SAIL FROM ROTTEE—SEARCH FOR SHOAL—DAMPIER'S ARCHIPELAGO—EXAMINATION OF COAST—STRANGE WEATHER—NATIVES—PASSAGE BETWEEN DELAMBRE AND HUIY ISLANDS—PROCEED TO MONTEBELLO ISLES—DESCRIPTION OF THEM—BARROW'S ISLAND—TRYAL ROCKS—NEW KANGAROO—ABUNDANCE OF TURTLE—NEW WALLABY—SAIL FOR SWAN RIVER—FIND RITCHIE'S REEF—ISLANDS BETWEEN BARROW'S AND N.W. CAPE—TABLE OF SOUNDINGS—SWAN RIVER NATIVE—ANCHOR UNDER ROTTNEST—VOCABULARY—ERECT BEACONS—BAD WEATHER—HABITS OF A NATIVE DOG—GEOLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS—SAIL FROM SWAN RIVER—ERROR IN POSITION OF CAPE NATURALISTE—KING GEORGE'S SOUND—APPEARANCE OF BALD HEAD—PRINCESS ROYAL HARBOUR—ORIGIN OF SETTLEMENT—TOWN OF ALBANY—SALUBRITY OF CLIMATE—EXCURSION INTO INTERIOR—COURSE A KANGAROO—PITFALLS—HERDS OF KANGAROOS—RICH COUNTRY—THE HAY RIVER—RETURN TO ALBANY—DEPARTURE FOR S. AUSTRALIA—DISCOVER AN ISLAND—DEATH OF A SEAMAN—POSITION OF NEPTUNE ISLES—KANGAROO, ALTHORP AND QUOIN ISLANDS—HOLDFAST ROAD—ADELAIDE—DESCRIPTION OF COUNTRY—GOVERNOR GAWLER'S POLICY—VISIT THE PORT—MR. EYRE'S EXPEDITION—HARDSHIPS OF OVERLANDERS—CANNIBALISM—MEET CAPTAIN STURT—NATIVE SCHOOLS—SYSTEM OF EDUCATION—SAIL FOR SYDNEY—SQUALLS—ERROR IN COAST—BASS STRAIT—ARRIVE AT SYDNEY
Leaving Rottee we passed, soon after dark, round the western end of Pulo Douw, and stood for the position of a shoal reported by Mr. Lewis of the Colonial schooner, Isabella, to be in lat. 14° 43' S., and long. 119° 20' E. Our inducement to search for this shoal was the fact of its being supposed to lie in the direct route of vessels sailing between Timor and the W. coast of Australia. But after searching from the 9th to the 14th, and sounding repeatedly without getting bottom, we came to the conclusion that it did not exist. Breakers could have been seen at least ten miles from the Beagle's masthead, as there was a considerable swell from the south-west.
On the 15th we were in lat. 16° 05' S. and long. 118° 16' E. After one of those stagnant calms so frequently met with near the equator, we got a light westerly breeze on the morning of the 18th. Towards midnight it freshened, veering from S.W. by S. to W.S.W. with some rather sharp rain squalls. It appears that the westerly winds had already set in, and that the calm we experienced on the 17th was an unoccupied space between the easterly and westerly winds. There are few parts of the globe where light winds prevail so much as on the North-west coast of New Holland, particularly between the lat.s of 13 and 17°, and from one to two hundred miles from the land. They are, however, excepting in the months of January, February, and March, from the eastward, south-east in the morning and east in the afternoon. These winds prevented us from making the coast on the eastward of Depuch Island; and as we had failed in getting a supply of provisions at Timor, we were compelled to relinquish the plan of continuing the examination of that part of the coast between the Turtle Islands and Roebuck Bay.
The Beagle was consequently anchored under Bezout Island, one of the eastern isles of Dampier's Archipelago, and boats were sent to examine the coast on the southward of Cape Lambert.
It may, perhaps, be worthy of remark, that should a vessel be brought by any chance to this dreary part of the world in May, June, or July, anchorages exposed to easterly winds should be left at or before daylight—that being the time they set in; by noon all is again quiet. Bezout Island is of the same formation as Depuch; and so are many of the broken ridges, with bare stony summits, of a dark brown hue, on the main near Cape Lambert, trending S.S.W. A more dreary sterile country can scarcely be seen; yet it still maintains inhabitants.
August 26.—The weather has been truly strange for the last four days. The winds, instead of being easterly have been from South-west to North-west, light with the former during the mornings, and moderate with the latter in the evenings. On this day they were from all quarters, with distant thunder in the north-west, and several rain squalls. In the night it settled at east, a fresh breeze bringing with it fine weather. In connection with our former remarks on striking vicissitudes in the weather occurring near the change of the moon, we should mention that it was new moon the day following.
The material for the chart collected in this part consists of the main from below Picard Island to nearly twenty miles west of Cape Lambert, with the neighbouring islands, an extent of nearly forty-five miles. The part near Picard Island was carefully examined by Mr. Forsyth. He reported the main to the S.S.W. of that island, forming the head of the bay between Cape Lambert and Depuch, to be extensive flats of mud and sand, over which the sea sometimes passed. Between Picard and Cape Lambert the shore is cut up by mangrove creeks. On a hill up one of these, several small kangaroos were seen. Near the Cape Mr. Forsyth perceived twenty-seven natives, seven of whom were children, in one party.
On the 27th we crossed over to Delambre Island, on which a large party landed in the afternoon. A few turtle were here taken, of a different kind from any we had seen before, and apparently a cross between the Hawk's Bill and the Green Turtle; several nests were also found, in one of which were 138 eggs. This island terminates, like Bezout Island, to the northward, in cliffs about 90 feet high, with deep water close to; on the east and west sides it is fronted by a reef nearly a mile in extent; but we could see no traces of those lying three miles to the N.N.W. of the N.W. point, laid down by Captain King. The passage between Huiy Island and Delambre is five miles wide, though clear for two miles only, and in working out we found that it had a very uneven bottom, over which a two-knot tide causes heavy ripplings. We noticed that a hill, lying nine miles to the south-west of Bezout Island, called in the chart Round-backed Hill, bearing between S. 5° E., and S. 15° E., clears the reefs on either side the channel; and that the same hill bearing S. 24° W. leads between Bezout and Delambre, and S. 8° W. clears the reef off the eastern side of the latter.
From Delambre we proceeded to the Montebello Islands, principally in order to set at rest two points of great interest, namely, the position of Ritchie's Reef, and of the long lost Tryal Rocks. On the 31st, in the afternoon, we anchored in 6 fathoms on the eastern side of Tremouille Island, a cliffy islet off the south-east end of which bore S. 42° E. two miles. The tide was ebbing and setting to the N.N.E. two knots an hour. We found the Montebello Group to be confined by a coral reef encircling it. The two principal islands are Tremouille and Hermite Islands. The fact that these and their neighbours are not separated in the charts fully evinced the necessity of our visit. Leaving a boat to examine them, the ship proceeded towards the northern end of Barrow's Island, being anxious to avoid the southerly winds to which the anchorage off Tremouille is exposed. These usually commenced at midnight, blowing from south-west, freshening and veering to south by 8 a.m., and by about 10 moderating at S.S.E. On our way to Barrow's Island they were so violent as to cause the ship to drive with two anchors ahead, there appearing to be no holding ground, but simply a coating of sand over a rocky ledge. During the prevalence of these winds the temperature varied from 66 to 76°.
Near Barrow's Island, on our passage, I shot (from the quarter-boat) the largest sea-snake ever killed. It is figured and described in the Appendix, by Mr. J. E. Gray, as Hydrus major, and measured eight feet one inch in length, by three inches broad; the colour was a dark yellow: several smaller ones striped brown and white were also seen.
We found that from the Montebello Group a long series of reefs and small islands, the largest and most central of which is called Lowendal, extends towards Barrow's Island, leaving a winding channel* along the north side of the latter. Near the centre of the western side of the reef is a cluster which proved to be the long-lost Tryal Rocks; the middle and largest of which is in lat. 20° 35' S. and long. 0° 17' W. of Swan River.† The reef continues along the eastern side of Barrow's Island, extending off three miles; our anchorage was consequently little more than that distance from the shore. We examined the northern and eastern sides; the former is composed of red sandstone cliffy projections, separated by sandy bays, fronted for nearly two miles by a coral reef, partly dry at low-water; but the south part of the eastern side becomes very low; and where the cliffs end there is a remarkable valley trending westwards. There were recent marks of the sea many feet above the ordinary reach of the tides, bespeaking occasional strong south-east winds. A number of stony-topped hills, from 150 to 200 feet in height, were scattered over the northern parts of the island. In the valleys was a little sandy soil, nourishing the spinifex, and a stunted kind of wood sufficiently large for fuel.
- * Lowendal Island, bearing east, leads into it.
- † We recognised them from a sketch furnished by the Admiralty, and made in 1719 by a Dutch sloop sent in search of them from Batavia. They placed them eight° west from the coast of New Holland. If we take leagues instead of° it would bring them near their actual distance from the shore. Van Keulen says they were seen in the ship Vaderland Getrouw, and found to be in 20° 30" south. In 1777 they were seen by Captain Joss, of the Danish ship Frederisberg Castel, who places them in 20° 40' S. It was by his description that I recognised them beyond a doubt, although his long. would place them thirteen° more to the westward, and near the position they have occupied for years in the charts. The centre of them bears N. by E. five miles and a quarter from Cape Dupuis, the north-west point of Barrow's Island.
We found a new kind of kangaroo and wallaby on Barrow's Island; but the only specimen obtained of the former was destroyed through the neglect of the person in whose charge it was left. It was a buck, weighing fifty pounds, of a cinnamon colour on the back and a dirty white on the belly; the hair was fine and long; the head of a peculiar shape, resembling a dog's, with a very blunt nose; the forearms were very short; the hind feet cushioned like those inhabiting rocky ground. The does appeared to be much lighter; but all were very wary and scarce. From the number of red sandhills, too, scattered over the island, they were difficult to be seen at a distance. From our description of this specimen it has been named Osphranter isabellinus. With the wallaby we were more fortunate, Mr. Bynoe and myself succeeding in knocking over four, weighing from five to eight pounds; they also had blunt noses, and were of a light brown colour, quite different from those on the Abrolhos.
Two iguanas, measuring seven feet in length, and nearly black, striped slightly with white, were also killed here.
We did not find any surface water; everything wore a dry parched appearance. No traces of natives were discovered, except some charred pieces of wood. Indeed I may remark that we saw signs of fire on every part of the continent we visited. From the south extremity of the island a long reef trended in the direction of the mainland, where Captain King traced it extending off some distance, thus connecting with the shore the whole of these islands, which seem to lie in a line with each other, like the various parts of a submerged piece of land. The small isles, especially between the Montebello Group and Barrow's Island, have all the same direction; so that it seems fair to conclude that they were once a part of the main, being in fact fragments of a promontory, forming a gulf similar to Exmouth Gulf, lying on the south-west of it. I had been led to expect this from the fact of our finding the flood-stream coming from the north-east, whereas the direction of it in the offing is N.N.W.
Barrow's Island, being about twelve miles broad and twenty long, would, in the event of a penal settlement being formed in this neighbourhood, make a good second Norfolk Island. On leaving we brought away with us seven tons of turtles from the abundant supplies its shores afforded. Many of them we gave to our friends at Swan River on our arrival. We cannot quit this island without reminding our readers that it was named after the distinguished Secretary to the Admiralty, who has just retired from office after a period of service of nearly half a century, during which time he was the promoter of all geographical research, and mainly instrumental in founding a society which is of growing importance to Great Britain, and who has established a lasting reputation both by his travels and his literary productions.
On our return to Tremouille Island Mr. Fitzmaurice joined us, having completed the examination of the Montebello Group, a large proportion of chart material, in a very short space of time, considering the number of small islands, which would render it an endless labour to attempt any description, further than that they lie something in the shape of a scythe.
A hill 145 feet high, the loftiest point of the group, rises near the centre of Tremouille, the north-east island, off the north-west end of which a ledge extends in the direction of an out-lying reef, bearing N. 55° W. (magnetic) nine miles and a half, which places it in lat. 20° 17' S. and long. 0° 26' W. of Swan River; or 115° 21' E. This could be no other than that which we had so often looked for as Ritchie's Reef, as our former tracks to the westward had assured us that it did not lie in that direction. In lat. it agreed with the position given to it on the charts, but in long. it differed considerably, lying full half a degree to the eastward. It therefore appeared not to be a discovery of Lieutenant Ritchie's, as it had been not only seen previously by the French, who had considered it as a reef extending off Tremouille Island, but many years before by Captain Clerke, who placed it in lat. 20° 18' S., nine or ten miles N.W. (magnetic) from what he thought to be Rosemary Island, but which it is very evident was Tremouille. The name then of Clerke's Reef should be given it instead of Ritchie's.
Mr. Fitzmaurice having seen plenty of wallaby on the larger islands, a party of us went on shore in the evening, after securing observations for the rates of the chronometers on a small islet called Flag Islet, near the centre of the rocky cluster fronting the eastern side of Hermite Island. This can be recognised by it alone having a sandy point on the south-west end, which we placed in lat. 20° 27' 47" S. and long. 0° 8' 20" west of Swan River. The time of high-water here at full and change, was about 10 o'clock, when the tide rose fourteen feet; the flood-stream came from the northward.
We found that Tremouille was as scantily supplied with vegetation as Barrow's Island; in one or two places was growing a stunted kind of wood, sufficient for fuel for a small-sized ship; but there was no sign of water. The wallaby, which were very numerous, must have got their supply of moisture from the copious dews. They were found lying very close in the wiry prickly grass, allowing us to kick them out, when they went off at speed, affording excellent sport, quite equal to any rabbit shooting; among three guns we managed, in a couple of hours, to bag nearly twenty. It was quite a new kind of wallaby, and has been classed, from a specimen we brought away, as Lagorchester conspicillata. It had a blunt nose, similar to those at Barrow's Island, and was about the same size, though its colour was lighter, and it had a back exactly like a European hare. The tail tapered away like a rat's, and the flesh was by no means good to eat, tasting very strong; this was the only instance in which we found wallaby at all unpalatable.
Although our exploration in this neighbourhood did not lead to our finding any of the land fertile, yet from the new feature our chart will give to this part of the coast, the necessity of the Beagle's visit will be evident. Our object had been satisfactorily attained, inasmuch as we had cleared up the doubts respecting Ritchie's Reef, and the long-lost Tryal Rocks. We had also been so fortunate as to add to the stores of natural history a new kangaroo and two kinds of wallaby, besides a large water-snake.
September 9.—We left Tremouille Island in the morning, and passing round the north side, soon came in sight of Clerke's, alias Ritchie's Reef. It was our intention to have gone round the northern end of it, but the tide setting two knots an hour forced us to the southward. In a line midway between it and Tremouille the depth was 17 and 20 fathoms. The reef was nearly three miles long, in a north-east and south-west direction, and one mile and a half wide; the centre being partly dry. Two miles and a half S.W. by W. of it we crossed a patch of 13 fathoms, with 22 and 25 fathoms on each side, the northern part of Hermite Island bearing S. 62° E. fourteen miles, soon after which it was lost sight of from the poop.
The next afternoon a westerly wind brought us again in with the land; and in the evening we tacked in six fathoms, three miles and a half to the northward of Thevenard Island, which we found to be connected with a reef we discovered in the morning, lying eleven miles N. by E. from it; inside this reef the water looked deep and smooth. The island is a narrow strip lying east and west, about three miles; the west end we made in lat. 21° 26' S. and long. 114° 54' E. From the number of islands I saw to the south of Thevenard, I think the reef continues to Maison Island, near the North-west Cape. The outer one, seen from the Beagle, is in lat. 21° 31' S. and long. 114° 42' E. I myself believe the whole extent from Maison to Barrow's Island is occupied by islets and reefs, probably all connected. We know, in fact, from Captain King, that a reef extends sixteen miles off the south end of Barrow's Island.
Seventeen miles in a N.W. by N. direction from Thevenard Island we had 65 fathoms, fine white sand, having deepened gradually from six fathoms three miles north of it. In June of this year, working to the N.E. we had 68 fathoms three miles W. by S. of that position, and 111 fathoms six miles N.W. of it; beyond this no bottom was found with 120 and 150 fathoms.*
- * The following table is the result of other outer soundings obtained in the Beagle, showing how far the bank of soundings extends off the Western coast of Australia.
|Lat. S.||Depth in fathoms||Quality of bottom||Distance from nearest land.|
|32°02||70||Fine white sand and rock||Rottenest or Garden Island||20 miles.|
|30 55||86||— grey sand||Main abreast||34 —|
|29 38||127||"||Main abreast||39 —|
|26 42||187||"||S. point of Shark's Bay||37 —|
|21 14||111||— white sand||Thevenard Island||25 —|
|20 00||150||"||Tremouille Island||35 —|
It would thus appear that a ship in less than 110 fathoms off the west shore of the continent would be within forty miles of the land; and nearly the same distance from the islands fronting it, when in about 200 fathoms between the lat.s of 19° 50' S. and 20° 10' S. The bank of soundings extends further off the North-west coast, as eighty-five miles north of Depuch Island we had only 75 fathoms, fine white sand. In a south direction from that position the water shoaled rapidly to 40 fathoms in fifteen miles; but very gradually afterwards to 15 fathoms in fifty miles. This slope of the bank was determined by several boards in working to the westward.
The glimpse we got of the string of islands lying between Barrow's Island and the North-west Cape, was quite unexpected, as the next land we had intended seeing was Swan River. After rounding the North-west Cape, we had the usual southerly winds, but a strong breeze from the north-west overtook us in lat. 30° 40' S. and long. 112° 25' E., and shortened the passage, bringing us on the 27th to an anchorage under the east end of Rottnest Island, where we found a current sweeping round to the southward, at the rate of nearly a knot an hour. There had not been any previously felt; but in lat. 30° S. and long. 110° E., two days before the north-wester, it set two knots to the northward; another instance of how entirely the currents are governed by the winds off this coast.
Our Swan River native had not obtained so much information of his wild countrymen to the northward as Miago. Still he had made the most of what he saw; and his visit to Timor crowned all. The facility and rapidity with which he could make a song about anyone whom he might choose as the subject of his poetical fancy, was very amusing; he must have equalled many of the Italian improvisatori. He had also got a very good idea of where the ship had been since leaving Swan River, in his head. The drawings of his countrymen on Depuch Island had greatly hurt his vanity, whilst they excited his emulation; and always afterwards, whenever he could get hold of paper or pencil, he was trying to excel them, which, from the improvement he made, I have no doubt he would have shortly done.
During the time he and his townsman Miago were with us, the following vocabulary was made; the words from Port Essington have been furnished by Mr. Earl.
|English||Port Essington||Swan River|
|Bandicoot or rat||Condee.|
|Very small kangaroo, larger than a wallaby||Goora.|
|— tailed do.||Mooroo.|
|Tortoise||Booye, or Boorje.|
|Small blue bird||Deldillia.|
|Collar bone||Chelee wundardah.|
|Arm, lower||Aye yung.|
|To run, stoop, hide, crouch, when about to rain||Kiddi kit mya warra.|
|To go a long distance||Maran dugon bordeneuk.|
|To cut up an animal of any kind for roasting||Dedayah killa, kuirderkan, ki ti kit.|
|To cover up, to keep warm||Borga koorejalah kunah.|
|For roasting||Ki ti kit.|
|To cut up||Kurerkna.|
|Give me some water||Yahago cabe.|
|I'm very thirsty||Gangah.|
|To carry the pickaninee||Colanganee wandung.|
|Here carry the pickaninee (strong expression)||Colang maranga barang wandung.|
|Give me some money||Anyah (or ana) yunagh, uddah.|
|No money, go away||Neundoh barang gerangah.|
|You have money||Anyah yungagah uddah.|
|I go to sleep||Unyah begang undagah.|
|Long grass||Bobo wal-yur-deg.|
When the weather became fine, we ran over to Gage Road.
October 11.—We again visited Rottenest in the ship (Lieutenant Roe the Surveyor-General, accompanying us) for the purpose of erecting beacons on the rocks lying off the points of Thomson's Bay, as marks for leading clear to the eastward of the Champion Rock. We were happy to have an opportunity of rendering this important service to the colonists, who acknowledged it in a very handsome manner.
Another object in crossing over to Rottenest was to avoid a north-west breeze which came on the next day; on the 15th we again returned to Gage Road.
Whilst we were at Swan River this time, a wish I had long entertained of procuring a pup of the wild breed of dogs* of the country, was gratified. It was a bitch, and left in the hollow of a tree by her mother who had just escaped. Knowing that they hunt kangaroos in packs, and have excellent noses, I was anxious to try if something useful might not be made out of a cross with the fox-hound; and with this view on my arrival in England, I gave her to my cousin, Mr. G. Lort Phillips; but she died in a fit soon after coming into his possession. Whilst with me she had two litters of pups by a pointer, three each time, the first at two years, and the second after an interval of ten months. At these times she was particularly savage, and would take the opportunity of paying off any old grudge she might have against those who had ill-used her—for she never forgot an injury—by stealing after them and snapping at their heels. She was very much attached to her young; one day I took her on shore and she kept catching birds to bring to them, supplying them, as an over-fond mother will do, with a superfluity of good things.
- * I am informed by Colonel Owen Phillips, 56th B.N.I., formerly Assistant-Resident at Macassar, that he saw four wild dogs brought to Sir Stamford Raffles at Java, which bore a very strong resemblance to the animals mentioned in the text.
I was very much interested in this animal, and took a great deal of pains to tame her, though I never fully succeeded. Her nose, as I have said, was excellent; and though quite mute she could hunt very well, as I found by repeated trials when out rabbit shooting. She would never leave a hole, working at it with her feet and teeth until she got at the inmate. These qualities confirmed me in my opinion that a cross with the fox-hound would produce a good result. As an illustration of her keenness of smell, I may mention that one day when we were lying in the Tamar river, she winded some sheep on the bank, and was instantly overboard and after them, swimming so rapidly that she had reached the land, and, though herself only the size of a large dog-fox, had pulled down a fine ram before a party could get on shore to prevent her. When they landed, instead of trying to make her escape, she slunk into the boat. This freak of hers cost me five pounds.
In cold weather her coat was always best, and the brush on her tail most perfect. She was of a light tan colour, with a little white on the tip of the tail, and a few black hairs sprinkled in the brush; there was a little black also about her face. Her step was light and stealthy; and in her eye meekness and cunning were curiously blended. Though very shy of man, when once taken up in the arms she lay as quiet as a cat; but with all dogs she was very quarrelsome, fighting savagely with a greyhound bitch I had on board, and several times nearly killing a small dog. It was always difficult to catch her, as she would generally manage to escape either between the legs or by springing over the shoulders, except when we were going on shore; then she would allow herself very quietly to be put into the boat; but on our return the difficulty was how to get her off, and it became necessary to pounce upon her suddenly. She was never heard to bark, the only noise she ever made being the dismal howl peculiar to her breed, and this only when tied up, which consequently, for the sake of peace, was but of short duration, and always had to be done with a chain, as she would instantly bite through a rope. Her mischievous propensity was remarkable, as she often stole into the officers' cabin and pulled books down from the shelves, tearing the backs off and then destroying the leaves. As an instance of her sure-footedness and activity I may mention that I have seen her leap twice her own height from the stem of the midship boat, in endeavouring to seize fowls or meat that was hung on the mainstay, always alighting on the point she sprang from. At other times she would attempt to crawl up it like a cat, in order to steal what was there. Her proneness to thieving was very great; I have frequently seen her eating stolen things when she would refuse what was offered her; it was never safe to take her near poultry.
Whilst in this locality I may take the opportunity of introducing a few notes on the geological formation of the country in the neighbourhood of Swan River, furnished by Mr. Bynoe:
"The most remarkable feature is the absence or scantiness of the secondary and transition rocks; all the tertiary appears to be of the newest kind, and to lie in juxtaposition with the primary. This character forms the sandy margin from the "Darling Range," or chain of granite hills, nearly 2000 feet high to the sea, in the immediate vicinity of which the sand is bounded by a calcareous form of limestone, and, where jutting into the sea and forming perpendicular or overhanging cliffs, the faces are thrown into a beautiful kind of fretwork (See Vol. I. p. 57) of more compactness than the surrounding mass. In most places about the neighbourhood of Fremantle, shells are found of the existing species along the coast, firmly impacted in its substance, particularly a large species of buccinum, as well as the strombus. This calcareous formation has been traced as far north as Shark's Bay; it crosses over to the Abrolhos Group, there frequently lying over a coral formation, and forming in many places cavities of a cylindrical figure, of some few feet in depth. Beds of clays, varying in quality and colour, are to be met with on sandy margins, containing particles of gypsum.
"On the Darling Range is found a red cellular structure capping the granite, assuming all the appearance of having been subjected to fire; it extends also in the low country about that neighbourhood.
"Slate of a primitive character is found on the Canning River. The mountain chain or Darling Range runs nearly in the direction of north and south. On the eastern side of it, close to the base, are several groups of isolated conical hills, from a half to one mile apart, extending from the William River to the Tugee District, a distance of about one hundred and twenty miles, bearing on their summits strong evidences of ignition. The country farther on to the eastward falls into sandy plains, similar to those on the western side, and intersected by watercourses; during the summer, pools remain, and at that time become remarkably salt. On the mountains, as well as on the plains, scattered pebbles in patches are to be met with; they appear to contain iron, being highly magnetic."
From the very debilitated state of some of the crew, from dysenteric affections contracted at Timor, we were not able to leave Swan River before the 25th of October. At noon on the 28th, Cape Naturaliste bore S. 80° E. three miles; according to our observations it was in lat. 33° 31' 45" S. four miles further south than it is placed in the charts, though in long. (0° 47' 30" W. of Swan River) it appeared pretty correct. Some reefs have been reported three or four miles off the north-east side of it: but we could see nothing of them, and had a depth of 25 and 26 fathoms. We got soundings of 23 and 25 fathoms in passing along a few miles from the coast towards Cape Leeuwin, in the neighbourhood of which we looked in vain for a rock called the Rambler, that had been supposed to be about twelve miles south-west of a remarkable white patch close to the northward of the Cape, the locality of which it always serves to show. Twenty miles west of Cape Leeuwin the depth was 47 fathoms.
Passing along the south coast we found the white-topped rocks near Cape Chatham to be in long. 0° 29' 30" E. of Swan River. They are not only remarkable in themselves, but like the Eclipse Islands, are admirably situated for showing a ship's position when in with the coast.
We entered King George's Sound on November 2nd. I should here observe that Bald Head is connected with the main by a low piece of land, in the centre of which stands a small peak; this gives the head, from the offing to the southward, the appearance of an island. In the view annexed the reader will perceive a representation of the conspicuous headland called Peaked Hill, with its peculiar profile outline, lying about five miles south-west of Bald Head.
Proceeding up the Sound we anchored in Princess Royal Harbour, Mount Clarence bearing N.N.E., and the south end of Michaelmas Island just open of Point Possession. The entrance to this great basin is by a narrow channel in the north-east corner; a long spit extending off the inner western entrance-point forms the chief impediment. Few vessels escape touching it; but although the passage is thus contracted the Beagle was worked through both ways. Inside, there is water sufficient for the largest ship in the navy; but only for a limited space, a short distance within the entrance—merely a hollow scooped out towards the north-west corner of the harbour.
Here, just above a dazzling white sandy beach, a straggling village points out the township of Albany. Mounts Clarence and Melville reared their bare granitic heads on either side, and huge fantastically-shaped boulders were strewn over their slopes. The origin of this settlement may not be generally known: it was first planned, in consequence of a report that the French were about to establish themselves there; which turned out to be the truth, for they had actually formed and abandoned a settlement before Major Lockyer arrived from Sydney, in 1825. The gang of convicts he brought with him was withdrawn, when Albany became part of the government of Western Australia.
Among the few improvements that had taken place since our visit in 1836, were a jetty and a government storehouse. The latter was close to the spot where the observations were made, and where I noticed some trappean dykes intersecting the granite in a N.N.W. direction. I observed the same circumstance at Simon's Bay, Cape of Good Hope.
I was sorry to see that the infant town of Albany had made so little progress, especially as it possesses by far the finest harbour in Western Australia. There is no doubt that ultimately its great natural advantages will be developed; but it is somewhat surprising that they have not already been turned to better account. Though there is not a very great extent of good land in the neighbourhood, there is amply sufficient to hold out encouragement to the settler; especially when we consider that this is one of the most healthy portions of the continent, that it is never visited by hot winds, and that the thermometer is rarely below 60 or above 85°. This evenness of temperature at all times of the year is very remarkable, and renders the spot particularly suitable for invalids, many persons coming even from Swan River to renovate themselves. If our E. Indians were aware of what a salubrious climate they might enjoy at King George's Sound, they would soon be seen flocking thither to repair the constitutions they have injured on the banks of the Ganges and the Indus.
Our object in visiting this place was to obtain a meridian distance; and between the observations for rating the chronometers I availed myself of an offer of Lieutenant Warburton, commanding the detachment of the 51st Regiment, doing duty there, to accompany him on a visit to the out-stations. We were joined by a person from the settlement, who owned some kangaroo dogs, and by three or four natives.
Leaving Albany, we reached the foot of a large clear piece of land called the Great Plain, about fifteen miles distant, and a little off the Swan River road.
On our way we met a party of natives engaged in burning the bush, which they do in sections every year. The dexterity with which they manage so proverbially a dangerous agent as fire is indeed astonishing. Those to whom this duty is especially entrusted, and who guide or stop the running flame, are armed with large green boughs, with which, if it moves in a wrong direction, they beat it out. Their only object in these periodical conflagrations seems to be the destruction of the various snakes, lizards, and small kangaroos, called wallaby, which with shouts and yells they thus force from their covert, to be despatched by the spears or throwing-sticks of the hunting division. The whole scene is a most animated one, and the eager savage, every muscle in action and every faculty called forth, then appears to the utmost advantage, and is indeed almost another being. I can conceive no finer subject for a picture than a party of these swarthy beings engaged in kindling, moderating, and directing the destructive element, which under their care seems almost to change its nature, acquiring, as it were, complete docility, instead of the ungovernable fury we are accustomed to ascribe to it. Dashing through the thick underwood, amidst volumes of smoke—their dark active limbs and excited features burnished by the fierce glow of the fire—they present a spectacle which it rarely falls to our lot to behold, and of which it is impossible to convey any adequate idea by words.
After tethering out our horses and making our breakwind for the night, we went out in the evening to look for a kangaroo. I had never as yet seen one put fairly at his speed on open ground before a dog, but this evening I was fully gratified; for we soon found a couple lying out on our side of the plain, and by crawling up through the wood we managed to slip the dogs about five hundred yards from them. Away they went, leaving a stream of dust in their wake. Their habitual curving direction soon gave us a broadside view; and a splendid course it was. They ran horizontally, no leap or hop being perceptible. At first the dogs closed rapidly, but for some time afterwards no change in their relative positions took place, each doing his best. The kangaroos held their own well, until they had reached nearly the other side of the plain, a distance of about two miles, when the dogs began gradually to draw on them, and at length, after a turn or two, the smaller was run into just before entering the wood. It was a fine young buck, weighing about 60 pounds, and made a capital supper for our party. The natives cooked the tail for us in their own way, roasting it with the hair on, the best mode of dressing it, except in soup.
Next morning we found that our sable friends had eaten so much of the kangaroo that there was great difficulty in getting them to move. However, they at length consented to accompany us, and we proceeded five or six miles further on the Swan River road, to a place where a party of soldiers were stationed. Here the temptation of a fresh supply of kangaroo proved irresistible, and with the exception of one, who was Lieutenant Warburton's servant, the natives all left us to resume the pleasant occupation of eating. The gastronomic feats performed by these persons are really surprising; and in the work recently published by Mr. Eyre the reader will find some curious details on the subject.
We now took a westerly direction, for a tract of good country lying about thirty-five miles from the Sound, a little to the westward of the road to Swan River.
On our way we crossed several short trenches, cut by the natives for pitfalling kangaroos, which were here very numerous. They were dug across the runs of the animal, and covered with a slight layer of brush or grass, and were very narrow at the bottom, so that the prey could get no footing to bound out.
I have never, at any other place, seen similar contrivances resorted to by the aborigines; in this neighbourhood they have probably been suggested by the great abundance in which the kangaroo is found. I am certain there could scarcely have been less than a hundred in a herd. It was curious to observe them hopping along over the grass or underneath the trees, with the large males bringing up the rear of a certain number of does. We had several very beautiful courses, but the dogs being footsore were beaten on all occasions.
I was very much pleased with this portion of the country: it quite resembles the park-like features of Port Phillip. We heard the kangaroos thumping the ground all night, as they hopped along round our bivouac, the heavier fall of the male being plainly distinguishable. It was now determined to shape a southward course for Ungerup, one of Lady Spencer's farms on the Hay River; and after laying down our position by a sort of dead reckoning I had kept to find the course, we started.
Soon after moving off, Lieutenant Warburton discovered that he had forgotten to leave some message or other at the station, and determined on sending back his native servant. But as he was out of the limits of his own tribe, it required some persuasion to induce him to go; and he was only prevailed on to do so by being allowed to carry his master's gun for protection.
Part of our road lay through a thick mahogany scrub; and as the horse I rode was a young unbroken one from the Cape, I might perhaps with less trouble have tried to take an elephant straight with a snaffle bit in his mouth. The sameness of the trees in this part being very great it is difficult to hold a direct course; and if, after having chosen one to steer by, my attention happened to be taken off by a kangaroo starting up, I was always obliged to refer to the compass.
We made the Hay a mile or two above Ungerup; it is there a small tortuous rivulet, with rich grassy banks, overhung by wide shady trees. The valley is narrow, sloping gently up on either side. If I had been pleased with the good piece of land just left, I was still more so with this; the mould was rich and fine: I did not believe there was land of such quality near the Sound.
In passing another of Lady Spencer's farms, seven miles farther down the same river, we were glad to pocket a large piece of damper for our evening meal, which we made at our old bivouac near the Great Plain, where we found the native under the break-wind, which he had covered with another bough or two. Next evening we got into Albany, and on the morning of the 15th the Beagle was running out of King George's Sound.
It was resolved that we should touch at S. Australia, to secure a good meridian distance by short stages between Swan River and Sydney. Accordingly, on the morning of the 27th, we entered Investigator Strait, having been detained by strong easterly winds about a hundred and fifty miles to the westward of Kangaroo Island. Whilst contending with them we discovered a small high rocky island, the summit of which we found to be in lat. 34° 49' S. and in long. 19° 4' E. of Swan River; it bore S. 8° E. nine miles from the high peak on Greenly's Island. The name of the Beagle was bestowed upon it.
At noon, as we entered the Strait, we committed to the deep the body of Nicholas Lewis, seaman, who died of sickness contracted at Timor.
We kept close to the Neptune Isles, a low rocky group, the southernmost of which we give the position of; Captain Flinders, who passed too far to the northward, having not exactly determined it: it lies in lat. 35° 22' 15" S. and long. 20° 22' 15" E. of Swan River. These islands appear well adapted for a light-house.
There was a strong indraught of a knot an hour into Spencer's Gulf. Kangaroo Island has no remarkable features; whilst Althorpe and Quoin islands are sufficiently striking to be recognized by anyone who has once seen them.
On the morning of the 29th we anchored in Holdfast Road, in 4½ fathoms, Mount Lofty,* a slight excrescence on the highest part of the range of hills eastwards, bearing N. 80° E.; a flagstaff at a straggling village under it pointed out the township of Glenelg. At the foot of this we made our observations, which place it in lat. 34° 58' 30" S. and long. 12° 41' 15" W. of Sydney.
- * This hill, bearing east, is a guide to Holdfast Road.
Landing at Glenelg we proceeded towards Adelaide, which lay about six miles to the northward, in the centre of a rich plain, stretching from the foot of Mount Lofty to the sea, and contracting gradually to the southward, where beyond Glenelg it rises into downs, increasing in height as they approach Cape Jervis, and ultimately blending with spurs thrown off from Mount Lofty range. Adelaide itself is situated on the banks of the Torrens, a very insignificant stream, or rather series of pools, in the dry season.
I have spoken, in a former chapter, of my astonishment at first seeing Sydney; but certainly the same feeling was roused in a still greater degree by the first appearance of Adelaide; although I was prepared for something great by what I had heard of the multitudes that had flocked thither from the mother country. In truth a noble city had in the course of four years sprung, as if by magic, from the ground, wearing such an appearance of prosperity and wealth that it seemed almost incredible it could have existed but for so short a time.
The fact is that this was mainly owing to the liberal expenditure of the governor, Colonel Gawler, who saw the policy at the earliest possible opportunity of making adequate preparation for the stream of population that was so rapidly flowing in. Every public building was erected on a scale to suit the anticipated splendour of the colony, and in so substantial a manner, that it will be long ere another outlay becomes necessary. That this was the best line of conduct to adopt, most persons, on reflection, will acknowledge. In New Zealand, for example, much of the disturbances that have arisen may be attributed to the fact of so many settlers arriving before sufficient preparation had been made for their reception.
Much fault has been found with Colonel Gawler's military display, as it is called; in other words, with his raising a corps of volunteers. But the necessity of this may be presumed from the facts, that Sir Charles Napier, the conqueror of Scinde, as we learn from his own pen, refused the government, because a military force was not to be sent with him; and that it has been found advisable to place a body of troops at the disposal of Colonel Gawler's successor.
I paid a visit to the port, distant from the town about five miles, made easy by an excellent macadamized road, carried, in some places, on a causeway over a swamp, and forming a great and imperishable monument of the Governor's enterprising spirit. The port reminded me of one of the quiet mangrove creeks on the N. coast, except that it had only one bend, changing from a northerly to a south-westerly direction, which at certain times of the day renders it navigable, with a fair wind, each way. For instance, the seabreeze will take a vessel out through the northerly part, and next morning she will have the land breeze to carry her the rest of the distance; whilst, alternating, the same breeze serves to take ships in. The mouth of the port is well marked with black and white buoys; and a light vessel is moored off the entrance, with pilots in attendance; a red buoy is on the bar, where at high-water there is sometimes 15 feet, but the tides are very irregular, being much higher with south-west winds; the general rise was about four feet.
We were very much pleased with the animated description we had of the departure of Mr. Eyre's expedition to the north; but what gave us particular satisfaction was the evidence afforded of how much the whole colony had the welfare of this enterprising little band at heart. I had not before seen in Australia any place where the progress of discovery was so liberally forwarded, as the readers will at once learn from Mr. Eyre's book. One cause of this we may discover in the fact that the richness of the country immediately surrounding Adelaide made them eager to ascertain its extent. Indeed until this was known they were necessarily unsettled, as few liked to locate themselves permanently until the extent of the field within which they were to make their choice was determined.
To what extent the colonists of S. Australia are indebted to the sacrifice of property, the loss of time, the bodily fatigue, and unceasing exertions of Mr. Eyre, I also leave the reader to gather from his own lucid narrative. The country has now been found to be almost hemmed in by sterile districts; and the good lands, contrary to our experience of the rest of the continent, to be nearly all in one spot. A number of enterprising colonists, therefore, concentrated within comparatively narrow limits, could not fail of developing the resources of the country, and of discovering what mineral treasures it may contain. The good encouragement it has lately received has, to a certain extent, assisted in bringing it back to the position of one of the most thriving colonies in Australia; though we must attribute much of its present prosperity to the impulse originally given by the policy of Colonel Gawler, which, though it may have caused a temporary financial embarrassment, is now making its happy effects sensibly felt.
The eastern extent of the country of S. Australia was determined by the Overlanders, as they call the gentlemen who bring stock from New S. Wales. The first that came across were Messrs. Bonny and Horden. An interesting account of them will be found in Captain Grey's work. Many of these pioneers of civilization endure extraordinary hardships during their expeditions; as an example of which I may mention that Mr. Bonny, in endeavouring to find a new route, was compelled to kill a calf and drink its blood to save his life. On this occasion water was found by the cattle, turned loose for that purpose. Another gentleman, who had lost his way in the bush, had recourse to a curious expedient to assuage his burning thirst, namely, to bleed the horse he rode, which was the means of preserving both himself and the quadruped also.
On our arrival in Adelaide the town was full of the Overlanders, and everyone was engaged in buying or selling stock, which gave the place quite an animated appearance. From one of these gentlemen I learned undeniable proofs that the Australians indulge in cannibalism. He had seen in a woman's bag the hand of a child that had been partly eaten. Since that time the matter has been placed beyond a doubt by the report of the Protector, Mr. Sievewright, who witnessed with his own eyes a most horrible feast off the body of a young woman.* It is extraordinary that a custom so remarkable should have so long wanted confirmation.
- * See Mr. Eyre's Discoveries in Central Australia.
At Adelaide I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of the intrepid traveller Captain Sturt, who has since again taken the field, endeavouring to penetrate to the interior of the Australian continent, and to remove the veil of mystery that now hangs over it. From him I learnt that the same strange kind of bird, a species of rail, that once visited Swan River, also made its appearance in S. Australia on one occasion. I have already alluded to this remarkable circumstance in a former chapter.
During our stay we visited Mount Lofty, placed by our observations in lat. 34° 58' 20" S., and long. 12° 30' 20" W. of Sydney. The cool air of this range, the greatest elevation of which is 2200 feet, was very pleasant after a ride over the heated plain. I was agreeably surprised to find in the heart of the hills a most comfortable inn, where our party sat down to a luncheon of lamb chops and green peas, with a beautiful cool bottle of sherry. Such is the march of civilization! To the north of our road was a lead mine, which will ultimately be a source of great riches to the colony; for which, indeed, nature has done much in the way of mineral productions.
I was greatly pleased with the apparent success that had attended the schools of the German Missionaries; and especially with the aptitude for learning displayed by both boys and girls; but my pleasure would have been much increased had I not felt convinced that the system of education adopted, possessed many serious defects. In the first place, sufficient care did not seem to have been taken to recommend the schools to the natives, and to induce them to send their children voluntarily. That it was necessary to resort to some means of effecting this beyond mere persuasion, will be evident when we recollect how useful even the youngest member of an Australian family is to its parents. Almost as soon as the child begins to walk, certainly as soon as it is capable of receiving instruction, light tasks, even in the hunting expeditions, are allotted to it; so that, to remove either boys or girls, and take them to school, is, in reality, to deprive their friends of assistance, which to them is valuable. For this reason, some compensating advantage should be offered to the father, to prevail on him to send his children to school.
Again, when once pupils have been procured, it is exceedingly unwise to allow them to maintain a constant intercourse with their tribe, and be thus subjected to deteriorating influences that must almost irresistibly combat the beneficial effects of their education. But it is needless to dwell further on this subject, as Mr. Eyre has so completely stated the question in his late work.
I cannot, however, refrain from alluding to another point in connection with this matter; namely, that when I visited S. Australia, all instruction was communicated in the native language. My attention had already been drawn to the subject on visiting Tahiti, in 1835, when I perceived with regret, that the missionaries, instead of endeavouring to introduce the English tongue, persisted in imparting instruction in a kind of corrupted dialect, of which the words were for the most part native, whilst the syntax and construction were in exact conformity with our own; the observation of the same circumstance at New Zealand, had further induced me to reflect on the subject. How much more prudent would it have been to introduce, at once, the language of Great Britain into the islands of the Pacific; as, judging from every indication, it must ultimately prevail over the vast variety of primitive and imperfect dialects now spoken; and which serve as barriers between the various tribes. That the same mistake should have been made in S. Australia was the more remarkable, as public opinion seems to run completely counter to it. It appears evident indeed, that if the object was to benefit and civilize the aboriginal inhabitant, the right course to take, was to give him an instrument which he could employ to enlarge his mind and extend his experience. It was wrong to expect that much good could be done by confining him within the sphere in which his thoughts had been accustomed to move; or at any rate, to limit the expansion of his knowledge, within the bounds of a dialect which was only imperfectly understood by the masters who taught it. I am aware that the excellent men who adopted this plan, were fearful of allowing the natives to acquire a facility of communicating with the vicious part of the white population; but had they taken a more enlarged view, and considered the absolute impossibility of preventing a certain amount of intercourse—had they had more confidence in the better part of their own race, and reflected on the immense advantage which the inquisitive savage would derive from being enabled to put questions to men who could enlighten him by their answers, they would more speedily have effected their benevolent intentions. I am of opinion that no surer method of raising the Australian in the scale of civilization could have been devised, than to put him in possession of the English language; and I am glad to hear that the opinion I so early formed has at length been partially acted upon. The natives will soon be open to an engagement on board a vessel, and may expect to emulate the New Zealanders, some of whom have risen to be mates; and to acquire the information and experience of which they stand so much in need. Whereas, were their knowledge confined to their own imperfect dialect, not only would they be unable to extend their acquaintance with other parts of the world, and with the arts of civilization, but they would remain, as many of them now are, actually incapable of communicating with many inhabitants of their own districts. For it must be borne in mind, that very frequently, a tribe inhabiting one valley is ignorant of the language spoken in the next. So that to instruct them only in their own forms of speech, is not only difficult, since, on the death of each master someone else has to learn the grammar and vocabulary to supply his place, but absolutely tends to perpetuate the isolation in which the natives now live; and which is the main cause of the little development of their minds, and the inferior position they occupy in the scale of civilization.
We sailed from Holdfast Road, on December 7th, but in consequence of light winds, with occasional very heavy squalls, it was not until the afternoon of the 10th, that we got out to sea by Backstairs Passage, between Cape Jervis and Kangaroo Island. On the morning of the 8th, we were obliged to shorten all sail to a very heavy squall from W.S.W., which announced its appearance by a distant roaring, some time before it was seen on the water. These squalls generally succeed the hot winds that prevail at this season in S. Australia, coming from the interior.*
- * During the hot winds we observed the thermometer, in the direct rays of the sun, to be 135°.
Easterly winds prevented us from entering Bass Strait until the 16th. In reaching in towards the coast, seven or eight miles west of Cape Otway, we found that it projected three or four miles too much on the charts. Bass Strait appeared under a different aspect from what it had been accustomed to wear; light winds, by no means in keeping with our impatience, detaining us till the 21st, when we got a kick out of the eastern entrance from a strong south-wester, and afterwards had a good run up to Sydney, where we arrived on the 23rd.