Narrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coasts of Australia] [Volume 2 of 2]
Phillip Parker King
Part 2 out of 10
some distance between a rocky shore on either side, came into an
extensive basin, in the centre of which was a high island which we saw at
a distance last year, and then called the Lump, from its shape. As a set
of bearings from this island was desirable, the vessel was anchored
abreast of it at about a mile and a half from the shore; having landed
upon it in time to observe the sun's meridional altitude in the
artificial horizon, we ascended its summit and obtained the desired
bearings; we also discovered Freycinet's Island on the horizon, bearing
North 13 degrees 42 minutes West; this island was distinguished easily by
its form, which is that of an inverted basin. A large island lies in the
centre of the entrance of the port, by which two channels are formed; the
westernmost has several patches of rocks in it, but the eastern one,
which we used, appeared to be clear and free from danger, excepting a
rocky shelf projecting from the eastern shore for not more than three
quarters of a mile. In the afternoon we examined the former, and from a
summit at the south-west end of the island in the entrance obtained
another set of bearings. Afterwards we sounded its channel, and found a
deep passage, but too narrow and intricate to be preferred to the eastern
Whilst one boat was thus employed, Mr. Baskerville went to examine an
opening at the bottom of the port, which he reported to be a strait,
trending round to the South-West for six miles, beyond which his view was
intercepted by the next projecting point. The strait, which he called
after Captain R.H. Rogers, R.N., is sprinkled with many islands and dry
reefs of great extent.
On the 12th I was occupied in laying down the plan of this place, which,
on account of the day, was honoured with the name of our most gracious
king, Port George the Fourth.
The next day we sailed out by the eastern channel, but having to beat
against the wind, made no further progress than an anchorage off Point
Adieu, which was the last land seen by us in the Mermaid; it is the north
end of the land that forms the west side of Port George the Fourth, which
was afterwards called Augustus Island: to the westward of the point there
appeared to be many islands and much broken land. I sent Mr. Roe to Point
Adieu to get some bearings from the summit of the hill, and in the
meantime Mr. Baskerville sounded the channel between the point and the
islands; which he found to be deep and clear; Mr. Roe's report, however,
of the appearance of the inner part among the islands was not so
favourable, for it is studded over with numerous extensive reefs, which,
being low water, were exposed to view. Mr. Roe saw a tolerably broad
separation between two islands to the south-west, but more to the
westward the islands were so numerous that very little information as to
their shape or number could be obtained.
At daylight the following morning we weighed, and with a moderate
land-breeze from South-East, steered to the North-West, and passed round
the islands. Very far to the northward on the sea horizon we saw a
sandbank, surrounded with heavy breakers; and more to the westward was an
island, which was at first supposed to be one of the Champagny Isles of
Captain Baudin, but which I afterwards satisfied myself was Captain
Heywood's Red Island: it is rocky and of small extent and apparently
quite barren. We were soon afterwards abreast of a strait leading between
some rocky islands to the southward; which, as it appeared to be free
from danger, we purposed to steer through. The brig entered it at noon,
when it was high-water, and as she advanced and reached the narrow part,
the ebb-tide was setting so strong against us that, although we were
sailing five knots by the log, we were losing ground; we continued
however to persevere for three hours and a half, and had run nearly
twenty miles by the log without gaining an inch; the breeze then died
away, and not being able to stem the tide, we steered back for anchorage,
but it was dark and late before a favourable bottom was found so that we
lost all the progress that we had gained since noon.
The next morning, after taking angles from the sun's rising amplitude, we
got underweigh and stood towards the strait to make another attempt to
pass through it. The view that was obtained yesterday evening from the
masthead before we put about to look for anchorage, induced us to suppose
that many reefs existed in the neighbourhood of its south entrance, for
one of very extensive size was observed dry, lying off the south-west end
of the island that bounds the west side of the strait. The north end of
that island also appeared to be fronted by many shoals, which either
embrace Red Island and extend to the northward, or else the channels are
narrow and deep. The flowing tide, now in our favour, carried us quickly
forward: as we passed on we heard the voices of natives and soon
afterwards perceived two standing on a hill; our course was, however, so
rapid that we were soon out of sight of them; their fires were seen
yesterday but then they did not make their appearance.
The flood-tide, running to the South-West through the strait, meeting the
ebb flowing North-East into the deep bay to the South-East, formed many
strong ripplings, which to a stranger would have been a frightful vortex
to have entered, and although we had lately been accustomed to such
appearances, yet we did not encounter them without some fear. After
clearing them we sounded on a muddy bottom; upon which, as the weather
was so thick and hazy as to conceal the land from our view, we anchored
in seventeen fathoms muddy sand, at six miles from the strait.
In the afternoon the weather cleared a little, but it was still too thick
for us to be underweigh, so that we remained all the evening, which was
profitably spent in bringing up the chart; a little before sunset the
weather cleared and afforded a good view of the land, which to the
South-East is composed principally of islands, but so numerous that the
mainland could not be distinguished beyond them; a point, afterwards
called Point Hall, round which the land trended to the southward, bore
from the anchorage South 19 degrees East.
The direction of the tides, the flood setting South-South-East, and the
ebb North-North-West and North-West, induced me to suppose that the
opening to the eastward of the bay we were at anchor in, which was called
Camden, in compliment to the noble Marquess, was not only connected with
Rogers Strait, but was also the outlet of another considerable river or
At the anchorage the flood did not run at a greater rate than a mile and
a half an hour, but it ebbed two miles, and fell thirty-seven feet, which
is the greatest rise and fall we had yet found; it is probable, from the
intricate nature of the coast, that these high tides are common to all
At five o'clock on the morning of the 16th after a fine night the wind
sprung up from the East-South-East and blew fresh; but misty weather
immediately after sunrise enveloped us, and clouded our view. The breeze
was too fresh for us to continue at anchor, we therefore got underweigh,
and made sail by the wind; but upon standing across the channel and
finding that the flood-tide set to the South-West, we bore away, and,
passing round Point Hall, steered to the southward towards some low
islands that were just visible through the haze, and which, being
disposed in a group, were named after Mr. Andrew Montgomery, the surgeon
of the Bathurst.
At noon our latitude observed to the South was 15 degrees 44 minutes 16
seconds. The land was visible from the deck as far as South 30 degrees
West, but from the masthead at one o'clock it was seen as far as South 50
degrees West, and a long low island, the westernmost of Montgomery Isles,
bore from South-West by West to South-West by South. The group besides
this contained six other isles, which are all low and rocky and crowned
with bushes: as we approached them the water shoaled to ten fathoms rocky
ground; which on being reduced to the depth of low water, would not be
more than five and perhaps only four fathoms. Between Point Hall and
these islands the ground was also rocky, and, as the group appeared to be
connected by reefs, we steered off to pass round them; the wind, however,
changing to the westward, detained us all the evening near them.
The land to the southward trended deeply in and appeared to be much
broken in its character and very uninviting to us who had only one anchor
to depend upon. This bight was named, at Mr. Montgomery's request, in
compliment to the late Captain Sir George Collier, Bart., K.C.B., R.N.
During the greater part of the night the wind was light, and by the
bearings of a fire on the land we were making but little drift.
At sunrise we were near two low islands, bearing South 12 degrees 22
minutes West, and South 20 degrees West, from which very extensive reefs
were seen extending between the bearings of South and South-West by West.
They were called Cockells Isles. We passed round their north end over a
bottom of hard sand, mixed with shells, stones, and coral; in doing which
we found an irregular depth, but as the water did not shoal to less than
twelve fathoms our course was not altered. Soon after the sun appeared
above the horizon the distant land was again enveloped in mist. At eight
o'clock we ventured to steer more southerly, but continued to sound over
a rocky bottom until ten o'clock, when the islands bore South-East; we
then steered South-West through a muddy channel with the flood tide in
our favour, towards some land that, as the mist partially cleared off,
became visible as far as South-West 1/2 West; some islands were also seen
bearing South-South-East; and at noon, being in latitude 15 degrees 50
minutes 39 seconds, we found ourselves off a bay, the east head of which
was formed by several islands. The land at the back appeared to be of
tolerable height but its outline was so level, that it did not present
any prominent feature sufficiently defined to take a bearing of more than
once; its coast appeared to be fronted by several rocky islands and to be
very much intersected to the westward; either by straits or considerable
The continued hazy state of the weather prevented our ascertaining the
particular feature of the country; it seemed to be rocky and very bare of
vegetation; but they were some parts, particularly on one of the islands
to the eastward at the entrance of Collier's Bay, where a few good-sized
trees were growing over a sandy beach.
The ebb tide after noon was against us, and the wind being light, we were
making no progress. As sunset approached, we began to look for anchorage;
but the suspicious nature of the bottom and the great depth of the water
prevented our being successful until some time after dark; the anchor was
at last dropped in twenty-eight fathoms, on a bottom of sandy mud, with
the ebb-tide setting to the North-West, at the rate nearly of two knots.
Several whales of that species called by whalers fin-backs were playing
about us all day, and during the morning two or three were seen near the
vessel lashing the water with their enormous fins and tails, and leaping
at intervals out of the sea, which foamed around them for a considerable
After anchoring the wind was variable and light from the western quarter
but during the night there was a heavy swell. The flood-tide, which
commenced at nine o'clock, when the depth was twenty-eight fathoms,
gradually ran stronger until midnight, when its rate was two miles per
hour: high-water took place at 3 hours 15 minutes a.m., or at twelve
minutes before the moon passed her meridian; the rise being thirty-six
We were underweigh before six o'clock the next morning, and after
steering by the wind for a short time towards the southward (on which
course the tide being against us we were making no progress) bore up with
the intention of hauling round the point to leeward for anchorage, whence
we might examine the place by the means of our boats, and wait for more
favourable weather; but upon reaching within half a mile of the point we
found that a shoal communication extended across to a string of islands
projecting several miles to sea in a West-North-West direction: in mid
channel the sea was breaking, and from the colour of the water it is more
than probable that a reef of rocks stretches the whole distance across
the strait; but this appearance, from the experience we afterwards had of
the navigation of this part, might have been produced by tide ripplings,
occasioned by the rapidity of the stream, and by its being contracted in
its passage through so narrow a pass; it was however too doubtful and
dangerous to attempt without having some resource to fly to in the event
Being thus disappointed, we were under the necessity of steering round
the above-mentioned range of islands, and at nine o'clock were two miles
North-East by East from the small island 18, when our latitude by
observation was 15 degrees 57 minutes 56 seconds; the depth being
thirty-seven fathoms, and the bottom of coral mixed with sand, mud, and
To the westward and in a parallel direction with this line of islands was
another range, towards which we steered; at sunset we hauled to the wind
for the night, off the northernmost island which afterwards proved to be
the Caffarelli Island of Captain Baudin. Between these two ranges of
islands we only obtained one cast of the lead which gave us thirty-three
fathoms on a coral bottom. Upon referring to the French charts of this
part of the coast it appeared that we were in the vicinity of a reef
(Brue Reef) under which the French ships had anchored; and, as the night
was passed under sail, we were not a little anxious, fearing lest there
might be others in its neighbourhood.
At daybreak Caffarelli Island bore South-South-East; and shortly
afterwards we had the satisfaction of seeing Brue Reef; it appeared to be
partly dry but of small extent.
We passed within half a mile of the dry rock that lies a mile and a half
from the west end of Caffarelli Island and afterwards endeavoured to
steer between the range of islands, of which Caffarelli is the
northernmost, and a group of rocky isles, marked 33; but finding we could
not succeed from the scanty direction of the wind, then blowing a fresh
breeze from South-East, we bore up round the west side of the latter and
then steered by the wind towards a group of which the island 40 is the
principal. On approaching 40 there appeared to be a channel round its
south-end; but afterwards observing the sea breaking in the direction of
our course, we tacked off to pass round the west extremity of the group,
towards two small low islands, 50 and 51, that were seen in the distance
bearing about South 84 degrees West. The tide, having been before in our
favour, was now against us, and, setting with great strength, drove us
near the rocks that front the islands to the northward of Island 40; the
wind was however sufficiently strong to enable us to clear the dangerous
situation we found ourselves in, but soon afterwards it fell to a light
air and we were carried by the tide rapidly towards the low rocky
extremity of the islets, which we were nearly thrown upon, when a breeze
suddenly sprung up again from the South-East and enabled us to clear this
impending danger. We were now drifting to the South by East through a
wide channel, sounding in between fifty and sixty fathoms, rocky bottom.
Had the evening been less advanced and the wind favourable, we could have
run through, and taken our chance of finding either anchorage or an open
sea; and although this would certainly have been hazarding a great risk,
yet it was of very little consequence in what part of the archipelago we
spent the night, as the spots which we might consider to be the most
dangerous might possibly be the least so. We had however no choice; we
were perfectly at the mercy of the tide, and had only to await patiently
its ebbing to drift us out as it carried us in.
By our calculations high-water should have taken place at a quarter past
four o'clock; every minute therefore after that time was passed by us
most anxiously. Every now and then we were in the midst of the most
violent ripplings and whirlpools, which sometimes whirled the vessel
round and round, to the danger of our masts. Five o'clock at last arrived
and the tide-eddies ceased, but the stream continued to run until a
quarter of an hour afterwards, when at last the brig began to drift out
slowly. To add now to the dilemma and the danger we were in a breeze
sprung up against us: had it continued calm we should have been drifted
back through the deepest part of the channel, over the same ground that
the flood had carried us in: we however made sail and beat out, and
before dark had made considerable progress; we then lost sight of the
land until eleven o'clock when some was seen to the eastward: at
half-past eleven we had a dead calm; and, to increase our anxiety, the
tide had begun to flow and to drift us towards the land, which was then
ascertained to be the group 33, on whose shores the sea was distinctly
heard to break. As midnight approached the noise became still more and
more plain; but the moon at that time rose and showed that our position
was very much more favourable than we had conjectured; for, by bearings
of Caffarelli Island and the body of 33 group, I found we were at least
two or three miles from the shore of the latter.
A few minutes after midnight we were relieved from our fears by the
sudden springing up of a fresh breeze from South-West, and in a moment
found ourselves comparatively out of danger.
At daylight we were eight miles to the north-east of Caffarelli Island;
whence we steered to the South-West by West and South-South-West. Brue
Reef was seen as we passed by it. At noon our latitude was 16 degrees 14
minutes 1 second, Cape Leveque bearing South.
From noon until one o'clock we were steering South-South-West, but made
no progress, on account of an adverse tide which occasionally formed such
strong eddies and ripplings that we were several times obliged to steer
off to get without their influence. The land of Cape Leveque is low, and
presents a sandy beach lined by a rocky reef, extending off the shore for
a mile, on many parts of which the sea was breaking heavily: the land was
clothed with a small brush wood, but altogether the coast presented a
very unproductive appearance, and reminded us of the triste and arid
character of the North-West Cape.
On laying down upon the chart the plan of this part, I found Cape Leveque
to be the point which Dampier anchored under when on his buccaneering
voyage in the Cygnet in 1688. He says: "We fell in with the land of New
Holland in 16 degrees 50 minutes, we ran in close by it, and finding no
convenient anchoring, because it lies open to the North-West, we ran
along shore to the eastward, steering North-East by East, for so the land
lies. We steered thus about two leagues, and then came to a point of
land, from whence the land trends east and southerly for ten or twelve
leagues; but how, afterwards, I know not. About three leagues to the
eastward of this point there is a pretty deep bay with abundance of
islands in it, and a very good place to anchor in or to hale ashore.
About a league to the eastward of that point we anchored in twenty-nine
fathom, good hard sand and clean ground." He then proceeds to say: "This
part of it (the coast) that we saw is all low, even land, with sandy
banks against the sea, only the points are rocky, and so are some of the
islands in the bay."*
(*Footnote. Dampier volume 1 page 462.)
From this description I have little hesitation in settling Cape Leveque
to be the point he passed round. In commemoration, therefore, of his
visit, the name of Buccaneer's Archipelago was given to the cluster of
isles that fronts Cygnet Bay, which was so-called after the name of the
ship in which he sailed. The point within Cape Leveque was named Point
Swan after the Captain of the ship; and to a remarkable lump in the
centre of the Archipelago the name of Dampier's Monument was assigned.
During the last four days we have laid down upwards of eighty islands
upon the chart, and from the appearance of the land it is not improbable
but that there may be as many more behind them.
Had we even recognised the bay above alluded to by Dampier before we
passed round Cape Leveque, we could not have anchored in it for the wind
was blowing strong from the northward, and a heavy swell was rolling,
which would have placed us in rather a dangerous situation, besides its
being exposed to easterly winds, which for the last two or three days had
blown very strong. During the time we had been among these islands, we
had not met with a single spot that we could have anchored upon without
the almost certain loss of our anchor; and the weather had been so very
thick and hazy that only the land in the vicinity of the vessel's
situation could be at all distinguished; and these disadvantages, added
to the great strength of the wind and the rapidity of the tides, had
materially prevented us from making ourselves better acquainted with the
place. It is remarkable that as soon as we passed round the Champagny
Isles, hazy weather commenced, and continued without intermission until
we were to the westward of Cape Leveque. The French complain of the same
thing; and they were so deceived by it that, in their first voyage, they
laid down Adele Island as a part of the main, when it is only a sandy
island about two or three miles long. No natives were seen on any of the
islands but there were many large smokes on the horizon at the back of
We were now beginning to feel the effects of this fatiguing duty.
One-fourth of the people who kept watch were ill with bilious or feverish
attacks, and we had never been altogether free from sickness since our
arrival upon the coast. Mr. Montgomery's wound was, however, happily
quite healed, and Mr. Roe had also returned to his duty; but Mr.
Cunningham, who had been confined to the vessel since the day we arrived
in Careening Bay, was still upon the sick list. Our passage up the east
coast, the fatigues of watering and wooding at Prince Regent's River, and
our constant harassing employment during the examination of the coast
between Hanover Bay and Cape Leveque, had produced their bad effects upon
the constitutions of our people. Every means were taken to prevent
sickness: preserved meats were issued two days in the week in lieu of
salt provisions; and this diet, with the usual proportions of lemon-juice
and sugar, proved so good an anti-scorbutic that, with a few trifling
exceptions, no case of scurvy occurred. Our dry provisions had suffered
much from rats and cockroaches; but this was not the only way these
vermin annoyed us, for, on opening a keg of musket ball cartridges, we
found, out of 750 rounds, more than half the number quite destroyed, and
the remainder so injured as to be quite useless.
The following day we made very little progress, from light winds in the
morning and a dead calm the whole of the evening. At sunset we anchored
at about four miles from the shore, in seventeen fathoms sandy ground.
During the afternoon we were surrounded by an immense number of whales,
leaping out of the water and thrashing the sea with their fins; the noise
of which, from the calmness and perfect stillness of the air, was as loud
as the report of a volley of musketry. Some remorae were also swimming
about the vessel the whole day, and a snake about four feet long, of a
yellowish brown colour, rose up alongside, but instantly dived upon
seeing the vessel.
High-water took place the next morning at twenty-six minutes after six
o'clock, at which time we got underweigh with a moderate land-breeze from
South-South-East, and steered to the southward along the shore. At noon
we were in latitude 16 degrees 30 minutes 19 seconds, Cape Borda bearing
South 42 1/2 degrees East. Soon after noon the sea-breeze sprung up from
the northward and, veering to North-West, carried us to the southward
along the coast which is low and sandy. At three o'clock we were abreast
of a point which was conjectured to be the land laid down by the French
as Emeriau Island; the name has therefore been retained, with the
alteration only of Point for Island. To the eastward of Cape Borda the
coast falls back and forms a bay, the bottom of which was visible from
our masthead and appeared to be composed of sand-downs. From Point
Emeriau the coast trends to the south-west, and preserves the same sandy
character. At five o'clock Lacepede Islands, which were seen by Captain
Baudin, were in sight to the westward; and at sunset we anchored in eight
fathoms, at about three leagues within them. These islands are three in
number, and appear to be solely inhabited by boobies and other sea-fowl:
they are low and sandy and all slightly crowned with a few shrubby
bushes; the reef that encompasses them seemed to be of great extent.
The next day we were steering along the shore, and passed a sandy
projection which was named Cape Baskerville, after one of the midshipman
of the Bathurst. To the southward of Cape Baskerville the coast trends
in, and forms Carnot Bay; it then takes a southerly direction. It is here
that Tasman landed, according to the following extract from Dalrymple's
Papua: "In Hollandia Nova, in 17 degrees 12 minutes South (Longitude 121
degrees, or 122 degrees East) Tasman found a naked, black people, with
curly hair, malicious and cruel; using for arms, bows and arrows,
hazeygaeys and kalawaeys. They once came to the number of fifty, double
armed, dividing themselves into two parties, intending to have surprised
the Dutch, who had landed twenty-five men; but the firing of guns
frightened them so, that they fled. Their proas are made of the bark of
trees; their coast is dangerous; there are few vegetables; the people use
At noon our latitude was 17 degrees 13 minutes 29 seconds. At four
o'clock we were abreast of Captain Baudin's Point Coulomb, which M. De
Freycinet describes to be the projection at which the Red Cliffs
commence. The interior is here higher than to the northward, and
gradually rises, at the distance of eight miles from the shore, to wooded
hills, and bears a more pleasing and verdant appearance than we have seen
for some time past; but the coast still retains the same sandy and
uninviting character. During the afternoon we had but a light sea-breeze
from the westward; and at sunset the anchor was dropped in thirteen
fathoms fine soft sand, at about six miles from the shore. Large flocks
of boobies flew over the vessel at sunset, directing their course towards
the reefs of Lacepede Islands, and in the direction of the Whale Bank,
which, according to the French chart of this part, lies in the offing to
the westward. As no island was noticed by us in the position assigned to
Captain Baudin's Carnot Island, the bay to the southward of Cape
Baskerville has received that name. The smokes of fires have been noticed
at intervals of every four or five miles along the shore, from which it
may be inferred that this part of the coast is very populous. Captain
Dampier saw forty Indians together, on one of the rocky islands to the
eastward of Cape Leveque, and, in his quaint style, gives the subjoined
interesting account of them:
"The inhabitants of this country are the miserablest people in the world.
The Hodmadods of Monomatapa, though a nasty people, yet for wealth are
gentlemen to these; who have no houses, and skin garments, sheep,
poultry, and fruits of the earth, ostrich eggs, etc., as the Hodmadods
have: and setting aside their human shape, they differ but little from
brutes. They are tall, straight-bodied, and thin, with small, long limbs.
They have great heads, round foreheads, and great brows. Their eye-lids
are always half closed, to keep the flies out of their eyes; they being
so troublesome here, that no fanning will keep them from coming to one's
face; and without the assistance of both hands to keep them off, they
will creep into one's nostrils, and mouth too, if the lips are not shut
very close; so that from their infancy, being thus annoyed with these
insects, they do never open their eyes as other people; and therefore
they cannot see far, unless they hold up their heads, as if they were
looking at somewhat over them.
"They have great bottle-noses, pretty full lips, and wide mouths. The two
fore-teeth of their upper jaw are wanting in all of them, men and women,
old and young; whether they draw them out, I know not: neither have they
any beards. They are long-visaged, and of a very unpleasant aspect,
having no one graceful feature in their faces. Their hair is black, short
and curled, like that of the negroes; and not long and lank like the
common Indians. The colour of their skins, both of their faces and the
rest of their body, is coal-black, like that of the negroes of Guinea.*
(*Footnote. The natives of Hanover Bay, with whom we communicated, were
not deprived of their front teeth, and wore their beards long; they also
differed from the above description in having their hair long and curly.
Dampier may have been deceived in this respect, and from the use that
they make of their hair, by twisting it up into a substitute for thread,
they had probably cut it off close, which would give them the appearance
of having woolly hair like the negro.)
"They have no sort of clothes, but a piece of the rind of a tree tied
like a girdle about their waists, and a handful of long grass, or three
or four small green boughs full of leaves, thrust under their girdle, to
cover their nakedness.
"They have no houses, but lie in the open air without any covering; the
earth being their bed, and the heaven their canopy. Whether they cohabit
one man to one woman, or promiscuously, I know not; but they do live in
companies, twenty or thirty men, women, and children together. Their only
food is a small sort of fish, which they get by making weirs of stone
across little coves or branches of the sea; every tide bringing in the
small fish, the there leaving them for a prey to these people, who
constantly attend there to search for them at low water. This small fry I
take to be the top of their fishery: they have no instruments to catch
great fish, should they come; and such seldom stay to be left behind at
low water: nor could we catch any fish with our hooks and lines all the
while we lay there. In other places at low water they seek for cockles,
mussels, and periwinkles. Of these shell-fish there are fewer still; so
that their chief dependence is upon what the sea leaves in their wares;
which, be it much or little, they gather up, and march to the places of
their abode. There the old people that are not able to stir abroad by
reason of their age, and the tender infants, wait their return; and what
Providence has bestowed on them, they presently broil on the coals, and
eat it in common. Sometimes they get as many fish as makes them a
plentiful banquet; and at other times they scarce get every one a taste;
but be it little or much that they get, every one has his part, as well
the young and tender, the old and feeble, who are not able to go abroad,
as the strong and lusty. When they have eaten they lie down till the next
low water, and then all that are able march out, be it night or day, rain
or shine, 'tis all one; they must attend the weirs, or else they must
fast; for the earth affords them no food at all. There is neither herb,
root, pulse, nor any sort of grain for them to eat, that we saw; nor any
sort of bird or beast that they can catch, having no instruments
wherewithal to do so.
"I did not perceive that they did worship anything. These poor creatures
have a sort of weapon to defend their weir, or fight with their enemies,
if they have any that will interfere with their poor fishery. They did at
first endeavour with their weapons to frighten us, who, lying ashore,
deterred them from one of their fishing-places. Some of them had wooden
swords, others had a sort of lances. The sword is a piece of wood shaped
somewhat like a cutlass.* The lance is a long straight pole, sharp at one
end, and hardened afterwards by heat. I saw no iron, nor any sort of
metal; therefore it is probable they use stone hatchets, as some Indians
in America do, described in Chapter 4.
(*Footnote. Probably a boomerang. See volume 1.)
"How they get their fire I know not; but probably as Indians do, out of
wood. I have seen the Indians of Bon-Airy do it, and have myself tried
the experiment. They take a flat piece of wood that is pretty soft, and
make a small dent in one side of it, then they take another hard, round
stick, about the bigness of one's little finger, and sharpened at one end
like a pencil, they put that sharp end in the hole or dent of the flat
soft piece, and then rubbing or twirling the hard piece between the palm
of their hands, they drill the soft piece till it smokes, and at last
"These people speak somewhat through the throat; but we could not
understand one word that they said. We anchored, as I said before,
January the 5th, and seeing men walking on the shore, we presently sent a
canoe to get some acquaintance with them; for we were in hopes to get
some provision among them. But the inhabitants, seeing our boat coming,
run away and hid themselves. We searched afterwards three days in hopes
to find their houses, but found none; yet we saw many places where they
had made fires. At last, being out of hopes to find their habitations, we
searched no farther; but left a great many toys ashore, in such places
where we thought they would come. In all our search we found no water,
but old wells on the sandy bays.
"At last we went over to the islands, and there we found a great many of
the natives; I do believe there were forty on one island, men, women, and
children. The men on our first coming ashore, threatened us with their
lances and swords; but they were frightened by firing one gun, which we
fired purposely to scare them. The island was so small that they could
not hide themselves; but they were much disordered at our landing,
especially the women and children; for we went directly to their camp.
The lustiest of the women snatching up their infants ran away howling,
and the little children run after squeaking and bawling; but the men
stood still. Some of the women, and such people as could not go from us,
lay still by a fire, making a doleful noise, as if we had been coming to
devour them: but when they saw we did not intend to harm them, they were
pretty quiet, and the rest that fled from us at our first coming,
returned again. This their place of dwelling was only a fire, with a few
boughs before it, set up on the side the winds was of.
"After we had been here a little while, the men began to be familiar, and
we clothed some of them, designing to have some service of them for it;
for we found some wells of water here, and intended to carry two or three
barrels of it aboard. But it being somewhat troublesome to carry to the
canoes, we thought to have made these men to have carried it for us, and
therefore we gave them some old clothes; to one an old pair of breeches,
to another a ragged shirt, to the third a jacket that was scarce worth
owning; which yet would have been very acceptable at some places where we
had been, and so we thought they might have been with these people. We
put them on them, thinking that this finery would have brought them to
work heartily for us; and our water being filled in small long barrels,
about six gallons in each, which were made purposely to carry water in,
we brought these our new servants to the wells, and put a barrel on each
of their shoulders for them to carry to the canoe. But all the signs we
could make were to no purpose, for they stood like statues, without
motion, but grinned like so many monkeys, staring one upon another; for
these poor creatures seem not accustomed to carry burdens; and I believe
that one of our ship-boys of ten years old would carry as much as one of
them. So we were forced to carry our water ourselves, and they very
fairly put the clothes off again, and laid them down, as if clothes were
only to work in. I did not perceive that they had any great liking to
them at first, neither did they seem to admire anything that we had.
"At another time our canoe being among these islands seeking for game,
espied a drove of these men swimming from one island to another; for they
have no boats, canoes, or bark-logs. They took four of them, and brought
them aboard; two of them were middle-aged, the other two were young men
about eighteen or twenty years old. To these we gave boiled rice, and
with it turtle and manatee boiled. They did greedily devour what we gave
them, but took no notice of the ship, or any thing in it, and when they
were set on land again, they ran away as fast as they could. At our first
coming, before we were acquainted with them, or they with us, a company
of them who lived on the main, came just against our ship, and standing
on a pretty high bank, threatened us with their swords and lances, by
shaking them at us: at last the captain ordered the drum to be beaten,
which was done of a sudden with much vigour, purposely to scare the poor
creatures. They hearing the noise, ran away as fast as they could drive;
and when they ran away in haste, they would cry gurry, gurry, speaking
deep in the throat. Those inhabitants also that live on the main would
always run away from us; yet we took several of them. For, as I have
already observed, they had such bad eyes, that they could not see us till
we came close to them. We did always give them victuals, and let them go
again, but the islanders, after our first time of being among them, did
not stir for us."*
(*Footnote. Dampier volume 1 page 464 et seq.)
At this anchorage we perceived very little rise and fall of tide, and the
flood and ebb both set to the northward, this was also the case at our
anchorage within the Lacepede Islands. At four o'clock the next morning a
strong south-easterly breeze sprang up, and moderated again before we
weighed; but no sooner were we under sail than it freshened again, and,
at half-past five o'clock, blew so strong as to oblige our double reefing
the topsails, which had not been done for many weeks before. At noon the
wind fell, and was very calm, at which time our latitude observed was 17
degrees 36 minutes 38 seconds. The highest part of the land bore North 70
1/2 degrees East, south of which a sandy point, supposed to be Captain
Baudin's Cape Boileau, bore South 87 degrees East; and a smoke, a little
to the northward of the masthead extreme, bearing South 42 degrees East
must be upon the land in the neighbourhood of Cape Latreille.
Soon after noon the breeze veered round by South to West-South-West, and
enabled us to make some progress; at sunset we again anchored in thirteen
fathoms, soft sand, at six miles from a sandy projection of the main,
which we afterwards found to be the land called by Captain Baudin,
Gantheaume Island; the name has therefore been given to the point, for
there was no appearance of its being insulated. It bears a truly desolate
appearance, being nothing but ridges of bare white sand, scantily crowned
with a few shrubby bushes.
Behind Point Gantheaume the land appeared to be formed by downs of very
white sand; and between this point and Cape Boileau is a bay, which at
first, from the direction of the flood stream at the anchorage, was
conjectured to be an inlet; but as the tide afterwards set to the
Northward and North-East, it was concluded to be occasioned by the stream
sweeping round the shores of the bay: according to the depth alongside
there was a rise of ten feet; after high-water the ebb set between North
1/2 West and North-North-East, at the rate of a quarter to three quarters
of a knot.
During the whole day the horizon was occupied by haze, and produced a
very remarkable effect upon the land, which was so raised above the
horizon by refraction that many distant objects became visible that could
not otherwise have been seen. This mirage had been frequently observed by
us on various parts of the coast, but never produced so extraordinary an
effect as on the present occasion. The coastline appeared to be formed of
high chalky cliffs, crowned by a narrow band of woody hillocks; and the
land of Cape Villaret was so elevated as to be distinctly seen at the
distance of forty miles, whereas two days afterwards, the weather being
clear, it was not visible above the horizon for more than five leagues.
This state of the atmosphere caused a rapid evaporation during the day,
and as the evening approached a very copious dew commenced falling, which
by sunset was precipitated like a shower of rain.
The next morning the land was again enveloped in haze, but at seven
o'clock it cleared off a little, and the coast was observed to trend
round Point Gantheaume to the south-east, but as we had last evening seen
it as far to the westward as South-West by South, we steered in the
latter direction under the idea of there being no opening to the
southward of the point, since the flood-tide flowed from it instead of
towards it, as it naturally would have done had there been any inlet of
As usual, we had been surrounded by whales, and large flights of boobies;
one of the latter lighted upon the deck this afternoon, and was easily
taken; it seemed to be the same bird (Pelecanus fiber) that frequents the
reefs upon the north and north-eastern coasts. Between sunrise and midday
our progress was much retarded by light south-easterly winds. At noon we
were in 17 degrees 51 minutes 45 seconds South: after which the
sea-breeze set in from South-South-West and South-West, and we steered to
the southward. The land was now visible considerably to the southward of
Point Gantheaume, but of a very low and sandy character; and as we
proceeded it came in sight to the South-South-West. At sunset we anchored
about five or six miles to the north of Captain Baudin's Cape Villaret;
the extreme, which was in sight a little without it, was doubtless his
Cape Latouche-Treville. From Cape Villaret the land trended to the
East-North-East, and was seen very nearly to join the shore at the back
of Point Gantheaume.
The dew was precipitated as copiously this evening as the last, and the
sun set in a very dense bank; but the night was throughout fine. We now
began to experience a more considerable set of tide than we had found
since rounding Cape Leveque, for the rate was as much as a knot and a
half; but as the tides were neaped it only rose nine feet.
At an anchorage near this spot, in the year 1699, Captain Dampier remarks
that the tide rose and fell five fathoms, and ran so strong that his
nun-buoy would not watch: but the French expedition, at an anchorage a
little to the southward, found the flood-tide to set South-South-East and
to rise only nine feet, the moon being then three days past her full. All
these particulars have been mentioned, since it is from the nature of the
tides that Captain Dampier formed his hypothesis of the existence of
either a strait or an opening between this and the Rosemary Islands; but
from our experience it would appear more probable that these great tides
are occasioned by the numerous inlets that intersect the coast between
this and Cape Voltaire; a further examination, however, can only prove
the real cause.
At daylight (26th) we weighed with a light breeze from South-West, but
soon afterwards falling calm, and the tide drifting us to the South-East
the anchor was again dropped: ten minutes afterwards a land breeze from
East-South-East sprung up, to which we again weighed, but no sooner were
we under sail than we were enveloped in a thick mist that blew off the
land, where it had been collecting for the last two days. At eleven
o'clock the fog cleared away to seaward, but the land was screened from
our view until noon, when a sea breeze from west gradually dispersed the
fog, and the hillocky summit of Cape Latouche-Treville was seen, bearing
South 17 degrees West. At half-past twelve two rocky lumps on the land to
the westward of Cape Villaret were seen, and very soon afterwards the
hill on the cape made its appearance. Between Capes Villaret and
Latouche-Treville is a bay formed by very low sandy land, slightly
clothed with a stunted vegetation. The wind was now unfavourable for our
approaching the land, and after standing off to sea and then towards the
shore we anchored in thirteen fathoms coarse sand.
At this anchorage we found a still greater difference in the tides than
was experienced the night preceding; the flood set South-East by East and
East-South-East; and the ebb from North-North-East round to
West-North-West; the rise was sixteen feet and a half, from which it
would appear probable that there must be some reason for so great an
indraught of water into the bight between Cape Villaret and Point
Gantheaume, which I have named Roebuck Bay, after the ship that Captain
Dampier commanded when he visited this part of the coast.
As the wind now blew constantly from the South-West, or from some
southern direction, and caused our progress to be very slow and tedious;
and as the shore for some distance to the southward of Cape
Latouche-Treville had been partly seen by the French, I resolved upon
leaving the coast. Our water was also nearly expended, and our
provisions, generally, were in a very bad state; besides which the want
of a second anchor was so much felt that we dared not venture into any
difficulty where the appearance of the place invited a particular
investigation, on account of the exposed nature of the coast, and the
strength of the tides, which were now near the springs: upon every
consideration, therefore, it was not deemed prudent to rely any longer
upon the good fortune that had hitherto so often attended us in our
Accordingly after weighing, we steered off by the wind, and directed our
course for Mauritius.
1821. September 22.
On the 22nd September at daylight after a passage of twenty-five days we
saw Roderigues, five or six leagues to the northward. In the evening a
fresh gale sprung up from the southward and we experienced very bad
weather: at noon of the 24th by our calculation we were seventy-three
miles due East from the north end of Mauritius and, having the day before
experienced a westerly current of one mile per hour, we brought to at
sunset for the night, from the fear of getting too near the shore.
At daylight the following morning, being by the reckoning only
thirty-four miles to the eastward of the north end of the island, we bore
up for it; but the land, being enveloped in clouds, was not seen until
noon; we then found ourselves off the south-east end, instead of the
north point; having been set to the southward since yesterday noon at the
rate of three quarters of a mile an hour: in consequence of which we
determined upon going round the south side, and bore up for that purpose;
upon approaching the land we found another current setting us to the
The next morning at nine o'clock we passed round the Morne Brabant, the
south-west point of the island, but it was four o'clock before we reached
our anchorage (at a cable's length within the flag beacon at the entrance
of Port Louis) in fifteen fathoms mud; we were then visited by the Health
Officer, and afterwards by a boat from H.M. Ship Menai, which was at
anchor in the port.
But as it was too late that evening to enter the brig was not moved until
the following morning, when she was warped in and moored head and stern
within the harbour.
My wants were immediately made known to Captain Moresby, C.B. (of H.M.
Ship Menai) who directed the necessary repairs to be performed by the
carpenters of his ship; those articles which could not be supplied from
the Menai's stores were advertised for in the Mauritius Gazette, when the
most reasonable tenders were accepted.
As many of the carpenters and caulkers of the Menai as could be spared
from their other occupations were daily employed upon our repairs; but
from her being put into quarantine and other unforeseen delays they were
not completed for nearly a month: our sails were repaired by the Menai's
sailmakers; and, as all our running rigging was condemned and we had very
little spare rope on board, her rope-makers made sufficient for our
wants. The greater part of our bread, being found in a damaged state from
leaks, was surveyed and condemned.
Captain Flinders' account of Mauritius appears to have been drawn up with
much correctness and judgment, and is, even at the present day, so
descriptive of the island as to be considered, both by the English and
French residents of Port Louis, as the best that has yet been given to
the world. Many alterations and considerable improvements have however
taken place since his departure, and among the latter the improved system
of the culture of the sugar cane, and the introduction of modern
machinery into their mills, may be particularly mentioned. These have
been effected entirely by the political changes that have, since Captain
Flinders' captivity, taken place in the government of the island; and by
the example and exertions of the English, who possess very large
plantations, and indeed may be considered now as the principal
proprietors of the land.
(*Footnote. It afforded me very great pleasure to hear the high terms in
which my late friend and predecessor Captain Flinders was spoken of by
the inhabitants of this island, and their general regret at his infamous
detention. His friend M. Pitot had lately died, but I met many French
gentlemen who were acquainted with him. General Decaen, the governor, was
so much disliked by the inhabitants that Captain Flinders gained many
friends at his expense who would not otherwise have troubled themselves
about him; and this circumstance probably went far towards increasing the
severity of the treatment he so unjustly received. An anecdote of him was
related to me by a resident of Port Louis, which, as it redounds to his
honour, I cannot lose the gratification of recording.
When Captain Flinders was at the house of Madame d'Arifat in the district
of Plains Wilhelms, in which he was latterly permitted to reside upon his
parole, an opportunity of escaping from the island was offered to him by
the commander of a ship bound to India: it was urged to him by his
friends that, from the tyrannical treatment he had received and the
unjustifiable detention he was enduring, no parole to such a man as
General Decaen ought to be thought binding or prevent him from regaining
his liberty and embracing any opportunity of returning to his friends and
country. The escape was well planned, and no chance of discovery likely
to happen: the ship sailed from Port Louis, and at night, bringing to on
the leeward side of the island abreast of Captain Flinders' residence,
sent a boat to the appointed spot which was six miles only from Madame
d'Arifat's house; but after waiting until near daylight without the
captain making his appearance the boat returned to the vessel, which was
obliged to pursue her voyage to prevent suspicion.
It is almost needless to add that Captain Flinders did not think it
consistent with his feelings to take advantage of the opportunity, nor to
effect his escape from imprisonment by a conduct so disgraceful to the
character of a British officer and to the honourable profession to which
For some years past coffee has entirely failed upon the island and cotton
is seldom seen growing. The principal attention of the habitans appeared
to be given to the cultivation of the sugar cane and maize, both of which
had begun to produce an abundant return to the planters; the manihot is
also generally cultivated: but the dreadful effects of the hurricanes to
which this island is exposed render property of so precarious and
doubtful a tenure that nothing is secure until the season for these
destructive visitations is over; they last from the beginning of December
to the end of April and generally occur about the full of the moon, being
invariably preceded by an unsteady motion of the mercury in the
barometer. They are not always so violent as to be termed hurricanes: the
last experienced before our visit was merely a coup de vent, by which
very little damage was sustained.*
(*Footnote. In the month of January, 1824 this unfortunate island was
again visited and laid waste by a tremendous hurricane that did very
considerable damage, and has in a great measure destroyed the prosperous
state which the island was beginning to arrive at from the previous long
absence of this dreadful visitation.)
The town of Port Louis which is at the north-west, or leeward, side of
the island, is built at the extremity of an amphitheatre of low land,
backed in by a high and precipitous range, upon which Peter Botte and the
Pouce are conspicuous features. The streets are laid out at rightangles,
the principal of which lead from the Chaussee to the Champ de Mars, a
plot of grassy land about half a mile square that intervenes between the
town and the hills. This is the promenade, the drive, the racecourse,
and, in fact, the principal resort for the inhabitants. It is skirted by
houses and gardens and is a valuable acquisition to the town. The
Chaussee and other streets are well furnished with useful shops of which
those of the Tinman, the Druggist, and the Conservateur et Patissier, are
the most numerous.
The houses, generally of wood, are irregularly built, and far from being
elegant in their appearance; those however that have been lately
constructed by our countrymen have already given the place an appearance
of solidity that it could not boast of before, and several substantial
stone dwellings and stones have lately been erected. The roads for seven
or eight miles out of the town, leading to Pamplemousses, to Plains
Wilhelms and to Moca districts, are very good and are kept in repair
partly by Malabar convicts from India; but travelling beyond that
distance is performed in palanquins which four bearers will carry, at a
steady pace, at the rate of six miles per hour.
At the time of our visit there were few fruits ripe; but when we were
about to sail the mango of delicious flavour began to be common; besides
which there were coconuts, guavas, papaws, grapes, the letchy (or
let-chis, a Chinese fruit) and some indifferent pineapples. The ship's
company were supplied daily with fresh beef and vegetables. The latter
were procured in abundance at the bazaar and were exceedingly fine,
particularly carrots and cabbages of an unusually large size and fine
flavour. Bullocks are imported into the island from Madagascar, in which
trade there are two vessels constantly engaged during the fine season.
Horses are very scarce; they are imported from the Cape of Good Hope and
fetch a high price: a cargo of a hundred and seventy-seven mules arrived
from Buenos Ayres while we were at Port Louis, which, on being sold by
auction, averaged each one hundred and eighty dollars. To encourage the
importation of these useful animals a premium of five dollars is offered
by the government for every mule that is brought alive to the island.
The circulating medium was principally of paper but bore a very great
depreciation; the premium upon bills of exchange upon Europe, at the time
of our departure, was as much as 66 to 76 per cent, and upon silver coin
there was a depreciation of 45 per cent.
On the voyage to this place three charts of the north-west coast were
reduced and copied by Mr. Roe and were forwarded to the Admiralty by H.M.
Sloop Cygnet, together with a brief account of our voyage from the time
that we parted company with the Dick, off Cape Van Diemen.
No observations were taken at this place excepting for ascertaining the
rates of the chronometers, and for the variation and dip of the magnetic
needle: the former being 12 degrees 31 minutes West, and the latter 51
degrees 42 minutes 1 second. The situation of the observatory has been
long since fixed by the Abbe de la Caille in 20 degrees 10 minutes South
latitude, and 57 degrees 29 minutes East longitude.
I cannot conclude this very brief account of our visit to Mauritius
without expressing my acknowledgments for the civilities and hospitality
we received from our countrymen at Port Louis, particularly from His
Excellency Sir Robert T. Farquhar, Bart., who so long and ably presided
as Governor of the Island; and for the valuable assistance rendered me in
our re-equipment by Captain Fairfax Moresby, C.B., of H.M. Ship Menai,
for which the expedition I had the honour to command is under more than a
common professional obligation.
Departure from Port Louis.
Voyage to the South-west Coast of New Holland.
Anchor in King George the Third's Sound.
Visited by the Natives.
Our intercourse with them.
Descriptions of their weapons and other implements.
Vocabulary of their language.
Meteorological and other observations.
1821. November 10.
On the 10th November we were ready for sea.
But, from various delays, did not quit the port until the 15th. At
midnight we passed round the Morne Brabant, and the next evening at
sunset saw the high land of Bourbon: for the first two days we had
south-east winds and upon reaching the parallel of 25 degrees, the winds
became light and baffling with calms.
But as we advanced more to the southward they gradually veered to east
and north-east, and afterwards to north-west, with very fine weather.
We did not get out of the influence of these variable winds until the
28th when we were at noon in latitude 32 degrees 47 minutes and longitude
65 degrees 5 minutes; after which we encountered westerly winds and rough
weather. On the whole we had a very quick passage to the coast of New
Holland; and for the last week were expedited by a strong westerly gale
without encountering any accident or the occurrence of any circumstance
1821. December 23.
On the 23rd December at daylight the land about Cape Chatham was in
sight, and a course was directed to the eastward for King George's Sound;
where it was my intention to complete our wood and water previous to
commencing the examination of the west coast. At four o'clock in the
afternoon we hauled round Bald Head and, entering the Sound, soon
afterwards anchored at one mile from the entrance of Princess Royal
Having at our former visit re-fitted at Oyster Harbour, I wished on this
occasion to try Princess Royal Harbour; but as I was both unacquainted
with its entrance, as well as its convenience for our purposes, excepting
from Captain Flinders' account, I hoisted the boat out early the next
morning, to make the necessary examination before the sea-breeze
commenced. Whilst the boat was preparing a distant shouting was heard,
and upon our looking attentively towards the entrance several Indians
were seen sitting on the rocks on the north head hallooing and waving to
us, but no further notice than a return of their call was taken until
after breakfast, when we pulled towards them in the whale-boat. As we
drew near the shore they came down to receive us and appeared from their
gestures to invite our landing; but in this they were disappointed, for,
after a little vociferation and gesture on both sides, we pulled into the
harbour, whilst they walked along the beach abreast the boat. As the
motions of every one of them were attentively watched it was evident that
they were not armed; each wore a kangaroo-skin cloak over his left
shoulder that covered the back and breast but left the right arm exposed.
Upon reaching the spot which Captain Flinders occupied in the
Investigator I found that the brig could not anchor near enough to the
shore to carry on our different operations without being impeded by the
natives, even though they should be amicably disposed. Our plan was
therefore altered and, as the anchorage formerly occupied by the Mermaid
in the entrance of Oyster Harbour would be on all accounts more
convenient for our purposes, I determined upon going thither.
By this time the natives had reached that part of the beach where the
boat was lying, and were wading through the water towards us; but as we
had no wish at present to communicate with them, for fear that, by
refusing anything we had in the boat, for which their importunity would
perhaps be very great, a quarrel might be occasioned, we pulled off into
deeper water where we remained for five minutes parleying with them,
during which they plainly expressed their disappointment and
mortification at our want of confidence. Upon making signs for fresh
water, which they instantly understood, they called out to us "badoo,
badoo," and pointed to a part of the bay where Captain Flinders has
marked a rivulet. Badoo, in the Port Jackson language, means water; it
was thought probable that they must have obtained it from some late
visitors; and in this opinion we were confirmed, for the word kangaroo
was also familiar to them.*
(*Footnote. The San Antonio, merchant brig, the vessel that joined our
company during our passage up the east coast, visited this port in
December 1820 and communicated with the natives; it is therefore probable
that the above words were obtained from that vessel's crew.)
Upon our return towards the entrance the natives walked upon the beach
abreast the boat, and kept with her until we pulled out of the entrance,
when they resumed their former station upon the rocks and we returned on
Upon reaching the brig, the anchor was weighed, and with a fresh
sea-breeze from South-East we soon reached Oyster Harbour, but in
crossing the bar the vessel took the ground in eleven and a half feet
water, and it was some time before we succeeded in heaving her over, and
reaching the anchorage we had occupied at our last visit. Whilst warping
in, the natives, who had followed the vessel along the sandy beach that
separates the two harbours, were amusing themselves near us in striking
fish with a single barbed spear, in which sport they appeared to be
tolerably successful. As soon as we passed the bar three other natives
made their appearance on the east side, who, upon the boat going to that
shore to lay out the kedges, took their seats in it as unceremoniously as
a passenger would in a ferry-boat; and upon its returning to the brig,
came on board, and remained with us all the afternoon, much amused with
everything they saw, and totally free from timidity or distrust. Each of
our visitors was covered with a mantle of kangaroo-skin, but these were
laid aside upon their being clothed with other garments, with the novelty
of which they appeared greatly diverted. The natives on the opposite
shore seeing that their companions were admitted, were loudly vociferous
in their request to be sent for also; but unfortunately for them it was
the lee shore, so that no boat went near them; and as we did not wish to
be impeded by having so many on the deck at one time, their request was
not acceded to and by degrees they separated and retired in different
As soon as the brig was secured two of our visitors went ashore,
evidently charged with some message from the other native, but as he
voluntarily remained on board nothing hostile was suspected; we therefore
landed and dug a hole three feet deep among the grass about two yards
above the highest tide-mark, for water; but it was found to be so highly
coloured and muddy as it flowed in, that other holes were dug in the sand
nearer the edge of the tide-mark, where it was also produced, and proved
to be of a much better taste, as well as clearer, from being filtered
through the sand.
On examining the place of our former encampment, it was so much altered
from the rapid growth of vegetation that we could scarcely recognise its
situation. The stem of the casuarina on which the Mermaid's name and the
date of our visit had been carved was almost destroyed by fire; and the
inscription in consequence so nearly obliterated that the figures 1818,
and two or three letters alone remained visible. There was not the least
trace of our garden, for the space which it formerly occupied was covered
by three or four feet of additional soil, formed of sand and decayed
vegetable matter and clothed with a thicket of fine plants in full
flower, that would be much prized in any other place than where they
were. The initials of the names of some of our people were still very
perfect upon the stem of a large Banksia grandis which, from being
covered with its superb flowers, bore a magnificent and striking
After an absence of an hour our two friends returned, when it appeared
that they had been at their toilet, for their noses and faces had
evidently been fresh smeared over with red ochre, which they pointed out
to us as a great ornament; affording another proof that vanity is
inherent in human nature and not merely the consequence of civilisation.
They had however put off the garments with which we had clothed them and
resumed their mantles.
Each brought a lighted fire-stick in his hand, intending, as we supposed,
to make a fire, and to pass the night near the vessel, in order to watch
our intentions and movements.
On returning on board we desired the native who had remained behind to go
ashore to his companions, but it was with great reluctance that he was
persuaded to leave us. Whilst on board, our people had fed him
plentifully with biscuit, yams, pudding, tea, and grog, of which he ate
and drank as if he was half famished, and after being crammed with this
strange mixture and very patiently submitting his beard to the operation
of shaving, he was clothed with a shirt and a pair of trousers, and
christened Jack, by which name he was afterwards always called, and to
which he readily answered. As soon as he reached the shore, his
companions came to meet him to hear an account of what had transpired
during their absence, as well as to examine his new habiliments which, as
may be conceived, had effected a very considerable alteration in his
appearance, and at the same time that the change created much admiration
on the part of his companions, it raised him very considerably in his own
estimation. It was however a substitution that did not improve his
appearance; in fact he cut but a sorry figure in our eyes, in his
chequered shirt and tarry trousers, when standing amongst his companions,
with their long beards and kangaroo-skin mantles thrown carelessly over
Upon being accosted by his companions Jack was either sullen with them or
angry with us for sending him on shore, for without deigning to reply to
their questions he separated himself from them, and after watching us in
silence for some time, walked quietly and slowly away, followed at a
distance by his friends who were lost in wonder at what could have
happened to their sulky companion. The grog that he had been drinking had
probably taken effect upon his head and, although the quantity was very
trifling, he might have been a little stupefied.
At daylight the following morning the natives had again collected on both
sides, and upon the jolly-boat's landing the people to examine the wells
Jack, having quite recovered his good humour, got into the boat and came
on board. The natives on the opposite side were vociferous to visit us,
and were holding long conversations with Jack, who explained everything
to them in a song, to which they would frequently exclaim in full chorus
the words "Cai, cai, cai, cai, caigh" which they always repeated when
anything was shown that excited their surprise. Finding we had no
intention of sending a boat for them they amused themselves in fishing.
Two of them were watching a small seal that, having been left by the tide
on the bank, was endeavouring to waddle towards the deep water; at last
one of the natives, fixing his spear in its throwing-stick, advanced very
cautiously and, when within ten or twelve yards, lanced it, and pierced
the animal through the neck, when the other instantly ran up and stuck
his spear into it also, and then beating it about the head with a small
hammer very soon despatched it.
This event collected the whole tribe to the spot, who assisted in landing
their prize and washing the sand off the body; they then carried the
animal to their fire at the edge of the grass and began to devour it even
before it was dead. Curiosity induced Mr. Cunningham and myself to view
this barbarous feast and we landed about ten minutes after it had
commenced. The moment the boat touched the sand the natives, springing up
and throwing their spears away into the bushes, ran down towards us; and
before we could land had all seated themselves in the boat ready to go on
board, but they were obliged to wait whilst we landed to witness their
savage feast. On going to the place we found an old man seated over the
remains of the carcass, two-thirds of which had already disappeared; he
was holding a long strip of the raw flesh in his left hand, and tearing
it off the body with a sort of knife; a boy was also feasting with him
and both were too intent upon their breakfast to notice us or to be the
least disconcerted at our looking on. We however were very soon satisfied
and walked away perfectly disgusted with the sight of so horrible a
repast, and the intolerable stench occasioned by the effluvia that arose
from the dying animal, combined with that of the bodies of the natives
who had daubed themselves from head to foot with a pigment made of a red
ochreous earth mixed up with seal-oil.
We then conveyed the natives, who had been waiting with great patience in
the boat for our return, to the vessel, and permitted them to go on
board. Whilst they remained with us Mr. Baskerville took a man from each
mess to the oyster-bank; here he was joined by an Indian carrying some
spears and a throwing-stick, but on Mr. Baskerville's calling for a
musket that was in the boat (to the use of which they were not strangers)
he laid aside his spears, which probably were only carried for the
purpose of striking fish, and assisted our people in collecting the
oysters. As soon as they had procured a sufficient quantity they returned
on board when, as it was breakfast time, our visitors were sent onshore,
highly pleased with their reception and with the biscuit and pudding
which the people had given them to eat. They were very attentive to the
mixture of a pudding, and a few small dumplings were made and given to
them, which they put on the bars of the fireplace but, being too
impatient to wait until they were baked, ate them in a doughy state with
Three new faces appeared on the east side, who were brought on board
after breakfast, and permitted to remain until dinner-time: one of them,
an old man, was very attentive to the sailmaker's cutting out a boat's
sail, and at his request was presented with all the strips that were of
no use. When it was completed a small piece of canvas was missing, upon
which the old man, being suspected of having secreted it, was slightly
examined, but nothing was found upon him; after this, while the people
were looking about the deck, the old rogue assisted in the search and
appeared quite anxious to find it; he however very soon walked away
towards another part of the deck and interested himself in other things.
This conduct appeared so suspicious that I sent the sailmaker to examine
the old man more closely, when the lost piece was found concealed under
his left arm, which was covered by the cloak he wore of kangaroo-skin.
This circumstance afforded me a good opportunity of showing them our
displeasure at so flagrant a breach of the confidence we had reposed in
them; I therefore went up to him and, assuming as ferocious a look as I
could, shook him violently by the shoulders. At first he laughed but
afterwards, when he found I was in earnest, became much alarmed: upon
which his two companions, who were both boys, wanted to go onshore; this
however was not permitted until I had made peace with the old man, and
put them all in good humour by feeding them heartily upon biscuit. The
two boys were soon satisfied; but the old man appeared ashamed and
conscious of his guilt; and although he was frequently afterwards with
us, yet he always hung down his head and sneaked into the background.
During the day the people were employed about the rigging, and in the
evening before sunset the natives were again admitted on board for half
an hour. In the afternoon Mr. Montgomery went to Green Island and shot a
few parrakeets and waterbirds, some of which he gave to the natives after
explaining how they had been killed, which of course produced great
The next day was employed in wooding and watering, in which the natives,
particularly our friend Jack, assisted. We had this day twenty-one
natives about us and among them were five strangers. They were not
permitted to come on board until four o'clock in the afternoon, excepting
Jack, who was privileged to come and go as he liked, which, since it did
not appear to create any jealousy among his companions, enabled us to
detain him as a hostage for Mr. Cunningham's safety, who was busily
engaged in adding to his collections from the country in the vicinity of
In the evening Jack climbed the rigging as high as the top masthead, much
to the amusement of his companions but to the mortification of Bundell
who had never taken courage to mount so high.
The waterholes yielded about a ton of water a day; but a stream was found
in the sandy bay to the eastward of the entrance, running over the beach,
which we used when the holes were emptied of their contents; the latter
were however preferred, since our people worked at them under an
immediate protection from the vessel's deck. Near the stream we found
some felled trees and the staves of a cask.*
(*Footnote. At this place the San Antonio merchant brig wooded and
watered in 1820.)
December 27 to 28.
Our watering continued to proceed without molestation from the natives;
the number of whom had increased to twenty-nine, besides some whom we had
before seen that were now absent. During the afternoon of the 28th the
wind freshened from south-west and blew so strong as to cause a
considerable swell where we were lying; but towards sunset the breeze
moderated and the natives were again admitted on board; there were,
however, only eleven, for the rest, having worn out their patience, had
They were now quite tractable and never persisted in doing anything
against our wishes. The words "by and by" were so often used by us in
answer to their cau-wah, or "come here," that their meaning was perfectly
understood and always satisfied the natives, since we made it a strict
rule never to disappoint them of anything that was promised, an attention
to which is of the utmost importance in communicating with savages. Every
evening that they visited us they received something, but as a biscuit
was the most valuable present that could be made, each native was always
presented with one upon his leaving the vessel; during the day they were
busily occupied in manufacturing spears, knives, and hammers, for the
evening's barter; and when they came in the morning they generally
brought a large collection, which their wives had probably made in their
On the 29th we had completed our holds with wood and water and prepared
to leave the harbour. In the morning there was thirteen feet water at the
buoy which had been moored on the deepest part of the bar, the depth of
which, during the two preceding days, had been frequently sounded.
In the evening we were visited by twenty-four natives among whom was our
friend Jack. When they found us preparing to go away they expressed great
sorrow at our departure, particularly Jack, who was more than usually
entertaining but kept, as he always did, at a distance from his
companions and treated them with the greatest disdain. When the time came
to send them on shore he endeavoured to avoid accompanying them and as
usual was the last to go into the boat; instead however of following
them, he went into a boat on the opposite side of the brig that was
preparing to go for a load of water, evidently expecting to be allowed to
return in her.
This friendly Indian had become a great favourite with us all and was
allowed to visit us whenever he chose and to do as he pleased; he always
wore the shirt that had been given to him on the first day and
endeavoured to imitate everything that our people were employed upon;
particularly the carpenter and the sailmaker at their work: he was the
only native who did not manufacture spears for barter, for he was
evidently convinced of the superiority of our weapons and laughed
heartily whenever a bad and carelessly-made spear was offered to us for
sale: for the natives, finding we took everything, were not very
particular in the form or manufacturer of the articles they brought to
us. He was certainly the most intelligent native of the whole tribe and
if we had remained longer would have afforded us much information of this
part of the country; for we were becoming more and more intelligible to
each other every day: he frequently accompanied Mr. Cunningham in his
walks and not only assisted him in carrying his plants but occasionally
added to the specimens he was collecting.
The next morning (30th) the anchors were weighed and the warps laid out,
but from various delays we did not reach a birth sufficiently near the
bar to make sail from, until the water had fallen too much to allow our
passing it: the brig was therefore moored in the stream of the tide.
At eight o'clock the natives came down as usual and were much
disappointed in finding the brig moved from her former place. After the
vessel was secured the launch and jolly-boat were sent to the
watering-place in the outer bay, where the eastern party were assembled
with a bundle of spears, throwing-sticks, and knives, for barter. Upon
the return of the boats our friend Jack came on board and appeared
altogether so attached to us that some thoughts were entertained of
taking him on our voyage up the west coast if he was inclined to go. As
he did not want for intelligence there was not much difficulty in making
him understand by signs that he might go with us, to which he appeared to
assent without the least hesitation, but that it might be satisfactorily
ascertained whether he really wished to go it was intimated to him that
he should tell his companions of this new arrangement. Mr. Bedwell
accordingly took him on shore, and purchased all the spears the natives
had brought down, that, in case they should feel angry at his leaving
them, they might have no weapons to do any mischief with.
When Jack landed he instantly informed his companions of his intended
departure and pointed to the sea, to show whither he was going, but his
friends received the intelligence with the most careless indifference,
their attention being entirely engrossed with the barter that was going
on. After the spears were purchased Mr. Bedwell got into the boat
followed by Jack, who seated himself in his place with apparent
While Mr. Bedwell was purchasing the spears and other weapons Jack
brought him a throwing-stick that he had previously concealed behind a
bush and sold it to him for a biscuit; but after he had embarked and the
boat was leaving the shore he threw it among his companions, thereby
affording us a most satisfactory proof of the sincerity of his
About an hour after he had returned and I had determined upon taking him,
the breeze freshened and raised a short swell which, causing a slight
motion, affected our friend's head so much that he came to me and,
touching his tongue and pointing to the shore, intimated his wish to
speak to the natives. He was therefore immediately landed and Mr.
Baskerville, after purchasing some spears and waiting a few minutes,
prepared to return on board: upon getting into the boat he looked at our
volunteer but Jack, having had a taste of sea-sickness, shook his head
and hung back; he was therefore left on shore. Upon the boat's leaving
the beach the natives dispersed for the night but Jack, as usual, was
perceived to separate himself from his companions and to walk away
without exchanging a word with them.
The weather at daylight the next morning (31st) was too unsettled and the
breeze too strong from the westward to think of moving from the
anchorage. Jack and another native were down on the rocks at an early
hour, hallooing and waving to us, and at eight o'clock some natives
appeared on the opposite shore with spears and knives to barter, but we
had no communication with them.
During our visit we have obtained from these people about one hundred
spears, thirty throwing-sticks, forty hammers, one hundred and fifty
knives, and a few hand-clubs, the value of each being at from half to
one-eighth of a biscuit. We saw no fizgig, shield, nor boomerang; it is
probable that they may have such weapons but did not produce them from a
dislike at parting with them; but the knives, spears, and hammers which
did not require much labour to manufacture were always ready for barter,
particularly the first, but the greater part were, like Peter Pindar's
razors, only made for sale.
Altogether we saw about forty natives of whom ten were boys: they were in
most respects similar to their neighbours, having the same long curly
hair and slight figure; they did not appear to be a navigating tribe, for
we saw no canoes, nor did we observe any trees in the woods with the bark
stripped, of which material they are usually made; and, from the timid
manner they approached the water, it is more than probable that they are
not much accustomed even to swimming. Captain Flinders is mistaken in
stating that the natives of this place do not use the throwing-stick; but
it is probable they did not produce those instruments to him, for fear of
being deprived of them, for it required much persuasion on our part to
prevail upon them to let us have any; they were much more ingeniously
formed than others that we had previously seen, and different also, in
having a small sharp-edged shell, or piece of quartz, fixed in a gummy
knob at the handle, for the purpose of scraping the points of the spears:
the shaft is broad, smooth and flat. Some of these throwing-sticks, or
mearas, were three inches broad and two feet six inches long. See Woodcut
The spears are very slender, and are made from a species of leptospermum
that grows abundantly in swampy places; they are from nine to ten feet
long and barbed with a piece of hard wood, fastened on by a ligature of
bark gummed over; we saw none that were not barbed, or had not a hole at
the end to receive the hooked point of the meara. Woodcut 4 shows the
method by which this weapon is propelled.
The hammer, or kaoit, appears to be used only for the purpose of breaking
open shellfish, and killing seals and other animals by striking them on
the head; for it has no sharpened edge to be used as a chopping or
cutting instrument; the handle is from twelve to fifteen inches long,
having one end scraped to a sharp point, and on each side at the other
end two pieces of hard stone fixed and cemented by a mass of gum, which,
when dry, is almost as hard as the stone itself; the hammer is about one
pound weight. See Woodcut 5.
The knife, or taap, is perhaps the rudest instrument of the sort that
ever was made; the handle is about twelve inches long, scraped to a point
like the hammer, and has, at the other end, three or four splinters of
sharp-edged quartz stuck on in a row with gum, thus forming a sort of
ragged instrument. See Woodcut 6. It is thus used: after they have put
within their teeth a sufficient mouthful of seal's flesh, the remainder
is held in their left hand, and, with the taap in the other, they saw
through, and separate the flesh.* Every native carries one or more of
these knives in his belt besides the hammer which is also an
indispensable instrument with them.
(*Footnote. A very good idea may be obtained of the manner in which these
taaps are used, by referring to Captain Lyon's drawing of the Esquimaux
sledges at page 290 of Parry's Second Voyage: the natives of King
George's Sound however hold the knife underhanded, and cut upwards.)
We did not perceive that these people acknowledged any chief or superior
among them; the two parties that collected daily on the opposite sides of
the harbour evidently belonged to the same tribe for they occasionally
mixed with each other. Their habitations were probably scattered about in
different parts for when the natives went away for the night they
separated into several groups, not more than three or four going
together, and these generally returned in company the next morning by the
same path which they had taken when they left us: they also arrived at
different times and some evidently came from a distance greater than
others, for they were later in arriving and always took their leave at an
With the exception of one or two petty thefts besides the one
above-mentioned of which serious notice was taken, and an attempt to
steal a hat from one of the boys when he was by himself on the Oyster
Bank, our communication with these people was carried on in the most
friendly manner. Mr. Cunningham was, to their knowledge, on shore every
day attended only by his servant, but none, excepting Jack, followed him
after they had ascertained the intention of his walk, and observed the
care that he took to avoid going near their habitations, for which they
evinced a great dislike; one of their encampments was about a mile and a
half off but, curious as we naturally were to witness their mode of
living and to see the females and children of their tribe, we never
succeeded in persuading them to allow us to gratify our curiosity. On one
occasion it was necessary to lay a kedge anchor out in the direction of
their dwelling-place, and upon the boat's crew landing and carrying it
along the beach, the natives followed and intimated by signs that we
should not go that way; as soon however as the anchor was fixed and they
understood our intention, they assisted the people in carrying the hawser
to make fast to it.
They were well-acquainted with the effects of a musket, although not the
least alarmed at having one fired off near them. Everything they saw
excited their admiration, particularly the carpenter's tools and our
clothes; but what appeared to surprise them above all other things was
the effect produced upon the flesh by a burning-glass, and of its causing
the explosion of a train of gunpowder. They perfectly understood that it
was from the sun that the fire was produced, for on one occasion when
Jack requested me to show it to two or three strangers whom he had
brought to visit us I explained to him that it could not be done while
the sun was clouded; he then waited patiently for five minutes until the
sunshine reappeared, when he instantly reminded me of the removal of the
obstacle. He was a good deal surprised at my collecting the rays of the
sun upon my own hand, supposing that I was callous to the pain, from
which he had himself before shrunk; but as I held the glass within the
focus distance, no painful sensation was produced; after which he
presented me his own arm, and allowed me to burn it as long as I chose to
hold the glass, without flinching in the least, which, with greater
reason, equally astonished us in our turn.
They were all furnished, as has been before mentioned, with a cloak of
kangaroo-skin, which is always taken off and spread under them when they
lie down. Their hair was dressed in different ways; sometimes it was
clotted with red pigment and seal oil, clubbed up behind, and bound round
with a fillet of opossum-fur, spun into a long string, in which
parrot-feathers, escalop shells, and other ornaments being fixed in
different fanciful ways, gave the wearer a warlike appearance.
Their faces and sometimes their whole bodies were daubed over with a
mixture of seal oil and red pigment that caused a most disgusting
effluvia; but the only colouring matter that our friend Jack used, after
his acquaintance with us, was the carpenter's chalk, which he thought
Bracelets of dog-tails or kangaroo-skin were commonly worn and one had
several escalop shells hanging about him, the noise of which, as they
jingled together, he probably thought musical.
The noodle-bul or belt in which they carry their hammer and knife is
manufactured from the fur of the opossum spun into a small yarn like
worsted; it is tightly bound at least three or four hundred times round
the stomach; very few however possessed this ornament; and it is not
improbable that the natives who had their hair clubbed, those that wore
belts, and the one who was ornamented with shells, held some particular
offices in the tribe, which it would be difficult for strangers to
During our communication with these people the following vocabulary of
their language was obtained, of which some of the words are compared with
those recorded by Captain Flinders: these last are inserted in the third
COLUMN 1: ENGLISH WORD.
COLUMN 2: NATIVE WORD.
COLUMN 3: NATIVE WORD RECORDED BY CAPTAIN FLINDERS.
A goose : Caangan.
A dog : Tiara.
To eat biscuit : Yamungamari (doubtful).
A seal : Baallot.
The sun : Djaat : Djaat.
Water : Badoo (this is a Port Jackson word, and has been probably
obtained from other visitors).
Beard : Nyanuck.
Cheek : Nyaluck.
Mouth : Tatah.
Teeth : Orlock : Yeaal.
Tongue : Darlin, or Thalib.
Arm : Wormuck.
Nails : Pera (strong accent on the r.)
Finger : Mai, plural Maih.
Toe : Kea, plural Kean.
Finger nails : Peramaih.
Toe nails : Perakean.
Nipple : Beep : Bpep.
Belly : Cobbull, or kopul : Kobul.
Posteriors : Wallakah : Wallakah.
Kangaroo : Beango.
A frog : Toke.
Spear-throwing-stick : Meara.
Hammer : Kaoit.
Eye : Meal.
Navel : Beil.
Shoulder : Kadyaran.
Shall I go on board? : Bokenyenna.
Elbow : Gnoyong.
Scars on the body : Naamburn.
Firewood : Gogorr.
A spear : Namberr, or pegero.
A knife : Taap.
Rope (on board) : Nearbango.
Wood (Plank) : Yandari.
Lips : Tar : Urluck.
Throat : Wurt.
Thighs : Dtoual : Dtoual.
Knee : Wonat : Wonat.
Leg : Maat : Maat.
Foot : Jaan, or bangul : Jaan.
Ear : Duong : Duong.
Nose : Tarmul : Moil.
Head : Maka : Kaat.
A porpoise : Nordock.
Woman : Paydgero, or coman (doubtful).
Hair of the head : Kaat : Kaat jou.
Come here : Bulloco.
Shoulder : Djadan.
Musket : Puelar (doubtful).
Gum : Perin.
Tomorrow : Manioc (doubtful.)
Surprise or admiration : Caicaicaicaicaigh. The last word lengthened out
with the breath.
A hawk : Barlerot.
A shark, or shark's tail : Margit.
Belt worn round the stomach : Noodlebul.
Back : Goong.
A particular fish : Wallar, or wallat.
NAMES OF THE NATIVES.
Yallapool (a little boy).
Ureeton, Wytumba : boys.
Mogril (a young man).*
(*Footnote. The above names were obtained at a subsequent visit on our
return to England the following year.)
The winds during our stay performed two or three revolutions of the
compass but they partook chiefly of the character of sea and
land-breezes: during the night and early part of the morning the wind was
usually light from the northward and at ten o'clock, gradually dying
away, was succeeded by a wind from the sea, generally from South-West or
South-East; this sea-breeze occasionally blew fresh until four o'clock in
the evening when it would gradually diminish with the setting sun to a
The barometrical column ranged between 29.75 and 30.22 inches; a fall of
the mercury preceded a westerly wind, and a rise predicted it from the
South-East: when it stood at thirty inches we had sea-breezes from south
with fine weather. The easterly winds were dry; westerly ones the
reverse. The moisture of the atmosphere, for want of a better hygrometer,
was ascertained with tolerable precision by the state of a small piece of
sea-weed, the weight of which varied according to the dryness or moisture
of the atmosphere between one and three scruples. I found it on all
occasions extremely sensible, and very often to predict a change of wind
much sooner than the barometer.
Fahrenheit's thermometer ranged between 64 and 74 degrees, but the usual
extremes were between 66 and 70 degrees.
1822. January 1.
During the day of the 1st of January the depth of the bar was frequently
sounded but as there was not more than ten feet and a half water upon it
we were necessarily detained at the anchorage.
On the following morning also at four o'clock the depth was the same; but
at ten o'clock the water rose suddenly eighteen inches, upon which the
anchors were lifted and the brig warped over the bar to an anchorage in
three and a half fathoms off the outer watering-place, to await a
favourable opportunity of going over to Seal Island; near which it was
intended to anchor in order to refit the rigging and otherwise prepare
the vessel for our voyage up the west coast.
In the afternoon we procured a load of water and permitted the natives,
thirteen of whom were assembled, to pay us another visit. On their coming
on board it was noticed that many of them belonged to the tribe that
lived on the opposite shore, but how they had crossed over was not
satisfactorily ascertained. Their wonder on this their last visit was
much raised by our firing off a nine-pounder loaded with shot, the splash
of which in the water caused the greatest astonishment, and one of them
was extremely vehement and noisy in explaining it to his companions. Upon
repeating this exhibition they paid particular attention to the operation
of loading the gun, and expressed the greatest surprise at the weight of
the ball, upon which, after they had all severally examined it, they held
a long and wordy argument as to what it possibly could be. At the splash
of the ball, for which they were all looking out, they expressed their
delight by shouting in full chorus the words Cai, cai, cai, cai, caigh.
After this they were sent on shore.
At daybreak the next morning an opportunity offered to cross the sound,
and by eight o'clock the brig was anchored under Seal Island; upon which
we commenced the repair of the rigging, and in the course of the day
shifted the main topmast. We had left the anchorage on the other side of
the sound too early for our friends the natives, who had promised last
evening to bring us a hawk's nest that was built upon a rock near the
watering-place; at ten o'clock a very large fire was perceived close to
the nest; it was no doubt kindled by them, and meant to show that they
were not inattentive to their promise.
The following day some natives were seen about a mile off upon the beach
but did not come near the vessel. Mr. Cunningham botanised upon the
summit of Bald Head. Of this excursion he gave me the following account:
"Upon reaching the summit of the ridge, and clearing a rocky gully which
intersected our track, we instantly entered an elevated valley of pure
white sand, bounded on either side by ridges forty feet high, that were
in themselves totally bare, excepting on the tops, where a thin clothing
of shrubs was remarked; the whole surface reflected a heat scarcely
supportable, and the air was so stagnant as scarcely to be respired,
although we were at a considerable elevation, and in the vicinity of a
constant current of pure atmospheric air on the ridge. After traversing
the whole length of this sandy vale, which is one-third of a mile in
extent, in our route towards Bald Head, with scarcely a plant to attract
our attention, we perceived at its extremity some remarkably fine
specimens of Candollea cuneiformis, Labil., which had, in spite of the
poverty and looseness of the drifting sand, risen to large spreading
trees, sixteen feet high, of robust growth and habit; they were at this
time covered with flowers and ripe fruit; but so painful was it to the
eyes and senses to remain for a moment stationary in this heated valley,
that whilst I gathered a quantity of the seeds of this truly rich plant,
my servant was obliged to hurry away to a cooler air on the ridge, which
we had again nearly reached; and but for this fine plant, and the no less
conspicuous blue-flowered Scaevola nitida, Br. The whole scene would have
deeply impressed us with all the horrors that such extremes of aridity
are naturally calculated to excite.
"Upon again reaching the ridge, whose moderated temperature required our
care to avoid suffering from the sudden transition, we came to the
granite, on whose bare surface I found a prostrate specimen of baeckea,
remarkable for the regularity of its decussate leaves, which I have
designated in my list as Baeckea saxicola. Continuing to the extremity of
the ridge, I was much surprised to find we had already attained the
highest point of the range, and to observe another expanse, or extensive
cavity, of bare white sand below us, to the South-East, the termination
of which we afterwards found to be the Bald Head, of Captain Vancouver.
This part is of remarkable appearance from seaward, having on either side
of its bare sandy summit a contrasting brushy vegetation: from the sea
however a very small part only of its extensive surface of sand can be
perceived, the greater part being only observable from the commanding
hillocks we had with much exertion arrived at. A calcareous rock
(affording evidently a very considerable portion of pure lime) was seen
in a decomposing state piercing the sandy surface of all parts of the
ridge about Bald Head which, however, is itself a pure granite; the dense
low brushy wood in its vicinity is chiefly composed of the delicate
(*Footnote. Cunningham manuscripts.)
In the evening we visited Seal Island, and killed five seals for the sake
of their skins, which were serviceable for the rigging; the boat's crew
also found some penguins (Aptenodytes minor) and a nest of iguanas. The
bottle deposited here at our last visit in 1818 was found suspended where
it had been left and brought on board, when another memorandum was
enclosed in it, containing a notification of our present visit, of the
friendly and communicative disposition of the natives, and a copy of the
vocabulary of their language.
On the 5th in the afternoon on our return to the vessel, after visiting
the shore and landing upon the flat rock, which is merely a bare mass of
granite, of about thirty yards in diameter, some natives were heard
calling to us, and upon our pulling to the part whence the sound came, we
found two men and a boy. After some time they were discovered to be three
of our Oyster-Harbour friends, and therefore we made no hesitation of
communicating with them, and of taking them on board, where they were
regaled upon the flesh of the seals we had killed at the island.
Notwithstanding the friendly disposition of the inhabitants of this
sound, I felt it necessary to act very cautiously in our communication
with them, in order to avoid any misunderstanding. And that this might
not even be accidentally done, I requested Mr. Cunningham to confine his
walks to the vicinity of the vessel, and particularly to avoid any route
that would take him towards their encampment. He was therefore prevented
from visiting many parts near which he had promised himself much
amusement and information in botanizing, particularly the neighbourhood
of Bayonet Head, and the distant parts of Oyster Harbour. At our former
visit to this place he had searched in vain for that curious little plant
Cephalotus follicularis, Br.,* but on this occasion he was more
fortunate, for he found it in the greatest profusion in the vicinity of
the stream that empties itself over the beach of the outer bay where we
watered. Of this he says: "The plants of cephalotus were all in a very
weak state, and none in any stage of fructification: the ascidia, or
pitchers, which are inserted on strong foot-stalks, and intermixed about
the root with the leaves, all contained a quantity of discoloured water,
and, in some, the drowned bodies of ants and other small insects. Whether
this fluid can be considered a secretion of the plant, as appears really
to be the fact with reference to the nepenthes, or pitcher-plant of
India,** deposited by it through its vessels into the pitchers; or even a
secretion of the ascidia themselves; or whether it is not simply
rainwater lodged in these reservoirs, as a provision from which the plant
might derive support in seasons of protracted drought, when those marshy
lands (in which this vegetable is alone to be found) are partially dried
of the moisture that is indispensable to its existence, may perhaps be
presumed by the following observations. The opercula, shaped like some
species of oyster, or escalop-shells, I found in some pitchers to be very
closely shut upon their orifices, although their cavities, upon
examination, contained but very little water, and the state of the
weather was exceedingly cloudy, and at intervals showery; if, therefore,
the appendages are really cisterns, to receive an elemental fluid for the
nourishment of the plant in times of drought, it is natural to suppose
that this circumstance would operate upon the ramified vessels of the
lids, so as to draw them up, and allow the rain to replenish the
pitchers. Mr. Brown also, who had an opportunity in 1801 of examining
plants fully grown, supposes it probable that the vertical or horizontal
positions in which the opercula were remarked, are determined by the
state of the atmosphere, at the same time that he thinks it possible that
the fluid may be a secretion of the plant. The several dead insects that
were observed within the vases of cephalotus were very possibly deposited
there by an insect of prey, since I detected a slender-bodied fly
(ichneumon) within a closed pitcher, having evidently forced its passage
under the lid to the interior, where an abundant store of putrescent
insects were collected. Whilst, therefore, these pitchers are answering
the double purpose, of being a reservoir to retain a fluid, however
produced, for the nourishment of the plant in the exigency of a dry
season, as also a repository of food for rapacious insects, as in
sarracenia, or the American pitcher-plant; it is also probable that the
air, disengaged by these drowned ants, may be important and beneficial to
the life of the Australian plant, as Sir James E. Smith has suggested, in
respect to the last-mentioned genus, wild in the swamp of Georgia and
(*Footnote. Flinders volume 1 page 64 and Brown's General Remarks in
Flinders volume 2 page 601 et seq.)
(**Footnote. Smith's Introduction to Botany page 150.)
"I spent much time in a fruitless search for flowering specimens of
cephalotus; all the plants were very small and weak, and showed no
disposition to produce flowers at the season, and none had more than
three or four ascidia."*
(*Footnote. Cunningham manuscripts.)
The only edible plants that Mr. Cunningham found were a creeping parsley
(Apium prostratum, Labil.) and a species of orach (Atriplex halimus,
Brown) the latter was used by us every day, boiled with salt provisions,
and proved a tolerable substitute for spinach or greens. During our visit
we caught but very few fish, and only a few oysters were obtained, on
account of the banks being seldom uncovered, and the presence of the
natives which prevented my trusting the people out of my sight for fear
of a quarrel. Shellfish of other sorts were obtained at Mistaken Island
in abundance, of which the most common were a patella and an haliotis;
the inhabitant of the former made a coarse, although a savoury dish.
There were also varieties of the following genera: namely, lepas, chiton,
cardium, pinna, nerita, two or three species of ostrea, a small mytilus,
and a small buccinum of great beauty; that covered the rocks and at low
water might be collected in abundance.
Leave King George the Third's Sound, and commence the survey of the West
Coast at Rottnest Island.
Another remarkable effect of mirage.
Anchor under, and land upon Rottnest Island.
Break an anchor.
Examine the coast to the northward.
Moresby's Flat-topped Range.
Anchor in Dirk Hartog's Road, at the entrance of Shark's Bay.
Examination of the coast to the North-west Cape.
Heavy gale off the Montebello Isles.
Dangerous situation of the brig among the islands of Buccaneer's
Examination and description of Cygnet Bay.
Lose an anchor, and leave the coast.
Return to Port Jackson.
1822. January 6.
We sailed from King George's Sound on the 6th.
But from south-westerly winds, were no further advanced by the 8th than
the meridian of Cape Chatham. After which, entering a current setting at
one mile an hour to the westward, the brig made considerable progress.
At daylight, 10th, Cape Leeuwin came in sight from the masthead, and at
eight o'clock was seen from the deck at the distance of ten leagues,
bearing North 42 degrees East by compass.
At this, the south-westernmost extremity of New Holland, Captain Flinders
commenced his examination of the south coast, but saw no part to the
northward. The French expedition under Captain Baudin were upon this part
at two different periods of their voyage, and it appears from an
examination of their tracks that the coast between Capes Leeuwin and
Peron, the latter of which is about five leagues to the southward of the
entrance of Swan River, has been sufficiently examined by them. They
landed in several parts of Geographe Bay which affords a shelter from
southerly winds but is so exposed to those between North and
West-North-West that the French ships ran great danger of being
shipwrecked during a gale from that quarter.
The coast is sandy, and from M. Peron's description, barren and
unprofitable. With the exception of the Recif du Naturaliste which lies
about five leagues to the north of the Cape of that name there seems to
be no danger in the vicinity of the bay. The small inlet of Port
Leschenault is only the embouchure of a salt-marsh; it is scarcely
attainable even by boats; for there appears to be only three feet water
on the bar, and over and within it not more than fifteen feet. The French
found no fresh water in any part of Geographe Bay. From Port Leschenault
to Cape Peron the coast is low and sandy but inland it is of a moderate
height and appears to be furnished with a slight vegetation. The French
ships sailed along this coast at the distance of four or five miles from
the beach, and the report made by them is sufficiently in detail for all
the purposes of navigation.
Upon these considerations it was not deemed necessary that we should
examine this part again, and therefore sailed at a distance from the land
to ensure a quicker passage to Cape Peron, in order to explore the bay
behind the Isles of Louis Napoleon. Swan River and Rottnest Island had
been already carefully examined by the French; but from the latter island
to the North-west Cape, with the exception of Shark's Bay, they saw very
little of the coast, and have given its outline principally from Van
(*Footnote. Freycinet page 441.)
At noon on the 10th our latitude was 34 degrees 16 minutes 14 seconds,
and a large bare, sandy patch upon the land, the Tache Blanche
remarquable of Captain Baudin, bore North 77 degrees East (magnetic). At
six o'clock in the evening we passed Cape Naturaliste, having experienced
a strong current setting North 11 degrees West, at nearly two miles per
hour; hence we steered to the northward, but it was dark when we passed
near the position assigned to the Recif Naturaliste: after steering on
for three hours longer we edged in for the land and at ten o'clock hauled
to the wind for the night.
The next day at noon we were in latitude 32 degrees 36 minutes 2 seconds,
having the land about Cape Peron in sight from the masthead, bearing East
by South 1/2 South; but during the day the wind was so light that we had
not approached it within four leagues by sunset.
At this time the coast was visible as far as Cape Bouvard between which
and Cape Peron it is low and sandy, but the hills appeared to be
tolerably well wooded, and of a moderate height. Buache Island was
visible as well as the small rocky islet between it and Cape Peron. The
former is low and sandy, and its outline of hummocky shape; and to the
eastward was some distant land trending towards the assigned entrance of
Swan River. To the northward of Buache Island a small lump was seen on
the horizon, which perhaps might have been Berthollet Island, but it was
very indistinct. The sun set in a dense bank and the moment it
disappeared a very copious dew began to fall.
The next morning at daylight the land to the southward of Cape Peron was
ten miles off, but at half-past nine o'clock we were between Capes Peron
and Bouvard, and about five miles from the shore, which from the former
extended in a North-East by North direction, still low and sandy.
At noon the latitude was observed to be 32 degrees 30 minutes 42 seconds,
but by the land it was only 32 degrees 23 minutes 30 seconds, a
difference of 7 minutes 12 seconds. This error was occasioned by the haze
which concealed the true horizon, and caused an appearance of land all
round us, on which rocks, sandy beaches, and trees were so plainly formed
that the officer of the watch actually reported two islands on the
western horizon. This was the most remarkable instance of mirage that we
ever witnessed; the haze had only commenced a few minutes before noon,
whilst the observation for the latitude was in the act of being taken;
and immediately after I was employed upon the chart for half an hour,
puzzling myself in attempting to reconcile the observed latitude with the
bearings of the land. This curious phenomenon was also witnessed by the
French in Geographe Bay. During the time this magical appearance
continued, we had very light airs from the southward: the barometrical
column fell to 29.76 inches, but the hygrometer indicated an
extraordinary dryness of the air. At sunset the haze cleared away, when
Rottnest Island was seen, bearing between North 10 degrees and 32 degrees
East (magnetic); a breeze then freshened from West-South-West but
gradually veered round to the southward; and at nine o'clock was very
light from South-East.
During the night we made short tacks. At four o'clock in the morning
(13th) the latitude by the moon's meridional altitude was 32 degrees 16
minutes 17 seconds, and soon afterwards Rottnest was in sight in the
North-North-East. At six o'clock the sky was clouded, and the weather
threatened to be bad; the mercury fell to 29.69 inches, upon which all
sail was made off the land, as appearances indicated a westerly gale: but
after an interval of two hours, during which we had a fresh breeze from
North-West by West, the weather cleared up and we steered towards
The next morning the brig was anchored off the north-east end of the
island in thirteen fathoms gravelly sand; and in the afternoon I went on
shore in a bay on the east or leeward side, where we found the water
smooth and the landing more practicable than upon the north side where a
tremendous surf was rolling in upon the beach. We disturbed a great many
seals but only killed three; and were much disappointed in finding that
these animals were not of the fur species, as in M. de Freycinet's
account of the island they are said to be; they were evidently the same
description as those noticed at King George's Sound. The traces of a
small kangaroo were everywhere abundant but the animals were not seen. We
walked to the easternmost of the lakes which the French named Etangs
Duvaildaily and which M. de Freycinet remarks as being surrounded by an
extensive beach, composed entirely of bivalve shells, a species of
cardium: the quantity was indeed extraordinary. The banks were frequented
by gulls and sandpipers, of which many were shot. The water was found to
be perfectly salt and from the circumstance of its rising and falling
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