The Logbooks of the Lady Nelson
Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Sue Asscher
THE LOGBOOKS OF
THE LADY NELSON
WITH THE JOURNAL OF HER FIRST COMMANDER
LIEUTENANT JAMES GRANT, R.N.
IDA LEE, F.R.G.S.
(MRS. CHARLES BRUCE MARRIOTT.)
THE COMING OF THE BRITISH TO AUSTRALIA,
COMMODORE SIR JOHN HAYES, HIS VOYAGE AND LIFE.
WITH SIXTEEN CHARTS AND ILLUSTRATIONS FROM THE ORIGINALS
IN THE ADMIRALTY LIBRARY.
GRAFTON & CO.
69 GREAT RUSSELL STREET
First Published in 1915.
TO THE MEMORY OF MY GRANDFATHER,
ONE OF AUSTRALIA'S PIONEERS.
The objects for which the Lady Nelson's voyages were undertaken render
her logbooks of more than ordinary interest. She was essentially an
Australian discovery ship and during her successive commissions she was
employed exclusively in Australian waters. The number of voyages that she
made will perhaps never be accurately known, but her logbooks in
existence testify to the important missions that she accomplished. The
most notable are those which record early discoveries in Victoria: the
exploration of the Queensland coast: the surveys of King Island and the
Kent Group: the visits to New Zealand and the founding of settlements at
Hobart, Port Dalrymple, and Melville Island. Seldom can the logbooks of a
single ship show such a record. Their publication seemed very necessary,
for the handwriting on the pages of some of them is so faded that it is
already difficult to decipher, and apparently only the story of Grant's
voyages and the extracts from Murray's log published by Labilliere in the
Early History of Victoria have ever before been published. In
transcription I have somewhat modernized the spelling where old or
incorrect forms tended to obscure the sense, and omitted repetitions, as
it would have been impossible to include within the limits of one volume
the whole of the contents of the logbooks. The story of the Lady Nelson
as told by Grant has in places been paraphrased, for he sometimes writes
it in diary form under date headings and at others he inserts the date in
the narrative. The entries from the logbooks of Murray, Curtoys and
Symons, in the Public Record Office, with such omissions as I have
specified, are printed verbatim.
Murray's charts now published are distinctly valuable, as in the fourth
volume of the Historical Records of New South Wales, where they should be
found, it is stated that they are "unfortunately missing."
On my inquiring at the Admiralty, Mr. Perrin, the Librarian, to whom my
cordial thanks are due, made a special search and was fortunate enough to
discover them. Thus, after a long separation, Murray's charts and his
journal are united again in this volume. Perhaps the most important
chart, and the one which should appeal especially to the people of
Victoria, is that of Port Phillip showing the track of the Lady Nelson's
boat when the brig entered the bay for the first time. Murray's log
telling of this discovery ends on March 24th, 1802. In writing later to
the Duke of Portland, Governor King says: "The Lady Nelson's return just
before I closed my letters enabled me to transmit Acting-Lieutenant
Murray's log copies of the discoveries of King Island and Port Phillip.
These important discoveries, being combined with the chart of former
surveys, I hope will convince your Grace that that highly useful vessel
the Lady Nelson has not been idle under my direction." The charts were
sent home in charge of Lieutenant Mackellar, who sailed in the ship
Caroline on March 30th, 1802, six days after the Lady Nelson's return.
Duplicates were forwarded by the Speedy, which left Sydney in June, but a
comparison of those at the Admiralty shows that King added nothing
further to this second series.
My thanks are also due to Lieutenant Bell, R.N., whose researches have
enabled me to publish the charts of the Queensland coast. These old
charts cannot fail to interest students of Australian history. It is
possible that they do not include all that were sent home at first, nor
are the Lady Nelson's logbooks complete; those however of Grant and
Murray, Curtoys and Symons, give us the story of the work carried out by
those energetic seamen. They are writings worthy of being more widely
known, for they are records left by men who sailed uncharted seas along
unknown coasts in days which will not come again--men who have helped to
give to later generations a spacious continent with a limitless horizon.
THE LADY NELSON BUILT WITH CENTREBOARDS.
HER VOYAGE TO SYDNEY UNDER JAMES GRANT.
THE FIRST SHIP TO PASS THROUGH BASS STRAIT.
RETURNS TO EXPLORE THE STRAIT.
HER VISITS TO JERVIS BAY AND TO WESTERN PORT IN 1801.
COLONEL PATERSON AND LIEUTENANT GRANT SURVEY HUNTER RIVER.
MURRAY APPOINTED COMMANDER OF THE LADY NELSON.
HIS VOYAGE TO NORFOLK ISLAND.
MURRAY'S EXPLORATION OF BASS STRAIT.
DISCOVERY OF PORT PHILLIP.
THE LADY NELSON IN COMPANY WITH H.M.S. INVESTIGATOR EXAMINES THE
NORTH-EASTERN SHORES OF AUSTRALIA.
THE FRENCH SHIPS IN BASS STRAIT.
THE FOUNDING OF HOBART.
SYMONS SUCCEEDS CURTOYS AS COMMANDER OF THE LADY NELSON.
HIS VOYAGES TO PORT PHILLIP, TASMANIA AND NEW ZEALAND.
THE LADY NELSON IN TASMANIA.
THE FOUNDING OF PORT DALRYMPLE.
THE ESTRAMINA IS BROUGHT TO SYDNEY.
THE LADY NELSON VISITS NORFOLK ISLAND AND PORT DALRYMPLE.
TIPPAHEE AND HIS FOUR SONS ARE CONVEYED TO NEW ZEALAND IN THE LADY
THE LADY NELSON ACCOMPANIES H.M.S. TAMAR TO MELVILLE ISLAND.
THE LOSS OF THE LADY NELSON.
1. THE LADY NELSON. From a painting in the possession of the Victorian
2. LIEUTENANT JAMES GRANT'S CHART OF THE AUSTRALIAN COAST.
[Jas Grant autograph facsimile.]
3. EYE-SKETCH OF THE LADY NELSON'S TRACK ON HER FIRST VOYAGE THROUGH BASS
STRAIT. Drawn by Governor King. Writing of this chart, he says that the
longitude in which Lieutenant Grant placed Cape Otway was about a degree
and a half in error. He also made the land to trend away on the west side
of Cape Otway to a deep bay, which he named Portland Bay. An examination
of modern maps will show that the name Portland Bay has been retained for
a bay to the westward of Grant's Portland Bay, which is now called
Chart of the track of His Majesty's Armoured Surveying Vessel Lady Nelson
Lieutenant James Grant Commander. From Bass's Straits between New Holland
and Van Diemen's Land on her passage from England to Port Jackson. By
Order of His Grace The Duke of Portland. In December 1800.
4. CHART OF WESTERN PORT SURVEYED BY ENSIGN BARRALLIER IN 1801.
5. CHART OF BASS STRAIT SHOWING THE DISCOVERIES MADE BETWEEN SEPTEMBER
1800 AND MARCH 1802. Drawn by Ensign Barrallier, New South Wales Corps,
under the direction of Captain P.G. King, Governor of New South Wales."
This chart is generally referred to as "Barrallier's Combined Chart."
King doubtless alludes to it when writing to the Duke of Portland in May
1802. See Historical Records of New South Wales volume 4 page 761.)
(CHART OF KING'S ISLAND IN BASS'S STRAIT. This earliest chart of King
Island was drawn by Alexander Dalrymple from a sketch made by Flinders of
Murray's original chart. Flinders added to it the west coast unseen by
Murray, though it had been sighted by both Black and Buyers. The details
given by Flinders were supplied by William Campbell, master of the
Harrington, who, in March 1802, found a quantity of wreckage there.
Nothing remained to show the name of the lost vessel, nor was any clue
subsequently discovered by which she could be identified. The Harrington
lay at anchor at New Year's Isles for over two months, but could not
trace the nationality of the vessel or her crew except in the language of
the Harrington's captain, "one dead English cat." See Historical Records
of New South Wales volume 4 page 780.)
6. THE LADY NELSON AND THE FRANCIS SCHOONER ENTERING HUNTER RIVER.
7. COAL HARBOUR (NEWCASTLE, NEW SOUTH WALES), SURVEYED BY ENSIGN
BARRALLIER IN 1801.
Coal Harbour and Rivers on the Coast of New South Wales. Surveyed by
Ensign Barrallier, in His Majesty's Armed Surveying Vessel Lady Nelson:
Lieutenant James Grant Commander. In June and July 1801, by Order of
High Water Full and Change in the Harbour 9 hours 45 minutes. Rises 6
Remarks on Hunter's River: The entrance of Hunter's River is in latitude
32 degrees 57 minutes south, distinguishable by an Island on the
south-east side of its entrance which in coming from the northward
appears like a castle, being perpendicular on the south-east side and 203
feet high: the north side is steep and covered with grass. It is the
northernmost high land from Sydney to the Heads of Port Stephens from
which it lies north-east 6 leagues. The intermediate space being a sandy
beach. The tides both in the harbour and entrance runs very strong, and
in some places not less than four miles an hour and sometimes from four
to five. The ebb in general is much stronger than the flood: 9 3/4 hours
in the harbour makes high water full and change, and rises six feet
perpendicular where the Lady Nelson anchored, and four feet when she was
higher up the river. In the harbour there is good shelter from all winds
and plenty of room for more than 100 sail of shipping. There is plenty of
water to be had on the north shore by digging a very little way down.
There are three wells already dug, and the water is very good. On the
south shore there are plenty of runs of fresh water.
For further information refer to Colonel Paterson and Lieutenant Grant's
8. ROUTE OF H.M.A.S. VESSEL LADY NELSON ALONG THE COAST OF NEW SOUTH
WALES ON A VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY IN 1801, undertaken by Command of His
Excellency Governor King. By Jno. Murray Acting Lieutenant and Commander.
Note the Coast is according to Captain Cook. Jarvis Bay was visited by ye
Lady Nelson in March 1801. Twofold Bay is from Bass's track in the Whale
9. KENT'S GROUP. By John Murray.
10. KING ISLAND FROM JOHN MURRAY'S CHART.
11. CHART OF PORT PHILLIP SHOWING THE TRACK OF THE LADY NELSON'S BOAT IN
In this chart by Murray, sent to the Admiralty from Sydney by Governor
King in 1802, few names appear, although Murray named Point Palmer, Point
Paterson, and Point Nepean, and the fact that it bears the date January
1802 seems further evidence that it is the first chart of Port Philip
drawn by its discoverer. It is one of those referred to as "unfortunately
missing" in the Historical Records of New South Wales volume 4 page 764.
12. CHART OF BASS STRAIT, INCLUDING THE DISCOVERIES OF ACTING-LIEUTENANT
JOHN MURRAY IN THE LADY NELSON, between November 1801 AND march 1802. By
command of His Excellency Governor King. This chart, which bears Murray's
autograph, shows his explorations of Western Port, Port Philip, and King
Island. It should be noted that Flinders' Island is named Grand Capuchin.
This is one of the charts referred to as "unfortunately missing" in the
Historical Records of New South Wales volume 4 page 764.
13. TRACK OF THE LADY NELSON IN COMPANY WITH H.M.S. INVESTIGATOR ON A
VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY along the coast of New South Wales. By John Murray.
This chart also bears Murray's signature, as well as the outward and
return track of his ship.
14. CONTINUATION OF THE TRACK OF THE LADY NELSON IN JULY 1802.
15. SKETCH OF PORT NUMBER 1 (PORT CURTIS), FACEING ISLAND AND KEPPEL BAY.
By John Murray, made on board H.M. armed surveying vessel Lady Nelson.
16. THE TRACK OF THE LADY NELSON TO PORT NUMBER 2. (PORT BOWEN). By John
This chart and the one in Illustration 15 differ in delineation from the
rest of Murray's charts of his voyage northwards, and are beautifully
drawn and coloured. Probably they were the work of Westall, the artist
with Flinders, Murray merely adding to them his homeward track.
[Facsimile signature Jno Murray]
17. THE LADY NELSON'S ANCHORAGE AT HUNTER RIVER.
18. APPENDIX. H.M.S. BUFFALO, SHIP'S MUSTER.
THE LOGBOOKS OF THE LADY NELSON.
THE FIRST VOYAGE OF THE LADY NELSON.
The logbooks of the Lady Nelson bear witness to the leading part played
by one small British ship in the discovery of a great continent. They
show how closely, from the date of her first coming to Sydney in 1800
until her capture by pirates off the island of Baba in 1825, this little
brig was identified with the colonisation and development of Australia.
In entering upon her eventful colonial career, "the Lady Nelson did that
which alone ought to immortalize her name--she was the first ship that
ever sailed parallel to the entire southern coast line of Australia."* (*
Early History of Victoria by F.P. Labilliere.) She was also the first
vessel to sail through Bass Strait. But discovery cannot claim her solely
for itself. While she was stationed at Sydney there was scarcely a
dependency of the mother colony that was not more or less indebted to
her, either for proclaiming it a British possession, or for bringing it
settlers and food, or for providing it with means of defence against the
attacks of natives.
In the early history of Victoria the Lady Nelson occupies a niche
somewhat similar to that which the Endeavour fills in the annals of New
South Wales, but while Cook and the Endeavour discovered the east coast
and then left it, the Lady Nelson, after charting the bare coast-line of
Victoria, returned again and again to explore its inlets and to penetrate
its rivers, her boats discovering the spacious harbour at the head of
which Melbourne now stands.
The Lady Nelson also went northward as well as southward, and though many
of her logbooks are missing, some survive, and one describes how, in
company with the Investigator under Captain Flinders, she examined the
Queensland shore as far as the Cumberland Islands. Later she accompanied
the Mermaid, under Captain King, to Port Macquarie when he followed
Flinders' track through Torres Strait, and during her long period of
service she visited different parts of the coast, including Moreton Bay,
Port Essington, and Melville Island. Precisely how many voyages she made
as a pioneer will probably never be known. The ship, at least, played
many parts: now acting as King's messenger and carrying despatches from
the Governor to Norfolk Island; now fetching grain grown at the
Hawkesbury, or coals from Newcastle for the use of the increasing
population at Sydney; and at another time carrying troops and settlers to
the far distant north. She made other memorable voyages; for example,
when she conveyed bricks burnt in Sydney brick kilns to Tasmania and to
New Zealand, in order to build homes for the first white settlers in
those lands. She helped also to establish Lieutenant Bowen's colony at
Risdon. On that occasion we read that the little ship lent the colony a
bell and half a barrel of gunpowder. The logbooks do not record to what
use the bell was put, but whether it served as a timekeeper or to call
the people to worship, it was doubtless highly valued by the early
At the time of her sailing to Australia the Lady Nelson was a new ship of
60 tons. She was built at Deptford in 1799, and differed from other
exploring vessels in having a centre-board keel. This was the invention
of Captain John Schanck, R.N., who believed that ships so constructed
"would sail faster, steer easier, tack and wear quicker and in less
room." He had submitted his design to the Admiralty in 1783, and so well
was it thought of that two similar boats had been built for the Navy, one
with a centre-board and one without, in order that a trial might be made.
The result was so successful that, besides the Cynthia sloop and Trial
revenue cutter, other vessels were constructed on the new plan, among
them the Lady Nelson. She was chosen for exploration because her three
sliding centre-boards enabled her draught to be lessened in shallow
waters, for when her sliding keels were up she drew no more than six
In 1799 the news reached London that the French were fitting out an
expedition to survey unknown portions of Australia; the Admiralty were
quickly stirred to renewed activity, and decided to send the Lady Nelson
to Sydney. At first it was believed that Captain Flinders would be placed
in charge of her, but he was eventually given a more important command,
and Lieutenant James Grant was appointed to the Lady Nelson. She was
hauled out of Deadman's Dock into the river on January 13th, 1800, with
her full complement of men and stores on board. She carried provisions
for 15 men for a period of nine months, and enough water for three
months. Her armament consisted of only two brass carriage-guns.
On January 16th she sailed to Gravesend. So small did she look as she
made her way down the Thames that the sailors on board the ships in the
river ridiculed her appearance and ironically christened her "His
Majesty's Tinderbox." Grant says that many expressed a doubt that she
would ever make her port of destination.
A heavy gale was blowing when she reached the Downs, but from the first
she proved herself a good sea-boat, and it was found that lowering the
keels greatly steadied her. Grant now had a good opportunity for testing
her capabilities. A large convoy ready to sail for the West Indies lay at
anchor here, and on the evening of the 23rd, as the fury of the wind
increased, many signals of distress were seen flying in the offing.
Finding the Lady Nelson drag very much, her commander let go another
anchor, with the result that she rode out through the gale with ease,
although next morning six vessels were ashore dismasted, while two others
had lost both their masts and bowsprits. He then decided to take shelter
in Ramsgate, where he remained until the 7th, when he sailed to Spithead
and thence to Portsmouth. Here four more guns were placed on board and
some oak planking, which caused the brig to lie deeper in the water, so
that Grant writes "there were then only 2 feet 9 inches clear abreast the
gangway." He believed, however, that the consumption of coal and
provisions would soon bring her to a proper degree of buoyancy.
During her stay at Portsmouth the Lady Nelson lost two men, one through
illness, the other by desertion. On March 15th, when she was quite ready
for sea, Captain Schanck and Mr. Bayley* (* W. Bayley, formerly
astronomer on board the Adventure.) paid her a visit. Orders had been
given for her to leave port in company with H.M.S. Anson, Captain Durham,
who (as the Powers were at war) was to convoy a fleet of East Indiamen,
then on point of sailing, and with whom was H.M.S. Porpoise, bound to New
South Wales. The wind being fair, on the night of March 16th, 1800, the
signal for sailing was given by the Commodore. While all hands were
busily engaged getting up the kedge, the carpenter made his escape in the
darkness. Anxious to avoid further delay, and somewhat consoled by the
thought that the vessel was new and that he had already tested and found
out her good qualities, Lieutenant Grant decided to put up with the loss
of the man's services.
At 6 P.M. on the 18th the ship finally bade adieu to England. At first
she was scarcely able to keep pace with the big ships which bore her
company, and very soon the Commodore despatched an officer to her
commander to suggest that he should go into Falmouth and await there the
departure of the West India Fleet. But, as the final decision was left
with Lieutenant Grant, he preferred to go on, believing that he could
keep pace with the convoy. During the afternoon of the 19th a namesake of
his, Captain James Grant of the Brunswick, East Indiaman, hailed him and
informed him that he had orders to take the Lady Nelson in tow. The
commander of the brig did not at all relish this news, but dreading
further detention as he was in the track of the enemy, he took the
proffered hawser on board. The brig towed well as long as the sea was
smooth, and at first no discomfort was felt. Then a continued spell of
bad weather ensued, and a driving rain, which found its way under the
covering boards and along the gunwale of the ship, caused great
unpleasantness. Worse was to follow, for it began to blow very hard, and
the Brunswick set off at high speed, dragging the little brig mercilessly
through the heavy seas which almost enveloped her. The sight evoked much
amusement among the passengers on board the big Indiaman, who frequently
visited the stern galley to watch the waves wash completely over the Lady
On the 23rd of March an unusually heavy sea strained the brig to such a
degree that Grant ordered the hawser to be let go, and bade the Brunswick
farewell. It was imagined by those on board the larger vessel that the
Lady Nelson, deeming it impossible to proceed, had turned back to
Portsmouth. Grant, however, had determined to continue his voyage alone.
He lost sight of the fleet during the night, and next day, in latitude 43
degrees 55 minutes north and longitude 14 degrees 17 minutes west, the
weather being fine and clear, he ordered the saturated bedding to be
brought up from below and placed on deck to dry. This practice was
continued throughout the voyage, and to it, and to the care taken to
prevent the men sleeping in wet clothes, Grant attributed the healthy
state of the crew on reaching Sydney. When the sea moderated it was also
possible to stop the leaks on deck.
On the 25th a strange sail was sighted, and from the masthead a large
fleet was soon afterwards made out bearing north-north-east. One ship
detached itself from the rest and gave chase to the Lady Nelson, gaining
fast upon her. She was perceived to be an English frigate. At 6 P.M. she
fired a shot which compelled Lieutenant Grant to shorten sail and to show
his colours. As a second shot was fired it was clear that the frigate
still mistook him for one of the enemy, so he wore and stood towards her,
when she proved to be H.M.S. Hussar, acting as convoy to the West India
Fleet. Her commander informed Grant that he had mistaken the Lady Nelson
for a Spaniard, and expressed his regret for having given so much
trouble, and after the usual compliments they parted. Grant adds that he
did not learn the name of the courteous commander,* (* It was Viscount
Garlies.) but again at daylight the Lady Nelson came on part of his
convoy, which, not knowing who she was, crowded sail to get out of her
way, "with," says Grant, "one exception, this being the ----, which, much
to his credit, hove to and fired a shot almost plump on board of us.
Another vessel, the Hope of Liverpool, I could hardly keep clear of, for
the more I attempted to avoid him the more he attempted to get near me,
so much so that we were near running on board each other." The Hope's
captain asked Grant very peremptorily who he was and where he came from,
to which Grant replied by hoisting his colours and pendant; but even this
did not satisfy the irate merchant skipper, who appeared to have had very
decided intentions of running down the Lady Nelson. Eventually, however,
he rejoined the convoy, which stood to the westward under close-reefed
On the 1st of April the Lady Nelson fell in with another heavy gale which
raged till the 3rd, and finding that his ship was drifting south of
Madeira, Grant shaped a course for Las Palmas.
On the 8th he crossed the Tropic of Cancer.
On Sunday the 13th he came to an anchor in Port Praya, St. Iago, where
the Governor received him with much politeness and gave him permission to
replenish his ship. While in this port Grant discovered that the second
mate had sown seeds of discontent among his crew, so he promptly handed
him over to the Governor to be sent back to England. Two boys, however,
deserted and ran off with a boat. Several parties were sent out in search
of them by the Governor, and the two deserters were eventually caught and
brought home by the natives--both riding on one ass. The sight of the
bluejackets in such a predicament vastly amused the Portuguese seamen in
port, who ridiculed them to such an extent that Grant did not think it
necessary to punish them further. Grant describes the natives of Port
Praya as resembling negroes, and remarks that the females seemed to spend
their time in spinning cotton from a distaff with a spindle. The ship's
keels were examined here and one found to be broken, but the repairs,
owing to the assistance given by the Governor, were finished in two days.
Having taken in a sufficient supply of water, the Lady Nelson left St.
Iago on April 27th. The Governor, who seems to have been most polite and
obliging to everybody, permitted two Portuguese sailors to be entered on
her muster-roll, which brought her crew up to twelve. Soon after leaving
port, one of the seamen became ill, and as his temperature rose very high
the commander gave orders for him to be immediately isolated, though he
was fortunately cured in four days. The food served to the men then
underwent some alteration. It was thought that oatmeal was too heating in
the humid weather of the tropics, and tea was substituted for it at
breakfast, wine supplemented with spruce beer being issued instead of
spirits. Not one man fell sick afterwards.
As the ship neared the Equator various cross-currents were frequently met
with, and "heavy squalls with rain" and a very disagreeable sea arose,
the result of a sudden change of wind from north-north-east to south-west
and south-south-west. The Lady Nelson pitched and rolled considerably,
and nearly every one on board was sea-sick. On the 6th it fell calm
At 6 A.M. on the 9th a schooner was sighted, and shortly afterward a
brig, which stood towards the ship. Believing that the latter was an
enemy, Grant was glad when a storm hid her from view. On the 10th,
however, a glimpse of the brig was again caught, and on the 13th two more
sail were descried standing to the westward, but they finally
disappeared. The Lady Nelson was now surrounded by flying-fish and
tropical birds in great numbers, the latter being of the species
mentioned by Captain Cook as seen by him when he traversed this route.
On May 16th a long, heavy swell was experienced with light airs, and the
sea took a luminous appearance. A spell of bad weather followed, ending
on the 23rd, when, the day being fine, the boats were lowered and the
keels overhauled and repaired, and it was then found that a new piece of
wood which had been put on the after keel at Port Praya was missing. Not
having sufficient timber on board to repair it as before, the keel was
let farther down in the well and a breadth of planking was joined to it
with iron hooping and nails, with the result that it extended three feet
below the vessel.
On the 28th, when nearing Rio de Janeiro, an inspection was made of the
bread and water, and as the latter was found to be in good condition
Grant decided not to enter the port. Some of the bread was a little
damaged by leakage into the bread room, but a more water-tight place for
storing it was soon found. About the same date birds were again observed,
particularly the hoglet: the men caught many of these and made caps of
their skins. Mother Cary's chickens* (* Procellaria pelagica Linn.) were
also met with in great numbers. Gales and calms now alternated until June
11th, when there were frequent squalls, the wind finally blowing with
such violence that at 3 P.M. it was thought advisable to heave to. Later
the storm abated, and the vessel was able to make good progress until the
18th. A curious sea followed the ship on this day, the waves rising
perpendicularly, so that the commander conjectured that there was ground
at no great depth. He put the deep-sea lead over, but no soundings could
On the 23rd at 3 P.M. a vessel was seen bearing down before the wind
towards the Lady Nelson. The stranger proved to be a Spanish brig
carrying prize colours. She had been captured in the River Plate by a
privateer which had been fitted out by a merchant at the Cape of Good
Hope, and was commanded by Mr. John Black. She was then on her way to the
Cape of Good Hope. On coming within hail her master informed the Lady
Nelson's commander that he had neither book nor chart on board, and
wished to know where he was; he also begged some twine and canvas to
repair his sails. The prize was of about 70 tons burthen and was loaded
with beeswax, hides, tallow, and tobacco. She was without a boat, as it
had been washed overboard, so Lieutenant Grant shortened sail and desired
her captain to keep near him and gave him the latitude and longitude. On
the following day the Lady Nelson lowered a boat and brought the prize
master on board, to whom Lieutenant Grant gave a chart of the Cape and
several other necessaries. He asked Mr. Black why he had so boldly
approached the Lady Nelson, since his ship was painted like a Spaniard,
and so might well have been taken for one. Black's answer was that he
knew from her canvas that the Lady Nelson was not an enemy. When he was
shown over her he expressed his astonishment at her centre-boards, and
her construction was therefore explained to him. But evidently he was not
favourably impressed, for when he was being escorted back to his ship he
asked one of her sailors if his commander was not mad, for he could not
believe that such a small ship as the Lady Nelson could ever accomplish a
voyage of discovery.
The vessels continued to sail in company towards the Cape of Good Hope.
At 5 A.M. on the 7th land was seen from the Lady Nelson, the information
being signalled to her companion. Soon after daylight the Lion's Rump was
perceived south-east by east 1/2 east, distant five leagues. A little
later the ships parted company. Lieutenant Grant had intended to anchor
in Simon's Bay, but having discovered that the Lady Nelson had lost both
her main and after keels during the voyage, he sailed to Table Bay. On
his arrival there Admiral Sir Roger Curtis, who was in command of the
station, gave orders for two new keels to be built immediately, and it is
recorded that so well did Mr. Boswell, the builder's assistant (the
builder himself being absent) perform his task that the new keels
reflected the greatest credit on him.
On the 16th, her repairs being completed, the Lady Nelson sailed for
Simon's Bay and anchored there at 9 A.M. on the following day. Here was
found H.M.S. Porpoise, also bound to New South Wales, which left the bay
for Sydney in advance of the Lady Nelson. During his stay Lieutenant
Grant met a relative, Dr. J. R. Grant, with whom he made several
excursions into the interior of the colony.
While the Lady Nelson was at the Cape of Good Hope a ship named the
Wellesley arrived from England with despatches from the Admiralty. She
had narrowly escaped capture by a French man-of-war which gave chase to
her after she had parted from her convoy, but fortunately she had been
able to beat off the enemy and to effect her escape. The instructions
brought to Grant from the Duke of Portland directed him to sail to Sydney
through Bass Strait instead of sailing round the South Cape of Van
Diemen's Land (as Tasmania was then called).*
(* The following extract is from the letter from the Duke of Portland to
"WHITEHALL, 8th April, 1800.
"SIR, Having received information from Port Jackson in New South Wales
that a navigable strait has been discovered between that country and Van
Diemen's Land in latitude 38 degrees, it is His Majesty's pleasure that
you should sail through the said strait on your way to Port Jackson. I
am, etc., PORTLAND.")
No ship had yet sailed through this strait, which had been discovered
only a little more than a year before by Dr. George Bass. Grant was also
instructed to take particular notice of the Australian coast, and
especially of the headlands visible on either side of the strait. During
his stay at the Cape numerous volunteers offered to accompany him to
Sydney, many from on board the ships in the bay. He says that he declined
them all except a carpenter and an eccentric person named Dr. Brandt, who
might, he thought, be useful as a scientist, and who came on board
accompanied by his baboon and his dog. To oblige Sir Roger Curtis, he
also consented to take a Dane sentenced to transportation.
On the 7th of October the Lady Nelson left the Cape and proceeded on her
voyage to New South Wales. Soon after leaving port bad weather set in and
continued until the 12th, but, on the 14th at noon, when the ship was in
38 degrees 1 minute latitude, the sea moderated and the bedding was again
brought up on deck while the cabins and berths were washed with vinegar.
On the 24th the weather turned extremely cold with snow at times. A heavy
cross sea was running, which gave the little brig another opportunity of
displaying her good qualities. On the 28th at noon she was in 38 degrees
54 minutes south, and towards evening on the following day she
encountered a heavy gale which obliged her commander to heave her to.
Violent gusts with showers of sleet blew continually, and the seas were
so heavy that often in striking the bow they threw the ship so far over
as "to expose her beam." A drag-sail was then used in order to steady
her, and it answered remarkably well. The fore-top-sail yard was also got
on deck and eased the ship wonderfully; fortunately little water was
shipped, as, owing to her small draught and flat bottom, she rose like a
piece of cork on the top of every wave.
On November 1st, in accordance with expectations, the island of Amsterdam
was sighted. The Lady Nelson steered a lonely course along its high,
inaccessible shores, and beyond seeing that it was covered with grass,
those on board could observe little. A flagstaff with a flag flying came
into view, but not a single human being could be seen through the
telescope, although a party of sealers was known to visit the place
frequently. As the ship left the coast a boat's thwart with a piece of
rope wound round it was observed floating in the water, and its presence
caused some curiosity on board. Within the next few days a shoal of
whales known to sailors as the Right whale was sighted, and later in the
month several other whales of various species with two threshers at work
upon one of them were seen.
On the 23rd Vancouver's track was crossed, and then Grant gave orders for
a strict look-out for land to be kept from the masthead by night and day.
Still the Australian coast remained invisible.
On the 29th the sea was so calm that there was not a ripple on its
surface, and nothing worth noting occurred until December 1st, when a
large spermaceti whale passed, and at 3 P.M. a seal. At 5 P.M. another
appeared; this seal swam after the ship for some time, gazing after it in
a curious way and shaking its head as it leapt from the water. On
December 2nd the birds which till then had followed the ship disappeared,
and in the evening a horse-fly settled on the main-sail and showed that
land was near. The same night heavy squalls arose and blew until morning.
At 8 A.M., to the great joy of all on board, land was sighted from the
masthead. It appeared to take the form of four islands, some six or seven
leagues distant. At noon the ship was in 38 degrees 10 minutes south and
longitude by account 142 degrees 30 minutes east, and the following notes
are recorded in the journal of Lieutenant Grant,* as his first impression
of the land of New Holland (Australia). (* The Journals and logbooks are
not printed in extenso. A few passages of minor importance that in no way
affect the general course of the narrative have, for want of space, been
THE LADY NELSON TO PORT JACKSON.
"December 3rd, 1800. At daylight made all possible sail judging myself to
be in latitude of 38 degrees south.* (* (Note in log.) Longitude worked
back 141 degrees 20 minutes east.) At 8 A.M. saw the land from north to
east-north-east appearing like unconnected islands, being four in number,
which on our near approach turned out to be two capes and two high
mountains a considerable way inshore. One of them was very like the Table
Hill at the Cape of Good Hope, the other stands farther into the country.
Both are covered with large trees as is also the land which is low and
flat as far as the eye can reach. I named the first of these mountains
after Captain Schanck and the other Gambier's Mountain. The first cape I
called Northumberland, after His Grace the Duke of Northumberland.
Another smaller, but very conspicuous jut of the land, which we plainly
saw when abreast of Cape Northumberland I named Cape Banks.* (* Grant
named the two points first sighted Cape Northumberland and Cape Banks and
the two mountains behind Mount Gambier and Mount Schanck, names they all
still bear. Grant came in sight of Australia near to the present boundary
of Victoria and South Australia.) When the former Cape bears north-west
by west distant 8 or 9 miles, Schanck's Mountain loses its table form and
appears like a saddle. There does not appear to be a harbour here, but
vessels may find shelter under Cape Northumberland from north and
north-north-west winds. The shore is in general a flat sandy beach, the
sea at present making no breach upon it.
"December 4th. As we stood along the shore steering eastward, the land as
far as we could see bearing south-east. Hauled close up for it. This
forming a conspicuous cape, I named it Bridgewater* after the Duke of
that title. (* This cape has been described since as having "a bald pate
and shoulders besprinkled with white sand." Cape Bridgewater forms with
Cape Northumberland another bend called Discovery Bay where the tides
meet and create a very turbulent sea. The bay receives the waters of the
River Glenelg.) The shore is a sandy beach from where we made the land to
this cape, with bushes and large woods inland. Finding we could not
weather Cape Bridgewater, got four oars on the lee side, which were
employed all night. At daybreak in the morning we weathered the cape when
another cape appeared bearing east by north about 15 or 16 miles distant
forming with Cape Bridgewater a very deep bay and to appearance had
shelter for anchorage. The land appeared beautiful, rising gradually and
covered with wood. Being anxious to examine whether it was safe to
venture in or not, I ordered a boat out and took two hands with me armed.
"After getting inshore about five miles we found there was not any
shelter from southerly winds; the water was very deep and apparently so
all the way in. We plainly saw several fires. At noon it was a matter of
great doubt whether we should not be forced to anchor--the bay being very
deep we could hardly clear it even with a steady breeze. Our latitude was
38 degrees 20 minutes south. Cape Bridgewater then bearing north-west by
west 12 or 13 miles. I called the other Cape, Nelson, after the vessel.
"December 5th. Saw several fires. This is a very deep bay and with
southerly winds ought carefully to be avoided. Cape Nelson bears from
Cape Bridgewater east-north-east 15 or 16 miles. The country is
beautiful, apparently a good soil, plenty of grass, and fine woods.
Towards evening saw many fires a little way inland. Many seals and
porpoises about to-day. At 5 A.M. saw another cape not unlike the Deadman
in the English Channel: it runs a considerable way into the sea. When to
the west it appears like a long barn arched on the top with a high bluff
and next the sea resembling the gable end of a house. I named the land
Sir William Grant's Cape.* (* Lieutenant Grant also called this cape,
Cape Solicitor. This name did not survive--the cape being known as Cape
Sir W. Grant.) Off this Cape are two small islands (the largest appears
like two) having two hummocks joined together by a neck of low land which
is not seen till pretty close. On approaching, the smaller island is
seen--a little nearer the shore. These I called Lawrence's Islands after
Captain Lawrence, one of the Elder Brethren of Trinity House. As they
will be an excellent mark for making this part...and Cape Northumberland,
and being very remarkable, navigators will know where they are as they
draw abreast of them, the largest being to the Southwards. Its outer end
appears like a square-topt tower, very high, with a white spot in the
middle of it. The other end is also very high. Lawrence's Islands bear
from Cape Sir William Grant south-east or south-east by south 12 miles
distant and there appears no danger between them and the shore. The cape
now loses its long form as the vessel gets to the eastward and its
particular shape changes to a high bluff point, steep and inaccessible.
Many fires were seen about this cape. The land from it runs to the
northward as far as the eye can reach or discern from the masthead.
"December 6th. At three made a considerable large island high and
inaccessible on all sides. It was covered with grass, but no trees. This
island bears east-south-east from Cape Sir William Grant. By a good
observation at noon following I made its latitude to be 38 degrees 29
minutes south longitude...I made 144 degrees 40 minutes east. I named
this island Lady Julia's Island in honour of Lady Julia Percy. Observed
we ran faster along the land than our distance by log gave us, probably
owing to drift from the East.
"December 7th. At daylight we saw the land making a cape ahead; hauled up
to clear it. This cape is due east-south-east with a moderate offing from
Cape Sir William Grant, distant by log 70 miles. It is the eastern
promontory of this deep and extensive bay. I named it Cape Albany Otway
(now Cape Otway) in honour of William Albany Otway, Esquire, Captain in
the Royal Navy and one of the commissioners of the Transport Board.* (*
Governor King says that Lieutenant Grant placed the longitude of Cape
Otway in about "a degree and a half in error": he also made the land to
trend away on the west side of Cape Otway to a bay in 38 degrees south
latitude which he named Portland Bay.) Another very high and considerable
cape I called Patton's Cape. I also distinguished the bay by the name of
Portland Bay in honour of His Grace the Duke of Portland. The land is
here truly picturesque and beautiful, resembling very much that about
Mount Edgcumbe, near Plymouth, which faces the Sound. It abounds in wood,
very thick groves and large trees. It is moderately high, but not
mountainous. We did not see any fires on it, probably from the shore
being inaccessible and much surf breaking on it. From Cape Albany Otway
east-north-east 10 or 12 miles is another point of land which appears as
a vessel rounds the former cape to the east. It is rather high land with
a clump of trees--as if regularly planted on its brow. Thinking we could
find an anchorage, I bore in pretty close, but as we approached I found
several heavy breakers at least 6 miles from the shore, but not a rock to
be seen. I therefore hauled and named the point of land Point Danger. In
getting to the eastward I could not find any shelter nor any place where
there was a likelihood of anchoring but from the number of little juts
and low points of land further to the north and east I was determined to
try if any such place could be got.
"I never saw a finer country, the valleys appeared to have plenty of
fresh water meandering through them. At 11 A.M. I ordered the boats out
manned and armed, and went in search of a place to land or anchor in. We
got within a cable's length and a half of the beach, but finding the surf
breaking heavy I deemed it not prudent to attempt a landing. The shore
was a sandy beach with small rocks interspersed here and there. In trying
for soundings with a lead line none could be found, so that I really
think the beach is steep also. I was very disappointed in being so near
and obliged to return on board without setting foot on this beautiful
spot. It resembles the Isle of Wight as near as possible from the water.
I called this part of the coast (which falls into the bottom of a small
bay from Cape Danger to the very low land), Wight's Land in honour of
Captain Wight, R.N., son-in-law to Commissioner Schanck.
"December 8th. At one made sail to the eastward. At 8 P.M. Cape Albany
Otway bearing west 18 or 20 miles we made a very high and lofty cape
covered with trees to the water's edge as is all the country round it.
From this cape the land breaks short round to the northward when I lost
it. We had now a fair wind and might have done a great deal during the
night but I had my doubts whether this land which fell off to the
northward should not have been followed and kept on board, as from a
small chart given to me by Sir Joseph Banks I found that, as far as the
coast had been surveyed the land trained off to the northward in the same
form nearly as it did here from Cape Patton--with this difference that
the cape I allude to on the chart had several islands lying off it.
Neither did the latitude exactly correspond and the land which it laid
down running to the northward was low and bushy, whereas that which I saw
was high with large forests of trees and no islands near it. I therefore
chose the middle road. Made sail and ran 60 miles eastward judging if it
was a bay I should see the eastern extremity of it. At daylight, however,
we could see nothing anywhere from the masthead, but the looming of the
land we had left behind. We now bore up and ran north by west and at six
we saw the land again ahead forming a very deep bay, which I could not
see the bottom of from the masthead.* (* (Note in log.) Had Grant
penetrated this bay he would have made a great discovery for he would
have found Port Phillip. However, from the evidence contained in his
chart he named the indentation in the coast Governor King's Bay. In
Grant's narrative appears the following note by Governor King. "If such a
deep bay as this actually exists it favours the idea of New South Wales
being insulated by a Mediterranean sea. However, this the Lady Nelson
must determine in the voyage she is now gone upon. P.G.K.") At eight the
land was observed bearing from us east-south-east extending farther to
the southward than I could see. Being now certain of our route I hauled
up east-south-east and named this bay after Governor King. It is one of
the longest we have yet met with. Cape Albany Otway forms the westernmost
and the South Cape the easternmost headlands, the distance of about 120
miles due east-south-east.
"December 9th. At 4 P.M. saw several islands bearing east-south-east. The
mainland seemed to have an opening in it to the northward of them, which
we stood in for, but I found it was another bay with low land. I named
the northernmost cape after my friend, John Liptrap, Esquire, of London.
The mainland now extended a considerable way to the southward with
several islands off the cape. Judging this was the point of land we
looked for, from the colour of the water, we sounded and had 50 fathoms
with fine sand. South Cape distant 9 or 10 miles. The land abreast of the
ship appearing to be at no great distance, and it being quite calm I got
the boats out and sent the launch ahead to tow.
"Thinking I should have the pleasure of setting my foot in this fine
country, I set off in the gig with two hands ordering the vessel to tow
in after me and should a breeze spring up to get the launch in and stand
after me for the bay. We pulled inshore for some islands lying off from
the main at the western side of the South Cape. Making for the largest of
them, which appeared to be the most fertile, on it I meant to have sown
some seeds which I took with me should I be able to land. The distance I
could not have believed was so great as it proved to be--at least 12
miles from where we quitted the vessel, which we lost sight of before
getting near the shore. Although we had not a breath of wind we found it
impossible to land on this side, the shore being very steep and a heavy
surf running on it. Therefore as the ship was not in sight, and as it was
2 P.M., I judged it prudent to get back as soon as possible, which we
effected at 4 P.M.
"In the morning it was calm with hot sultry weather. At noon I had a good
observation in latitude 39 degrees 30 minutes south. The south part of
the main or South Cape bearing north-west by north distant 20 miles and
the longitude 147 degrees 18 minutes from a good lunar observation taken
on the 8th instant. All round the western side and even thus far south of
the cape there are soundings of fifty fathoms, 45 and 40 white sand and
shells. I called that space between Cape Liptrap and the South Cape, King
I have no doubt but that there is good anchorage in the bight to the
northward of South Cape on the western side of which Cape Liptrap makes
the northern head. The land here is high and the mountains covered with
wood. Cape Liptrap is low and flat as is the land in this Bight where I
suppose there is shelter. There is an island bearing from the western
part of the South Cape--south, a little easterly, 12 miles from the
shore. It is round and inaccessible on all sides. The above mentioned
island I called Rodondo from its resemblance to that rock well-known to
all seamen in the West Indies. A set of breakers to the southward and
eastward of that rock, on which, though calm, the sea breaks much, bears
from us north-north-west 1/2 west distant 6 miles.
To the eastward there are five islands, the largest of which from its
resemblance to the Lion's Mount at the Cape of Good Hope I called Sir
Roger Curtis's Island, who then commanded on that Station. It is high and
inaccessible on the north-west side and covered with small bushes at the
top. Two other islands like haycocks, only higher and more perpendicular,
standing a considerable distance from each other, the largest of which
bore us south-east 1/4 south distant 16 or 17 miles and the other
south-east by east about 10 miles. The latter is nearly shut in with the
south-east end of Sir Roger Curtis's Island. The fourth is a rock
standing a considerable height out of the water nearly in a position
between the two haycocks or rather sugarloaf-like islands bearing from
south-east 1/4 south. The fifth is a high perpendicular barren cliff
which, as we get almost abreast, looked like two islands joined together
at the bottom, rising to a sharp edge ragged at the top and resembling a
large tower or castle. This island I named The Devil's Tower. An island
inshore was observed, it bore west-north-west distant 10 miles: I called
it Moncur's Island in compliment to Captain Moncur of the Royal Navy, and
another was visible bearing north by east 16 or 17 miles.
Land, apparently an island to the southward and eastward we can just see
from the masthead. It may be necessary to observe that these bearings
were taken at noon, and as it was then a stark calm the vessel was nearly
stationary. By a good observation the latitude was 39 degrees 30 minutes,
longitude 147 degrees 18 minutes east, calculated from lunar observation
2 days before. But I take it to be correctly 147 degrees east from my
making the Ramhead according to the best charts, therefore the bearings
are laid down in my chart from 147 degrees east.
"Wilson's Promontory was so named by Mr. George Bass of H.M.S. Reliance
who was the first navigator that ascertained the real existence of a
strait separating Van Dieman's Land from New Holland in his voyage in a
whale boat from Sydney to Western Port.* (* "Mr. Bass places Wilson's
Promontory in 38 degrees 56 minutes south, Lieutenant Grant in 39 degrees
17 minutes, and Mr. Black in 39 degrees 8 minutes. As Mr. Bass's latitude
is by computation from the whale boat, I think a preference may be given
to Lieutenant Grant's position, as he had the advantage of a good
sextant." P.G.K.) Having made it I set off in one of my boats early in
the morning of the 10th* (* Grant now abandons the plan previously used
of heading each entry in the diary with the date of the day on which it
was written, and includes the dates of the various events in the text of
his narrative.) to endeavour to land on one of the islands lying off it;
but after a long pull found the one I judged from its sloping aspect to
be the easiest for that purpose, a solid rock for a considerable height
with surf too powerful for such a small boat as mine. After several
fruitless attempts I was obliged to abandon the idea, contenting myself
with taking a view of it--and those contiguous. One of them was an
immense rock; on one side perfectly round, with a large hole in the other
in the form of an arch with a breastwork rising high enough above the
level of the sea to preclude the water from getting into it; the hollow
appeared as scooped out by art instead of nature. I gave it the name of
the Hole in the Wall and to the range of islands stretching along the
main--the name of Glennie's Islands after Mr. George Glennie, a
particular friend of Captain Schanck's to whom I was under personal
obligations. On the summit of all these islands there was a thick brush
growing, whereas the land off Cape Liptrap already mentioned exhibited a
fine level country. The day being far spent in this survey I deemed it
best to get on board as the vessel was just visible with her head towards
us and becalmed. On the 12th we had fresh gales and cloudy weather, the
shore we were running along was low and covered with thick brush training
in a north-east direction which Messieurs Flinders and Bass have given
very accurate descriptions of."
Of his coming to Sydney, Grant writes, "Governor King had taken the
precaution of leaving a letter for me at the Cape, describing the
particular marks for knowing the entrance of the Port, which no doubt
saved us much trouble. They consisted of a flagstaff erected on the South
Head or left hand side of the entrance, and when vessels are seen the
flag is hoisted. This land being high may be seen at a considerable
distance on a clear day. In the afternoon of the 16th saw the flagstaff
as described by Governor King. At six in the evening we entered between
the Heads of Port Jackson. We found much swell in going in but were soon
in smooth water and an excellent harbour, perhaps one of the finest in
the known world. As the wind was from the south and contrary to getting
into Sydney Cove we were obliged to beat up to it, and at half-past seven
in the evening (on Tuesday December 16th) we let go our anchors in 8
fathoms water after a voyage of 71 days from the Cape of Good Hope, and
with the satisfaction of being the first vessel that ever pursued the
same track across that vast ocean, as we have no traces of its being done
particularly from the Island of Amsterdam, namely; between the degrees of
latitude 38 and 39 1/2 degrees south until the Lady Nelson made the coast
of New Holland in latitude 38 degrees and steering to the eastward along
a tract of land nearly four degrees to the westward of any seen by
Messieurs Flinders and Bass."
Following the example of many a first discoverer, he ends the account of
his voyage with an expression of thankfulness to God for the protection
shown him "during the whole passage."
The Lady Nelson's arrival at Sydney gave great satisfaction to the
colony, and Colonel Collins remarks that a few such vessels were much
needed there in order to obtain a necessary knowledge of the coast.
Governor King naturally was most interested in Grant's description of his
passage through Bass Strait, and the news that the Lady Nelson had passed
deep indentations with beautifully wooded shores and rocky islands lying
off them pleased everybody. But King did not conceal his disappointment
that her commander had been unable to land anywhere or to penetrate the
deep bay called Governor King's Bay. The Admiralty had instructed the
Governor to have the whole of the south coast properly charted, and he
determined that Grant should return in the Lady Nelson and thoroughly
survey it. King also made an eye-sketch of the land, for he saw that
Grant's chart was imperfect. For that reason he sent Ensign Barrallier,
of the New South Wales Corps, who was a competent surveyor, in the brig,
and it is, chiefly, to Barrallier we are indebted for our earliest and
most authentic charts of the places which the Lady Nelson visited in the
Grant, however, had to contend with many difficulties in both voyages.
First and foremost he had to face the risk and dangers of an entirely new
coast, and this without a companion ship. King was aware of this for he
wrote to Banks: "It is my intention to despatch the Lady Nelson to
complete the orders she first sailed with. I also hope to spare a vessel
to go with her which will make up for a very great defect which is the
utter impossibility of her ever being able to beat off a lee shore." It
is, therefore, well to remember that although Grant did not enter Port
Phillip he was the first to see the indentation in the coast within which
Port Phillip lay hidden.
Grant had been instructed by the Admiralty to join H.M.S. Supply at
Sydney. On his arrival he found this ship laid up as a hulk and unfit for
sea. He says that he felt completely adrift until Governor King invited
him to continue in his position as commander of the Lady Nelson but, in
the colonial service and on less pay. As there was no one in the colony
then fitted for the post, and as he did not wish the service to suffer
from delay, he accepted the offer. Matters being thus arranged he was
re-appointed to the Lady Nelson, his new commission dating from January
On January 11th Captain Black, from the Cape, arrived in Sydney in the
Harbinger, having followed the Lady Nelson through Bass Strait. On his
way through the strait Black met with an island which he named King
Island in honour of the Governor. Mr. Reid, of the Martha, however, had
first discovered it in 1799.
The Margaret, Captain Buyers, from England, was the third vessel to sail
through Bass Strait, arriving in Sydney on February 7th, 1801. Buyers
fell in with the Australian coast about Cape Bridgewater eastward of
where the Lady Nelson had made it and westward of the point reached by
Governor King allowed Grant the use of Garden Island in Sydney Harbour
for the purpose of raising vegetables for his crew, an article of diet of
importance to them; and here in "the shell of a tolerable house" was
installed Dr. Brandt, who, with his dog and baboon, had joined the Lady
Nelson at the Cape of Good Hope.
The chart (Illustration 2.) is a copy of one published in the narrative
of Grant's voyage, and his autograph has been reproduced from a logbook
at the Record Office. [Jas Grant autograph facsimile.]
THE LADY NELSON RETURNS TO EXPLORE BASS STRAIT: VISITS JERVIS BAY AND
Governor King, in addition to ordering Grant to return and survey the
deep bay which he had passed in Bass Strait between Cape Sir William
Grant and Wilson's Promontory, instructed him to ascertain the correct
latitude of the promontory and of the islands lying off it. He was also
told to survey King Island, then to sail to King George's Sound and, in
returning to Wilson's Promontory, to make a general survey of the whole
of the south coast, going to the head of every inlet as far as possible.
Dr. Bass, when discovering Bass Strait, had rounded the promontory and
entered a harbour which, as Grant has told us, he named from its relative
situation--Western Port. In his journal Grant says that it was reserved
for the Lady Nelson to ascertain accurately the extent of Bass Strait,
but he did not carry out the whole of King's instructions on this second
voyage although his examinations of Jervis Bay and of Western Port proved
of great value and added much to the knowledge of both harbours.
Besides Ensign Barrallier, Mr. Caley, botanist, four soldiers of the New
South Wales Corps and two natives (Euranabie and his wife Worogan) went
with the expedition, and Mr. John Murray joined the ship as first mate*
(* Formerly Master's Mate on board H.M.S. Porpoise.). The Bee, of 15
tons, formerly a ship's launch, was also fitted out to accompany her.
The two ships left Port Jackson on March 8th, Lieutenant Grant
particularly wishing to make the examination of Jervis Bay* (* Jervis
Bay, named in honour of John Jervis, Lord St. Vincent, was discovered by
Lieutenant Richard Bowen in 1791.) on his way southwards in order "to
secure a harbour" if obliged to run out of Bass Strait. The Bee, however,
did not stay long with the Lady Nelson. On the morning of the 9th the
Master hove to and informed Grant that he had shipped much water and that
the sea was too heavy for him. Before sending the vessel back to Port
Jackson Grant wrote a letter to the Governor at Sydney stating the reason
of her return. He placed the letter between two flat pieces of lead, and
running close to the Bee threw it on board. The Lady Nelson then
continued her voyage, and at 4 P.M. on the 10th sighted the north head of
Jervis Bay bearing west-south-west 8 or 9 miles distant. At seven o'clock
on the following morning the first mate was sent in the boat to look for
an anchorage, and returned at nine with one of the natives, bringing the
information that there was good holding ground in the southernmost cove
between an island and the main. At half-past ten the Lady Nelson anchored
in this cove in four fathoms water, fine sandy bottom, having run over a
shallow some four cables' length which was easily distinguished by the
colour of the water. The native who came on board was a middle-aged man,
stout and muscular, who showed no symptoms of fear. It was evident that
he had seen white men before and he often repeated the words "blanket"
Grant tells us that he was much surprised at several articles on board
particularly the compasses in the binnacle. "On my conducting him down
into the cabin and placing him before a looking-glass he expressed wonder
by innumerable gestures, attitudes and grimaces. He narrowly examined it
to see if any one was behind it; and he did not seem satisfied till I
unscrewed it from the place it was fastened to. The sound of a small
bugle horn had a very great effect on him, and he endeavoured, by
applying it to his own mouth, to make it sound, but without effect...This
stranger whom I had placed near the natives of Sydney, sat by them,
without saying a word, for about half an hour, soon after the expiration
of which time, great familiarity took place betwixt them. It appeared
evident to me that...the stranger's attention was directed to the woman,
though like the rest of her countrywomen, she was, according to our
notions, far from being possessed of any beauty: however, not only this
man, but many other natives who visited us at this place, thought her
very handsome; nor was I surprised at this when I saw some of the females
here...It appeared as if they did not readily understand each other...
"Before we got to an anchor several canoes came round us, in one of which
was an old man whose hair had become perfectly white with age, which,
joined to his long white beard, made him a very interesting figure. The
natives appeared to pay the old man great respect and obedience of which
I saw more afterwards...I admitted some of the natives on board but the
old man could not be prevailed on to be of the party. They all testified
much surprise at what they saw."
The natives of Jervis Bay seemed to be stronger and more athletic than
those at Sydney, and in the management of their canoes--they differed
from any Grant had ever seen, "particularly in paddling, sometimes making
use of an oval piece of bark, and at others, of their hands, sending the
canoe along very swiftly by either means. When paddling with the hand
they were apt to throw more or less water into the canoe, which, with a
small calabash, they dexterously threw out by a backward motion of the
other hand without turning their heads." At one end of their canoes he
observed two or three wooden pins which he thought were designed to
steady their fish-gigs or to receive the heads of their spears.
He tells how the sailors clipped their beards: "From observing the
smoothness of our chins, they all expressed a desire to have theirs the
same, which some of my people instantly set about, clipping them close
with scissors. Not seeing any of these people painted, I was desirous of
knowing if they were addicted to it. I accordingly got some red paint
which as soon as one of them saw, he immediately made signs for me to rub
his nose with it. About our settlements they are often seen with their
noses painted with a red gum. They likewise form a circle nearly round
their eyes with a whitish clay. The latter, it is said, is by way of
mourning for the death of a friend...The women also paint their noses
red, and their breasts with a streak of red and white alternately. Having
occasion to leave the deck for a while, one of my young men (who had
contrived to get hold of some of the vessel's paint pots) very
deliberately painted the man (whose nose I had rubbed with red paint)
with different colours from head to foot while he grinned his approbation
at his own motley appearance. His comrades seemed to enjoy it as much as
he did and they quitted the vessel in great glee."
"The Lady Nelson lay abreast of a fine sandy beach suitable for hauling
the seine, and the commander's party, which included Mr. Barrallier and
the Sydney native, went on shore. A number of blacks immediately
surrounded Euranabie and began to converse with him, using many words
that seemed to resemble the Sydney dialect, such as 'Bail,' which Grant
says signified 'No,' and 'Maun' to take off or carry away. These natives,
when the seine was hauled, showed their delight by gathering round and
giving their assistance unsolicited. A few large whiting were caught, and
except three that were kept back for the white party, were distributed
"Shortly afterwards, other natives arrived who also wished to have some
fish, so the nets were cast a second time, and the whole of the catch was
handed to them without division."
Their number was so considerable that it was believed that many more were
concealed in the bushes...They were all perfectly naked except one young
fellow who had a bunch of grass fastened round his waist which came up
behind like the tail of a kangaroo. He was very merry, and from his
gestures, possessed a keen sense of humour. "He would throw himself into
a thousand antic shapes, and afforded no small entertainment."
"Having sent the boat on board with the seine," continues Grant, "I was
anxious to get some kangaroos which, from the appearance of the shore, I
made no doubt were to be found in plenty. I made signs to the natives for
that purpose, and one of them offered his services. We walked towards the
end of the beach we were then on, and entered the woods. We saw several
parrots and smaller birds of beautiful plumage. Mr. Barrallier fired at
one of the latter, which so frightened our guide that he took to his
heels and ran back to his companions."
In this excursion the explorers were impressed by the silent grandeur of
the forest trees: there was no underwood, but there was excellent grass,
from which sprang coveys of quail, or partridges of New Holland.
The trees in general were the tall she-oak so common in the neighbourhood
of Sydney.* (* Casuarina suberosa, commonly known as Beefwood.) Grant
returned to the beach and went on board to dinner. In the afternoon he
again made a party for the shore, consisting of Mr. Barrallier, Mr.
Caley, botanist, and two soldiers. They entered the woods at the same
place as before, intending to make a circuit back to the boat. Again,
beautiful birds were seen, among them, some cockatoos which were
perfectly black "excepting the breast and a few feathers on the wing
which were yellow." They were so shy that no one could get near them.
Other birds were killed--whose flesh, when cooked, was very palatable;
that of the parrot resembled our pigeon in taste--"possibly because they
feed on seeds of wild plants."
According to Grant, "no country in the world abounds with a greater
variety of insects. We saw numbers buzzing about the trees...Having
pursued our walk inland we fell in with a swampy land in a valley with
much brush wood; a rivulet of excellent fresh water ran briskly through
it, emptying itself in the sea near to where I had ordered our boat to
haul the seine. We found the track of the natives and fell in with
several of their gunnies or habitations. These are constructed with a few
boughs stuck up to screen them from the wind; bones of beasts, birds and
fish were lying about them. On the return to the boat, Mr. Barrallier
shot a large hawk. Our fishing-party had caught some fish, and would have
been very successful, but two sharks got into the seine and tore it in
several places: they were both brought on shore, one measuring seven feet
in length. The liver I ordered to be carried on board, to be boiled for
the oil and used in our lamp.
"On the 11th of March, the wind still hanging to the south, I took some
hands on shore to cut a boatload of wood and fill our water
casks...Messieurs Barrallier and Caley, with two soldiers, accompanied me
on another excursion. We took another direction inland...but saw no
kangaroos. We met with two small lagoons and several streams of good
water running through the thickest part of the woods. In this excursion
we saw the Laughing Bird so called from the noise it makes resembling
laughter.* (* The Giant Kingfisher or Kookaburra.)
"On our return to the boat we fell in with a spot of ground which
appeared to have been selected by the natives for the purposes of
festivity. It was a small eminence having no habitation near. We counted
the marks of fifteen different fires that had been employed in cooking
fish and other eatables, the bones of which were strewed about. Among
them we picked up part of a human skull--the os frontis with the sockets
of the eyes and part of the bones of the nose still attached to it. A
little distance from where we found this we discovered a part of the
upper jaw with one of the molars or back teeth in it, also one of the
vertebrae of the back having marks of fire which the others had not.
"The grass was much trodden down, and many of the bones of the animals
eaten appeared fresh...I brought off the human bones and on getting on
board showed them to Euranabie. Finding two of the natives from the shore
in the vessel, I desired him to ask them whether these bones belonged to
a white man or not, and if they had killed and eaten him. I was anxious
to have this cleared up, as the ship Sydney Cove from India to Port
Jackson had been wrecked about twelve months before to the southward and
it was reported that some of the crew were killed by the natives near
this place."* (* The Sydney Cove from Bengal to New South Wales was
wrecked on Preservation Island, Tasmania, on 8th February, 1797. Her
long-boat was equipped and despatched on 27th February to Sydney, but the
boat filled and went to pieces at a spot called Ninety Mile beach. Out of
the crew of seventeen, who started to walk to Port Jackson, only three
lived to reach their destination--some dying of fatigue and hunger, the
others were murdered by the natives.)
Euranabie, who spoke English, made inquiries, and a soldier who
understood the Sydney dialect, also endeavoured to extract the truth
regarding the bones, from the two black fellows, who said that they were
those of a white man that had come in a canoe from the southward where
the ship "tumble down," meaning that it had been wrecked. Lieutenant
Grant also questioned Worogan, and was informed that "the bush natives
(who appeared to be a different tribe of people from those that lived by
the seaside) did eat human flesh."
He now prepared to leave the port. "On the 12th, we got into a clean
berth for getting under weigh, but in the morning the wind being variable
and light we were prevented sailing. I went on shore with Mr. Barrallier
to make a survey of the cove we were lying in. When preparing to return
to the vessel we were joined by several natives who appeared anxious to
go on board with us. Two of these were strangers who signified that they
had come a long way to see us and that they were very hungry. They were
both young, stout men with longer hair than the natives generally.
"In the afternoon...it was needless to attempt sailing till the wind
abated. I therefore proposed to survey...the western side of the island
which lies in the mouth of the harbour and shelters the cove from
easterly winds. This island I named Ann's Island, in compliment to Mrs.
King, the wife of the Governor.
"In putting the surveying instruments into the boat the chain was found
missing; we were of opinion it had been left on shore by the soldiers who
carried it in measuring the distances. A boat with one of them was sent
on shore. After a fruitless search they were returning when a canoe put
off from the island with a man in it who held up the chain in his hand.
The boat's crew brought him on board to me. On looking at the chain it
was made up in the usual way...and tied with a piece of string; but in
undoing it I found that the natives had untwisted every bend of the wires
which contained the brass markers and after taking them off bent the
wires back into their original form, with this difference, that they
placed the end which is carried in the hand in the middle. This was the
first instance I had experienced of their pilfering anything and I did
not chuse to proceed to extremities. I gave the native a blanket and some
biscuits and the mate gave him an old hat.
"We got into the boat to prosecute the intention of surveying the
island...the native with us, towing his canoe astern. On landing we were
joined by a great number of natives who seemed glad that the man had been
rewarded for carrying back the chain. The blanket attracted their notice
much, the use of which they appeared to know. The old man whom I formerly
mentioned was among them; he made signs for me to sit down at a distance
from the rest and by pointing to his white beard signified a wish to have
it cut off, which I immediately did with a pair of scissors, and he
expressed much satisfaction at being rid of it."
Observing some of their women in the distance and wishing to see what
they were like, signs were made to the old man to ask them to come
nearer. He called to them, whereupon they seated themselves close to the
visitors. They seemed nervous as the white men approached them, but when
the old chief spoke to them sat down again composedly. One of them had
fastened to the neck of her child a brass marker which had been taken
from the stolen chain. Grant says: "They examined my buttons and the head
of my dirk and seemed much surprised at my watch chain which I began to
think they had an inclination for, but I was soon relieved on pulling out
my watch. They did not seem to like it and talked very gravely among
themselves; they were all anxious to listen to the noise of the watch,
yet they would pull their ear from it and look at the watch with symptoms
of fear...and then return to it again. I attempted to point out the use
of it and pointed to the sun, but I am led to think that they believed it
to be something we worshipped. The old man particularly pointed to the
sun and appeared anxious to know more of it."
A boy about twelve years of age who was a little deformed, carried a
sharp pointed stick in his hand which was the only weapon of defence seen
but it was soon perceived that they had weapons not far distant. The Lady
Nelson's commander by signs told the chief that he wanted fresh water.
"The old native readily understood and getting up made me follow him to
the side of a hill where some water had settled, but it not appearing to
be from a spring, I expressed my desire to be taken to a rivulet. A
native stept forward, as I supposed, to show me, but on my following him
he turned back and left us. Thinking from the direction we were in that
water was not far distant I took one of my men with me to whom I gave my
fowling-piece to carry...We saw another native a little way before us to
whom I signified what I wanted." As Grant approached, this native, by a
sudden jerk of the foot, raised and caught up in his hand a spear; the
weapon rose within six inches of the Lieutenant's face and caused him to
turn and grasp his gun from his attendant. The native, however, merely
put the spear on his shoulder and walking leisurely towards a cliff stood
looking at the sea. It was not supposed anything hostile was meant but
the action showed that the natives had weapons concealed.
"At 5 A.M. of the 13th, we weighed anchor with light variable airs and
got clear out of the cove by ten, when we found a moderate breeze from
north-east, and we made all possible sail to the southward."
Grant then gives his opinion of Jervis Bay, a place destined to be much
more important in the future of the continent, as it will serve as port
to Canberra, the seat of the Australian Government. "It is worthy of
remark that Jarvis's Bay* (* i.e. Jervis Bay.) or sound is large,
commodious and easy of access, affording shelter from all winds and
having room for upwards of 200 sail of ships with plenty of wood and
water. When this bay comes to be more known, it will be found eligible
for vessels bound to Port Jackson after a long passage from England...and
will be the means of saving many lives."
From Jervis Bay the Lady Nelson continued her voyage southwards and, on
the 19th of March, off Point Hicks, she met with a strange sail which
proved to be the ship Britannia, Captain Turnbull, from England, bound
for the whale fishery. She was going to Sydney to refit, and thus gave
Grant an opportunity to send a letter to Governor King. He wrote as
POINT HICKS, NORTH BY EAST 12 MILES.
"18th March, 1801.
"SIR,--Seeing a vessel to windward, and judging you would wish to hear of
us...I sit down to write you a few lines before she joins us, as I
suppose she is bound to Sydney, and from her situation, I presume she is
one more who has come through the Straits. The Bee, no doubt, has arrived
long ere now. I, on the Tuesday morning after she parted, got safely into
Jarvis's Bay, and sailed early on Friday with the wind at the north-east
which only lasted 30 hours so that we have been nearly 5 days beating in
sight of Cape Howe and could not weather it, the wind being now south but
"During our stay in Jarvis's Bay we were by no means idle, which you will
be convinced of, I hope, when we arrive. The weather I have had these 5
days convinces me that the Bee would have been a very great retard to
us...for the sea here, when it blows hard (owing, I presume, to the
current setting strong against the wind) makes it run confused and break
much...Mr. Barrallier has got nearly well of his seasickness and we have
had the azimuth compass to work, which he now understands thoroughly.
Murray is well, and all my people are comfortable and happy.--I am etc.
On their parting, the Britannia steered to Sydney, while the Lady Nelson
stood to the southward, meeting with a southerly wind and being so
retarded that it was 8 A.M. on the 21st before Wilson's Promontory was
sighted. When close to the rock which he had named Rodondo, Grant
observed the latitude to be south 39 degrees 4 minutes.* (* The latitude
of Wilson's Promontory is 39 degrees 7 minutes 55 seconds and the
longitude 146 degrees 25 minutes east. In the log, Lieutenant Grant gives
the former as 38 degrees 59 minutes and longitude 146 degrees 6 minutes
east.) From Wilson's Promontory, the land sloped to the north-north-west
as far as eye could reach, becoming low and level towards Cape Liptrap
and from Glennie's Islands. The Lady Nelson now followed the coast
towards Western Port. On the way her commander named a point Cape
Paterson in honour of Colonel Paterson of the New South Wales Corps.
He thus describes the manner of his coming to Western Port: "At 4 P.M. of
the 21st we had sight of the island which forms the south head of Western
Port having the likeness of a snapper's head or horseman's helmet. By
eight we were up with it. On opening the entrance of the port I found two
small islands situated about three quarters of a mile from the South Head
with apparently a good passage between them and the island forming the
harbour. From its likeness, as above mentioned, to a snapper's head, I
named it Snapper Island.* (* The Phillip Island of Bass which even at
that time was called Phillip Island, a name it is still known by. Its
eastern extremity resembled the head of a snapper and was known as
Snapper Head. Bass himself had, in discovering the Strait, noticed the
resemblance.) It falls in a high clay bluff down to the water's edge. The
small islands lying off it were covered with seals, numbers of which, on
our approach, precipitated themselves into the sea, covering the passage,
while others remained on the rocks making a very disagreeable noise,
something like the grunting of pigs. They were of a large size, many of
them being nearly equal to a bullock. I judged them to be of that species
of seal called by fishermen sea elephants, accordingly I named these
islands, Seal Islands. I sent a boat ahead to sound...and found between
the Seal Islands and the South Head, 12, 9, 6, 5 and 3 1/2 fathoms of
water which last was shoaled in mid channel. This passage will shorten
the distance when there is a leading wind but standing round to the
westward of Seal Islands there will be found sufficient room for any
number of vessels to beat in. Mr. Bass, when he visited this place in the
whale boat, entered the port by the eastern passage which is much the
smallest, and coasting the western shore, from whence he made his
remarks. It is probable that these islands, lying so close to the western
side of him, did not show themselves to be detached...It had rained
constantly and heavily all night and...we could not see any great
distance from the vessel therefore I kept the lead going as she worked up
At half-past five she was "brought to" opposite to a sandy point which he
named Lady Nelson's Point "as a memorial of the vessel as she was the
first decked one that ever entered this port...Mr. Barrallier went on
shore with the second mate. They saw black swans and redbills, an aquatic
bird so called whose back is black, breast white, beak red and feet not
fully webbed. On Sunday 22nd or, according to our sea account the 23rd at
noon, I went with two of our crew in the smallest boat to search for a
river or stream described by Mr. Bass."
In proceeding along the shore Grant passed a muddy flat, and fell in with
an island* (* The log says this island bore north-north-west, 2 miles.)
"separated from the main by a very narrow channel at low water."...On
this he landed. "The situation of it was so pleasant that this together
with the richness of the spot made me conceive the idea that it was
excellently adapted for a garden." The island was called Churchill's
Island after John Churchill, Esquire, of Dawlish, in the county of Devon,
who, when the Lady Nelson left England, had given her commander vegetable
seeds, the stones of peaches, and the pips of several sorts of apples,
telling him "to plant them for the future benefit of our fellow-men, be
they countrymen, Europeans or savages." Captain Schanck had also supplied
him with seeds. A very rare apple, having seldom more than one pip in
each fruit, was named by Grant "Lady Elizabeth Percy's Apple," because,
"it was owing to her Ladyship's care and attention in preparing the
pepins that I was enabled to introduce it."
On this day several good observations were obtained. Grant placed Western
Port in latitude 38 degrees 32 minutes south and (by chronometer) in 146
degrees 19 minutes east of Greenwich. He did not, however, discover the
stream for which he was looking. On the following morning the second mate
(Mr. Bowen) tried to find the stream but was also unsuccessful. During
his absence the Commander explored the banks of a creek "which opened
abreast of the vessel" and Barrallier and Murray surveyed the harbour
while Caley searched for new plants wandering as far as Snapper Island.
Barrallier and Grant also made collections but Governor King afterwards
wrote that "Caley received everything they found--and refused to give up
or part with a duplicate."
Wet weather set in until the 25th. The day following, search was again
made for fresh water, and Grant went up the creek which was found to
terminate in a salt marsh. The trees on the bank were not large but the
underwood was thick. He penetrated inland for some distance and saw spots
"as if cleared by manual labour...covered with good tender grass," a
delightful sight to him. The open land had the appearance of being
frequently overflowed and he thought it was well adapted for the purpose
of fattening cattle; numbers of black swans and other water-fowl were
seen in the creek, the length of which was about two miles and a half,
its waters, which were salt, ended in a small run some 12 feet in
breadth. It was Bowen, the second mate, who at length found the
fresh-water stream originally discovered by Bass, and on the same day he
captured a couple of cygnets one of which was presented to the Governor
On 27th March, Murray accompanied by Barrallier and Caley set out to
explore the stream. They went up its windings as far as possible passing
no less than 42 short reaches. Its breadth at the entrance was about half
a cable's length and at the farthest part reached by the boat not more
than 18 or 20 feet, the passage being there impeded by trees lying across
While his party were exploring, the commander with Euranabie made
excursions along the shore to the mouth of the harbour. "The beach was
covered with shells, many of them beautiful and some of them entirely new
to me. I observed another creek not so large as the former which I have
described but having its entrance quite filled up...so that the sea could
not enter it...the land in general was above the level of the sea and the
soil was in some places light and black, in others a red clay. We fell in
with a rocky point about which I observed playing in the water a number
of fishes called salmon in New Holland. I expressed a desire to the
native of having some...and no sooner expressed my wish than I missed my
companion from behind me. I halloed...upon which he instantly presented
himself from the wood with a small stick in his hand. Asking for my knife
he presently sharpened one end to a point and then, stripping himself, he
leaped from one point of the rock to another until he met with an
opportunity of striking a fish which he did, the stick penetrating right
through it. I could not but admire the keenness of his sight and his
ability to preserve the steadiness of his position, standing as he did on
the rough edge of a sharp rock, the sea washing above his knees, his eyes
intent on the fish, very difficult to strike from the smallness of its
size, presented to him in a narrow back. Though I pressed him to take the
fish several times he constantly refused it but accepted some tobacco."
Next day Grant went on shore at Churchill's Island with a party to clear
a space for a garden. Some twenty rods were burnt after the larger trees
had been felled. The soil on the island was found to be rich and loose
and easy to dig. On the 29th Murray was sent to ascertain particulars
"respecting the entrance of the port and with regard to Seal Islands" on
which he was instructed to land. Barrallier accompanied him. Soon after
their departure bad weather set in which prevented their landing. They
eventually anchored off a sandy beach which appeared to have no surf, but
were suddenly surprised by a heavy swelling sea that rolled upon it,
followed by another which filled the boat, upsetting it upon the beach.
Fortunately no lives were lost though all "were immersed in the water
from which the native Euranabie...first escaped to shore." The
provisions, however, and the ammunition were lost or spoiled. At turn of
tide they launched the boat and returned on board. A black swan and four
ducks, which they had shot on their way out, afforded a savoury meal for
those in the ship.
On the 31st the commander went up the freshwater river with Mr.
Barrallier.* (* This river had already been seen by Mr. Bowen.) At night
they encamped on its banks when there came on an exceeding heavy storm of
rain with thunder and lightning and high wind. They traced a branch of
the river on the right as far as their boat could go and then followed
its course on shore along the bank and found it was fed by the greater
river only. This carried them inland and they discovered marks of fires
made by the natives. The log book records that they met none of the
blacks at any place though there were native dog tracks in abundance.
"Towards the end of this branching stream the country appeared to afford
plots of very rich pasture. At some considerable distance the land rose
to a height, and being covered with large trees which appeared to have
been shattered by storms had for this reason obtained the name of Mount
Rugged. We marched pretty far inland and found the country everywhere
free from inundations and exhibiting a very picturesque appearance. The
day was remarkably fine but in the woods the air was close and
disagreeably sultry. My people had killed a small black snake...the same
kind...is common about Sydney. We pursued our course up the river and Mr.
Barrallier completed his survey."
The water in the river was found to be good and perfectly sweet, and the
casks were filled. Among the birds seen was a bell-bird which has "no
remarkable plumage but a note not unlike the tinkling of a bell, so that
when a number of these birds are collected together the noise they make
is similar to that made by the bells of a team of horses." The
laughing-bird (whose note can only be compared to the ha! ha! ha! of a
hearty laughing companion) was the first to salute the explorers in the
morning. The whistling duck, so called because of the whistling noise
made with its wings when flying, was shot here, and a grey parrot was
caught alive. Mr. Barrallier shot a rare cockatoo.* (* It was stuffed and
afterwards given to General Davies, R.A., by Governor King.) The wet
weather afterwards gave little chance of meeting with birds, and the
explorers made their way through the woods until they reached an
extensive level country. This plain extended out of their sight on the
one side and on the other was bounded by hills. Paths beaten down by
kangaroos crossed and recrossed it. The face of the country was almost
everywhere level and productive, free from swamp and secured from
Grant thus describes the journey back to the ship: "We returned to the
river-side and ordered the boat to drop lower down a few miles through a
forest of stately timber trees. I had a few of them cut down and brought
on board...I brought Governor King specimens of light woods and a species
of sassafras discovered by my second mate...On our way down the river we
stopped at the place where we had passed the preceding night and found
our fire still burning. To this spot we gave the name of The Halfway
House, being halfway up the river."
The commander now revisited Churchill's Island: "I found my people had
cleared the spot I had laid out for a garden, and that there was nothing
wanting but to prepare the ground to receive such seeds as I should
choose to plant...It was no easy matter...for we had neither hoe nor
spade with us...however, we were in possession of a coal shovel which,
though it was thin and much worn, served the purpose.
"My men, who slept on the ground they had cleared...in a hut built for
the occasion, informed me that one of their comrades was awakened out of
his sleep by some animal that seemed to be gnawing his hair. He supposed
it to be the bandicoot rat. I sent on board for a dog which we had
brought with us from Sydney. This dog remained with the people on the
island, and, as they reported to me, was one night engaged with some
animal apparently of equal strength, for it brought him to the ground and
made him howl...The ground was now prepared and I sowed my several sorts
of seeds, wheat, Indian corn, and peas, some grains of rice and some
coffee berries; and I did not forget to plant potatoes. With the trunks
of the trees I felled I raised a block house of 24 feet by 12 which will
probably remain some years, the supporters being well fixed in the
Full of enthusiasm regarding his visit in general, Grant is more so about
Churchill's Island: "I scarcely know a place I should sooner call mine
than this little island." And he also tells how he planted the stones of
fruit trees round the hut which his men had built there. Of the traces of
iron seen, he adds: "We turned up a few stones and some interspersed with
veins of iron ore, indeed so rich in metal that they had a visible effect
on the needle of our compass; stones of a like kind are found about
Sydney." In the pages of his journal and also of his log he describes
very minutely the manner in which European seeds were first sown in the
soil of the British colony of Victoria. That they were successfully
planted we learn from a subsequent page in Murray's log when he, in
command of the Lady Nelson, visited the same spot.
To return to the narrative. "On the 12th* (* In the narrative, through a
printer's error, this date appears as 21st.) of April Mr. Bowen, while
seeking for water in the ship's launch, discovered near the mouth of the
freshwater river part of a canoe which had sunk near the mouth. He
brought it back to the ship together with two paddles and some fishing
line." The canoe differed greatly from those made by the natives of Port
Jackson, being framed out of timber, and instead of being tied together
at the ends "was left open, the space being afterwards filled with grass
worked up with strong clay."
At the termination of the voyage, it was handed over, along with the
other specimens collected, to Governor King.
The Lady Nelson now changed her berth and moored close by the opposite
shore, "in order to be near a small island lying in the opening of the
extensive arms described by Mr. Bass of which this port has two branching
out to the northward." Grant named this island Margaret Island in honour
of Mrs. Schanck who had given him several articles which proved useful on
board the Lady Nelson.
The tide ebbing very fast, the brig was soon in shoal water, but the
bottom being a soft mud and the weather calm there was no danger to be
apprehended, yet, says Grant: "As I am no friend to vessels being on the
ground by carrying out a hawser I soon hauled her off and brought yet her
nearer to Margaret's Island. We found this island to be in general flat,
but well covered with wood. Here we deposited some seeds but did not find
the soil equally rich with that of Churchill's Island." Having lost some
of their drinking water, the Commander writes: "Luckily I heard the
bullfrog, which is common in New South Wales, and I made towards the
thicket from whence his croaking issued and there found a present supply.
This arm reminded me of the appearance of Porchester Lake when the tide
is out. Indeed the entire view of Western Port has no small resemblance
to Spithead and Portsmouth Harbour. On the 17th we got under weigh and at
night brought up in 12 fathoms water with rather a foul bottom. In the
morning we discovered a sand shoal whereon the waves were breaking very
heavily close to us...We shifted our berth and brought up in a small nook
or bay which I named Elizabeth Cove in honour of Miss Elizabeth King,
daughter of Governor King, then at Sydney." The greater part of Grant's
survey of Western Port was completed by April 22nd, but the Lady Nelson
was detained there by bad weather until the 29th, when, at break of day,
she weighed and stood out of the port, passing to the westward of Seal
Grant then proceeded to make a survey of the coast from Western Port
eastward as far as Wilson's Promontory, which he says he carried out for
a distance of seventy miles, but winter being now advanced little more
could be done in the way of surveying, and as the wet weather was
prejudicial to the instruments, he resolved to make the best of his way
to Sydney; bad weather caused the ship to put into Botany Bay, but she
eventually arrived on May 14th, 1801.
On his return to Sydney Grant refers to the good health of those on
board: "I had not from the time of my departure a sick man among my
ship's company, one man only excepted, whose skull had been fractured."
He also tells us that while in Botany Bay he had the satisfaction of
receiving a letter from Governor King, in which he expressed himself well
pleased with what had been done.
We know that the Governor was keenly disappointed that Grant had failed
for the second time to explore Governor King's Bay and to fulfil other
duties which had been expected of him. The voyage, however, must have had
its compensations, as Barrallier was able not only to survey Jervis Bay
and Western Port (the map of the former is not at the Admiralty), but
also to obtain much of the information contained in the combined chart of
his "discoveries made in Bass Strait up to March 1802," reproduced above.
COLONEL PATERSON AND LIEUTENANT GRANT SURVEY HUNTER RIVER.
During the month of May the Lady Nelson became more closely associated
with the town of Sydney, with whose fortunes her own were ever afterwards
identified.* (* The Lady Nelson was borne as a contingent expense of the
colony from the time of her arrival at Sydney until the 16th October,
1802, then as tender to H.M.S. Buffalo by order of the Admiralty. See
Historical Records of New South Wales volume 4 page 901.) From Sydney she
set forth on her many voyages of exploration, and to Sydney she returned.
In many an old print she is depicted lying at anchor there almost
alone--a small ship in a great harbour--with the Union Jack flying at her
stern, and in the small Sydney newspapers of those early times her
comings and goings are recorded, and her discoveries related with the
By the Governor's command May 28th, 1801, being the King's birthday, was
observed as a holiday. It was a memorable occasion, for on that day the
Royal Proclamation announcing the Union between Great Britain and Ireland
was read in public by the Provost Marshal. At sunrise the old Union Jack
was hoisted as usual, but at a quarter to nine it was hauled down and the
new Union run up at Dawes Battery and on board the Lady Nelson to the
accompaniment of salutes from the battery and from the brig.
Shortly afterwards Grant received orders to take Colonel Paterson, the
Lieutenant-Governor, to Hunter River, then better known as Coal River.*
(* From the abundance of coal found on its banks. Flinders says its
native name was Yohaaba. The Hunter River was discovered and named by Mr.
Shortland in 1797.) The object of the voyage was to make a survey of the
river and to gain some knowledge of its natural productions, for at this
time much of the coast, both to the north and to the south, was chiefly
known from Cook's chart, and the geography of the more distant parts,
marked but not explored by him, was still as he had left it. Governor
King was also anxious that the Lady Nelson should discover a passage at
Port Stephens (called by the natives Yacaaba), and wrote to Paterson
requesting him to complete the exploration of this port before September,
"for," he said, "it will then be necessary to despatch Her Ladyship (i.e.
the Lady Nelson) to the southward."* (* This particular voyage to Port
Stephens does not appear to have been carried out, for in August the brig
was "refitting." (See Historical Records of New South Wales.) The
Francis, schooner, was equipped to accompany the Lady Nelson, and orders
were given that the schooner should be loaded with coals immediately on
her arrival at the Hunter River and sent back to Sydney without delay.
Dr. Harris and Ensign Barrallier of the New South Wales Corps (who were
appointed to execute the survey) accompanied Colonel Paterson. A number
of workmen and labourers were also received on board together with a
native of Rose Bay named Bungaree.
The Lady Nelson left the harbour on June 10th, and as she passed out
between the Heads, met the ship Cornwallis inward bound from England. On
June 11th she made North Head of Broken Bay distant 10 or 12 miles.
On the next day the weather was variable, but as there was a Sydney pilot
on board Grant thought that the ship would be safe in his hands. The man,
however, mistook his course at a place called Reid's Mistake, which lies
to the northward of Broken Bay. He imagined that he had arrived at Hunter
River, and was not convinced of his error till the vessel was within half
a mile of an island at the entrance.* (* Reid's Mistake was so called
because a seaman of that name had previously made a similar error, and
lost his ship there. The island lies at the entrance of Lake Macquarie
(and still bears the name). The wrecked vessel was the Martha, 30 tons,
and doubtless was the ship which first saw King Island in 1799.)
Here, as the Lady Nelson was in 17 fathoms water, and the weather was
fair, a boat was lowered and Dr. Harris was sent to explore the place. On
his return the doctor reported that there was not the least sign of a
river here, but that the sea broke heavily over an inlet behind the
island. He brought with him a native, who on first seeing the boat had
run towards it crying out alternately "Whale boat" and "Budgeree (i.e.
good) Dick." It was supposed that this native had been given this name by
some of the people sent in search of the convicts who had run away with
the Norfolk. Be this as it may, Budgeree Dick had some fish with him,
which he threw into the bottom of the boat, and then without the least
hesitation jumped in himself. As soon as he had got on board the brig he
continued to cry incessantly, "Whale boat, Whale boat." In order to find
out his meaning he was introduced to the Sydney native Bungaree, who was
directed to question the visitor. Bungaree, by signs, invited him to sit
down, an invitation, observes Grant, which, according to native ideas,
"implied that a stranger was received with friendship." But it was
useless to ask Bungaree to proceed with his inquiries, for another item
of etiquette demanded that a profound silence should follow, which lasted
for twenty minutes. By degrees the two black men entered into
conversation, drawing nearer to one another as they began to talk. The
information sought was not obtained, and it was inferred that they did
not well understand each other's language.
The ship got under way about 3 P.M., and two hours later another high
perpendicular island bearing north 8 or 9 miles came into view. It was
thought to be the real entrance of Hunter's River. At half-past ten, in
company with Dr. Harris, the Commander went in a boat to discover if it
was their port of destination. The entrance was narrow with a heavy sea
running through it. It had a reef on one side, over which broke a very
heavy surf, and on the other side were some sand-breakers. At one time
Grant put the boat's head round to the swell and "pulled out," but the
risk of bringing in the two ships without knowing the size of the channel
made him determine to ascertain it, and accordingly he pulled through and
found from 5 to 4 and 3 1/2 fathoms close to the island. It was high
water when he landed with a party on the island and climbed to the top of
its steep side. The side near the entrance was covered with grass,
although everywhere else the island was perpendicular and crumbled away
by degrees into the sea. From the highest point a beautiful view of
Hunter's River, and of the surrounding islands was obtained. Here
Lieutenant Grant hoisted the Union Jack as a signal to the vessels that
this was the right entrance to the river. He thought, as have most people
since, that this island had been separated from the mainland "by some
violent convulsion of nature." It was named Coal Island by Colonel
Paterson, but is now known as the Nobbys. The commander's journal tells
how plentiful wood and coal were on the mainland, and thus describes his
"We returned on board and set about towing and sweeping her in with all
possible dispatch. At noon the latitude was by observation 32 degrees 57
minutes 34 seconds south, the island which we named Coal Island bearing
west-north-west distant 3 or 4 miles. By the time we approached the
entrance the ebb had set strong out and ran with much force; however, by
dint of warping we brought up under the island for the night within
pistol shot of the shore. At daylight we proceeded up to a saw pit (made
for the purpose of cutting cedar of a large size and excellent quality,
which is growing in abundance on the banks of the river) and came to
abreast of it in 3 fathoms water, steadying the vessel by a hawser made
fast to a tree on the shore. The harbour is of several miles extent and
capable of containing many sail of shipping, and well sheltered from
every wind that blows.
"We immediately set about making the different arrangements for
completing the objects of our voyage. The Colonel and I went on shore to
examine the different strata of coals, taking with us a miner who pointed
them out to us very distinctly. We found them running from side to side
of the mountain of various qualities and degrees of thickness. At low
water coals proper for fuel were to be gathered up from the reef
before-mentioned, and when the tide was up we could work a pier.
Accordingly, having orders to load the schooner...with coals and wood, I
had the satisfaction to see her sail with a cargo of both on June 26th,
eleven days after her arrival.
"It may be imagined that coals were found in great plenty when I mention
that the schooner sailed with forty tons, and that we had only one man
employed to dig the mine. The spot where these coals are found is clear
of trees or bush for the space of many acres, which are covered with a
short tender grass very proper for grazing sheep, the ground rising with
a gradual ascent intersected with valleys on which wood grows in plenty,
sheltered from the winds, forming the most delightful prospect. This
place might serve as a station for the woodcutters and colliers.* (* The
point of land where the colliers were put to work was named Collier's
Point by Colonel Paterson. Newcastle now stands on this site.) It affords
pasture for sheep, its soil in general being good...Dr. Harris and Mr.
Barrallier penetrated to some distance inland and met a native who
followed them for some time and left them. Our native Dick also thought
proper to leave us in an excursion we made with him into the country.
Colonel Paterson discovered some copper and iron ores, the latter
strongly impregnated and rich in metal. The seine was hauled and plenty
of excellent fish caught, particularly mullet, with a fish much
resembling the herring which I am inclined to think go in shoals. On an
island in the harbour a tree is found, the quality of whose timber much
resembles that of the ash, and from the great numbers growing there has
given this name to the island.
"Of this timber I had orders to send a quantity to Sydney, and had
brought out sawyers for that purpose, but as every object could not be at
once accomplished they were employed in the meantime in cutting down and
sawing into planks a tree, the bark of which is much like cork. The
timber...is light, close, and durable, and promises to stand against the
effects of worms on the bottoms of vessels. I had a boat built of this
wood which proved it to be good...this wood has much the resemblance of
wainscot with us.
"Mr. Barrallier's survey was all this time going on. Nearly abreast of
the vessel was a creek which Colonel Paterson and I penetrated for a
considerable way. On its banks we found part of a net made of strong
grass, apparently the work of a European. We likewise found marks of
fires having been lighted there, and in the stream the remains of a weir,
the work of the native inhabitants...We concluded the net had belonged to
the unfortunate men who ran away with the Norfolk...On examining Ash
Island we found many large timber trees intermixed with ash, one of which
I took on board...it has much the likeness of hickory. I found several
other woods, some of them light and pretty, and in particular a tree, the
leaves of which sting like nettles. This acquired from us the name of
The native, Budgeree Dick, now reappeared after 48 hours' absence, with
two companions. One had been at Sydney and was known to Colonel Paterson,
with whom he was able to converse. Fires and occasionally the natives
themselves were observed opposite to Ash Island. A party from the ship
went up an arm of the river in order to try and meet with them, but were
disappointed, as at the entrance there was barely water for the boat. The
opposite (or north) shore to which they now proceeded was found to be
full of flats and shoals over many of which the boat had to be dragged.
Between these flats were gullies of deep water, but there was no regular
channel. Here the trees were encrusted with oysters, and the shore
covered to a great depth with oyster shells. The work was vigorously
pushed forward. Some woodmen were placed on Ash Island to fell and saw
timber. They took a week's provisions, arms, and ammunition, and were
warned to guard against an attack by the crew of the Norfolk or by the
natives. Meanwhile the commander and Paterson visited the coal mine and
found veins of coal of excellent quality, and among the rocks what is
known as "liver of iron." They also saw strange birds, as well as the
wild or native cat, which has been such a pest ever since in most parts
On June 22nd Colonel Paterson took some men, one of whom was a miner, to
look for coal on the island, while Grant and Barrallier with Dr. Harris
sounded the entrance of the harbour. The coal found on the island proved
to be of an inferior kind. On his way back to the ship, Lieutenant Grant
met a stranger named John Loft, who had been wrecked out of a boat
belonging to Mr. Underwood of Sydney. She was cast on shore to the
northward of Port Stephens, and he had been thirty-two days in travelling
to this place from there. He had had two companions, one of whom, he
said, was killed by the natives, the other had eaten a toad fish and
died. The emotions that he felt on meeting his countrymen can be better
imagined than described. "The laugh and the tear had their repeated place
in turns, and his first utterance was, 'I am starving with hunger.'"
On the 23rd Mr. Barrallier and the second mate met a native in the woods
whom they brought on board. "He was a little elderly man, strait made,
and spoke not one syllable that was intelligible." His legs and arms bore
no proportion in length to the rest of his body, and his manner of
ascending the ship's ladder was remarkable and proved that he was much
accustomed to climbing. His method was "to stretch out his arms as far as
he could reach and then bring his feet to the same place with a jerk."
Grant says: "He spoke a jargon of simple sounds as I particularly
observed only a few words that came from him were composed of more than
one syllable. He could eat nothing; but upon two crows, which some of the
people had shot, being given him, he stuffed them in the fire feathers
and all. which after burning off and heating them a little he ate...The
Colonel gave him a tomahawk which he seemed pleased with and showed that
he understood the use of it. He was put on shore near the place where
they met him...He was quite naked and had no ornament through the
cartilage of his nose. Colonel Paterson declared that he had never met a
native who differed so widely from the rest of the New Hollanders."
Before he disappeared he gave the boat's crew an exhibition of his
climbing powers, for they pointed to a tree, making signs that they
wished to see him climb it. This he quickly did, first cutting a notch
with the axe and continuing thus to make footholds until he nimbly
reached the top--the tree being without branches to a height of 40 feet.
About this time there appeared a small party of woodmen who had been sent
to cut cedar for Mr. Palmer. These men had intended returning to Sydney,
having run short of provisions, but seeing the Lady Nelson they joined
On June 28 the Lady Nelson advanced up the river and moored in one of its
branches about 6 miles from the entrance, Mr. Barrallier surveying while
Colonel Paterson with Dr. Harris and Mr. Lewin (the artist who had joined
the Lady Nelson after the sailing of the Francis) went in the launch to
examine the river and inspect the country.
On the 7th the Commander himself in company with Mr. Barrallier set off
to join Paterson. They found the country level and swampy near the river,
but with delightful views in the distance. "The river took a serpentine
course, and for many miles appeared to be as broad as the Thames at
Kingston. From the marks on the trees it would seem that it is subject to
be greatly overflowed at times. The cedar (or rather the mahogany of New
Holland) appeared to have been immersed in water to the height of 50 or
60 feet. On our way up we landed at a small creek which we traced for a
considerable distance coming to a gradual ascent covered with the most
luxuriant grass. There was an extensive view from this height of a fine
champain country. I named the eminence Mount Egerton after a seat
belonging to the Duke of Bridgewater. In the evening we found by the
sound of the bugle that we had reached the Colonel's headquarters. We
answered the welcome signal and before it was quite dark we joined them.
"The Colonel had erected a comfortable hut. The cedar grew here in great
plenty, and Mr. Palmer's party sawed many fine planks from these trees.
Colonel Paterson, Dr. Harris, Mr. Barrallier and myself penetrated 30
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