But
the necessity of this may be presumed from the facts, that Sir Charles
Napier, the conqueror of Scinde, as we learn from his own pen, refused
the government, because a military force was not to be sent with him; and
that it has been found advisable to place a body of troops at the
disposal of Colonel Gawler's successor.
I paid a visit to the port, distant from the town about five miles, made
easy by an excellent macadamized road, carried, in some places, on a
causeway over a swamp, and forming a great and imperishable monument of
the Governor's enterprising spirit. The port reminded me of one of the
quiet mangrove creeks on the North coast, except that it had only one
bend, changing from a northerly to a south-westerly direction, which at
certain times of the day renders it navigable, with a fair wind, each
way. For instance, the seabreeze will take a vessel out through the
northerly part, and next morning she will have the land breeze to carry
her the rest of the distance; whilst, alternating, the same breeze serves
to take ships in. The mouth of the port is well marked with black and
white buoys; and a light vessel is moored off the entrance, with pilots
in attendance; a red buoy is on the bar, where at high-water there is
sometimes 15 feet, but the tides are very irregular, being much higher
with south-west winds; the general rise was about four feet.
MR. EYRE'S EXPEDITION.
We were very much pleased with the animated description we had of the
departure of Mr. Eyre's expedition to the north; but what gave us
particular satisfaction was the evidence afforded of how much the whole
colony had the welfare of this enterprising little band at heart. I had
not before seen in Australia any place where the progress of discovery
was so liberally forwarded, as the readers will at once learn from Mr.
Eyre's book. One cause of this we may discover in the fact that the
richness of the country immediately surrounding Adelaide made them eager
to ascertain its extent. Indeed until this was known they were
necessarily unsettled, as few liked to locate themselves permanently
until the extent of the field within which they were to make their choice
To what extent the colonists of South Australia are indebted to the
sacrifice of property, the loss of time, the bodily fatigue, and
unceasing exertions of Mr. Eyre, I also leave the reader to gather from
his own lucid narrative. The country has now been found to be almost
hemmed in by sterile districts; and the good lands, contrary to our
experience of the rest of the continent, to be nearly all in one spot. A
number of enterprising colonists, therefore, concentrated within
comparatively narrow limits, could not fail of developing the resources
of the country, and of discovering what mineral treasures it may contain.
The good encouragement it has lately received has, to a certain extent,
assisted in bringing it back to the position of one of the most thriving
colonies in Australia; though we must attribute much of its present
prosperity to the impulse originally given by the policy of Colonel
Gawler, which, though it may have caused a temporary financial
embarrassment, is now making its happy effects sensibly felt.
The eastern extent of the country of South Australia was determined by
the Overlanders, as they call the gentlemen who bring stock from New
South Wales. The first that came across were Messrs. Bonny and Horden. An
interesting account of them will be found in Captain Grey's work. Many of
these pioneers of civilization endure extraordinary hardships during
their expeditions; as an example of which I may mention that Mr. Bonny,
in endeavouring to find a new route, was compelled to kill a calf and
drink its blood to save his life. On this occasion water was found by the
cattle, turned loose for that purpose. Another gentleman, who had lost
his way in the bush, had recourse to a curious expedient to assuage his
burning thirst, namely, to bleed the horse he rode, which was the means
of preserving both himself and the quadruped also.
On our arrival in Adelaide the town was full of the Overlanders, and
everyone was engaged in buying or selling stock, which gave the place
quite an animated appearance. From one of these gentlemen I learned
undeniable proofs that the Australians indulge in cannibalism. He had
seen in a woman's bag the hand of a child that had been partly eaten.
Since that time the matter has been placed beyond a doubt by the report
of the Protector, Mr. Sievewright, who witnessed with his own eyes a most
horrible feast off the body of a young woman.* It is extraordinary that a
custom so remarkable should have so long wanted confirmation.
(*Footnote. See Mr. Eyre's Discoveries in Central Australia.)
At Adelaide I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of the intrepid
traveller Captain Sturt, who has since again taken the field,
endeavouring to penetrate to the interior of the Australian continent,
and to remove the veil of mystery that now hangs over it. From him I
learnt that the same strange kind of bird, a species of rail, that once
visited Swan River, also made its appearance in South Australia on one
occasion. I have already alluded to this remarkable circumstance in a
During our stay we visited Mount Lofty, placed by our observations in
latitude 34 degrees 58 minutes 20 seconds South, and longitude 12 degrees
30 minutes 20 seconds West of Sydney. The cool air of this range, the
greatest elevation of which is 2200 feet, was very pleasant after a ride
over the heated plain. I was agreeably surprised to find in the heart of
the hills a most comfortable inn, where our party sat down to a luncheon
of lamb chops and green peas, with a beautiful cool bottle of sherry.
Such is the march of civilization! To the north of our road was a lead
mine, which will ultimately be a source of great riches to the colony;
for which, indeed, nature has done much in the way of mineral
I was greatly pleased with the apparent success that had attended the
schools of the German Missionaries; and especially with the aptitude for
learning displayed by both boys and girls; but my pleasure would have
been much increased had I not felt convinced that the system of education
adopted, possessed many serious defects. In the first place, sufficient
care did not seem to have been taken to recommend the schools to the
natives, and to induce them to send their children voluntarily. That it
was necessary to resort to some means of effecting this beyond mere
persuasion, will be evident when we recollect how useful even the
youngest member of an Australian family is to its parents. Almost as soon
as the child begins to walk, certainly as soon as it is capable of
receiving instruction, light tasks, even in the hunting expeditions, are
allotted to it; so that, to remove either boys or girls, and take them to
school, is, in reality, to deprive their friends of assistance, which to
them is valuable. For this reason, some compensating advantage should be
offered to the father, to prevail on him to send his children to school.
Again, when once pupils have been procured, it is exceedingly unwise to
allow them to maintain a constant intercourse with their tribe, and be
thus subjected to deteriorating influences that must almost irresistibly
combat the beneficial effects of their education. But it is needless to
dwell further on this subject, as Mr. Eyre has so completely stated the
question in his late work.
REMARKS ON THE SYSTEM FOR CIVILISING THE NATIVES.
I cannot, however, refrain from alluding to another point in connection
with this matter; namely, that when I visited South Australia, all
instruction was communicated in the native language. My attention had
already been drawn to the subject on visiting Tahiti, in 1835, when I
perceived with regret, that the missionaries, instead of endeavouring to
introduce the English tongue, persisted in imparting instruction in a
kind of corrupted dialect, of which the words were for the most part
native, whilst the syntax and construction were in exact conformity with
our own; the observation of the same circumstance at New Zealand, had
further induced me to reflect on the subject. How much more prudent would
it have been to introduce, at once, the language of Great Britain into
the islands of the Pacific; as, judging from every indication, it must
ultimately prevail over the vast variety of primitive and imperfect
dialects now spoken; and which serve as barriers between the various
tribes. That the same mistake should have been made in South Australia
was the more remarkable, as public opinion seems to run completely
counter to it. It appears evident indeed, that if the object was to
benefit and civilize the aboriginal inhabitant, the right course to take,
was to give him an instrument which he could employ to enlarge his mind
and extend his experience. It was wrong to expect that much good could be
done by confining him within the sphere in which his thoughts had been
accustomed to move; or at any rate, to limit the expansion of his
knowledge, within the bounds of a dialect which was only imperfectly
understood by the masters who taught it. I am aware that the excellent
men who adopted this plan, were fearful of allowing the natives to
acquire a facility of communicating with the vicious part of the white
population; but had they taken a more enlarged view, and considered the
absolute impossibility of preventing a certain amount of intercourse--had
they had more confidence in the better part of their own race, and
reflected on the immense advantage which the inquisitive savage would
derive from being enabled to put questions to men who could enlighten him
by their answers, they would more speedily have effected their benevolent
intentions. I am of opinion that no surer method of raising the
Australian in the scale of civilization could have been devised, than to
put him in possession of the English language; and I am glad to hear that
the opinion I so early formed has at length been partially acted upon.
The natives will soon be open to an engagement on board a vessel, and may
expect to emulate the New Zealanders, some of whom have risen to be
mates; and to acquire the information and experience of which they stand
so much in need. Whereas, were their knowledge confined to their own
imperfect dialect, not only would they be unable to extend their
acquaintance with other parts of the world, and with the arts of
civilization, but they would remain, as many of them now are, actually
incapable of communicating with many inhabitants of their own districts.
For it must be borne in mind, that very frequently, a tribe inhabiting
one valley is ignorant of the language spoken in the next. So that to
instruct them only in their own forms of speech, is not only difficult,
since, on the death of each master someone else has to learn the grammar
and vocabulary to supply his place, but absolutely tends to perpetuate
the isolation in which the natives now live; and which is the main cause
of the little development of their minds, and the inferior position they
occupy in the scale of civilization.
LEAVE HOLDFAST ROAD.
We sailed from Holdfast Road, on December 7th, but in consequence of
light winds, with occasional very heavy squalls, it was not until the
afternoon of the 10th, that we got out to sea by Backstairs Passage,
between Cape Jervis and Kangaroo Island. On the morning of the 8th, we
were obliged to shorten all sail to a very heavy squall from
West-South-West, which announced its appearance by a distant roaring,
some time before it was seen on the water. These squalls generally
succeed the hot winds that prevail at this season in South Australia,
coming from the interior.*
(*Footnote. During the hot winds we observed the thermometer, in the
direct rays of the sun, to be 135 degrees.)
ARRIVE AT SYDNEY.
Easterly winds prevented us from entering Bass Strait until the 16th. In
reaching in towards the coast, seven or eight miles west of Cape Otway,
we found that it projected three or four miles too much on the charts.
Bass Strait appeared under a different aspect from what it had been
accustomed to wear; light winds, by no means in keeping with our
impatience, detaining us till the 21st, when we got a kick out of the
eastern entrance from a strong south-wester, and afterwards had a good
run up to Sydney, where we arrived on the 23rd.
Changes in Officers of ship.
Gale at Cape Upstart.
Astonish a Native.
Description of country.
Interview with the Natives from Torres Strait.
Shoal near Endeavour River.
Discover good passage through Endeavour Strait.
The Painted Quail.
No improvement had taken place in colonial affairs, and the sales of
land, in consequence of the high price, were very limited. The fact was,
the regulations that had recently been made gave very little
satisfaction. By these the minimum price was fixed at one pound per acre;
in consequence of which many predicted that millions of acres would be
excluded from the market for ages to come, as it seemed not conceivable
that any change could make them worth a quarter that sum, especially as
on an average the natural grasses of the country will only support one
sheep to four acres. The inevitable consequence was to prevent an
augmentation of the emigration fund, which inflicted a serious evil on
the colony, though by many the high price was considered a great boon, as
it enabled them to enjoy, at a trifling charge, immense back runs, as
safe from the intrusion of interlopers as if they had been granted by the
Crown in perpetuity. It is my impression that the attempt to raise the
largest sum of money by the sale of the smallest number of allotments is
unwise, as it operates as a discouragement to small capitalists, who wish
to occupy the land for themselves; it would in the end be more
advantageous almost to give the land away, to a certain extent, in order
to encourage people to go there. It may be worth remarking here, that on
a rough calculation the pound per acre system would realise, supposing
the whole continent were sold, the sum of about 1,679,616,000 pounds.
The most curious circumstance connected with the division of land in New
South Wales, is the uncertainty that prevails respecting the boundary
line of estates, which must be the source of endless disputes and
expensive litigation among the colonists. The whole arises from the
system adopted of laying down the boundaries by the magnetic north
instead of by the true. This is in itself no easy matter, owing to the
local attraction and the difficulty of finding needles that agree. But
the chief cause of endless change is the variation, which has
progressively increased at Sydney since the colony was first formed, so
as to make a difference in the boundary of a grant of land of one square
mile in ten.
I will suppose a case in order to illustrate my meaning. In the early
days of the colony a piece of land is obtained by a person who merely
performs the location duties, and does nothing to his estate until the
present time, when he or his successor goes to occupy it. When the land
was purchased the direction of the boundary line was, by compass North 20
degrees East; but the proprietor finds that in consequence of the
increase of variation during the interval, a North 20 degrees East line
by compass at this time would differ from what it was when his title
deeds were made out, one square mile in ten. As this change has at Sydney
been progressive, and may indeed take a contrary direction, the boundary
lines of grants of lands depending on it will vary accordingly, and
afford endless food for the lawyers. A scientific friend of mine, who was
once trying to remedy the evil in a particular instance, was entreated by
one of that profession not to interfere, for by so doing he would be
taking the bread out of the mouths of himself and his brethren.
Since our last visit to Sydney the colonisation of New Zealand had taken
place, but from what I heard of the loose system pursued by the Company
of obtaining lands from the natives, I could not but form an opinion that
those who bought lots of them must in the end be ruined; even their right
to sell these lands at all was at the time much questioned. This being
the case, the difficulty any Governor must have to contend with, who
should attempt to solve the intricate problem involved in the
land-question, was apparent, and it will be evident also that those who
pretend to form a judgment on the conduct of Captain R. Fitzroy, must
take into consideration the character of the people, both white and
coloured, with whom he had to deal, and various other circumstances that
are usually kept out of sight.
During our long stay at Sydney I visited the mouth of the Hunter, for the
purpose of determining the position of Newcastle. The courthouse,
according to my observations, is in latitude 32 degrees 55 minutes 50
seconds South and longitude 0 degrees 34 minutes 45 seconds East of
Sydney. This is the district from which all the coal used in New South
Wales is brought, and a good harbour is therefore of importance. A party
of convicts were employed in building a breakwater, connecting a cliffy
island at the entrance with the south point of the river, for the purpose
of deepening the mouth, but I much question whether it will answer, as
the silt that is washed down by the stream not finding its former exit
may by meeting the sea form a bar.
In ascending the valley of the Hunter I saw sufficient to convince me
that a railroad could easily be carried up from Newcastle to Maitland,
and thence to Patrick's Plains.*
(*Footnote. It appears that a company having for its object the
realization of this idea has just been formed.)
I cannot at this place resist the temptation of relating an anecdote,
which, though it is not exactly connected with the subject of my work,
may not be thought uninteresting by the reader. I was one night sleeping
at a friend's house; all the family had retired to rest, and I have no
doubt that a perfect stillness prevailed around. Suddenly, a noise like
thunder startled me from my slumbers, and as soon as I was able to
collect my scattered thoughts, I distinctly heard a series of violent
blows against a door at the foot of the staircase leading up to my
bedroom. Though the first impression might have been that the disturbance
was caused by thieves breaking into the house, it appeared improbable
that such characters should make their approach with so much clamour. I
instantly leaped out of bed, and arrived in time to see a sight which I
shall never forget.
The owner of the house, who slept on the ground floor, equally astonished
with myself at the noise, had also quitted his pillow, and, arming
himself with a sword and taper, advanced, in the costumes of Iago, when
he reappears upon the stage after stabbing Cassio and Rodorigo, towards
the door against which the monotonous thumping still continued at regular
intervals. It now appeared that the cause of his alarm was on the inside;
and my host who believed that a party of robbers had introduced
themselves into his premises, hailed them in a loud voice, promising that
if they did not cease their hammering, and surrender, he would put them
every one to death. So far from attending to his suggestion the thumps
increased in rapidity and violence, and he had scarcely time to put
himself in a defensive position when the door burst open and out rushed
his assailants--a multitude of round figures of all sizes, without heads,
legs, or arms! His first thought was that the supernatural existences of
New South Wales had now for the first time revealed themselves to his
eyes! Here was material for a fairytale! The genii of this country in
which everything runs into leg were then it appeared all body! Such were
the fancies that flashed through his mind as he made a desperate lunge at
the advancing foe, one of whom he transfixed from breast to back, whilst
the rest in an instant overthrew and trampled him under foot, if I may
use the expression. And now arose a wild scream--of laughter from myself
and the others who had witnessed this mortal combat, for the disturbers
of our night's repose were no other than a number of huge pumpkins, which
had been placed in a heap upon a press on the landing, and from having
been perhaps carelessly piled had given way, and rolled, one by one,
downstairs, accumulating at the bottom against the door, until by their
weight they forced it open!
CHANGES ON BOARD THE BEAGLE.
During our stay at Sydney some important changes took place among the
officers of the ship, the principal of which were the departure for
England of Captain Wickham, who had never thoroughly recovered from the
attack of dysentery he experienced on our first arrival at Swan River,
and the promotion of the writer to the vacancy thus created. Lieutenants
Emery and Eden also left for England; the former was succeeded by
Lieutenant Graham Gore.
This almost total change in the arrangements of the ship requiring some
delay, and the season for passing through Torres Strait, moreover, not
having commenced, it was the 3rd of June 1841, before the Beagle again
rounded Breaksea Spit, having touched on the way for a meridian distance
at Port Stephens.*
(*Footnote. We ran out of Port Stephens before a westerly gale. After
passing between Entrance Island and Soldier Point, we steered for
Salamander Head, and then for Tomaree Summit, when it was over the centre
of the first projection inside Nelson Head, which led over the south-west
corner of the shoal patch lying abreast of Red Point in 4 fathoms. When
Nelson Head just shut in Yacaba extreme, we steered for the former, and
passing it hauled over North-East 1/2 East for the western part of Yacaba
Head, keeping a white spot on the second point inside Nelson Head, just
open of the latter, until the leading marks for running out (which I have
before given in my former visit to Port Stephens) were on.)
Whilst at the latter place, I witnessed a corrobory presenting a peculiar
feature. As soon as it was dark, a number of heaps of fuel scattered here
and there were simultaneously ignited, and the whole surface of the green
was speedily lighted up by the flames. When the illumination was
complete, the men, painted with spots and lines of white commenced the
dance, which consisted in running sideways or in file, stamping with
great violence, and emitting an inharmonious grunt, gesticulating
violently all the time, and brandishing and striking together their
weapons. The peculiar feature in this corrobory, was the throwing of the
kiley, or boomerang, lighted at one end; the remarkable flight and
extraordinary convolutions of this weapon marked by a bright line of
fire, had a singular and startling effect.
As we were rounding Breaksea Spit, we met four merchant ships, who gladly
availed themselves of our convoy. On the 6th, being anxious to repeat our
last meridian distance, and also the magnetic observations, we anchored
under Cape Upstart. We likewise availed ourselves of the visit to
complete the examination of the bay on the east side of the Cape. The 7th
was a remarkably gloomy day, signalized by a very unusual fall in the
barometer between 8 A.M., and 2 P.M., from 30.14 to 30.00, when the
breeze which had been fresh in the morning, increased to a gale with
squalls. At 3, the wind shifted to the southward, and at 8 when it
moderated, the barometer again rose to 30.17. It is these sudden breezes
that are so fatal to ships caught off the outer barrier without an
opening to get within its shelter. No traces of natives were seen; but
the supply of water was as abundant as before, and we took the
opportunity of completing our stock.
On the 8th in the evening we left for Magnetical Island, about half a
mile off the west side of which we anchored next day in 5 fathoms. The
depth from thence shoals in gradually to the head of the bay. A small
rocky islet, to which our observations refer, bore south half a mile, in
latitude 19 degrees 7 minutes 10 seconds South and longitude 4 degrees 29
minutes 12 seconds West of Sydney. On this I found a greyish kind of
slate; but on Magnetical Island I discovered no local attraction
affecting the needle, so as to warrant the name bestowed by Cook. It is a
high piece of land, with an ill-defined peak in the centre, 1770 feet
A description and view of it have been given in the first volume. We
remained there five days, in order to rate the chronometers, and to
examine the head of Halifax Bay, where a large estuary had been reported
by Captain King; but of this we could see nothing, and came to the
conclusion that he must have been deceived by mirage. The land certainly
was low in that direction, and trending in to the southward appeared
afterwards to wind round to South-West, offering facilities for getting
over the range before spoken of as 3,600 feet high, and bounding the
shore of Halifax Bay. We were, however, glad of this opportunity of
examining a portion of the continent, that had always excited the
attention of those who passed, by its fertile aspect.
A party landed in the south corner of Halifax Bay, on a long flat sandy
beach, which at high-water is completely covered. Crossing some small
sand dunes, bound together by a sort of spinifex, we got into a luxuriant
growth of grass, rich and soft, with a springing sort of feel to the
feet. A few wallaby were started in this, but we obtained none; and
seeing a group of rich-looking eucalypti and tea-trees, some of us bent
our steps thitherwards, and found a small stream of fresh water, which
filtered itself through the sand towards the beach. There was no time to
trace it; but for some distance inland we could follow its course with
the eye, from the luxuriant vegetation it nourished. The soil was light
and sandy, covered with dense creepers, and innumerable quantities of the
Angustifolia in splendid flower, many of the clusters occupying a space
of three feet in diameter, with a proportionate stem of about five feet
from the earth. The hum of insects, and sudden disturbance of
rich-coloured parrots, screaming and fluttering through the branches, and
the strong, short, rapid flight of the dove, with its melancholy cooing,
transported us in imagination a long way inland, whereas we were not
three hundred yards from the beach. We now wended our way towards a small
eminence, through long grass, in most places interwoven with creepers,
compelling us to tear our way through them in the ascent.
ASTONISH A NATIVE.
In doing so Mr. Bynoe flushed a native; but before the rest of the party
could come up, he had taken to flight. The simultaneous cries of "here's
a native!" "where!" "here!" "there he goes stark naked," rose; and before
ALL EYES could catch a glimpse, his dark figure insensibly blended with
the waving branches of his wild solitude, and without a cry of fear or
joy, he was lost to us, perhaps for ever! We burst through the same
brushwood he had recently thrown aside, and entered a labyrinth of forest
trees, without finding a clue to the direction he had taken.
The whole of the country appeared to be granitic; the eminence on which
we stood bore that character, and some parts, near the beach, were thrown
into massive blocks, at high-water, completely surrounded by the flux of
tide. The view inland was intercepted by hills and trees, the former
assuming the same appearance as the one we were on, but higher. Our
game-bag was thinly lined with small curlews, oyster-catchers, and
A sandy spit connects Magnetical Island on the south side with the main,
and must be sufficiently shoal at low water to allow the natives to ford
over; for we found no canoes with those we met on the island, who were
numerous and apparently very well disposed. Although not a large race,
they were in very good condition; part of their food, is the native yam,
called warran in Western Australia. The birds on the island are common to
other parts; and the wallaby, of which Mr. Bynoe shot three, are light
On the evening of the 13th, we again proceeded on our passage; the night
was hazy, with a few slight squalls, much resembling the weather which we
had before experienced in the same place. Towards the close of the 15th,
we anchored eight miles from Cape Tribulation, bearing North 11 degrees
West. The summit of Snapper Island, bore South 7 degrees East six miles;
by which we found that both it and the coast are placed on the charts too
much to the eastward.
In passing Point Barrow I was very much struck with the similarity which
the low line of cliffs, running along the summit of the high land, bears
to that on the Victoria River.* We avoided the reef off Cape Flinders, by
following the directions given in the first volume, and by making a
detour to the southward round Princess Charlotte's Bay, were enabled to
keep underweigh all night.
(*Footnote. See Sketches.)
Continuing, we reached Restoration Island soon after dark on the 19th. It
was rather a confined anchorage, to be taken up at that hour with five
ships. Our arrival was under rather singular circumstances. The night
being dark, we could not make out even the outline of the high rocky
island, which appeared one dark mass; and the meeting of the land and sea
was only occasionally distinguished by patches of white, where the water
broke against the steep rocky sides of the island. Not a sound came from
the shore as we drew near our berth; but no sooner did the heavy splash
of the anchor, and the noise of the cable running out, resound among the
heights, than one loud yell of startled natives seemed to rise from one
end of the island to the other. The discharge of a signal rocket,
however, that curved its flight over the island, instantaneously quieted
the uproar, and a death-like silence succeeded.
NATIVES OF TORRES STRAIT.
In the morning we found that the island was occupied by a party of
natives from Torres Strait. Their canoes, which were furnished with
outriggers, were hauled up on the beach, and their spears were deposited
in the bushes around, ready for immediate use; but, although they seemed
to suspect our friendly intentions towards them at first, no disturbance
occurred, and some were prevailed upon to come on board. Their presence
forcibly reminded us of the melancholy fate of the crew of the Charles
Eaton; and no doubt they had come to the southward on a wrecking
expedition. They were a much finer race of men, than those met with on
the shores of the continent; their voices sounded softer, and their
language appeared quite different. They instantly recognized the drawing
of a Murray Island canoe, in Flinders' Voyage, and constantly kept
repeating the word toolic, meaning iron, in the Murray Island language.
The lobe of their ears was perforated with a large piece of bone; and
their hair was like that which I have before described as crisp. I
noticed that their spears were all pointed with bone, and that the shafts
in those used for fishing were large, with a coil of line attached, and a
string also connecting the head, which came loose when a porpoise or
turtle was struck; whilst the wood, floating, acted as a drag. At
daylight on the 21st we proceeded on our passage.
About four or five miles to the southward of Endeavour River, we passed
some discoloured patches near the shore; and thereabouts a shoal has
since been discovered. Having before expressed an opinion that there was
a safe passage through Endeavour Strait, I resolved to take this
opportunity of setting the question at rest. Before passing between the
Possession Isles, towards the entrance of it, I acquainted the rest of
the convoy with my intentions, to give them the option of taking the
chance of a passage with me, or of proceeding by the ordinary route. They
chose the former, and we accordingly entered the Strait, which we found
navigable for vessels drawing 18 feet, by passing about a mile and a half
to the northward of the Wallis Islands, steering a westerly course. In
crossing the ridge extending off Cape Cornwall, the least water was 3 1/2
fathoms at low tide; North Wallis Island bearing South 64 degrees East
seven miles. There still, however, appeared to be more water to the
southward, which determined me to examine this passage more minutely on
my return from the Gulf. A course was now held for Booby Island, where we
anchored in the evening (the 23rd).
PASSAGE THROUGH ENDEAVOUR STRAIT.
It was my intention, in order that we might commence our exploration of
the Gulf with a good supply, to have searched for water in Port Lihou, on
the south side of Cook Island, in Endeavour Strait; but the ships in
company being able to supply us the delay was avoided. Since our last
visit, the book at the Post Office, on Booby Island, had been destroyed
by some mischievous visitors, and the box was in a very dilapidated
state. We repaired the latter, and left a new book with a supply of pens
A ton or two of water was also procured from some holes in the rocks on
the island. I have before spoken of the heaps of stone which Captain King
concluded were erected by seamen; but Dr. Wilson, in his Voyage round the
World, mentions some cairns of stone on certain islands to the northward,
not previously visited by Europeans, and which must have therefore been
the work of natives.
THE PAINTED QUAIL.
Mr. Bynoe was fortunate enough to procure two pigeons of a new species
(Ptilinopus superbus) and of beautiful colours; the breast being dark
purple, the crown of the head red, and the other parts green; besides one
specimen of a bird, of the same genus as one on the Abrolhos, generally
called a quail, but with this difference, that it only lays four eggs,
whereas quails lay fourteen or fifteen. It is known to the colonists as
the Painted Quail; and has been called by Mr. Gould, from the specimen we
got on Booby Island, Haemipodius melinatus.
CHAPTER 2.8. GULF OF CARPENTARIA.
Leave Booby Island.
Eastern shore of Gulf.
Van Diemen's Inlet.
Party of Natives.
Visit Bountiful Islands.
Description of them.
Sail for Sweers Island.
Record of the Investigator's visit.
Dig a well.
Boats explore island and coast to the westward.
Sweers and Bentinck Islands.
Take ship over to the main.
Another boat expedition leaves.
Ship proceeds to the head of the Gulf.
Discovery and exploration of Disaster Inlet.
Description of Interior.
Explore coast to the eastward.
Discover the Flinders.
Ascent of the river.
Return to the ship.
Exploration of south-western part of Gulf.
Large inlets discovered.
The vessels forming our convoy departed this morning, and soon
disappeared in the western horizon, leaving the Beagle, that seemed
destined to be a solitary roamer, once more alone at anchor under Booby
On the same evening she was herself pursuing her lonely way towards the
Gulf of Carpentaria, the eastern shore of which we saw on the morning of
the 1st of July. In the afternoon we anchored in 3 1/4 fathoms; the north
end of a very low sandy piece of coast, which we found to be in latitude
16 degrees 13 1/2 minutes South, longitude 9 degrees 10 East of Port
Essington, bearing South 70 degrees East, six miles and a half. From this
place the coast trended South 10 degrees West, and was fringed with
mangroves; a few straggling casuarinas grew near the sandy parts, a
feature which we constantly afterwards found to recur; their tall
broom-like shapes form a remarkable element in the coast scenery of the
SINGULAR TIDAL PHENOMENON.
A fruitless attempt was made to visit the shore, which was fronted for
the distance of a mile by a bank of soft mud. We could therefore gain no
information respecting the interior; but from the numerous fires, it
appeared to be thickly inhabited. It was here that we first observed the
singular phenomenon of the tides ebbing and flowing twelve hours.
GULF OF CARPENTARIA.
Next day the coast was examined for fifteen miles to the southward; its
general character has already been given, which renders it unnecessary to
dilate further here. North-east winds now forced us away from the land,
and we did not see it again till the morning of the 3rd; when, finding as
much as four fathoms within two miles and a half of a projection, we
named it, in consequence, Bold Point. It is in latitude 17 degrees 0
minutes South, longitude 8 degrees 48 minutes East of Port Essington, and
is rendered conspicuous by two clumps of trees. North 23 degrees West two
miles from Bold Point, we observed an opening, and after anchoring the
ship as near the entrance as possible, I left with the whaleboats,
accompanied by Messrs. Forsyth, Fitzmaurice, and Tarrant, to examine it,
early in the afternoon. The view annexed, taken by Lieutenant Gore, just
after the boats had shoved off, will give the reader an excellent idea of
the appearance of the south-eastern shore of the Gulf of Carpentaria,
from a distance of only two miles. In this view, a gull, resting on the
back of a sleeping turtle, will attract the attention of the reader.
Proceeding, we crossed the bar, extending three quarters of a mile off
the mouth of the inlet, on which we found only two feet at low-water. The
coast on each side was sandy, with clumps of trees, and to the northward
was fronted by an extensive flat of sand. The first reaches of the inlet
promised well, having a depth of from 1 1/2 to 3 fathoms, and a width of
from two to three hundred yards; but it ultimately became much narrower,
and so torturous that, after following its windings for twenty-seven
miles, we had only advanced eight miles in a South 60 degrees East
direction from the entrance. It then divided--one branch trending south,
and the other east; and each being only fifteen yards wide and two feet
deep, the water quite salt, and the mangroves on either side, moreover,
almost meeting, rendered it impossible to proceed further. Our hopes had
been buoyed up as we advanced, an impression prevailing that we had
discovered a river, from our finding that at low tide the water was
simply brackish. I can only account for this by supposing that there was
an imperceptible drainage of fresh water through the banks.
The highest part of the country we saw was on the south side of one of
the reaches, six miles from the mouth; but even there the utmost
elevation was only ten feet. This rise was marked by a growth of
tolerable-sized eucalypti. Elsewhere the banks were scarcely three feet
above high-water level, and generally fringed with mangroves, behind
which in many places were extensive clear flats, reaching occasionally
the sides of the inlet towards the upper parts, and forming at that time
the resort of large flights of the bronze-winged pigeon.
In many of the reaches we met with flocks of wild ducks, of the white and
brown, and also of the whistling kind. The birds we had not before seen
were a large dark brown species of rail, so wary that I could never get
within shot of it, and a rather small blackbird with a white crest. A few
of the large species of crane, called the Native Companion, were also
seen. The only kind of fish taken was the common catfish.
PARTY OF NATIVES.
Alligators were very numerous for the first fifteen miles as we ascended;
and we saw a party of natives, but did not communicate with them. Their
astonishment at the appearance of such strange beings as ourselves must
have been very great. It could never before have fallen to their lot to
behold any of the white race; and until our presence undeceived them,
they must have been living in happy ignorance that they were not the only
specimens of humanity upon the face of the earth.
There was little to interest us in our examination of this inlet,
especially as the Dutch had probably visited it some two hundred years
before; thus destroying the principal charm it would have possessed,
namely, that of novelty. We inferred this from there being an opening
laid down in this neighbourhood by them as Van Diemen's River. I, in
consequence, continued the name, altering river to inlet; though,
probably, at times, it may deserve the appellation of a river, as after
heavy falls of rain it must contain fresh water. Our finding the water
only brackish near the head favours this supposition.
The habitations of the natives were of a more substantial kind than we
should have expected to meet with in these latitudes, being snug
oval-shaped huts, thatched with coarse grass. The extremely low level
nature of the country, the reader can imagine, as also how much it
surprised us to find that from the boat at high-water our eyes could
wander over miles. Occasionally on the plains, rendered warm from their
colour reflecting the powerful beams of the sun, were to be seen whirling
clouds of dust, towering upwards until their centrifugal force became
exhausted. The temperature, however, was lower about four in the morning
than we had noticed it since leaving Sydney, being only 65 degrees, when
easterly or land winds prevailed; those in the afternoon were generally
A slight rise, even of ten feet, in the water beyond the tidal change,
must overflow a vast portion of such very low country; many evidences of
this having taken place were observed.*
(*Footnote. At the entrance of Van Diemen's Inlet it is high-water on the
full and change of the moon at a quarter to seven; but in the upper part
the tides are three hours and a quarter later. The length of both flood
and ebb is twelve hours, and the direction of the former stream from the
northward, following the eastern shore of the Gulf.)
The formation of this part of the continent is of very recent date, as we
did not observe any rock; and the soil is chiefly alluvial. The only
fresh water found was at a native well, half a mile South-East from the
eastern entrance point of the inlet.
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