Narrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coasts of Australia
Phillip Parker King

Part 2 out of 6

Nickol's Bay; it is open only to the North-East, and affords safe
shelter, with good holding-ground. At the bottom of the bay, on both
sides of a projecting point of land, on which three round-backed hills
were conspicuous, the coast falls back, and forms two bights, the western
of which is backed by very low land, lined with mangroves; and may
probably contain a small rivulet: the other is smaller, but the land
behind it is higher than in the western bay, which of the two appears to
be of the most importance; but as the tide did not flow at a greater rate
than a quarter of a knot, very little was attached to any opening that
may exist there.

At this anchorage we experienced another squall, similar to that off Cape
Preston, but not so severe; the sand was blown over us from the shore,
although we were at least two miles distant from it.

March 5.

The next morning we steered to the eastward, along the land, and soon
after noon passed round Captain Baudin's Bezout Island; a projecting
point within it was named in compliment to my friend Aylmer Bourke
Lambert, Esquire; behind which a range of hills extends to the
South-South-East for five or six leagues, and then trends to the
eastward, toward a group of islands named by the French Forestier's
Archipelago, the principal of which is Depuch Island. Near this we
anchored in five fathoms sandy ground. Our course from Cape Lambert was
parallel with the beach, and although we were not more than from three to
five miles from it, yet it was so low that it could not be seen from the
deck; and even from the masthead it was but very indistinctly traced; nor
indeed is it quite certain that what we did see was really the shore of
the mainland.

March 6.

The vessel rode out the night rather uneasily on account of the wind
blowing a fresh breeze from the South-East, which freshened up when the
sun rose with such strength from the same direction that we were
prevented from landing upon Depuch Island. We passed the group at one
mile off; it consists of six islands, all of which, with the exception of
Depuch Island, are small and of a low sandy character. Hence the coast
trended to the North-East by East, but it was soon lost to view, for the
wind would not permit our making better than a North-East course. Before
noon we passed within a quarter of a mile of a part of the Geographe's
Bank, which was nearly dry; it lies twenty-two miles North-East from
Depuch Island.

Upon comparing my chart with Captain Dampier's description of the
Rosemary Islands, there appears to be little doubt but that M. De
Freycinet is justified in his conjectures, that the islands, called by
them Romarin and Malus, are those seen by that navigator. My conclusion
results from his description of the place he landed at, for he says:

"We were now on the inner side of the island, on whose outside is the
bluff point: we rode a league from the land, and I presently went on
shore, and carried shovels to dig for water, but found none. There grew
here two or three sorts of shrubs, one just like rosemary, and,
therefore, I call this Rosemary Island. It grew here in great plenty, but
had no smell...In the sea, we saw some green turtle, a pretty many
sharks, and abundance of water-snakes, of several sorts and sizes. The
stones were all of a rusty colour and ponderous."*

(*Footnote. Dampier Octavo 1729 volume 3 page 90.)

The rosemary plants were found by us on Enderby Island, and bore a strong
resemblance to the figure of one given by Dampier, which he thus
describes: Conyza Novae Hollandiae angustis rorismarini foliis: this
plant, found at Enderby Island, may naturally be supposed to grow upon
the other islands, since they are all similar in character. Enderby
Island he certainly did not visit, but I take Malus Island to be that on
which he landed, and the bluff, which he describes as the east end of the
island, is no other than our Courtenay Head, for it is the only land of
that character hereabouts, and is visible from the deck of a large ship,
at the distance of seven leagues. In the bearing that Dampier saw it,
namely, South-East, our Rosemary Island would appear to be joined to
Malus Island, and hence his opinion that it was "an island five or six
leagues in length, and one in breadth."

In one of his draughts (Number 9), he gives a view of the head, bearing
East-South-East, six leagues; and this bearing and distance, applied to
our Courtenay Head, will cross the latitude of 20 degrees 21 minutes,
which is that noted in the draught; and in the next draught (Number 10),
when the head bears South-East by South, two black rocks are inserted,
bearing South-East by East, and a point of land East: the black rocks
readily answer to the two flat rocks of my chart, and the land about
Gidley Island will bear East. No light can be thrown upon the subject
from his drawings of the headlands, since they are too minute to be
compared with nature.

That the Montebello Islands are not the Rosemary Islands is evident, from
their being low, having no bluff head, and from their not being visible
so far as Dampier saw those he described. No other land can answer as to
latitude but Rosemary, Malus, Legendre, or Gidley Islands; but, on the
two latter, there is no decided bluff, and when bearing South-East by
South, no land could be seen bearing East. The rocks of Malus Island, on
which we landed, are "of a rusty colour, and ponderous,"* and the bluff,
as I have before remarked, very conspicuously forms the east end of the

(*Footnote. Vide Appendix C.)

Dampier remarks that Rosemary Island is two hundred and thirty-two miles
east of the meridian of Shark's Bay; this, applied to the longitude of
that place, will make it in 117 degrees 12 minutes, which is only 35
minutes east of my Courtenay Head.

This group was named by the French Dampier's Archipelago, and as there is
ample proof of its being the place which that navigator visited, the name
has been admitted by us; but we have also extended it to the islands
forming the east side of Mermaid's strait, which are laid down by the
French as a part of the mainland.

Examination of Rowley's Shoals, and Passage to the North Coast.
Survey of Goulburn Islands, Mountnorris and Raffles Bays.
Meet a Malay Fleet, and communicate with one of the Proas.
Explore Port Essington.
Attacked by Natives in Knocker's Bay.
Anchor in Popham Bay.
Visit from the Malays.
Examination of Van Diemen's Gulf, including Sir George Hope's Islands and
Alligator Rivers.
Survey of the Northern Shore of Melville Island, and Apsley Strait.
Interview with the Natives of Luxmore Head.
Procure wood at Port Hurd.
Clarence Strait.
Leave the Coast, and arrival at Timor.

1818. March 6.

The south-east wind, which set in on the morning that we left our
anchorage off Depuch Island, continued to blow with thick misty weather,
and made us conjecture that the westerly monsoon was nearly expended; we,
therefore, steered off the coast with the intention of proceeding to the
eastward towards Cape Arnhem, after ascertaining the position of a shoal
that was seen by Captain Rowley, in H.M.S. Imperieuse, in 1800, and of
two others that are described by Captain Horsburgh to be in its vicinity.
They are situated according to the above authorities as follows, namely:

Imperieuse Shoal (south end): latitude 17 degrees 35 minutes, longitude
118 degrees 37 minutes.

Shoal seen by the ship Good Hope (north end): latitude 17 degrees 47 1/2
minutes, longitude 119 degrees 18 minutes.

Shoal seen by Captain Clerke (north part): latitude 17 degrees 28
minutes, longitude 119 degrees 2 minutes.

The last is described by its discoverer, to be 230 miles North 49 1/2
degrees East (Magnetic) from the north part of Rosemary Island, which
would assign to that island a situation in 20 degrees 6 minutes latitude,
and 116 degrees 6 minutes longitude; but on this parallel there is no
land to the westward of 118 degrees 40 minutes. The shoal, according to
Captain Horsburgh's account, is 264 miles North, 49 degrees East (true)
from Trimouille Island, the north-easternmost of the Montebello Group,
which must be the one taken by Captain Clerke for Rosemary Island.

March 6 to 12.

After leaving the land, the weather was very dull and damp for six days,
during which the wind being light and baffling prevented any progress.
Fortunately we were free from sickness, otherwise the heavy rains that
fell would have caused a considerable inconvenience to the crew, by
confining them to the same small cabin with the sick. Happily, however, I
heard of no complaints.

March 13.

And on the 13th at noon, the weather began to clear up with a freshening
breeze from the South-East, and soon veered to a steady wind from

March 14.

We then steered East to make the shoal, and at sunset the next evening it
was seen about three miles off, when we sounded with 170 fathoms of line
without getting bottom.

March 15.

During the night we stood off to the westward, and early in the morning
made the shoal again: at noon, it was close to us, at which time our
latitude was by observation 17 degrees 33 minutes 12 seconds, from which
I deduce the situation of the north end of the shoal to be in:

Latitude 17 degrees 31 minutes 24 seconds:
Longitude 118 degrees 50 minutes 30 seconds:

the longitude being ascertained by chronometers from Depuch Island,
corrected afterwards for our arrival at the north coast.

On rounding the north end of the shoal, soundings were ineffectually
tried for, with 120 fathoms: soon afterwards, we bore up on an eastern
course, and in the evening saw another extensive shoal; within two miles
of the south end of which we sounded with 170 fathoms of line without
reaching the bottom.

The south end of the second shoal, is in:

Latitude 7 degrees 28 minutes 5 seconds:
Longitude 119 degrees 18 minutes 00 seconds:

It stretches in a North-West direction for seven or eight miles, and to
the eastward the breakers extended beyond the masthead horizon; its
limit, therefore, in the latter direction, remained undetermined.

March 16.

The next morning a third shoal was discovered, the south-east end of
which, is in:

Latitude 17 degrees 12 minutes:
Longitude 119 degrees 35 minutes.

These dangerous reefs were named Rowley's Shoals, in compliment to the
discoverer of the westernmost (the Imperieuse), the situation of which is
assigned by me to be 13 minutes 30 seconds to the eastward of Captain
Rowley's account: the middle shoal, seen by us last evening, is certainly
the one that Captain Clerke saw; but the third or north-easternmost,
distinguished by the Mermaid's name, seems to be a new discovery.

On the north end of the Imperieuse shoal rocks were distinguishable, and
some were also seen near its centre above the level of the sea: all other
parts were under water. On the middlemost shoal no rocks were uncovered;
but on the south-east end of the Mermaid's Shoal several were observed.
These reefs are of a coral formation, and are very dangerous to approach
at night, from their vicinity being unfathomable to the depth of 170
fathoms; still, however, the surf that constantly breaks upon them may be
heard at a great distance, and will generally be sufficient to warn the
navigator of his danger.

March 23.

On the 23rd we passed the meridian of Cape Van Diemen, in latitude 10
degrees 48 minutes. The same evening some land was indistinctly seen
bearing South.

March 24.

The ensuing daylight discovered to us several islands in the
South-South-East, having previously shoaled our soundings from 31 to 10
fathoms; and during the morning we steered through them.

The group contains several low coral-formed islands; the
north-easternmost of which proved to be the New Year's Island of
Lieutenant McCluer of the Bombay Marine; they are covered with a shrubby
vegetation, and are severally surrounded by a coral reef: the principal
of them were named Oxley's, McCluer's, and Lawson's Islands, and a larger
and higher island in the South-South-West was named in compliment to my
friend Captain Charles Grant, C.B., of the Royal Navy, under whose
auspices I entered the naval service.

We steered on to the East-South-East through the first part of the night,
with every prospect of reaching Cape Arnhem, where our examination of the
coast westwardly was to commence.

March 26.

But at midnight the wind changed to the eastward, and at daylight (26th),
the land was visible from south to South-West. At ten o'clock we fetched
in close to a low sandy point, and then bore up to the westward along the
coast, which appeared, as it afterwards proved to be, a part of the main.
The low point which commenced our survey was called Point Braithwaite,
and one mile North-West from it is Point Hall: the shore then trends five
miles to the westward to Point Cuthbert, from which a shoal communication
extends towards a rock on which the sea broke: we passed within the rock,
carrying two and a quarter fathoms; and then hauled in for a point of
land, called after my friend Captain G.H. Guion, R.N.; but not succeeding
in finding anchorage under it, we bore away along the shore, and at night
anchored off Point Turner. Between Points Guion and Turner is a deep but
rocky bay, at the bottom of which is an appearance of an opening lined
with mangroves: to the westward of Point Turner is another bay, which
circumstances did not then allow of our examining. From our anchorage the
land was traced as far as North-West, and appeared to be an island
separated from the main by a strait.

March 27.

The next day we passed through it, and anchored in a bay on the
South-West side of the island, at about half a mile from the beach. The
Strait was named Macquarie Strait, after the late Major-General Lachlan
Macquarie, who administered the government of New South Wales for a
period of nearly twelve years.

As the shores of the bay, in which we had anchored, appeared likely to
afford both wood and water, of which articles we were much in want, I was
induced to take advantage of the opportunity, and immediately made
preparation to commence these occupations. In the evening a pit was dug
for water, which oozed so fast into it, that we did not anticipate any
difficulty on that head, and the wood was both plentiful and convenient
to the beach.

It was now about the termination of the rainy season, and everything bore
the most luxuriant appearance; the grass, which covered the face of the
island, was more than six feet high, and completely concealed us from
each other as we walked to the summit of the hill, the sides of which
were very thickly wooded. Upon the edge of the beach, the pandanus, the
hibiscus, and a variety of other tropical trees and shrubs were growing,
and the sand was variegated with the long-stemmed convolvulus in full

The trees upon the hills were principally a small-sized eucalyptus, which
we cut for firewood, but the stem was generally found to be unsound, and
totally useless for any purpose excepting for fuel. Among the flowers
that were strewed about the island was a superb shrubby grevillea, with
scarlet flowers. The casuarina grew also near the sandy beach but it
seemed to prefer the exposed parts near the extremities of the sandy
projections of the land where no other tree would grow. The wood of this
tree appeared to be of a closer grain, and of a darker colour than the
species that is usually found upon the north coast.

The only edible fruit that we found was a small black grape: it bore a
very inferior resemblance to the common sweet-water grape, but the leaf
and habit are altogether different.

The centre of the bay is formed by a sandy beach; it is terminated by
cliffs of about forty feet in height, the upper stratum of which appeared
to be an indurated clay of a very red colour, occasioned by the
ferruginous nature of the rocks and soil; the lower part is a stratum of
the whitest pipe-clay, the upper limit of which, from the surface having
been washed clean by the late rains, was so defined and produced so
striking a contrast in point of colour as to give the whole a most
remarkable appearance.

At the distance of ten miles behind the beach of the mainland, which is
very low, there is a continued ridge of rocky hills which was named
Wellington Range, and behind them is the Tor, a remarkable rock that
stands alone. The range is about twenty-five miles in extent, and its
summit has a very irregular outline; it is visible for eight or nine

March 28.

The morning after our arrival a baseline was measured upon the beach for
the survey of the bay, and whilst we were thus employed our people found
and brought to me several traces of Malays, who, as we are informed by
Captain Flinders, make annual visits to this part of the coast in large
fleets, to fish for beche de mer.

Among the relics were old broken joints of bamboo, which the Malays use
to carry their water in, some worn out cordage and a coconut, which had
perhaps been left behind by accident. The traces appeared to be of so
recent a date, that we conjectured the fleet was but a short distance to
the eastward of the islands, and as the easterly monsoon had commenced,
we were naturally in daily expectation of being overtaken by them. Our
operations, therefore, were hurried, since we could not tell what might
be the result of encountering them, as we were totally incapable of
defending ourselves, should they be mischievously inclined. A look-out
was therefore kept for their approach, and our people were held as much
as possible within sight, so that we might be prepared to weigh and leave
the place as soon as they should make their appearance.

The hole which had been dug for water was half full, but it was so
brackish as to be quite unfit for use.

Upon further search a small pond was found by Mr. Cunningham in a hollow,
at the back of the beach; but in the course of the day a run of water was
discovered by Boongaree, at the north end of the beach, oozing out from
the base of the pipe-clay cliffs, which proved upon examination to yield
better water than the former, besides being very much more convenient to

Our wooding-party commenced operations the day after we arrived, and, on
their returning on board at night, imprudently left their tools on shore.

March 29.

The next day, whilst the people were at dinner, Boongaree, whose eyes
were constantly directed to the shore, espied five natives among the
grass, which was so high as nearly to conceal them, walking towards our
wooding-place; and, as they proceeded, it was perceived that they had
stolen one of our station-flags, four of which had been erected on the
beach to mark the baseline. On reaching the place where our people had
been employed, three of the natives began to throw down a pile of wood
that had been heaped up ready to embark, whilst the fourth crept on his
hands and knees towards the other station-flags, and succeeded in
carrying off two more before he was observed; but as he was on the point
of taking the fourth he was detected, and two muskets were fired at him,
upon which he fled into the woods, followed by his companions, carrying
with them all our wooding tools.

During the morning a canoe, containing six or seven natives, had been
seen on the opposite shore under Point Ross; but it had disappeared, and
had probably brought the party over who had just robbed us. Mr. Bedwell
suggested the idea of their having landed round the south point of the
bay, where, if so, their canoe would be found. He was accordingly
despatched to bring it away as a reprisal for our stolen flags and tools,
and upon his pulling round the point he saw several natives standing by
the canoe, which was hauled up on the beach. On the boat pulling in, one
of the natives poised a spear, but he retreated with his companions into
the wood the moment that our party landed, without throwing it. The canoe
was then launched and brought on board. It appeared to have originally
belonged to the Malays, for it was made from a log of teak; it was
seventeen feet long and two feet broad, and had probably been either
captured or stolen by these natives. During Mr. Bedwell's absence I
landed, to observe some distances between the sun and moon, and this task
was completed without interruption; the thieves were seen all the
afternoon standing among the trees, watching our movements; and upon our
making an excursion in the evening towards the north end of the bay, they
were observed to follow us armed with spears, but they did not show
themselves, since they probably perceived we were prepared to receive

Before dark the canoe was hoisted up to the stern, and our other boats
were secured under it; notwithstanding which the natives swam off, and,
when everything was quiet, cut the whale boat's moorings, without being
detected, and swam away with her in tow; it was, however, discovered in
time, and the boat recovered before the tide had drifted her out of

March 30.

Early the next morning the cutter was removed nearer to the
watering-place that Boongaree had found, and in doing this we were
watched by ten or twelve natives, who were standing as they thought
concealed among the trees. This afforded us so good an opportunity of
expressing our anger at their attempt to steal our boat, and of showing
them that we were not Malays, that we fired a shot from a six-pounder
carronade over their heads, the report of which for a moment scared them;
but their alarm was only momentary, for they soon afterwards recovered
from their fright and continued to watch us as before.

As soon as the vessel was secured, our watering party commenced their
operations, and had been employed for half an hour without interruption,
when the natives suddenly appeared on the brink of the cliff that
overhung the beach, and threw several large stones at our people, which
slightly wounded three of them, before the muskets could be fired, upon
which the Indians retreated into the woods. The attack having been
observed from the vessel, the jolly-boat was dispatched to the shore with
assistance, and with orders to Mr. Bedwell to keep the whale-boat moored
at about fifteen or twenty yards from the beach with muskets ready to
fire, so that with this protection the watering-party were enabled to
continue their task without molestation. In the course of the day the
natives collected again behind the trees, and were at one time advancing
towards the cliffs, but being seen from the cutter a shot was fired over
their heads, which deterred them from coming forward. This hostile
conduct of the natives induced me to give up our intention of wooding at
this island; since the Indians might easily advance under cover of the
thick underwood, and throw their spears before we could be aware of their
approach. As soon, therefore, as our watering was completed, I determined
upon procuring our fuel from an island to the northward, which, during
our visit, we had seen from the North-West point of the bay, and which,
together with the one we were at, were called Goulburn Islands, in
compliment to the then Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies.

1818. April 1 to 4.

During our stay, Sims' Island, named at the request of Mr. Cunningham
after Dr. Sims, the eminent conductor of the Botanical Magazine, was
twice visited. It is situated in front of South-West Bay, is about two
miles and a half in circumference, and formed of a large and coarse
granular quartzose sandstone, large rounded masses of which cover the
surface at its northern end, the summit of which was named Sansom's Head.
Sims' Island furnished a very large addition to Mr. Cunningham's
collection, and among the flowers which it produced was a very beautiful
sweet-scented asclepias. No snakes nor reptiles of any description were
seen, but birds of various sorts were abundant, particularly the white
cockatoo. Of the sea-fowl, a species of tern was the most numerous. An
alligator, about fifteen feet long, swam about the vessel for some time,
which made us afterwards rather cautious of walking through the high
grass; but excepting a dog that followed the natives, no quadrupeds were

Off the north point of the bay, at the distance of a furlong, and
separated from it by a channel of from twelve to fifteen feet deep, are
two rocks of the same formation as those on Sims' Island; on the largest
was deposited a bottle containing a record on parchment of our visit. On
this rock all our observations were taken, excepting a few at the south
end of the sandy beach, before the natives showed themselves: the
longitude of Bottle Rock was subsequently determined to be 133 degrees 19
minutes 40 seconds.*

(*Footnote. Vide Appendix A Section X.)

April 6.

We left South-west Bay on the 4th, and the following morning anchored in
a bay on the west side of North Island, and on the 6th we commenced
cutting our wood from a group of casuarinas that grew close to the beach.

In the afternoon, when our party returned on board to dinner, some
natives were perceived examining our wooding-place, but our late
experience had taught us the precaution of bringing our tools away, to
prevent any further occasion of quarrel. They did not stop long but
walked on, as if they had some other object; at about forty yards farther
they halted again, and concealing themselves as they thought behind a
bank, they watched us for half an hour; after which they walked away and
disappeared among the trees.

April 7.

On our revisiting the shore, we traced their steps through the grass, and
came up with a shallow well containing fresh water, which they had
evidently taken the opportunity of our absence to drink at. Upon further
search we found their encampment; it consisted of three or four dwellings
of a very different description from any that we had before, or have
since seen: they were of a conical shape, not more than three feet high,
and not larger than would conveniently contain one person; they were
built of sticks, stuck in the ground, and being united at the top,
supported a roof of bark, which was again covered with sand, so that the
hut looked more like a sand-hillock than the abode of a human creature:
the opening was at one side, and about eighteen inches in diameter; but
even this could be reduced when they were inside, by heaping the sand up
before it. In one of the huts were found several strips of bamboo, and
some fishing-nets, rudely made of the fibres of the bark of trees.

Mr. Cunningham took the advantage of a good spot of soil in the vicinity
of our wooding-place to sow every sort of seed that we possessed, namely,
peach, apricot, loquat (a Chinese fruit), lemon, seventeen sorts of
culinary seeds, tobacco, roses, and a variety of other European plants;
and in addition to these, the coconut was planted, which we had found
upon the beach of South-West Bay, but it is very doubtful whether any
have succeeded, on account of the custom that the natives have when the
grass is dry, of setting fire to it, so that there is little doubt but
that all the annual plants have been destroyed.

The bay was called Mullet Bay, in consequence of the immense shoals of
that fish which were seen near the shores, and of which Boongaree speared
several with his fiz-gig. The trepang were found about the rocks on the
beach in great numbers, as they were also on the South Island.

April 8.

On the 8th we left Mullet Bay, and made an unsuccessful attempt to beat
round the north end of the island, and to return by steering through the
strait that separates the Northern from the Southern Island: we were,
however, prevented by the freshness of the wind, and the strength of the

April 10.

On the 10th, we bore up with the intention of returning to South-West
Bay. On approaching it, however, we were surprised with the sight of the
Malay fleet steering through Macquarie Strait, towards two of their proas
that had already anchored in a sandy bay on the South-West side of Sims'
Island. It was therefore determined that we should proceed as far to the
westward before nightfall as we could, and as the bay to the South-East
of Sims' Island had not been sufficiently seen by us, we steered off so
as to reconnoitre the proas, and improve the survey at the same time.

As soon as we had reached the island, all the vessels but one had
anchored, and their crews were busily engaged in passing to and from the
shore in small canoes, apparently watering. We passed by at a small
distance with our colours flying, which was answered by each hoisting a
Dutch jack; but one of the proas, which was thought to be the Rajah's
vessel, bore a blue flag in addition. Some stragglers on the rocks who
appeared to take no part in the labours of the rest, and who were
probably the chiefs, waved repeatedly to us to stop; but as their
acquaintance could render us no service, I declined their invitations.
Our presence did not appear to have excited any particular bustle amongst
them, but every precaution was taken on our part to repel any attack. The
proas, which were fifteen in number, appeared to be of twenty-five to
forty tons burden, and the fleet contained altogether at least three
hundred men.

The evening was too far advanced to make any particular examination of
the sinuosities of the bay; but, after passing Sims' Island, our course
was sufficiently near the coast to perceive the general outline of the
beach as far as Point Brogden, off which we were at sunset. To the
eastward of Point Brogden, which is more elevated than other parts, the
coast assumes a cliffy character, and trends to the North-West towards De
Courcy Head, which we reached before dark.

April 11.

During the night we were under weigh, and at daylight were near Grant's
Island, which we had seen on the 24th of last month: we then steered for
the land, and reached De Courcy Head by eight o'clock, and were on the
point of hauling round Cape Cockburn, to explore a bay that trended in on
its western side, when the Malay fleet which we passed the preceding
evening were seen standing towards us. Not liking to enter it until they
had passed by, we made a trip off shore, but to our great mortification,
no sooner had they reached the cape, than they hauled in to the bay, and
anchoring there, prevented, for the present, our visiting it; we had no
wish, in our defenceless state, to form a better acquaintance with so
suspicious a crew.

As the land to the westward of Cape Cockburn trended deeply in to the
South-West, and formed a deep bay, we steered on to examine it, whilst
the Malays occupied the anchorage in what we afterwards called Malay Bay;
then passing through a strait separating Point Annesley from Valentia
Island, we entered Mountnorris Bay, and after coasting for some distance,
until the bottom of the bay was visible, we anchored near the eastern
shore, and passed the night.

The coast from Valentia Island to our anchorage is principally formed by
sandy beaches, the continuity of which is broken by projecting rocky
heads, one of which is Point Coombe. Valentia Island is low and thickly
wooded, and partakes of the monotonous appearance of the mainland, which
is equally covered with low, small, and apparently-stunted trees.

April 12.

At day-dawn the Malays were observed making a move, and as each proa got
under sail, it steered towards us. The anchor was, therefore, immediately
weighed, and we prepared to receive them as formidably as our means
allowed. Their number was now increased to twenty-one vessels, by their
having hoisted out six large canoes; but as they approached there was no
appearance of any hostile intention, since some of them steered across
the bay, and only a few continued to direct their course towards us. One
of the canoes came near with the intention of visiting us, but not liking
too intimate an acquaintance with them, we pointed to our carronade, and
beckoned to them to go away, which they immediately did. One of the proas
soon afterwards passed by with Dutch colours displayed, to which its crew
repeatedly pointed, at the same time hailing us in an unintelligible
jargon, of which Macassar and Trepang were the only words that were
distinguished. They also pointed to the North-West, but whether this was
intended to convey to us the direction of the place whence they came, or
the course they were about to steer, was not very evident. In a short
time the fleet had passed by, and as we were under weigh we returned to
the examination of Malay Bay, in which nothing worthy of note was found.
It affords good anchorage during the easterly monsoon on a muddy bottom
in from four to five fathoms, but its shores are low and its beaches
rocky, and so uninteresting, that we returned to our previous anchorage
in Mountnorris Bay.

April 13.

The next day we landed on Copeland Island and from its summit obtained
extensive bearings for the survey of the bay. The island is surrounded by
a coral bank; its north side is formed by a perpendicular argillaceous
cliff of a bright yellow colour, and is a conspicuous object to vessels
entering the bay. Behind the cliff to the south the land gradually
declines and runs off to a low point; the whole surface of the island is
covered with trees, among which a beautiful hatchet-shape-leafed acacia
in full bloom was very conspicuous. The other trees were principally of
the eucalyptus family; but they were all of small size. On the west side
of the island was a dry gully, and a convenient landing-place, near to
which a bottle was deposited, containing a parchment record of our visit,
and of the names bestowed upon the bays and islands hereabout.

Three natives were observed walking along the sandy beach, at the bottom
of the bay; but they passed on without taking the least notice of our

We left the anchorage on the 13th, and crossed the bottom of the bay
within Copeland Island: then steering up the west side we passed a large
opening, trending to the North-West. Here we were detained for some time,
by grounding upon a sandbank. But by keeping the sails full, the vessel
dragged over it, and we resumed our course to the northward, along the
west side of Mountnorris Bay; and, at sunset, anchored between it and
Darch's Island, which protected us from both the wind and swell, during a
very squally night. Darch's Island, so named after my esteemed friend,
Thomas Darch, Esquire, of the Admiralty, is, like Valentia Island, very
thickly wooded. Its eastern side is a continued bluff cliffy shore, but
the north and south ends are low, and terminate with a shoal; which, off
the former, is of rocks; and near its extremity is a single mangrove
bush, which was seen and set from Copeland Island's summit.

April 14.

The next morning, at daylight, we passed round the north extremity of the
island, which was named Cape Croker, in compliment to the first secretary
of the Admiralty; and anchored on the north side of a bight round the
cape, which was subsequently named Palm Bay.

In the afternoon we landed, and ascending the hill or bank behind the
beach, obtained a view of the coast of the bay: a distant wooded point,
called, from its unusual elevation, High Point, bounded our view to the
south; but to the South-West some patches of land were indistinctly
visible. Tracks of natives were seen in many places, and the marks of
footsteps on the beach had been very recently impressed. On the bank a
circular spot of ground, of fifteen yards in diameter, was cleared away,
and had very lately been occupied by a tribe of natives. The island is
thickly wooded with a dwarf species of eucalyptus, but here and there the
fan palm and pandanus grew in groups, and with the acacia, served to vary
the otherwise monotonous appearance of the country. The soil, although it
was shallow and poor, was covered with grass, and a great variety of
shrubs and plants in flower, which fully occupied Mr. Cunningham's
attention. As we proceeded through the trees, a group of lofty palms
attracted our notice, and were at first supposed to be coconut trees that
had been planted by the Malays; but on examining them closer, they proved
to be the areca, the tree that produces the betel-nut and the toddy, a
liquor which the Malays and the inhabitants of all the eastern islands
use. Some of these palms were from thirty to forty feet high, and the
stem of one of them was bruised and deeply indented by a blunt

Having spent several hours on shore, without finding anything very
interesting or at all useful to us, we returned on board, when we found
that we had been watched by three natives, who had walked along the
beach, but on coming near us, had concealed themselves among the trees,
from which they had, probably, observed all our movements whilst we were
on shore. They were perhaps deterred from approaching us from our
numbers, and from the muskets which each of us carried; for our
experience of the disposition of the natives at Goulburn Island had
taught us prudence, and no boat was, after that affair, permitted to
leave the vessel without taking a musket for each man. It was, however,
fortunate for us that we were not often obliged to resort to them for a
defence, for the greater number of the twelve that we possessed were
useless, notwithstanding they were the best that could be procured at
Port Jackson when the vessel was equipped.

The rocks on the beach and the stones which are scattered about the
surface of the ground are all of a ferruginous nature, and appear from
their colour and weight to contain a large portion of iron; but the
needle of the compass was in no way affected by being placed near them.
The soil is also highly coloured by the oxide of iron, and it is this
that gives the cliffs of this part of the coast, particularly the upper
portion of them, the red appearance that they almost universally possess.

April 15.

The next day we went to High Point, which was found to be the east head
of a moderate-sized port, affording good anchorage and perfect security
during either monsoon. A sufficient inducement to bring the cutter thus
far presented itself; and as it was near sunset, our remarks were merely
confined to bearings from the point.

April 16.

On preparing to weigh the next morning, four Malay proas were observed
steering across the bay out of an opening which trends round the south
head of Palm Bay, and which proved to be a strait communicating with
Mountnorris Bay. It was named after my friend James Bowen, Esquire, one
of the Commissioners of the Navy. As soon as the proas had reached a
sufficient distance to leeward, we got under sail; and on rounding the
south point of the bay, and opening the strait, the remaining proas of
the fleet that we had previously seen, were observed at anchor close to a
sandy beach on the north shore, and their canoes to the number of twenty
were fishing on the opposite side of the strait. The latter, on observing
us, hoisted their sails, and returned to their proas; but as it was not
considered prudent to examine the port until they had passed by, its
exploration was deferred, and we returned to our anchorage in Palm Bay.
We had not, however, to wait long, for the proas left Bowen's Strait the
next morning, and crossed the bay to the westward. Our anchor was weighed
immediately, and we steered towards their sternmost vessel, in order to
communicate with her, and to show her a letter with which we had been
kindly provided by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, written in the Malay
language, and explanatory of our occupation. On running alongside the
proa, the letter was displayed, but they appeared frightened and
unwilling to bring to, and repeatedly pointed towards the headmost proa
in which their Rajah sailed.

Since our object could not be effected without communicating with their
Rajah, and as another opportunity might offer at some future time of
communicating with these people, it was abandoned for the present; and we
steered into the bay, and anchored within a small island at the entrance,
in time to observe the sun's meridional altitude. The evening was spent
in pulling round the bay, the shores of which are low, and so overrun
with mangroves, that landing was in most parts impracticable; but a small
break in them being observed under a cliff, we put ashore to examine the
country. Here we found two streams of fresh water, one of which ran over
the beach with some force; but they appeared to be only the drainings of
the country, and to be merely of temporary duration. The soil was here
very good, but the trees and underwood were so thick that we did not
venture far from the boat. A native's basket was found, and the usual
signs of their having lately been hereabouts. We also landed on a
projecting point, at the bottom of the bay, to obtain bearings; and a
second time under a remarkable cliffy point on the west side, from the
summit of which another set of bearings were obtained, which completed
the survey of the port; and we named it Raffles Bay, in compliment to Sir

At night, the seine was hauled under High Point, and procured us a good
mess of fish.

April 19.

We left Raffles' Bay on the 19th in the morning, and ran along the
western shore to the North-West point which we passed round; and,
steering between it and a low sandy island, entered a bay, at the bottom
of which was an opening, but we were prevented from entering it by shoal

The next point to the westward is Point Smith, and at the distance of a
mile from it, is a ledge of rocks on which the sea constantly breaks. We
passed close round the reef, and hauled into a very considerable opening
about six or seven miles wide, and at least five or six leagues deep. At
the bottom of this inlet was some higher land than usual, and among it
two flat-topped hills were very conspicuous. The eastern shore of the
port, for such it proved to be, is formed by a succession of rocky
points, between which were ranges of red cliffs, much higher than any we
had yet seen, and, if possible, more thickly wooded. As the day was far
spent, we anchored on the east side under one of the cliffs, and during
the night, the dismal howling of native dogs was heard close to the
vessel, a noise that was very frequently heard by us whenever we
anchored, and passed a calm night near the shore.

April 20.

The next morning, before we got under weigh, we landed at the mouth of a
small salt-water inlet, which trended in among the mangroves: having
climbed a hill, we had a distinct view of the bottom of the port, which,
at the distance of eight miles higher up, closed to a narrow opening, and
then widened to a spacious inner harbour. The country is here thickly,
and in some parts almost impenetrably, clothed with eucalyptus, acacia,
pandanus, fan palms, and various other trees; whilst the beaches are in
some parts studded, and in others thickly lined with mangroves. The soil
is chiefly of a gray sandy earth, and in some parts might be called even
rich; there were, however, very few places that could bear so favourable
a character. The climate seems here to favour vegetation so much that the
quality of the soil appears to be of minor importance, for everything
thrives and looks verdant.

Having returned on board we got under weigh, and steered for the narrow
opening at the bottom of the port. On reaching it, the water deepened,
but we were obliged to anchor, and sound the channel, before we succeeded
in entering the inner harbour, which we found to be a spacious sheet of
water, divided into two bays by a projecting cliffy point, which from its
situation was called Middle Head. There we remained at anchor until the
23rd, during which time the shores of the inner harbour were examined,
and visits made to various parts of it.

The shores of the inner harbour are thickly wooded to the beach, which is
fronted by mudflats, that at low water are dry for a considerable

On the western point of entrance, we found the remains of a wrecked
canoe, and upon further search Mr. Bedwell discovered a spear which was
altogether different from any that we had before seen; it was headed with
a sharp pointed splinter of quartz, about four inches long, and an inch
and a half broad; the shaft was of the mangrove-tree, seven feet eight
inches long, and appeared, from a small hole at the end, to have been
propelled by a throwing-stick; the stone head was fastened on by a
ligature of plaited grass, covered by a mass of gum: it was the most
formidable weapon of the sort we had ever yet seen.

April 22.

At the bottom of the western basin one of our people found the skeleton
of a human body; and the skull and some of the bones were brought on
board, but they were too imperfect to be worth preserving. The traces of
natives were found every where, but they did not show themselves. In one
of our excursions a tree was observed that had been cut down by some
sharp instrument, and we had afterwards reason to believe that the
natives were possessed of iron tools, which they might have obtained from
the Malays. A curious mound, constructed entirely of shells, rudely
heaped together, measuring thirty feet in diameter, and fourteen feet in
height, was also noticed near the beach, and was supposed to be a
burying-place of the Indians.

April 23.

Upon leaving the inner harbour we anchored in Knocker's Bay, on the west
side of the port, which received the name of Essington, a tribute of my
respect for the memory of my lamented friend, the late Vice-Admiral Sir
William Essington, K.C.B.: and in the afternoon we set off to examine an
opening in the mangroves at the bottom of the bay. After pulling through
its various winding channels for about a mile, where it was scarcely
broad enough for the boat to pass, its further investigation was given
up, and we commenced our return, but the mangroves were so thick, and
formed so impervious a net-work, that we had great difficulty in
effecting it. When about halfway towards the mouth, we found the boat
impeded by the roots of a mangrove bush; and whilst the boat's crew were
busily employed in clearing the rudder, we were suddenly startled by the
shout of a party of Indians, who were concealed from our view by a
projecting bush, not more than eight or ten yards from us: our situation
was rather alarming, from the boat being so entangled, and the river not
being broad enough for the oars to be used. No sooner had the natives
uttered the shout, than they leaped into the water armed with spears and
clubs; but the moment they made their appearance round the tree, two
muskets loaded with ball, and a fowling-piece with small shot, were fired
over their heads, which had the desired effect, for they gave up their
premeditated attack, and quickly disappeared among the bushes on the
opposite side, where they remained screaming and vociferating loudly in
angry threatening voices, whilst we were clearing the boat from the
bushes that obstructed our progress. Having at last effected this, we
proceeded on our way down the rivulet, and at the same time the natives
were observed through the bushes to hasten towards a low part, which we
were obliged to pass before we could reach the bay. But as we were aware
of their intention we were prepared for the event, and as was expected,
we were assailed by a shower of spears and stones from the natives, who
were concealed behind the mangroves. Happily, however, we received no
damage, although the spears and stones fell about us very thickly, and
several of the former struck the boat. A volley of musketry was fired
into the mangroves, but we could not ascertain whether any of the balls
took effect, since we could not see our assailants. A wound from one of
their stone-headed weapons, from our want of surgical knowledge, must in
such a climate have proved fatal, and we considered our escape truly
providential. As soon as we were out of the reach of their spears, which
they continued to throw until it was of no use, we hoisted the sail, and
steered round the shores of the bay. We had not proceeded far before
their canoe was observed secured to the beach by a small rope, which
offered so good an opportunity of punishing these savages for their
treacherous attack, that we landed and brought it away; and upon
examining its contents, we found not only their clubs, but also a large
quantity of bivalve shellfish, (Arca scapha?*) so that we had not only
deprived them of their boat, but of their supper, and three very
formidable clubs. This must have been a very serious loss to such simple
savages, but one that they richly deserved. The canoe was nearly new, it
measured eighteen feet in length, and two in breadth, and would easily
carry eight persons; the sides were supported by two poles fastened to
the gunwhale by strips of a climbing plant (Flagellaria indica), that
grows abundantly hereabouts, and with which also the ends of the canoe
were neatly, and even tastefully joined; the poles were spanned together
on either side by rope constructed of strips of bark. The canoe was made
of one sheet of bark, but in the bottom, within it, short pieces were
placed cross-ways, in order to preserve its shape, and increase its
strength. The description of a canoe seen by Captain Flinders at Blue Mud
Bay, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, differs very little from the above.**

(*Footnote. Lamarck tome 6 part 1 page 42. Chemn. Conch. 7 page 201. t.
55 f. 548.)

(**Footnote. Flinders Terra Australis volume 2 page 198.)

Whilst we were bringing away the canoe the natives, who had followed us
along the shore, were heard close by among the trees, loudly
vociferating, in which the ward ca-no-a was thought to be frequently

April 24.

The next morning we sailed out of Knocker's* Bay, and anchored a little
within Point Smith, preparatory to our resuming our examination of the
coast. The heat was now by no means oppressive, for although the
thermometer ranged between 79 and 86 degrees, yet its effect was lessened
by the constancy of the breeze, which tended materially to preserve the
health of the crew, who were happily all quite well.

After anchoring, a squall that had been gathering all the afternoon burst
overhead, and was accompanied by heavy rain and strong gusts of wind,
during which a canoe that had been previously observed near the beach
drifted past the cutter; it was sent for and brought alongside, but the
next morning before we got under weigh, it was taken on shore, and hauled
up on the beach out of the reach of the water, and in it were deposited
several iron tools, to show the natives that our intentions were

During our examination of Port Essington, we found no fresh water, but
our search for it did not extend beyond the precincts of the sea-beach,
since we were not in want of that article, having so lately completed our
stock at Goulburn Island; but from the number of natives seen by us, and
the frequency of their traces, which were encountered at every step we
took, there must be fresh water; and had we dug holes, we should
doubtless have succeeded in finding some, particularly in the vicinity of
the cliffs.

Wood is abundant and convenient for embarking, but the trees are
generally small: the waters are well stocked with fish.

As a harbour, Port Essington is equal, if not superior, to any I ever
saw; and from its proximity to the Moluccas and New Guinea, and its being
in the direct line of communication between Port Jackson and India, as
well as from its commanding situation with respect to the passage through
Torres Strait, it must, at no very distant period, become a place of
great trade, and of very considerable importance.

April 25.

Early the following morning we sailed out of Port Essington, and passing
round its western head, which was named out of respect to my friend
Admiral Vashon, we hauled into a bay where a Malay encampment was
observed upon the beach, with several proas at anchor close to it; but,
as the place offered us no inducement to delay, we steered round the next
head, and hauled into another bay, apparently about four miles deep and
two broad. The coast here appeared to take a decided turn to the
southward, and, as some land was observed on the western horizon, we
rightly concluded that we had reached the entrance of the Great Bay of
Van Diemen, the examination of which formed a prominent feature in my
instructions. The bay was named Popham Bay, and the extremity of the land
in sight received the appellation of Cape Don; the former after the late
Rear-Admiral Sir Home Popham, K.C.B., and the latter in compliment to
Lieutenant-General Sir George Don, K.C.B., the Lieutenant-Governor of the
fortress of Gibraltar. The two flat-topped hills, seen from Port
Essington, were also observed over the bottom of the bay, and being
conspicuous objects, were named Mounts Bedwell and Roe, after the two
midshipmen who accompanied me.

As we steered into the bay another division of the Malay fleet was
perceived at anchor on the eastern shore, close to an encampment: the
number of the proas were four; and as we considered ourselves a match for
this number, we determined upon remaining the night, and therefore
anchored about two miles without them, with our ensign hoisted at the
masthead over a large white flag, which was answered by each proa
instantly displaying Dutch colours.

Soon afterwards a canoe came from the proas, but it required some
persuasion to entice them alongside; when they did come, we showed them
Sir Stamford Raffles' letter, which they could not read, but on our
showing them our rough chart they instantly comprehended our employment,
and without further hesitation, two of them came on board. The canoe was
fitted for fishing; it was paddled by a man and five boys, and was
steered by a younger man, who, from his dress and authority, appeared to
be of some consequence amongst them. During their visit their curiosity
was much excited by everything they saw; and, having drank pretty freely
of our port wine, they talked incessantly. They remained with us three
hours, during the greater part of which their canoe was absent catching
fish. One of our visitors was very communicative, and by means of signs
and a few words of the Malay language, which we understood, he explained
that their Rajah's proa was armed with two small guns, and carried a
compass. On looking at our binnacle, they pointed to the north-west
rhumb, and made us easily understand that it was the course they always
steered on their return to Macassar.

Upon mentioning the natives of the coast and showing them the
stone-headed spear that we had found, they evinced their dislike to them
very plainly, they called them Maregas, Marega being, as we afterwards
found, their appellation for this part of the coast.

It was now growing late, and as the canoe had not returned, they hailed
their companions several times, but not being answered, they asked for a
musket, and fired it in the direction of their boat; this had the desired
effect, and it very shortly came alongside, but the crew had not been
successful, for they had caught only two small fishes which were
presented to us: they then took leave, repeatedly assuring us that the
next morning they would pay us another visit.

April 26.

But, without waiting for the honour they intended us, we got under weigh
early and left them to comment as they pleased upon our disappointing
them of the gunpowder, which, to get rid of them, we had promised to give
them the next morning.

Being under sail, we steered to the West-South-West, until the land
opened round Cape Don in an east-northerly direction for eight miles, and
then the coast trended to the south-eastward under Mounts Bedwell and
Roe, where the land was lost to view. To the westward the land was
observed trending in a north and south direction, and bore the appearance
of being an island.

The ebb now commenced setting out, and although we were going three knots
through the water, we made no progress over the ground. Seven miles West
by South from Cape Don we sounded in fifty fathoms on a bottom of
branch-coral, and four miles more to the westward we had but nineteen
fathoms. When the flood commenced, it was too dark to profit by it.

April 27.

And no progress was made until the next morning, when, having a fresh
breeze, we reached an anchorage in a bay on the north side, and close
under the base of Mount Bedwell. On our way we steered through strong
tide-ripplings in which, at times, notwithstanding the strength of the
breeze, the cutter was quite ungovernable. Off the bay is a low mangrove
island which I had the pleasure to name after the Reverend James W.
Burford, of Stratford, Essex, and the bay in which we had anchored was
called after W. Aiton, Esquire, of the Royal Gardens at Kew.

The bottom of Aiton Bay is shoal and apparently terminates in an inlet or
creek; at low water the tide left a considerable space dry that appeared
to extend from shore to shore.

Our distance from the beach was so short that the howlings of dogs were
distinctly heard, and other noises were distinguished which some of us
thought were made by natives, but they were more probably the screams of

April 28.

At daylight the next morning we steered round the land, and passing under
the base of Mount Roe, we entered a strait that separates it from
Greenhill Island; which is remarkable for having its north-west end
terminated by a conspicuous bluff. The coast now took an easterly
direction as far as the eye could reach, with a channel of from three to
eight miles broad between it and a range of islands (which were named in
compliment to the late Vice-Admiral Sir George Hope, K.C.B., then holding
a seat in the Board of Admiralty). At noon the tide began to ebb, when we
anchored near the land at about six miles east of Mount Roe.

The thermometer now ranged between 80 and 90 degrees, but the heat was by
no means oppressive.

April 29.

By the next day at noon we had penetrated four leagues within Sir George
Hope's Islands, when the water became so shoal that we could not approach
an opening that was seen in the land to the south-eastward; after trying
in several directions, the cutter was anchored, and Mr. Roe was sent to
sound in a south direction in search of a passage out; but, as it
appeared to be shoal and some parts were already dry, it was decided that
we should return by the way we came; since our object was not so much to
lay down the extent of the banks and directions of the channels, as to
find rivers, and trace the coastline. The opening to the South-East of
our anchorage certainly appeared to be sufficiently interesting to
examine, but we had formed very sanguine expectations of discovering
something of much greater importance at the bottom of the bay, and we
were naturally anxious to reach it as soon as possible.

On constructing the chart of this part of the coast, it appeared that the
land to the eastward of this anchorage is an isthmus four or five miles
in breadth, separating the body of water from the bottom of Mountnorris
Bay. The peninsula thus formed was honoured by the appellation of
Cobourg, after His Royal Highness Prince Leopold.

During the day large smokes were observed on the south horizon, without
any appearance of land near them.

1818. May 1.

On our way out we anchored under one of Sir George Hope's Islands, which,
on the occasion of our landing upon it the next morning (1st May), was
called May-day Island: it is about two miles long, and nearly the same
distance across; its formation appears to have been originally of sand
that has accumulated upon a rocky basis, and has gradually grown into an
island; it is thickly covered with a forest of dwarf trees and
impenetrable brushwood. Some recent impressions of a human foot on the
sand below high-water mark were seen, and several old fireplaces, and one
or two of more recent date were observed, around which were strewed the
remains of shell-fish repasts; the natives, however, did not make their

When returning on board we endeavoured to pass out between May-day and
Greenhill Islands, but a bar of sand that appeared to stretch across
obstructed our progress: the weather being fine and the sea very smooth,
we endeavoured to force her over, but as we did not succeed, we anchored
for the night near our former position, to the eastward of Mount Roe.

May 2.

The next day we passed out between the Mount and Greenhill Island, and at
night anchored on the south side of May-day Island, at eight miles
distance from it.

May 3.

The following day we made some progress to the South-East, and by the
afternoon obtained a glimpse of some land bearing between South 3 degrees
West and South 18 degrees East.

May 4.

And at sunset the next evening the lowland was traced as far to the
southward as South-South-East, upon which several detached hills were
seen which probably may have some connexion with Wellington Range.

May 5.

The next day the cutter was anchored within a mile and a half of the
south point of a considerable opening, which the boats were prepared to

May 6.

And at daybreak we commenced its exploration, but the greater part of the
tide was expended before we reached the entrance, which is fronted by a
bank of mud on which there was not more than twelve feet water; the
depth, however, increased after we entered the river to four and five
fathoms; and as we proceeded up we found the channel to be seven and
eight fathoms deep. The banks on either side were very low; they were
composed of a soft mud, and so thickly lined with mangroves as to prevent
our landing until we had pulled up for seven or eight miles. At ten
o'clock the flood ceased and the ebb, setting with considerable strength,
prevented our proceeding higher up: here we landed, and after spending
some time in taking bearings and examining the country, we returned to
the cutter, which we reached early in the afternoon.

The banks where we landed were about two hundred yards apart, but were so
low and without a hillock to ascend or a tree to climb to enable us to
obtain a view of the country, that we could form but a very slight
opinion of the place. A sugar-loaf-shaped hill, which was also visible
from the anchorage, bore South 80 degrees East; at the distance of a
league was a rocky hill that bore North 88 1/4 degrees East; and, five or
six leagues off, was a range of hills extending from East by South to
South 27 degrees East. In all other directions the eye wandered over a
dreary, low, and uninterruptedly flat country; which in most parts is
covered with an arundinaceous grass.

The mangrove bushes on the banks of the river, which was quite salt, were
crowded with the nests of an egret, in which the young birds were nearly
fledged. Hawks, wild ducks, pelicans, and pigeons, were also abundant,
and an immense flight of white cockatoos hovered over the mangroves, and
quite disturbed the air with their hideous screamings. A small black
water-bird, about the size of a pigeon, with a white neck and a black
ring round it, was observed, but not near enough to enable us to
ascertain its species. On our course up and down the river we encountered
several very large alligators, and some were noticed sleeping on the mud.
This was the first time we had seen these animals, excepting that at
Goulburn Island, and, as they appeared to be very numerous and large, it
was not thought safe to stop all night up the river, which we must have
done had we remained for the next flood-tide.

No inhabitants were seen, but the fires that were burning in all
directions proved that they could not be far off.

May 7.

The next morning we were underweigh and steering along the coast to the
westward towards a low but extensive island; and, as we approached, we
found that it fronted a very considerable opening in the land, extending
into the interior under the eastern base of Mount Hooper. The channel
between the island and the main appearing clear, we did not hesitate to
pass through, and within half a mile of the island, where the channel was
evidently the deepest, we sounded in eight and nine fathoms. As soon as
we entered the opening it assumed a similar appearance to that of the
river we examined yesterday, but it was very much more considerable and
excited very sanguine hopes in our minds. Besides the low island
above-mentioned there is another of smaller size between it and the west
point of entrance; so that there are three entrances. The islands were
called Barron and Field Islands, after my friend, then presiding as Judge
of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

As we proceeded, the depth continued to be so even, and to shoal so
gradually, that we ran up it for six miles, when, as it was near noon, we
anchored and landed on the eastern bank, to observe the sun's meridional
altitude; but, from the muddy state of the banks, we had great difficulty
in reaching the shore. On returning to the vessel, we sailed further up,
and, at high water anchored near the end of the first reach, and made
preparations for its further investigation. The tide then began to ebb at
the rate of three miles per hour, and continued with nearly that velocity
during the whole tide. During the evening our preparations were

May 8.

And, at daybreak the next morning, I set off with Mr. Roe and Mr.
Cunningham for my companions: when we left the cutter the flood was just
making, so that we had the advantage of the whole of the tide, which
lasted until noon, when we landed, and observed the latitude to be 12
degrees 38 minutes 47 seconds. Our situation was within three miles of a
hill bearing South 25 1/2 degrees West, the bearing of which having
previously been taken from the cutter's present anchorage, enabled me to
decide with tolerable accuracy upon the station we had reached.

This river, as far as we had examined it, a distance of thirty-six miles,
differed from the other only in being of larger size. At the place where
the latitude was observed, it was about one hundred and fifty yards wide.
From the anchorage the channel deepened from five to eight fathoms, and
this depth continued tolerably even and regular for nine miles. It then
began to decrease; and, at the furthest part we reached the depth at high
water was two and a half fathoms. The banks, which were in most parts
thickly lined with mangroves, and in no part more than three feet above
high-water mark, are formed of soft mud, which rendered landing, except
at high water, impossible. The country on all sides presented a low level
plain, the monotony of which was occasionally relieved by a few wooded
hills, and some groups of trees, among which the palm-tree was
conspicuous, and tended in a trifling degree to improve the view, which,
to say the best of it, was unvaried and heavy. The low land, at least
that part over which the fires had not passed, Was covered with a thickly
matted broom-grass; and, where it was burnt off, the soil was observed to
be composed of a hard and stiff clay, the surface of which bore the
appearance of having been frequently inundated, either by high tides, or,
more probably, by freshes in the rainy season.

We saw very few birds, and those were chiefly cockatoos; but alligators
were as numerous as in the other river, whence the name of Alligator
Rivers were bestowed upon them.

The water where we landed was fresh enough to be nearly drinkable, and
probably would be quite sweet at half ebb.

May 8.

The ebb-tide did not serve to carry us on board, and the boat's crew were
so fatigued by having been pulling all day, that we were obliged to drop
the grapnel within seven miles of the cutter to await the turn of tide,
so that it was not until midnight that we reached the vessel much

May 9.

The next day we left our anchorage, and took up a station within Field
Island, intending, if possible, to go through the passage between Barron
and Field Islands. At low water the banks dried for a considerable

May 10.

But as there was every appearance of the existence of a narrow passage
between the islands, we ran through the next morning at high water; and,
in passing the narrows, had over-falls between three and fifteen fathoms:
as soon as we reached a favourable bottom, we anchored in four fathoms in
order to await the uncovering of the shoals at low water, so that we
might see our way on, and construct the chart of this entrance with more
correctness. Field Island is low and thickly wooded, and is surrounded by
a rocky shoal which dries at low water, and extends to a considerable
distance off its North-West end. The smoke of a fire having been seen on
the island when we passed, it was presumed to have been at that time
occupied by natives.

Another opening was observed to the westward of the river we last
examined. and as it bore a similar appearance, the name of Alligator
Rivers was extended to it.

May 11.

The next morning we resumed our course to the westward; and, after
coasting along a low shore, anchored at night in the South-West corner of
the gulf, in three and a half fathoms; the land, from being so low, was
scarcely distinct, but it appeared to be sandy.

May 12.

The next day we passed a considerable opening, or, as it was thought to
be, a bight; for many patches of land were observed on the horizon: The
wind blew so fresh from the eastward that I did not venture to run into
it, but steered towards some land to the northward that formed the
northern boundary of the opening, and which proved to be that which had
been seen by us from Popham Bay; and as it afterwards proved to be an
island, it was called after the title of the noble Viscount, now First
Lord of the Admiralty.

The Gulf which we have now explored is that which was discovered by three
Dutch vessels that sailed from Timor in 1705, and to which they gave the
name of The Great Bay of Van Diemen. They entered it but did not reach
its bottom, having been very likely prevented by the strong tides which
in the entrance of Dundas Strait are altogether uncommon. From the nature
of the Alligator Rivers there is no doubt but that there are others of a
similar character that empty themselves into the Gulf between the
easternmost Alligator River and Sir George Hope's Islands, although they
are, probably, of smaller size and of less importance. At midnight the
cutter, drifted by the tide, passed close to the easternmost point of
Melville Island near to which two bright fires were burning.

May 13.

The next morning at eight o'clock we were within two miles of Cape
Fleeming, the north-easternmost extremity of the island; and, bearing up
along the north coast of Melville Island, passed close to Point Jahleel.
On a sandy beach to the westward of the last point two natives were
walking, but they passed on without noticing our presence. Eight miles to
the South-West of Point Jahleel is Brenton Bay, which we had nearly
passed before it was observed: the vessel was brought to the wind.

May 14.

But it was the next morning before we succeeded in fetching into the
opening. It terminates in an inlet which probably runs some little
distance into the interior of the island. It is about five miles deep,
but the depth is so trifling that we were prevented from running into it
far enough to obtain shelter from the wind. In the evening we anchored in
a picturesque bay which, although open to the north, offers a tolerable
shelter during the easterly monsoon: the beach is sandy, but is probably
shoal and of rocky approach. The country appeared verdant, and the hills
are thickly wooded; at the bottom of the bay a shoal opening trends in
between two hills, over which, in the evening, seven natives were
observed to cross in a canoe. This was called Lethbridge Bay. On the
western side of the bay is a range of cliff like the pipe-clay cliff of
Goulburn Island, the upper half being red, and the lower half white; and
four miles off the west point of the bay are two patches of rocks on
which the sea breaks; these were called the Madford Shoals.

May 15.

Twenty-five miles west from Lethbridge Bay is a projecting point from
which the coast takes a north-westerly direction. In passing a breaker
that lies off the point our cook fell overboard, but the boat was quickly
lowered and picked him up; for some time his life was despaired of, but a
little attention, and the warmth of the sun's heat, at last restored him.

On each side of the point which is formed behind Karslake Island is a
bay; and at the bottom of each there appeared to be a shoal opening. The
coast is here higher than usual, and is thickly wooded; but the coastline
to the northward is formed of high cliffs without much wood, and of a
remarkable white colour.

May 16.

The next morning we passed round Cape Van Diemen; and in the evening
anchored off a tabular-shaped hill that formed the south end of a sandy
bay. It was dark when we anchored.

May 17.

The next morning we found that we had anchored in the mouth of a very
considerable river-like opening, the size of which inspired us with the
flattering hope of having made an important discovery, for as yet we had
no idea of the insularity of Melville Island.

The table-shaped hill near our anchorage was named Luxmore Head, and the
bay to the north was called St. Asaph's, in compliment to the Right
Reverend the Lord Bishop of that diocese.

The day being Sunday our intention was, after taking bearings from the
summit of Luxmore Head, to delay our further proceeding until the next
morning, but the circumstance that occurred kept us so much on the alert
that it was anything but a day of rest. Having landed at the foot of the
hill we ascended its summit, but found it so thickly wooded as to deprive
us of the view we had anticipated; but, as there were some openings in
the trees through which a few distant objects could be distinguished, we
made preparations to take their bearings, and while the boat's crew were
landing the theodolite, our party were amusing themselves on the top of
the hill.

Suddenly however, but fortunately before we had dispersed, we were
surprised by natives, who, coming forward armed with spears, obliged us
very speedily to retreat to the boat; and in the sauve qui peut sort of
way in which we ran down the hill, at which we have frequently since
laughed very heartily, our theodolite stand and Mr. Cunningham's
insect-net were left behind, which they instantly seized upon. I had
fired my fowling-piece at an iguana just before the appearance of the
natives, so that we were without any means of defence; but, having
reached the boat without accident, where we had our muskets ready, a
parley was commenced for the purpose of recovering our losses. After
exchanging a silk-handkerchief for a dead bird, which they threw into the
water for us to pick up, we made signs that we wanted fresh water, upon
which they directed us to go round the point, and upon our pulling in
that direction, they followed us, skipping from rock to rock with
surprising dexterity and speed. As soon as we reached the sandy beach on
the north side of Luxmore Head, they stopped and invited us to land,
which we should have done, had it not been that the noises they made soon
collected a large body of natives who came running from all directions to
their assistance; and in a short time there were twenty-eight or thirty
natives assembled. After a short parley with them in which they
repeatedly asked for axes by imitating the action of chopping, we went on
board, intimating to them our intention of returning with some, which we
would give to them upon the restoration of the stand, which they
immediately understood and assented to. The natives had three dogs with

On our return to the beach the natives had again assembled, and shouted
loudly as we approached. Besides the whale boat, in which Mr. Bedwell was
stationed with an armed party ready to fire if any hostility commenced,
we had our jolly-boat, in which I led the way with two men, and carried
with me two tomahawks and some chisels. On pulling near the beach the
whole party came down and waded into the water towards us; and, in
exchange for a few chisels and files, gave us two baskets, one containing
fresh water and the other was full of the fruit of the sago-palm, which
grows here in great abundance. The basket containing the water was
conveyed to us by letting it float on the sea, for their timidity would
not let them approach us near enough to place it in our hands; but that
containing the fruit, not being buoyant enough to swim, did not permit of
this method, so that, after much difficulty, an old man was persuaded to
deliver it. This was done in the most cautious manner, and as soon as he
was sufficiently near the boat he dropped or rather threw the basket into
my hand and immediately retreated to his companions, who applauded his
feat by a loud shout of approbation. In exchange for this I offered him a
tomahawk, but his fears would not allow him to come near the boat to
receive it. Finding nothing could induce the old man to approach us a
second time, I threw it towards him, and upon his catching it the whole
tribe began to shout and laugh in the most extravagant way. As soon as
they were quiet we made signs for the theodolite stand, which, for a long
while, they would not understand; at one time they pretended to think by
our pointing towards it, that we meant some spears that were lying near a
tree, which they immediately removed: the stand was then taken up by one
of their women, and upon our pointing to her, they feigned to think that
she was the object of our wishes, and immediately left a female standing
up to her middle in the water and retired to some distance to await our
proceedings. On pulling towards the woman, who, by the way, could not
have been selected by them either for her youth or beauty, she frequently
repeated the words "Ven aca, Ven aca," accompanied with an invitation to
land; but, as we approached, she retired towards the shore; when suddenly
two natives, who had slowly walked towards us, sprang into the water and
made towards the boat with surprising celerity, jumping at each step
entirely out of the sea, although it was so deep as to reach their
thighs. Their intention was evidently to seize the remaining tomahawk
which I had been endeavouring to exchange for the stand, and the foremost
had reached within two or three yards of the boat when I found it
necessary, in order to prevent his approach, to threaten to strike him
with a wooden club, which had the desired effect. At this moment one of
the natives took up the stand, and upon our pointing at him, they
appeared to comprehend our object; a consultation was held over the stand
which was minutely examined; but, as it was mounted with brass and,
perhaps on that account, appeared to them more valuable than a tomahawk,
they declined giving it up, and gradually dispersed; or rather pretended
so to do, for a party of armed natives was observed to conceal themselves
under some mangrove bushes near the beach, whilst two canoes were plying
about near at hand to entice our approach; the stratagem, however, did
not succeed, and we lay off upon our oars for some time without making
any movement. Soon afterwards the natives, finding that we had no
intention of following them, left their canoes, and performed a dance in
the water, which very conspicuously displayed their great muscular power:
the dance consisted chiefly of the performers leaping two or three times
successively out of the sea, and then violently moving their legs so as
to agitate the water into a foam for some distance around them, all the
time shouting loudly and laughing immoderately; then they would run
through the water for eight or ten yards and perform again; and this was
repeated over and over as long as the dance lasted. We were all
thoroughly disgusted with them, and felt a degree of distrust that could
not be conquered. The men were more muscular and better formed than any
we had before seen; they were daubed over with a yellow pigment, which
was the colour of the neighbouring cliff; their hair was long and curly,
and appeared to be clotted with a whitish paint. During the time of our
parley the natives had their spears close at hand, for those who were in
the water had them floating near them, and those who were on the beach
had them either buried in the sand, or carried them between their toes,
in order to deceive us and to appear unarmed; and in this they succeeded,
until one of them was detected, when we were pulling towards the woman,
by his stooping down and picking up his spear.

Finding that we had no chance of recovering our loss, we returned on
board, when the natives also withdrew from the beach, and did not
afterwards show themselves.

May 18.

The next morning we weighed with the flood and worked up the opening
against the wind for sixteen or seventeen miles, when the tide turned,
and we anchored in eleven fathoms. In most parts the banks were
inaccessible, being nearly overrun with mangroves; but the low appearance
of the country within and the mischievous disposition of the natives made
me less anxious to examine into the thick woods that surrounded us on all
sides. Wherever a clear space presented itself, the sago palm was seen
mixed with the fan palm, the pandanus and other trees, among which the
eucalyptus as usual appeared to be the most abundant.

May 19.

At eight o'clock the next morning we were again underweigh; and, with the
flood-tide in our favour, made rapid progress. The opening had, however,
become so much contracted, that it was found prudent to have a boat
hoisted out, with the kedge and a hawser ready if the vessel should get
on shore. After proceeding two miles further, it took a more easterly
course, and as we advanced the general direction of the reaches were east
and south. Our speculations ran high with regard to what it might be, and
the probability of its being a large river appeared to our sanguine minds
so certain that we never once fancied it could be otherwise; when
suddenly the open sea appeared, and, demonstrating it to be merely a
strait, at once dispelled our hopes.

Upon reaching between the two heads which form the south entrance of this
Strait, the tide turned, and, beginning to run so swiftly back that we
were prevented from getting out, obliged us very reluctantly to return to
an anchorage within, which was not easily found, as the bottom was rocky
and thickly studded with shoals. The anchor was at last dropped at three
miles within the entrance near an open cliffy bank, on which there were
two canoes hauled up, but no sign of their owners.

The night was squally, and the tide ran at the rate of nearly four knots.

May 20.

At low water the next morning the shoals were exposed, and showed us the
dangers we had unknowingly encountered in passing over them when they
were covered. The passages between them were found to be so intricate
that, after sounding them for some time, we gave up all idea of passing
out by the south entrance.

May 21.

And, returning by the way we came, the next day anchored near our former
position in St. Asaph Bay.

The Strait was named Apsley; and the land on the western side which had
thus been proved to be insulated was named in compliment to the Right
Honourable Earl Bathurst, his Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for
the Colonies.

May 22.

The day following we coasted the North-West side of Bathurst Island; and
at sunset anchored off a point from which a reef projects for a
considerable distance into the sea.

May 23.

The next day we anchored off an opening at the bottom of an extensive
bay, in three and a half fathoms.

It happened to be high water when we anchored; and, although we were
three miles from the shore, the tide of ebb reduced the depth so much
that there was reason to apprehend the cutter's being left dry at low
water; the depth was, however, ten feet and a half, which was only
eighteen inches more than the cutter's draught.

May 23.

The opening off which we had anchored was formed between two low, sandy
points, and trended in to the South-East; on the land at the back was a
long round-backed hill, which, when viewed from the northward, had a
flat-topped appearance.

May 24.

Having sounded the space between the anchorage and the shore, it was
found that we were on the outer edge of a bar, within which the water
deepened to five fathoms, and in the entrance there was as much as eleven
and twelve fathoms; we therefore weighed the anchor, and, the wind
blowing out, worked up towards the opening, which, as the tide was
flowing, it did not take long to effect. On passing the bar, we had not
less water than eleven feet (low water soundings), after which the depth
gradually increased. An anchorage was taken up in the evening within the

May 25.

And the next day, after an attempt to reach further up, in which we only
succeeded to the distance of a mile, the examination was completed by our

It was found to run in, gradually narrowing and decreasing in depth for
eight miles, and to terminate in two salt-water creeks. The banks on both
sides were impenetrably lined with mangroves, which effectually defied
our attempts to land. Several creeks, communicating with the low
inundated land behind the mangroves, joined the main stream at intervals
on both sides; but they were not interesting enough in their appearance
to detain us. We returned to the cutter at night.

May 26.

And the next day shifted our berth to an anchorage close to the shore on
the north side of the entrance, for the purpose of wooding, where the
trees were so convenient and close at hand that we completed our stock
before dark.

During the evening, whilst we were occupied at the wooding-place, a party
of natives were observed running towards us along the beach on the south
side without the port, apparently returning from a hunting excursion, for
the woods on the south side of the bay had been on fire for the last two
days. As they approached they retired behind the beach among the trees,
and, upon their reaching the opposite side of the entrance, crept upon
their hands and knees behind the bushes, where they remained, as they
thought, concealed until the evening. A little before dark they were
observed to creep out and range themselves upon the beach, as if
meditating upon their plans for the night, but by this time it was so
dark that we could not see what they afterwards did; in order to deter
them from approaching us, a musket was fired over their heads, and if
this had the desired effect, it was a happy circumstance for them, for an
immense shark was caught in the middle of the night, which, from the
extraordinary capacity of its mouth and maw, could have swallowed one of
them with the greatest ease. On opening the animal, we fully expected to
discover the limbs of some of the natives, who we assured ourselves had
crossed over to our side the water; but we only found a crab that had
been so recently swallowed that some of our people made no hesitation in
eating it for their supper. The night passed without our being disturbed
by or hearing anything of the natives.

May 27.

But, at daylight, on looking at the place where they had been concealed
during the last evening, a canoe, which had been observed hauled up among
the bushes, was missing, and we concluded that they were close to us;
this proved to be the case, for no sooner had we cleared the point, than
the natives sallied forth from the thicket, and, running up to their
middles in the water to within thirty yards of the vessel, set up a loud
shout which startled us not a little; for, busied as we were in securing
the anchor and making sail, our attention at the moment was otherwise
directed; and the first intimation that we had of their vicinity was from
the noise they made, which was accompanied by violent gestures and
pressing invitations for our return; but we continued on our way, and
disregarded all their solicitations. They were evidently very much
disappointed, since they expected to get some axes from us, for they made
the same signs as the Luxmore Head natives had done by repeatedly
imitating the action of chopping. On the south shore there were some
women and children under the protection of two natives, whose voices were
also loudly raised for our recall. The natives on our side were unarmed,
but two bundles of spears were detected, propped up against a tree, close
at hand. After some time they waded back to the shore, and slowly walked
towards our wooding-place, where they, of course, found a chisel that had
purposely been left for them upon the stump of a tree which had been
felled by our wooding-party.

As soon as we crossed the bar we anchored, in order to obtain some lunar
distances to fix the longitude of the port, as well as to bring up and
complete the chart of this part of the coast. During the day, the natives
remained at our wooding-place, and set the bushes on fire, the smoke of
which enveloped the horizon and the neighbouring coast.

The names of Port Hurd and Mount Hurd were given to the harbour and the
round-backed hill, after the late Captain Thomas Hurd of the Royal Navy,
the Hydrographer of the Admiralty; the outer bay was called Gordon Bay.

May 28.

We left Gordon Bay the next morning, and passed round its low South-West
extremity, which proved to be Captain Baudin's Cape Helvetius. From this
point the coast trends to the southward to Cape Fourcroy. In this
interval the shore is formed by cliffs of a very dark red colour, and,
half way between, is a projecting sandhill of remarkable appearance.

May 29 and 30.

During this and the following day we made very little progress. On the
30th at daylight we had a southerly wind; by eight o'clock we saw the
land in patches to the northward, and some low islands bearing east. The
land to the north was a part of the south side of Melville Island. The
wind being fresh from the eastward we attempted to beat to windward, with
the intention of anchoring near the islands, but the bottom was too rocky
to admit of it. We then endeavoured to pass between them and Melville
Island, but the ground was also so rocky and irregular that we desisted;
and after an unsuccessful attempt to reach the southern pass, we steered
off to the westward. This group was called Vernon's Islands. They are
situated in mid-channel of the Strait that separates Melville Island from
the main, which was named in honour of His Royal Highness the Duke of
Clarence. The group consists of four low islands; they are each
surrounded by a belt of mangroves, and are probably connected by reefs to
the south shore.

May 31.

The next morning after a stormy night we steered to the northward, and
made the south entrance of Apsley Strait, which was recognised by the
peculiar shape of Buchanan's Islets lying off it, one of which has a
flat-topped summit.

The time had now arrived for our leaving the coast: our provisions were
drawing to an end, and we had only a sufficiency of bread to carry us
back to Port Jackson, although we had been all the voyage upon a reduced
allowance: our water had also failed, and several casks which we had
calculated upon being full were found to be so bad that the water was
perfectly useless: these casks were made at Sydney, and proved, like our
bread casks, to have been made from the staves of salt-provision casks:
besides this defalcation, several puncheons were found empty, and it was
therefore doubly necessary that we should resort to Timor, without any
more delay.

We therefore bore up, and at four o'clock the coast was lost sight of

Latitude: 11 degrees 43 minutes 45 seconds.
Longitude: 129 degrees 47 minutes 0 seconds.

From this, having ran four miles and a half on a North-West course, we
passed over a small coral bank in thirteen fathoms; at eight o'clock, we
were in forty-two fathoms sandy mud.

1818. June 1.

But between midnight and four a.m., we passed over another coral bank, on
which the least water was eighteen fathoms.

June 2.

On the 2nd June, two small birds were caught; they proved to be the Java
swallow (Hirundo esculenta), the nest of which is esteemed as a great
delicacy, and is an article of trade between the Malays and Chinese.
Large quantities of pumice-stone were also seen floating on the water; on
one piece was found a sea centipede (Amphinome sp.), about four inches
long, covered with fine bristly hair; it was feeding upon two barnacles
(Lepas anatifera) which had attached themselves to the stone.

June 3.

This morning the high land of Timor was seen from North-North-West to
North-West 1/2 West; and at sunset the highest part bore North 70 degrees
West, 30 leagues off.

June 4.

At daybreak the 4th we were off the South-West point of the island, and
at nine o'clock entered the Strait of Samow; but, from light winds, we
did not get through it until after noon: at half past two o'clock we
anchored off the Dutch settlement of Coepang, at one-third of a mile from
Fort Concordia, the flag-staff of which bore South-South-East, in four
fathoms and a quarter brown sand and mud.

Transactions at Coepang.
Procure Water and Refreshments.
Description of the Town and Productions of the Island.
Account of the Trepang Fishery on the coast of New Holland.
Departure from Timor, and return to the North-west Coast.
Montebello Islands, and Barrow Island.
Leave the Coast.
Ship's company attacked with Dysentery.
Death of one of the crew.
Bass Strait, and arrival at Port Jackson.
Review of the Proceedings of the Voyage.

1818. June 5.

As soon as we anchored, I waited upon Mr. Hazaart, the Dutch Resident,
who received me politely, and proffered his personal assistance in
expediting the objects which we had in view. A house was offered for my
use, but as I purposed to make my visit as short as possible, it was

June 5 to 13.

The first object was to commence our watering, but the operation was
tedious, and attended with much delay, since it was necessary to send the
casks above the second bridge which crosses the river at the upper end of
the town at about half a mile from the entrance; when we had first to
wait for low tide, before the water was fresh enough to be used; and then
for half flood, before the boat could get out of the river to go on board
with her load. One turn, therefore, was as much as could be made during
the day, for it was requisite to use this precaution in filling our
casks, in order to ensure their contents being untainted by the salt

Our fuel had been completed at Port Hurd or we could have procured an
abundance at a convenient place about two miles to the westward of the

Our next object was to procure fresh provisions; but, as there was some
difficulty in obtaining a constant supply, Mr. Hazaart kindly presented
the ship's company with two karabows (young buffaloes) and a sufficiency
of vegetables to last until our own stock was provided; but in procuring
it we found much difficulty for want of money, and should not have been
able to have furnished ourselves with it had not Mr. Hazaart, at his own
personal inconvenience, given me money for a private bill, with which the
ship's provisions were purchased.

A small mountain sheep weighing from twelve to twenty pounds cost five
shillings: pigs, according to their size, from five to ten shillings
each: a karabow, weighing two hundred pounds, was charged twenty
shillings; and fowls were from four-pence to five-pence each. Of
vegetables we found an abundance, particularly of pumpions and cabbages,
in the market; but, as it was not the season for fruit, we only procured
some shaddocks, a few bad oranges, and some indifferent limes. At the
Chinese shops we procured rice, sugar-candy and coffee, but all these
articles were dear, and of very inferior quality: this supply was,
however, very acceptable to us; and, had we not afterwards discovered
that everything could have been procured at half the price, we should
have been well satisfied with our bargains.

A fleet of Malay proas were lying at anchor in the bay, and two small
trading vessels were in the river, one of which was undergoing a repair
that was very creditable to the shipwrights of this place.

The only exports that the island produces are bees-wax, honey and
sandal-wood; these are purchased and exported by the Chinese merchants,
who are plentifully distributed over the town, and form the greater
proportion of its population.* Its imports are very trifling, for the
Batavian government annually supplies the establishment of Coepang with
all its wants. The port-charges of twenty dollars for every one hundred
tons burden are so exorbitant that no merchant vessels that have not some
particular object in view, will visit this place; so that it has very
little communication with other parts, excepting through the Chinese
traders, who are constantly in motion. In fact it is, to use the
Resident's own words in describing it to me, "a poor place," and it seems
to be the policy of the Dutch government to keep it so, for no vessel is
allowed to trade with Coepang without having first visited either Batavia
or Amboyna, for the purpose of procuring permission.

(*Footnote. M. Arago, in his account of Captain de Freycinet's late
voyage round the world, estimates the inhabitants of Coepang at 1500, of
which 1000 are slaves, and 300 Chinese.)

The town is situated principally on the east bank of the river; which,
rising in the mountains, runs through a torrent-worn course until it
reaches the valley in which the town is built; here the tide meets it,
and at low water its bed is nearly dry: it communicates with the sea by a
shoal bar immediately under a rocky eminence on which the Fort of
Concordia is constructed. This fort, from its favourable situation,
protects the harbour and outer anchorage, as well as commands the town.

From the anchorage, Coepang presents a very picturesque and lively
appearance. The houses, a few of which are built of stone, are roofed
either with red tiles or thatch, and are shaded from the heat of the sun
by thick groves of trees; among which the breadfruit-tree, the Jaca, and
a species of hibiscus, were observed. The principal street, as is common
in most Dutch towns, is shaded by an avenue of trees, which forms an
agreeable walk, and is a great ornament to the place: at the upper end of
this street is the Company's garden, but its ruinous state shows that it
has long since ceased to be cultivated for the purpose for which it was
originally intended.

From the crowds of people in the streets a stranger would imagine it to
be a place of great trade, but the only employments of the inhabitants
seem to be those of fishing, making straw hats and carrying water; the
last occupation is principally performed by the women, who convey it in
vessels made of the broad part of the leaf of the fan palm, each
containing from two to three gallons. At the door of every house was seen
either a man or a woman plaiting straw hats, but this might only have
been occasioned by our great demand for them, for we purchased all that
could be made whilst we remained.

The detail of the coasts of the island, particularly of its south-eastern
side, on which there are many indentations and bays, is very little
known; the natives are reported generally to be favourably inclined to
Europeans, but it would be dangerous for an unarmed vessel to place too
much reliance upon the faith of a Timorean, whose thirst for powder might
induce him to commit any mischievous act to obtain it. The mountaineers
are described to be a warlike race of men, but since the cession of the
island to the Dutch by the King of Ternate, to whom it appears to have
originally belonged, they are distributed under the sovereignty of
different rajahs, to whom they pay implicit obedience; and are, in fact,
little better than mere slaves. On all parts of the coast good wholesome
water may be procured, excepting at Sesally on the north coast where it
is said to be of a noxious quality, occasioned by a tree or plant that
grows on its tanks, and taints the stream. Whatever suspicion there may
be attached to the truth of this story, there is no doubt of its being
far from wholesome; for it is avoided as poisonous by the people who
reside near it. I was curious to discover whether it was occasioned by
its flowing near one of the far-famed Poison trees (Upas antiar) of Java,
but my informant could not satisfy my inquiry.

The island is very mountainous, and some of its summits, as Captain
Flinders observes, may probably rival the Peak of Teneriffe. The country
slopes off towards the sea, and appears to be fertile and populous. The
recesses of the mountains and the rivulets that derive their sources from
them are said to be rich in gold and silver, and they are also reported
to yield copper and iron; it is, however, with great difficulty that gold
is procured, on account of a superstitious feeling on the part of the
mountaineers, who think it necessary to sacrifice a human life for every
bottle of gold dust that is collected; and this barbarous custom, we were
informed, is rigidly enforced by the chiefs, who, of course, take good
care that the lot does not fall upon their own heads. Gold is however
sometimes found in the bed of the river near Coepang, particularly after
occasional freshes from the mountains, and during the rainy season; but
it is detected in so small a quantity as hardly to repay the searchers
for their trouble.

Some years since, during the early possession of this part of the island
by the Dutch, sixty soldiers were sent into the country to search for
gold, but they were all killed by the mountaineers and since then no
further attempt has been made; indeed it would take a very considerable
force to effect it, on account of the warlike character of these people.
Their defensive mode of warfare is to distribute themselves in all
directions among the trees and rocks, from which, by their numbers and
unerring aim, they might easily destroy a much larger force than the
Dutch could afford to send against them from any of their possessions in
the east. The policy of the Dutch Government appears to be that of
keeping the world in ignorance of the importance and of the riches of
Timor; their object is, in fact, to retain possession of it at as little
expense as possible, merely to prevent any other country from occupying
it. Much jealousy exists between them and the Portuguese settlement of
Diely, on the northern side about fifty leagues from Coepang; and our
friend Mr. Hazaart was, at the time of our visit, in correspondence with
the government of Batavia to explain some political interference, on his
part, with that settlement.

The establishment at Coepang consists of the Resident, his Secretary, and
forty Javanese soldiers; besides which it possesses a militia consisting
of 1000 men who bring their own provisions and arms to the field; and by
this force the whole of the south-western part of the island, containing
a population of perhaps 50,000 people, is kept in subjection. To solve
this riddle, for such it must naturally appear to be, it should be
explained that the Dutch have been accustomed to act in the character of
mediator between the several rajahs; and whilst the Resident settles the
disputes, he takes care at the same time to keep up the balance of power
amongst these petty kings, who are constantly encroaching upon the
territories of each other, by calling to his aid and uniting the forces
of the other rajahs; through which policy he protects the oppressed, and
maintains his own power. A formidable chief, Louis, had, however, lately
become very troublesome, and was not so easily kept in subjection. A
short time previous to our arrival, he had been making some inroads upon
his neighbour, and Mr. Hazaart was collecting a force to oppose and drive
him back. Whilst we were at Coepang several rajahs had arrived from the
country to tender their services in marching against the usurper whom the
Resident, in his description of him to me, designated by the name of
Bonaparte. For this protection on the part of the Dutch, every rajah pays
an annual tribute, according to the extent of his territories; the net
amount of which, exceeding the sum of 10,000 rix dollars, very nearly if
not quite defrays the expenses of the establishment.

Captain Dampier visited this place in 1699 when he commanded the Roebuck;
and at first found great difficulty in obtaining refreshments. He has
given a very good and correct description of the island; and his account
offers much valuable information even as to its present state.* Since
that period it has certainly advanced a few paces in civilization; but in
other respects as to its natural and artificial productions it is
perfectly conformable to that account.

(*Footnote. Dampier volume 3 pages 157 to 179.)

Coepang is also known by its hospitable reception of Lieutenant (the late
Admiral) Bligh, after the mutiny of the Bounty's crew; and in 1802 it was
visited by Captain Flinders and Commodore Baudin: each of these
navigators have spoken warmly of the hospitality they experienced, and I
should be doing an injustice to Mr. Hazaart if I omitted a due
acknowledgment of his kind attention to our wants, and of the prompt
assistance he afforded us in our operations.

The presence of a fleet of Malay proas in the roads has been before
mentioned; it had just returned from an unsuccessful voyage on the south
coast of Timor in search of trepang. Dramah, the principal rajah of this
fleet, gave me the following information respecting the coast of New
Holland, which he had frequently visited in the command of a fleet that
annually frequents its shores.

The coast is called by them Marega, and has been known to them for many
years. A fleet to the number of 200* proas annually leaves Macassar for
this fishery; it sails in January during the westerly monsoon, and coasts
from island to island, until it reaches the North-East end of Timor, when
it steers South-East and South-South-East, which courses carry them to
the coast of New Holland; the body of the fleet then steers eastward,
leaving here and there a division of fifteen or sixteen proas, under the
command of an inferior rajah, who leads the fleet, and is always
implicitly obeyed. His proa is the only vessel that is provided with a
compass; it also has one or two swivels or small guns, and is perhaps
armed with muskets. Their provisions chiefly consist of rice and
coconuts; and their water, which during the westerly monsoon is easily
replenished on all parts of the coast, is carried in joints of bamboo.

(*Footnote. This number is perhaps very much exaggerated.)

The method of curing the trepang is thus described by Captain Flinders:
"They get the trepang by diving, in from three to eight fathoms water;
and where it is abundant, a man will bring up eight or ten at a time. The
mode of preserving it is this: the animal is split down on one side,
boiled, and pressed with a weight of stones; then stretched open by slips
of bamboo, dried in the sun, and afterwards in smoke, when it is fit to
be put away in bags, but requires frequent exposure to the sun. A
thousand trepang make a picol, of about 125 Dutch pounds; and 100 picols
are a cargo for a proa. It is carried to Timor and sold to the Chinese,
who meet them there; and when all the proas are assembled, the fleet
returns to Macassar. By Timor, seemed to be meant Timor-laoet; for when I
inquired concerning the English, Dutch, and Portuguese there, Pobasso
(the rajah in command) knew nothing of them: he had heard of Coepang, a
Dutch settlement, but said it was upon another island.

"There are two kinds of trepang. The black, called baatoo, is sold to the
Chinese for forty dollars the picol; the white, or gray, called koro, is
worth no more than twenty. The baatoo seems to be what we found upon the
coral reefs near the Northumberland Islands; and were a colony
established in Broad Sound or Shoalwater Bay it might perhaps derive
considerable advantage from the trepang. In the Gulf of Carpentaria we
did not observe any other than the gray slug."*

(*Footnote. Flinders volume 2 page 231.)

After having fished along the coast to the eastward until the westerly
monsoon breaks up, they return, and by the last day of May each detached
fleet leaves the coast without waiting to collect into one body. On their
return they steer North-West, which brings them to some part of Timor,
from whence they easily retrace their steps to Macassar, where the
Chinese traders meet them and purchase their cargoes. At this time (1818)
the value of the trepang was from forty to fifty dollars a picol;* so
that if each vessel returns with 100 picols of trepang, her cargo will be
worth 5000 dollars. Besides trepang, they trade in sharks' fins and
birds' nests, the latter being worth about 3000 dollars the picol.

(*Footnote. The value of the trepang in 1822 was much less; the price had
fallen to twenty-five dollars the picol.)

Dramah informed me that there are several rivers upon the coast, but that
in procuring water from them they are generally attacked by the Maregas,
whom they describe as treacherous and hostile, and by whom they are
frequently defeated; for the Indians attack them only when they are
unprepared. Their small canoes are frequently stolen from them, which
accounts for the one we captured from the natives of Goulburn Island.

A perpetual warfare exists between them, so that it would be a difficult
matter for us to procure a friendly communication with a people who


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