Report of an Excursion in a Whale Boat, from Six Miles to the Eastward of Ramé Point to Six Miles to the N.W. of Point d'Entrecasteaux, and from thence to the Murray River by Land

Report of an Excursion in a Whale Boat, from Six Miles to the Eastward of Ramé Point to Six Miles to the N.W. of Point d'Entrecasteaux, and from thence to the Murray River by Land  (1831) 

REPORT of an Excursion in a Whale Boat, from Six Miles to the Eastward of Ramé Point to Six Miles to the N.W. of Point d'Entrecasteaux, and from thence to the Murray River by Land.

Monday, April 18th, 1831.—Moderate breezes and hazy; daylight saw the land on the lee bow, which proved to be Point Ramé. At 9, shortened sail and hoisted the whale boat out—distance from land about six miles. At half-past 9, having got every thing ready in the boat, left the ship and stood in-shore; saw an appearance of an opening on the western bow; kept close to the wind, but finding we could not fetch it, and the object of my search being the westward, bore up with a very heavy swell. At 11, rounded Ramé's Point and observed the black rocks; kept close to the shore, and at 12 saw an appearance of an opening about a mile to the westward of the inner point; stood for it, the wind increasing much, with a considerable cross swell, in two reefs. At half-past 12 rounded a point of land, and found a large estuary, with an entrance that had ten feet water on the bar in going in, with a sandy spit on the right hand and a rocky shore on the left. The entrance is narrow, but certainly good anchorage for small coasting vessels, not drawing more than seven feet. In going in there is a rock close to the left shore which always breaks, and which must be kept on the left hand. Employed all the afternoon pulling round the estuary, which has a small island in it; landed several times, and found the soil to be generally good, ticularly on a flat, which appeared to be capable of producing any thing. Killed two swans, and met the natives, who brought us some broiled fish, and conducted us to their wells; parted very good friends; returned to the entrance, and bivouaced opposite Sandy Spit.

April 19th.—Light breezes from the eastward with every appearance of fine weather; being anxious to take advantage of it breakfasted at 5 o'clock; our friends, the natives, came down on Sandy Spit with lighted firebrands, making signs for us to go over, which we did, as we had to complete our water and wait for daylight to go through the passage. Sent Mr. Skottowe with two men to the native well; in the mean time Mitchel caught many small snappers, which highly delighted the natives, particularly when they found they got the greater share. At half-past 6 pulled out over the bar with a strong tide making in, having eight feet water (low tide). At 7 rounded the south point of the entrance, in passing between which and the black rocks, observed many breakers; indeed, had the boat not been a particularly lively one, I fear we should have felt the force of them often. The ground between the South Point and Point Nuytz appeared to be very uneven, from the constant small breakers we saw and passed through, and it is impossible for any boat to land there. At 8, fresh breezes and squally, in second reef, and rounded Point Nuytz; observed an island close in shore, which is not laid down in the charts. There is no safe landing between Cape Nuytz and Cape Chatham, which we passed close at noon; after which there are many little bays that a boat might find safe landing in with ease; at 2, I observed a break in the land with very heavy breakers; hauled in and saw water inland over the breakers, which had the appearanee of an estuary. The weather not looking very settled, and the shore holding out but a poor prospect for beaching the boat, bore up for the island off the Point d'Entrecasteaux, in hopes of finding shelter under it for the night; passed several patches of breakers seaward, and observed the white topped rocks; light breezes, inclinable to calm, with a heavy swell to the southward; lowered the sail and got out the oars; at 4 saw an opening in the land about four miles to the eastward of the island; stood for it; got close in shore, having left some small breakers outside, and observed a sheet of water over the sandy beach, which we afterwards found was perfectly fresh, covered with swans, ducks, &c., and running with a rocky shore, and filled up with sand and sea weed; there being too heavy a swell on the shore, rounded a small rocky point to the westward, and landed with little surf, and bivonaced on a low sand hill. Flat Island S.W three miles and a half. Point d'Entrecasteaux W. by S ½ S. about seven or eight miles. Heard the natives, and saw their fires about a mile up the river.

April 20th.—At 4 breakfasted, loaded the boat, and waited for daylight to launch her; completed water, and started at half-past 6, with a steady breeze from the eastward, hoping to reach Augusta that evening. Passed many small reeft not laid down, and an island off Point d'Entrecasteaux, which we passed inside of, and a very good channel for small vessels, with a fair wind.

It is my opinion there is good anchorage for coasting vessels under Flat Island; indeed I should not have any hesitation in running a vessel there for shelter not drawing more than seven or eight feet water; but when it is well known, I have no doubt it will be found safe for a vessel drawing twelve feet; at 8 rounded Point d'Entrecasteaux, in first reef: half-past 8 breeze increased, and hauled to the N.E. by N.; in second reef; 9, close reefed, and at half-past 9, it blowing nearly a gale^ took in balance reef, the boat making as much water as we could bale. At 10, finding the boat complain very much forward, so as to make much more water than we could bale, and at the same time going off shore, lowered the sail down to pull in. Distance about two miles, which took us three hours to do, the wind having increased to a gale,: with a very nasty short sea. At 1, finding we were close, as I thought, to the beach, with a very heavy surf, and no appearance of the weather moderating, pulled in, and to our utter astonishment, found the breakers to extend nearly half a mile from the shore, and certainly heavier than ever I saw a boat land in; as it was now impossible to turn back with safety, kept the boat directly before the breakers, which she went over very well, until we came to an outer beach, where it broke with great fury, and which the bow of the boat touched, and was all but turning over with us; fortunately she floated before the second surf came, and we got off with the boat being filled. I cannot help remarking, that had not the men kept their places, and given way when they were ordered, I fear there would not have been a chance for one of us, the drawback being too strong for the most expert swimmer. After the next breaker had passed and hove us considerably nearer the shore, we jumped out, and succeeded in holding the boat fast against the receding tide, and, in a short time, as she became lighter, the surf hove her dry, so that we got every thing safe on shore, but all perishable articles of course ruined, amongst which was the present use bread, about eighteen pounds; the remainder of the afternoon was taken up in drying as many of our things as possible before night, and removing for shelter under one of the small sandhills. 21st. Calm; the surf if anything higher than when we landed; sent Mr. Skottow with a man to Giene Point, to see if he could find any place for a boat to land in, whilst I and Mitchel ascended the range of Sand Hills, to try and obtain a view of the interior; but the country immediately in the neighbourhood not having been recently burnt, I could not get beyond the second range so as to be back in time to launch the boat in the afternoon, should the surf go down, although we were walking upwards of three hours with a very hot sun and no water. At 1, returned to our bivouac; Mr. Skottow arrived about half an hour afterwards, without having found any place for a boat to land, but many fresh water springs. A light sea breese set in about half-past 12, when, in the evening, the surf was certainly not so high; indeed we all lay down with a full conviction that we should be able to launch the boat in the morning, but our disappointment was very great when daylight broke and presented a heavier surf than ever; indeed, I am convinced it is impossible to launch a boat through the surf witnessed during our stay here. Our provisions becoming short, and it then blowing hard from the S.W., determined me on leaving the boat, and walking to Augusta, if the next morning brought no hopes of getting the boat off; ordered the men to make the best knapsacks they could, so as to be ready to march early if we failed in getting the boat afloat; when we had nearly completed packing, Mitchel saw a man on the beach about a mile distant; with a glass made him out to be a native; took my gun and walked towards him; after I had gone about half way, and he saw no other person was following me, he advanced and seemed highly delighted when I made him understand I wished him to go to the boat with me, and he very readily gave me his three spears and throwing stick, (which were certainly better made than any I had seen before,) and carried my gun to the boat; he appeared astonished when we made him understand that we came from sea through the breakers. I have no doubt they had been watching us land, as there were several fires close to us. After dressing him, giving him a stocking full of sugar, a little bread, and as much cloth as he chose to carry away, of what we were about to leave behind, and giving him to understand that he was to go and bring the whole tribe, which he appeared perfectly to understand, he departed, and we did not see him again. At noon succeeded in launching the boat, and tracked her about a cable's length opposite a small sandy hillock, where I intended bringing the things; in so doing a heavy surf struck the boat, which knocked Pike down, and went over him without doing him the least injury; I never remember a man having a more narrow escape. We passed the evening in great doubt about launching the boat, as it came on to blow and to rain. 23rd. At 2,a.m. went on the shore, wind blowing off strong, found the surf quite as bad as the evening before; gave orders for breakfast, and to be ready to march in an hour, breakfasted and at 3 20' started, all regretting the being obliged to leave the old whale boat behind, that had carried us so many miles safe at different times; we took with us four bottles of rum; one of wine; eight of water; four pounds of pork; eighteen pounds of bread; two muskets; one gun, ammunition, an axe; three blankets, and a spare flannel; shoes and stockings each; the morning being very cold, and the beach good, we walked quick until sunrise, when we fell in with a river with the entrance nearly closed with sand; drank some water, as we did not know when we might have so good a chance again, and continued our march, but with very indifferent marching; loose sand; we were obliged to wait a few minutes every hour, not being accustomed to a load on our backs; after leaving the river about two hours and a half, we came to another with about two and a half feet at the entrance and heavy surf, and a remarkable sand-hill on the left. This river is certainly larger than the one we met with before, if we are to judge from its discharge. Fearing we might not be so fortunate as to meet with water again, rested for half an hour, and boiled some tea, after which we walked until half-past 10, when we rested for three hours; the sun being very oppressive on a white sandy beach; gave the men a gill of mixed grog, they being rather fatigued; at half-past 1 renewed our march, and served out another gill of grog; at 4, observed the beach moist above high water mark; dug with our hands about a foot deep, and got beautiful water, which we stood much in need of; filled our empty bottles and again started; walking until half-past 5, when we came to a stop for the night, after walking twenty miles; rather fatigued. Dug with our hands and got water, but very brackish, which was used only for grog; gave each man a pint; made a good fire, and all fell asleep, which remained unbroken until 2 a.m., when we put on our knapsacks and recommenced our march; after an hour's walking, we were checked in our progress by a small rocky point jutting into the sea, which obliged us to take to the bush, and this was no easy task, as it was not daylight, and we had rather a difficult hill to climb; notwithstanding, we kept the hills until break of day, when we returned to the beach and came exactly opposite a river, which is considerably larger than either of the two seen yesterday; we had three feet and a half in crossing. Stopped for half an hour and partook of tea, and again advanced, having many difficult rocky points to pass, until 10 o'clock, when we rested for three hours. Black Point, W.N.W. six or seven miles; gave the men half a pint of mixed spirits, and at 1 p.m. the same, when we started and ascended the high hills (there being no walking on the beach) to Black Point. Steered from N.N.W. to N.W. by W. until 4, when we were all very much in want of water, which induced me to steer W., and at a quarter to 5, came to a native path, which took us to the beach, and what we so much needed—a spring of water, when I determined to stop, having walked two or three miles. We saw Cape Leeuwin, which gave us great hopes of Augusta to-morrow. Mr. Skottow and Seymour the carpenter, were very much fatigued, besides, suffering from weak ancles and sore feet; we got some good cocoa for supper, (25th.) which refreshed us all much; slept sound, and at 2 o'clock breakfasted on cocoa; at half-past two, the coast being still rocky to pass, ascended the high hill, which we did with some difficulty, it being rather cloudy over the moon, and the walking very bad; at daylighit made the beach, but was obliged to take to the hills again, the sand being soft, and the surf washing up to the bank; continued to march until noon, when we again took to the beach, and rested a quarter of an hour to relieve Mr. Skottow's and Seymour's ancles; this man was quite beaten. The last drop of rum, about a table-spoonful, was served out, and the entrance of the river appearing not more than seven or eight miles off, they both said they were determined to reach Augusta that evening, which we succeeded in, having divided their baggage, &c. &c. amongst three of us. At 7, p.m., having walked since our rest full fifteen miles, making this day's journey, at a moderate calculation, thirty-three miles, we were some time on the banks of the Blackwood; as I believe we were taken for convicts that had made their escape, as soon as Capt. Molloy was informed of it, he came over, and I cannot help mentioning the kind and hospitable manner he received us; indeed, all the people were ready to supply our wants. Sent Mr. Skottow with the men to the barracks. Seymour was very unwell, but Mr. Green having seen, him, was better towards the evening. Mr. Skottow and the other men were quite well, but still fatigued; walked with Capt. Molloy to visit the different settlers' habitations, and was astonished to find so much had been done by the labouring classes in building their cottages and clearing their grants, and they all appeared perfectly happy and contented. Drew provisions from Capt. Molloy for the men.

April 27th.—Capt. Dance having mentioned in my orders that he wished me to visit the harbour mentioned by Capt. Molloy, near Turner's river, made arrangements for starting the next morning in Mr. Earl's boat.

April 28th.— The wind being contrary for the har* bour, proceeded up to the head of the North Creek in the boat, where we arrived at half-past 8; from this place, accompanied by Capt. Molloy, Messrs. McLeod and Bussel, I walked along Mr. Turner's path until we arrived at the foot of the hills, a distance of three miles dnd a quarter over a country thickly wooded, and the soil particularly good; crossed the same hillocks, and, at half-past 10, arrived at Turner's river, which is a small deep stream running into the sea, and, I should imagine, takes a northerly direction, after passing the hills; saw part of the Cumberland's wreck. At 11, arrived at the bay, which appeared to be well sheltered from all winds for a coasting vessel; indeed, should the entrance be found good, I think the Sulphur might lay there with perfect safety; at noon we returned, having had an interview with two natives, who were friendly, but suspicious; and at 6 p.m. arrived at Augusta. In crossing the hills alluded to above, we passed over several patches of land of excellent quality.

April 29th.—Having determined to leave Augusta to-morrow, employed preparing. Mr. Skottow, who had been unwell for the last two days, and Seymour, having sufficiently recovered to undertake the journey.

April 30th.—Left our kind friends at Augusta and proceeded up the Blackwood in Mr. Earl's boat, who has shown at all times a readiness to lend it, accompanied by Lieut. McLeod and Mr. Bussel, soldiers, and my own party, now increased to eight by the addition of two labouring men, who had the permission of Capt. Molloy to proceed to 8wan river on their private business. Lieut McLeod and Mr. Bussel intending to go with us as far as Port Leschenault. Saw plenty of swans and ducks, but too wild to approach; landed several times, and always on good soil; indeed, the settlers at this place seemed perfectly satisfied with the grants they had chosen. The river at sunset getting narrow and rocky, landed for the night, had a merry party, and embarked at dawn of day.

May1st.—Arrived at the head of the navigation at half-past 8 a.m.; breakfasted, and at half-past 9, having packed up and completed our water from the river, which was perfectly fresh, commenced our journey, steering N.N.E.; nothing to the eastward until 12, when we rested for an hour, having crossed two deep water courses and over very fair land of red loam, passing fine forest trees, and frequently good patches of grass; the country pretty level. Served out half a pint of grog and a piece of bread to each person; at 1, started again and walked till 6 p.m., having met with no water. Gave each person half a pint of tea and half a pint of mixed grog, the whole party suffering much from thirst during the night.

May 2nd.—The country being thickly wooded, besides a quantity of fallen trees, made it unsafe travelling until daylight, when we recommenced our march, having given all hands a gill of mixed grog. The soil in many places of a more sandy nature than passed over yesterday, with a few patches of small iron-stone here and there; in passing through the thick brushwood we were all glad to get the dew from the leaves to quench our thirst, from which many of us were suffering severely; passed several swamps, but could not get water before half-past 8, when I halted at a swamp that had recently had water in it, to endeavour to procure some, but I fear our exertions would have availed little, had not one of the dogs found an old native well, which we cleared out and got nearly a gallon of water from: made a fire and boiled some tea, serving out half a pint a man, which refreshed us much; At half-past 9, recommenced our journey, and an hour's walking brought us to another native well, where, remaining a short time to refresh, after filling our canteens, we again started, walking through a country much more irregular; red sand and iron-stone; thickly covered with fine forest trees. Supposing from the distance we had walked and Capt Molloy's chart of the Blackwood, that we must be near Port Vasse, climbed a tree and saw the land about Cape Naturaliste bearing N. W. and a very extensive plain below, with a large sheet of water, bearing N. about nine or ten miles; altered the course to N.; the land became very good, and continued so until we halted at 5 p.m. Distance walked eight miles. We saw many large kangaroos on the plain, and passed through three dry watercourses, one of which we bivouaced in; served out the same quantity of liquid as yesterday, and we were 1ess thirsty in consequence of having met with water during the day. Young Mr. Bussel being so fatigued as not to be able to proceed, I recommended Mr. McLeod not to accompany us any farther after we found fresh water, which he quite coincided in.

May 3rd.— Commenced our journey at daybreak without any breakfast; after walking about half an hour came to a small river running to the northward; stopped to breakfast. After crossing the river and wishing Mr. McLeod and his party adieu, steered N.W. by N.; expecting shortly to see the estuary at Vasse, which we did after walking two miles and a half. The country passed over since starting this morning was beautiful, much resembling a fine park in England, with excellent timber, five or six to an acre. It is my opinion that the plain crossed yesterday afternoon and this morning is a continuation of Henty's Plains. Making the estuary gave us all fresh spirits, and we commenced our journey along its banks at a good rate, walking until half-past three, having crossed two rivers since leaving the last, and passing over some superior land. Had an interview with seven natives, who appeared to remember me well; they seemed less friendly than when I saw them last; knowing them to be numerous, and the men wishing to walk for a day on the beach, their feet being lacerated, after rounding the estuary, steered for it, and halted at half-past 3; men very tired; found fresh water by scratching in the sand on the beach*

May 4th.—Breakfasted, and started at 4 a.m. in great hopes of reaching Port Leschenault in the evening; walked two hours on the beach, and were then obliged to turn inland, in consequence of the sand being so very soft. Steering about a point from the sea, for the purpose of ascertaining the nature of the country, which repaid us, as the country was good, and certainly, in my opinion, passed the finest land I had yet seen in the colony. Settlers near this country can never want hay and food for their stock; I should say, that, on a moderate calculation, this description of country extended for more than twenty miles round. The grass was thick, from three to four feet high. A farming-man from Augusta, named Jenkins, giving his opinion, said, "he had never seen better in his life, and indeed he passed very little bad land since he left the Blackwood." After crossing the plain the land was of a more sandy nature, with fine forest trees; we walked about four miles, passing many fresh-water pools, and thinking we were not far from Casuarina Point, made for the beach, and then found it was six miles off; had we kept the native path after leaving the plain, from the direction it took, I feel convinced we must have been at the Preston long ere we reached Casuarina Point. It was a sad disappointment to all; at half-past 8, we arrived at the old place of bivouac much fatigued; being badly off for firewood, suffered a good deal from cold.

May 5th.—Caught some cat fish, of which we made a hearty meal; started for the crossing on the Preston, where I intended to have bivouaced, leaving Mr. Skottow to follow, after they had caught some fish, which they did, and joined us at 4; we killed four ducks, of which, with the fish, we made a hearty meal, before having lived principally on bread; the water was not quite fresh where we rested, therefore we had to send half a mile further up, for what we required for drinking. Washed clothes. About 10, p.m., when we were all fast asleep, it came on to rain very hard, so much so that we were obliged to sit up, and cover ourselves with our four blankets, by putting a stick in the centre of each; it continued raining until nearly daylight, when we got our breakfast. At 9, filled our canteens and started for the Collie, keeping along the banks of the Preston, in hopes of increasing our stock of birds. Noon, arrived at the mouth of the Collie; commenced crossing the bar, but, to my great surprise, on both sides of the island, we bad nearly four feet water. After crossing, gave the men half allowance of grog; walked along the banks of the estuary, in a native path, until ¼ to 2, when we halted, as there was every appearance of heavy rain, and our remaining stock of bread being small, it made us anxious to keep it dry,—besides, the men were very much fatigued. We were fortunate enough to kindle a good fire before the rain came on, which was a great comfort, drenched as we all were, and we slept sound, although the ground was very wet under us. Wishing to start early, breakfasted at half past 3, and at half past 4 started; the morning cold, and the brushwood very wet; kept the native path, and at day light saw the natives a-head, six of whom soon joined our party, and were quite delighted when they recognised two of the men and myself; they gave me to understand I came there in a boat pulling, which was the case the second time I saw them; they continued increasing in number, and constantly asked me for Mr. McLeod and Dr. Simmons, by names they had been accustomed to call them; the latter appeared the favorite. After walking about half an hour, we passed a small point, where their fires were lighted, and I saw two women, of which I told the natives; which pleased them very much, psrticularly when they saw we did not go towards them . About ten minutes afterwards, one of them came to me, making signs for me to stop, which we did, after a great deal of pressing, and then gave me to understand they would take me to see the women, but to leave my men behind.

When they saw I understood them, and that our party had set down, they were perfectly satisfied, and took me about fifty yards, when I found I was amongst the women and children, amounting in number to fifty or sixty, and some fair looking, and others horrible to behold. The children were in general the finest I had seen, and appeared to be well fed; I gave them necklaces and rings, which pleased them for the moment; after remaining about a quarter of an hour, we wished our fair friends good bye, and proceeded on our march, and to our surprise were soon joined by all the men and boys, with fishing spears, the women and small children being in the rear. After walking about two miles, and the men were satisfied the women were safe, they commenced fishing, and were particularly successful: we stopped for about ten minutes, when the natives were greatly alarmed by a greyhound I had, chasing their dogs into the midst of the women, knocking many of the children down; but on my calling her, she returned, which again put them in good humour. They continued with us, until we were obliged to leave the estuary, which they seemed to regret; giving us to understand, if we would remain, they would bring the women, and get us some fish, which I did not comply with, as I was short of provisions, with no prospect of getting more before reaching the Murray; eight of them, therefore, accompanied us upwards of an hour, when they departed: crossed a large swamp, and gradually ascended a well timbered country; soil, a sandy loam^ with patches of ironstone.

After steering N. about six miles, we came to a large lagoon, when we found a fresh water spring, which induced me to halt for the night; saw many traces of emu and kangaroo. The next morning we started half an hour before day-light, and walked on the banks of the lagoon, crossing the points projecting now and then, when we came to some beautiful black mould. Noon, reached the head of the lagoon, having walked about fourteen miles and a half; rested an hour, ahd continued our march, steering N. by E. one mile, over a rocky lime-stone country, with black sandy soil, when we came to two other small lagoons in succession. The walking being very bad, we steered towards the shore, and in an hour came to another lagoon, which I knew to be only twelve miles from the Murray, in a straight line: the men being greatly reduced from want of water and food, we bivouaced, and divided a very scanty allowance to each, the first we had this day; dug a well under a tree, and got water, but very brackish.

Started at day light, and having served out half an ounce of biscuit, and about a pint of tea, having about a quarter of a pound of bread remaining. The men complained much of their feet, and thinking, they would walk much better cm the beach; I steered for Cape Bouvard, and at 11, ascended the sand hill at the back, and found we were all right as to position; observed a bark standing in shore, made a fire as a signal to her, but, to our annoyance, she backed immediately. After resting for a few minutes, and serving out our last mouthful of bread, made the beach, where was tolerable walking, but which I am sure lengthened our march four miles; however, the prospect of reaching the Murray that night, gave the men fresh strength, and we marched without a check until we arrived in sight of the entrance, where Mitchel was taken very ill, from drinking (as he said) the brackish water, but I think it was walking so very fast and long without food; I sent Mr. Skottow on to hail for a boat; after remaining half an hour, Mitchel was able to walk to the boat, end when we got him over, I had him put to bed, and before night he was much better. Mr. Erskine was all kindness and gave us all we wanted.


The hills passed over on the sea coast, afforded good pasture for sheep, particularly between the Murray and Port Leschenault.

This work is in the public domain in Australia because it was created in Australia and the term of copyright has expired.

See Australian Copyright Council - Duration of Copyright (January 2019).

This work is also in the public domain in the United States because it was in the public domain in Australia in 1996, and no copyright was registered in the U.S. (This is the combined effect of Australia having joined the Berne Convention in 1928, and of 17 USC 104A with its critical date of January 1, 1996.)