The Voyage of the Beagle
Charles Darwin

Part 10 out of 11

which the grandmothers and mothers of the present race
played a part. Those who are most severe, should consider
how much of the morality of the women in Europe is owing
to the system early impressed by mothers on their daughters,
and how much in each individual case to the precepts of
religion. But it is useless to argue against such reasoners; --
I believe that, disappointed in not finding the field of
licentiousness quite so open as formerly, they will not give
credit to a morality which they do not wish to practise, or to a
religion which they undervalue, if not despise.

Sunday, 22nd. -- The harbour of Papiete, where the queen
resides, may be considered as the capital of the island: it is
also the seat of government, and the chief resort of shipping.
Captain Fitz Roy took a party there this day to hear divine
service, first in the Tahitian language, and afterwards in our
own. Mr. Pritchard, the leading missionary in the island,
performed the service. The chapel consisted of a large airy
framework of wood; and it was filled to excess by tidy, clean
people, of all ages and both sexes. I was rather disappointed
in the apparent degree of attention; but I believe my
expectations were raised too high. At all events the appearance
was quite equal to that in a country church in England.
The singing of the hymns was decidedly very pleasing, but
the language from the pulpit, although fluently delivered, did
not sound well: a constant repetition of words, like "tata
ta, mata mai," rendered it monotonous. After English service,
a party returned on foot to Matavai. It was a pleasant
walk, sometimes along the sea-beach and sometimes under
the shade of the many beautiful trees.

About two years ago, a small vessel under English colours
was plundered by some of the inhabitants of the Low Islands,
which were then under the dominion of the Queen of Tahiti.
It was believed that the perpetrators were instigated to this
act by some indiscreet laws issued by her majesty. The
British government demanded compensation; which was acceded
to, and the sum of nearly three thousand dollars was
agreed to be paid on the first of last September. The Commodore
at Lima ordered Captain Fitz Roy to inquire concerning
this debt, and to demand satisfaction if it were not
paid. Captain Fitz Roy accordingly requested an interview
with the Queen Pomarre, since famous from the ill-treatment
she had received from the French; and a parliament was
held to consider the question, at which all the principal chiefs
of the island and the queen were assembled. I will not attempt
to describe what took place, after the interesting account
given by Captain Fitz Roy. The money, it appeared,
had not been paid; perhaps the alleged reasons were rather
equivocal; but otherwise I cannot sufficiently express our
general surprise at the extreme good sense, the reasoning
powers, moderation, candour, and prompt resolution, which
were displayed on all sides. I believe we all left the meeting
with a very different opinion of the Tahitians, from what we
entertained when we entered. The chiefs and people resolved
to subscribe and complete the sum which was wanting;
Captain Fitz Roy urged that it was hard that their private
property should be sacrificed for the crimes of distant
islanders. They replied, that they were grateful for his
consideration, but that Pomarre was their Queen, and that they
were determined to help her in this her difficulty. This
resolution and its prompt execution, for a book was opened
early the next morning, made a perfect conclusion to this
very remarkable scene of loyalty and good feeling.

After the main discussion was ended, several of the chiefs
took the opportunity of asking Captain Fitz Roy many intelligent
questions on international customs and laws, relating
to the treatment of ships and foreigners. On some
points, as soon as the decision was made, the law was issued
verbally on the spot. This Tahitian parliament lasted for
several hours; and when it was over Captain Fitz Roy invited
Queen Pomarre to pay the Beagle a visit.

November 25th. -- In the evening four boats were sent for
her majesty; the ship was dressed with flags, and the yards
manned on her coming on board. She was accompanied by
most of the chiefs. The behaviour of all was very proper:
they begged for nothing, and seemed much pleased with Captain
Fitz Roy's presents. The queen is a large awkward
woman, without any beauty, grace or dignity. She has only
one royal attribute: a perfect immovability of expression
under all circumstances, and that rather a sullen one. The
rockets were most admired, and a deep "Oh!" could be
heard from the shore, all round the dark bay, after each
explosion. The sailors' songs were also much admired; and
the queen said she thought that one of the most boisterous
ones certainly could not be a hymn! The royal party did
not return on shore till past midnight.

26th. -- In the evening, with a gentle land-breeze, a course
was steered for New Zealand; and as the sun set, we had a
farewell view of the mountains of Tahiti -- the island to which
every voyager has offered up his tribute of admiration.

December 19th. -- In the evening we saw in the distance
New Zealand. We may now consider that we have nearly
crossed the Pacific. It is necessary to sail over this great
ocean to comprehend its immensity. Moving quickly onwards
for weeks together, we meet with nothing but the
same blue, profoundly deep, ocean. Even within the
archipelagoes, the islands are mere specks, and far distant one
from the other. Accustomed to look at maps drawn on a
small scale, where dots, shading, and names are crowded
together, we do not rightly judge how infinitely small the
proportion of dry land is to water of this vast expanse.
The meridian of the Antipodes has likewise been passed; and
now every league, it made us happy to think, was one league
nearer to England. These Antipodes call to one's mind old
recollections of childish doubt and wonder. Only the other
day I looked forward to this airy barrier as a definite point
in our voyage homewards; but now I find it, and all such
resting-places for the imagination, are like shadows, which
a man moving onwards cannot catch. A gale of wind lasting
for some days, has lately given us full leisure to measure
the future stages in our homeward voyage, and to wish
most earnestly for its termination.

December 21st. -- Early in the morning we entered the Bay
of Islands, and being becalmed for some hours near the
mouth, we did not reach the anchorage till the middle of the
day. The country is hilly, with a smooth outline, and is
deeply intersected by numerous arms of the sea extending
from the bay. The surface appears from a distance as if
clothed with coarse pasture, but this in truth is nothing but
fern. On the more distant hills, as well as in parts of the
valleys, there is a good deal of woodland. The general tint
of the landscape is not a bright green; and it resembles the
country a short distance to the south of Concepcion in Chile.
In several parts of the bay, little villages of square tidy
looking houses are scattered close down to the water's edge.
Three whaling-ships were lying at anchor, and a canoe every
now and then crossed from shore to shore; with these
exceptions, an air of extreme quietness reigned over the
whole district. Only a single canoe came alongside. This,
and the aspect of the whole scene, afforded a remarkable,
and not very pleasing contrast, with our joyful and boisterous
welcome at Tahiti.

In the afternoon we went on shore to one of the larger
groups of houses, which yet hardly deserves the title of a
village. Its name is Pahia: it is the residence of the
missionaries; and there are no native residents except servants
and labourers. In the vicinity of the Bay of Islands, the
number of Englishmen, including their families, amounts to
between two and three hundred. All the cottages, many of
which are whitewashed and look very neat, are the property
of the English. The hovels of the natives are so diminutive
and paltry, that they can scarcely be perceived from a distance.
At Pahia, it was quite pleasing to behold the English
flowers in the gardens before the houses; there were
roses of several kinds, honeysuckle, jasmine, stocks, and
whole hedges of sweetbrier.

December 22nd. -- In the morning I went out walking; but
I soon found that the country was very impracticable. All
the hills are thickly covered with tall fern, together with
a low bush which grows like a cypress; and very little
ground has been cleared or cultivated. I then tried the
sea-beach; but proceeding towards either hand, my walk
was soon stopped by salt-water creeks and deep brooks. The
communication between the inhabitants of the different
parts of the bay, is (as in Chiloe) almost entirely kept up
by boats. I was surprised to find that almost every hill which
I ascended, had been at some former time more or less
fortified. The summits were cut into steps or successive
terraces, and frequently they had been protected by deep
trenches. I afterwards observed that the principal hills inland
in like manner showed an artificial outline. These are
the Pas, so frequently mentioned by Captain Cook under the
name of "hippah;" the difference of sound being owing to
the prefixed article.

That the Pas had formerly been much used, was evident
from the piles of shells, and the pits in which, as I was
informed, sweet potatoes used to be kept as a reserve. As
there was no water on these hills, the defenders could never
have anticipated a long siege, but only a hurried attack for
plunder, against which the successive terraces would have
afforded good protection. The general introduction of fire-arms
has changed the whole system of warfare; and an exposed
situation on the top of a hill is now worse than useless.
The Pas in consequence are, at the present day, always built
on a level piece of ground. They consist of a double stockade
of thick and tall posts, placed in a zigzag line, so that every
part can be flanked. Within the stockade a mound of earth is
thrown up, behind which the defenders can rest in safety, or
use their fire-arms over it. On the level of the ground
little archways sometimes pass through this breastwork,
by which means the defenders can crawl out to the stockade
and reconnoitre their enemies. The Rev. W. Williams, who
gave me this account, added, that in one Pas he had noticed
spurs or buttresses projecting on the inner and protected
side of the mound of earth. On asking the chief the use
of them, he replied, that if two or three of his men were
shot, their neighbours would not see the bodies, and so be

These Pas are considered by the New Zealanders as very
perfect means of defence: for the attacking force is never
so well disciplined as to rush in a body to the stockade, cut
it down, and effect their entry. When a tribe goes to war,
the chief cannot order one party to go here and another
there; but every man fights in the manner which best pleases
himself; and to each separate individual to approach a stockade
defended by fire-arms must appear certain death. I
should think a more warlike race of inhabitants could not
be found in any part of the world than the New Zealanders.
Their conduct on first seeing a ship, as described by Captain
Cook, strongly illustrates this: the act of throwing volleys
of stones at so great and novel an object, and their defiance
of "Come on shore and we will kill and eat you all," shows
uncommon boldness. This warlike spirit is evident in many
of their customs, and even in their smallest actions. If a
New Zealander is struck, although but in joke, the blow
must be returned and of this I saw an instance with one
of our officers.

At the present day, from the progress of civilization, there
is much less warfare, except among some of the southern
tribes. I heard a characteristic anecdote of what took place
some time ago in the south. A missionary found a chief and
his tribe in preparation for war; -- their muskets clean and
bright, and their ammunition ready. He reasoned long on
the inutility of the war, and the little provocation which
had been given for it. The chief was much shaken in his
resolution, and seemed in doubt: but at length it occurred
to him that a barrel of his gunpowder was in a bad state, and
that it would not keep much longer. This was brought forward
as an unanswerable argument for the necessity of immediately
declaring war: the idea of allowing so much good
gunpowder to spoil was not to be thought of; and this settled
the point. I was told by the missionaries that in the
life of Shongi, the chief who visited England, the love of
war was the one and lasting spring of every action. The
tribe in which he was a principal chief had at one time been
oppressed by another tribe from the Thames River. A
solemn oath was taken by the men that when their boys
should grow up, and they should be powerful enough, they
would never forget or forgive these injuries. To fulfil this
oath appears to have been Shongi's chief motive for going
to England; and when there it was his sole object. Presents
were valued only as they could be converted into arms;
of the arts, those alone interested him which were connected
with the manufacture of arms. When at Sydney, Shongi,
by a strange coincidence, met the hostile chief of the Thames
River at the house of Mr. Marsden: their conduct was civil
to each other; but Shongi told him that when again in New
Zealand he would never cease to carry war into his country.
The challenge was accepted; and Shongi on his return fulfilled
the threat to the utmost letter. The tribe on the
Thames River was utterly overthrown, and the chief to
whom the challenge had been given was himself killed.
Shongi, although harbouring such deep feelings of hatred
and revenge, is described as having been a good-natured

In the evening I went with Captain Fitz Roy and Mr.
Baker, one of the missionaries, to pay a visit to Kororadika:
we wandered about the village, and saw and conversed with
many of the people, both men, women, and children. Looking
at the New Zealander, one naturally compares him with
the Tahitian; both belonging to the same family of mankind.
The comparison, however, tells heavily against the New
Zealander. He may, perhaps be superior in energy, but
in every other respect his character is of a much lower
order. One glance at their respective expressions, brings
conviction to the mind that one is a savage, the other a
civilized man. It would be vain to seek in the whole of
New Zealand a person with the face and mien of the old
Tahitian chief Utamme. No doubt the extraordinary manner
in which tattooing is here practised, gives a disagreeable
expression to their countenances. The complicated but
symmetrical figures covering the whole face, puzzle and mislead
an unaccustomed eye: it is moreover probable, that the deep
incisions, by destroying the play of the superficial muscles,
give an air of rigid inflexibility. But, besides this, there is
a twinkling in the eye, which cannot indicate anything but
cunning and ferocity. Their figures are tall and bulky; but
not comparable in elegance with those of the working-
classes in Tahiti.

But their persons and houses are filthily dirty and offensive:
the idea of washing either their bodies or their clothes
never seems to enter their heads. I saw a chief, who was
wearing a shirt black and matted with filth, and when asked
how it came to be so dirty, he replied, with surprise, "Do
not you see it is an old one?" Some of the men have shirts;
but the common dress is one or two large blankets, generally
black with dirt, which are thrown over their shoulders in a
very inconvenient and awkward fashion. A few of the principal
chiefs have decent suits of English clothes; but these
are only worn on great occasions.

December 23rd. -- At a place called Waimate, about fifteen
miles from the Bay of Islands, and midway between the
eastern and western coasts, the missionaries have purchased
some land for agricultural purposes. I had been introduced
to the Rev. W. Williams, who, upon my expressing a wish,
invited me to pay him a visit there. Mr. Bushby, the British
resident, offered to take me in his boat by a creek, where I
should see a pretty waterfall, and by which means my
walk would be shortened. He likewise procured for me a

Upon asking a neighbouring chief to recommend a man, the
chief himself offered to go; but his ignorance of the value
of money was so complete, that at first he asked how many
pounds I would give him, but afterwards was well contented
with two dollars. When I showed the chief a very small
bundle, which I wanted carried, it became absolutely necessary
for him to take a slave. These feelings of pride are
beginning to wear away; but formerly a leading man would
sooner have died, than undergone the indignity of carrying
the smallest burden. My companion was a light active man,
dressed in a dirty blanket, and with his face completely
tattooed. He had formerly been a great warrior. He appeared
to be on very cordial terms with Mr. Bushby; but at
various times they had quarrelled violently. Mr. Bushby
remarked that a little quiet irony would frequently silence
any one of these natives in their most blustering moments.
This chief has come and harangued Mr. Bushby in a hectoring
manner, saying, "great chief, a great man, a friend
of mine, has come to pay me a visit -- you must give him
something good to eat, some fine presents, etc." Mr. Bushby
has allowed him to finish his discourse, and then has quietly
replied by some answer such as, "What else shall your slave
do for you?" The man would then instantly, with a very
comical expression, cease his braggadocio.

Some time ago, Mr. Bushby suffered a far more serious
attack. A chief and a party of men tried to break into his
house in the middle of the night, and not finding this so easy,
commenced a brisk firing with their muskets. Mr. Bushby
was slightly wounded, but the party was at length driven
away. Shortly afterwards it was discovered who was the
aggressor; and a general meeting of the chiefs was convened
to consider the case. It was considered by the New Zealanders
as very atrocious, inasmuch as it was a night attack, and
that Mrs. Bushby was lying ill in the house: this latter
circumstance, much to their honour, being considered in all
cases as a protection. The chiefs agreed to confiscate the
land of the aggressor to the King of England. The whole
proceeding, however, in thus trying and punishing a chief
was entirely without precedent. The aggressor, moreover,
lost caste in the estimation of his equals and this was
considered by the British as of more consequence than the
confiscation of his land.

As the boat was shoving off, a second chief stepped into
her, who only wanted the amusement of the passage up and
down the creek. I never saw a more horrid and ferocious
expression than this man had. It immediately struck me
I had somewhere seen his likeness: it will be found in
Retzch's outlines to Schiller's ballad of Fridolin, where two
men are pushing Robert into the burning iron furnace. It
is the man who has his arm on Robert's breast. Physiognomy
here spoke the truth; this chief had been a notorious
murderer, and was an arrant coward to boot. At the point
where the boat landed, Mr. Bushby accompanied me a few
hundred yards on the road: I could not help admiring the
cool impudence of the hoary old villain, whom we left lying
in the boat, when he shouted to Mr. Bushby, "Do not you
stay long, I shall be tired of waiting here."

We now commenced our walk. The road lay along a
well beaten path, bordered on each side by the tall fern,
which covers the whole country. After travelling some
miles, we came to a little country village, where a few hovels
were collected together, and some patches of ground cultivated
with potatoes. The introduction of the potato has
been the most essential benefit to the island; it is now much
more used than any native vegetable. New Zealand is
favoured by one great natural advantage; namely, that the
inhabitants can never perish from famine. The whole
country abounds with fern: and the roots of this plant, if
not very palatable, yet contain much nutriment. A native
can always subsist on these, and on the shell-fish, which are
abundant on all parts of the sea-coast. The villages are
chiefly conspicuous by the platforms which are raised on
four posts ten or twelve feet above the ground, and on
which the produce of the fields is kept secure from all

On coming near one of the huts I was much amused by
seeing in due form the ceremony of rubbing, or, as it ought
to be called, pressing noses. The women, on our first approach,
began uttering something in a most dolorous voice;
they then squatted themselves down and held up their faces;
my companion standing over them, one after another, placed
the bridge of his nose at right angles to theirs, and commenced
pressing. This lasted rather longer than a cordial
shake of the hand with us, and as we vary the force of the
grasp of the hand in shaking, so do they in pressing. During
the process they uttered comfortable little grunts, very
much in the same manner as two pigs do, when rubbing
against each other. I noticed that the slave would press
noses with any one he met, indifferently either before or
after his master the chief. Although among the savages, the
chief has absolute power of life and death over his slave,
yet there is an entire absence of ceremony between them.
Mr. Burchell has remarked the same thing in Southern Africa,
with the rude Bachapins. Where civilization has
arrived at a certain point, complex formalities soon arise
between the different grades of society: thus at Tahiti all
were formerly obliged to uncover themselves as low as the
waist in presence of the king.

The ceremony of pressing noses having been duly completed
with all present, we seated ourselves in a circle in the
front of one of the hovels, and rested there half-an-hour.
All the hovels have nearly the same form and dimensions,
and all agree in being filthily dirty. They resemble a cow-
shed with one end open, but having a partition a little way
within, with a square hole in it, making a small gloomy
chamber. In this the inhabitants keep all their property,
and when the weather is cold they sleep there. They eat,
however, and pass their time in the open part in front. My
guides having finished their pipes, we continued our walk.
The path led through the same undulating country, the whole
uniformly clothed as before with fern. On our right hand
we had a serpentine river, the banks of which were fringed
with trees, and here and there on the hill sides there was a
clump of wood. The whole scene, in spite of its green colour,
had rather a desolate aspect. The sight of so much fern
impresses the mind with an idea of sterility: this, however,
is not correct; for wherever the fern grows thick and breast-
high, the land by tillage becomes productive. Some of the
residents think that all this extensive open country originally
was covered with forests, and that it has been cleared by fire.
It is said, that by digging in the barest spots, lumps of the
kind of resin which flows from the kauri pine are frequently
found. The natives had an evident motive in clearing the
country; for the fern, formerly a staple article of food,
flourishes only in the open cleared tracks. The almost entire
absence of associated grasses, which forms so remarkable a
feature in the vegetation of this island, may perhaps be
accounted for by the land having been aboriginally covered
with forest-trees.

The soil is volcanic; in several parts we passed over
shaggy lavas, and craters could clearly be distinguished on
several of the neighbouring hills. Although the scenery is
nowhere beautiful, and only occasionally pretty, I enjoyed
my walk. I should have enjoyed it more, if my companion,
the chief, had not possessed extraordinary conversational
powers. I knew only three words: "good," "bad," and
"yes:" and with these I answered all his remarks, without
of course having understood one word he said. This, however,
was quite sufficient: I was a good listener, an agreeable
person, and he never ceased talking to me.

At length we reached Waimate. After having passed over
so many miles of an uninhabited useless country, the sudden
appearance of an English farm-house, and its well-dressed
fields, placed there as if by an enchanter's wand, was
exceedingly pleasant. Mr. Williams not being at home, I received
in Mr. Davies's house a cordial welcome. After drinking tea
with his family party, we took a stroll about the farm. At
Waimate there are three large houses, where the missionary
gentlemen, Messrs. Williams, Davies, and Clarke, reside;
and near them are the huts of the native labourers. On an
adjoining slope, fine crops of barley and wheat were standing
in full ear; and in another part, fields of potatoes and clover.
But I cannot attempt to describe all I saw; there were large
gardens, with every fruit and vegetable which England produces;
and many belonging to a warmer clime. I may instance
asparagus, kidney beans, cucumbers, rhubarb, apples,
pears, figs, peaches, apricots, grapes, olives, gooseberries,
currants, hops, gorse for fences, and English oaks; also many
kinds of flowers. Around the farm-yard there were stables,
a thrashing-barn with its winnowing machine, a blacksmith's
forge, and on the ground ploughshares and other tools: in
the middle was that happy mixture of pigs and poultry, lying
comfortably together, as in every English farm-yard. At the
distance of a few hundred yards, where the water of a little
rill had been dammed up into a pool, there was a large and
substantial water-mill.

All this is very surprising, when it is considered that five
years ago nothing but the fern flourished here. Moreover,
native workmanship, taught by the missionaries, has effected
this change; -- the lesson of the missionary is the enchanter's
wand. The house had been built, the windows framed, the
fields ploughed, and even the trees grafted, by a New Zealander.
At the mill, a New Zealander was seen powdered
white with flower, like his brother miller in England. When
I looked at this whole scene, I thought it admirable. It was
not merely that England was brought vividly before my
mind; yet, as the evening drew to a close, the domestic
sounds, the fields of corn, the distant undulating country
with its trees might well have been mistaken for our fatherland:
nor was it the triumphant feeling at seeing what Englishmen
could effect; but rather the high hopes thus inspired
for the future progress of this fine island.

Several young men, redeemed by the missionaries from
slavery, were employed on the farm. They were dressed in
a shirt, jacket, and trousers, and had a respectable appearance.
Judging from one trifling anecdote, I should think
they must be honest. When walking in the fields, a young
labourer came up to Mr. Davies, and gave him a knife and
gimlet, saying that he had found them on the road, and did
not know to whom they belonged! These young men and
boys appeared very merry and good-humoured. In the evening
I saw a party of them at cricket: when I thought of the
austerity of which the missionaries have been accused, I was
amused by observing one of their own sons taking an active
part in the game. A more decided and pleasing change was
manifested in the young women, who acted as servants within
the houses. Their clean, tidy, and healthy appearance, like
that of the dairy-maids in England, formed a wonderful
contrast with the women of the filthy hovels in Kororadika.
The wives of the missionaries tried to persuade them not to
be tattooed; but a famous operator having arrived from the
south, they said, "We really must just have a few lines on
our lips; else when we grow old, our lips will shrivel, and we
shall be so very ugly." There is not nearly so much tattooing
as formerly; but as it is a badge of distinction between the
chief and the slave, it will probably long be practised. So
soon does any train of ideas become habitual, that the
missionaries told me that even in their eyes a plain face looked
mean, and not like that of a New Zealand gentleman.

Late in the evening I went to Mr. Williams's house, where
I passed the night. I found there a large party of children,
collected together for Christmas Day, and all sitting round
a table at tea. I never saw a nicer or more merry group; and
to think that this was in the centre of the land of cannibalism,
murder, and all atrocious crimes! The cordiality and
happiness so plainly pictured in the faces of the little circle,
appeared equally felt by the older persons of the mission.

December 24th. -- In the morning, prayers were read in
the native tongue to the whole family. After breakfast I
rambled about the gardens and farm. This was a market-
day, when the natives of the surrounding hamlets bring their
potatoes, Indian corn, or pigs, to exchange for blankets,
tobacco, and sometimes, through the persuasions of the
missionaries, for soap. Mr. Davies's eldest son, who manages a
farm of his own, is the man of business in the market. The
children of the missionaries, who came while young to the
island, understand the language better than their parents,
and can get anything more readily done by the natives.

A little before noon Messrs. Williams and Davies walked
with me to a part of a neighbouring forest, to show me the
famous kauri pine. I measured one of the noble trees, and
found it thirty-one feet in circumference above the roots.
There was another close by, which I did not see, thirty-three
feet; and I heard of one no less than forty feet. These trees
are remarkable for their smooth cylindrical boles, which run
up to a height of sixty, and even ninety feet, with a nearly
equal diameter, and without a single branch. The crown
of branches at the summit is out of all proportion small to
the trunk; and the leaves are likewise small compared with
the branches. The forest was here almost composed of the
kauri; and the largest trees, from the parallelism of their
sides, stood up like gigantic columns of wood. The timber
of the kauri is the most valuable production of the island;
moreover, a quantity of resin oozes from the bark, which is
sold at a penny a pound to the Americans, but its use was
then unknown. Some of the New Zealand forest must be
impenetrable to an extraordinary degree. Mr. Matthews
informed me that one forest only thirty-four miles in width,
and separating two inhabited districts, had only lately, for
the first time, been crossed. He and another missionary,
each with a party of about fifty men, undertook to open a
road, but it cost more than a fortnight's labour! In
the woods I saw very few birds. With regard to animals,
it is a most remarkable fact, that so large an island, extending
over more than 700 miles in latitude, and in many parts
ninety broad, with varied stations, a fine climate, and land
of all heights, from 14,000 feet downwards, with the exception
of a small rat, did not possess one indigenous animal.
The several species of that gigantic genus of birds, the
Deinornis seem here to have replaced mammiferous quadrupeds,
in the same manner as the reptiles still do at the Galapagos
archipelago. It is said that the common Norway rat, in
the short space of two years, annihilated in this northern
end of the island, the New Zealand species. In many places
I noticed several sorts of weeds, which, like the rats, I was
forced to own as countrymen. A leek has overrun whole
districts, and will prove very troublesome, but it was imported
as a favour by a French vessel. The common dock
is also widely disseminated, and will, I fear, for ever remain
a proof of the rascality of an Englishman, who sold the seeds
for those of the tobacco plant.

On returning from our pleasant walk to the house, I dined
with Mr. Williams; and then, a horse being lent me, I returned
to the Bay of Islands. I took leave of the missionaries
with thankfulness for their kind welcome, and with feelings
of high respect for their gentlemanlike, useful, and
upright characters. I think it would be difficult to find
a body of men better adapted for the high office which
they fulfil.

Christmas Day. -- In a few more days the fourth year of
our absence from England will be completed. Our first
Christmas Day was spent at Plymouth, the second at St.
Martin's Cove, near Cape Horn; the third at Port Desire,
in Patagonia; the fourth at anchor in a wild harbour in the
peninsula of Tres Montes, this fifth here, and the next, I
trust in Providence, will be in England. We attended divine
service in the chapel of Pahia; part of the service being
read in English, and part in the native language. Whilst at
New Zealand we did not hear of any recent acts of cannibalism;
but Mr. Stokes found burnt human bones strewed
round a fire-place on a small island near the anchorage; but
these remains of a comfortable banquet might have been
lying there for several years. It is probable that the moral
state of the people will rapidly improve. Mr. Bushby mentioned
one pleasing anecdote as a proof of the sincerity of
some, at least, of those who profess Christianity. One of
his young men left him, who had been accustomed to read
prayers to the rest of the servants. Some weeks afterwards,
happening to pass late in the evening by an outhouse, he saw
and heard one of his men reading the Bible with difficulty
by the light of the fire, to the others. After this the party
knelt and prayed: in their prayers they mentioned Mr.
Bushby and his family, and the missionaries, each separately
in his respective district.

December 26th. -- Mr. Bushby offered to take Mr. Sulivan
and myself in his boat some miles up the river to Cawa-
Cawa, and proposed afterwards to walk on to the village of
Waiomio, where there are some curious rocks. Following
one of the arms of the bay, we enjoyed a pleasant row, and
passed through pretty scenery, until we came to a village,
beyond which the boat could not pass. From this place a
chief and a party of men volunteered to walk with us to
Waiomio, a distance of four miles. The chief was at this
time rather notorious from having lately hung one of his
wives and a slave for adultery. When one of the missionaries
remonstrated with him he seemed surprised, and said
he thought he was exactly following the English method.
Old Shongi, who happened to be in England during the
Queen's trial, expressed great disapprobation at the whole
proceeding: he said he had five wives, and he would rather
cut off all their heads than be so much troubled about one.
Leaving this village, we crossed over to another, seated on
a hill-side at a little distance. The daughter of a chief, who
was still a heathen, had died there five days before. The
hovel in which she had expired had been burnt to the ground:
her body being enclosed between two small canoes, was
placed upright on the ground, and protected by an enclosure
bearing wooden images of their gods, and the whole was
painted bright red, so as to be conspicuous from afar. Her
gown was fastened to the coffin, and her hair being cut off
was cast at its foot. The relatives of the family had torn
the flesh of their arms, bodies, and faces, so that they were
covered with clotted blood; and the old women looked most
filthy, disgusting objects. On the following day some of the
officers visited this place, and found the women still howling
and cutting themselves.

We continued our walk, and soon reached Waiomio. Here
there are some singular masses of limestone, resembling
ruined castles. These rocks have long served for burial
places, and in consequence are held too sacred to be approached.
One of the young men, however, cried out, "Let
us all be brave," and ran on ahead; but when within a hundred
yards, the whole party thought better of it, and stopped
short. With perfect indifference, however, they allowed us
to examine the whole place. At this village we rested some
hours, during which time there was a long discussion with
Mr. Bushby, concerning the right of sale of certain lands.
One old man, who appeared a perfect genealogist, illustrated
the successive possessors by bits of stick driven into the
ground. Before leaving the houses a little basketful of
roasted sweet potatoes was given to each of our party; and
we all, according to the custom, carried them away to eat
on the road. I noticed that among the women employed in
cooking, there was a man-slave: it must be a humiliating
thing for a man in this warlike country to be employed in
doing that which is considered as the lowest woman's work.
Slaves are not allowed to go to war; but this perhaps can
hardly be considered as a hardship. I heard of one poor
wretch who, during hostilities, ran away to the opposite
party; being met by two men, he was immediately seized;
but as they could not agree to whom he should belong, each
stood over him with a stone hatchet, and seemed determined
that the other at least should not take him away alive. The
poor man, almost dead with fright, was only saved by the
address of a chief's wife. We afterwards enjoyed a pleasant
walk back to the boat, but did not reach the ship till late in
the evening.

December 30th. -- In the afternoon we stood out of the
Bay of Islands, on our course to Sydney. I believe we were
all glad to leave New Zealand. It is not a pleasant place.
Amongst the natives there is absent that charming simplicity
which is found in Tahiti; and the greater part of the English
are the very refuse of society. Neither is the country itself
attractive. I look back but to one bright spot, and that is
Waimate, with its Christian inhabitants.



Sydney -- Excursion to Bathurst -- Aspect of the Woods -- Party
of Natives -- Gradual Extinction of the Aborigines -- Infection
generated by associated Men in health -- Blue Mountains -- View
of the grand gulf-like Valleys -- Their origin and formation --
Bathurst, general civility of the Lower Orders -- State of
Society -- Van Diemen's Land -- Hobart Town -- Aborigines all
banished -- Mount Wellington -- King George's Sound --
Cheerless Aspect of the Country -- Bald Head, calcareous casts
of branches of Trees -- Party of Natives -- Leave Australia.

JANUARY 12th, 1836. -- Early in the morning a light air
carried us towards the entrance of Port Jackson. Instead
of beholding a verdant country, interspersed with
fine houses, a straight line of yellowish cliff brought to our
minds the coast of Patagonia. A solitary lighthouse, built of
white stone, alone told us that we were near a great and
populous city. Having entered the harbour, it appears fine
and spacious, with cliff-formed shores of horizontally
stratified sandstone. The nearly level country is covered with
thin scrubby trees, bespeaking the curse of sterility.
Proceeding further inland, the country improves: beautiful
villas and nice cottages are here and there scattered along the
beach. In the distance stone houses, two and three stories high,
and windmills standing on the edge of a bank, pointed out to us
the neighbourhood of the capital of Australia.

At last we anchored within Sydney Cove. We found the
little basin occupied by many large ships, and surrounded by
warehouses. In the evening I walked through the town, and
returned full of admiration at the whole scene. It is a most
magnificent testimony to the power of the British nation.
Here, in a less promising country, scores of years have done
many more times more than an equal number of centuries
have effected in South America. My first feeling was to
congratulate myself that I was born an Englishman. Upon
seeing more of the town afterwards, perhaps my admiration
fell a little; but yet it is a fine town. The streets are
regular, broad, clean, and kept in excellent order; the houses
are of a good size, and the shops well furnished. It may be
faithfully compared to the large suburbs which stretch out from
London and a few other great towns in England; but not even near
London or Birmingham is there an appearance of such rapid
growth. The number of large houses and other buildings just
finished was truly surprising; nevertheless, every one
complained of the high rents and difficulty in procuring a
house. Coming from South America, where in the towns every man
of property is known, no one thing surprised me more than
not being able to ascertain at once to whom this or that
carriage belonged.

I hired a man and two horses to take me to Bathurst, a
village about one hundred and twenty miles in the interior,
and the centre of a great pastoral district. By this means I
hoped to gain a general idea of the appearance of the country.
On the morning of the 16th (January) I set out on my excursion.
The first stage took us to Paramatta, a small country
town, next to Sydney in importance. The roads were excellent,
and made upon the MacAdam principle, whinstone having
been brought for the purpose from the distance of several
miles. In all respects there was a close resemblance to England:
perhaps the alehouses here were more numerous. The iron gangs,
or parties of convicts who have committed here some offense,
appeared the least like England: they were working in chains,
under the charge of sentries with loaded arms.

The power which the government possesses, by means
of forced labour, of at once opening good roads throughout
the country, has been, I believe, one main cause of the early
prosperity of this colony. I slept at night at a very
comfortable inn at Emu ferry, thirty-five miles from Sydney,
and near the ascent of the Blue Mountains. This line of
road is the most frequented, and has been the longest inhabited
of any in the colony. The whole land is enclosed
with high railings, for the farmers have not succeeded in
rearing hedges. There are many substantial houses and good
cottages scattered about; but although considerable pieces of
land are under cultivation, the greater part yet remains as
when first discovered.

The extreme uniformity of the vegetation is the most
remarkable feature in the landscape of the greater part of
New South Wales. Everywhere we have an open woodland,
the ground being partially covered with a very thin pasture,
with little appearance of verdure. The trees nearly all
belong to one family, and mostly have their leaves placed in
a vertical, instead of as in Europe, in a nearly horizontal
position: the foliage is scanty, and of a peculiar pale green
tint, without any gloss. Hence the woods appear light and
shadowless: this, although a loss of comfort to the traveller
under the scorching rays of summer, is of importance to the
farmer, as it allows grass to grow where it otherwise would
not. The leaves are not shed periodically: this character
appears common to the entire southern hemisphere, namely,
South America, Australia, and the Cape of Good Hope. The
inhabitants of this hemisphere, and of the intertropical
regions, thus lose perhaps one of the most glorious, though
to our eyes common, spectacles in the world -- the first
bursting into full foliage of the leafless tree. They may,
however, say that we pay dearly for this by having the land
covered with mere naked skeletons for so many months. This is
too true but our senses thus acquire a keen relish for the
exquisite green of the spring, which the eyes of those living
within the tropics, sated during the long year with the gorgeous
productions of those glowing climates, can never experience.
The greater number of the trees, with the exception
of some of the Blue-gums, do not attain a large size;
but they grow tall and tolerably straight, and stand well
apart. The bark of some of the Eucalypti falls annually, or
hangs dead in long shreds which swing about with the wind,
and give to the woods a desolate and untidy appearance. I
cannot imagine a more complete contrast, in every respect,
than between the forests of Valdivia or Chiloe, and the
woods of Australia.

At sunset, a party of a score of the black aborigines passed
by, each carrying, in their accustomed manner, a bundle of
spears and other weapons. By giving a leading young man a
shilling, they were easily detained, and threw their spears for
my amusement. They were all partly clothed, and several
could speak a little English: their countenances were good-
humoured and pleasant, and they appeared far from being
such utterly degraded beings as they have usually been
represented. In their own arts they are admirable. A cap being
fixed at thirty yards distance, they transfixed it with a spear,
delivered by the throwing-stick with the rapidity of an arrow
from the bow of a practised archer. In tracking animals or
men they show most wonderful sagacity; and I heard of several
of their remarks which manifested considerable acuteness.
They will not, however, cultivate the ground, or build
houses and remain stationary, or even take the trouble of
tending a flock of sheep when given to them. On the whole
they appear to me to stand some few degrees higher in the
scale of civilization than the Fuegians.

It is very curious thus to see in the midst of a civilized
people, a set of harmless savages wandering about without
knowing where they shall sleep at night, and gaining their
livelihood by hunting in the woods. As the white man has
travelled onwards, he has spread over the country belonging
to several tribes. These, although thus enclosed by one common
people, keep up their ancient distinctions, and sometimes
go to war with each other. In an engagement which
took place lately, the two parties most singularly chose the
centre of the village of Bathurst for the field of battle. This
was of service to the defeated side, for the runaway warriors
took refuge in the barracks.

The number of aborigines is rapidly decreasing. In my
whole ride, with the exception of some boys brought up by
Englishmen, I saw only one other party. This decrease, no
doubt, must be partly owing to the introduction of spirits, to
European diseases (even the milder ones of which, such as
the measles, [1] prove very destructive), and to the gradual
extinction of the wild animals. It is said that numbers of
their children invariably perish in very early infancy from
the effects of their wandering life; and as the difficulty of
procuring food increases, so must their wandering habits
increase; and hence the population, without any apparent
deaths from famine, is repressed in a manner extremely
sudden compared to what happens in civilized countries,
where the father, though in adding to his labour he may injure
himself, does not destroy his offspring.

Besides the several evident causes of destruction, there
appears to be some more mysterious agency generally at
work. Wherever the European has trod, death seems to pursue
the aboriginal. We may look to the wide extent of the
Americas, Polynesia, the Cape of Good Hope, and Australia,
and we find the same result. Nor is it the white man alone
that thus acts the destroyer; the Polynesian of Malay extraction
has in parts of the East Indian archipelago, thus driven
before him the dark-coloured native. The varieties of man
seem to act on each other in the same way as different species
of animals -- the stronger always extirpating the weaker. It
was melancholy at New Zealand to hear the fine energetic
natives saying that they knew the land was doomed to pass
from their children. Every one has heard of the inexplicable
reduction of the population in the beautiful and healthy island
of Tahiti since the date of Captain Cook's voyages: although
in that case we might have expected that it would have been
increased; for infanticide, which formerly prevailed to so
extraordinary a degree, has ceased; profligacy has greatly
diminished, and the murderous wars become less frequent.

The Rev. J. Williams, in his interesting work, [2] says, that
the first intercourse between natives and Europeans, "is
invariably attended with the introduction of fever, dysentery,
or some other disease, which carries off numbers of the people."
Again he affirms, "It is certainly a fact, which cannot
be controverted, that most of the diseases which have raged
in the islands during my residence there, have been introduced
by ships; [3] and what renders this fact remarkable is,
that there might be no appearance of disease among the crew
of the ship which conveyed this destructive importation."
This statement is not quite so extraordinary as it at first
appears; for several cases are on record of the most malignant
fevers having broken out, although the parties themselves,
who were the cause, were not affected. In the early
part of the reign of George III., a prisoner who had been
confined in a dungeon, was taken in a coach with four constables
before a magistrate; and although the man himself
was not ill, the four constables died from a short putrid
fever; but the contagion extended to no others. From these
facts it would almost appear as if the effluvium of one set
of men shut up for some time together was poisonous when
inhaled by others; and possibly more so, if the men be of
different races. Mysterious as this circumstance appears to
be, it is not more surprising than that the body of one's
fellow-creature, directly after death, and before putrefaction
has commenced, should often be of so deleterious a quality,
that the mere puncture from an instrument used in its
dissection, should prove fatal.

17th. -- Early in the morning we passed the Nepean in a
ferry-boat. The river, although at this spot both broad and
deep, had a very small body of running water. Having
crossed a low piece of land on the opposite side, we reached
the slope of the Blue Mountains. The ascent is not steep,
the road having been cut with much care on the side of a
sandstone cliff. On the summit an almost level plain extends,
which, rising imperceptibly to the westward, at last attains
a height of more than 3000 feet. From so grand a title as
Blue Mountains, and from their absolute altitude, I expected
to have seen a bold chain of mountains crossing the country;
but instead of this, a sloping plain presents merely an
inconsiderable front to the low land near the coast. From
this first slope, the view of the extensive woodland to the
east was striking, and the surrounding trees grew bold and
lofty. But when once on the sandstone platform, the scenery
becomes exceedingly monotonous; each side of the road is
bordered by scrubby trees of the never-failing Eucalyptus
family; and with the exception of two or three small inns,
there are no houses or cultivated land: the road, moreover,
is solitary; the most frequent object being a bullock-waggon,
piled up with bales of wool.

In the middle of the day we baited our horses at a little
inn, called the Weatherboard. The country here is elevated
2800 feet above the sea. About a mile and a half from this
place there is a view exceedingly well worth visiting. Following
down a little valley and its tiny rill of water, an
immense gulf unexpectedly opens through the trees which
border the pathway, at the depth of perhaps 1500 feet.
Walking on a few yards, one stands on the brink of a vast
precipice, and below one sees a grand bay or gulf, for I know
not what other name to give it, thickly covered with forest.
The point of view is situated as if at the head of a bay, the
line of cliff diverging on each side, and showing headland
behind headland, as on a bold sea-coast. These cliffs are
composed of horizontal strata of whitish sandstone; and
are so absolutely vertical, that in many places a person
standing on the edge and throwing down a stone, can see it
strike the trees in the abyss below. So unbroken is the line
of cliff, that in order to reach the foot of the waterfall,
formed by this little stream, it is said to be necessary to go
sixteen miles round. About five miles distant in front,
another line of cliff extends, which thus appears completely
to encircle the valley; and hence the name of bay is justified,
as applied to this grand amphitheatrical depression. If we
imagine a winding harbour, with its deep water surrounded
by bold cliff-like shores, to be laid dry, and a forest to
spring up on its sandy bottom, we should then have the
appearance and structure here exhibited. This kind of view was
to me quite novel, and extremely magnificent.

In the evening we reached the Blackheath. The sandstone
plateau has here attained the height of 3400 feet; and
is covered, as before, with the same scrubby woods. From
the road, there were occasional glimpses into a profound
valley, of the same character as the one described; but from
the steepness and depth of its sides, the bottom was scarcely
ever to be seen. The Blackheath is a very comfortable inn,
kept by an old soldier; and it reminded me of the small inns
in North Wales.

18th. -- Very early in the morning, I walked about three
miles to see Govett's Leap; a view of a similar character
with that near the Weatherboard, but perhaps even more
stupendous. So early in the day the gulf was filled with a
thin blue haze, which, although destroying the general effect
of the view added to the apparent depth at which the forest
was stretched out beneath our feet. These valleys, which so
long presented an insuperable barrier to the attempts of the
most enterprising of the colonists to reach the interior, are
most remarkable. Great arm-like bays, expanding at their
upper ends, often branch from the main valleys and penetrate
the sandstone platform; on the other hand, the platform
often sends promontories into the valleys, and even
leaves in them great, almost insulated, masses. To descend
into some of these valleys, it is necessary to go round twenty
miles; and into others, the surveyors have only lately
penetrated, and the colonists have not yet been able to drive in
their cattle. But the most remarkable feature in their structure
is, that although several miles wide at their heads, they
generally contract towards their mouths to such a degree
as to become impassable. The Surveyor-General, Sir T.
Mitchell, [4] endeavoured in vain, first walking and then by
crawling between the great fallen fragments of sandstone,
to ascend through the gorge by which the river Grose joins
the Nepean, yet the valley of the Grose in its upper part,
as I saw, forms a magnificent level basin some miles in
width, and is on all sides surrounded by cliffs, the summits
of which are believed to be nowhere less than 3000 feet
above the level of the sea. When cattle are driven into the
valley of the Wolgan by a path (which I descended), partly
natural and partly made by the owner of the land, they cannot
escape; for this valley is in every other part surrounded
by perpendicular cliffs, and eight miles lower down, it
contracts from an average width of half a mile, to a mere
chasm, impassable to man or beast. Sir T. Mitchell states
that the great valley of the Cox river with all its branches,
contracts, where it unites with the Nepean, into a gorge
2200 yards in width, and about 1000 feet in depth. Other
similar cases might have been added.

The first impression, on seeing the correspondence of the
horizontal strata on each side of these valleys and great
amphitheatrical depressions, is that they have been hollowed
out, like other valleys, by the action of water; but when one
reflects on the enormous amount of stone, which on this
view must have been removed through mere gorges or
chasms, one is led to ask whether these spaces may not have
subsided. But considering the form of the irregularly
branching valleys, and of the narrow promontories projecting
into them from the platforms, we are compelled to abandon
this notion. To attribute these hollows to the present alluvial
action would be preposterous; nor does the drainage
from the summit-level always fall, as I remarked near the
Weatherboard, into the head of these valleys, but into one
side of their bay-like recesses. Some of the inhabitants
remarked to me that they never viewed one of those bay-like
recesses, with the headlands receding on both hands, without
being struck with their resemblance to a bold sea-coast. This
is certainly the case; moreover, on the present coast of New
South Wales, the numerous, fine, widely-branching harbours,
which are generally connected with the sea by a narrow
mouth worn through the sandstone coast-cliffs, varying from
one mile in width to a quarter of a mile, present a likeness,
though on a miniature scale, to the great valleys of the
interior. But then immediately occurs the startling difficulty,
why has the sea worn out these great, though circumscribed
depressions on a wide platform, and left mere gorges at the
openings, through which the whole vast amount of triturated
matter must have been carried away? The only light I can
throw upon this enigma, is by remarking that banks of the
most irregular forms appear to be now forming in some seas,
as in parts of the West Indies and in the Red Sea, and that
their sides are exceedingly steep. Such banks, I have been
led to suppose, have been formed by sediment heaped by
strong currents on an irregular bottom. That in some cases
the sea, instead of spreading out sediment in a uniform sheet,
heaps it round submarine rocks and islands, it is hardly
possible to doubt, after examining the charts of the West
Indies; and that the waves have power to form high and
precipitous cliffs, even in land-locked harbours, I have noticed
in many parts of South America. To apply these ideas to the
sandstone platforms of New South Wales, I imagine that the
strata were heaped by the action of strong currents, and of
the undulations of an open sea, on an irregular bottom; and
that the valley-like spaces thus left unfilled had their steeply
sloping flanks worn into cliffs, during a slow elevation of
the land; the worn-down sandstone being removed, either at
the time when the narrow gorges were cut by the retreating
sea, or subsequently by alluvial action.

Soon after leaving the Blackheath, we descended from the
sandstone platform by the pass of Mount Victoria. To effect
this pass, an enormous quantity of stone has been cut
through; the design, and its manner of execution, being
worthy of any line of road in England. We now entered
upon a country less elevated by nearly a thousand feet, and
consisting of granite. With the change of rock, the vegetation
improved, the trees were both finer and stood farther
apart; and the pasture between them was a little greener and
more plentiful. At Hassan's Walls, I left the high road,
and made a short detour to a farm called Walerawang; to
the superintendent of which I had a letter of introduction
from the owner in Sydney. Mr. Browne had the kindness to
ask me to stay the ensuing day, which I had much pleasure
in doing. This place offers an example of one of the large
farming, or rather sheep-grazing establishments of the
colony. Cattle and horses are, however, in this case rather
more numerous than usual, owing to some of the valleys
being swampy and producing a coarser pasture. Two or
three flat pieces of ground near the house were cleared and
cultivated with corn, which the harvest-men were now reaping:
but no more wheat is sown than sufficient for the annual
support of the labourers employed on the establishment. The
usual number of assigned convict-servants here is about
forty, but at the present time there were rather more. Although
the farm was well stocked with every necessary,
there was an apparent absence of comfort; and not one
single woman resided here. The sunset of a fine day will
generally cast an air of happy contentment on any scene;
but here, at this retired farm-house, the brightest tints on
the surrounding woods could not make me forget that forty
hardened, profligate men were ceasing from their daily
labours, like the slaves from Africa, yet without their holy
claim for compassion.

Early on the next morning, Mr. Archer, the joint superintendent,
had the kindness to take me out kangaroo-hunting.
We continued riding the greater part of the day, but had
very bad sport, not seeing a kangaroo, or even a wild dog.
The greyhounds pursued a kangaroo rat into a hollow tree,
out of which we dragged it: it is an animal as large as a
rabbit, but with the figure of a kangaroo. A few years since
this country abounded with wild animals; but now the emu
is banished to a long distance, and the kangaroo is become
scarce; to both the English greyhound has been highly
destructive. It may be long before these animals are altogether
exterminated, but their doom is fixed. The aborigines are
always anxious to borrow the dogs from the farm-houses:
the use of them, the offal when an animal is killed, and some
milk from the cows, are the peace-offerings of the settlers,
who push farther and farther towards the interior. The
thoughtless aboriginal, blinded by these trifling advantages,
is delighted at the approach of the white man, who seems
predestined to inherit the country of his children.

Although having poor sport, we enjoyed a pleasant ride.
The woodland is generally so open that a person on horseback
can gallop through it. It is traversed by a few flat-
bottomed valleys, which are green and free from trees: in
such spots the scenery was pretty like that of a park. In the
whole country I scarcely saw a place without the marks of a
fire; whether these had been more or less recent -- whether
the stumps were more or less black, was the greatest change
which varied the uniformity, so wearisome to the traveller's
eye. In these woods there are not many birds; I saw, however,
some large flocks of the white cockatoo feeding in a
corn-field, and a few most beautiful parrots; crows, like our
jackdaws were not uncommon, and another bird something
like the magpie. In the dusk of the evening I took a stroll
along a chain of ponds, which in this dry country represented
the course of a river, and had the good fortune to see several
of the famous Ornithorhynchus paradoxus. They were
diving and playing about the surface of the water, but
showed so little of their bodies, that they might easily have
been mistaken for water-rats. Mr. Browne shot one: certainly
it is a most extraordinary animal; a stuffed specimen does not
at all give a good idea of the appearance of the head and beak
when fresh; the latter becoming hard and contracted. [5]

20th. -- A long day's ride to Bathurst. Before joining the
highroad we followed a mere path through the forest; and
the country, with the exception of a few squatters' huts, was
very solitary. We experienced this day the sirocco-like wind
of Australia, which comes from the parched deserts of the
interior. Clouds of dust were travelling in every direction;
and the wind felt as if it had passed over a fire. I afterwards
heard that the thermometer out of doors had stood at
119 degs., and in a closed room at 96 degs. In the afternoon we
came in view of the downs of Bathurst. These undulating but
nearly smooth plains are very remarkable in this country,
from being absolutely destitute of trees. They support only
a thin brown pasture. We rode some miles over this country,
and then reached the township of Bathurst, seated in the
middle of what may be called either a very broad valley, or
narrow plain. I was told at Sydney not to form too bad an
opinion of Australia by judging of the country from the
roadside, nor too good a one from Bathurst; in this latter
respect, I did not feel myself in the least danger of being
prejudiced. The season, it must be owned, had been one of great
drought, and the country did not wear a favourable aspect;
although I understand it was incomparably worse two or
three months before. The secret of the rapidly growing
prosperity of Bathurst is, that the brown pasture which
appears to the stranger's eye so wretched, is excellent for
sheep-grazing. The town stands, at the height of 2200 feet
above the sea, on the banks of the Macquarie. This is one of
the rivers flowing into the vast and scarcely known interior.
The line of water-shed, which divides the inland streams from
those on the coast, has a height of about 3000 feet, and runs
in a north and south direction at the distance of from eighty
to a hundred miles from the sea-side. The Macquarie figures
in the map as a respectable river, and it is the largest of
those draining this part of the water-shed; yet to my surprise
I found it a mere chain of ponds, separated from each other
by spaces almost dry. Generally a small stream is running;
and sometimes there are high and impetuous floods. Scanty
as the supply of the water is throughout this district, it
becomes still scantier further inland.

22nd. -- I commenced my return, and followed a new road
called Lockyer's Line, along which the country is rather more
hilly and picturesque. This was a long day's ride; and the
house where I wished to sleep was some way off the road,
and not easily found. I met on this occasion, and indeed on
all others, a very general and ready civility among the lower
orders, which, when one considers what they are, and what
they have been, would scarcely have been expected. The
farm where I passed the night, was owned by two young
men who had only lately come out, and were beginning a
settler's life. The total want of almost every comfort was
not attractive; but future and certain prosperity was before
their eyes, and that not far distant.

The next day we passed through large tracts of country in
flames, volumes of smoke sweeping across the road. Before
noon we joined our former road, and ascended Mount Victoria.
I slept at the Weatherboard, and before dark took
another walk to the amphitheatre. On the road to Sydney
I spent a very pleasant evening with Captain King at Dunheved;
and thus ended my little excursion in the colony of
New South Wales.

Before arriving here the three things which interested me
most were -- the state of society amongst the higher classes,
the condition of the convicts, and the degree of attraction
sufficient to induce persons to emigrate. Of course, after
so very short a visit, one's opinion is worth scarcely anything;
but it is as difficult not to form some opinion, as it is
to form a correct judgment. On the whole, from what I
heard, more than from what I saw, I was disappointed in the
state of society. The whole community is rancorously
divided into parties on almost every subject. Among those
who, from their station in life, ought to be the best, many
live in such open profligacy that respectable people cannot
associate with them. There is much jealousy between the
children of the rich emancipist and the free settlers, the
former being pleased to consider honest men as interlopers.
The whole population, poor and rich, are bent on acquiring
wealth: amongst the higher orders, wool and sheep-grazing
form the constant subject of conversation. There are many
serious drawbacks to the comforts of a family, the chief of
which, perhaps, is being surrounded by convict servants.
How thoroughly odious to every feeling, to be waited on by
a man who the day before, perhaps, was flogged, from your
representation, for some trifling misdemeanor. The female
servants are of course, much worse: hence children learn the
vilest expressions, and it is fortunate, if not equally vile

On the other hand, the capital of a person, without any
trouble on his part, produces him treble interest to what it
will in England; and with care he is sure to grow rich. The
luxuries of life are in abundance, and very little dearer than
in England, and most articles of food are cheaper. The
climate is splendid, and perfectly healthy; but to my mind
its charms are lost by the uninviting aspect of the country.
Settlers possess a great advantage in finding their sons of
service when very young. At the age of from sixteen to
twenty, they frequently take charge of distant farming stations.
This, however, must happen at the expense of their
boys associating entirely with convict servants. I am not
aware that the tone of society has assumed any peculiar
character; but with such habits, and without intellectual
pursuits, it can hardly fail to deteriorate. My opinion is
such, that nothing but rather sharp necessity should compel
me to emigrate.

The rapid prosperity and future prospects of this colony
are to me, not understanding these subjects, very puzzling.
The two main exports are wool and whale-oil, and to both
of these productions there is a limit. The country is totally
unfit for canals, therefore there is a not very distant point,
beyond which the land-carriage of wool will not repay the
expense of shearing and tending sheep. Pasture everywhere
is so thin that settlers have already pushed far into the
interior: moreover, the country further inland becomes extremely
poor. Agriculture, on account of the droughts, can
never succeed on an extended scale: therefore, so far as I
can see, Australia must ultimately depend upon being the
centre of commerce for the southern hemisphere, and perhaps
on her future manufactories. Possessing coal, she
always has the moving power at hand. From the habitable
country extending along the coast, and from her English
extraction, she is sure to be a maritime nation. I formerly
imagined that Australia would rise to be as grand and powerful
a country as North America, but now it appears to me
that such future grandeur is rather problematical.

With respect to the state of the convicts, I had still fewer
opportunities of judging than on other points. The first
question is, whether their condition is at all one of
punishment: no one will maintain that it is a very severe one.
This, however, I suppose, is of little consequence as long as
it continues to be an object of dread to criminals at home.
The corporeal wants of the convicts are tolerably well supplied:
their prospect of future liberty and comfort is not
distant, and, after good conduct, certain. A "ticket of
leave," which, as long as a man keeps clear of suspicion as
well as of crime, makes him free within a certain district, is
given upon good conduct, after years proportional to the
length of the sentence; yet with all this, and overlooking
the previous imprisonment and wretched passage out, I
believe the years of assignment are passed away with discontent
and unhappiness. As an intelligent man remarked to
me, the convicts know no pleasure beyond sensuality, and in
this they are not gratified. The enormous bribe which Government
possesses in offering free pardons, together with the
deep horror of the secluded penal settlements, destroys
confidence between the convicts, and so prevents crime. As to a
sense of shame, such a feeling does not appear to be known,
and of this I witnessed some very singular proofs. Though
it is a curious fact, I was universally told that the character
of the convict population is one of arrant cowardice: not
unfrequently some become desperate, and quite indifferent as
to life, yet a plan requiring cool or continued courage is
seldom put into execution. The worst feature in the whole
case is, that although there exists what may be called a legal
reform, and comparatively little is committed which the law
can touch, yet that any moral reform should take place
appears to be quite out of the question. I was assured by
well-informed people, that a man who should try to improve,
could not while living with other assigned servants; -- his
life would be one of intolerable misery and persecution. Nor
must the contamination of the convict-ships and prisons, both
here and in England, be forgotten. On the whole, as a place
of punishment, the object is scarcely gained; as a real system
of reform it has failed, as perhaps would every other plan;
but as a means of making men outwardly honest, -- of converting
vagabonds, most useless in one hemisphere, into
active citizens of another, and thus giving birth to a new
and splendid country -- a grand centre of civilization -- it has
succeeded to a degree perhaps unparalleled in history.

30th. -- The Beagle sailed for Hobart Town in Van Diemen's
Land. On the 5th of February, after a six days' passage,
of which the first part was fine, and the latter very cold
and squally, we entered the mouth of Storm Bay: the weather
justified this awful name. The bay should rather be called
an estuary, for it receives at its head the waters of the
Derwent. Near the mouth, there are some extensive basaltic
platforms; but higher up the land becomes mountainous, and
is covered by a light wood. The lower parts of the hills
which skirt the bay are cleared; and the bright yellow fields
of corn, and dark green ones of potatoes, appear very luxuriant.
Late in the evening we anchored in the snug cove,
on the shores of which stands the capital of Tasmania. The
first aspect of the place was very inferior to that of Sydney;
the latter might be called a city, this is only a town. It
stands at the base of Mount Wellington, a mountain 3100
feet high, but of little picturesque beauty; from this source,
however, it receives a good supply of water. Round the cove
there are some fine warehouses and on one side a small fort.
Coming from the Spanish settlements, where such magnificent
care has generally been paid to the fortifications, the
means of defence in these colonies appeared very contemptible.
Comparing the town with Sydney, I was chiefly struck
with the comparative fewness of the large houses, either
built or building. Hobart Town, from the census of 1835,
contained 13,826 inhabitants, and the whole of Tasmania 36,505.

All the aborigines have been removed to an island in
Bass's Straits, so that Van Diemen's Land enjoys the great
advantage of being free from a native population. This
most cruel step seems to have been quite unavoidable, as
the only means of stopping a fearful succession of robberies,
burnings, and murders, committed by the blacks; and which
sooner or later would have ended in their utter destruction.
I fear there is no doubt, that this train of evil and its
consequences, originated in the infamous conduct of some of
our countrymen. Thirty years is a short period, in which to
have banished the last aboriginal from his native island, --
and that island nearly as large as Ireland. The correspondence
on this subject, which took place between the government
at home and that of Van Diemen's Land, is very interesting.
Although numbers of natives were shot and taken prisoners
in the skirmishing, which was going on at intervals for several
years; nothing seems fully to have impressed them with
the idea of our overwhelming power, until the whole island,
in 1830, was put under martial law, and by proclamation the
whole population commanded to assist in one great attempt
to secure the entire race. The plan adopted was nearly similar
to that of the great hunting-matches in India: a line was
formed reaching across the island, with the intention of
driving the natives into a _cul-de-sac_ on Tasman's peninsula.
The attempt failed; the natives, having tied up their dogs,
stole during one night through the lines. This is far from
surprising, when their practised senses, and usual manner
of crawling after wild animals is considered. I have been
assured that they can conceal themselves on almost bare
ground, in a manner which until witnessed is scarcely credible;
their dusky bodies being easily mistaken for the blackened
stumps which are scattered all over the country. I was
told of a trial between a party of Englishmen and a native,
who was to stand in full view on the side of a bare hill; if the
Englishmen closed their eyes for less than a minute, he
would squat down, and then they were never able to distinguish
him from the surrounding stumps. But to return to
the hunting-match; the natives understanding this kind of
warfare, were terribly alarmed, for they at once perceived
the power and numbers of the whites. Shortly afterwards
a party of thirteen belonging to two tribes came in; and,
conscious of their unprotected condition, delivered themselves
up in despair. Subsequently by the intrepid exertions
of Mr. Robinson, an active and benevolent man, who
fearlessly visited by himself the most hostile of the natives,
the whole were induced to act in a similar manner. They
were then removed to an island, where food and clothes
were provided them. Count Strzelecki states, [6] that "at the
epoch of their deportation in 1835, the number of natives
amounted to 210. In 1842, that is, after the interval of seven
years, they mustered only fifty-four individuals; and, while
each family of the interior of New South Wales, uncontaminated
by contact with the whites, swarms with children, those
of Flinders' Island had during eight years an accession of
only fourteen in number!"

The Beagle stayed here ten days, and in this time I made
several pleasant little excursions, chiefly with the object of
examining the geological structure of the immediate
neighbourhood. The main points of interest consist, first in
some highly fossiliferous strata, belonging to the Devonian or
Carboniferous period; secondly, in proofs of a late small rise
of the land; and lastly, in a solitary and superficial patch of
yellowish limestone or travertin, which contains numerous
impressions of leaves of trees, together with land-shells, not
now existing. It is not improbable that this one small quarry
includes the only remaining record of the vegetation of Van
Diemen's Land during one former epoch.

The climate here is damper than in New South Wales,
and hence the land is more fertile. Agriculture flourishes;
the cultivated fields look well, and the gardens abound with
thriving vegetables and fruit-trees. Some of the farm-houses,
situated in retired spots, had a very attractive appearance.
The general aspect of the vegetation is similar to
that of Australia; perhaps it is a little more green and
cheerful; and the pasture between the trees rather more
abundant. One day I took a long walk on the side of the bay
opposite to the town: I crossed in a steam-boat, two of which
are constantly plying backwards and forwards. The machinery
of one of these vessels was entirely manufactured in
this colony, which, from its very foundation, then numbered
only three and thirty years! Another day I ascended Mount
Wellington; I took with me a guide, for I failed in a first
attempt, from the thickness of the wood. Our guide, however,
was a stupid fellow, and conducted us to the southern
and damp side of the mountain, where the vegetation was
very luxuriant; and where the labour of the ascent, from the
number of rotten trunks, was almost as great as on a mountain
in Tierra del Fuego or in Chiloe. It cost us five and a
half hours of hard climbing before we reached the summit.
In many parts the Eucalypti grew to a great size, and composed
a noble forest. In some of the dampest ravines, tree-
ferns flourished in an extraordinary manner; I saw one
which must have been at least twenty feet high to the base
of the fronds, and was in girth exactly six feet. The fronds
forming the most elegant parasols, produced a gloomy shade,
like that of the first hour of the night. The summit of the
mountain is broad and flat, and is composed of huge angular
masses of naked greenstone. Its elevation is 3100 feet above
the level of the sea. The day was splendidly clear, and we
enjoyed a most extensive view; to the north, the country
appeared a mass of wooded mountains, of about the same height
with that on which we were standing, and with an equally
tame outline: to the south the broken land and water, forming
many intricate bays, was mapped with clearness before
us. After staying some hours on the summit, we found a
better way to descend, but did not reach the Beagle till eight
o'clock, after a severe day's work.

February 7th. -- The Beagle sailed from Tasmania, and,
on the 6th of the ensuing month, reached King George's
Sound, situated close to the S. W. corner of Australia. We
stayed there eight days; and we did not during our voyage
pass a more dull and uninteresting time. The country,
viewed from an eminence, appears a woody plain, with here
and there rounded and partly bare hills of granite protruding.
One day I went out with a party, in hopes of seeing a
kangaroo hunt, and walked over a good many miles of country.
Everywhere we found the soil sandy, and very poor;
it supported either a coarse vegetation of thin, low brushwood
and wiry grass, or a forest of stunted trees. The
scenery resembled that of the high sandstone platform of the
Blue Mountains; the Casuarina (a tree somewhat resembling
a Scotch fir) is, however, here in greater number, and
the Eucalyptus in rather less. In the open parts there were
many grass-trees, -- a plant which, in appearance, has some
affinity with the palm; but, instead of being surmounted by
a crown of noble fronds, it can boast merely of a tuft of
very coarse grass-like leaves. The general bright green colour
of the brushwood and other plants, viewed from a distance,
seemed to promise fertility. A single walk, however, was enough
to dispel such an illusion; and he who thinks with me will never
wish to walk again in so uninviting a country.

One day I accompanied Captain Fitz Roy to Bald Head;
the place mentioned by so many navigators, where some imagined
that they saw corals, and others that they saw petrified
trees, standing in the position in which they had grown.
According to our view, the beds have been formed by the
wind having heaped up fine sand, composed of minute rounded
particles of shells and corals, during which process
branches and roots of trees, together with many land-shells,
became enclosed. The whole then became consolidated by
the percolation of calcareous matter; and the cylindrical
cavities left by the decaying of the wood, were thus also
filled up with a hard pseudo-stalactical stone. The weather
is now wearing away the softer parts, and in consequence
the hard casts of the roots and branches of the trees project
above the surface, and, in a singularly deceptive manner,
resemble the stumps of a dead thicket.

A large tribe of natives, called the White Cockatoo men
happened to pay the settlement a visit while we were there.
These men, as well as those of the tribe belonging to King
George's Sound, being tempted by the offer of some tubs of
rice and sugar, were persuaded to hold a "corrobery," or
great dancing-party. As soon as it grew dark, small fires
were lighted, and the men commenced their toilet, which
consisted in painting themselves white in spots and lines.
As soon as all was ready, large fires were kept blazing,
round which the women and children were collected as spectators;
the Cockatoo and King George's men formed two distinct
parties, and generally danced in answer to each other.
The dancing consisted in their running either sideways or in
Indian file into an open space, and stamping the ground with
great force as they marched together. Their heavy footsteps
were accompanied by a kind of grunt, by beating their
clubs and spears together, and by various other gesticulations,
such as extending their arms and wriggling their
bodies. It was a most rude, barbarous scene, and, to our
ideas, without any sort of meaning; but we observed that
the black women and children watched it with the greatest
pleasure. Perhaps these dances originally represented actions,
such as wars and victories; there was one called the Emu
dance, in which each man extended his arm in a bent manner,
like the neck of that bird. In another dance, one man
imitated the movements of a kangaroo grazing in the woods,
whilst a second crawled up, and pretended to spear him.
When both tribes mingled in the dance, the ground trembled
with the heaviness of their steps, and the air resounded with
their wild cries. Every one appeared in high spirits, and the
group of nearly naked figures, viewed by the light of the
blazing fires, all moving in hideous harmony, formed a perfect
display of a festival amongst the lowest barbarians. In
Tierra del Fuego, we have beheld many curious scenes in
savage life, but never, I think, one where the natives were
in such high spirits, and so perfectly at their ease. After
the dancing was over, the whole party formed a great circle
on the ground, and the boiled rice and sugar was distributed,
to the delight of all.

After several tedious delays from clouded weather, on the
14th of March, we gladly stood out of King George's Sound
on our course to Keeling Island. Farewell, Australia! you
are a rising child, and doubtless some day will reign a great
princess in the South: but you are too great and ambitious
for affection, yet not great enough for respect. I leave your
shores without sorrow or regret.

[1] It is remarkable how the same disease is modified in
different climates. At the little island of St. Helena the
introduction of scarlet fever is dreaded as a plague. In some
countries, foreigners and natives are as differently affected by
certain contagious disorders as if they had been different
animals; of which fact some instances have occurred in Chile;
and, according to Humboldt, in Mexico (Polit. Essay, New Spain,
vol. iv.).

[2] Narrative of Missionary Enterprise, p. 282.

[3] Captain Beechey (chap. iv., vol. i.) states that the
inhabitants of Pitcairn Island are firmly convinced that after
the arrival of every ship they suffer cutaneous and other
disorders. Captain Beechey attributes this to the change of diet
during the time of the visit. Dr. Macculloch (Western Isles,
vol. ii. p. 32) says: "It is asserted, that on the arrival of a
stranger (at St. Kilda) all the inhabitants, in the common
phraseology, catch a cold." Dr. Macculloch considers the whole
case, although often previously affirmed, as ludicrous. He adds,
however, that "the question was put by us to the inhabitants who
unanimously agreed in the story." In Vancouver's Voyage, there
is a somewhat similar statement with respect to Otaheite. Dr.
Dieffenbach, in a note to his translation of the Journal, states
that the same fact is universally believed by the inhabitants of
the Chatham Islands, and in parts of New Zealand. It is
impossible that such a belief should have become universal in
the northern hemisphere, at the Antipodes, and in the Pacific,
without some good foundation. Humboldt (Polit. Essay on King of
New Spain, vol. iv.) says, that the great epidemics of Panama
and Callao are "marked" by the arrival of ships from Chile,
because the people from that temperate region, first experience
the fatal effects of the torrid zones. I may add, that I have
heard it stated in Shropshire, that sheep, which have been
imported from vessels, although themselves in a healthy
condition, if placed in the same fold with others, frequently
produce sickness in the flock.

[4] Travels in Australia, vol. i. p. 154. I must express my
obligation to Sir T. Mitchell, for several interesting personal
communications on the subject of these great valleys of New
South Wales.

[5] I was interested by finding here the hollow conical pitfall
of the lion-ant, or some other insect; first a fly fell down the
treacherous slope and immediately disappeared; then came a large
but unwary ant; its struggles to escape being very violent,
those curious little jets of sand, described by Kirby and Spence
(Entomol., vol. i. p. 425) as being flirted by the insect's
tail, were promptly directed against the expected victim. But
the ant enjoyed a better fate than the fly, and escaped the
fatal jaws which lay concealed at the base of the conical
hollow. This Australian pitfall was only about half the size of
that made by the European lion-ant.

[6] Physical Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen's
Land, p. 354.



Keeling Island -- Singular appearance -- Scanty Flora --
Transport of Seeds -- Birds and Insects -- Ebbing and flowing
Springs -- Fields of dead Coral -- Stones transported in the
roots of Trees -- Great Crab -- Stinging Corals -- Coral
eating Fish -- Coral Formations -- Lagoon Islands, or Atolls --
Depth at which reef-building Corals can live -- Vast Areas
interspersed with low Coral Islands -- Subsidence of their
foundations -- Barrier Reefs -- Fringing Reefs -- Conversion of
Fringing Reefs into Barrier Reefs, and into Atolls -- Evidence
of changes in Level -- Breaches in Barrier Reefs -- Maldiva
Atolls, their peculiar structure -- Dead and submerged Reefs --
Areas of subsidence and elevation -- Distribution of Volcanoes
-- Subsidence slow, and vast in amount.

APRIL 1st. -- We arrived in view of the Keeling or Cocos
Islands, situated in the Indian Ocean, and about six hundred
miles distant from the coast of Sumatra. This is one of the
lagoon-islands (or atolls) of coral formation, similar to
those in the Low Archipelago which we passed near. When
the ship was in the channel at the entrance, Mr. Liesk,
an English resident, came off in his boat. The history
of the inhabitants of this place, in as few words as
possible, is as follows. About nine years ago, Mr. Hare,
a worthless character, brought from the East Indian
archipelago a number of Malay slaves, which now including
children, amount to more than a hundred. Shortly afterwards,
Captain Ross, who had before visited these islands in his
merchant-ship, arrived from England, bringing
with him his family and goods for settlement along with
him came Mr. Liesk, who had been a mate in his vessel.
The Malay slaves soon ran away from the islet on which
Mr. Hare was settled, and joined Captain Ross's party. Mr.
Hare upon this was ultimately obliged to leave the place.

The Malays are now nominally in a state of freedom, and
certainly are so, as far as regards their personal treatment;
but in most other points they are considered as slaves. From
their discontented state, from the repeated removals from
islet to islet, and perhaps also from a little mismanagement,
things are not very prosperous. The island has no domestic
quadruped, excepting the pig, and the main vegetable production
is the cocoa-nut. The whole prosperity of the place
depends on this tree: the only exports being oil from the nut,
and the nuts themselves, which are taken to Singapore and
Mauritius, where they are chiefly used, when grated, in making
curries. On the cocoa-nut, also, the pigs, which are
loaded with fat, almost entirely subsist, as do the ducks and
poultry. Even a huge land-crab is furnished by nature with
the means to open and feed on this most useful production.

The ring-formed reef of the lagoon-island is surmounted
in the greater part of its length by linear islets. On the
northern or leeward side, there is an opening through which
vessels can pass to the anchorage within. On entering, the
scene was very curious and rather pretty; its beauty, however,
entirely depended on the brilliancy of the surrounding
colours. The shallow, clear, and still water of the lagoon,
resting in its greater part on white sand, is, when illumined
by a vertical sun, of the most vivid green. This brilliant
expanse, several miles in width, is on all sides divided, either
by a line of snow-white breakers from the dark heaving
waters of the ocean, or from the blue vault of heaven by
the strips of land, crowned by the level tops of the cocoa-nut
trees. As a white cloud here and there affords a pleasing
contrast with the azure sky, so in the lagoon, bands of
living coral darken the emerald green water.

The next morning after anchoring, I went on shore on
Direction Island. The strip of dry land is only a few hundred
yards in width; on the lagoon side there is a white calcareous
beach, the radiation from which under this sultry
climate was very oppressive; and on the outer coast, a solid
broad flat of coral-rock served to break the violence of the
open sea. Excepting near the lagoon, where there is some
sand, the land is entirely composed of rounded fragments of
coral. In such a loose, dry, stony soil, the climate of the
intertropical regions alone could produce a vigorous vegetation.
On some of the smaller islets, nothing could be more
elegant than the manner in which the young and full-grown
cocoa-nut trees, without destroying each other's symmetry,
were mingled into one wood. A beach of glittering white
sand formed a border to these fairy spots.

I will now give a sketch of the natural history of these
islands, which, from its very paucity, possesses a peculiar
interest. The cocoa-nut tree, at first glance, seems to
compose the whole wood; there are however, five or six
other trees. One of these grows to a very large size, but
from the extremes of softness of its wood, is useless; another
sort affords excellent timber for ship-building. Besides the
trees, the number of plants is exceedingly limited, and consists
of insignificant weeds. In my collection, which includes,
I believe, nearly the perfect Flora, there are twenty
species, without reckoning a moss, lichen, and fungus. To
this number two trees must be added; one of which was not
in flower, and the other I only heard of. The latter is a
solitary tree of its kind, and grows near the beach, where,
without doubt, the one seed was thrown up by the waves. A
Guilandina also grows on only one of the islets. I do not
include in the above list the sugar-cane, banana, some other
vegetables, fruit-trees, and imported grasses. As the islands
consist entirely of coral, and at one time must have existed
as mere water-washed reefs, all their terrestrial productions
must have been transported here by the waves of the sea.
In accordance with this, the Florula has quite the character
of a refuge for the destitute: Professor Henslow informs
me that of the twenty species nineteen belong to different
genera, and these again to no less than sixteen families! [1]

In Holman's [2] Travels an account is given, on the authority
of Mr. A. S. Keating, who resided twelve months on these
islands, of the various seeds and other bodies which have
been known to have been washed on shore. "Seeds and
plants from Sumatra and Java have been driven up by the
surf on the windward side of the islands. Among them have
been found the Kimiri, native of Sumatra and the peninsula
of Malacca; the cocoa-nut of Balci, known by its shape and
size; the Dadass, which is planted by the Malays with the
pepper-vine, the latter intwining round its trunk, and
supporting itself by the prickles on its stem; the soap-tree;
the castor-oil plant; trunks of the sago palm; and various kinds
of seeds unknown to the Malays settled on the islands.
These are all supposed to have been driven by the N. W.
monsoon to the coast of New Holland, and thence to these
islands by the S. E. trade-wind. Large masses of Java teak
and Yellow wood have also been found, besides immense
trees of red and white cedar, and the blue gumwood of New
Holland, in a perfectly sound condition. All the hardy seeds,
such as creepers, retain their germinating power, but the
softer kinds, among which is the mangostin, are destroyed
in the passage. Fishing-canoes, apparently from Java, have
at times been washed on shore." It is interesting thus to
discover how numerous the seeds are, which, coming from
several countries, are drifted over the wide ocean. Professor
Henslow tells me, he believes that nearly all the plants
which I brought from these islands, are common littoral
species in the East Indian archipelago. From the direction,
however, of the winds and currents, it seems scarcely possible
that they could have come here in a direct line. If,
as suggested with much probability by Mr. Keating, they
were first carried towards the coast of New Holland, and
thence drifted back together with the productions of that
country, the seeds, before germinating, must have travelled
between 1800 and 2400 miles.

Chamisso, [3] when describing the Radack Archipelago, situated
in the western part of the Pacific, states that "the sea
brings to these islands the seeds and fruits of many trees,
most of which have yet not grown here. The greater part
of these seeds appear to have not yet lost the capability of

It is also said that palms and bamboos from somewhere
in the torrid zone, and trunks of northern firs, are
washed on shore: these firs must have come from an immense
distance. These facts are highly interesting. It cannot
be doubted that if there were land-birds to pick up the
seeds when first cast on shore, and a soil better adapted for
their growth than the loose blocks of coral, that the most
isolated of the lagoon-islands would in time possess a far
more abundant Flora than they now have.

The list of land animals is even poorer than that of the
plants. Some of the islets are inhabited by rats, which were
brought in a ship from the Mauritius, wrecked here. These
rats are considered by Mr. Waterhouse as identical with the
English kind, but they are smaller, and more brightly coloured.
There are no true land-birds, for a snipe and a rail
(Rallus Phillippensis), though living entirely in the dry
herbage, belong to the order of Waders. Birds of this order
are said to occur on several of the small low islands in the
Pacific. At Ascension, where there is no land-bird, a rail
(Porphyrio simplex) was shot near the summit of the mountain,
and it was evidently a solitary straggler. At Tristan
d'Acunha, where, according to Carmichael, there are only
two land-birds, there is a coot. From these facts I believe
that the waders, after the innumerable web-footed species,
are generally the first colonists of small isolated islands. I
may add, that whenever I noticed birds, not of oceanic
species, very far out at sea, they always belonged to this
order; and hence they would naturally become the earliest
colonists of any remote point of land.

Of reptiles I saw only one small lizard. Of insects I took
pains to collect every kind. Exclusive of spiders, which were
numerous, there were thirteen species. [4] Of these, one only
was a beetle. A small ant swarmed by thousands under the
loose dry blocks of coral, and was the only true insect which
was abundant. Although the productions of the land are
thus scanty, if we look to the waters of the surrounding sea,
the number of organic beings is indeed infinite. Chamisso
has described [5] the natural history of a lagoon-island in the
Radack Archipelago; and it is remarkable how closely its
inhabitants, in number and kind, resemble those of Keeling
Island. There is one lizard and two waders, namely, a snipe
and curlew. Of plants there are nineteen species, including
a fern; and some of these are the same with those growing
here, though on a spot so immensely remote, and in a different

The long strips of land, forming the linear islets, have
been raised only to that height to which the surf can throw
fragments of coral, and the wind heap up calcareous sand.
The solid flat of coral rock on the outside, by its breadth,
breaks the first violence of the waves, which otherwise, in a
day, would sweep away these islets and all their productions.
The ocean and the land seem here struggling for mastery:
although terra firma has obtained a footing, the denizens of
the water think their claim at least equally good. In every
part one meets hermit crabs of more than one species, [6]
carrying on their backs the shells which they have stolen
from the neighbouring beach. Overhead, numerous gannets,
frigate-birds, and terns, rest on the trees; and the wood, from
the many nests and from the smell of the atmosphere, might
be called a sea-rookery. The gannets, sitting on their rude
nests, gaze at one with a stupid yet angry air. The noddies,
as their name expresses, are silly little creatures. But there
is one charming bird: it is a small, snow-white tern, which
smoothly hovers at the distance of a few feet above one's
head, its large black eye scanning, with quiet curiosity, your
expression. Little imagination is required to fancy that so
light and delicate a body must be tenanted by some wandering
fairy spirit.

Sunday, April 3rd. -- After service I accompanied Captain
Fitz Roy to the settlement, situated at the distance of some
miles, on the point of an islet thickly covered with tall
cocoa-nut trees. Captain Ross and Mr. Liesk live in a large
barn-like house open at both ends, and lined with mats made of
woven bark. The houses of the Malays are arranged along
the shore of the lagoon. The whole place had rather a desolate
aspect, for there were no gardens to show the signs of
care and cultivation. The natives belong to different islands
in the East Indian archipelago, but all speak the same language:
we saw the inhabitants of Borneo, Celebes, Java, and
Sumatra. In colour they resemble the Tahitians, from whom
they do not widely differ in features. Some of the women,
however, show a good deal of the Chinese character. I liked
both their general expressions and the sound of their voices.
They appeared poor, and their houses were destitute of
furniture; but it was evident, from the plumpness of the little
children, that cocoa-nuts and turtle afford no bad sustenance.

On this island the wells are situated, from which ships
obtain water. At first sight it appears not a little remarkable
that the fresh water should regularly ebb and flow with the
tides; and it has even been imagined, that sand has the power
of filtering the salt from the sea-water. These ebbing wells
are common on some of the low islands in the West Indies.
The compressed sand, or porous coral rock, is permeated like
a sponge with the salt water, but the rain which falls on the
surface must sink to the level of the surrounding sea, and
must accumulate there, displacing an equal bulk of the salt
water. As the water in the lower part of the great sponge-
like coral mass rises and falls with the tides, so will the
water near the surface; and this will keep fresh, if the mass
be sufficiently compact to prevent much mechanical admixture;
but where the land consists of great loose blocks of
coral with open interstices, if a well be dug, the water, as I
have seen, is brackish.

After dinner we stayed to see a curious half superstitious
scene acted by the Malay women. A large wooden spoon
dressed in garments, and which had been carried to the grave
of a dead man, they pretend becomes inspired at the full of
the moon, and will dance and jump about. After the proper
preparations, the spoon, held by two women, became convulsed,
and danced in good time to the song of the surrounding
children and women. It was a most foolish spectacle;
but Mr. Liesk maintained that many of the Malays believed
in its spiritual movements. The dance did not commence till
the moon had risen, and it was well worth remaining to behold
her bright orb so quietly shining through the long arms
of the cocoa-nut trees as they waved in the evening breeze.
These scenes of the tropics are in themselves so delicious,
that they almost equal those dearer ones at home, to which
we are bound by each best feeling of the mind.

The next day I employed myself in examining the very
interesting, yet simple structure and origin of these islands.
The water being unusually smooth, I waded over the outer
flat of dead rock as far as the living mounds of coral, on
which the swell of the open sea breaks. In some of the
gullies and hollows there were beautiful green and other
coloured fishes, and the form and tints of many of the zoophytes
were admirable. It is excusable to grow enthusiastic over
the infinite numbers of organic beings with which the sea of
the tropics, so prodigal of life, teems; yet I must confess I
think those naturalists who have described, in well-known
words, the submarine grottoes decked with a thousand beauties,
have indulged in rather exuberant language.

April 6th. -- I accompanied Captain Fitz Roy to an island
at the head of the lagoon: the channel was exceedingly
intricate, winding through fields of delicately branched corals.
We saw several turtle and two boats were then employed in
catching them. The water was so clear and shallow, that although
at first a turtle quickly dives out of sight, yet in a
canoe or boat under sail, the pursuers after no very long
chase come up to it. A man standing ready in the bow, at
this moment dashes through the water upon the turtle's back;
then clinging with both hands by the shell of its neck, he is
carried away till the animal becomes exhausted and is secured.
It was quite an interesting chase to see the two boats
thus doubling about, and the men dashing head foremost
into the water trying to seize their prey. Captain Moresby
informs me that in the Chagos archipelago in this same
ocean, the natives, by a horrible process, take the shell from
the back of the living turtle. "It is covered with burning
charcoal, which causes the outer shell to curl upwards, it is
then forced off with a knife, and before it becomes cold
flattened between boards. After this barbarous process the
animal is suffered to regain its native element, where, after
a certain time, a new shell is formed; it is, however, too
thin to be of any service, and the animal always appears
languishing and sickly."

When we arrived at the head of the lagoon, we crossed a
narrow islet, and found a great surf breaking on the windward
coast. I can hardly explain the reason, but there is to
my mind much grandeur in the view of the outer shores of
these lagoon-islands. There is a simplicity in the barrier-like
beach, the margin of green bushes and tall cocoa-nuts,
the solid flat of dead coral-rock, strewed here and there
with great loose fragments, and the line of furious breakers,
all rounding away towards either hand. The ocean
throwing its waters over the broad reef appears an invincible,
all-powerful enemy; yet we see it resisted, and even
conquered, by means which at first seem most weak and
inefficient. It is not that the ocean spares the rock of coral;
the great fragments scattered over the reef, and heaped on
the beach, whence the tall cocoa-nut springs, plainly bespeak
the unrelenting power of the waves. Nor are any
periods of repose granted. The long swell caused by the
gentle but steady action of the trade-wind, always blowing
in one direction over a wide area, causes breakers, almost
equalling in force those during a gale of wind in the temperate
regions, and which never cease to rage. It is impossible
to behold these waves without feeling a conviction that
an island, though built of the hardest rock, let it be porphyry,
granite, or quartz, would ultimately yield and be demolished
by such an irresistible power. Yet these low, insignificant
coral-islets stand and are victorious: for here another power,
as an antagonist, takes part in the contest. The organic forces
separate the atoms of carbonate of lime, one by one, from
the foaming breakers, and unite them into a symmetrical
structure. Let the hurricane tear up its thousand huge
fragments; yet what will that tell against the accumulated
labour of myriads of architects at work night and day, month
after month? Thus do we see the soft and gelatinous body of a
polypus, through the agency of the vital laws, conquering
the great mechanical power of the waves of an ocean which
neither the art of man nor the inanimate works of nature
could successfully resist.

We did not return on board till late in the evening, for we
stayed a long time in the lagoon, examining the fields of
coral and the gigantic shells of the chama, into which, if a
man were to put his hand, he would not, as long as the animal
lived, be able to withdraw it. Near the head of the
lagoon I was much surprised to find a wide area, considerably
more than a mile square, covered with a forest of delicately
branching corals, which, though standing upright,
were all dead and rotten. At first I was quite at a loss to
understand the cause afterwards it occurred to me that it
was owing to the following rather curious combination of
circumstances. It should, however, first be stated, that corals
are not able to survive even a short exposure in the air to
the sun's rays, so that their upward limit of growth is
determined by that of lowest water at spring tides. It appears,
from some old charts, that the long island to windward was
formerly separated by wide channels into several islets; this
fact is likewise indicated by the trees being younger on these
portions. Under the former condition of the reef, a strong
breeze, by throwing more water over the barrier, would tend
to raise the level of the lagoon. Now it acts in a directly
contrary manner; for the water within the lagoon not only
is not increased by currents from the outside, but is itself
blown outwards by the force of the wind. Hence it is observed,
that the tide near the head of the lagoon does not
rise so high during a strong breeze as it does when it is
calm. This difference of level, although no doubt very small,


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