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

Part 4 out of 6

be made of the trunk of the Erythrina indica, hollowed out either by fire
or by some blunt tool. A piece of teak-wood, one side of which bore the
marks of green paint, was found washed up on the beach; it had probably
dropped or been thrown overboard from some ship passing by; several
coconuts which had been evidently washed on shore were also lying above
the tides' mark.

July 6.

The next day our boat was completed and painted. During our stay at this
harbour the weather was such as would have prevented our moving, even had
we no occupation to detain us; for since our arrival the wind had blown
little less than a constant gale from the South-East, accompanied with
thick rainy weather. This day however appearing finer, I ascended the
hill over the tent; but, on reaching the summit, thick weather set in,
and deprived me of a sight of the reefs in the offing for which I had
principally taken the walk. In our descent our dog started a kangaroo,
but it made its escape before we approached near enough to shoot it.

At night, owing to the strength of the tides, the stern anchor came home,
and the cutter swung across the tide.

July 7.

This compelled me to haul out to the bower anchor, and the next morning
the cutter was moored in the stream. In the afternoon we again ascended
the hills over the anchorage and had a more favourable opportunity of
seeing the reefs in the offing, several of which were set.

July 8.

The following morning Mr. Roe and Mr. Cunningham examined the river as
far as the boat could penetrate. From Mr. Roe's report the country was
low and of unpromising appearance. The river took its course by a very
tortuous channel through a low country: for two or three miles from the
entrance its banks are overrun with dense forests of mangroves; but
beyond this they are superseded by red earthy cliffs, on which was
growing abundance of the Hibiscus tiliaceus. Further back the country is
open and grassy, upon which a stunted eucalyptus is common; here Mr.
Cunningham found two species of grevillea, and the sago palm (Cycas
media) which also grows near the mouth of the river, above which the
Seaforthia elegans occasionally raised its towering head, and with its
picturesque foliage served to vary and enrich the scene.

Mr. Cunningham, in return for the plants he collected, sowed peach and
apricot stones in many parts near the banks.

The river is generally very shallow, but at nine miles from the mouth the
water is fresh. At the place where the party turned back the width was
not more than six yards. On their return they examined another arm on the
north side, which proving inconsiderable, and the evening being far
advanced, they did not delay to examine it.

July 10.

On the 10th our boat was launched and preparations were made for leaving
the place which has afforded us so good an opportunity of repairing our

The basis of the country in the vicinity of this river is evidently
granitic; and, from the abrupt and primitive appearance of the land about
Cape Tribulation and to the north of Weary Bay, there is every reason to
suppose that granite is also the principal feature of those mountains;
but the rocks that lie loosely scattered about the beaches and surface of
the hills on the south side of the entrance are of quartzose substance;
and this likewise is the character of the hills at the east end of the
long northern beach, where the rocks are coated with a quartzose crust,
that in its crumbled state forms a very unproductive soil. The hills on
the south side of the port recede from the banks of the river and form an
amphitheatre of low grassy land, and some tolerable soil upon the surface
of which, in many parts, we found large blocks of granite heaped one upon
another. Near the tent we found coal; but the presence of this mineral in
a primitive country, at an immense distance from any part where a coal
formation is known to exist, would puzzle the geologist, were I not to
explain all I know upon the subject. Upon referring to the late Sir
Joseph Banks's copy of the Endeavour's log (in the possession of my
friend Mr. Brown) I found the following remark, under date of 21st and
22nd June, 1770. "Employed getting our coals on shore." This is also
confirmed in the account of the voyage;* and, when it is taken into
consideration that we found it on no other part than the very spot that
Captain Cook's coals must, from our local knowledge of the place, have
been landed, the difficulty ceases; and there remains no doubt but that
it is a relic of that navigator's voyage, which must have been lying
undisturbed for nearly half a century.

(*Footnote. Hawkesworth volume 3 page 155.)

Among the varieties of seeds which were collected at this river were the
following: Grevillea gibbosa; a species of leea; a cassia; a species of
dalea, remarkable for its simple foliage; two species of melaleuca, one
bearing a white, the other a crimson flower; an acacia; two species of
the natural order convolvolaceae, namely, Ipomoea sp. and Ipomoea
gracilis; and a species of the natural order leguminosae allied to
galega; Erythrina indica or the coral-tree; several species of
eucalyptus; a xanthorrhoea; and a great number of other curious plants
which will appear whenever the catalogue of Mr. Cunningham's extensive
botanical collection is published.

July 11.

On the 11th at daybreak it was intended that we should leave the river,
but the weather being very thick and foggy with no wind, we were
compelled to remain. During the morning two natives, whom we afterwards
recognised to be the same that came down to the dry sands last Sunday,
were perceived walking from the north end of the long sandy beach towards
the point; and as they passed abreast of us they frequently hailed. Soon
after they had disappeared round the point they were seen to paddle in a
canoe towards the mangroves on the opposite shore; they were armed with
spears, and were perhaps returning from a hunting excursion. Soon after
this they were again perceived paddling along the edge of the mangroves,
apparently engaged in spearing fish with a fiz-gig; which the striker
used in a similar way to that of the natives of Port Jackson; but from
the leisurely manner in which they proceeded it was evidently their
intention to approach us under pretence of fishing.

They were soon lost sight of by the intervention of the land of the
south-east corner of the port, but in half an hour re-appeared behind the
point which was about fifty yards off. As soon as they found themselves
perceived they uttered some unintelligible words, and made signs of
friendship by patting their breasts; upon which Mr. Roe went in the
jolly-boat, and endeavoured to bring them alongside by keeping their
canoe close to his boat and gently pulling towards the vessel; but upon
their evincing symptoms of fear as they drew nigh he released them, and
beckoned them to follow, which they did for some few seconds; but then
gradually edging off, increased their distance from us; after this Mr.
Roe came on board and by our entirely disregarding their presence and
paying no attention to their movements, the natives assumed confidence
and landed to examine the place where our boat had been constructed,
which they did with great minuteness; upon this some biscuits were thrown
to them from the vessel, which they picked up and pretended to eat.
Finding that we were not inclined to take any further notice of them,
they soon afterwards re-embarked, and, paddling over to the opposite
shore, disappeared round the sandy point.

Early the next morning we succeeded in getting out of the port, but not
without difficulty on account of the baffling winds which blew in eddies
round the hill. After clearing the bar, the weather began to re-assume
its threatening appearance, but tired of the delay of waiting for fine
weather we determined to proceed, and steered for Cape Bedford.

July 12.

Having reached this the course was directed for Cape Flattery, on our way
to which we steered between the Three Isles Group and a low island. On
passing round Cape Flattery our course was directed to Point Lookout, and
within the Turtle Island Group, but to seaward of the islands, q. Shortly
afterwards the islands of Howick's Group were seen to seaward on our bow,
and other low isles ahead; and beyond these was Noble Island. Upon
reaching Howick's Group, a favourable place offering under the lee of the
southernmost island, Number 3, we hauled in and anchored in the strait or
channel that separates it from Number 2. The island, Number 3, being low,
protected us only from the swell, and as the wind blew fresh from the
South-East during the night, with a cross tide, the cutter rode very

July 13.

At four o'clock the next morning the cutter was found to have drifted at
least half a mile to leeward, but whether during the first or middle part
of the night it was not easy to discover; had the island Number 2 been a
quarter of a mile nearer, we should have had little chance of escaping
shipwreck, for the night was very dark, and her distance did not exceed
that when she was brought up by veering cable. As it was we were so near
to the rocks that in making preparations to weigh, we had every reason to
expect at least the loss of our anchor. We succeeded, however, in heaving
short, and hoisting the sails without starting it; but it soon after
tripped, and the cutter at the same time casting the wrong way, I was on
the point of ordering the cable to be cut from the bows, when the wind so
favoured us as to enable the cutter to weather the reef; all sail was
instantly made and happily we succeeded both in clearing the reef, which
we passed at the distance of a cables' length, and saving our anchor,
which was quickly hove up and secured.

After escaping this danger our course was directed to pass outside of
Noble Island, in our way to which four small wooded isles were left
inshore of our track, and named, at Mr. Roe's request, after Captain Sir
Christopher Cole, K.C.B. Between this group and Noble Island two dry
sands were observed. Cape Bowen, so named by Lieutenant Jeffreys, is a
remarkable projection in the hills, but not on the coast, for it rather
forms a bay. To the northward of it the hills fall back with some
appearance of a rivulet, but the sandy beach was traced from the
masthead, and the opening, if any, was suspected to be a stream
communicating with Ninian Bay. To the eastward of our course, abreast of
Point Barrow, is a shoal, s, about three miles long, whose rocks showed
their heads above the water; beyond this the weather was too hazy to
observe anything.

Point Barrow is eleven miles to the northward of Cape Bowen, and is a
narrow promontory forming the south head of a deep bay which I intended
to anchor in and examine; for it bore the name of PORT Ninian in
Lieutenant Jeffrey's chart; but on entering it our soundings rapidly
decreased to three and a half fathoms long before Point Barrow sheltered
us from the wind. After steering over to the north side and ascertaining
that the shoal water extended across the bay we stood out again, and
resumed a course along the most rugged and most stony land I ever saw;
the stones are all of rounded form and heaped up in a most extraordinary
and confused manner, as if it were effected by some extraordinary
convulsion of nature. Might they not have been of diluvian origin? This
promontory was named by Lieutenant Jeffreys, Cape Melville. At half past
one o'clock we passed between the straggling rocks which lie off the Cape
and Pipon Island; and as we hauled round Cape Melville into Bathurst Bay
the soundings suddenly decreased upon the edge of a bank, and our
endeavours to find anchorage here were unsuccessful; we therefore stood
across the bay towards Cape Flinders which is the extremity of a group of
islands of high and rugged character forming the western head of Bathurst

On approaching the Cape we saw with surprise the wreck of a vessel thrown
upon the rocks, with her masts and yards lying around her in the greatest
confusion; her hull was divided; the stem and forecastle deck were lying
in one place, and her stern frame with part of her quarterdeck in
another. At some distance from her there were some things like two boats
hauled up on the beach, but not the least sign of her crew.

As it was too late in the evening to examine any further we passed on,
and, rounding the Cape, anchored on its west side under a flat-topped
hill, in ten fathoms and a half, sandy mud.

July 14.

The next morning Mr. Bedwell and Mr. Cunningham accompanied me to examine
the wreck. On pulling round the Cape we found it impossible to land near
her on account of the surf which, from the freshness of the wind blowing
directly upon the place where she was thrown up, was breaking heavily; we
therefore landed on the opposite side of the bay and walked round to
examine the boats; but on reaching the place we found they were canoes of
the natives, of similar construction to that seen on the beach at
Endeavour River. In one of them was the apparatus for striking turtles
which has been noticed by Captain Cook.* Woodcut 4 is descriptive of the
instrument and of the manner in which it is used.

(*Footnote. Hawkesworth Coll. volume 3 page 232.)

On the branch of a tree near at hand were three turtles' heads; and since
they had been placed there the young branches had expanded, causing us to
wonder at first how the heads could have passed over them. These remains
of a turtle feast did not assimilate with our ideas of the character of
the Aborigines of this country, and it was then thought much more
probable to be a relic of the crew of the wrecked vessel; we have,
however, since frequently noticed the same thing, which could only have
been left by the natives. After examining the canoes we proceeded round
the bay towards the wreck; in our way to it we passed over a long coral
flat which had been left dry by the ebbing tide.

On arriving at the wreck a melancholy scene presented itself. It would
appear that she was thrown upon the rocks before she went to pieces; the
upper part of her stern and hull as far forward as her mizen chains were
entire and lying on the stern frame: about 100 yards off was her stem
with part of her forecastle deck, and some of her bow timbers; these were
the only connected parts remaining; the rest of her timbers, decks,
masts, and yards were lying in a confused heap between them. By creeping
under her stern, upon which her name was painted, she was found to be The
Frederick, which ship we remembered to have sailed from Port Jackson
during the early part of last year; search was made for any articles that
might be useful to the survivors but nothing was found: the only part
belonging to a boat that was noticed was a rudder, from which great hopes
were entertained that the crew were enabled, by means of their boats, to
escape from this inhospitable coast and effect an arrival at some
habitable port. Timor appeared to us to be the only probable place, but
we were there last June and nothing had then been heard of them. That the
crew had been upon the island was certain, for oars and spars were found
erected in the fissures of the rocks at the projections of the cape,
evidently placed there by the crew to attract the attention of vessels
passing. The mizen mast and main topmast had been cut away, and there
were a few marks of the axe upon her mainmast. The natives appeared to
have taken notice of the ironwork, for some spike nails were found about
their fireplaces; these traces, however, were not very recent, nor was it
probable that any natives were upon the island at the time of our visit.

The hills about Cape Flinders and the low shores of the bay in which we
found the wreck furnished Mr. Cunningham with a large collection of
plants and seeds, and among them was a species of melaleuca, not hitherto
known, and which Mr. Cunningham has described under the name of Melaleuca
foliosa; he also found a mimusops, and a grevillea (Grevillea gibbosa)
remarkable for its ligneous spherical capsules: and on the sandy shore at
the south end of the bay we found and procured a large quantity of the
bulbous roots of a crinum (angustifolium?).

July 15.

In a bay to the southward of the cutter's anchorage some mud oysters were
found, which were not ill flavoured. Shellfish was abundant on the flats
in Wreck Bay but we were unsuccessful with the hook and line, although
surrounded by fish of various descriptions.

July 16.

On the 16th, as soon as day dawned, we left this anchorage. At sunset we
anchored at the bottom of Princess Charlotte's Bay, in three fathoms,
from which the low shore was visible as far as west; an opening among the
back hills in the South-East probably affords a fresh stream, but as no
break was observed on the beach we did not examine it further. About four
miles from the anchorage was a small opening in the mangroves, but of too
little importance to take any notice of.

July 17.

At daylight the next morning we were under sail and steering up the west
side of the bay. The coast trends to the northward and continuing low and
wooded is fronted by a sandy beach; several shoals and a range of low
wooded islands, which were called Claremont Isles, now began to show
themselves as we proceeded, and at sunset we anchored for the night under
the island marked 2.

July 18.

The following day we passed onward, leaving several low wooded isles to
seaward, and steered obliquely towards the coast, which still possessed
the same low and wooded appearance as yesterday.

Cape Sidmouth now came in sight, and as we approached it the shoals
became much more numerous and dangerous, from being composed either of
sand or of a brown-coloured rock. In the offing they are all of coral,
the limits of which, from their colour, are so defined that you sail in
perfect security; but near Cape Sidmouth the shoals are not visible until
close by, and we were twice very nearly thrown upon them. As we advanced
we left several low woody isles to seaward of our track; and at sunset
anchored under a larger island than is usual hereabout, which, as it will
always be a stopping place for vessels bound up the coast, was named
Night Island.

July 19.

At nine o'clock the following morning, after a rainy disagreeable night,
we proceeded and steered parallel with the shore. At half past eleven
o'clock we were abreast and inshore of Sherrard's Islets. Steering
onwards we passed within a low sandy island covered with bushes, and to
seaward of a bare rock which lies a mile and a half south of Cape
Direction; round this projection the land trends to the westward and
forms a deep bay with Cape Weymouth, which Lieutenant Jeffreys has named
Lloyd's Bay. Upon rounding Cape Weymouth, the land was observed to trend
deeply in to the westward; and, as the bay appeared to offer shelter, I
was tempted to haul round Bligh's Restoration Island for the purpose of
anchoring; but in this we were prevented by the rocky quality of the
bottom. On our way to Forbes' Islands, which I wished to visit, our
course was intercepted by the reef which extended in a North-West and
South-East direction; we steered along its western side, at a quarter of
a mile from it, until five o'clock, when we hauled round its north end
and again steered for Forbes' Islands; but at sunset, being again impeded
by a shoal that crossed our course, we anchored under its lee in fifteen
fathoms mud, at about three or four hundred yards off its edge.

July 20.

The next morning was so thick and unfavourable that we delayed getting
under weigh until after eight o'clock, when, without its wearing a more
improved appearance, we steered to the north-west towards the mainland.
At ten o'clock, we passed between Piper's Islets and then steering north
passed at about three-quarters of a mile to the eastward of a small rocky
shoal on which were two small trees. This particular is recorded as it
may be interesting at some future time to watch the progress of this
islet, which is now in an infant state; it was named on the occasion
Young Island.

A high lump in the North-North-East was named Haggerston's Island; and to
the northward is a group of isles off Cape Grenville, which was named in
compliment to Sir Everard Home, Bart.

In steering round the group, we came upon Captain Cook's track, but left
it again by bearing away to the westward towards a bay on the north side
of Cape Grenville. Upon reaching within Sunday Island, so named by
Captain Bligh, soundings were struck in seven fathoms, but in three
heaves they decreased to two fathoms hard sand, although our distance
from the shore was at least three miles. We then bore away to the
northward and anchored in five fathoms and a half, at a mile from Sunday
Island, which bore between North 23 degrees and 44 degrees East
(magnetic). The bay I called Margaret Bay; its shores are low and
composed of a remarkable white sand.

July 21 to 22.

We were detained at this anchorage from thick and squally weather for two
days. On the 22nd the gentlemen visited Sunday Island. The island is
composed of a heap of rocks covered with a thickly-matted underwood, and
surrounded by a coral reef; it is about a mile and a half in
circumference and rather higher than the islands in its vicinity. It had
been visited by the natives some time since, but there were no traces of
turtle, nor anything to induce our gentlemen to repeat their visit.

July 24.

Early on the morning of the 24th we left Margaret Bay; and steering to
the northward passed close round the western side of the Bird Isles of
Captain Cook. Eight or ten natives were standing on the sandy point of
the north-easternmost islet, attentively engaged in watching us as we
passed by; and near them were two canoes hauled up on the beach. The
canoes appeared to be of similar construction to that seen at Endeavour
River; but certainly were not more than sixteen or eighteen feet in
length. The late Admiral Bligh, in his account of the Bounty's voyage,
has described one that he saw and measured at Sunday Island, the place we
had just left; it was thirty-three feet long and would hold twenty men;
but from his account it must have been of bark, for he says, "the canoe
was made of three pieces, the bottom entire, to which the sides were
sewed in the common way."* The largest canoe that we have seen did not
measure more than eighteen feet in length.

(*Footnote. Bligh's Voyage to the South Seas page 210.)

After leaving this group we experienced a considerable swell from the
South-East which would indicate this part of the coast to be less
occupied by reefs than it is more to the southward; particularly between
Cape Grenville and Cape Tribulation where the outer or barrier reefs are
nearer to the coast than in any other part.

Our course was held outside of two groups of islets one of which was
called Hannibal's, and the other McArthur's Group. At eleven o'clock a
larger islet was passed by; at half past twelve o'clock we were abreast
of Captain Cook's Orfordness, and of Captain Bligh's Pudding-Pan Hill;
continuing our course parallel to the coast we passed half a mile inside
of Cairncross Island which is about half a mile in length; it has a reef
extending for more than a mile off its
south point, under which a vessel might securely anchor. At 3 hours 30
minutes p.m. Bligh's Turtle Island was seen, for which we steered; but,
attracted by the flattering appearance of an opening in Newcastle Bay, we
hauled in to examine it. As we stood towards it the soundings were very
regular until we were within the projecting points of the coast, when the
quality of the bottom changed from mud to sand; and with this the depth
began to decrease. The opening trended deeply in to the North-West and
bore the character of a river with a good port at its embouchure; the
heads of which were rocky and apparently bold, but the light colour of
the water between them indicated that its entrance was shoal, and would
prove both intricate and dangerous to pass. Sooner however than was
expected the water shoaled to three fathoms; and before it was possible
to avoid it the vessel struck: the helm was put up, but she continued to
beat on a hard sandy bottom as her head paid off. Some time elapsed, for
it was blowing strong, before the main sheet could be hauled in to gybe
the sail; during which the cutter was running along the shoal or bar in
ten feet water, which was not sufficient to float her; for she struck the
ground violently every time that the swell passed by. Upon the main boom
being got over, and the vessel's heel touching the ground at the same
instant, her head flew up in the wind, and she was very nearly thrown
back upon the bank. This was, however, fortunately prevented: in a few
seconds she reached deeper water and we providentially escaped a danger
which had so nearly proved fatal to the vessel and our lives; for had the
cutter remained a-ground on the bank during the night the sea was so
heavy that there would not have been the least vestige of her the
following morning. To commemorate this occurrence, I have distinguished
the opening with the name of Escape River.

Having reached an offing we bore up for Turtle Island, intending to pass
within it and anchor under its lee; but the appearance of the inner
channel being suspicious, the plan was altered and we passed outside. As
soon as we were to the northward of it we hauled in, but were prevented
from anchoring under its lee by a reef that extended for a considerable
distance off its north side. We were now rather critically placed for the
evening was closing in with every appearance of bad weather, and we were
obliged to anchor in a very exposed situation without any protection
either from the wind or sea. During the night the former blew hard from
the South-East with thick rainy weather; and, with tide, raised a short
deep swell, that caused the cutter to ride very uneasily at her anchor.

July 25.

At four o'clock in the morning the ring of the anchor broke and we
drifted a cable's length to leeward before another could be dropped. At
daylight the wind blew so hard as to prevent our picking up the broken
anchor and we proceeded towards Mount Adolphus, passing half a mile to
the eastward of Albany Islands that lie off the south-east end of Cape

As the soundings between Mount Adolphus and the Investigator's track to
the north of Wednesday and Hammond's Islands had not been previously laid
down by Captain Flinders, I determined on passing out that way; and after
clearing the channel between Mount Adolphus and Cape York, steered for
the North-East end of Wednesday Island, leaving the rock, a, a quarter of
a mile to the eastward of our course. Off the extremity of Cape York is
an island of conical shape separated from it by a very narrow rocky
channel. The land to the westward of this projection trends slightly in
and forms a sandy bay fronted by a reef and some rocky islets. The hills
at the back of Cape York are moderately high and rugged, and only covered
with a slight vegetation.

Mount Adolphus is high and flat topped and there was some appearance of a
good anchorage in a bight under its north-west side, where also the side
of the hill appeared to be thickly wooded, and worth a visit, but the
lateness of the hour did not permit the delay.

In passing near the rocky islet which lies off the south-east end of
Wednesday Island we narrowly escaped striking upon some rocks, two of
which were seen about fifty yards off under our lee bow, on which the sea
broke heavily.

As we passed round the north side of Wednesday Island, six natives were
observed running along the beach, waving their arms and hallooing to us:
previous to their appearance a large fire had been kindled by them in the
woods over the beach, evidently with a view to attract our attention, but
in vain, for we were too much occupied for the safety of the vessel to
attend to them.

In passing the rock off the north end of Hammond's Island the tide was
observed to be rushing past it, with great rapidity to the westward.

At half past one o'clock we hauled up towards the south end of Good's
Island, intending to anchor there for the night, that we might have the
whole of the next day to leave the Strait. About half a mile from the
shore the anchor was let go in seven fathoms gravelly bottom, but in
checking the cable the arm of the anchor broke. The strain in bringing up
was not so violent as to have caused the accident, had the anchor been
properly made; but to its ill shape, and being badly wrought, our
misfortune is to be attributed. It was made at Port Jackson. On another
occasion it might have caused the loss of the vessel; but fortunately a
few hours' daylight and a clear run before us enabled us to proceed, and
before sunset we passed Booby Island. A remarkable coincidence of our
losses upon the two voyages has now occurred: last year at the North-West
Cape we lost two anchors just as we were commencing the survey, and now,
on rounding the North-East Cape to commence our examination of the north
coast, we have encountered a similar loss, leaving us, in both instances,
only one bower anchor to carry on the survey.

Booby Island is a mere rock, the retreat of boobies (Pelecanus fiber,
Linn.) and turtles of the hawks-bill species. Some slight vegetation was
perceived upon it but it was so entirely covered with the excrement of
birds that it had the appearance of being white-washed. The number of
these birds was almost incredible, and they hovered over and about us as
we passed, as if to drive us from their haunt.

The loss of two anchors prevented our trusting the third while smarting
under our misfortune, or we should have anchored under Booby Island to
have obtained some sights for the time-keepers, as well as to have
furnished the crew with a fresh meal of turtle.

Eleven weeks had now elapsed since leaving Port Jackson; during which
time I had been able to lay down the different projections of the coast
and our track within the barrier reefs between the Percy Islands and Cape
York; besides having surveyed Port Macquarie, examined Rodd's Bay, and
constructed our boat at Endeavour River.

Until we passed Cape Grafton the weather was generally fine and
favourable for our purpose; but between that Cape and Torres Strait it
had been thick and cloudy with frequent rain; which not only increased
the danger of the navigation, but also considerably retarded our
progress; and, from the continual dampness of the cabins below, which,
from the small size of the vessel and our not possessing the advantage of
a stove to dry them, it was impossible to prevent, occasioned much
sickness; but fortunately it was checked by our reaching a more
salubrious climate. The attention I was obliged to pay to the invalids
took up a great deal of my time which ought to have been otherwise and
more advantageously employed in the object of the voyage. Sailors, of all
other people, are the most incautious and careless in contracting
illness; but when attacked there are none that require more attendance
and nursing; besides, they were unwilling in the first instance to trust
to my ignorance, until increasing sickness obliged them, and then my fear
was that although I might be of service and check the disorder, their
complaint was possibly not understood by me, and that eventually, instead
of curing, I might destroy my patient. And to these fears my mind was so
constantly alive that on some occasions I thought of little else.

Captain Cook thus describes the method by which the natives of Endeavour
River catch turtle: "For striking turtle they have a peg of wood, which
is about a foot long, and very well bearded; this fits into a socket, at
the end of a staff of light wood, about as thick as a man's wrist, and
about seven or eight feet long: to the staff is tied one end of a loose
line about three or four fathoms long, the other end of which is fastened
to the peg. To strike the turtle, the peg is fixed into the socket, and
when it has entered his body, and is retained there by the barb, the
staff flies off and serves for a float to trace their victim in the
water; it assists also to tire him, till they can overtake him with their
canoes and haul him on shore. One of these pegs, as I have mentioned
already, we found in the body of a turtle, which had healed up over it.
Their lines are from the thickness of a half-inch rope to the fineness of
a hair, and are made of some vegetable substance, but what in particular
we had no opportunity to learn." Hawkesworth's Coll. volume 3 page 232.

The above method differs only from that used by the natives of Rockingham
Bay and Cape Flinders; in that the float is another piece of light
buoyant wood--the staff being retained in his hand when the turtle is
struck. The reader will here recognize, in this instrument, a striking
resemblance to the oonak and katteelik, the weapons which Captain Parry
describes the Esquimaux to use in spearing the seal and whale. (Parry's
Second Voyage of Discovery pages 507 and 509.)

Cross the Gulf of Carpentaria, and resume the survey of the North Coast
at Wessel's Islands.
Castlereagh Bay.
Crocodile Islands.
Discovery and examination of Liverpool River.
Arrive at Goulburn Island.
Complete wood and water.
Attacked by the natives from the cliffs.
Leave Goulburn Island, and pass round Cape Van Diemen.
Resume the survey of the coast at Vernon's Islands in Clarence Strait.
Paterson Bay.
Peron Island.
Anson Bay.
Mr. Roe examines Port Keats.
Prevented from examining a deep opening round Point Pearce.
Discovery of Cambridge Gulf.
Lacrosse Island.
Examination of the Gulf.
Death of one of the crew.
Leave Cambridge Gulf.
Trace the coast to Cape Londonderry.

1819. July 26.

On our voyage from Torres Strait to the western head of the Gulf of
Carpentaria, which is Cape Arnhem, no incident occurred of sufficient
interest to be worth recording; but no sooner had we passed Torres Strait
than a very sensible difference was perceived in the temperature: the
thermometer was observed to range between 75 and 83 degrees, which was
about 3 degrees higher than it did on the south side of the Strait; this
change produced a drier air and finer weather and soon restored our
invalids to perfect health.

July 27.

Soon after daylight on the 27th Wessel's Islands, which had been seen the
preceding evening, were descried bearing from West-North-West to
South-West by West; and shortly afterwards lower land was observed more
to the northward, towards the extremity of which we steered.

The eastern side of Wessel's Islands presents a level aspect; only a few
shrubby trees appear at intervals to break the uniformity of its gently
undulating outline. The point, which is named Cape Wessel, is the
extremity of the northernmost island of the group and is separated from
that to the southward of it by a narrow and apparently a rocky strait.

On approaching within a mile and a half of the Cape we passed through a
strong rippling tide without having soundings with fifteen fathoms. Six
natives were seen sitting on the verge of the cliffs that overhang the
Cape, watching us as we passed; and farther on two more were observed
walking on the beach. On the west side of the Cape is a small sandy bay
in which there appeared to be good anchorage.

In passing this bay we fell into another strong tide race, in which the
sea curled and foamed about us as if we were in the midst of breakers;
but, as before, no bottom was found with fifteen fathoms. The water was
very thick, from the mud being stirred up by the violence of the tide,
which must have been setting at the rate of three miles and a half per
hour; for we were going nearly five knots by the log, and yet made
scarcely any way: we were therefore obliged to steer more off, to get out
of the influence of the tide, which proved to be the ebb setting to the

By a meridional observation at noon the latitude of the Cape was found to
be 10 degrees 59 1/4 minutes, which is 19 minutes more northerly than the
land which bounded Captain Flinders' view when he passed by in the
Cumberland. The breadth of these islands is very inconsiderable; for as
we sailed down their western coast the cliffs on their opposite sides
were occasionally discerned; and at one part half a mile appeared to be
the greatest breadth. The low and sandy character of the western sides of
these islands differs much from that of the opposite shore, where the
coastline is formed by steep rocky cliffs whose bases are washed by the
sea. The night was passed at anchor.

July 28.

And the next morning the cutter was, with the assistance of the flood
tide, making quick progress to the southward.

At noon we were abreast of the opening through which Captain Flinders
passed; it was called Cumberland Strait, after his little vessel. At one
o'clock some islands came in sight to the westward of our course
(South-West 1/2 South) between which and the range of Wessel's Islands I
intended to pass; but after standing on for some distance through the
channel against a strong tide setting at the rate of three miles and a
half per hour, it was perceived that the opening formed a communication
with Arnhem Bay. Being convinced of the fact we tacked and passed round
the northernmost extremity of the western range of islands, for doing
which we had nearly paid dear; a strong rippling was perceived to extend
for three miles off the point; but as it appeared to be occasioned by the
tide setting round it we stood on with the intention of going through
them. Near their edge soundings were suddenly obtained with nine fathoms
and successive casts decreased the depth to six, five, and three and
three-quarters fathoms; the helm was put a-lee to return but the wind at
the same moment dying away, the vessel became ungovernable, and was
drifted over the spit; fortunately however we found sufficient depth to
prevent striking. As soon as the danger was passed the water deepened to
nine, and in a few heaves we found no bottom with thirteen fathoms; the
night was passed at anchor.

July 29.

And the next morning we resumed our course to the southward in a parallel
direction with the coast; at noon our observation proved that the rocky
islets round which we passed last evening were those off Captain
Flinders' Point Dale. There was however an error of ten miles in the
latitude, which was so unusual an occurrence in the charts of that
navigator that for some time I doubted the justice of my suspicions; but
on referring to the account of his voyage it appeared that no meridional
observation was obtained by him for the latitude near this channel; and
also that the weather when he passed through was thick and cloudy. This
error therefore, when he was unassisted by an observation for his
latitude in a place where the tide sets at the rate of three or four
knots, did not appear at all improbable; and as my conjectures by
comparing our respective plans were soon afterwards confirmed, we hauled
in for the extremity of the land in sight.

The Strait to the eastward of Point Dale I have named after my friend
Robert Brown, Esquire, the profound botanist of that voyage.

In the evening we anchored about three miles from a low rocky island;
beyond which is an opening like a rivulet, but it was so inconsiderable
in appearance that I was not induced to examine it farther.

July 30.

The next evening we anchored at the bottom of a bay and inside of a group
of islands which appear to be the Crocodils Eylandts of the old charts.
The bay was called after the late Viscount Castlereagh, then Secretary of
State for the Foreign Department. Two or three small openings that were
noticed at the bottom of the bay are probably the embouchures of as many
rivulets. This part of the country is low and of uninteresting aspect;
dwarf timber appears to pervade the summits of the land near the coast,
and of so level an outline that it bears a strong resemblance to a
clipped hedge.

July 31.

At daylight we were enveloped in a dense fog which nearly concealed the
land; but on weighing two conspicuous points were set, by which I was
enabled to connect my survey. Soon afterwards the fog spread so thickly
over us that the land was entirely concealed; and as the water was shoal
we were obliged to anchor until the fog cleared off, when we again got
under weigh and ascertained the form of the south-west corner of the bay;
it is of very shoal approach: our anchorage at night was not more than
four miles and a half to the north-east of that of the evening before.

1819. August 1.

The next day we attempted to steer to sea between the islands but our
course was interrupted by a reef which connected the islets on either
side of us; being thus embayed, we were obliged to anchor, but as the
wind was light no danger was anticipated. Mr. Roe was sent in a boat to
sound about our anchorage: on his return he reported the water to be of
tolerably even depth, excepting to the southward where there was a spit,
on which the least water was four and three quarters fathoms, beyond
which it deepened again.

As the night advanced, the wind freshened from the South-East and
rendered our situation extremely unsafe. When the tide made against the
wind the swell rose and caused our only remaining anchor to drag; more
cable was instantly veered; but as the vessel did not bring up and we
were drifting towards the reef no alternative was left but to weigh and
keep under sail; which, during a long and dark night, and near so
extensive a reef, was running great risk. Our loss of anchors was now
much felt for no sooner were we under sail than the wind died away; and
from the heavy swell the cutter was so ungovernable that the vessel twice
missed stays in endeavouring to tack in shoal water; fortunately the
water deepened again on standing on, or nothing could have prevented our
going on shore. After plying to windward for an hour the weather tide
ceased; when the disadvantage of a lee tide was counterbalanced by
smoother water and a steadier breeze. We passed a very anxious night, but
without encountering any accident.

August 2.

With daybreak the breeze freshened; and at noon we were near the small
easternmost islet of the group. The afternoon was passed in steering
round the northern side of the island; but before sunset we had to alter
the course twice for shoal water, being at one time within half a mile of
a reef that was nearly dry.

During this night the cutter was kept under weigh.

August 3.

And at daylight was considerably to the westward of our reckoning from
the effect of a current. The land to the westward of the Crocodile
Islands trends deeply in, forming a bay in which two low wooded islands
were noticed. As we steered into it the water shoaled; and as there was
nothing to induce our persevering we steered round the next point of
land, and anchored at sunset to leeward of a shoal projecting in a
North-West direction from the point. The coast falls back round this
point and forms an unsheltered bay seven or eight miles deep.

August 4.

The following morning our course was held parallel with the shores of the
bay towards a point of land which afterwards proved to be the eastern
head of a deep opening.

To the northward of this point was an island and farther on to seaward a
dry sandbank. As we approached the point we were obliged to haul off for
there was evidently a shoal communication between it and the island, and
every appearance of its being connected with the sandbank in the offing.
The dark colour of the water on the other side of this line of
communication induced me to stand round the sandbank; when, as was
expected, we entered a deep channel leading towards the most distant
parts of the bight, which afterwards turned out to be the mouth of a
river. The sandbank was called Haul-round Islet and the island Entrance
Island. In passing between the latter and a reef on the western side of
the channel, about half or three-quarters of a mile from the shore, we
had fourteen fathoms mud; after which it gradually decreased in depth;
having reached the mouth of the river we anchored in three fathoms about
four miles within Entrance Island. The remainder of the day, which was
far advanced, was spent in making preparations for our examination of the
river; at low water the tide had fallen ten feet and the cutter took the
ground; but as it was on soft mud it was of little consequence.

August 5.

The following morning as soon as the ebb tide ceased I left the cutter in
a boat, accompanied by Messrs. Bedwell and Cunningham, and proceeded up
the river. The banks on either side were, for ten or twelve miles, so
thickly and impenetrably lined with very large mangroves as to defy all
attempts of landing; above this these trees were less abundant and the
banks were occasionally clear from fifty to two hundred yards in extent;
however the view thus obtained did not impress us with any flattering
idea of the country at the back. On passing the second open bank we
observed a canoe hauled up on the shore, and at a little distance farther
we saw another; these were the first indications we had observed of the
presence of natives, excepting the large fires that were burning a little
way in from the banks.

At the next open bank on the eastern side we put ashore to give the
boat's crew an opportunity of getting their dinner, and as we landed I
discharged my fowling-piece at some birds; upon ascending the bank we
found that the report of the gun had alarmed four natives, two of whom
were females with children on their backs; they were retreating in haste
towards a smoke, the fire of which was concealed from us by high grass:
as soon as they reached the fire they stopped and began to call out in
loud shrill tones, when they were soon surrounded by twenty-five natives
who immediately commenced hallooing and shouting to us in a menacing way;
after some consultation two of them advanced armed with spears; upon
which I ordered a musket to be brought from the boat, which was concealed
from their view by the bank of the river; seeing this the Indians stopped
and retreated to their party, who immediately set up a yell of loud and
angry cries accompanied with the most furious gesticulations. As the tide
was still flowing and I was not very anxious to communicate with these
people, from whose neighbours at Goulburn Island we had already
experienced much treachery, and who, if inclined to be quarrelsome,
might, from the small breadth of the river, considerably annoy and impede
our farther progress, we re-embarked and proceeded up the river under the
momentary expectation of either seeing or hearing them at every bend and
open bank; we were not, however, molested; and at sunset, as we had
reached a considerable distance from their encampment, and had not seen
any alligators, we landed to pass the night upon the shore, and soon
pitched our tent. We had, however, no sooner refreshed and composed
ourselves to rest than we were alarmed by a loud shout, and upon
listening attentively it was again heard. It was now our firm opinion
that we had landed in the vicinity of another tribe, who upon seeing our
fire had alarmed their companions.

The muskets were therefore placed in readiness and a watch set to give
our party warning if they approached. In the middle of the night the
noise was again heard, but upon being repeated several times it was
discovered that we had been deceived by the screams of a bird whose note
exactly resembled the human cry. Our fears of being attacked by the
natives being now dispelled, our party composed themselves again to rest,
but without obtaining any sleep in consequence of the immense swarms of
mosquitoes, which buzzing about in incredible numbers were not to be kept
from stinging us by any measures we could devise. The tent was very soon
deserted and many other places were tried in vain; the only method at all
successful, by which some respite was obtained, was by lying upon the
ground within two feet of the blaze of the fire; the heat and smoke of
which, with the danger of our clothes catching fire, were insignificant
inconveniences compared with the mosquitoes' stings; and those only who
placed themselves in this situation obtained a few hours' sleep.

August 6.

At daylight, begrimed with dirt and smoke, we re-embarked, and pulled
five miles further up the river, when its further examination was given
up; at this place its breadth was about twenty yards, and being high
water the greatest depth was twelve feet; at low water the channel must
be nearly dry. We did not reach the cutter until six o'clock in the
evening, much exhausted for want of rest, and from exposure to a powerful
sun, and a hot land wind that prevailed all day.

This river, which I have named the Liverpool, runs up from a well-formed
port about forty miles, taking in its way a very serpentine course; its
breadth at Entrance Island is about four miles; ten miles from the mouth
its width is about half a mile, after which it very gradually decreases;
at about fourteen miles from our anchorage the water is fresh at half
tide but at low water it might probably be obtained four or five miles
lower down. The bottom is muddy as are also the banks; and in consequence
the latter are only accessible at high tide, at which time they are
seldom more than two or three feet above the water's edge. The country
within is very level, and appeared during the wet season to be
occasionally inundated: the soil where we landed is a sour stiff clay on
which grew an arundinaceous grass.

At one place where the bank was about fifteen feet high and formed of red
clay Mr. Cunningham landed, and collected a variety of interesting
plants. The open banks of the river were covered with salicorniae and
other common chenopodeae; and, in the midst of the usual assemblage of
rhizophoreae, the Avicennia tomentosa, Linn. was observed of remarkable
growth, being in many parts from fifty to sixty feet high, three feet in
diameter at the base, and of a straight tapering poplar shape.

Fish was plentiful and on the muddy banks, as the water fell, we saw
myriads of small amphibious fishes skipping about: they are probably of
the same kind as those seen by Captain Cook at Thirsty Sound and by
Captain Flinders at Keppel Bay,* on the east coast. Captain Cook
describes the species he saw to be a small fish, about the size of a
minnow, furnished with two very strong breast fins, by the assistance of
which it leaped away upon being approached, as nimbly as a frog. The fish
I have just noticed appeared to be of a very similar description,
excepting that it did not seem to avoid the water as that of Thirsty
Sound; for Captain Cook says in a subsequent paragraph that it preferred
the land to water; for it frequently leaped out of the sea, and pursued
its way upon dry ground, and chose rather to leap from stone to stone
than pass through the puddles of water in its way.**

(*Footnote. Flinders Terra Australis volume 2 page 26.)

(**Footnote. Hawkesworth volume 3 page 125.)

The egret that we had seen last voyage in the Alligator River was also
seen here; and white cockatoos were in large flights, but hawks were
unusually rare. The bird, called by the colonists at Port Jackson the
native companion (Ardea antigone, Linn.) was seen where the natives were.
As we returned several alligators swam past the boat; but they were
neither so large nor so numerous as those of the Alligator Rivers; the
largest not being more than twelve or thirteen feet long. Upon seeing
these monsters we congratulated ourselves on our escape, for had we known
of their existence in this river before we passed the night on its bank,
the danger of being surprised by the natives and the stings of the
mosquitoes would have dwindled into insignificance in comparison with the
presence of such voracious animals. On our return down the river a snake
was seen about five feet long, of a light red colour, but it escaped by
gliding into the long matted grass.

August 7.

On the 7th we left the river and proceeded to the westward; round Point
Hawkesbury the land falls back extending first in a south-west, and then
in a west-north-west direction, until it was lost to our view behind a
point, which we afterwards discovered to be the Point Braithwaite of our
last voyage, the land of which had the appearance of being an island.

The bay thus formed was called Junction Bay; it was not examined, but,
from the direction of its trend, did not appear likely to afford much
interest, and could lead to no opening of importance.

August 8.

At eight o'clock the next morning we were near Goulburn Island, steering
through Macquarie Strait; and at eleven o'clock we anchored in South-west
Bay, near our former watering-place.

As soon as the vessel was secured I went on shore to examine whether
water could be obtained. In this object we were successful; and a basin
was dug to receive the water that drained through the cliffs; but, from
the advanced state of the dry season, it did not flow in half the
quantity that it did last year. The vegetation appeared to have suffered
much from drought and the grass, which at our last visit was long and
luxuriant, was now either parched up by the sun or destroyed by the
natives' fires, which at this time were burning on the low land in front
of Wellington Range.

In the evening I went to Bottle Rock, but found our bottle had been
removed; the rocks were covered with the eggs of terns, of which the
boat's crew collected eight dozen. On our return to the cutter a turtle
was noticed swimming towards the sandy beach at the north end of the bay,
which induced me to send a boat's crew on shore to watch its landing, but
in this they were unsuccessful. At their return at night they reported
having seen the recent marks of natives and of a dog on the beach.

August 9.

The following morning Mr. Bedwell went with a watering party to the
shore; the tide had however reached the hole, and spoilt what had been
collected during the night: after cleaning the hole again he visited our
last year's wooding-place where he found some remains of our cuttings;
but the greater part had been burnt. On his return to the watering-place
the well was full, and the party commenced their occupation: they had
however scarcely been twenty minutes employed before a shower of large
stones was thrown down upon them by a party of natives who suddenly
appeared on the verge of the cliff; but as suddenly retreated upon a
volley of muskets being fired over their heads from our boat, which we
had previously taken the precaution of mooring off the shore as we had
done last year. After this our people continued their work without being
further molested although many other attacks were premeditated by the
natives during the day, they having once or twice approached near the
verge of the cliffs; but their courage forsook them before they were
sufficiently near to throw either spears or stones with effect. A flag
was always hoisted on board whenever they were observed advancing, which
prepared our people on the beach to give them a reception. This signal
was certainly noticed by the natives, for they always stopped short the
moment it was displayed.

The run of water was so trifling that we could not procure more than from
sixty to one hundred gallons per day, for while the high tides lasted the
well in the morning was always found full of salt water. This
inconvenience did not occur last year because it was not found necessary
to dig a hole, the stream being of itself sufficiently abundant for our

August 10 to 16.

The delay however was not lost, inasmuch as it gave an opportunity of
finding new rates for the watches, as well as of obtaining a set of lunar
observations for the longitude.

On the 13th Mr. Bedwell went to Sims' Island for turtle but no recent
tracks were observed, excepting the remains of one that had a week before
furnished a repast to the natives. Near to this place were found
disinterred some of the bones of a human body that had been buried in a
grave close by, not longer than two or three months since. The footsteps
of the followers of the body to the grave were still visible in the sand,
but other steps appeared to have been more recently impressed; which must
have been those of the natives, who had dug the body up either from a
motive of curiosity or revenge.

I cannot account for the absence of many of the bones of the skeleton
unless the natives are cannibals, of which we have hitherto neither had
proofs nor entertained the least suspicion; dogs or birds may certainly
have carried them off, or the natives themselves may have removed them as
trophies or as evidences of their discovery to their companions on the
main. From the quantity of bamboo which was found scattered about the
spot there was every reason to conclude it was the grave of a Malay; and
according to the time of the Malay fleet's passing these islands last
year, they would at this time have quitted it about three months, which
will nearly agree with the appearance of the bones and the grave. On
returning on board our party brought a great quantity of the bulbous
roots of a crinum which grows abundantly among the rocks on Sims' Island.

August 17.

On the 17th our wood and water were embarked; the former having been
obtained from the verge of the cliff immediately over the watering-place
and thrown over, was readily conveyed to the boats. When our party first
mounted the cliffs a throwing stick, a broken spear, and some stones were
found that had evidently been left by the natives in their hasty retreat
when the muskets were fired: the spear was made of the mangrove tree,
hardened and made straight by exposing it to fire; and the throwing
stick, of hard wood, probably either of eucalyptus or casuarina; the
latter weapon was only two feet in length, and not near so large or long
as that used by the natives of Endeavour River. After the first day the
natives did not make their appearance; the smoke of their fires was
however observed over the south point of the island, about two miles off;
but notwithstanding the undisturbed manner in which our occupations
advanced, it was found necessary to keep an armed party always ready, for
there was no doubt that we were narrowly watched and the first unguarded
moment would have been taken advantage of by them for our annoyance, if
not to our loss. This precaution prevented my improving my last year's
survey of the main coast; and as there did not exist any good reason to
attach much importance to the sinuosities of the coast hereabout we did
not remain at this anchorage after our wooding and watering were
completed, from an anxiety to reach those parts which we had not yet
seen, and where we might expect a better chance of finding something of
greater interest.

Mr. Cunningham was confined to the vessel during our stay by a serious
attack of jaundice brought on by the fatiguing examination of Liverpool

The weather during our stay was throughout fine. A breeze usually sprung
up at daylight from South-East; and by noon veered to and blew fresh from
East, sometimes reaching North-East, from which quarter it was generally
strongest; as sunset approached the wind usually died away, and before
dark it was quite calm and continued so until the morning. The
temperature was much lower than we expected to find it, the thermometer
ranging only between 75 and 84 degrees; so that during the day, while the
sea breeze lasted, the heat was not at all oppressive.

August 18.

We left South-West Bay on the 18th at daybreak; but from light airs made
so little progress that it was not until the following afternoon that we
passed between McCluer's and New Year's Islands; between the latter and
Oxley's Island we passed over two coral banks, separated from each other
by a deep channel. On the easternmost bank were nine fathoms, but on the
other we found overfalls between five and seven fathoms. A native's fire
that was burning on Oxley's Island served to fix the position of this
last bank.

August 19.

The next morning we were off Cape Croker and at noon were passing Port
Essington; the projecting heads of which, at the distance of four or five
leagues, have the appearance of being two small islands, for the land at
the back and on either side is too low to be seen. Between Port Essington
and Cape Van Diemen we steered so as to see several parts of the coast of
Melville Island in order to compare their relative meridional distances
with those of last year's survey.

August 22.

The latter projection, which is the western limit of the north coast,
came in sight on the evening of the 22nd when its longitude was found to
be 130 degrees 19 minutes 33 seconds, which is 1 minute 2 seconds to the
westward of last year's observation; the mean therefore may be considered
as its true longitude, which is 130 degrees 20 minutes 30 seconds.

At sunset we were eleven miles from the Cape, bearing South 67 1/2
degrees West.

August 23.

And the next morning it was seen in the South-South-East. After rounding
it a course was steered down the western side of Bathurst Island.

August 26.

But it took us until the 26th before we passed Cape Fourcroy.

August 27.

On the following evening we made the land on the south side of Clarence
Strait in the vicinity of Vernon's Islands: this was the last land seen
by us on leaving the coast in May, 1818.

Between Goulburn Island and this part we had a succession of light
baffling winds, with sultry, damp, and hazy weather, which proved very
unfavourable for our sick, the number of whom was increasing. Mr. Bedwell
was confined to his bed with a serious attack of dysentery, occasioned by
exposure to the sun whilst superintending the shore parties at Goulburn
Island; and the greater part of the crew were affected with ophthalmia,
probably occasioned by the excessive glare and reflection of the sun's
rays from the calm glassy surface of the sea.

August 28.

At daylight on the 28th we found ourselves near the land to the
south-west of Vernon's Islands, which also were in sight. To the south
was a deep opening trending to the south-east of a river-like appearance;
but, as it did not seem to be of sufficient importance to detain us, we
passed on to the westward.

The land hereabouts is low and thickly wooded to the brink of the deep
red-coloured cliffs that form the projecting heads of the coast; the wood
near the sea had not the appearance of being of large growth; but the
abundance and the verdure of the trees gave this part a pleasing and
picturesque character. At the bottom of the opening was a remarkable
flat-topped hill under which the waters of the inlet appeared to flow in
a south-east direction. The entrance may possibly form a convenient port,
for there was no appearance of shoal water near it. The land which forms
its westernmost head appeared at first like an island, but was afterwards
presumed to be a projecting head, separating the opening from a deep
bight which was called Paterson Bay; at the bottom of the bay is another
opening or inlet that may have some communication with the first. The
western side of Paterson Bay is formed by very low land off which many
patches of dry rocks were seen to extend; beyond this the coast appeared
to be low and sandy.

August 29.

Light and adverse winds and calms, with a constant easterly current,
detained us in the vicinity of Paterson Bay until the following sunset;
when, in order to preserve the little progress made, we anchored near the
reefs on the western side of the bay. During the preceding day, sixteen
or twenty natives were noticed upon the sandy beach that fronts the red
cliffs on the eastern side of the bay, engaged in fishing, or perhaps in
watching our movements; and this evening the smokes of their fires were
observed among the trees near the same spot.

August 30.

The next day we made but little progress along the coast to the
south-west which is so low as not to be visible from the cutter's deck,
at a greater distance than six miles; this rendered the examination of it
very inconvenient and even dangerous, as the rocks and reefs which lined
the coast extended in some parts beyond that distance.

The land appeared to be barren and arid, and were it not for a few bushes
or mangrove trees, scattered about the beach, it might be called a
complete desert.

1819. September 1.

Westerly winds and calms continued without intermission until the 1st of
September; during which the thermometer ranged between 79 and 93 degrees.
On this day a breeze from the North-East enabled us to make progress to
the southward; and after examining an indenture of the coast we anchored
at night off a point of land, which, from the circumstance of a very
large fire burning upon it, was called Point Blaze. The land still
continued low; but more wooded and less sandy than that we had seen
within the last two days.

September 2.

The next morning we resumed our course along the coast. To the south-west
a sandy hillock was observed, which proved to be on Captain Baudin's
Peron Island. This was the first opportunity that had occurred by which I
could compare my longitude with that of Captain Baudin; and as the Peak
of Peron Island is one of his fixed points, and is placed by him in 127
degrees 34 minutes 36 seconds, I find that my chart is in this part 6
minutes 24 seconds to the eastward.

In order to set at rest the question of the insularity of this land we
passed within it, but not without difficulty, from the numerous shoals
that are scattered over the channel. A smoke was seen upon the smaller
island among the trees for a few minutes, but no people made their
appearance as we passed by. The natives of this part of the coast were
seen probably by Tasman; for in Mr. Dalrymple's Papua the following
paragraph is found: "In latitude 13 degrees 8 minutes and longitude 146
degrees 18 minutes 6 seconds East (probably 129 1/2 degrees East of
Greenwich, and answering to this part) the people are bad and wicked,
shooting at the Dutch with arrows without provocation, when they were
coming on shore. It is here very populous."

On arriving abreast of the peaked hill above-mentioned, a considerable
shoal, connected with the mainland, appeared to separate us from it; in
crossing it we had three fathoms, and as soon as we passed over it the
water deepened instantly to thirteen fathoms. We then bore up and steered
through the channel between the islands and the main, which was both
narrow and deep towards Channel Point; close to which we had sixteen
fathoms, and then hauled up round Peron's South Island.

The land from Channel Point trends to the South-South-East, and forms a
tolerably deep bight of low, sandy land, terminated by Cliff Head, a high
rocky projection well furnished with trees. In this bay there is probably
an opening, but it is small and lined with mangroves. After passing
Channel Point the depth rapidly decreased, and as we crossed a shoal
which runs off from the south-east end of Peron's South Island and
extends deeply into the bay, we carried from two and three-quarters to
three and a half fathoms. On clearing it we steered South-South-West, and
after dark anchored in five fathoms, mud, Cliff Head bearing South 71
degrees East (Magnetic.)

The bay between the two projections received the name of Anson Bay, after
the noble family of that name. During the night we had a remarkable
copious fall of dew.

September 3.

The next day at eleven o'clock we were off Cape Ford: from this cape the
coast trends in a South 48 degrees West direction for five miles to a low
projecting point, near the extremity of which a clump of trees,
remarkable for their rounded form and singular appearance, was
conspicuous: hence it extends South 5 1/2 degrees West to a distant
point; the intervening coast being of moderate height and thickly wooded
to the brink of a range of dark red cliffs, two miles in length, rising
immediately from the beach; upon which eight natives and a child were
observed watching our movements. Our course was held parallel with the
shore at about three miles distance. At sunset we tacked off for the
night; and the south extreme at dark bore South by West 1/2 West.

The sea hereabout abounds with fish of various sorts, upon which several
sharks were feeding most rapaciously. From midnight to daybreak the
weather was fine with scarcely a breath of wind; afterwards a light land
breeze set in; which at noon was succeeded by the usual sea breeze from
the west.

September 4.

At noon the next day our latitude was 13 degrees 33 minutes 41 seconds
South. At five o'clock we passed a point (Cape Dombey) off which there is
a reef of rocks of circular shape, and of small extent: to the southward
of it the coast forms a bay, lined with mangroves, in which there is a
small opening; but the breeze was then too fresh to allow of our
venturing into it to examine it more closely. At eight o'clock we
anchored off a projecting point which appeared to form the eastern head
of a deep opening: this projection, on account of a remarkable tree
standing above the bushes near to its extremity, was called Tree Point.

At this anchorage the tide rose eighteen feet and ran nearly at the rate
of two miles per hour.

September 5.

The next morning at daybreak, when the land became visible, Captain
Baudin's Cape Dombey was recognised, bearing South 83 degrees East.
Between Capes Ford and Dombey the coast is higher than usual and thickly
wooded to the verge of the cliffs, which preserve the same deep red
colour with those more to the northward; under them a sandy beach
uninterruptedly lines the coast. The bottom, at from three to five miles
distance, is rather irregular, and varies in its depth between seven and
a half and ten fathoms. An opening in the land is laid down near Cape
Dombey in the French charts, before which are placed the Barthelemy
Islands, which certainly do not exist, and it was not until after the
haze of the day cleared up that two detached quadrilateral shaped hills
were seen over the low land; and as these at a distance would assume
exactly the figure and appearance of islands they must have been the
cause of the mistake; I have therefore called them (by altering the
nomenclature as little as possible) the Barthelemy Hills.

At nine o'clock, having weighed at daylight, we reached within three
miles of Tree Point; when the ebb tide commenced and obliged our
anchoring to wait the turn of tide, in order to examine an opening that
trended deeply in to the southward. Accordingly when the flood made we
got under weigh, and entered the opening without encountering any
difficulties or being impeded by shoals. The deepest channel is about
two-thirds over on the eastern side, in which we sounded on a muddy
bottom in between nine and five fathoms; after having passed the
narrowest part we hauled over to the western shore, in the hope of
finding anchorage out of the strength of the tide, but it was with great
difficulty, and not until darkness compelled us, that we let go the
anchor, upon what appeared to be a hard stony bottom, in five fathoms.

The tide then turned to the ebb and commenced running out so rapidly that
we were under apprehensions of the vessel being left dry.

September 6 to 7.

But at low water which took place at 1 hour 20 minutes a.m., although the
tide had fallen twenty-two feet, it left nine feet, which depth was just
sufficient to float the vessel. Upon stirring up the bottom with an oar,
it was found to be of stiff clay, plentifully sprinkled with small
iron-stone gravel; it proved however to be of much better quality than
had been suspected, and the anchorage was retained during our stay.

As the bottom of this port had a river-like appearance, Mr. Roe prepared
to examine it, and set out at daylight accompanied by Mr. Cunningham:
they did not return until the following day.

From his report it appears that the shores are overrun with mangroves
(rhizophoreae) and that the whole of the back lands are inundated at high
water, which accounts for the very strong tides we experienced. The
bottom of the port, which at Mr. Roe's desire was named in compliment to
Vice Admiral Sir Richard G. Keats, G.C.B., is divided into two saltwater
arms, extending towards the foot of a range of thickly-wooded hills,
which were seen from the anchorage over the low mangrove shore, and
which, from their description, are probably connected with the Barthelemy
Hills. Their summit was named Mount Goodwin.

Our party put ashore at the only accessible landing place they found and
walked a mile inland. The country was extremely low and sterile, and the
soil composed of a tenacious clay in which small iron-stone gravel is
thickly mixed; it appeared to be of the same nature as the bottom on
which we were anchored; and to have been lately covered with grass,
recently burnt; and here and there, among other plants, Mr. Cunningham
found a stunted eucalyptus (eudesmia?) about six feet high.

The usual traces of natives were noticed; especially in one part where
the mark of a foot had been impressed since the last high water. Large
fires were burning three or four miles off but no human beings were seen.
As our gentlemen proceeded up the river a large flight of bats flew over
the boat. Very few birds were observed but a cry like that of the Ardea
antigone was heard; Mr. Roe killed a small snake about two feet long.

Upon this excursion no fresh water was found except a few small
drainings; but in this we were not disappointed for the character of the
country did not favour the idea or inspire us with any hopes of finding a
stream of sufficient consequence to be rendered useful for our purpose.
During the absence of the boat several necessary things were done on
board the ship which it was not possible to effect under weigh. On
opening some of the dry casks their contents were found to have suffered
much from weevil and rats: the latter had also made great havoc on our
spare sails; and, what was of greater importance and made me very anxious
for the consequences, they had gnawed holes in almost every water-cask
that remained full; so that we were not certain for a moment of our stock
of that article, of which we had no chance of procuring a supply on this
dreary coast.

September 8.

The following morning we weighed and stood out of Port Keats. On
attempting to steer close round Cape Hay we were obliged to desist and to
pass round a reef that extended from it in a North 1/2 West direction to
the distance of four leagues.

At sunset no land was in sight.

September 9.

But at eight o'clock the next morning (9th) the north end of the above
reef bore East-South-East and the land about Cape Hay South-South-East.
The Barthelemy Hills were also seen from the masthead, and reported as
islands; this mistake of ours therefore tends still more to excuse the
error of the French charts.

During the day we had light winds and the coast was but indistinctly
seen. The sea was covered with a brown scum which Captain Cook's sailors
called sea saw-dust, from its resemblance to that substance.* Very few
fish were noticed, but they were generally more numerous nearer to the

(*Footnote. Hawkesworth volume 3 page 248. Peron Voyage de Decouvertes
aux Terres Australes volume 2 chapter 31.)

September 10.

At midnight the land was seen from North-East to South-East and at
daylight it was visible between Point Pearce, bearing South-South-East,
and a point five or six miles south of Cape Hay which bore North-East by
East. The coast is sandy; behind it there appeared a good deal of small
stunted timber, and beyond this the range of Mount Goodwin was visible.
Round Point Pearce the land trends in a South 59 1/2 degrees East
direction and forms a very deep indenture: on approaching this point we
observed an extensive dry reef and breakers projecting from it to a
considerable distance. No land was seen to the southward of south-east,
but the hazy state of the weather prevented our seeing far, especially
land which is so low as to be scarcely distinguishable beyond the
distance of three or four leagues. As we approached Point Pearce the
soundings were very irregular and generally upon a rocky bottom. We
passed many ripplings occasioned by the tide setting round the point and
meeting the other tide from the southward. As these eddies were driving
us towards the shore we steered off south-west. At six o'clock p.m. Point
Pearce bore North 65 degrees East eleven miles, and in a line with the
hills about Mount Goodwin. Between this time and noon the soundings were
between nine and thirty-two fathoms, upon a rocky bottom.

At sunset we were in fourteen fathoms, and during the night continued
sounding on a rocky bottom between ten and fourteen fathoms.

September 11.

At daylight of the 11th no land was in sight, we therefore stood to the
southward to make it but were obliged to tack off without seeing any, as
we shoaled rather suddenly to five fathoms. We then stood to the
north-east, close to a fresh land wind from the East-South-East, which
brought with it a very unpleasant warmth. As we approached Point Pearce,
the land of which, at nine o'clock, came in sight, the water deepened to
fifteen and eighteen fathoms. At half-past ten o'clock we were within
three miles of the point; when the wind died away, and from the ebbing
tide we very soon lost what we had gained during the morning; for there
was no anchoring ground fit to trust our only remaining anchor upon. At
noon we were about ten miles south-west from Point Pearce. The wind then
springing up from the south, sail was set, but the tide being adverse,
very little better than a north-east course was made good. Soon after
sunset, being three or four miles to the South-South-West of Point
Pearce, we tacked to the southward with the intention of steering on to
make what progress we could during the night.

The attempt was hazardous, as we were strangers to the part; but if some
little risk was not run we had no chance of penetrating. From fifteen
fathoms we deepened to twenty-one, but as quickly shoaled again to
fifteen, and then suddenly to seven fathoms, hard sand.

The cutter was then put about and we steered off North-West for six miles
and passed through several ripplings, occasioned by the tide flowing with
rapidity over a rocky and irregular bottom. After running the above
distance we again hauled to the wind, but had hardly trimmed sails before
we again suddenly shoaled from sixteen to seven fathoms. This was too
dangerous to persist in, and I gave up the attempt of venturing forward
during the night.

September 12.

The next morning the land was visible about Point Pearce, bearing

The colour of the water here is of a dirty yellow; it was imagined at
first to be caused by the tide stirring up the mud; but on examination we
found that it arose entirely from the reflection of the bottom, which is
a brown and yellow speckled sand. Although this change of the bottom was
favourable to the importance of the opening before us, yet it rendered
our difficulties greater, and increased the dangers, from its offering
less secure anchorage, and being so much more studded with shoals, than
the even muddy bottom that we had just left.

At daylight the breeze was strong from East-South-East: at seven o'clock,
having fetched in with the land on the north side, we tacked and stood
across to the opposite shore. The land in the bight was visible in
patches as far as south-east, and the loom of it as far as south-west:
three smokes, one bearing south, another South-South-West, and another
south-west, proved the contiguity of the main; which is so low that when
we were very near it was scarcely distinguishable on account of the haze
and smoke with which it was enveloped. At 10 hours 40 minutes we were
about a mile and a half from a reef which was dry for more than a mile in
extent, and nearer to us was a patch of breakers: in standing towards
these shoals our soundings had been regular between nine and ten fathoms;
but at this time they unexpectedly shoaled at one cast, from eight to
three fathoms: the course was altered in time to prevent the cutter's
striking. We were now obliged to steer off, and after running six miles
to the North-West by West we steered west to observe the latitude which
was found to be 14 degrees 39 minutes 34 seconds South. The land was now
visible as far as South-West by West; five minutes after noon the
soundings decreased from ten to four and three-quarters fathoms; and
within fifty yards of us the water was rippling upon the edge of a shoal
which extends to the north-west and is probably dry at low water; we were
then obliged to steer to the north-west along the edge of this bank. At
about four miles further on we were again upon the bank in four fathoms,
and once more fortunately escaped getting on shore; an accident which
must have been fatal. To avoid this we hauled up north-east and soon got
into clear water; but fearing to encounter more of these overfalls we
steered north-east for three miles, five miles North-North-West, and one
and a quarter north-west, upon which courses our soundings were between
twelve and fifteen fathoms; the bottom being generally hard sand mixed
with coral and stones and often with rocks. We then steered west for four
miles, and supposing we had cleared the shoal, hauled in South-South-West
until dark; by which time we had run seven miles.

Although the evening was clear the horizon over the land was so covered
with the smoke of the natives' fires that it could not be discovered, nor
any anchorage found: we therefore hauled off for the night and from our
vicinity to this dangerous shoal passed it very anxiously, but happily
without any unpleasant occurrence.

I now gave up all idea of examining the opening round Point Pearce which
appeared of so interesting a character. The danger of remaining under
weigh (for our only anchor could not be trusted with safety on so bad a
bottom) was too great to run any longer risk, and we left the place with
a much stronger impression of its value and importance than we
entertained after the examination of an opening that was discovered by us
a few days afterwards.

September 13.

At daylight the land about Point Pearce (a sugarloaf hill on the Goodwin
Range) bore nearly due east. At eight a.m., having stood to the
South-South-West for thirteen miles, the water changed colour; the depth
however still continued to be regular in twelve fathoms and we steered
on; soon afterwards it shoaled to seven and five fathoms, upon which the
helm was put up; but before the vessel's head was got round we were in
three fathoms with the swell of the sea breaking so heavily around us
that our escape for the fourth time on this shoal was quite providential.
After getting into clear water we ran along the edge of the coloured
water, sounding in fourteen fathoms hard sand, mixed with shells and
stones; at noon we hauled round its north-west extremity and steered for
the land, which was soon afterwards visible from south to south-west, the
latter bearing being that of a remarkable hill, of quadrilateral shape,
answering in position to Captain Baudin's Lacrosse Island. At two o'clock
our soundings, for the first time since leaving Port Keats, were on a
muddy bottom; at sunset we were within six miles of a small rocky island
of half a mile in extent, surrounded by an extensive reef, which was
partially dry; the land between South-East and West by South appeared to
be a very low sandy coast, and the back lands to the south-east are
wooded and level. Nearer to Lacrosse Island the coast is not only more
irregular in its outline but of a more mountainous character: on each
side of the nearest part of the coast, which was eight miles off and bore
South, the shores fall back and form two bays; the land was however so
enveloped by the smoke of the natives' fires that the greater part was
very indistinctly seen and therefore very imperfectly described. After
dark a light breeze sprang up from the South-West, and we stood off
shore; but not being able to find an anchorage we continued under weigh
during the night.

September 14.

The next morning the land was not in sight: as we stood towards the shore
it was soon afterwards discerned, and at noon we were very near to our
last night's position but were prevented from steering towards Lacrosse
Island by a considerable shoal which extended to the North-West and
crossed our course: we anchored near it at sunset in ten fathoms.

The land this day was more visible towards the South-East and observed to
join the low land at the back of the reefs that we passed on the 12th.

A remarkable echo was heard in the evening: whilst the cook was chopping
his wood every blow was echoed round the bight, although we were eight
miles from the shore. After leaving Port Keats we met with large
quantities of a very beautiful species of medusa, it appeared to be the
Medusa panopyra, figured in Peron's Atlas, (Plate 31 figure 2). It is
from this animal that the French have named their Banc des Meduses. No
turtle or snakes had for some time been seen and very few sharks; but
other fish were numerous.

September 15.

Very little progress was made the next day; several attempts were made to
stand toward Lacrosse Island; but we were obliged to give it up as the
bank still crossed our course. In the evening we again anchored near the
edge of the bank and during the night the breeze blew fresh but the
anchor held well.

September 16.

At daylight another ineffectual attempt was made to cross the bank. At
two o'clock we passed several detached banks on which were seven and
eight fathoms; and soon afterwards rounded the north-west end of the
large bank, at a quarter of a mile distance in four fathoms; after which
the water deepened to twelve and thirteen fathoms but still the bottom
was of hard sand. From the colour of the sea it appeared that we were in
a deep channel, extending towards Lacrosse Island: from light winds our
progress was so slow that sunset overtook us before we had formed any
plan for anchoring; our soundings were between twenty-two and eighteen
fathoms hard sandy bottom: the tide was ebbing. The idea of standing out
for anchorage after having toiled for the last three days against foul
winds and other obstacles was particularly revolting; and increasing
darkness found me quite at a loss what course to pursue; for Lacrosse
Island appeared so rocky that I despaired of finding anchorage near it:
having however two days before seen a white beach off its south-east end
(which subsequently proved to be composed of stones whitened by the
effect of the weather) we stood towards it as a last resource; and on our
way thither we passed over a muddy bottom upon which the anchor was
dropped in eight fathoms, at about two miles from the north-west end of
the island. This day as usual many medusae were seen; and also a snake,
three feet long; its back was black, the belly yellow, and the tail
striped black and white.

September 17.

In the morning we landed upon the island at a place which had the
appearance of containing fresh water; and after examining several
torrent-worn gullies for it without success we ascended a hill to look
round for some more probable place; but as the same arid appearance
seemed to pervade every part within our view we re-embarked, and shortly
landed upon a bluff point at the north-west end of the island; from which
a considerable reef of rocks projects into the sea.

Whilst I was employed in taking a set of bearings from this station the
boat's crew amused themselves in wandering about the rocks in search of
shells; and upon our again embarking they informed me that they had seen
some natives on the beach of a sandy bay round the point; but that they
had retired without having been noticed. The information proved correct;
for on pulling round the point we espied four natives seated on the sand,
watching the progress of a fire they had just kindled; which was rapidly
spreading through and consuming the dry and parched up grass that grew
scantily upon the face of the island. As soon as we were observed three
of them got up and stood for some moments motionless with alarm; but upon
my calling to them and waving my hat the whole party, seizing their
spears, ran off, and in a few seconds disappeared in the hollow behind
the beach. On the sand were marks of turtles, which gave me hopes of
obtaining some for the ship's company who had not enjoyed a fresh meal,
excepting the flesh of three porpoises, since leaving Port Jackson. As
our object was to pull round the island we did not stop here; but at a
few minutes before noon, being near a projecting point a little further
on, we landed and observed the sun's supplementary altitude which made
the latitude 14 degrees 45 minutes 56 seconds South. We afterwards landed
further on in a small sandy bay where we found more turtle-tracks and the
remains of a nest that had been plundered by the natives; who, from the
recent impressions of their feet on the sand, had in the morning crossed
the beach. The sand was so heated that it was painful to stand upon
without constantly relieving our feet; and that the natives we had just
seen should sit and bask upon it in this state would have appeared
incredible to us had we not witnessed the fact. Upon leaving the bay, the
natives, whose number had increased to nine, were observed upon the hills
that overhang the beach, watching our proceedings; and as we pulled away
they slowly moved toward the place we had just left.

As soon as we arrived on board we got underweigh and steered round the
bluff point on the west side of the island; and at half past five o'clock
anchored at about half a mile from the shore of the bay on which we had
lately landed. From this station we had an opportunity of observing the
features of the coast: Lacrosse Island is situated in the entrance of a
deep opening trending to the South-South-West towards some steep rugged
hills. The character of the country is here entirely changed: irregular
ranges of detached rocky hills of sandstone formation, very slightly
clothed with small shrubs and rising abruptly from extensive plains of
low level land seem to have superseded the low wooded coast that almost
uninterruptedly prevails between this and Cape Wessel; a distance of more
than six hundred miles. The present change, although more dreary and less
inviting, was hailed by us with pleasure; for the broken appearance of
the hills inspired us with the hope of finding some fresh stream from
which we might complete our water, and thereby prevent our premeditated
visit to Timor, whither it would soon be time to resort.

The fires which had been lighted in the course of the day by the natives
had rapidly spread over the summit of the hills, and at night the whole
island was illuminated and presented a most grand and imposing
appearance. After dusk Mr. Roe went with a party on shore in order to
take turtle and at eight o'clock returned with one of the hawk's-bill
species (Testudo imbricata?) the meat of which weighed seventy-one
pounds; about fifty eggs were also procured.

September 18.

The boat was sent again at four o'clock in the morning, as it was then
high water, but returned at daylight without success.

Lacrosse Island, so named by Commodore Baudin, is about nine miles in
circumference and about six hundred feet high; it is of a rugged
character and intersected by numerous deep ravines and gullies; which, in
the wet season, doubtless contain water.

The seaward or northern face of the island is formed of a fine-grained
sandstone, dipping in strata, with a slight inclination to the
South-East: large blocks of the same stone were also found scattered over
the hills. The soil with which it is but slightly covered is little
better than a thin layer of sandy earth; but notwithstanding its sterile
quality it produces a variety of small plants, among which a shrubby
acacia* was predominant and sufficiently abundant to tint the sides of
the hills where it grew with the sea-green colour of its foliage. At last
quarter ebb we got underweigh and proceeded to examine the opening by
steering South-South-West towards the deepest part; at twenty-three miles
from Lacrosse Island the gulf is divided by Adolphus Island into two
arms; one of which trended to the South-South-East and the other to the

(*Footnote. This plant is described in Mr. Cunningham's Journal as Acacia

(**Footnote. For the farther description of Cambridge Gulf see the
Appendix A Part 4.)

As the western arm appeared to be of most importance we entered it and,
with a strong flood tide, proceeded with great rapidity; as sunset
approached we began to look for an anchorage, but found much difficulty
on account of the strength of the tides, the great depth of water, and,
as I at first thought, the unfavourable quality of the bottom: at last
the anchor was dropped close to the south-west shore of Adolphus Island
in the entrance of another arm which appeared to trend to the south-east
under Mount Connexion. The noise made by the chain cable in running
through the hawse-hole put to flight a prodigious number of bats that
were roosting in the mangrove bushes; and which, flying over and about
the cutter's mast, quite darkened the air with their numbers.

September 19.

As I purposed remaining two days at this anchorage to examine the country
we landed the next morning under View Hill, a high steep point on the
south shore abreast of the anchorage; and, having climbed the summit by a
rugged and fatiguing ascent, our labour was amply repaid by a very
extensive view of the surrounding country and by obtaining bearings of
Lacrosse Island and Shakspeare Hill; which served to fix the position of
View Hill.

The south end of Adolphus Island, of which I had a commanding view, is a
low, flat salt-swamp surrounded by mangrove bushes. To the south-eastward
of Shakspeare Hill but quite detached from it is a range of hills
extending in unconnected patches toward Mount Connexion. The principal
stream of the gulf, which is the west arm, runs under the base of View
Hill; three and a half miles farther on it opens into an extensive basin
at the bottom of which is some high land; here the basin is contracted in
its size, and trends to the westward round a mangrove point, where it was
lost to view.

Mr. Cunningham had also made an excursion upon Adolphus Island; he had
walked over the salt-swamp towards the hills, which, from his
description, are precisely of the same character as View Hill; the rock
formation is principally of sandstone, blocks of which (the largest not
exceeding three feet in diameter) are profusely scattered over the sandy
soil and are sometimes found covered with a crust of quartz: but
notwithstanding the aridity and apparent barrenness of the soil, many
plants were recovering from the destructive effects of recent fires and
springing up in great luxuriance. In our ascent we passed through several
deep gullies which bore the marks of having once yielded abundance of
water but were now quite dried up.

September 20.

The next day Mr. Cunningham accompanied me on an excursion round Adolphus
Island, taking from the anchorage an easterly direction; and passing to
the north of the two mangrove islands. On the eastern side of Adolphus
Island we landed on one of two rocky islets, and took some bearings from
its summit. It is composed of loose blocks of decomposed sandstone. On
the summit we observed a large hawk's nest but it was deserted by its
constructor. The only plants that were found upon this rock were a
prickly capparis and a leafless ficus, the latter bearing clusters of
small, whitish, globular fruit: these plants, with a small hibiscus, were
the chief productions of the rock; and have probably been produced from
seeds deposited there by birds.

On leaving these rocks I hoped to have reached in time some part of the
north-east shore of Adolphus Island where I could observe the sun's
meridional altitude on the sea horizon; but we were detained in the arm
by strong ripplings and a fresh sea-breeze until it was too late. Upon
approaching the northernmost point of the island, which is low and
covered with mangroves, we were obliged to pull round a bank that extends
for some distance off it: as soon as this was effected the flood-tide
commenced; we then landed under Adolphus Island just within the narrow
entrance of the western arm; and whilst the people dined I was engaged in
taking bearings and Mr. Cunningham ranged about in search of plants.
Everything wore the same arid appearance as those parts before visited;
but the stems of some trees, of a larger growth than any we had yet seen
on the hills, were found washed up on the beach. At five p.m. we returned
on board; having made the circuit of Adolphus Island, a distance of
twenty-five miles; without seeing the least vestige of man or animal or
any appearance of fresh water.

September 22.

The wind and tide were unfavourable the next day for quitting our
anchorage until the afternoon: in the morning Mr. Roe sounded and
examined the south arm; and as he found the passage to be quite clear we
weighed at slack water with the intention of proceeding through it and
anchoring in the basin; but the strength of the wind obliged us to anchor
under View Hill and detained us the whole of the following day which was
unsuccessfully spent in examining the gullies in search of fresh water: a
hole was dug in one of the most favourable spots we could find; and at
the depth of three or four feet the earth gradually became so moist as to
flatter us with the hope that our labours would be rewarded by success:
at three feet deeper water began to ooze through; but, upon tasting it,
it turned out to be quite salt. Another place higher up was tried with
the same result upon which further search was abandoned as useless.

In the evening we ascended a hill near the anchorage; whence a favourable
view was obtained for the construction of my chart. The space behind the
beach to the foot of the hill is occupied by a level plain that has
evidently been formed by the deposition of alluvial soil; over which, in
many places, the last night's high tide had passed; but those parts which
it had not reached were covered with a thin layer of salt which at a
distance exactly resembled hoar-frost. Upon it was observed the track of
a dog that had evidently been running towards the saltwater pits to
quench its thirst; and this, I fear, is only a proof of the total absence
of fresh water, which, indeed, the desolate and burnt up appearance of
everything around was sufficient of itself to bespeak. The country at the
bottom of the gulf appeared to be of a rugged and mountainous character:
the hills were observed in detached ranges to rise abruptly from a low
level plain extending to the shore, the edge of which was lined as far as
we could see by a belt of mangrove bushes. These plains were covered with
salt incrustations over which were scattered the stems and branches of
trees that had evidently been washed down from the hills and deposited
there by inundations to which this country appears to be frequently
subject. The trees appeared to be of so much larger size than any we have
seen growing near the coast that we reasonably concluded the interior to
be of a much more productive character than the country in the vicinity
of the sea. Our means were however too confined to satisfy ourselves of
this interesting fact.

September 23.

The following morning, the weather being more favourable, we left the bay
and, with the remainder of the flood tide, beat through the narrows; in
which, at one cast, we had no bottom at forty-five fathoms. As soon as we
passed this strait we entered the basin and a little before high water
anchored in eight fathoms on its west side, where at noon, by a
meridional observation to the south, the latitude was found to be 15
degrees 21 minutes 53 seconds South. After this we landed in the vicinity
of our station; but, finding the country as barren and dreary as before,
the evening was spent in sounding between the cutter and the western

September 24.

The next morning we reached the farther end of the basin and anchored
under a remarkable range of hills; which, from their appearance, were
called the Bastion Hills; the latitude of this station is 15 degrees 29
minutes 38 seconds South. The gulf, which had now assumed the character
of a river, trended to the South-West, and at the distance of three or
four miles disappeared among some high land in that direction.

In the evening (since we had lately seen no appearance of sharks) the
people were allowed to bathe; but they had no sooner finished, and
everyone on board, than an alligator swam past the vessel. The appearance
of this animal revived some hopes of our yet finding fresh water and also
that the gulf would terminate in a river; the breadth here is about a
mile and a half and the rise of the tide about twenty-one feet: the ebb
set at the rate of three knots per hour and the water was very muddy; but
at low tide, upon being tasted, it still retained its saltness.

September 25.

At daylight the next morning we were again under weigh; but, the wind
being directly adverse, were obliged to make several tacks: as we
proceeded the opening was found to get more contracted and to wind
through a very narrow strait between high precipitous hills; and as, on
approaching it, the passage appeared too narrow to be attempted with
safety, we anchored at about two miles from it near the low west bank;
and after breakfast Mr. Cunningham accompanied me in the whale-boat to
continue its further exploration.

The wind was blowing a fresh gale from the South-West directly out of the
Gut and impeded us a good deal; but the tide was running with such
strength that we were not long before we passed through. This passage is
about two miles and a half long, bounded on either side by rocky barren
hills rising abruptly from the water. The channel is deep for our boat's
lead-line of twenty fathoms did not reach the bottom. At the south end of
the gut the land opened out into another basin which, like the former, is
surrounded by low land overrun with mangroves and studded with several
islets, occasionally covered by the tide. The course of the river still
trended to the south-west, in which direction we continued to pull but
found some difficulty from its being very shoal; for in the fair way
across there was not more water than eighteen feet at three-quarters'
flood. At eleven o'clock, having crossed the basin, we landed on an islet
which, like the rest, had been covered by the last high tide. The river
had now contracted to the width of one hundred to one hundred and fifty
yards and trended by a winding course to the south and south-east, but
the water was still as salt as ever although we were at least sixty miles
from the sea. As there was now no probability of our extending the
examination of this river for any useful purpose we stopped at high water
and landed on the bank to examine the country whilst the people dined. We
were about two or three miles from the base of a most remarkable
quadrangular-shaped mass of hills rising abruptly from an extensive flat
plain covered with salt: the sides sloped down with a very steep descent
to the base and the top of the range was circumvented with cliffs which,
protruding at intervals, so perfectly resembled the bastions and ramparts
of a formidable fortress that it wanted only the display of a standard to
render the illusion complete. It was named Mount Cockburn in compliment
to Vice-Admiral Sir George Cockburn, G.C.B., one of the Lord
Commissioners of the Admiralty. The accompanying drawing of this
remarkable range of hills was taken from the west point of the south
entrance of the gut.

All around us bore the most desolate appearance. The grass, which was
quite dry, wanted but a spark and a breeze to set the whole country in
flames. The soil on which it grows, which is about two feet above the
high watermark, is a stiff clay; covered with a slight incrustation of
salt on which the tracks of native dogs were noticed; several smokes were
observed at a distance but no natives were seen. The tide had now began
to ebb; and as there was no inducement to detain us for the next day to
examine it farther we set off on our return; and on our way landed for
bearings on the small islet in the middle of the Inner Basin. We also
went on shore in two places on the west bank within the Gut; at the first
we found the marks of an encampment of a tribe of natives: eight or nine
spots of circular form were cleared away amongst the grass and in the
centre of each were the ashes of a small fire, close to which we noticed
some large flattened stones with a smaller one lying upon them, which the
natives probably use for the purpose of bruising or grinding the seeds of
plants and breaking shellfish. The impressions of dogs' feet were
observed about the fireplaces, as well as the recent tracks of kangaroos.
The only animal that we saw during our excursion was a small
kangaroo-rat; it was skipping about the rocks near the sea. A ravine, of
appearance the most favourable for our search for water, was selected
from a great many as most likely to afford it; and we landed for that
purpose; but we met with our usual bad success; torrents had once poured
down it, the effects of which alone were left. Recent traces of kangaroos
were again seen here: these animals can require but little drink unless
the dew that is nightly deposited is sufficient for the purpose of
quenching their thirst, for we did not see a drop of fresh water in any
part we landed at.

We reached the vessel a short time before sunset and terminated the
examination of this gulf, which at one time bore so flattering an
appearance as to leave little doubt of our being able to complete our
water, and that even with facility. I felt so much disappointed that two
or three small openings, which probably served but to drain the vast
plains of inundated country that environ the hills on the shores of this
gulf, were passed by unheeded; among which was the extensive branch that
trended to the south-east under Mount Connexion; this opening appeared to
possess a similar character with that we had just been employed in

September 25 to 26.

On the 26th we got under weigh to return; but, having to work against a
contrary breeze, made no farther progress than the anchorage occupied on
the 23rd. The smokes of many fires were seen during the day; but in this
country where everything is so parched and dry a fire will lie dormant a
considerable time, and as the breeze springs up the flames will kindle
and run along in the direction of the wind for many miles.

September 27.

The next day at half-past twelve o'clock when the ebb tide began to make,
the wind freshened up from South-East and soon carried us into the
narrows: it then veered round to the eastward, and after half an hour's
calm a strong sea-breeze set in against us; but the tide being in our
favour we made quick progress until half an hour before the time of low
water, when we anchored under the north-west end of Adolphus Island.

I have this day to record the death of one of the crew, William Nicholls,
who, for some time past, and particularly during the last three days, had
been suffering from a dropsical complaint; his death was occasioned by
suffocation, having very imprudently laid down with his head to leeward
while we were under sail: this poor fellow had been for nearly three
months on our sick list; he was a native of Norfolk Island, and, when in
health, had been one of my most useful and attentive men.

September 28.

He was interred the next morning on shore; in memorial whereof the
north-west point of the island was named after him. Soon after noon the
ebb tide made, and we worked out against a strong northerly breeze, which
gave us a good opportunity of ascertaining the soundings and breadth of
the channel. The tide however did not serve to carry us out of the gulf,
and at low water we dropped the anchor near a bank on the western side in
six fathoms, sandy bottom, out of the influence of the tide; which in the
mid-channel was observed to run with great strength.

After sunset the clouds began to collect in the South-East and threatened
the approach of bad weather; but in our situation the anchor, although we
had but one, was our best security.

September 29.

At two o'clock in the morning heavy clouds rose in the East-South-East
and the wind freshened from that direction; it however soon after veered
back to South-East and enabled us to weigh. The weather was cloudy and
dark, but as the plan of the gulf had been already roughly formed, and
our soundings laid down, I was sufficiently aware of the course we had to
steer. The only event to be dreaded was that, in getting under weigh, the
cutter might cast with her head inshore, when we should certainly have
been thrown upon the bank; our fears however upon this point were happily
groundless, and our course being unimpeded, we made quick way towards
Lacrosse Island, which was passed at daylight.

Having now cleared this extraordinary inlet which was named Cambridge
Gulf in honour of His Royal Highness the Viceroy of Hanover, we bore up
along shore to the westward, sufficiently near to it to have perceived
any opening that might exist, and to make such remarks as were necessary
for its delineation. At sunset we were off Cape St. Lambert of the French
and their Mount Casuarina was also seen. M. de Freycinet's description of
the hill is very correct, but at the distance which we were it was only
visible when it bore between South and West-South-West; for the land in
that bearing intervened and concealed it. Large fires were burning three
or four miles inland.

September 30.

At sunset we hauled off shore for the night; and the next morning saw
Mount Casuarina again bearing south; its latitude was found to be 14
degrees 23 minutes 15 seconds, and its longitude 127 degrees 36 minutes
50 seconds East of Greenwich, which is 3 minutes 10 seconds to the
westward of the situation that the French have assigned to it.

Hence the shore takes a north-westerly trend. At noon we were two miles
and a half from Cape Rulhieres when our latitude was 13 degrees 51
minutes 58 seconds; at seven miles in a North 37 degrees West direction
from the cape, which is a stony point, is Captain Baudin's Lesueur
Island, a low flat sandy island. We passed between it and the main, and
had soundings with fifteen fathoms.

In passing a projection of land which appeared to be an island and off
which is a considerable reef, the bottom shoaled to eight fathoms but as
quickly deepened again to no bottom with fifteen fathoms. This probable
island may perhaps be the second Lesueur Island, which is laid down upon
the French chart; but I have doubts of it; for I do not think it could be
distinguished as an island at the distance Captain Baudin was from the
shore. The land now extended towards a point which was called Cape
Londonderry, whence it took a westerly direction. On arriving up with the
reef which extends off Cape Londonderry we hauled off to the northward
and passed the ensuing night under easy sail, during which our soundings
were between forty and forty-six fathoms. A very large natives' fire was
burning about two or three miles inland, but the Indians did not show
themselves. Last night our people caught a porpoise, which helped to
diminish the bad effect of salt provisions.

We were now very weak-handed; three men, besides Mr. Bedwell who was
still an invalid, being ill, considerably reduced our strength; insomuch
that being underweigh night and day, with only one spare man on the watch
to relieve the masthead look-out, the lead, and the helm, there was great
reason to fear the fatigue would very much increase the number of
complaints. Since leaving Port Jackson we had never been free from
sickness, but it was confined principally to two or three individuals who
were not able to endure the very great heat. Upon the whole we thought
ourselves very fortunate that, considering the frequency of illness on
board and the violence of the diseases by which some of our people had
been attacked, particularly in the cases of Mr. Bedwell and Mr.
Cunningham, we had only lost one man; and this from a complaint which
even medical assistance might not, perhaps, have cured; and by an
accident which could not have been prevented, for our people were at the
moment so busily employed in working the vessel through a dangerous
navigation that the unfortunate man's situation was not known until the
vital spark was nearly extinct, and too far gone for any human means to
save his life. The thermometer now ranged between 80 and 87 degrees in
the shade; and the fast approach of the sun (the declination of which was
3 degrees South) was daily felt.


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